race reports

Lights Out 9 at South Georgia Motorsports Park And So We Begin…


Drag racings evolution continues

Words and photos by Tom McCarthy

This is really “drag racing from a different perspective” -- the DragRacingOnline.com motto.


In order to stay relevant as a sport and an entertainment medium, drag racing must evolve in a way to attract the younger generation of fans to its shows. It must find a way to attract a greater percentage of today’s bill-paying, cash-spending, Millennials and involve them into the sport. Let’s face it, the future of a business, any business, lies within its abilities to adapt to changing times and attract new customers. For drag racing, that means appealing to a new generation of fans, a percentage of which may eventually become future drag racers.


The greatest preponderance of the population today, with cash in hand, ready to spend, is no longer solely the generation that once made drag racing an accepted sports entertainment attraction. The old “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” folks of the great Muscle Car era of 1968 to 1972, those fans who once back-boned drag racing, are now out-numbered population wise by the Millennials and the “Gen X” generations. If drag racing is to grow as a sport, it must relate and interact with younger generations.


To be blunt: for drag racing to expand its influence and success as a sport, it needs today’s generationals to participate at all levels. Not just passing through the turn-styles as fans in the stands, but as competitors as well as promoters of the sport. Today’s generation, by whatever label you choose to call them, is an essential element to the future of drag racing in tomorrow’s world.


To attract them into drag racing, presenting entertainment they can relate to is vital. This is from where the success of Donald “Duck” Long’s shows comes. He has a show that is “Not your father’s drag racing” and the new generation is loving it. If anyone had tried to tell me 10 years ago that someone was going to put on a drag racing show with no nitromethane-fueled cars and no jet cars involved and the show would pack to overflow a venue, I’d have said to them stop smoking funny stuff. But the fact is: Duck and his street car, door slammers have done just that and they are killin’ it with drag radial tire cars. Now with nine years of development, Duck-X Productions has arrived as a crowd pleasing, roaring success in drag racing.


On February 12-18, 2018, the “Lights Out 9 No Escape” event unfolded over almost a full week of action. As indicated by the title, this was the ninth rendition of the Donald “Duck” Long show featuring many of the biggest and baddest drag-radial tire cars on planet Earth. From the Radial Versus the World cars, to the 6.0 Index class cars, it was a who’s who of the bad boys  in door car racing. What I found most interesting about the event was not the cars, but the popularity of the event and its much vaunted great success at filling up the stands.


One has to address the most obvious question: Why are fans of today flocking to a drag race that has zero nitromethane-fed feature cars? A fan in the stands put it to me this way: “Duck and his cars are the Sxxt! That’s why I keep coming back to see his shows, it’s a blast.”

It was a full house and then some on Saturday.


To get the inside story on this, I started interviewing random fans to ask why they came to the event. The following comments were made by fans I interviewed in person at the event and their comments appear here with their permission.


Tim Richards, age 54, from Tampa, FL: “It’s about a three-hour drive for me to get here and we hotel from Wednesday to Sunday. The Duck Man, the cars, the competition, I love the door-cars: it’s like they have untamable power.” This fan has attended the Lights Out events, five times.


Sandra Dean, 44, from Chicago, IL: “The people are so nice in general, everyone is here to have a good time. Steve ‘Fast’ Jackson, Scotty G, we follow these racers wherever they go.” This fan has attended Lights Out twice.


Justin and Jen Morgan, 36, from Ballston Spa, NY: “There’s nobody like Donald Long, I love his events. I’ve been to more than one of his shows. “When asked why they preferred the Duck X Productions they replied “NHRA is stricter, this is more wide-open racing. Plus, the cars are more like the cars we drive and see cruising down the street.”


Jordan Willis, 24, from Valdosta, GA: “I’ve been coming to Lights Out since 2009. I like all sanctions racing, but I dig Lights Out for the pure insanity of it. Think about it, 180 to 190 MPH street cars. I also like the people; it’s like a party atmosphere. Also, the drivers are so much more accessible. You can’t really talk to a big NHRA star; they don’t have time for that. But at these shows you can talk to any big-name racer and they will exchange with you just like you and me, have a regular conversation.”


Colson Bishop, age 8, from Perry, GA: (interviewed with his father present and permission granted) “I’ve been to Lights Out seven, eight and now nine. There are lots of fast cars and they are amazing! I like the Radial Vs World cars and the No Time cars!”  When asked if he would maybe be a drag racer one day he replied with enthusiasm, “I will and it will be a Mustang.” His dad, who is a Chevy guy, just shook his head and grinned at his son’s comments.


The competition classes of door cars at Lights Out all have body styles that people can see look like what they drive on the street, with the exception of a few of the new monsters of rock, the Radial Versus the World cars. The commonality that best typifies the bond between the fans and their cars and the racers and their race cars is found in the new and very popular class of No Time racing.

All of the N/T cars have body styles that are genuine street cars. From the popular Small Block N/T Datsun driven by DJ McCain seen here to the vicious Mustang piloted by Phil Bohley that won in the 315 N/T class, each of these cars look like any car found in most any parking lot at Denny’s.


Better yet, the N/T class cars have their own flavor, not just in the fact that they are true sleeper cars, but their announcer is the Sriracha sauce in the announcing booth. He really spices things up over the PA system. The No Time cars has the man with the most experience in announcing (and racing) N/T cars, the one and only “Willie Dog” who has been racing N/T stuff since he was 16, some 50 years ago (Yes, he’s 66 years old now).Here’s a sample of what was heard over the Public Address (PA) system during the Lights Out 9 event on Saturday: “All right everybody, get ready, take your false teeth out, put ‘em in your back pocket, take your wig off so you don’t drop it, but get ready - because it’s about to go down!”


I am paraphrasing slightly here, but this is the essence of what Willie Dog said live to the audience to grab their attention. This southern flavor infused into the drag racing show was like great a barbecue sauce added to the perfect batch of ribs, smoked to perfection. It’s a Southern Thang and you have to experience it to enjoy it and once you do, you’ll never forget it.


As for the announcing portion of Lights Out 9, Willie Dog working the microphone with Brian Lohnes and Lee Sebring was almost as entertaining as the cars on the race track. While Willie was only on the PA during the N/T racing, Lohnes and Sebring did the bull work. From the morning hours till well after midnight on the weekend, they kept the racers and fans entertained in fine fashion.


This odd mix of door-cars, radial tires, hybrid street machines, southern twang -- it’s the combination that makes Duck-X Productions unique. It’s drag racing that the average person can easily relate to, so the fans flock to see the Lights Out show in February and Duck’s “No Mercy” events every October.

The SGMP staff moved quickly to save Joey Smith’s car Thursday night. Both he and the car came out of this fine.


There’s also the element of drama to the Duck X Productions events, every good drag race has its moments of drama. LO-9 was no different in that respect. Donald Long is fond of posting on social media, “You never know what’s going to happen when they let go of the button.” He’s right about that.


Just ask Monica Jo Rosamond, of LaGrange, GA. She almost had a hood scoop land on her for a hat at the finish line after it flew off a drag car.

During racing on Saturday, a hood scoop went airborne, right at the finish line from a drag car in the right lane. It soared almost as high as the scoreboard, spinning wildly, as it veered to the right, headed for the crowd seated track side, near the top-end score boards.


Monica Jo, was in a folding chair beside her friends, watching the racing action, located about 200 feet after the finish line markers, on the right side of the track, in amongst the motor homes. Fortunately, she was paying attention when she saw something come off a drag car and go skyward, heading in her direction during the race. She commented later “I had no idea what it was, but it was headed my way and at first I didn’t think it would reach me. Then I realized, oh-oh, and I jumped about three-four chairs down from my spot and it landed right where I was sitting!”


About an hour after it happened, some racers came by looking for the wayward hood scoop and it was promptly returned to action, but secured with improvements.


As drag racing’s evolution as a sport continues, the events held by Duck X Productions seem to becoming a blueprint of how to build a successful drag racing series. Start with cars that people can relate to, add the Sriracha sauce, promote the heck out of it through Social Media, give the racers a fast track, and watch it all come together.

“Stevie Fast” Jackson won a cool 50 Grand as winner of Radial versus the World.

Troy Pirez Jr. was the Small Block No Time winner.


Winners by class at Lights Out 9, 2018: Radial Vs World – Steve FAST Jackson, X-275 - John Keesey, Pro 275 - Josh Klugger, Ultra Street - Rodney Regan, Limited 275 - Mike Terry, Limited Drag Radial - Shane Stack, 6.0 Index - Hunter Burgess, Outlaw 632 - Ken Quartuccio, Open Comp - Ken Grant, NT Small Block - Troy Pirez Jr. and NT 315 - Phil Bohley.

Side by side spewing of Nitrous Oxide into the night kept fans in the stands and on the starting line.

The fans loved all the wheelstands…

…and the long, smoky burnouts

Keith Haney set his personal best of 3.77 seconds in his runner-up finish to Stevie Fast.

Lyle Barnett, back from a devastating fire, is one tough racer to be respected. 



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