Straight out of the box after winning the Mid-West Pro Mod Series Radials vs. the World championship last fall, Keith Haney drove his nitrous-boosted 2016 Camaro to an impressive runner-up finish Feb. 18, at Lights Out 9, the biggest, most prestigious standalone drag radial race in the world. After qualifying eighth for the 32-car RvW field at South Georgia Motorsports Park, the Tulsa, OK-based new car dealer defeated four worthy rivals before coming up just a little short of Georgia’s own “Stevie Fast” Jackson.
“Amazing. To come out here and run like this and get to the finals when everybody said I wouldn’t, and make career-best runs in this car, well, it really couldn’t be much better,” Haney said shortly after covering the SGMP eighth mile in 3.77 seconds at 199.52 mph, compared to 3.74 at 199.67 for Jackson in the $50,000-to-win final round. “We didn’t do any testing before coming here. None whatsoever—and everybody knows it—so my team, I just couldn’t be any prouder of them.
“And the fans, they were great to us this weekend and I feel like we gave them the show they deserved and were looking for. That’s what it’s all about out here; it’s not about going fast and stroking our egos and winning money, it’s about making sure the people who come out here to watch the fastest, baddest guys on drag radials on the planet have a good time and want to come back for more. And I think we did that.”
Haney immediately made his presence known Thursday night, wrapping up the opening round of qualifying with a class-leading 3.85 pass at 196.62 mph. Jackson took over the qualifying lead in Friday’s lone session with a 3.78-seconds effort at 198.06, but lost the point on Saturday afternoon to teammate Jeff Sitton, who ran an identical elapsed time to Jackson, but earned the official number-one start based on going less than one mile an hour faster.
Once eliminations began Saturday night, Haney actually caught a break in his first-round pairing when Jeff Shawver’s ’67 Camaro stumbled off the start. Meanwhile, Haney’s car hooked up a little too much and launched into a huge wheelstand that he caught just in time to salvage a 5.56-seconds pass at just 122 mph.
Things went much better for him in round two with a 3.86 win over Paul Major, followed by an even quicker 3.81 quarter-finals victory over Kenjo Kelley. In the semis, co-crew chiefs Brandon Pesz and Brandon Switzer finally got Haney into the 3.70s, but it was the driver who won the race with a .031 holeshot that allowed his 3.79 at 198.47-mph combo to beat a slightly quicker 3.78 at exactly 198 mph by Canadian racer Paolo Giust in the opposite lane.
“I can’t say enough about my guys,” Haney stressed. “With the exception of the wheelie they got me down the track every single pass, but even there we learned something that made us go faster again later.”
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the ladder Jackson plowed through Lyle Barnett, Enzo Pecchini, Ryan Martin and Tim Slavens, going quicker and faster in each round. With lane choice for the final going to the quicker elapsed time from the semis, Jackson put Haney in the left lane for the first time in eliminations.
Once the tree turned green, Jackson left first and held the lead in a race that saw Haney cross the finish line just 82-thousandths of a second behind. Still, Haney remained upbeat about his first race outing of the year.
“That was the first time I was late on the tree all day—and it wasn’t because of him—that was all me; I was late and that happens sometimes,” Haney said. “Congratulations to Stevie on a good race. And at the end of the day, between the grudge race Stevie and I did in qualifying and the way things ended today in the finals, I think what we did for drag racing is what’s really important.
“In my opinion, and I think a lot of people would agree with this, I think this was one of the best radial races we’ve ever seen. And that’s including everything, the talking crap leading up to it, the videos on Facebook, the trash talking and the betting at the track, it’s all part of the bigger show. It all came together exactly as planned; it just didn’t work out in my favor.”
Keith Haney Racing will be back on the track Mar. 2-3, at the Texas Motorplex, near Dallas, where Haney will race in the Pro Mod category and Street Outlaws star “Daddy Dave” Comstock will drive the KHR Radials vs. the World entry in the Bruce Lowrie Chevrolet North vs. South Frankenstein0 Pro Mod Shootout for the Mid-West Pro Mod Series 2018 season opener.