Marty Stinnett's record setting Mustang has been a force in the radial tire scene. We catch up with him about his current season, future plans, and what makes his racing program so successful.
Most racers will attest to the fact that each race season is a new ball game from one year to the next. With that in mind, the start of each season usually includes a period of tuning-by-fire where competitors are essentially dialing in their setups as they go, determining what’s working and what needs additional tweaking.
With the Lights Out 9 event annually held near the opening of each season, it’s a race that often sees setups that are in the midst of that evolution. “It’s typically one of the first large radial races of the year, and one of the biggest – if not the biggest,” explains Marty Stinnett. Stinnett has been a fixture in radial racing for some time and has proven himself a force to be reckoned with over the years, breaking records with his turbocharged ’93 Mustang along the way.
“Everybody’s got cabin fever coming into this event – everyone’s ready to get out there and run,” he says. “We went into this year’s event with high hopes. We ended last year on a high note at No Mercy, running mid-3.70s with a small-block, which a lot of people didn’t think was really possible until we did it.”
Stinnett’s history with Mustangs goes back to when heads-up racing rules moved over to stock-style suspension. “The Mustang just had a superior factory rear suspension with the four link rather than leaf springs,” he says. “Leaf spring technology wasn’t really as good back then. I’d been running an early Camaro on leaf springs, so for the stock suspension stuff I moved over to a Mustang. I’ve always liked them.”
The notchback rides on a full tube chassis with a stock wheelbase. It gets motivation from a 470 cubic-inch small-block Chevy from Jeff Burns Racing Engines, which is backed by a two-speed gearbox from Proformance that sends the power to a Mark Williams rear end, and helping to that power to good use are shocks and struts from Santhuff Suspension that are tuned by Wade Hopkins of Southern Speed.
Radial Versus the World specifies a minimum weight of 2,350lbs including the driver, and with the motor making roughly 3,100 horsepower with a healthy dose of turbocharging, it makes for a seriously potent drag car.
“We’ve used Diamond Pistons for years, dating all the way back to my small-block Ford,” he adds. “After trying a few different configurations and combinations, we’ve got a set that’s working great for us now. The pistons have been holding up really well – you pull them out and they still look great. I can’t think of a single piston failure that we’ve had with them. And we beat on them, I promise.”
Lights Out 9 proved to be something of a learning experience for Stinnett, he says. “We did make changes to the car to go faster – a couple of guys told me I was crazy to do that and that I should’ve just changed the spark plugs. We barely got the car ready in time for the event, and we showed up with zero testing. I think I was on the track four times, and one time we got down the track with like a 4.02 – that was just to get it into a qualifying position. The car was de-tuned and we just weren’t really happy with the setup. I think we just kind of missed it on that one.”
Fortunately it’s still early in the season, so this is the time to get issues like those sorted out. And it sounds like he did: “We followed that performance up at NMCA in Bradenton, Florida, where we set the Radial Wars record,” he explains. “Not just for small-blocks, but the class record – against all the big-blocks, Hemis, and all that.”
Stinnett says he has another record in his sights now. “Our goal is to be the first radial car to run 3.60s,” he says. “To do it with a small-block and a stock wheelbase car would be outstanding.”