February 27, 2018
This past weekend I headed to Phoenix for the 2018 Dirt Nitro Challenge event. It could be considered the 2nd largest event on this years schedule behind the IFMAR Worlds with most of the top pro’s in the world in attendance. This year the track was done early and was overall packed better than previous years but with the slightly windy and sunny conditions of the early days it would dry out and break apart in some sections. This led to slightly rougher conditions in some sections which had to be properly set-up for.
Practice started off pretty good. They took your best 3 consecutive laps in either of your two practice runs and my Nitro cars were great out of the gate. I would seed 1st in Truggy and 2nd in buggy. Once qualifying got underway however it was a bit of a reversal. My fuel didn’t arrive to the track until a day late and so I was using some ‘older’ fuel that had been brought from a previous race. Things seemed fine in practice overall but once qualifying started my Nitro program began to struggle. In Q1 of truggy my engine just got leaner and leaner as we went through the run and while I was battling for the lead the first 3 minutes, it just got hotter and hotter and I lost power and came off near 400*. The glowplugs was damaged and most likely damaged the engine. I still managed a 7th for the run but should have been much better. In Q2 we put in a different engine and pipe from Danny’s car. It was decent but lacked bottom end (2060 vs. 2090) and I just struggled for power a bit and would manage a 4th for that run. So I was solidly into the A-main but I was struggling to get it all sorted. For Q3 it was a bear to tune it on the bench as suddenly it acted really really lean and I had to richen it a ton (Whenever that is the case something somewhere is wrong). Well we got it to sound ok on the box but once it hit the track half a lap in it went pig rich. So i brought it in and had him lean top 2 and bottom 1. It was ok for another half a lap as the race began and then went full rich again. So I had to pit during the run a couple more times to get the tune right. It was after this that we decided to try the fresh gallon of fuel that had arrived. Fortunately I had qualified 8th overall and into the A but I needed to get things figured out to have any shot in the A-main.
Ebuggy started off really well in Q1 and I was able to take the TQ for the round. Many people were struggling with the conditions and making mistakes and I guess I just made the least amount of them. In Q2 and Q3 I had solid runs although not quite as good as Q1 and I took 4th in both rounds. This qualified me 3rd overall and gave us Tekno 2,3, heading into the main event.
Nitro buggy was on Friday and after the great practice and how good my e-buggy had felt I was looking forward to some good results. But they didn’t come. I struggled with set-up in each round perhaps trying to change to many things and going in the wrong direction. Perhaps using the wrong tires for the conditions or maybe just simply making to many mistakes. I had qualifiers of 13, 11, 13 which were much below par for me and seeded me as BQ for the first time in a couple years.
Saturday was Truggy and E-buggy A-main day. First we had a warmup for each and again we were trying to get the truggy dialed in engine wise. It would sound ok on the bench but again once it hit the track it was again a struggle. So after again struggling and with only the A-main to go I decided to make a few changes for the main. I replaced the fuel tank and the carb incase the old fuel had in some way contaminated either one. I tuned it up on the bench and in the back alley and it seemed to be running consistent and how it should. Once out there for the A-main it seemed like it would be good and I was going to do my best to move my way through the pack. I was able to pretty steadily move my way up through the pack and by lap 15 found myself in 4th but already with a decent deficit to the top 3. I made a few long mistakes including getting hay bailed but otherwise drove pretty well and had some good battles with teammates Joe and Alex for a lot of the race. I was able to come away with the 4th position though with Alex 5th and Joe 7th.
E-buggy main was one I usually struggle with being just a single 10 minute race. At the start though I held my own and actually felt faster than the leaders. But a couple laps in I would short the front triple and have to double out and upon doing so Tessman hit my wing and went flying. So as we went to the top right corner before the drop down I was going to stop and let him go past me. (Turns out it wasn’t Tessman though and was more likely Stees) but anyways as I stopped to let them go they got out in the fluff and off line and came down into me and knocked me off the dropdown where I would drop way down the pack into 8th I think. So much for trying to be nice when I didn’t have to. Well I would fight back and get back into that 4th position by the end of the race for a decent result. Joe would do great holding his own in 2nd!
Sunday was nitro buggy day and I was pretty confident going into the B-main but that soon dissipated as we got started and I realized my set-up wasn’t ideal. My car was hard to drive and I missed my tune on the lean side and was having a bit of a run on issue the entire race. I received many challengers at the start of the race and I just made my car wide as I could. I would hold onto 2nd for much of the first part but by either the 1st or 2nd pitstop Drake was on me and he got by on the lap we were both coming into pit lane. He got in first but my dialed pit team got me out of pit lane first and I think it got into his head and he made mistakes allowing me to get that solid 2nd position again. The next challenge came the final 5 minutes or so of the race as Phend and Jellin both caught me and were honestly faster than I was able to go. I did all I could to just stay clean and let the chips fall as they may. I let Phend by and Jellin I think just pushed a little to hard and made some mistakes. Eventually he flamed out and I was able to secure the 3rd and final bump spot, but man was it a struggle.
For the A-main I would basically go and copy what Joe was running as he was pretty happy with his car in his A-main warmup. The conditions would also be better with the night moisture coming up. I also switched to gridirons in the rear instead of all impacts to try to get a bit more forward bite coming out of corners and such. As the main got underway I was super happy. My car felt Amazing and I was picking off drivers left and right for the first 3 laps or so. I felt I had the car to finish top 3 or 4 and I was stoked. But as I came off the drop down a couple of cars had tangled below and I lawn darted into an out of shape car and broke my front arm. 🙁
I was heartbroken as it seems to be my luck that when my car is good enough to challenge for the front, is when I seem to have early failures. This was also my chance to stake my claim near the top of the Top25RC rankings but instead this will now cost me for 2 years. Well anyways we went back and replaced the arm and hingepin as fast as we could and I returned to run the race and put in the 2nd fastest lap on the track. I would finish 14th overall giving it my all and super pleased with my vehicle. Afterwords my wife was kind enough to point me to Psalm 73 and it was a good reminder to get my heart in the right place.
Next up I head to Washington state to do a seminar and race the Holiday Hangover race.
January 23, 2018
This past weekend I headed down south to the Southern Indoor Championships near Montgomery, Alabama. This year the event had over 500 entries and no chance of Tornados! Instead we had some uncharacteristically cold mornings and days for the south to contend with.
The track was a little drier this year than years past and on practice day a groove actually formed before they decided to water. The conditions were pretty slick and tire selection was a challenge for sure. Primarily I ended up on my go to tire and compound being super soft long wear impacts in buggy and super soft long wear grids in truggy.
Qualifying for started bright and early on Saturday morning and or if the gate my truggy was on point. The tires were dialed in and I took an 8 second margin TQ to start off my weekend. Nitro buggy was next and I ran a pretty solid race. I had a couple slow ups in traffic but overall clean. In the heat after me though Chandler was scorching and beat me out giving me a 2nd. In Ebuggy I had a good solid run for a TQ.
The final two qualifiers continued with success in truggy. Taking TQ in both and thus the overall TQ for the event. In buggy it was more of a struggle as the conditions were difficult. There was higher grip areas and lots of dust making an inconsistent surface. My cars were a bit twitchy on the steering and then loose in the rear because of it. My goals on setup became to desensitize the steering a bit by lowering my steering speed, going to heavier front diff and heavier front sway bar and spring. All this helped but but it was a process through my final runs. I didn’t have another great run in either buggy but still managed to qualify 2nd overall in Ebuggy and 3rd in Nitro buggy.
For the mains they decided to run the pro nitro program earlier in the event so there would be more spectators and people to watch. I thought this was a great idea though it did feel a bit weird. First up was Nitro truggy around noon and it was a 30 minute affair. I chose my AKA SSLW grids for the task and they were up for the challenge. I had a solid start and quickly started to work up a lead. My truggy doing what it does best. My truck still could have been better with slightly heavier front shock oil as it was blowing through the stroke a bit quickly on some jump landings and faces but it was still super fast. In the end I. Early was able to put a lap on the field and took a nice victory to start the day.
Next around 2pm we had the 30 minute Nitro buggy final. I opted to try SSLW double downs in the front and impacts in the rear. My goal being to mellow out the steering a little. They blew off the track before our run and my car felt pretty good in warmup. But the dust came up quickly and I just struggle mightily with the aggressiveness of the front end and the traction conditions. I did my best to adjust my driving lines and style. At one point mid run I was nearly 20 seconds out of the lead but had finally secured a solid hold on 2nd. I started to put in some faster laps really concentrating hard on my lines and steering points. I was able to make up ground and get within 8 seconds of the lead with 4 minutes to go but I got caught in traffic and lost my momentum. So in the end I settled for 2nd place in a hard fought race. What I would have changed would be to have run impacts all the way around and gone even higher on front bar to 2.5.
The triple E buggy mains would close out the long day. In A1 I quickly put myself in a hole as in the top left trying to avoid the huge hole I rolled on the pipe putting me back in last momentarily. I worked my way through the field and up to a 4th place finish. In A2 I had a much better run and battled with Ogden for half the race. We swapped the lead a couple times before he made a bigger mistake and I got a 4 second advantage and brought it home for the win. It was all down to A3 and my car was actually the best it had felt. I got into the lead and stretched out early as the pack was crashing. I quickly had about a 10 second cushion with 3 minutes to go when I started to feel like my battery was going soft. I yelled down for Matt and looked down pit lane but I could see him. I tried to start to conserve but within 2 laps while crossing the line with 2 minutes to go my battery died. I had forgotten to change my battery before the run. Rookie mistake right there. This thus cost me the win and overall victory and I had to settle for 3rd on the podium. I ran SSLW impacts in all 3 A’s and was pretty pleased with them.
Overall 3 more podium finishes to start the year and another Nitro truggy TQ and win. I’m looking forward to some redemption at the upcoming Nitro Challenge in truggy and hopefully can put it all together.
January 9, 2018
The 2018 season has gotten underway with my first trip to the January Jam at Flowood R/C in Flowood, Mississippi. At this event I decided to run 3 buggy classes for the first time as I wanted to help promote the new Tekno EB410 as well as my 1/8th buggies. This meant my Truggy had to sit this one out, but it will be back again in a week and a half for the SIC. The layout this year was a lot of fun and it kept you busy with really no time to relax. Lots of lefts and rights made it hard to pass but it kept you on your toes and it was a lot of fun I thought.
For most of the event I was using Clay typo’s in my 1/8th buggies and Clay Chainlink / X-Link in my 1/10th buggy. These tires were great and had lots of grip so long as I could stay in the groove. Knowing they wouldn’t last my Nitro final however I decided to try clay chainlinks in Q3 of Nitro buggy. They weren’t as good with the taller pin compared to the typo’s though. During qualifying I would take the overall TQ in all 3 classes on Saturday which was a nice birthday present for me. Now I had a decision to make for main day and what tires I would be running in Nitro buggy.
I had limited supply of Clay typo’s and I had to make them last and hopefully win the first two A-mains in E-buggy else I didn’t know what I would run in A3. I had a great first run in A1 taking a big win. In A2 though on my lower treaded tires were making my car a bit hard to drive and I made a couple mistakes and Jake got by me. I would catch him and a couple times he stuffed the pipe right in front of me and I would get the worst of it. Other times I caught up only to crash on my own. On the second to last lap though Jake got caught in an upside down car and flipped over, as I came through the section I got flipped over by the marshalls foot but he marshaled me first and I came away with the win. Not the way I would have wanted it to happen but that’s racing as they say. So with the A1 and A2 wins I was able to win the overall in E-buggy. I decided to run A3 to test tires for the Nitro buggy main. I put on Super Soft Long Wear impacts, which are my go to tires anymore. They felt good and my laptimes were still good so I mounted up a fresh set for the 30 minute Nitro buggy main to finish out the day.
In the 1/10th buggy class I would have a commanding victory in A1 but in A2 I hit some marbles and broke a tie-rod in warmup. I didn’t have enough time to get back on the track so I got my car prepared for A3. In A3 I had another solid run taking the win and the overall in 1/10th 4wd Mod. I ran Clay Chainlink in front and Clay X-Link in the rear.
The last race of the day was the Nitro buggy 30 minute final. I chose to run the AKA Super Soft long wear double downs as I was out of impacts it seemed. They felt great though on the grooved track and my car was on rails. I got out to a quick lead and just pulled away from the field. My car was pivoting amazingly through the corners and everything was working great. I got a 1 lap lead before the 10 minute mark and was able to bring it home with a 3 lap margin of victory by the end of the run.
Overall I had a great time at the January Jam. It’s always good to see my friends in Flowood and have a good time racing. I got my 2018 off to a strong start and looking to keep the momentum going as I had to Alabama in a week + for the SIC event!
December 20, 2017