This weekend I made the long, grueling, 15-Minute drive from my house to my local outdoor track, St. Louis Dirtburners, for the 8th Annual Futaba/O.S. Nitro Challenge. This is a race I’ve participated in since I entered the hobby, and it has been great progressing at the event through the years. The race is known for drawing in some of the Midwests best drivers and some pros, this year bringing in Jared Tebo to join the regulars of Josh Wheeler and Ryan Lutz. The 8th annual set itself apart from the other years as Joey “The Dirt” Christensen was called out to build us a great layout, and man did he deliver. The layout featured some difficult jumps and a few high speed sections. As always at this race, the track grooved up with its famous ‘brown groove’ (a slick, almost glassy looking groove) which made tire choice even more important. Once the track started to blow out, it really became apparent to the visiting locals why we call this the Nitro Challenge.
The first order of business during practice (as always) was finding the right tire. Although the surface is similar every year, it also changes a little bit and sometimes different tread patterns are needed. After trying a few different options, I settled on Blockades in X3 or M3 if it rained or was watered. The Blockades provided great forward traction while also providing tremendous side traction over the slick surface. M3 Blockades for the Truggy were equally as locked in and provided excellent lap times. Otherwise both cars felt pretty good and besides a shock fluid change to adapt to the hot weather, I was good to go!
In E-Buggy qualifying, I surprised myself by getting onto a near TQ pace multiple times. The first round I got a little nervous and had some major mistakes from being told how close I was to the faster guys and ended with a disappointing 8th overall. The second round I was more prepared and tried my hardest to hold my pace together and not get messed up by the large ruts. A crash on the last lap ruined my pace and gave me a third for the round which is still good! For the third round I made no changes and really just tried to run a clean race. Unfortunately some of the other drivers did not have the same intentions and decided to go all out and go as fast as they could at the expense of the other drivers on the track. I ended up with a 5th for the round. This put me 5th overall which still gave me a shot at the win or a podium spot.
In E-Truggy, I don’t think I could’ve been more confident in my truck after the first round. I set out to just do my best in the class, and managed a TQ with almost half a lap on the field. Since my truck felt so good, I decided to leave it alone and just learn how to drive it harder. This again resulted in a TQ! For the final round, I decided to try a link change in an attempt to make the truck a little more aggresive. This worked very well and again I had a TQ.
In the E-Buggy Mains, I was a little nervous but knew I had to just push to the front and try to get a clean run in. In A1, I managed to run a very fast race and took a 2nd place finish behind Ryan Lutz. In A2, I had a battle with Michael Page for part of the race before I got past him and started to run after Lutz. My Hobbywing ESC and motor created great power and speed that I needed to run away from the field. Lutz had too much of a gap on the field for me to catch up so I ended with another 2nd, putting me second overall in E-Buggy! I was very happy with this result!
In the E-Truggy mains, I just focused on making the most of my TQ and getting away early. The first Main I managed to again make a half a lap cushion on the field. The second main I really just decided to push my truck as hard as I could to see how fast I could get it to go. My Pro-Line Blockades and Hobbywing 1800kv motor provided the monster torque and traction I needed to lap the entire field! Extremely happy with this result and my truck, definitely a class I will be racing in addition to nitro next year!
Thank you to my generous sponsors, Pro-Line Racing and Hobbywing North America/FalconSEKDIO.com!