This past weekend I attended the 2014 U.S. Southern Nationals in West Monroe, Louisiana. This race has been held for the past 5 years at Ike Hamilton Expo Center and this was my third straight year of attending the event. This is always one of my favorite races of the year because the track is always fun, flowing, and has a lot of elevation changes! Jeff Gray and the crew did not disappoint this year and came up with yet another awesome layout!
Practice was held on Friday and the main focus of this day was tires and just getting to grips with the feeling of your cars. I knew that the track was going to change drastically in the next couple days so I didn’t worry about set-up that much. It turned out that I didn’t have to worry about setup because my XRAY XB8 and XRAY XT9 were amazing from the start!
The qualifying format for this race called for 3 rounds of 5-minute qualifiers, with your best 2 rounds deciding where you would line up for the Mains on Sunday.
In the first round of truck qualifying, I had a decent run for a 6th overall. My truck was very loose and I decided that for the second round I would switch to M4 Blockades from M3 Hole Shots. In the second round my truck felt much better and I was on pace for a second overall behind Petersen, but I ran into trouble with traffic and wrecked cars. I ended up getting another 6th overall. In the third round I just wanted to have a smooth run and I did just that. It may have not been the fastest run but it felt good to have a clean run for a 4th overall. After qualifying I was set to start 8th in the 45-minute Main on Sunday!
In Buggy, I knew my car was good and I was very confident in myself! In the first round I tried to overdrive my car a little bit and got 10th overall. In the second round, the track was deteriorating rapidly and I was very excited about that! I was so excited that I decided to get a little wild on the right side double and break my steering link in warm up!
In the third round, I knew I needed a top 5 run to get into the Main. It was getting late into the night and the temperature was dropping. After my truck run, I knew I needed to go lighter in my shock oils to cope with the track and the temperature. I didn’t have enough time to do that, but after talking to Rocco Margiotta, he let me borrow his shocks off of his electric buggy which were already set up softer.
I went out for warm up and my car equipped with M4 Blockades felt AWESOME!
I had a clean run and was battling for TQ with Taylor Petersen the whole run but he got me in the end and I got 2nd overall. After qualifying I was set to start 6th in the Main! I was very excited for it because my car was the best it had been in the last round, and the track would be very similar to that in the Main!
In the 45-minute truck main I was starting from 8th and just wanted to get a good start and let it play out. Well, that didn’t work out because I ended being 3rd to last after 1 lap. My truck was very loose and I knew I picked too soft of a compound of tires. I managed to put in some fast clean laps and made it into 3rd after about 10-minutes, right behind my buddy Aaron Reynolds who was in 2nd. Then the battle began! Me and Aaron went back and forth for the rest of the Main, never being separated by more than 5-seconds. Cole Ogden had about a 10-second lead out in front and we had a good gap on 4th. We each took turns being the one chasing and the one being chased, and in the end he got the best of me. It was one of the most fun races I’ve ever ran and getting to battle with one of my good friends was awesome!
In the Buggy Main, I knew I had a good chance at taking the win, I just had to drive smart and not make many mistakes. I got a great start from 6th on the grid and was 3rd after the first lap behind Taylor Petersen and my XRAY teammate Jason Branham. I was about 3-seconds behind them and was just pacing them when Jason ran into engine troubles and I was moved up to second. I was settling in in 2nd behind Taylor and was trying to pace him when he came into pit lane for his own engine troubles. I was moved up to first with a pretty good gap on 2nd place Cole Ogden. My car and M3 Blockades felt great and I just focused on running clean laps and hitting my lines. I started opening up the gap and it was as big as 15-seconds at one point. With about 15-minutes left, I over jumped the center triple a little bit, causing my car to chassis slap really hard and flame out. Once we got it back to the pits it fired right back up, but the damage was done and I lost about 50-seconds. I had built such a good gap that I only dropped two places to third, just a few seconds behind Aaron Reynolds who was in second. I managed to pass him back and set my sights on trying to catch Cole who was just under a lap ahead of me in first. I was closing the gap but I just ran out of time and tried to push a little bit too hard at times. I ended up getting 2nd when it was all said and done! I was bummed because I knew I had a good chance at winning, but that’s racing! I was still very proud of how I drove and how my car performed!
Thanks Kurt Kellum for the tire advice and Jason Branham for the shock setup!
Overall I had a very good weekend! I had so much fun in the pits with the #greasybrah crew, and I just want to thank Jason Branham, Rocco Margiotta, Brian Rickard, Steven Buchanan, Andrew Clark, and Aaron Reynolds for all the fun times! Racing wouldn’t be the same without the experience of pitting with y’all! I want to thank Jeff Gray for organizing one of my favorite events of the year, Notch Johnson for running a smooth sailing program, and Jeremy Flint for the race coverage! I want to thank my dad for all that he does for me, I couldn’t do it without him! I also want to thank my family for the love and support!
Thanks Pro-Line for the support and best products on the market!
Till next time,