2015 The Dirt Nitro Challenge

Headed out to Avondale, AZ for the first big nitro race of 2015. I’m debuting my new MX engines this week, and I’m excited to get out there.

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Leaving the cold snowy KC weather and trading it for sunny and 80 degrees

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We got into AZ Tuesday evening and checked out the track. The layout looked awesome, technical, flowing, nothing too crazy. I really like the elevation and all the different obstacles. JLAME also made the trip out with me for his first big race experience.

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Kyosho gang headed to the track for practice. Practice was supposed to start at 8am and have two 7 minute practice rounds. Typical The Dirt style, the whole morning was wasted adding late entries and making all the racers sit around and wait. Practice finally started at 12:40pm, but with all the added entries, practice got cut down to only one 6 minute practice.

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I had all three cars all ready to rock for the one and only practice. Truggy was up first and the track felt good. The layout was really fun, with some big jumps and a really cool whoop section. My new Mx engine and fuel was also running great in the first practice. Next up was E Buggy, going from nitro to electric is always tough, and with all the jumps, getting the timing down was key. By the end of the 6 minutes I had it down pretty good.

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Now it was time for JLAME to hit the big DNC track for the first time. He was excited to get out there, and I was excited to see the carnage. He did not disappoint at all…..the few laps were pretty rough, but luckily the Kyosho MP9 is tough and he made the whole 6 minutes and started to get some flow at the end.

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I also was able to bring some JTP gear to sell with the addition of JLAME to the trip. My international fans were stoked on it and they cashed in on a bunch of items for themselves and their buddies.

Lastly it was my turn to hit the track with my nitro MP9. It was late, so my only practice was gonna be a night run. It went pretty good, but I was struggling with driving at night. Some of the jumps were pretty hard to see and to judge. My car felt good though, and my lap times were fast. I guess I was ready for qualifying to start.

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Thursday is Truggy and Electric Buggy qualifying. Just like practice day, the scheduled time to start was 8am…..but the first race didn’t hit the track until after 12PM. I try not letting that kind of stuff bother me mentally, but it is pretty difficult. I am a perfectionist and it just doesn’t make any sense why this race is ran so terribly every year…..I guess it’s because people keep coming back. Anyways…enough of that.

Truggy Q1 was here and I was ready to rock. My truck felt good in the whopping 6 minutes of practice, and now it was race time.

I was fast, but had a big mistake. I was battling to be in the top 3 for the round, but after my mistake, I ended up 7th. My pace was good, but I don’t want a 7th. Q2 was much better as I didn’t make any mistakes and had the same pace I did in Q1. I took the TQ spot in Q2. With the race program starting WAY behind schedule, they decided to push back the Pro Truggy and Electric Buggy Q3’s to Friday morning. The fight for overall TQ was on in Q3. Again I was fast and kept a great pace. Me and Ty Tessman were fighting the whole qualifier and it came down to the final lap. We both would push to the limit and each run our fastest laps of the event, but Ty would just edge me out by 2 tenths of a second.

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Electric Buggy Q1 started off a little rough, with some mistakes right at the start. My car felt great, so I was able to get back in my groove and start to click laps off. I came all the way back up to finish 2nd for the round. I was really feeling like I could push for a TQ in Q2, but again more mistakes. I was having a hard time adjusting from Truggy to Electric Buggy, and finding myself over driving. I got 5th for Q2. Q3 was in the morning and I needed a good run to lock up a top 3 starting position. I was all excited and feeling great after securing the overall TQ in Truggy, but I just couldn’t find my groove. I was crashing in spots on the track that I hadn’t struggled with in previous runs, not timing the big jumps right, it was just bad. I would be starting 4th for the main.

Friday was also qualifying for Nitro Buggy. Since the Pro class had to be at the track at 7am to finish Truggy qualifying, they had Pro Buggy up first, so we wouldn’t be at the track for 21 hours. With only having one practice, the heats were not seeded, they were just set up random. In Q1 my car felt awesome, but I had multiple traffic issues, and a couple bobbles on my own. Halfway through the qualifier I was really getting back in my groove and moving up in the leader board, but then I had a very long tangle with a slower car. I got 13th for the round, and I was pretty bummed, if I didn’t get in that tangle, I would have been 5th. Q2 was resorted after Q1, so I was in the fastest group, as they took the top 14 drivers. Traffic again though would cost me, with me and Truhe tangling multiple times, I just could not catch a break. With many crashes, but fast lap times, I got 11th in Q2. This meant that starting in the top 3 would be impossible, and to be top 5 I would need a TQ in Q3, so that was my plan. My car felt awesome all day, but my results weren’t showing the speed of my car, or my driving. Q3 I finally had a clean run and fought for TQ the entire run. Me, Tessman, and Ronnefaulk battled down to the last lap, but I would finish 3rd, 2 tenths off Ty, and 1 second off David. With a 3rd and a 11th, I was in a four man tie for 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th….luckily my 3rd was a really fast time and I won the tie and will start 9th.

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unfortunately for JLAME…..his DNC experience has been pretty tough on the track. With the difficult DNC track, only having 6 minutes of practice is pretty insane for your average driver. Then only having one qualifier in the day time….night time driving with big jumps is much tougher than in the day….then add on that his Q3 was at 3AM…..poor JLAME missed his Q3, team JTP needed some sleep. Driving the track was fun for him, but he was in a total culture shock with the poor organization, extreme long days at the track, lack of sleep, and very little track time.

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Saturday was here…..Race Day #1 at DNC 2015. We had a pretty long day of just sitting at the track waiting. Amain warm up for both Truggy and Electric Buggy would be around 3PM – 4PM, with both mains being later in the night, and under the lights. Amain warm up for Truggy felt awesome. My truck felt fast and my engine was running perfect….me and Ty paced around with each other for most of the 10 minute session. The warm up was in the heat of the day, but the race would be around 10PM, so I was unsure about tire choice. Electric Buggy was much of the same. My car felt great, and I was fast. I did use the 7 minutes to test two different sets of AKA tires, and I liked the ChainLinks the best. They added some water before our warm up in Electric Buggy….just another nod to a terribly organized race event….water was very inconsistent all week and you never knew what track you would get. Electric Buggy warm up during the daytime….with water…..Electric Buggy A-Main at night-time, with a totally dry track…..great job!

Finally it was Race Time! Up first was Electric Buggy A-main….single 10 minute race. I started 4th and got a great start, moving into second pretty fast. My car was feeling very good early, especially in the whoops, as I had the flow in there, and was catching Tessman. A few laps in I was glued to the back of his car and really felt like the race was mine, I just needed to be patient. unfortunately I would catch a rut coming onto the back straight and go flipping. I got back going and was still in 2nd, but now Maifield was all over me. That crash seemed to get me out of my groove and I would crash two more times dropping me back to 4th. I regained focus and moved passed Phend to get back into 3rd, but the top two were long gone. I finished off strong and actually caught up to within a second or so of Maifield at the finish. Happy with a podium and my speed was great, I am happy when I feel I had a chance to win.

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A few hours later and it was Pro Truggy A-Main time! I was worried about tire wear in the 45 minute main, as Super Soft rubber was the choice compound to have with the cold slick track. All week I have run AKA Gridiron, but I wasn’t sure if they would last during the main as I assumed the track would be dry. I decided to change my tread for the main and run AKA Super Soft Impact’s instead. In the few laps we get during warm ups, my truck felt pretty good, I was thinking my tire choice was right. I started from the TQ spot and had a great start, even pulling away by two seconds in the first few laps. The pack would tighten up and it was an all out duel between me and Tessman early. Ty made a pretty aggressive pass on me, but after the next jump, he went wide and I shot to the inside. We came together as he hit the back-end of my truck before the double double, but luckily I didn’t crash and only fell to 2nd. The top 6 trucks were all close and fighting really hard till around the 15 minute mark. I had got shuffled back to 3rd, and the my pace wasn’t fast enough to stay with the Ty and David. My MX engine and Fuel ran great and I was able to pit at 9 minutes during the 45 minute final. I made a very costly mistake racing with Phend around 20 minutes into the race and that dropped me back a few positions and I lost touch of the podium positions. I finished up 4th. I was really happy with TQ and leading some laps and fighting hard to hold the lead early. My tire choice hurt me, as I should have run Gridirons like David did, I didn’t have the raw speed that he had with the smaller tire.

Sunday is the premier class, the Nitro Buggy main day. I made some small setup changes to my MP9e on Saturday and they worked great, so I was excited to do those same changes to my MP9 and see how it felt in A-Main warm up. Just like Saturday, our practice is in the daytime, and racing will be under the lights. I also learned from my truggy main and was going to choose the tire that would give me the best lap times. In the warm up I went out on AKA Super Soft Gridiron 2 and my car felt awesome. Me and Cav battled for most of the practice and we were racing each other pretty hard and having a blast. That was a nice change from the normal stressed out and serious warm up session to see if I’m fast enough to win. My changes to my car felt good, my tires felt good, my engine was running perfect, and my driving felt good too…..it was game time!

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Starting from 9th on the grid, the start was going to be key. The first lap was one of the craziest laps I have ever had in my 15 year RC career. It was like everyone was racing for their lives. I got passed a few cars right off the start, then I cased the big triple and got passed back by a few….entered the whoops like 6 cars wide and pure chaos broke out. People were just loosing their minds for some reason, I was so shocked I made it out of that, when I went into the next off camber section, I went so slow to catch my breath that I got swallowed up by four cars and we went 4 deep into the berm. Somehow I made it out of the craziest lap of my life and I was around 5th. A few laps in and I was finding my groove and clicking laps off. I made some passes and was up to 3rd and feeling strong. I never really got into the lead battle, but I raced hard around the 3rd position for most of the main. Me and Maifield raced hard for 35 of the 30 minutes it seemed like. Towards the end, the wind really picked up and I had a really long crash off the front double double. That crash got me out of the battle with Maifield. I was running 4th towards the end, but then Phend started to crash and I got around him, but he battled me hard for the last podium spot all the way to the end. I finished 3rd by less than a second over Phend. Another good race, close to getting the win, but a few mistakes away. I would say I am keeping my positive vibes going in 2015 and I’m still building. My new nitro program seems to be rock solid and what a great start for MX….finishing 2nd and 3rd in the debut race.

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Thanks to Joe Pillars for all the great pitting help, JLAME for the added help in the JTP camp this week, my amazing family for all their support, all my great fans, my sponsors, Kyosho, MX, Orion, AKA, Ko Propo, JTP, Amain.com, Upgrade-RC, TD Paint, Lunsford, MIP, LiveRC.com, Bike Source, Specialized, Rock Brook Church, and thanks to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It’s on to the next one!

 

 

3 responses to “2015 The Dirt Nitro Challenge

  1. SS Gridirons will last a whole 45 min main? I thought AKA sponsored drivers usually switch to Impacts for the main for the longevity. Your buggy and truggy race looked really good. Good job!

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