[Day 1 Action]
[Day 2 Action]
here for our Photo Gallery
11:00 PM PST
And we are back to the rocks. After a month off from the Pro series, the gang has all reunited again here in Farmington, New Mexico. This is a return visit to this desert city where the sun plans to hang out with us all weekend yet possibly throw a few thunderstorms and windy afternoons at us. It an all familiar spot to many of these competitors as they talk about the terrain and how this is possibly one of the steepest locations on the circuit. So lets get straight into it now.
Hold on one second, you have to know where the competitors stand right? Well here are the current standings as of the start of this event:
UROC - Pro Series Point Standings
Today was tech day where everyone, Pros and Modified classes bring their vehicles in for safety and operation checks. These guys have to make their rigs fit within some tight, yet very flexible, rules put forth by the UROC staff. The day started early as we all gathered in the Wal-Mart parking lot here in Farmington. Trucks slowly trickled in throughout the day and the tech-in went smoothly. With the sun beating down though creating 100 degree weather, it didn’t take anyone a second thought to try and find shade. In fact, the parking lot became an awning paradise with each tech checkpoint having one as the vehicles went through the process.
Hey everyone, I just got back to the hotel after hanging out all day at the Tech-in. Things were awesome out there and the drivers were all looking forward to some good competition. As you know, we only have two more stops in the Pro series which includes this event, Farmington, and the last event next month, St. George. So the points race is on and this is going to be a make or break for many of the teams. With hints of a 50 point line, I can only imagine what to see when the green flag drops (yeah I know this isn't Nascar, but hey it works for me) and the motors come to life in the early morning. Action won't start until 11, but I hope to get out early and start making a map for you to see so you can follow along throughout the day.
So what is new out there at this event? Not much actually. Most drivers have come out to Farmington with little to no changes to their rigs. Many of them have tweaked as much out of their rigs as they can and are putting most of their efforts into the driving now. As we all know, having the best vehicle out there won’t win you the competition. You must also have the ability to point and shoot it properly. Several times as I spoke to the drivers, they stated they needed to really dial in their focus and teamwork while driving the courses.
There were some changes though and the biggest that I saw was Jason Bunch, famed for the Tri-County yellow and blue jeep. This year, Jason has been running around in Darren Runyon’s portal axled tube buggy. Jason added his personal touches to the vehicle many times to try and make it fit his driving style, but it wasn’t working. The vehicle fit Darren better than it did him. So he jumped into the design and fabrication again and built a rear engined (more like mid actually) buggy to keep up with the times. Jokingly it looks like one of those Honda Oddysseys or something. Whatever it looks like, it looks to be a good vehicle to take on the challenges of Farmington. Sitting low and long, he should take climbs pretty well. With only 6 weeks to make the thing and absolutely no seat time, the learning curve better be steep. Good luck to team Tri-County this weekend as they deflower their newest creation.
Throughout the day I caught up with several drivers. Here are a few excerpts from our conversations. Catching up with team Bailey in the #262 rig, he was one of the few that had big changes on his rig. First and foremost, the coilover towers were shortened and the springs softened up. He said that “Flipping is on my mind. I have never been this loose in the front end before. I just hope we don’t put on TOO good of a show tomorrow.” Other than that, he said the vehicle is still running good and looks forward to tomorrow’s event.
We missed Allen Ball in the #11 rig out at Jellico, TN at event #4. Unfortunately he had more important obligations to attend to, so he had to take the heavy hit on his points in the series. He was in 6th going into Tennessee and exited 12th. He has some points to make up, but getting back into the top 10 doesn’t seem so far out. Alan said, “We are here again and have come to make up some points.” Despite the drop in points, good news is that his business, Mountain Off-Road Enterprises (M.O.R.E.) is going good. So with some points to make up in the next two events, I believe we will see some edge of your seat driving.
Points leader Dean Bulloch is out with a smile as his Grand Vitara powered Modifed class buggy is ready to go. Sporting close to 200 HP out of his #9 Crawler, he sits at 550 points in the current series total. Just 6 points ahead of Errea/Schwiesow with Sisson and Standage tied back at 530 points. The modified class is a good close competition, but Dean is confident in his rig. In fact, he didn’t really change anything for this event since it has been working so well up to this point.
Curt Hildebrand is back with his overpowered buggy. I looked at this thing and he built it with one thing in mind, and that was a no nonsense vehicle that could take on practically any obstacle thrown at it. His is a single seater buggy with Curt driving with an Atlas case between his legs. The chassis looks like it was built around the engine and tranny. So only enough tube was added to make for rollover protection and to connect the front and rear axles. Not much more than that. The wicked looking creation has so much power that Curt had to limit the throttle throw so that he couldn’t use it all. So you see, sometimes you can build a vehicle with too much power.
And who do we see battling for a shot at the 2004 UROC championship throne is none other than Jon Bundrant and Larry “Half Pull” McRae. Jon stepped out for a few events to take care of business and left Larry driving the vehicle to maintain the points race. With a 4th and a 6th finish, Larry kept it up there despite the little competition driving time. Unfortunately, Larry really hurt himself good at the Cedar City event where he took a header off the tall bonus line. Since then he had surgery on his arm to reattach tendons, but being in a cast for so long also created some scar tissue that limits his left arms range of motion. The cast didn’t slow him down as he and Jon they took a second place finish in TN. Larry won’t have the scar tissue removed until after Super Crawl so they are working with a slight handicap. Maybe we can all pitch in and get Larry one of those handicap placards until then. Good luck guys.
Peter Wells, with the sprint car looking #707 rig, was all smiles this afternoon. He is happy about how things are working on his rig this season and didn’t make any changes this time around. While in tech inspection though, they gave warning about the dog leashes that several of the teams like to use. Although they won’t be banned at this event, the next events won’t allow them unless they are modified to remove the hazardous condition of getting a hand stuck in them.
Eddie Cassenueva looks a little different this time around. Oh wait, that’s because he has retired his SpiderTrax rig. He said it kept breaking and it was time to build something new. For this event, he borrowed another SpiderTrax rig to get through the weekend.
Dave Schneider in the #49 S&N Fab rig is out for some fun this weekend. He said, “The goal this weekend is to blow up Mike Shaffer’s borrowed CTMs and Superior axle components.” Dave is generally a pretty mellow driver, but it sounds like he is ready for some action this season. When asked about what he thought the courses were going to be like at this event, he said there are only three choices, “ Up, Down, and Over” This place sounds like it is going to be a real anti-gravity competition.
Bart Jacobs in the #22 rig had a great time out in TN with the rest of the pack. He liked it because it was different. “ They really had their stuff together (out at the TN event).” His rig is working well and the Mogs are holding up good this season. Fixing several little problems like having axles that were grooved long enough, placing the portal boxes on the proper side, fixing the bent housing, and curing some steering woes has really made his Mog experience a much better one than last season. Last season was plagued with a nearly uncountable amount of problems.
Craig Stumph and “Give em Hell” Percell were happy as ever as they brought out their Maxxis tired rig. Somehow his rig always looks pretty clean despite several of his rolls. Ok, maybe his hood was a little deformed some from a little heat issue, but the rest was pretty clean. Craig claims that the divot in his hood gives him the extra downforce on the front end to give him more traction. That might just not happen though until he hits 100 MPH. I wanna see what course he is on where he can build up that kind of speed.
So that’s it for now. As was stated by many, including the course designers, the event will be a steep one. One such course will have a magic 50 point bonus line just because it is so steep and is preceeded by a negative cut face. The incline was estimated at 62 degrees. The UROC gang really wants to see how far these vehicles can go in their climbing. We hope to get good pictures from that course.
We will see you tomorrow.