This years W.E. Rock Grand Nationals was hosted at the Miller Motorsports Park just outside Salt Lake City on a very warm fall weekend that merged the East Coast with the West Coast on the most aggressive man made courses to date. Over 40 teams attempted the courses, some driving 46 hours straight through, well, with trailer tire replacement stops of course.
Friday gave us the big picture of the lay of the land. Two huge mounds of shotcrete, one rising about 35ft into the air and the other 45 ft high were divided into 4 courses each. There was a mid section that was used for some high-speed interim crawling that made spotters and judges run from one section to the next. The midway was lined with vendors, food and a huge white tent where spectators could escape the sun. In the distance you could see two huge sets of mountains, knowing that the Great Salt Lake rounded the other side. The closer horizon consisted of the well-manicured green grass, huge stadium seating and buildings that make up the Miller Motorsports Facility.
The eight Mod Stocks and six F-Toys broke the cones at 9am on Friday morning and the battle was brewing…only one could take the title and although some argue the Pro Mod and Unlimited classes are the only vehicles to watch, I was highly entertained with the Mod Stocks that were on 35" DOT non-sticky tires which were completely tippy and put into multiple butt puckering positions. With almost everyone on their lid at some point during the day, Robert Miller spotted Dan Patterson through a nearly perfect day with a -19 and sitting in first place. Jake Good pulled a -16 for second and Kurt Shramovich a -6 for third. But all three of those competitors were on the same group of obstacles and still had to complete what looked like the harder set of courses the next day, plus a final shootout.
In the F-Toy division, I can almost guarantee we saw the belly pan of each of the F-Toys during Fridays run. With many high scores on the grid, Mike Wilkes and Shane Reese came out with a lead with a score of 60. These courses were tough! But the F-Toy guys never back down from a challenge, and Nathan Unruh and Mark Zaboth both battled the courses with everything they had, and came out tied for second at the end of the day.
The afternoon break was welcome by all the volunteer judges and announcers "Tech" Tim Lund and "The Sarge" Matt Westrich. Greg Mulkey from Raceline Wheels had lunch and drinks ready for everyone under the shade. But the break in the action didn't last long and we were back to competition with the Unlimited and Pro Mod Classes digging, scraping, jumping and accelerating to the finish gates.
The Unlimited Class started with Dad Mark Hall spotting Crawlin for Crohns' Justin Hall in his new single seat unlimited car to a perfect 0 on the first course. The other 11 cars tried to keep it on 4 wheels with some succeeding and some not so well. Course A2 was by far the most challenging and that can be verified by the lowest score being a 7 by Brent Bradshaw and Chris Poblano who finished the day in first place with a -13. Matt Messer was sitting in second with a 13 and Matt Heimsoth in third with a big gap at 39.
The Pro Modified class had an impressive 16 car class with big names from the East and the West. The courses were no doubt the most difficult of the season, testing even some of the most talented. With Brad Lovell hanging upside down after a slow but aggressive tumble he radioed to brother and spotter Roger, "there are some moments I don't like competing, and this happens to be one of them," as the blood flowed to his head. Nick Campbell and Jason Berger, Jesse Haines and Nick Socha, and Ken Blume and Kyle Bruso owned the day with negative scores on each of the four courses and left the day in that respective order.
Jesse Haines waiting for his spotter to set up the perfect line
Troy Bailey had the roughest Friday, but was the most fun to watch as he lost all forward gears in his transmission and could only run in reverse. With nothing to lose, and a goal to at least try, he attempted the final two courses of the day in reverse. "I actually was surprised that I got as far as I did," said Bailey, when he got about ¾ the way through the course in reverse before getting the Pro Mod stuck in a tight notch. The crowd gathered for his final course, with a little side betting going on marking out the number of cones he would get through. Four out of the seven who ran this course had scores of 35 and higher! But he was going for it. He broke the first gates, backed up the first obstacle, continued to back up sideways across the face of the mound and proceeded to not hit it fast enough and rolled heavily down into the canyon below. "This is killing me," Bailey said on Saturday about not being able to compete. "We didn't have the parts to fix the tranny, plus now the whole cage is about 4 inches lower from the roll last night!"
One of the great stories of the weeken was from the team of Carl Shortridge and Mike Fox all the way out from Virginia who lost their Powerglide transmission. With the help of MadMatz Jeepz and Ben Hank's Racing they found a local shop that helped them rebuild the complete tranny so they could continue to compete the next day. The scores were not what they would have desired, but they were there to compete, and were glad to be able to complete their trip.
Saturday was another awesome day, with the Grand National Title on the line. The action lasted all day with the Stock Mods and F-Toys starting again at 9am. Each course had its challenges, and almost every team completed all the courses. The win in stock mod came down to the shoot out between Jake Good and Dan Patterson who went in tied. It was pretty wild, and when Jake Good left the shootout with a score of 40, that opened the door for the team of Dan Patterson and Robert Miller to take home the title of Grand National Champion. Dan was able to complete the course and finished the day with an overall score of -41. Tied for second at -14 was Todd Stephensen and Jake Good.
Dan Patterson takes 1st in the Stock Mod class
The F-Toy Class was no less entertaining. Sunday ended with Mike Wilkes and Chris Dunkin's rigs sitting on the trailer unable to finish the competition, but that still left 4 in the running for the title. Everyone pulled off some amazing moves, but one of the best to watch was Nathan Unruh rolling off the face of the rock onto his side and while trying to upright the rig he ended up snaking his way through the finishing gates while still on the driver side skins! At the end of the shootout, the team of Chris Mercer and Dan Venrick took the National Title, with Mark Zaboth in second and Nathan Unruh third in the Nation.
The evening entertainment started an hour earlier on Saturday so there was plenty of time for the shootouts at the end of the night. The eleven Unlimited cars continued to rally to get into the top 6 shootout spots and a chance at the title. The husband/ wife team of Andrew and Shannon Paulson just missed getting into the shootout, but Matt Heimsoth went into it in 6th, rolled during the shootout, and maintained his 6th place position. The battle for points was in third place between Todd Young and Rob McKenney. Neck and neck, with a cone inbetween, Todd Young podiumed in third place at 9 points and Matt Messer took second with -9 points. The team of Brent Bradshaw and Chris Poblano earned the Unlimited Grand National Title finishing with a score of -51!!
Brent Bradshaw takes 1st place in Unlimited
The final shootout of the night was the Pro Modified Class, but the lead up to it was just as entertaining. Rookie and local Casey Beach gave the crowd a lot to cheer at, as did 17-year-old Shelby Gilstrap in her 8th competition ever. Dean Bulloch and Carl Mumford declared the 2010 W.E. Rock Grand Nationals as their retirement event. They had a solid weekend, proving that the roots of rock crawling is still in their blood, but missed hitting the shootout by mere points to the new up and coming rock star -14 year old Wayland Campbell.
The Iceman Dean Bulloch peels out in his very last rock crawling event
Shannon Campbell, spotting for son Wayland, worked the Monster Energy rig into the 6th position. With an amazing back flip off the top of the rock wall during the shootout, Campbell immediately continued to attack the course. He finished a very respectable 6th place. Nick Campbell, Ken Blume and Jesse Haines all went into the shootout neck and neck. With Haines rolling down from the super aggressive, steep and off camber turn he knocked himself down to forth place. Brad and Roger took an 11 in the shootout, which placed them in third. The best scores of the night came from Buzz Bronsema and Ken Blume who each earned a 7, which kicked Bronsema into the 5th position, and Blume's score gave Campbell something to worry about as he went out for the final crawl of the 2010 season. Jason Berger led Nick Campbell on a different run than we had seen all night, but he successfully completed it with a score of 8. With the final points tallied from the wild two days of action, Nick Campbell and Jason Berger came out ahead as the 2010 Grand National Pro Mod Champions.
2010 Pro Mod Grand National champ: Nick Campbell and Jason Berger
"It was a great event and competition wise it was good tight racing, it wasn't like anyone just walked away with a victory. Multiple people were in contention of the win up to the very last nail biting run of the day," summed up Rich Klein, W.E. Rock Promoter. "Anyone in the top 6 could have won in each class. We are really glad to see four new drivers are at the top of their game and now hold the title of the Grand National Champion."
Congratulations to all that competed! We look forward to the 2011 W.E. Rock series!