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XRRA Round 4 Eastern Division Finals, Badlands, IN
Story and photos by Nolen "Rock Midget" Grogan
August 16, 2008

[ TECH COVERAGE ] [ PHOTO GALLERY ]

The racers were met with bright blue skies as they gathered at the rock quarry section of the Badlands Off Road Park in Attica Indiana on Saturday. Teams walked the course coming up with strategies for tackling the super fast course laid out by the professionals from XRRA Inc.

The course was fast. With an outside lane that was about 50% longer than the inside lane, but with less extreme obstacles, the times were surely to some of the fastest we have seen in the East this season. The inside lane threw boulders, a loose hill climb and a double jump at the racers to slow things down a bit.

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Ken Blume has not had the best year in XRRA leading up to the Badlands event. Nursing a tired generation I 3.8 V6, he has not had the speed off the line that he has needed to be in contention. Sporting a new motor for the Badlands, Kenny set a blistering pace on his first run. Blume tore up the track, laying down a time that would lead him to the shootout at the end of the day.

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Tim Cantrell was sporting a new modification on his wicked SXOR buggy at the finals. Plagued with broken rear driveshafts all season, Tim decided to take out a little of the 500+ horsepower he has access to by placing a stop on his throttle! Regardless, the racer sounded and ran like an angry beast as Tim made one of his best runs of the year.

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Drew Goldie has had better days for sure. On his first run, he slammed his buggy over the largest rocks on the inside lane snapping an upper link bolt. The cool thing was that his triangulation is so good, he was able to finish the course fully getting it with only 3 links.

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An awesome matchup for the day was Adam Carter and Brian Shirley. Both of these men were shooting for first place in the East and were driving fast making for awesome entertainment.

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Kim Sears had a great race day at the Badlands. We don't know if it is because she removed the 250# ballast in the passenger seat or if it is that she is getting more used to her buggy. Either way, Kim turned in a sub-minute run on her second race, one of the top times of the day.

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Dave and Kim Smith had their best race of the season at the Badlands as well. They have their new ORI struts dialed in very well and the buggy jumped and cornered better than ever. It was great seeing them have such a great day and to complete all 4 races. Way to go guys!

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Brandon Haynes and Levi Shirley were paired up and were excellent to watch all day. Tit-for-tat, they traded licks all day and in the end Levi edged him out by just over 10 seconds for the day. Both of these guys are fast, way fast and ended up tying for 6th place for the series.

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Doc Mercer was super fast on 2 out of 4 runs. On his second run he managed to high-center in the rock garden on the inside lane and floundered until he and his spotter Bender managed to get the right combination to extract the buggy and finish the run.

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The final fun of the morning was when crowd favorites, Triple Nickle Racing flopped over in the same rock pile that hung up Doc. In a great feat of teamwork, Wyatt and his spotter Kelly came up with the perfect combination and the buggy popped back on all 4 wheels and Wyatt ended the run with a respectable time.

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Bigelow had the tough break of the day as he NAILED the rock garden following a near perfect first run only to get called out by officials for not having his window net up.

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One thing cool about being in Branik's backyard is the fans they brought to the event. Usually these guys are packing the biggest crowds but at Attica they more than doubled their size. Here at halftime the Branik crew brought over a chassis for all of the fans to look at.

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The course was reversed in the afternoon as always in XRRA and the action was stepped up a notch. The double jump in the inside lane became an uphill double. If you did not hit this jump fast enough, your rear axle would hit the top lip and kick the rear end up high. Hit it too hard and you fly and overshoot the 90* turn only 50' away.

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Racer Adam Carter had the best jump of the day as he launched his self-built buggy over the double jump. Unfortunately, he had to stand on the brakes not to overshoot the 90* left and in the process he broke a passenger front axle. In spite of this, the buggy still made it up the hill climb following the jump and he ended his run with a respectable time of 1:33.

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Kim Sears was the first one of the day to try to squash the Rock Midget as she took a bounce straight toward me after the her rear end went skyward on the jump. I had to bail after the second shot. Sorry :)

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The outside lane in the afternoon was wicked fast, especially in the V8 moonbuggies. Shirley and Doc were tearing it up.

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Derek "Cool Hand" West was super consistent throughout the day putting him in first place going into the finals. Coming from years of running and winning with leaf springs, Derek has really punished the 2.0 airshocks on his buggy this season. With a supercharged 3.8 V6 in his Jimmys 4x4 buggy, Derek has lots of smooth power available and it seems like he has gotten his suspension sorted out nicely. Derek was sporting some slick new desert racing tires for Attica and they really worked well for him. In this series, I photographed Derek's strategy of cutting the corners super tight capturing every last second on this 1:06 run.

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New racer Matt Happick drove the wheels off of his WE-ROCK buggy in the event. A busted transfer case on his last run took him out of the running, but he kept the pedal down during the event and was great fun to watch.

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There is not a greater guy racing in the East than Stan Haynes. Stan is the owner of Branik Motorsports and the lifeblood of the Branik Motorsports race team. Stan had his best race in the series at Attica and secured a spot in the XRRA Championships for himself, joining teamates Brandon Haynes and Rosco Reidorf. Get it Stan!

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Danny Rohrer has been one of the most consistent drivers in the series. Sporting a new buggy for 2008, Danny competes in WeRock as well as XRRA in the same buggy. This thing really works well. With a super-low stance and cutting brakes, Danny throws it around corners with the stability of a moonbuggy. Danny had a super race and was only out of the top 6 by less than one second! Regardless, Danny locked up 4th place for the season with some awesome driving.

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The inside lane not only had the nice jump, but it also had the rock garden and this high-speed S-turn. Shirley and Doc hammer down.

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Wyatt Pemberton lived, once again, up to his crowd favorite moniker as he powered into the first part of the S-turn on the inside lane. With a little too much input from the LS-1, Wyatt took a hard roll on his side.

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Coming to rest on his passenger side, Wyatt and his spotter Kelly worked the gears forward and reverse and nearly righted the vehicle after some insane cyclone action with the buggy on its side. Unfortunately they were not able to recover, but the crowd went wild at their efforts. The effort and drive of Team 555 not only won them $500 from the Rancho "Alter your Ego" award, but was also a key reason this team was selected to compete in King of the Hammers in 2009.

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555 crewmember Miles says Wyatt is "Bad Ass"

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Jason Aliff had his best race of the season driving the NAPA Zuk racer. He really kicked the squirrels hard all day making for some fine racing and qualifying for the finals at Jellico.

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A great story from the Badlands was that of Doug Bigelow and his show of support for The Band of Parents. As I mentioned earlier, Doug was racing on Saturday in support of this great organization. Doug started off on his first run laying down a blistering pace on the outside lane. Unfortunately he lined up on his second run without checking his driver's side window net and he began his run with it down. Rumor has it, Doug is looking for a new spotter for the Jellico finals. :) Coming off a :58 second first run, Doug nailed the rock section of the inside lane better than anyone did all day and was poised to have a super fast run when the yellow flag came down and he had to stop and reattach his netting. The precious seconds it took him to fix the porblem landed him 13 seconds out of 6th place at the end of the day. In spite of this, Doug raced hard for Band of Parents and Team Bigelow finishing a respectable 11th for the day and 4th for the entire season.

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Mike Hullfish has not raced since Jellico but he really did well at the Badlands. Finishing in 12th place, he was only 12 seconds shy of the shootout. Way to go Mike, we hope to see you back in 2009.

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Ricky Artes showed up for his first Eastern race at Attica. His red and black Rancho buggy was one of the cleanest rigs I have ever seen, much less in a rockrace.

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The final 6 earned the right to be there with some amazingly fast and consistent times on all 4 runs. Rosco Reitdorf, Kenny Blume, Derek West, Brian Shirley, Chris May and Rusty Bray were there in the end. The top 12 after the the 4 runs were separated by less than 20 seconds. The finals would be run in the same direction as the last 2 laps, but only now the racers would be making 2 laps!


Top 6

Derek West has been a consistent winner in 2008. Winning the first two races, Derek looked like he was going to sweep the series. At Hannibal however, Derek broke an inner axle so bad on his last run that it kept him out of the finals. Armed with a brand new set of Spidertrax 300m shafts and CTM joints, he worked his Jimmy's buggy hard and fast as he does so well. Unfortunately for Derek, he suffered a nasty break of his power steering pump shaft in the beginning of his first lap. Snapping the shaft and the belt, Derek had to negotiate the XRRA course not once without steering of a water pump, but twice. Using his cutting brakes and front dig capabilities, Derek put on the best feat of driving I have ever witnessed. Without a way to fix the breakage, Derek nosed into the course and called it on his 6th run landing him in 6th place for the event, yet he still maintained his #1 status for the season as he walked away with the 2008 XRRA East title. Way to go Champ!

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Coming in 5th place was Chris May. Chris has run very well in the 2008 season in his Tacoma based buggy. Running super fast in Attica, he smoked his first double run in 1:48. He was seriously punishing his buggy and the 2.0 airshocks it rides on. In the last run, mechanical issues took him out of the running and he had to call it quits in the middle of his second lap in heat number 6. Congratulations on a great season and your 4th place overall ranking!

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Knowing he was dead in the water with mechanical problems, Chris kept is light and gave us a thumbs up for a great day.

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Ken Blume ran his absolute best race of the 2008 season here at the Attica Badlands. With his fresh new motor, Ken laid down 2 blistering fast laps in 1:48. Somehow in the second lap of his second run, Ken's ignition kill switch came on and he was dead on the trail. Brian, his spotter, had to run across the course to help Ken get the buggy back running. This move added just enough time to his second run to put him in 4th place. Regardless, Ken had a fantastic day and his buggy has never run so well. He gave his new 40" Maxxis Trepadors a good test and they performed beautifully. Congrats on a great finish and an overall 8th in the series.

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Rusty Bray was back in the shootout for the first time since race #1 at Gray Rock Alabama. Driving his tried-and-true Badlands built racer, Rusty raced hard in Attica looking for a first-place finish. Rusty had a nice run, but engine problems slowed him down on his second lap allowing two other racers to pass him as he managed to pull it together and have an awesome 3rd place finish for the weekend. The defending Eastern XRRA champion ended up finishing in 5th place for the 2008 season and has the Jellico National Championship squarely in his sights.

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Brian Shirley, aka Levi's Dad, had a smoking hot race at Attica. Coming in to the shootout, he was in the lead after 4 laps. Seeing Derek West suffer from mechanical problems and have to sit out the last 2 laps, Brian set a conservative pace (for him) and finished up the race without any breakage of possibility of a roll. Little did he know that this pace would set him a mere 4 seconds out of the lead when it came down to the awards. Regardless, Brian fought hard in 2008 landing an overall 3rd place in both the West and the East XRRA series. Congratulations on a great season!

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The Cinderella story of Attica was that of Tony Reitdorf. Tony, aka Rosco is one of the best guys you will ever meet. Always one with a smile, Rosco is truly the life of the party. Coming into the race in 8th position, Rosco said he practiced hard to put on the best show possible for his hometown crowd. Good thing as the Branik fans were a sea of black rooting him on all day.

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Rosco came on hard from the beginning not making a single mistake all day. Putting his tired 302 V8 to the test, this race came down to only a 4 second lead in the end and not having any mechanical problems was key. With his 39" BFGs and V8, Rocso tore up the track all day. This excellent finish was not only great for him and his Branik Motorsports team, but it also raised Rocso up in the final standings to a 3 way tie for 6th in the series with teamate Brandon Haynes and Levi Shirley. Way to go Rosco! You looked great wearing the NAPA hat at the victory party!

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Whew, what a great season 2008 was. It was awesome seeing so many different racers make it into the top 6 at each race and duke it out for the win. With ties, 20 teams qualified for the finals in Jellico. I cannot wait to see how they match up against the racers from the West. I can only guess who will prevail, but the top teams in the East are going to give the boys from the West a true run for the money.

Thanks to all of you guys for not running me over this year! I look very forward to seeing you all in Jellico.

Nolen "Rick Midget" Grogan

www.rockmidget.com

www.bandofparents.org


[ TECH COVERAGE ] [ PHOTO GALLERY ]
 
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