Nor Cal Rock Race
By Charlene Bower, Shana Whitford, Ben Bower


Big rocks, dust and cart wheeling crashes were the 3 main components that made up Nor Cal Rock Race last weekend at Prairie City OHV Area in Rancho Cordova, CA.  The spectators that came out to enjoy the beautiful day got their $15 worth, and the racers went home with smiles and sore bodies.  When it was time to hand out the cash at the end of the day, Alex Hardaway stood at the top of the podium for the second race in a row.  Mike Smith took second and Harold Fijiman came in third.

Alex Hardaway

Last year the track was moved from the 4x4 area of the facility over to the longer short course area. However racers complained of the lack of big boulders.  No problem. Major rock import handled.  You want rocks, we got rocks!

The short course track is used for lots of different types of racing, and has a large variety of dirt including silt and hard rubber burnt corners.  When a water main broke in the park the night before the race, it instantly put the track into desert type conditions: dusty and silty with poor visibility.  Some of the silt beds were over half a foot deep by the end of the day!

Kevin Yoder and Jeremy Hengl

That didn’t stop the racers from coming out, or putting their right foot on the skinny pedal at the drop of the green flag. Come time to race, the strategy was to get in front out of the dust, and make it through the rock piles without damaging too much in the process.

The first race of the day was the four car sportsmans class. They went over the tabletop jump and into the first turn three wide. All that the spectators could see was the rear of a jeep high above the dust cloud as tires apparently touched. Dusty Derinici's primo Jeep with soft top and doors ended up on its lid. “That's racing! The ride was sketchy, shook up a little bit, but everyone is OK. The body shop will be busy this week!” said Dusty as he walked away from his crash.

Dusty Derinici

Between two motos for two groups of drivers in the Pro Class, the Sportsman wreck was on the mind and most of the drivers used a little more caution in the dust and through the first turn.  Alex Hardaway was consistent and fast, as his set-up seemed good for the short track sweepers yet tall enough for the rocks.  Kevin Yoder, a reigning Nor Cal Rock Racing champion, was in the battle but suffered electrical problems in his PitBull Tires Buggy.  Randy Avery keeps bringing his Metal Cloak Jeep with 35” tires back to battle.  Avery is notorious for setting a fast pace on the track, and using a lot of momentum to challenge the rock piles.

Randy Avery

After the starting line the course went downhill to a table top jump that most did not want to try to land on the far side.  Matt Kile got a little too hot, cleared the entire table top, went nose down and endoed 4 1/2 times in one of the most spectacular single crashes we have seen with an Ultra4 car. All thoughts were on the driver Matt Kile and co-dog Tracy Taylor, but were checked out OK in their Trent Fab buggy.  "This was my favorite car in my career. It will take awhile to fix. It was a hell of a ride. Fast, amazing, fun,” said Tracy Taylor.   A few minutes later the driver and co-dog were chatting... They both thought that they had only rolled once…but disagreed on which way.  Wonder if they were surprised when they saw this video?

Once the track got cleared, the drivers piled back into their cars for more racing action. What started as a close race, attrition and consistent driving by Hardaway put him back to the front again.  Jeremy Hengl's Wrap Concepts buggy broke a front axle outer in the rocks and had to be pulled back.

The Sportsman Class took to the track for their main event where it was lower horsepower and thoughtful driving that allowed three trucks to start and almost finish. Will Robinson’s Outlaw Rockcrawlers modified '86 blazer that he has owned since high school took to the win. “Most fun in a long time. Finally got a full run on it. It's hot and I am excited!” said Robinson.  Alan Jamie in the white Toyota truck was doing well until getting high centered in the rocks requiring extraction and being passed by the '79 Toy Truck of Cody Addington for second.

Seven cars made it to the finals. Drivers talked about just holding the rigs together as most had replaced parts with second choices or were running on badly broken, band-aid fixes. Others were going to go full throttle to try and get in front of the dust. There were no good lines through the rocks and there was new respect for the tabletop jump and whoops. Hardaway was first off the line and never relinquished the lead. Yoder tried to jump the rocks to gain a couple places and challenge Hardaway but broke a driveshaft on the second pile to end his day. Mike Smith put in a clean run, and Fijiman got around Hengl in the rocks to finish third..Hutchins and Avery also finished out the 5 treacherous laps!

  1. Alex Hardaway 4481
  2. Mike Smith 56
  3. Harold Fijiman 777
  4. Brian Tilton 4416
  5. Joe Hutchins 8

Nor Cal Rock Racing proves to be a great series for California and Nevada racers to get together and go to war.  The next race will be August 27th including some added racing and Saturday night camping with an awards ceremony and 2012 King of the Hammers Qualified Spot announcement. 

As with every race, you walk away with something to think about.  This time it was: Build ‘em Right Boys!  The speeds continue to increase, the jumps continue to get bigger, and the boulders keep coming.  Check welds as part of the pre-race maintenance and be sure your car is capable of surviving an extreme crash. It's your life on the line.  We’ve all been lucky that everyone has walked away…Lets keep it to Tylenol!