2004 UROC - Jellico, TN
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Story by Sam Silveira
Photos by Lucie Silveira & Sam Silveira

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Can you recognize this winning driver??

This is the 4th stop for the Pro - Super Modified teams this year and the event is completely different than in the past. First off, we are no longer in Utah. We are in the great state of Tennessee where things are hot and humid. The terrain is no longer that really nice high traction rock where vehicles and can drive at almost any angle while at crawling speeds. The terrain is less than ideal for slow motion control as it is covered by dirt that turns to pudding when wet.

Before we start our coverage for Jellico, lets do a highlight / lowlight recap of the season up to this point. As you recall, we started back in St. George, Utah to open up the season. Viewed as the most controversial event so far, this first stop had problems left and right and left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth once the weekend was over. It was plagued with issues ranging from dangerous rebar in roll over locations, no paramedics on site, dangerous rollover courses that had no safety ropes, crowds lined up to close to the action and more. All around it was an event that UROC was no prepared to deal with. Beyond safety issues, the courses were viewed as way too difficult by many and over filled with cones that were not needed. This brought on many 40 point scores and even 50 point scores from teams that broke from it all. Some of the top drivers, such as Tracy Jordan, didn’t mind the difficulty because that is what is expected of them as pro drivers. It was thought that many of the lines should have been optional bonus lines instead. To make things worse for the UROC staff, the competition took longer than expected forcing them to make a controversial decision of cutting off courses from the scorecard. This helped some drivers and hurt others in their points. Overall, it led to a lot of “lessons learned” taken away from the weekend before the next event would take place. Tracy Jordan was the point leader at this event pulling a whopping 28 points ahead of second place Matt Peterson in his RockWare crawler. The question of rear engine moon buggy Vs. standard buggy with rear steer was now the question of questions to be answered since this year appeared to be the year that moon buggies would dominate.

Ken Shupe pointing out his Pirate4x4.com powered buggy

The next stop on the UROC tour was Vernal, Utah. Still licking their wounds from St. George, this was their moment where they were under the gun to either succeed or fail. Forums all around the world were speculating what this event would hold. Would they fix their problems? Would they go the opposite direction and make it way too easy? It wasn’t until the first courses were driven that anyone knew. The Vernal event site can be described as a pile of rocks, both brittle and solid, out in the desert amidst sandy washes. The courses were used before at previous events, but changed up some. As the event unfolded, UROC had shown that it could improve and make a great event occur. Although I felt that the courses were maybe a little too easy, the event pulled off really well and was a blast for everyone. Jason Paule and Ken Shupe ending with only a 2 point spread dominated this event. Third place driver, Don Robbins, was a mere 11 points back from them. The question of which type of crawler was better appeared to be leaning towards the standard crawlers with rear steer. Moon buggies didn’t show up until 4th place and then much further from there. The logic of the moon buggy makes sense, but it appears that maybe experience driving the vehicle pays off more. This was possibly evident since Shannon Campbell unveiled his new rocket. He has driving experience, but with an all-new buggy, seat time and understanding the rig was lacking.

With controversy behind them, UROC had set forth to the next stop, which was in Cedar City, Utah. This event turned out to be one of the best in the series and possibly the most relaxed. The competition would start daily at 10 AM as opposed to 7 AM during the St. George event. Furthermore, people had settled into the rules, course designs, and action of the events. The event was more about picking the right lines and figuring out the courses than worrying about what else will go wrong. There were also many new things on hand including Walker Evan’s new rig built by Campbell Enterprises. In Walker’s signature blue paint scheme, he was now sporting a rear engined moon buggy to try and keep up with the trends. Was this a smart move for him? Should he have kept with the standard buggy design? It was too early to tell. With no practice time at all, his scores appeared to falter and push him back in the pack. He wasn’t the only one with a new buggy. Jon Nelson, designer of the original “Tiny” driven by Jon Bundrant and Larry McRae, designed his own smaller moon buggy. First appearing at Vernal, this was his second time out with it. He did very well during this stop and pulled in –42 points placing him in 3rd place. With this being only his second time out with the machine and very little wheeling time, it was now seen that this rig was going to be tough to beat. He was just inched out by one of the nicest guys from the east, Ken Blume, by 1 point. Tracy Jordan pulled out in the lead again though, furthering his lead in the points race. Going back to the “Tiny” rig, Jon Bundrant normally drove this, but for the second time in the series, Larry “Full Pull” McRae has taken the driver’s seat with Jon nowhere in site. Larry stepped into the seat and proved that he was as good of a driver as he is spotter. Furthermore, he proved that he wasn’t afraid to drive it hard. One memorable moment was on course B3. If you recall, this was the line that was first dubbed, “Sackachussetts”. It was a wall that would require lots of power, an abundance of traction, and a good start in order to make the climb up such a near vertical wall. Larry was one of the first on day 1 to attempt it. The low center of gravity and good horsepower of Tiny made for a good formula for a completion of the climb. Unfortunately, Larry made it all the way to the top, but a turn of the wheel hit him into a hole and kicked the front end around to the left. He immediately hooked sideways on this tall obstacle with nowhere to go but down. In his brief moment of thoughts, he had ambitions of trying to drive it out only to find that his cage would have to be used when he went flipping on over. Larry, for the most part, was ok. He continued the event with a sore arm and finished strong. As I found out over the Jellico weekend though, the damage was much worse. Larry had surgery on his left arm to reattach some of his internals. Nothing a few screws couldn’t fix.

So the moony buggy vs. regular buggy question hasn’t been answered yet. UROC appears to be really stepping up their game at each event. And the point race continues to get more exciting as the series goes on. With only 3 events left, the drivers falling back are really going to have to step up their game to catch the leaders.

Fast forward to 20 Jun 04. The Pro Nationals Super Modified rigs are set to crawl on new terrain under all new conditions. The weatherman predicted rain and the easterners rubbed their hands in anticipation for mud to show the westerners what it was all about to crawl on slime. As usual, the weatherman was a day late and the only thing to hit the ground was the pitter pats of dry feet and tire. Where the previous two days had muddy like terrain to go on, the Pros had mostly dry conditions with optimal traction. This doesn’t take away from the courses though as they were set up very challenging. Darrell Motley was back at it decorating the hillsides with orange and yellow/green cones to mark the challenging paths for the Pros to tackle. Unlike the previous days, the courses were no holds barred and set to make or break a rig. With challenging bonus gates and completely new terrain to learn, we were in for some real excitement. The course names alone should tell you that these guys were headed for trouble. With names like Full Throttle and Hardcore, it’s hard to imagine an easy day ahead. Luckily, the humidity felt like it had dropped off significantly for this last day of competition. The driver’s and spotters had one less thing to work through to get through the day. Although it wasn’t much relief, it was enough to make this camera guy happy.

And now on with the action. Who better to start the action than Chris Durham. Possibly one of the best and insane runs ever, Chris continues to amaze the crowd with his never say die attitude. Chris was on course #3, Hardcore, at the time. He chose to do the bonus section on the course. The bonus is starting on the far right side of the course, going up a small hill and around a huge house sized boulder. Many rigs broke just trying to get around this rock. The hard part is a very twisted drop in to the road below. The rocs twist the vehicle really hard while placing them in an off camber situation. Most vehicles would have to throttle out of a roll to get down this one. Chris Durham was no different except he flipped over onto his side. He tried to drive out of it, but just ended up driving on his side for a bit. He turned off the engine and hopped out. Both he and the spotter were able to actually push the vehicle back onto its wheels. However, bad luck set in and the motor hydro locked with oil. Not one to quit, he had his spotter run ahead and start stacking rocks. Chris repeatedly attempted to start the motor but you could here the starter bind with every touch of the key. Amazingly, he was able to clear the cylinders and fire it back up. Almost immediately after firing up, a literal fire broke out on the backside of his rig. The crowd, judges, and many others screamed out “FIRE…. GET OUT” once they saw his rig glowing red. Chris scoffed at it and hit the throttle. He quickly disappeared in a cloud of white smoke where the fire was put out. With less than a minute on the clock, Chris had his work cut out for him. The rocks were stacked and the course was clear. The blue machine was in motion and the right pedal was pegged as Chris raced through the gates. The judge could barely keep up as Chris repeatedly launched the front end in the air and bounced off of rocks. Scaring the time keeper, he eventually slid the front end across the line to finish with only 6 seconds left on the clock. An amazing run that will go down in my history books as one of the most amazing runs I have ever witnessed. The crowd agreed as they cheered Chris on. Amazingly with only 3 backs and 1 stop, Chris added 2 points to his scorecard.
Chris Durham and Tim Donaldson pushing their rig back onto all 4s

Ken Blume was also one to put on a fiery show. While on course #1, also known as Full Throttle, Ken was on the bonus climb struggling to get the power down to make the climb. Midway on one of the climbs, a fire broke out, but was quickly extinguished. A few more attempts had him trying to launch hard when the terrible sounds of thick metal snapping rang out from under his rig. Immediately, Ken dropped down the hill and raced across the finish line while dragging a broken right rear portal box. With very little time in between courses, he had to get it fixed fast to avoid penalty points. Despite the break and not finishing the bonus gate, he did finish the course with a –9 points. He was also able to get a new portal unit on the truck to make the next course.
Ken Blume back in the pit area changing out a broken portal box

Hopping back over to course #4 with Nick Sessions and Mac Hampson in the #330 rig, I caught the two of them making plans for Andy’s Crack course. This is one course that has torn up a lot of rigs this weekend. It is the same as day 2 with the Extreme Super Modified rigs and the difficulty has been raised with ruts being dug out on the hill climb. Nick and Mac picked a line that they wanted and like A-Team, they loved it when their plan came together. They pulled all the way to the top with no backs, stops, or tugs on the rope. Such a successful run only deserves a great score such as –12. Talking with Mac, he said, “We are glad we got these steep courses early on so not to deal with afternoon showers.” Luckily for everyone that day, there were no showers.
Nick Sessions dropping into Battleship on course #6

Matt Woolley and Kyle Listul didn’t have quite the same luck on course #4. They had a great time on the early end of the course in their Toyo tire equipped buggy. The hill climb gave them a challenge that would test the center of gravity limits of their crawler. Several runs up the hill led to wheels up action just leading me to question how Matt is able to keep the front end down. Eventually they did make it up the hill, but at the very top is a good size ledge. While scraping up it, the driveshaft separated at the front U-joint ending their run and their chances for the weekend. Matt was in good spirits as I talked to him in his full faced helmet while he waited for a tow. Matt said this, “This was an awesome run. It’s a lot of fun and a little different for us western boys. The Toyo tires are working well and I couldn’t be happier. We grooved them before the competition for the mud, but as you can see there isn’t any.
Matt Woolley getting his Toyo tires airborne

Course #4 was also declared as the tiebreaker course. At the end of the day, if teams tied, this course would be used to break the draw. First points are used and then if those still match, then time would be used. Jason Paule and Travis Wadeson in the #000 rig were thinking pretty clear when they chose to do a spotter ride for this course. Mostly they just felt it was an easy enough course where the spotter is pretty useless. So they did their spotter ride and had the fastest time and best run to the top. Jason said that he does better and feels more comfortable when Travis sits next to him. If that is true, this course truly showed it.
Jason Paule looking clean in the triple zero buggy

So with several standard buggies making the #4 climb well, how would a low center of gravity rear engined buggy do? Walker showed us that he could make the climb almost as well as anyone. He took several attempts at the initial wall, but the ruts just really hurt his momentum, which is key to get up this loose dirt climb. Once over the initial bit, he was able to motor on through to a finish where we caught up to the legendary driver. “I hit a double wammy. It may not have been a pretty run, but we made it. This was our first obstacle of the day and our 2nd competition in the new rig.” Walker made a good run with no pull on the rope to get him a –12 score.
Walker Evans trying to make the climb on Andy’s Crack

Next door was Troy Myers on course #5. One of the best shows of the day, course #5 was an easy run with a wicked end. Troy, in the #15 buggy, pulled by Brian Howard, made a fairly clean run through the obstacle course. Troy said, “That run was pretty easy. The bonus was the hard part. We had no backups, stops or spotter straps. We are actually doing pretty ok today. We got a –7 and a –10 so far. I don’t know how I dented my driver’s side panel though.” That course wound up being the –7 score for them.
Troy Myers making the fast climb on course #5

Not everyone had a great time on this course. The end slide down the chute was probably the rush that made for a real crazy day. As the day went on, ruts developed on the slope and it became hard to guide a fully locked and bouncing buggy down the hill. Some opted to go forward down it while others ran it backwards for the weight transfer. Jeff Mello in the #888 rig took it going forward. A slight miscalculation on the way down drove him painfully fast into the earth below. Shaking the mud off, Jeff appeared smiling and ready to go. Popping the hood, it appeared that the roll over only broke a few zip ties. That is where the pit crew rolls up and cleaned up the damage. If only all roll over damages could be this simple. Jeff drove a –15 on that course and was at –30 points by that time.
A quick zip zip on the zip tie repair and you are as good as new. Jeff Mello’s crash only left minor scars

As we slip our way back into the woods, we stroll upon courses #7 and #8. Jon Nelson in the #82 rig, was prepping to run aligning up his buggy for the course. As he scooted through the course, it was apparent that there was still a tiny amount of mud and slippery rocks keeping him on edge. A few mistakes had him sliding into holes forcing him into backups and bad situations. Nothing that he and his spotter couldn’t handle though. Eventually, they squeaked their way through to have a decent finish. Jon had this to say, “We had 3 backups and got pretty hung up in there. I over estimated the traction and just slid off(the rocks).” With the off camber of this course though, it would take some real driving skill to make it through with a taller rig.
Jon Nelson stuck in a downhill crack on course #7

Tracy Jordan is always a blast to watch as he is the magician of rear steer. The Matrix, #112, is a famous crawler that has seen many events. Tracy and spotter Jerry Watson are very familiar with how to make it work. Heading onto course #7, they had the bonus gate in mind. Nobody at this point had even attempted the gate because it was so hairy. While attempting it, they dropped up and over the big rock ledge where they immediately got stuck. Tracy began to rear and front steer his rig getting the tire RPMs up to a point where the tires smoked up the woods. Eventually he would make the green machine pop off the rocks in a fast jolting motion. He stopped abruptly when he hit the bottom of the ledge, which knocked his sunglasses off center of his face. Once he fixed himself and shook the stars off, Tracy motored to a great finish pulling in 10 bonus points. The crowd cheered and engulfed the trees with praise for making the line. Despite the valiant attempt, the judge noticed one problem with the run. While roasting his tires in a steep leaned forward stance, some oil spilled out on the rocks and gave him a penalty of 10 points. It basically just took away his bonus for that course. If he didn’t get this, his final score would have placed him in second place for the event. It is simply amazing how a small thing can change so much. That is what happens when you run with these pros. I stopped Tracy to catch a few words. He said, “The day is going good. I definitely like the east coast wheeling. We are here to put on a good show.” Disappointed by the oil call by the judge, Tracy asked, generally speaking, why to even try the bonus line knowing you can get penalized for this. His point is well taken in that they don’t penalize for backups or stops, so why this. This bonus was steep and I suspect many other would have oil spill issues as well.
A rubberized cloud of smoke start to fill the air

Joel Randall, in the #333 rig, was up next on the same course. He performed well getting a little light on the passenger side when making his travels through the forest. He emerged out the end with good time and a clean shot through. However, he too fell victim to the oil penalty call. This time it wasn’t associated to oil being pressurized and blowing out. Instead, Joel had changed his oil earlier and had a small puddle in his belly pan. On a slight incline, the oil dripped down on the rocks giving him a penalty of 10 points as well. They tried to question the call, but the judgment was made. Officials were called in and both Joel’s and Tracy’s penalty’s stood. Joel painfully took 23 points through there despite how well he drove. They did have 3 backs though along the way which hurt them some. “Joel said that he thought these were really good trails out here.” Joel was up immediately afterwards on course #8 which was right next door. After going clean through there and getting a –12 score, he had this to say, “Courses 7 & 8 are really technical and good courses. Way better than we had expected. The point and shoot courses that we are used to are here, but they also have the technical ones as well
Joel Randall twisting around the corner on #7

A guest crawler, Marty Hart, was on hand filling in the void of pros that didn’t make it out. Marty paid his dues to run, but this was only an exhibition run where his points don’t count towards anything. He used this event as a learning experience to see how well he pits up against the best in the country. Marty, in the #416 crawler, is no stranger to the off-road events. Marty used to race for Honda off-road racing in 1600s. He said, “It’s a different kind of racing, but still challenging.” Marty was a real pleasure to talk to and I wish he had a better time on course #8. As he drove in the course, he had problems mid way through. Trying to get through several huge boulders, his right front got wedged which snapped off an axle twisting it at the splines. A painful break, but nothing that couldn’t be repaired. He felt that he wouldn’t have had this problem if he could have done a front dig. Just prior to the break, he was trying to position for the rocks, but couldn’t get the T-case to engage the front end only. This resulted in him taking a line he didn’t want.
Though not in the series, Marty put on a great show this weekend

Heading back over to course #1, we caught up with Peter Wells in the #707 rig. They dropped into the course and immediately had some hard times on the first hill climb. Eventually making that run, they dropped over the second ledge and were right at the finish line. Instead of finishing, they opted to shoot for the bonus. Making several attempts at it, they were unsuccessful eventually ending in a roll over. They were able to flip the rig back over, but a fire broke out. The fire extinguishers came out, but were of no threat. The spotter yelled at him to get going for time was almost out. Sadly it was too late. Just 5 seconds over time, they missed finishing the course giving them major penalty points. Peter said, “I was surprised that it rolled. This was my third rollover of the day.
Peter Wells and spotter push the 707 rig back to its wheels

The real winner of the weekend was Shannon Campbell. This was the first win for him this season and a big one at that. 12 points ahead of the next competitors really pushed him up in the point standings. Shannon has been plagued by bad luck this season including rollovers on courses giving him 40 points, suspension brakes, and even getting his finger nearly twisted off in his driveshaft. Despite the troubles and challenges in learning his new rig, he was able to pull it together this weekend to take the final victory here at Jellico. At the end of the event, Shannon and spotter Brett Epperly in the #35 high horsepower wheeler showed that they are here to bring the moon buggies back into the light.
Shannon Campbell is the winner this weekend

Here are the final scores for the event:

Pro Nationals Scores

1) -79 Shannon Campbell Brett Epperly
2) -67 Jon Bundrant Larry Mc Rae 80
3) -67 Jon Nelson Tom Nelson 82
4) -60 Jason Paule Travis Wadeson 0
5) -59 Tracy Jordan Jerry Watson 112
6) -53 Don Robbins Neil Lillard 100
7) -37 Jeff Mello Kevin Yoder 888
8) -33 Peter M. Wells Frank M. Wells Jr. 707
9) -26 Troy Myers Brian Howard 15
10) -24 Ken Shupe Rusty Bray 30
11) -23 John Gilleland 722
12) -20 Charlie Melchner Kyle Knosp 101
13) -14 Joel Randall Mike Vokoun 333
14) -11 Ken Blume Chuck Carlson 192
15) -1 Walker Evans Ted Le Baron 20
16) 10 Rob Bonney 167
17) 18 Joel Mc Clure Roul Frias 248
18) 24 Mike Shaffer Lance Clifford 5
19) 48 Nate Williams John Williams 723
20) 75 Larry Trim Jerry Robinson 123
21) 76 Curt Hildebrand Jeremy Thompson 26
22) 83 Bart Jacobs Troy Gregory 22
23) 97 Mark Berger Noel Kimball 777
24) 104 Nick Sessions Mac Hampson 330
25) 130 Jason Bunch Steven Hastings 29
26) 170 Dustin Webster Jody Everding 747
27) 193 Marty Hart 416
28) 201 Chris Durham Tim Donaldson 36
29) 206 Matt Woolley Kyle Listul 59
30) 209 Jennifer Little Todd Little 64
31) 231 Eddie Casanueva Tom Kingston 111
32) 380 Matthew Peterson Paul Curoe 212
DNS 0 Mitch Guthrie Bob Schwendenman 28
DNS 0 Terry Howe Sean Lazzelle 8
DNS 0 Mac Mc Millan Terry Johnson 75

To download all the scores from the event and past events to see how they compare click here:
Complete Score Card for the Season
Here are the series standings as posted on UROC:
Pro Super Modified Season Point Standings

So the moon buggies are back again in the top spot for the weekend. Taking up the top 3 positions, the mooners had dominated the east. Shannon Campbell took first followed by Jon Bundrant, Jon Nelson, and Jason Paule with Tracy Jordan holding on for fifth. Tracy still currently holds the lead, but the pack is closing in.

So this brings to close another great wheeling weekend presented by UROC. It was very successful and the whole entire crew putting on the event made for a great weekend that was both professional and enjoyable. We will look forward to the next wheeling event in Farmington, NM where the action will be even hotter than we have seen. I can only imagine what the New Mexico desert in mid August will bring. Put away those Tennessee waders and bust out the SPF 2000 sun block. It’s going to be a hot one.

Nate Williams making the hard descent on course #2, Crow’s Nest



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