This week was the first major race of the year, The Dirt Nitro Challenge. Top drivers from around the world came to Phoenix Arizona to see how they stack up on a layout put down by The Dirt crew. With having Motorama just a couple days before, Ryan and I flew in a little bit late on Tuesday night and headed straight to the hotel to get some rest before the long practice day that was ahead. The first round of practice was free, which means that the times didn't really mean anything. We just used this to get a quick shake-down on the cars and learn our way around the track. Round 2 of practice was seeding. In Truggy, I had a bit of a hard time just crashing too much so my seed time was less than ideal. Knowing that I was just trying too hard, I knew my truck didn't need any changes I just needed to drive better. Next up was E-Buggy. After a few changes to my car making it super easy to drive and my Tekin electronics making it super fast, I put in some solid laps and was also able to go 3-3-3 in the tricky front 9 pack taking me to top seed of the class! Last up was Nitro Buggy, and even with few crashes my seed time wasn't very good but I knew what I needed to change going into qualifying.
DNC 2017 Track and the Tricky Nine-Pack
Day 2 was Truggy and Ebuggy qualifying. In Truggy I was in the B heat, so I tried to have a careful consistent run and ended up with a 4 for the round. In ebuggy, my car was good but I struggled a bit with the track and was just outside of the top 10. Round 2 in Truggy I went for another clean run and came away with another 4 for the round which guaranteed me a good starting position for the final on Saturday night. In E-Buggy, I got off to a good start with some clean laps but my run ended early with a issue on my car. In round 3, I decided to try a bigger tire which would be more suitable for the long main to test it out. This didn't quite work as well as it did last year, but it was still good testing because it narrowed down my choices on what to run for the final. In E-Buggy Q3, I knew I needed a good run to make the main. I started out clean but it just didn't quite work out and I would be stuck in the B main.
Back to back weeks of racing and Joe's still ready to go!
Day 3 Nitro buggy qualifying. Going into round one, I made the change that I remembered from seeding and went for a clean run. I had no marshals and 9 cleans laps which gave me a 7 for round. No car changes for round 2 but I did decide to try a different tire, I again had a clean run but it wasn't quite fast enough giving me a 12 for the round. For round three, I went back to the same tread pattern as round 1 but a slightly softer compound for the colder temperatures, and dropped my shock oil by 25 cst also for the temperatures and came away with an 8 for the round landing me 10th on the grid for the Pro Buggy main.
Tekno E-Buggies Ready to Race!
Day 4 was Truggy and Ebuggy mains. First up was the Truggy A-Main Warm Up. The plan was to try a longer wear tire and check some fuel mileage to make sure we'd be good for 9-minute pit stops that night. All went good and we were good to go for the main. Next was the Ebuggy B-Main. I started 9th and made some quick moves at the beginning to get a little closer to the front. I unfortunately then made some mistakes and was back in 11th at about half way. I tried to make a charge to the front and got really close to the bump, but while trying to make an air pass for the bump spot I had a quick tumble and ended up 4th, one away from the bump. Sometimes it just doesn't work out in your favor.
Last for the night was the Pro Truck final. I made a last minute game time decision to go with the Pro Line Holeshot tire to try and have the fastest possible truck I could have even with the chance of it not lasting the whole main, it was worth the risk. At the beginning I tried to just stay in line and follow the leader to burn up some time off the clock. After about 10 minutes we were all still going full punch and I was sitting in 4th, but also battling with my teammate. Ryan and I both knew we had to try and work together and keep moving forward. Soon after, Tessman had an issue and we were sitting in 2nd and 3rd. After a while longer, unfortunately Ryan also had an issue and I was then in 2nd with Cav and Tebo about 8 seconds behind. Maifield was already gone so I tried to keep my gap ahead of Cav and Tebo. I could see them for a split second at the same spot on the track and paced that for the last 20 minutes and came away with a 2nd place! It definitely would have been nice to win, but I will take a podium at this big of a race any day.
Final Preparations Before the Nitro Buggy Main
The last day was Buggy mains. During the warm up we did the same thing as in truck, tried some main tires and did a mileage run. My car felt really good and I felt like I was ready for the main. There's a lot of hype around the buggy main at this race, so it was all about trying to block out all of that stuff and focus on your race. After starting 10th, I had a really good start and made it up to 5th early on. I was in 5th for about a lap and got caught up with another driver sending me straight to the back of the pack. The rest of the race I bounced around between 8-11th and finished up 11th. Didn't quite work out like I wanted but racing against the best in the world isn't very easy and it was still really good to just be in the main.
Overall a great weekend for both myself and Tekno RC as a team. Another podium at a major race for myself and for Tekno having 3 cars in each Pro nitro main and 2 in the Pro ebuggy main speaks for itself. Also a great job to teammate Carlos Arredondo for getting a podium in both Expert Buggy classes and winning Expert Truck! Now we have a couple weeks to regroup until the next race on the calender, a trip to Vegas for the annual Silver State race. Hope to see everyone there!