King of Kings at Stateline Raceway
The King of Kings race at Stateline R/C Raceway in Fremont, Indiana is a staple yearly event on the calendar for many in the Midwest region. This year's event was the biggest in it's storied history with 428 entires and 225 unique drivers. The tone of the event was of great excitement and fun but also a subtle sadness. The reason being is the decision to close down the track after this season. The Myers family and friends who have put their blood sweat and tears into this facility over the past two decades made the very hard decision to make this their final hoorah and to "Go out on Top" as it was put by Chloe. Go out on top they did, doling out a fabulous track that became a true test of man and machine by the end of the weekend. They also provided their signature lunch buffet to all racers on Saturday with a smorgasbord of homemade food and desserts! They had cornhole set-up for some friendly competition as well as a nightly bonfire and just a real fun family friendly atmosphere that I've never seemed topped anywhere I've been in the World. I am so grateful that I got to attend this event and be a part of all the proceedings and to race against many of the best in the Midwest!
Knowing a large turnout was probable the event this year was a 4 day affair with practice on Thursday. Then two qualifiers each on Friday and Saturday and the finals on Sunday. The groove came in very early this year and they quickly went to just watering the outside edges of the track creating a pretty high grip groove. I ran most of practice with my Agama A215ESV electric buggy as Billy wasn't able to arrive until Thursday night making the 1100 mile trek from Texas! I primarily just used some AKA SLW Impacts and they felt good overall. I just worked on set-up mainly and made some changes having come from E-Scale Nats where the track was on the looser end of the scale and now being at Stateline where the grip was much higher. Things I did was go to 10-7-5 in my diffs from 7-5-3. I also went to 19* caster blocks from the 16's I was running. As the track started to get rougher I went from minimum front kickup (A down and B up) and went to A center, B center. (The reason I didn't go further was trying to minimize weight transfer to the front under braking.) I also went up to a 2.4 front swaybar from a 2.3 to mellow out the steering further on this grippy track.
Something I really loved about this race was the 'old school' class structure. They did offer a 40+ Nitro and Electric buggy but otherwise all Nitro buggies were one class and all electric buggies were one class ext. Now during Q1 it was completely random sort and so there was absolutely a lot of differing skill levels in the heat but it was the same for everyone. They did a resort after Q1 and things started to line up much better. In round 1 of Ebuggy Phend and I would top the charts with him edging me out by 0.3 tenths. Nitro buggy not practicing with it much I was off a bit on my set-up still starting with what I ran at Thornhill. (When the track was smooth at noon on Thursday it felt great, but now that the track was getting a little rougher it wasn't exactly where I wanted to be.) So I made a number of mistakes and settled for a still respectable 3 for the round. (For those unaware of some of the fast midwest names 5 of the top 33 drivers in the Top 25 RC Rankings were in attendance as well as a lot of other teenagers who are knocking on the door!) In Nitro truggy I would have a long crash which relegated me to another 2 for the round. So I was starting out reasonable but still just missing searching for the top pace.
In Q2 with drivers of like skill level things cleaned up a bit. In ebuggy I was able to put in a great run on AKA SLW P1's to take a 8 second TQ. Nitro truggy was also great taking a 6 second TQ. But come Nitro buggy the sun was gone and the lights were on and I showed my age. It was a challenge for me to see and I was still searching on set-up and settled for a 5th. For Q3 and Q4 we got it all in during the daylight so results were visibly better! ;-) Phend eeeked me out by 1 second in Ebuggy, while I was able to take another fast TQ in truggy. In Nitro buggy I still was searching but felt on the right track finally. Still the youngsters got me and I finished 4th. In Q4 Ebuggy I needed to TQ to force a tiebreaker with Phend for overall but I came up just short and Jones took the round and thus I would be P2 for Ebuggy. In truggy I put in another TQ round to take 3 rounds and the overall TQ. In Nitro buggy the track was really starting to get rough and tough in spots. We all made mistakes and my big one was a roll over in the little pitchers mound on the right costing nearly 6 seconds. But I cleaned it up and everyone else also had mistakes too and I got the TQ. I also felt good knowing my A319 was now feeling much better and I had got it pretty dialed in for the tough conditions. This would allow me to be P2 in Nitro buggy as well.
Come main day our mains were grouped at the end of the day being 3 of the final 4 races to finish off this memorable event. Before we got underway in our mains though a memoral lap was done. They asked all past nitro buggy winners in attendance to do a lap to celebrate both Terry Fogleson and the Stateline family and crew for the 16+ years the track has been here. Kevin Myers drove Terry's buggy and a couple of the past winners had their original victory vehicles that they proceeded to do the memorial lap with. There was a speech with special thanksgiving to all those involved over the years and all the family and racers who come out to support the event. It was very touching and some tears flowed as you could see just how much this meant to this family. I know God was showering them with love this weekend with the perfect weather and just an amazing farewell event.
On to the mains and first up was the Nitro truggy 30 minute final. Sunday was a bit warmer and I opted not to go up in shock oil in truggy due to the track getting rougher. But I think it was the wrong decision. I did choose to run AKA SLW Impacts in front and grids in the rear. At the tone I took a great start and pulled a small lead on the first 1/2 a lap before going to the back left where when I pitched my truck sideways it slid into a rut and flipped right over sending me back to 6th. It took a few laps to get back up to the top 3 and by then the leaders had a good 6 second lead on me. I truly just never felt comfortable the first 3/4 of the race. I tried some different lines and other landing methods but overall I just felt to soft for these elevated grip conditions. I made a big mistake in pit lane as well taking out a solar light cap on the second stop I believe killing the momentum I had at the time. I was still 3rd on lap 47 when I finally found a groove and threw down 9 of 10 laps in the 30 second range. I was able to retake 2nd with 6 laps to go and actually lower my gap to 1st from around 18 seconds or so down to 8 at the end. But Aydin drove an amazing race and hats off to him for the victory! The Horne family is a racing family through and threw and these kids just keep getting faster!
Next was the Ebuggy 10 minute A final where I chose to run AKA SLW Zips in front and catapults in the rear. I was able to get by Phend on the first lap but a big crash ensued I think on lap 2 and I don't recall what happened but Tom R took the lead from the 5 position. I got him back on the next lap but he kept me honest nipping at my heels for the first 5 minutes of the race. It made it exciting and people were enjoying it. He would begin to make a few mistakes though and I kept up the clean running and came away with a 16 second victory when all was said and done. My Agama A215ESV was working great and allowed me to put it where I needed it to avoid mistakes.
Our final race was going to be a 45 minute challenge as the track was just getting so tough. For this one knowing how high the wear was and grippy the track was I used my knowledge from the 2017 nats to make my tire choice. I went with AKA Medium Long Wear Zips in front and Catapults in the rear. This was absolutely the right decision as after maybe 2 laps they felt great and they kept a good feel all race long not overheating. I was able to get by Phend on lap 2 after he made a mistake and I started to build a lead. My biggest competitor on the track was potentially trying to get into pit lane. I literally crashed the first 4 pit stops just trying to get into pit lane. I gave a look to the marshal after the 4th time when my car was being fueled and just put my hands in the air as I was just amazed I couldn't get it right and kept tumbling off the track. Anyways at least while on the racing line things were going well and I was able to use my rough track navigation skills to put in some clean laps to get over a one lap lead and take the victory by a lap and a half at the tone.
All in all it was just the perfect weekend of racing. The Stateline crew did exactly what they set out to do. They went out On Top!! Kudos to them and a huge thank you from the R/C scene and all the lives they have impacted through the years! Long live the King of Kings!