This past weekend I took a drive down south just under 8 hours with Joe to attend the PNB in White Pine, Tennessee. The event as a whole saw a number of changes this year. They decided to go with a 4 day format to allow for people to get some sleep at night. They offered the 24 hours of practice from 6am Thursday through 6am Friday but with how the track was watered it was closer to 18 hours of available track time. Final entry count was down considerably this year with 595 entries consisting of 280 drivers. This compared to last years 895 entries and 426 drivers. So in reality 146 people less than last year. I attribute the majority of that to the extra day as it adds an extra vacation day as well as an extra hotel night and many just can’t do that. I want to briefly discuss my thoughts on this years race before going into my results.
When I think of the PNB there are a number of things that come to mind.
-The biggest Air (highest and furthest) of any race.
-24 hours of practice, Close to 24 hours of qualifying. You have to schedule your sleep and it’s a true test of man and machine.
-Biggest of big track with 45-50+ second lap times.
-Majority of the jumps being wood
These things are synonymous with the PNB in my eyes. This year they decided to change a lot of that. They went with a majority of dirt jumps. The lap times were under 40 seconds as they removed a lane from the very back of the track. There were no huge jumps and no wall this year. Also with the extra day, while it was nice to get sleep it also too away some of the strategy and the true test this event had been known to be. Also they for some reason decided to water at 4am after we decided to come back at 3:30 to get some final practice. So the track was closed from 4-5:30 with no advance warning. So I was a bit disappointed with how things went this year in those regards.
In the end though the event still went well and this year saw more top drivers and competition in attendance than ever before. I chose to run my standard 5 classes for this event and compete for the Iron Man award. I ran my Nitro buggy and truggy, electric buggy and truggy, and 4×4 Short Course truck. The first qualifiers this year were a 10 minute qualifier and the 2nd and 3rd qualifier were 5 minute races. Overall they took your top 2 of 3 qual points and any tiebreaker was all 3 rounds combined.
Qualifying for me wasn’t my best results i’ve ever accomplished. While I was able to TQ Etruggy and Short Course I would be mediocre in my primary 3 classes. In nitro truggy my primary struggle was just feeling like I didn’t have enough acceleration. Come main time I decided to open up my throttle end point a bit further and that fixed the issue. In the buggy classes I would have decent runs but in reality I just wasn’t feeling at one with the track and was making a few to many mistakes. Overall I would qualify 5th in Ebuggy, 7th in Nitro buggy, and 8th in Nitro truggy.
Main day would be a long day! We fortunately were able to sleep in a little even though they started mains at 6am. We would arrive to the track a bit after 9am and would finish the day a little after 1am Monday morning. The first main up was actually the Pro Nitro buggy main. They did this to ensure there were still many people there and that they would be able to sit in the stands and enjoy the show! I though this was a great idea and it worked well in my opinion. The grip level was the highest it’s been and I had chosen to run AKA SSLW double downs. They felt pretty good overall and my car was overall good though it was a little to soft on the shock oils which resulted in a bit to much roll at times when I had lots of grip. I would remain with the lead pack at the start which was the goal. I was able to pick off a driver here and there as they crashed and for most of the 30 minute main found myself battling it out for the 4-6 positions. On lap 15 I briefly got by a bunch as they crashed and moved into 2nd for 3 laps before giving it up and falling back to 5th. The battle for 2-5 was very strong for the mid part of the race. On lap 25 I moved into 4th and got into a battle with Cavalieri. He was faster than I was for the most part but was making mistakes and on lap 37 I got by him in the pits into 3rd place. My pit guys Matt on the gun and Jared on the pickup were super fast and gained me a position and I held him off for the remainder of the 45 laps to take the top 3 podium spot! Not bad from 7th on the grid and the level of competition!
After that I had to marshal, race, marshal, race, marshal, break, race, marshal. It was a busy schedule with triple A’s on tap for the E-classes. Next was Etruggy followed by 4×4 SC. Both races were pretty straight forward victories for me. In short course I was able to get down to a 40.8 lap time which I did 3 times during the run. This was about 2 seconds off the top 1/8th times so I was pretty happy with that. In Ebuggy A1 I held position and again moved up upon others crashing. By the 12th lap I found myself in 2nd and on good pace but I started to get a bit nervous and lost some smoothness. Cavalieri caught back up to me and put a hard pass on me after the back double and as I crashed he kept going which demoted me to 3rd but still a pretty solid A1.
Next up was the Nitro truggy main. Again they chose to run us earlier in the program to have more people there to watch the show. I was starting a pretty disappointing 8th in this one as usually this is my best class. My NT48.3 felt good in the warmup laps though and I was hoping to make a run for the top. I did as I had done in every main so far and kept it clean to start and stayed with the lead pack as much as possible. I moved up one position at a time and by lap 21 I made the pass on teammate Joe into 3rd place. It took me a little while to get my groove and the top two had pretty much gotten away and there wasn’t much chance for me to catch up without them giving some of it back. So I just held a strong 3rd position and did my best to run consistent laps. I was able to put in a stretch of 10 consecutive 38 second laps between my last pitstops and come home with another 3rd place podium!
Next we ran through the A2’s of the electric portion of the program. In Etruggy and Short Course I was able to complete the victory in the A2’s and take home the checkered flag. In Short course I was able to improve the fast lap down to a 40.59 so I was pretty happy with that!
Ebuggy A2 came next and this was one of the best races of my life with the level of competition here. Starting on the 5 position I quickly moved by Joe into 4th on the inverted whoops section and put major pressure on Cav and got by him on the first lap as well and into 3rd coming across the line for the first time. By lap 3 I had managed to take the lead and I just pulled away from the field. My AKA SSLW Double Downs were easy to drive and the conditions were perfect for them. I had 99.214% consistency for the race with 14 of my 16 laps being 38’s. I came home with the win which set up a 3 way battle in A3 for the overall victory.
So Ebuggy A3 would finish out the event this year at just after 1am. I had another solid start and moved into 3rd by lap 3. Maifield from pole was taking off in this one so it was between me and Phend for the overall it seemed. I was able to catch up to him as he made a mistake and on lap 7 I overshot the back double a bit and even though I landed on the binders I don’t use a lot of braking force and unfortunately I landed into Phend sending him tumbling. I immediately stopped and while Phend landed on his tires here came Joe and after that mayhem ensued over the next jump and Phend flew off the track and Joe went out way wide and I tried to dodge them and slithered by into 2nd which I would hold until the end of the race and the 1st and 2nd finish would give me 1st overall in the class!
Overall the results on main day were very good. 2 x TQ, 3 x Victory, 2 x 3rd place. Met quite a few new people and was able to do my best all weekend!