This past weekend, Joe and I jet set across the country to fabulous Las Vegas and the South Point Hotel and Casino for the 2018 Silver State Nitro Challenge. Joey from the Dirt Racing did an awesome job reviving the event and making it happen after the closure of RC Tracks of Las Vegas. He found an awesome venue and I truly believe this now has the potential to become one of the best races on the planet in coming years if the venue will have us back. We were spoiled with convenience being able to stay at this hotel casino, and just walk to the track each day, and have ample activities and things to do, see, and eat after racing was finished. The race drew right around 500 entires and I can see this being way higher next year with the positive vibe of the event.
The track while indoor utilized the typical Las Vegas sandy dirt that I remember from Boulder City and it got rough and made it a challenging track which I loved! We got 2 rounds of controlled practice in on Thursday and then it was into qualifying with 2 rounds on Friday and 1 on Saturday morning. This was followed by lower mains on Saturday afternoon and the show on Sunday. My cars felt pretty good in practice and with them taking the fastest 3 consecutive laps from either round I was able to top seed truggy practice and be in the top few in the buggy classes as well.
Qualifying on Friday was hit and miss. The hits came in Ebuggy where I would get a 3 and a 5. In truggy I was not feeling to comfortable and in Q1 I missed my tune and we had to do a pit stop to adjust it during the 6 min qualifier. Thus I had a poor 19th overall. Round 2 was still a struggle though I stayed out there the whole time getting a 9th. So I needed Q3 to count and as I was warming my car up on the box someone mentioned I had 2 tires balooning and 2 that weren’t. DOH! Two of my tires didn’t have holes in them and that is how I had been running for both previous rounds. I got the holes added just in time and was able to TQ the round! Go figure! This would seed me 5th into the A-main. My E-buggy Q3 wasn’t an improvement but my first two rounds qualified me 3rd overall. In Nitro buggy I was off to a slow start just making a few to many mistakes and only getting a 12th in the first two rounds. I needed a good Q3 and I did some set-up changes like underdrive and a 9-5-5 diff set-up and my buggy was great and I got 3rd for the round qualifying me 9th overall into the main event.
As Sunday got underway we heard them announce they would only be watering the edges of the track and no longer the line. This caused me to continually be gluing up different sets of tires throughout the morning as I watched the track progress. A slight groove started to form in the line so for the first main which was truggy I opted to run SSLW Impacts but I was a bit fearful they may have been to soft. Sure enough as the race got underway I was fighting the vehicle a bit in some corners as the tires would balloon here and there and I just did the best I could. I moved into the top 3 by lap 7 and for a while from lap 24-29 I held down 2nd position. But my tires just kept heating up and the diffs got hotter and I wasn’t able to be as consistent as I would have hoped. In the end I was able to still get a podium finish in 3rd place. I found out after that Jared ran Soft Long Wear and got the victory, so I know if I would have made a better tire choice I could have put in a better battle.
By seeing what he ran in truggy however I quickly mounted up a set of SLW Double Downs and Impacts. The intention was to run Double downs in front and Impacts in the rear on both of my buggies. The theory was that the track was getting aggressively grabby on the front end and so the Double Downs would help the front skip over bumps better and be less agressive and the impacts in the rear could give me a bit better dust handling and forward drive. My choice was on point and I moved up from my 3rd place grid position into 2nd on the first lap and then challenge Maifield for the first 4 laps before he made a mistake allowing me into the lead. I then set off into the sunset as he and Joe would battle for a few laps and make a few mistakes. I would come home with an over 10 second victory in the single 10 minute A-main!
Nitro buggy was the final race of the day and I was feeling pretty confident in my car going into it. I had an amazing start from the 9 position moving up to 4th on the first lap and working along with the freight train to start the race. I got up to 2nd on lap 5 and was nipping at Maifields heels between lap 5 and 10. Then I had a bad lap of my own and fell back to 5th. On my second pitstop I had a jolt of good energy as I jumped into pit lane and my catcher Steve Harris caught me mid air and right down to the pin lane wall for fueling. It was an amazing stop and it was time to make up some time. I would hang within 6-10 seconds of the lead through the first half of the race but at about the 20 minutes down mark I made a comment to my pit guy that my brakes weren’t working right. I started to dial in more brakes on my radio on the fly but sometimes they would come in really hard and sometimes they would barely come in. Somehow I was still managing to keep pace and even make up a little time on the lead pack. But with about 12 mintues to go I my throttle started to be affected to and I thought I was going to have a runaway. I thought it might have been a battery so I asked my pitguy to run back for a spare. I tried to go one more lap but it ended up stopping on the track. When they got me into the pit the battery didn’t help the issue and it turned out to be my throttle servo that had failed. What a bummer as my car was amazing and I felt was only getting better and that I could have been up there to challenge for the win. Seems to be the story of my career when things are feeling good.
In the end though I am super pleased with the results. Our team worked amazing together as always. We have made great strides with the car on these conditions and it was pretty awesome to be so competitive in all the classes!
I hope they are able to bring the race back to this venue again next year and that we can do it all again! I can’t wait for the next race as I feel my program is just getting better each time out, and I just want to prove it in Nitro buggy before it’s to late!