Silver State Nitro Challenge 2019
The journey was out west to Las Vegas, Nevada and the South Point Hotel for the 2019 rendition of the Silver State Nitro Challenge. I was expecting a huge turnout after the success of the event at this new venue last year and while it was bigger, it wasn't quite as big as I expected. Still, there were 660 entries and probably the deepest competition pool in a very long time. This year instead of the 1/5th scale track on the other side they had a practice track that was modeled loosely off the race track. I spent a decent amount of time on the practice track trying out tires and different set-ups and I can't really decide if it helped or hurt me on the race track but regardless it was track time and adjustments that will help me with my program in the future.
Out of the gate on the smooth track my Agama A215T truggy was a rocket. That first round of practice didn't count for anything but my fastest 3 laps were 1.3 seconds faster than 2nd and 2.3 faster than 3rd. I knew though that the field would learn the track better and that the conditions were going to get much rougher. After the 2nd round of seeding practice which is the only thing that seeded us for qualifying I would seed into the A resorts 3rd in truggy, 7th in E-buggy, and 5th in nitro buggy.
On Thursday it was qualifying day for Nitro truggy and E-buggy. I primarily was on AKA SSLW Gridirons in both vehicles. In truggy I would come out of the gate with a 5th in round number 1. In round number 2 I had some kind of weird electrical issue so had to bow out. In round 3 I needed a good one but mediocrity is all I achieved with 2 crashes on my own and a 9th place finish. The track at that point was getting pretty rough already and so with a 5 and 9 I would seed 8th into the A-main. In e-buggy I would put in my most consistent performances of the weekend. Because of that you can really see how much the track slowed down. I finished 5th in Q1. In Q2 I also finished 5th with a time around 6 seconds slower. Then in Q3 I finished 4th with a time nearly 5 seconds slower than that! So while my finishes were consistent, the track was getting brutally rough! I would end up qualifying 5th in E-buggy overall.
Friday was a strictly nitro buggy day. Out of the gate I would put in a solid run with a 5th which I felt pretty good about as the field was tight. I only needed a decent run in the final two rounds to solidly be into the A-main. But it wasn't meant to be. With less races and how they were watering the track was much different this day and it stayed much more loamy and dusty and I was just choosing the wrong set-ups. I couldn't back up my 5th in Q1 and thus I ended up qualifying BQ or 1st in the B-main and would need to bump up on Sunday.
Saturday saw the finals for Nitro truggy and E-buggy with the 45 minute truggy race the first one up. I did what I could to prepare for the race. I made changes like going up in my diffs a little bit to 15-12-6 from 12-12-5. I also got a 2.6 front sway bar to run from a 2.5. The reason for these changes was they stopped watering the 'groove' so the conditions were catchy high bite in the groove with tons of holes and very rough but also no grip if in the dust. So it was a struggle. In the end I think I was a little light in shock oil as the car felt a little bouncy and I couldn't put it exactly where I wanted it. I feel I learned it to be more important to set-up for the higher grip for myself so I can put the car in the line I want vs. having it be a bit softer to go through all the bumps better. I'd rather place it properly to more avoid some of the bumps. Anyways I had a decent start on the first lap getting to 6th before getting tagged and losing 7 seconds on the 3rd lap and being dead last. After that I used my 9 minute pit strategy to move up through the field slowly but just couldn't really mount a charge that i'm accustomed to. In finality I would finish 8th in this one.
The final race of Saturday was the pro electric A-main. The track was super rough and challenging so I chose a mellow tire combination of Soft zip fronts and double down rears. Starting from 5th it was a tough first lap as I came across the line in 10th. People were flying off the track everywhere though and I worked through the field and up into 4th by lap 13. On the final lap I would make the pass on Phend and into the podium position but on the back left double I jumped and hit a hole and the car got crooked and I couldn't save it and I had to punch it back into the line as Phend got back by and I missed out on the podium by 0.1 tenth of a second.
Sunday was the final day and Pro Nitro buggy was on tap. I had to start it off in the B-main and I chose to run soft Zip fronts and impact rears. The reason for the zip fronts is to get rid of some of the aggressiveness of the steering as the track was really grabby now being dry in the groove with lots of holes. Then the impacts in the rear to hopefully cut through the dust a bit better. Overall I think my tire selection was pretty good. I had a good start in the B-main and took off from the pole and led until my first pit stop. Drake did 10 minutes and so he got by me as I also made another mistake as well. But I was able to keep it clean enough to finish in 2nd and bump into the A-main in 14th.
The A-final was the last race of the day and the track was at it's most difficult. I had a really nice first half a lap moving up though the field but something happened and I got stuck and me and my buddy Joe ended up together in dead last as the field got away. By lap 8 I was able to get into 9th position but really it was there I would stay for the majority of the race. I felt I found pace for a little bit but again I think I was just a little softer than I would have liked on shock oil and the conditions were just really hard and in the end it was what I could do to come away in 9th. I did put in my fastest lap of the entire race on the last lap as I had Joe in my sights for 8th but he was able to stay ahead by 0.7 tenths as we crossed the line.
Overall it was a very challenging race. It was the roughest track I have been to thus far with my Agama rides and so it was a learning experience. I'd say everyone else in the A-main had at least one or two other top drivers to share set-up's and notes with at this race while I basically am forging the trail on my own. I felt overall the pace was good. I learned a lot more and expanded my set-up knowledge for the conditions and I will come back stronger the next time! :-)
A really cool thing about the location of this event is just all the stuff to do. The Nationals for bowling were also at this hotel as well as a rodeo and numerous other events. I got to go bowling twice and the last night just playing 1 game even got to shoot a 7 bagger and 240 game and show some R/C guys what I really wanted to be a pro at growing up.
Next for me is the Lonestar Classic / Nats warmup at Thornhill! I heard the competition is going to be good this year so can't wait! :-D