This past weekend I made the trek down south to Louisiana for the 2017 rendition of the Southern Nationals. I didn’t attend last year but the track upon arrival had that same feel to it as previous years. That is it had huge amounts of dirt and elevation changes that are not seen anywhere else. The layout this year seemed a little more tamed down but it had a great flow to it and the competition was as good as ever. I would be running my primary 3 classes and looking to put in some good results as this race had in the past always yielded subpar results for me.
Once qualifying got underway I started to get a mixed bag of results. In the classes I was running the best in during the runs I started to have the worst luck in those. In all 3 of my truggy heats I was in the lead on TQ runs when something would happen to knock me out of contention. In the buggy classes I would be close and able to put in all top 5 runs but never a real breakout qualifier. It was my first race in a long time when I wasn’t able to TQ at least one round of one of my classes. After qualifying was complete I found myself qualified 3rd in both Nitro buggy and E-buggy and 4th in Nitro Truggy.
Saturday evening they did a dash for cash pursuit type race where the top 3 in Nitro buggy sportsman, open, and pro would battle it out for 4 minutes to see who the winner would be. I just made it into the Nitro buggy dash and about 2.5 minutes in I was able to work into the lead with Maifield and Bornhorst right behind. Soon Maifield and I were battling for the lead and I clipped a pipe in the top center drop down falling a second or two back with 2 laps to go. On the final lap I started to catch up just a little and a back marker over the back jump caused Maifield to have to short it which put us in a dash down the final right straight shoot coming into the finish line over the corner wedge. I just sent it in and hit the run on the face of the center of the jump and Maifield tubed it on the inside as the announcer went wild and I somehow came away with the win. If nothing else it was super exciting for the spectators!
Sunday was main day and first up was A1 of E-buggy. Starting 3rd and moved up to 2nd on the 2nd lap and then into the lead on the 4th lap with Bloomfield and Maifield right behind. But it wasn’t meant to be as my weekend gremlins bit again and I lost a steering spindle screw pulling me out of the race. In A2 and A3 I would have decent starts in both and they were very similar races for me. I would be close for about 3 minutes at the front before making a mistake dropping me back into the 3 or 4 position which is where I would finish out. In the end taking 4th place just off the podium.
Next was the Pro Nitro Truggy A-main and boy was this one a doozie. I chose to run AKA Soft impacts and starting from the 4th position and it all tangled up around the first berm and corner. Bornhorst and Ogden got away and the rest of us played demo derby for far to long. I came across on lap one in 9th place but by lap 4 was able to get into 4th. Unfortunately another traffic incident lost me 7 seconds and 8 positions putting me to 12th on lap 5. All the while Joe and Cole were getting away and already had a good 15 second lead on me. It wasn’t looking to good but I resolved to just get into a rhythm the best I could and move my way through the pack and see where I could end up. It took me just another 5 laps to move back into 4th and by lap 16 I was up to 3rd and probably about 18-20 seconds behind the leaders. I would stagnate through the middle section of the race. My set-up not feeling perfect but perhaps it was just the tough conditions with the decently high traction but lots of dust! As we approached the lap 40 mark Bloomfield was making a charge on me and we found ourselves in our own battle for 3rd and 4th. He was driving great and for about 10 laps he got by me and I was muddling around in 4th.
I was able to regain my rhythm though and by lap 55 I was back into 3rd and started pulling away a little. Now I set my sights back on the front of the pack. There was around 12 minutes to go and I was still probably 18 seconds back but I began to put in my fastest consistent laps of the race and I kept hearing the leaders making bobbles and battling together and I knew it wasn’t over yet. By lap 65 or so I had them in my sights and I knew it was going to be a 3 horse race. We all did our final pit stop which had me come out right behind Joe for 2nd. I pressured him in the uphill S section and got the inside and he conceded the position to allow me to press forward to challenge Cole who was about 4 seconds ahead. About 7 laps later Cole made a mistake and I snuck underneath as he was correcting his car and into the lead on lap 76 where I would then lead out the final 7 laps of the race to take the overall victory! There was a lot of adversity I went through before and during that race and I was pretty happy to come away with the come from behind victory!
Last race of the day was the Nitro buggy A-main and I chose to run AKA Soft Enduro on front and Impacts on the rear. Starting 3rd on the grid again, I again got absolutely ran over on the start in the berm corner. I yelled out a big WOW as I couldn’t believe it. Coming across on that first lap I was in 8th and Maifield was already getting away. People were making mistakes all over though and by lap 4 I would be back into 3rd and even on lap 13 momentarily take 2nd position but with a really bad lap I would fall back to 3rd again. I kept making little mistakes throughout the run. The ones that stuck with me the most were stuffing the pipe on the top left step-up a couple times which just absolutely sucked the momentum out of me. Midway through the race I was 25 seconds or so behind the leader and probably around 10 seconds behind Bloomfield in 2nd. The final quarter of the race I tried to do what I did in truggy. I started to mount a charge and Maifield had to come in to do a tire change as he had a blow out. This put Bloomfield and Maifield into a battle for the lead and I was about 12 seconds back at that point. I whittled away at it and with about 5 minutes to go they were one lane above me. I really felt like I was going to do it again! I had the momentum and they were battling. I even got into 2nd for one lap on lap 67 on my pit in lap but 4 laps later on lap 71 I made 3 second crash which just put them slightly out of reach. My last 7 laps of the race were excellent but it was just to little to late and I was about 7 seconds out of the lead at the end of the race.
Overall it was a challenging weekend for me. Lots of little gremlins and feeling sick as well on Saturday and Sunday really slowed me down a bit physically. To come away with a Win, 3rd, and 4th after all of that was a success in my book. It’s a race i’ve really never done good at and so I felt pretty good about how it all finished up all considering. I even was able to move up to 4th overall in the Top 25 RC Ranking after this event and i’m only 1 point out of first. Next qualifying race I believe for me is Nitro Challenge which last year I finished 9th. So with a good finish there I amazingly actually have a shot at the top.
Next up Joe and I are heading to LCRC for the East Coast Race against Cancer this weekend. Hoping to feel better and be able to be there to support a great cause!