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  • Writer's pictureRyan Lutz

Southern Nationals 2022

This past weekend I attended the Southern Nationals event at the "Ike" in Monroe, Louisiana. Once again this Racetime Entertainment event was packed with fierce competition. I competed in my primary 3 classes looking to improve my results at this event in which I have struggled at times in the past. Would I be able to reverse the tide this year?

Practice day started out by drying out quicker than years past through the first 5-6 hours until they began to water every 3 hours. That watering schedule set a precedent through qualifying and into the lower mains of really having to keep an eye on the track to gauge the water level and make proper tire selection. If i was running closer to the watering time I would opt for SS AKA Gridiron 2s. If I was a bit later with the track having a little bit of a line at least showing I would opt for SSLW compound and a variety of either Double Downs, or Catapults, or Zips, or Grids and then I would just sauce them to get that little more traction.

Qualifying started ok for me taking a 4th in Ebuggy in Q1 and a 3rd in Nitro buggy in Q1 and Q2. But outside of that the results weren't as good. A few tricky jump sections and a track getting rougher proved a challenge for me at times. I would still qualify into all the A mains with Nitro buggy being the best in 4th. Truggy I was 8th and Ebuggy 13th with that first round 4th really saving me!

As we awoke to the Main day track condition we saw it was super watered. This led to the first many mains being very much wetter than any previous day. They however didn't water as the day went on and just blew the track off at times and by the time our first main was up the Ebuggy A1, the track was grippy and a nice line was formed. I went with SSLW Double Downs in this one and it was too soft. Along with a big set-up change to give something different a try I was just struggling. On top of that this track led to some horrible starts and I got the brunt end of it every single time. I floundered in the back on this one and was looking to the next two. So for A2 I went back to my normal set-up and did a couple little changes and the car was much better. Also AKA SLW Grid 2's were a much better compound choice. I again had a horrible 1st lap but this time I had better pace and moved up to 8th by lap 4 and 7th on lap 9 before retiring as it shut down on me. I was pleased however that my set-up was much better and I could transfer that info over to Nitro buggy.

The Truggy main I knew wasn't going to be pretty from the moment i got out there. I only had SSLW Impacts and everything was just to grippy and soft feeling. I had a handful on my hands but I did the best I could with it. I started 8th but by lap 5 was down to 15th. I kept at it and plugged away at some laps and with some attrition by many drivers I was able to manage a top 10 in 9th as the race came to a close. This one solidified my choice to need to be running SLW compound in my Nitro buggy main.

That 30 minute Nitro buggy main I was able to have a 'better' start managing to cross the line in 7th (down from 4th on the grid) on lap one. However by lap 2 I got my first taste of being taken out by a certain driver (as it would happen again near the end of the race.) I came across lap 2 in 17th loosing about 10 seconds on that lap. My Kyosho MP10 TKI2 was running pretty good though on the SLW Impacts shoes that I put on. I plugged away through the field and by lap 13 had gotten into 5th. I would remain there not withstanding pitstops for much of the remainder of the race and was able to make a battle with 4th momentarily with about 7 minutes or so to go but when I got by I was subsequently taken out quickly thereafter. Soon I felt pressure from Heckert as he was coming fast from behind. I was holding the final spot on the 5 man podium but Heckert had other ideas and he caught and passed me without much fuss as I jumped off the back of the track momentarily. This put me in 6th with 6 laps to go and that is where I would finish this one. A little disappointed not to get on the podium but I gave it my all to make that race what it was and pleased with that result. It was also my first big race in Nitro buggy that I have finished in about 2 years with no incident (flame out, out of gas, broken, ext.) So I'm hoping for that to continue moving forward.

Last race for me of the day was the Ebuggy A3. I had high hopes to put something together in this one and the first couple corners were awesome. I went wide around many people in turn 1 and 2 which put me on the inside for the 180* turn 3. I got by more people and up the jump in the back left and was probably around 5th-6th (from 13th). But just as I was about the get clear and go over the double coming at the stand I got tagged and sent off the track and back to last again. :-(. The rest of the race was a battle moving up to a best of 9th but in the end a disappointing 12th.

Overall the track and weekend was a challenge for me. But I'm happy to have the solid nitro buggy result and I know what I could have done to prepare better for next time (Bring more SLW tires! ;-) incase the track grooves up like that again. It was also fun to hang out with my new teammate Spencer Klein and his family and begin to work with him on improving our program. It's a growth year and good things are on the horizon!

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