Duane Takes 1st!

Tuesday April 13th

Worked a long day and headed to the race shop to finish the car and get it loaded for an early departure on Thursday . 

Thursday April 15th. 

We headed out at 6 am from Jeremy’s house.  Drove about 45 minutes East and picked up Clifton and Garrett Pappasan.  We were delighted to be given a sack full of delicious breakfast Biscuits loaded with cheese, bacon, sausage, and love from Tina Pappasan. We loaded all the Pappasan’s gear and headed East.  We rolled on at a steady pace until reaching the Kentucky area where we raided the local Wally World for our weekend eats.  Steak, fajita meat, stuffed yardbirds, little diabetes snacks, and all the other good food we needed to rough it for a couple of days.  We exited the store, loaded all our groceries, and then grabbed a late lunch at a good local Mexican joint.  Stuffed and bloated we began making tracks to Rush Kentucky for Round 1 of the Ultra 4 Eastern Series.  We stopped to fuel up just outside of the park at the Flying J.  One last stop before setting up camp.  We arrived at Rush Offroad Park at about 10:30 pm. We signed in grabbed our armbands and headed into the park.  Our good buddy Frank Vonderheide was waiting for us at the gate. He had left a day earlier to shock tune his car so he had already set up camp and was kind enough to save us a good spot. The camping/ parking arrangements were a mess due to the previous weather and the influx of Kentucky residents still under mask mandates.  We managed to get the coach parked and set up for the night.  

Friday April 16th

We woke up and cooked some breakfast burritos and gave the car a once over for prerunning.  Looking at all the other race cars we knew the track was a huge mess.  Jeremy and I loaded up along with Frank and Drew and we headed out in a nice easy lap to mark some spots and see what JT and the crew had laid out for us. The track was slick and nasty, but it was all manageable at a nice easy pace. The several hill climbs were stupid slick so we had to throw some ponies at em here and there, but overall the track was fairly wide for a woods race, the climbs weren’t crazy and the rocks were at a minimum.  

We navigated our lap and returned to camp.  At camp, we checked over the cars, made a few adjustments, and went out for a second look.  On lap 2 we picked up the pace and realized the course was gonna be a fun one at speed. Frank was the lead car on lap 2 and he was gone before we knew it.  We stopped to ask a few questions to a course director and by the time we were off, Frank was out of sight.  Jeremy and I kept a nice 20-25 MPH pace and marked a few more turns.  The course was like an ice skating rink in spots, but it was also nice and fast in other spots.  It was a nice balance of hauling ass and losing control for small fractions at a time.  Nice and fun.    

We headed back to camp to prepare for qualifying and grab some lunch.  We grilled up some brats and relaxed for a few minutes.   We loaded the water fire extinguishers and cleaned the cars up some for our marketing partners.  We went over to the driver’s meeting and got the scoop then returned to camp to gear up for qualifying.   We watched a bunch of the SXS’s quality before lining up so we had a better idea of what to expect.  We geared up and lined up awaited our turn.  The line slowly moved and we inch closer and closer until we were 3rd in line.  The # 1 car took off and they moved Jesse Oliver up to the starting line.  Just as the # 1 car came down trail 39 they sent Jesse and we were about to move to the starting line.  As the #1 car came around the mud hole and hit the big g-out the rear of the car shot up almost throwing it end over.  The driver smashed the throttle and the back came down extremely hard and catapulted it back up and over then over again while twisting in the air and catching fire.  It was a terrible crash and very scary to watch.  Jesse has been very close to it and pulled over as the safety crews ran out to attend to the passengers.  We shut the car off and watched as the fire was put out and the passengers escaped safely.  Everyone took a deep breath.  The passengers were ok due to all our safety gear and the quick action of the crews, but it was still a shocking sight to see. Everything cleared out and Jesse was up again and we were on deck. Jesse has a nice clean run so we knew we had to be quick.  JT dropped the flag and we were off! Making quick work of the Yukon Launch climb and through the trees we eased our way down trail 39 being careful to not cut a tire.  Smashing the throttle and blasting around as much of the mud as we could.  We headed straight towards the g out.  Still fresh in our minds we checked up a bit just to be safe, not sorry.  We rounded the turn and our qualifying run was in the books.  We managed to beat Jesse but still had to wait for several more 4500 cars to run.    At the end of the day, we had done enough to land the top spot in the 4500 class and would start 6th overall on Saturday.  We made our way back to camp and washed the car again while the mud was fresh and easy to remove.  We topped the car with fuel, check our fluids, and made our way back to the track to cheer Frank on during his run.    We cooked up some stuffed chickens and blueberry cobbler to finish off a great day.  Tomorrow was race day and we wanted to be up and at em early so we retired for the evening.  

Saturday 

It’s race day!  Excited to hear all the SXS revving their engines early at 7am while we cooked up some biscuits and gravy and began our last-minute prep.  We managed to eat, dress, check the safety gear for the pits, and load up by 9:10 am.  We staged at 9:15 am and we ready to blast off at 9:30. The # 1 pole Casey Gilbert was off the line at 9:30 sharp and we would start 30 seconds apart.  After watching the first 5 cars blast off, we were on the line and up next!     JT dropped the flag and  I smashed the throttle and we were off.  Passing the pits and being cheered on we once again made our way up Yukon launch hill and through the woods making our way down trail 39, back into the main area, and up horsepower hill and back into the woods.  We had nice clean air and didn’t see a car for a few minutes until we passed a 4800 car changing a tire they had cut in trail 39.  We splashed our way through the course slipping and sliding around each and every turn.  Trying to keep a clean pace and not drown the engine out in many of the water holes and creek crossing.   We knew it would be tough to catch the cars out front, and didn’t want to be caught so we tried to stay steady and clean. We didn’t see another car for the remainder of our first lap and we managed to check-in lap one still in the lead of the 4500 class.   We waved to the pits and pressed on hoping to pass some cars and retain our position.  We began to see cars scattered all throughout the mountains, some stuck in the deep mud holes, a few rolled over and a few just have minor issues.  We pressed hard and tried to maintain a clean visor and keep the car on all 4 tires. We checked in our second lap and were still maintaining our position so we pressed on.  By now we had a good idea of what holes showered the car and visors and what holes we could skate through cleanly.  Jeremy called the turns and kept clean towels on hand for me to use as needed.    The car was great and issue-free.  We navigated through a clean 3rd lap and we’re still maintaining the lead. As we made our way down trail 39 and into the open area we radioed in for a position call.  The pits said we were 2:30 ahead, so we just tried to keep it clean and mistake-free.  We had a few backups earlier in the race and didn’t want to have any now.  We navigated about 1/2 the track at a nice consistent pace and then I thought.  2:30? Where did Oliver, Sinclair, Grounds start? Was 2:30 enough? Shit!  I mashed on it and picked up the pace as fast as I felt like we could without making a big mistake.  A backup wouldn’t be good, but we couldn’t afford a rollover. We kept the car moving well and maintained a faster pace and were soon checking in our 4th and final lap. We crossed the finish line and waited.  It was all up to the rest of the field now.  We had done all we could.  We waited and waited and then were told we had officially managed to win the 4500 class!!  As we celebrated the remaining 4500 and 4800 cars were making their way into the pits and we waited for our tire check. Whew!  What a race.  From wide open full throttle sections of dust to the slickest no traction spots you can imagine.    This was Eastern Series Racing at its best.   Clifton, Garrett, Frank and  Drew all came over to congratulate us and celebrate for a few minutes before Frank and his 4400 debuts would begin.  We jumped on the top step of the podium for our awesome Laser Nut 1st place trophy and a quick interview. We made our way back to camp to get Frank ready, grab some lunch and Load a few things.    We pitted for Frank as he managed an awesome 8th place (KOH qualifying) spot. After the race, we laughed and lived and decided to pack up and roll out while we could.  Jeremy iron-maned the wheel until 1 am where I took over and managed to get us home early Sunday morning so we could enjoy the day with our families.  It was a great weekend and we couldn’t have done it without the support of all our friends, families, coworkers, and marketing partners.  Thank each one of you so much.  Jeemey once again poured hours of prep into the car, managed to get us to the track in 1 piece and also kept us going during the race. Clifton, Garrett, Frank, and Drew have an easy day in the pits,  but the sacrifices they made just to be there are huge and we appreciate the awesome team effort.