CORR/VEGAS RACE REPORT 1998 EXXON SUPERFLO WINTER SERIES
STRANGE HAPPENINGS IN LAS VEGAS
|Marty Reid (of ESPN
fame) started CORR (Championship Off-Road Racing) to bring short
course off-road racing into the big-time. In the process, the SODA
series of racing has all but fallen by the wayside.
So far, Reid has run his races in a thoroughly professional manner, and made sure that his events received plenty of television coverage, along with the usual press/media stories.
However, his worst nightmares were realized on the weekend of December 4 through 6 in Las Vegas. Last year, Reid held his CORR Winter Series to Glen Helen Park in California, and while all agreed that the course was spectacular, it was less than an ideal venue.
Spectator viewing of the course was marginal, and the narrow road leading into the track created traffic congestion, both going in and out. Also, Glen Helen is located in the middle of nowhere, making the racers drive a fairly long distance to find motels and restaurants.
Las Vegas seemed like a great choice, with the Las Vegas Speedway being located a short distance north of downtown Vegas, and the tantalizing entertainment available made it a fun time before and after the racing.
Las Vegas Speedway is a huge facility, with a massive tri-oval track for Indy-car and NASCAR-style racing, as well as oval dirt tracks. A full-sized drag strip is also being built.
ROCKS, ROCKS AND MORE ROCKS
The off-road course was constructed inside the half-mile clay track, with excellent spectator viewing for all, with a main set of grandstands a the start/finish line, and another smaller grandstand on the south end of the track.
All things considered, it looked like the perfect set up.
The ORC crew checked out the track before the racing, and came away with puzzled looks. Since dirt had to be brought in to build the jumps and turns inside the clay oval, we wondered out loud just why the track builders brought in a mixture of half dirt/half rocks?
While off-road racers deal with rocks on a regular basis, you should not ask them to drive on a course that will have them dodge flying fist-sized rocks littering the terrain. While we are aware that the soil around Vegas is rock laced, nonetheless, the dirt was paid for and brought in by trucks, and this dirt was pure trash! One of our friends who attended the event was a local builder, and he said that rock-free dirt was easily available in the area at about the same cost as rock-filled dirt.
This writer has been covering off-road racing events since the late'60s, and has seen it all. While we had a smooth time dealing with credentials (nice folks), it took nearly half a day to trace down the guy who was supposed to hand out the photographer's vests. He was running around like the proverbial chicken with his head cut off, and seemed to be in a highly advanced state of confusion. By the time the press got into the infield, a large number of the Saturday races had already been run.
Much grumbling was noted.
To be fair, the fault was not that of Marty Reid. While he was able to issue press credentials, only Las Vegas Speedway people could get the press what they needed to do their job. Reid had his hands tied by the complete and utter lack of professionalism of the Vegas Speedway connection, who seemed oblivious to the gathered press.
Eventually, we got our brightly colored photo vests and set about doing our job, which was complicated by a virtual arsenal of flying rocks.
RACE DAY ONE
The racing was truly spectacular, with the various truck classes putting on a great show, with plenty of tight racing. The cool weather and clear skies made for near perfect racing conditions, but the track quickly turned into a virtual dust bowl.
The Las Vegas Speedway people sent out a water truck to try to keep the dust down, but apparently the water truck driver had never worked an off-road event before, and was about as effective as a wobbly drunk whizzing against a tree.
The spots that were producing huge clouds of dust received little or no water, but the hard-packed smooth sections got drenched, turning them into slick, slithering slide-out areas.
As the day wore on, the wind kicked up and the dust got worse and worse. At times, in full daylight, visibility was down to 30 feet or so, and the race action on half of the course was completely invisible from the stands. How the drivers were able to cope with this is truly a testament to their skills.
Oddly, the stands were nearly empty during Saturday, with at most 200 people showing up to brace the cold temperatures and the nasty wind flurries. Still, the pits were full of racers, support vehicles and team people.
Quite possibly the best race of the day was in the Prolite Class, where the mini-trucks did battle. Art Schmidt pulled a huge hole-shot and it looked like the Nissan driver would simply run away with the race, but Johnny Greaves (Toyota) who started way back in 10th, simply would not be denied.
Greaves caught Schmidt after four laps, and they traded paint like rabid dogs for a few tightly fought trips around the circuit. Then Greaves stuffed Schmidt in a tight turn, and he never was able to get back up to speed. Greaves, at that point, picked up the pace and stretched out a large lead. Race watchers noted that Greaves was quite possibly the fastest vehicle of ANY CLASS through the rough whoop section.
By early afternoon, the wind started picking up more, and the dust worsened. Visibility was nightmarish and the useless water truck driver kept dribbling away spurts of brackish water where it was not needed.
You want more details on the racing action? Sorry. While we were able to take some photos when the wind blew right, it was almost impossible to keep track of the afternoon session, and we didn't have access to the track during the morning round of racing.
We can tell you that Curt LeDuc looked great in Pro 4, until his Ford started running sour. Walker Evans led for a while before spinning out in a turn and yielding the lead to Rob MacCachren. Both Flannery trucks looked fast. You'll have to trust the results we got from the race promoters to tell who won.
In Pro 2, we can tell you that Dan Vandenheuval kicked butt, Ricky Johnson was fast and Scott Taylor charged hard for a while.
By late afternoon, the skies clouded over, further reducing visibility on the horribly dusty truck. In the last race of the day, we fail to see how anyone was able to keep track of the constantly changing positions. Temperatures were near freezing as the race wound down.
The ORC crew spent the evening taking several hot showers, trying to get the dust out of various body orifices, then laid waste to a buffet before losing money to those heartless gambling tables and one-armed bandits.
I'M DREAMING OF A ...
... White Christmas? When this writer peered out his hotel room, near shock set in! Las Vegas was covered in snow, with more of the white stuff falling out of skies! Our 7th floor room gave us a bird's eye view of the freeway, and we watched the local citizens slither and slide around, like a colony of roaches dodging bug spray.
It was truly astonishing how bad the Vegans (Vegasans?) drove on the snow-covered roads. Only the new generation of yuppies in their SUVs seemed to be able to control forward motion with any semblance of directional stability.
Accords slammed into Maximas, and Mercedes by the score slammed into guard rails when those dumb-assed anti-lock brakes got confused by the complete lack of traction. Tow trucks were everywhere, and even they seemed to have trouble handling the snow. We even saw people backing up against freeway traffic because they couldn't figure out how to go forward. It was like watching loonies on parade, and was great fun.
A PREFECT TRACK!
We figured the snow would be great for the track. Since the water truck guy didn't have a clue, we thought the snow would melt as soon as the sun came out, turning the fluffy dust into loamy traction.
Sure enough, when we arrived at the track and inspected it, the soil was in prefect condition. The water truck guy could just sit in the cab of his truck picking his nose, since Mother Nature had prepped the track just right.
Still, something seemed wrong. There was a lot of yelling and arguing going on, and the racers and crews seemed very unhappy.
The ORC crew did some low-level investigating, and shortly found out that there would be no racing on that beautiful, clear-skied, cool Sunday.
It seems that the service and emergency safety trucks that worked the infield could not move around on the slightly muddy surface. You see, they all had stock little tires on those one-ton trucks, and every time they tried to move from one position to another, they simply got stuck.
Speedway officials said that no race could be held, since their trucks could not operate under those conditions.
To put it mildly, many people were ... how shall we say it? ... more than a bit irritated.
Various teams offered to let the Speedway geniuses use their 4x4 trucks to get the job done, but there was something about not being covered by insurance, and other objections.
Therefore, the operators of this magnificent facility, threw up their hands in dismay, and CANCELLED THE WHOLE DAMNED EVENT!
Thank you very much, and the horse you rode in on.
LasVegas Speedway needs to get its act together. While we're sure they do a great job with the Indy car stuff, they were simply ignorant of what's required to put on a proper off-road short course race.
Marty Reid must be over at the Hair Club For Men right now, getting transplants, because he no doubt pulled his hair out in giant tufts.
But then again, that's the way the dice rolls.
At least at Las Vegas Speedway.