The Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group started off the new racing season with a bang, January 20 at Anaheim Stadium. And from the record breaking sell out attendance (65,447) and the record setting field of new contestants it appears the 90’s will be very promising for stadium off-road racing fans.
A variety of new teams showed up to compete this season. The Grand National Sport Truck class has defending champion Robby Gordon returning but this year he has traded in his Toyota racing suit for one with Ford sewn on it. Gordon will also campaign a Super 1600 car as well. Also in the Sport Truck class is another Nissan entry which is driven by last years Super 1600 Rookie of the Year Roger Mears Jr. Glenn Harris returns for a full season this year in his Mazda driving for General Tire. Jeff Huber found a new home and will be driving for Toyota.
The largest field of UltraStocks, totaling 13 entries, will battle this season. Since its inception in 1985 this class has grown slowly but steadily and this year will run two heats before the main. Most noticeable of the new entries is the two new Jeep Cherokees. Defending class champion Lloyd Castle is behind the wheel of one while the other is piloted by stadium newcomer Mike Leslie. Lloyds son, Brad Castle is wielding a new Toyota Four Runner and is also competing in the Super 1600 class.
Super 1600 racers came to the stadium to find the Sage Council Racing Team fielding three cars. All the cars are equipped with new Toyota power plants. The team has gathered up some of the class’ most notable drivers as well. Doug Ingles will pilot one of the cars while seven time Super 1600 main event winner Jerry Whelchel takes up driving duties in another car. Greg George returns after a one year absence. George, will pull double duty this season by driving in the SuperLite class.
Greg George will be driving for Nature’s Recipe which also will wield a three car team in the SuperLite division. Defending champion Rennie Awana and former female supercross rider Mercedes Gonzales will round out the team.
A hole slew of motorcycle riders will be competing this year. Multi-champion motorcross rider Mickey Dymond makes his debut this year. Defending champ Jim “Hollywood” Holley returns this year as well as standout Tallon Vohland and a host of series veterans.
Many notable 4-Wheel ATV veterans returned this year but last year’s champ Marty Hart called it quits. Frenchman Joel Bontoux is expected to race the entire season, which adds some international flair to the class.
The season got underway with a final qualifying heat for the Super 1600 racers. The event replaced what was previously the Trophy Dash among the fastest qualifiers. A total of 7 cars were entered with only two top positions transferring to the heat race. When the checkered flag came out it was Steve Wright and Brian Collins that earned the privilege to race in the heat race.
In the first Grand National heat all hell broke loose! The drivers must have been establishing their peeking order for the year and the physical event had to be restarted three times due to roll-over’s.
As the first official green flag of the season came out it was the front row setter Rob MacCachren that took the lead. After turn one things got crazy. Danny Thompson got his Chevrolet up on its side and 20 yards down the track was the Ford of Dan Esslinger on its side, causing a restart.
On the restart it was Robby Gordon and Rob MacCachren sharing the front row and the two Nissans shared the second. Jeff Huber, the 1987 class champ, was on the third row with Walker Evans. Ivan Stewart, who had set fastest time, sat at the rear of the pack. Esslinger had pulled off with rear axle problems.
On the restart MacCachren pulled out front with Robby Gordon in hot pursuit. Walker Evans settled into third and fourth was Roger Mears, Jr.
Gordon tried to muscle his way into the lead but MacCachren decided to return a little muscle of his own and held onto the lead. MTEG again designed the track with two options, and MacCachren took the outside of the option and stayed in the lead. Roger Mears, Jr. challenged but MacCachren was able to keep the lead and put some distance between himself and the others. Thompson and one of the Toyotas tangled, leaving Thompson in the barriers for a few moments and another red flag came out.
On the restart it was MacCachren that had lost about 10 truck lengths between himself and second place Robby Gordon. Third place was Thompson fourth was Roger Mears Sr. Only two laps down.
MacCachren was still in the lead but had Gordon in hot pursuit. The other Jeep of Evans rolled and on the following lap the leaders had trouble getting around, causing yet another red flag.
On the restart MacCachren was first and Thompson had second place with Gordon grabbing third. Thompson pulled into contention for a moment but MacCachren held onto the lead until he again took the long way around the option and took a jump landing on his nose. This gave the lead to Thompson with Mears Sr. second and Ivan Stewart third. Stewart and Mears argued over second place going into the back sweeper and the two got hung up. Bumper to bumper. Mears ended up pushing Stewart around two complete 360s. This gave second place to Evans. Jeff Huber was third and Glenn Harris found himself in fourth. Robby Gordon was fifth but was suffering with engine problems.
A yellow flag came out and the flagman was motioning for everyone to calm down. The race was not stopped and Thompson was still in the lead with Evans second and Huber had a distant third place. On the following lap Evans challenged Thompson and after the tangle found himself pointing the wrong way which allowed Harris to take third.
When the checkered flag finally came out it was Danny Thompson who was the first heat race winner of the decade. Jeff Huber managed second place and third went to his former teammate Glenn Harris. Robby Gordon managed to finish fourth and Roger Mears was fifth.
In the first UltraStock heat it was Brad Castle and Vince Tjelmeland sharing row one. The second row was made up of Brian Collins and Terry Anderson. On the start, Elrod took off like a rocket to grab the lead but Lloyd Castle pulled alongside in second place. Brad Castle managed third and Tjelmeland ended up in fourth. Before the first lap was over Brad Castle ended up on his top during the rough section. Lloyd Castle was still out front and Tjelmeland managed to grab second with Jeff Elrod settling into third.
Brad Castle was slow about getting going again and Terry Anderson dropped out on the second lap. The field strung out with Castle in a comfortable lead and second place Tjelmeland was getting some heat from Elrod. Lloyd Castle showed everyone why he is the defending class champion by winning the first heat of the season. Vince Tjelmeland held onto second place and third went to Jeff Elrod. Fourth was Brian Collins.
Five cars lined up for the second UltraStock heat and the Corvette of Joey Moore was on the pole. On the outside of row one was Tim Lewis and Larry Noel sat behind him next to movie stuntman Hal Needham. At the start Lewis took the Porsche out front with Moore settling into second until turn three and Moore took over. Before the lap ended it was Larry Noel in second Christopher Neil was third and then Moore. On the following lap Noel dropped out.
Tim Lewis by lap three had a comfortable lead with Neil, Moore and Needham trailing. Neil had trouble on turn one and flipped his car over landing in the fence. This changed things around a bit but Lewis was able to take the win. Joey Moore in the Corvette took second place. Being the only other finisher it was Hal Needham taking third place in his first stadium off-road event.
In the first 4-Wheel ATV heat it was a run away victory for pole-setter Mark Ehrhardt. Second place went to Derek Hamilton and third was Donavon Holland.
The second 4-Wheel ATV heat looked like Charles Shepherds race. He was leading throughout the race but had a hard charging Donny Banks moving up on each consecutive lap. As Shepherd entered the next to last turn he slide his Honda sideways and there was Banks to steal the lead. Shepherd held onto second and the Frenchman Joel Boutoux was third.
Next on the agenda was the first SuperLite heat race. Ron Pierce grabbed the early lead with Greg George second and Rory Holliday was third. Pierce had things his was until the fourth lap when he lost his front right wheel and Greg George inherited the lead. By the white flag George had the front straight between himself and second place Holliday. These two finished in that order with third place going to Allen Yarros. Fourth was Ron Schartau and then Don Archibald.
As the second SuperLite heat came out there were 10 cars. Frank Chavez exited turn one first and never looked back until he had won. Chavez had Rennie Awana challenging throughout the first five laps but Awana had to pull out with mechanical woes. Chuck Parker pulled his Briggsbuilt into second and held on. Third place went to Edward Moore and fourth was Greg Trachy ahead of Holgeir Oksnevad.
The first Super 1600 heat belonged to Sage Council Racing. Former Anaheim winner Jerry Whelchel took over at turn two of the first lap and drove out front until the checkered flag. Following in second place was his teammate Greg George. Third place went to Frank Arciero Jr. and fourth was last years champ Mitch Mustard. Bob Gordon managed fifth.
Super 1600 heat race two had 14 cars on line, and in turn one it was pole setter Jimmy Nichols out front. Nichols was followed by Gary Gall and Tommy Croft. When they came around for lap three Nichols still had the lead but Wes Elrod had worked his way through the pack to second place. Gall was holding onto third but had Brad Castle hot on his tail.
By the fourth lap Tommy Croft had missed lapped traffic problems and managed to grab the lead. Robby Gordon followed Croft for second. Elrod had fell to third place. Brad Castle had lost a tire and was having to fight off a pack of wolves.
Croft was driving a consistent race and was out front running hard but not too far behind was young Gordon. A hard battle for fourth place was between Kevin Smith and Larry Noel. When the argument was over Noel moved ahead and Smith was later penalized by the Rough Driving Committee (RDC).
Tommy Croft and Robby Gordon had pulled some distance between themselves and third place Elrod. Croft was in control until Gordon held the pedal down through the rough stuff and when he and Croft came around the switch-back a stalled car in the track held up Croft and Gordon took over.
Once out front Gordon put the pedal down and put some distance between himself and Croft. Gordon went on to the victory circle and Croft had to settle for second place. Wes Elrod held onto third and fourth was Jimmy Nichols. Larry Noel finished fifth. Five drivers were later set back for rough driving. Besides Smith, Henry Simpson, Don Kolt, Gary Gall and Billy Beck all started the year out being over anxious.
In the first UltraCross heat race a total of 20 riders came out to run. Seventeen year old Brian Roth was the youngest rider on the track. But he didn’t let his age bother him when the green flag came out. Roth jumped out the early leader and was able to hold the lead until lap three. Then Mike Fisher, also riding a Kawasaki, jumped into the lead. The race appeared to be all Fishers until mid-way the last lap and veteran motorcycle racer Micky Dymond came streaking past with Mike Graig in tow.
Micky Dymond held off Mike Graig for the win and Mike Fisher after leading most of the race ended up in third, making it a sweep for Kawasaki. Mike Young brought his Yamaha around for fourth and early leader Brian Roth finished fifth.
A total of 16 riders were entered in the second UltraCross heat race. Chris Young jumped out front early with Kerry Mulligan trailing. Third was Jim Holley and Dan Berg was fourth. The front positions didn’t change much until just before the white flag.
Holly took the lead after the double jump but then at the end of the straight Young retook him, but Holly then again grabbed the lead in the next corner. Holly pulled out five bike lengths and went on to take the win. Young however saw Ryan Hughes blister by for second place. Young held onto third and fourth was Kerry Mulligan. Fifth went to Tallon Vohland.
There were 10 Sport Trucks out for the second heat race. On the pole was the Jeep driven by Rob MacCachren and next to him was Roger Mears. When the green flag came out it was the Jeep that grabbed the lead. Mears was fighting off Dan Esslinger for second. Ivan Stewart and Roger Mears Jr battled for fourth but Mears Jr left the track with transmission problems. Lap two had MacCachren in the lead, Esslinger, then Roger Mears. Lap three and MacCachren had a comfortable lead with Esslinger still running a few truck lengths ahead of Mears.
On the following lap the front drivers had stretched themselves out from the pack and things were very calm. Then on the sixth lap things seemed to fall apart. MacCachren lost his lead when he got up on two wheels and Esslinger took over. MacCachren almost looked as if he was doing a Joey Chitwood stunt, his Jeep stood up on its two right wheels for the longest time before resting down on the passenger’s door. Roger Mears lost a front tire and was limping around the track. And before Esslinger could get comfortable his right rear tire went down and he got his Ford sideways, and there was Ivan Stewart to take advantage of his misfortune.
Ivan Stewart went on to take the checkered flag and Danny Thompson managed to cross over in second. Third place went to Robby Gordon and Walker Evans was able to capture fourth ahead of Dan Esslinger.
The UltraStocks were the first main event contestants. As the 10 cars lined up it was Lloyd Castle on the pole and Tim Lewis shared the front row. Once underway it was Castle grabbing the lead. Lewis followed and then Vince Tjelmeland ahead of Jeff Elrod. Before the lap ended Lewis moved to the front of the pack and Castle was second.
Lewis had the lead but also had Castle right on his bumper on the following lap. Jeff Elrod held onto third and Tjelmeland was fourth. Castle was not content with second place and pulled alongside Lewis in the rough stuff. Castle couldn’t get around and then going into turn one tried again and the two slapped bumpers, but Lewis kept his lead.
Castle again stuck his bumper up against Lewis and tried to get around but ended up in the Hydro barrier. Lewis was then challenged and passed by Tjelmeland. But Tjelmeland got squirrelly in the rough and Lewis took over again. Lewis was then battling Jeff Elrod with a bad left rear flat. While Elrod and Lewis pushed around on one another Noel snuck around for the lead.
Larry Noel ended up the event winner and second place went to Jeff Elrod. Third place was early leader Tim Lewis and fourth went to Vincent Tjelmeland. Hal Needham managed to stay out of trouble and finished fifth.
The 4-Wheel ATV main event was dominated by Donavan Holland. Holland used his front row position to his best advantage and lead the entire race. Second place was earned by Charles Shepherd with third place going to Joel Bontoux. Derek Hamilton was fourth and Andrew Buck took fifth.
In the SuperLite main event it was Edward Moore that set the pace for the other 18 riders out of turn one first. Moore had Allen Yarros and Frank Chavez in close pursuit but managed to fend off their attempts. However, before the event ended Moore got slowed up by lapped traffic and Ron Pierce was there to steal the number one spot. Pierce went on for the win with Moore ending up second. Third went to Allen Yarros and fourth was Frank Chavez. Fifth place was Holgeir Oksnevad.
Super 1600 main event saw Tommy Croft on the pole and Greg George sharing the front row. Robby Gordon and Jerry Whelchel sat behind them in row two. Coming out of turn one was four cars all fighting for the lead. By turn two Greg George had the advantage. Croft tried to go outside but ended up fourth. Going into the second lap they were lined up with Greg George in the lead. Frank Arciero second and third was Mitch Mustard. On the following lap Whelchel had moved into third place, but as he attempted to take a triple jump his Chenowth’s nose dug in and made the car veer into the hydro barriers causing him to flip out of contention.
The front three had pulled some breathing room between themselves and the rest of the pack but George had both Arciero and Mustard all over him. Then Arciero managed to hold on in the rough to take the lead. Mustard quickly got into the act and he and George tangled which spun George sideways.
When the white flag came out Arciero was having to pick his way through lapped traffic and last year’s number one plate holder, Mitch Mustard, was shadowing Arciero in hopes of a blunder. But Mustard had to settle for the bridesmaid honors as Arciero headed for the winners circle. The win broke Frank Arciero out of a tie with Glenn Harris as all time MTEG main event winner (14).
Mitch Mustard was a close second place and third went to Marty Coyne. Larry Noel managed fourth and fifth was Bob Gordon. Early leader Greg George was sixth.
In the UltraCross main event there were 20 riders starting. Jeremy McGrath was only worried about one of the contestants — Tallon Vohland. McGrath was in the lead the entire race but had Vohland shadowing his every move. This caused McGrath to have to go all out resulting in the front two pulling out a comfortable lead. Then on the sixth lap Vohland came off the double jump wrong and slid his Kawasaki out from under him. That was all McGrath needed to take his first main event win.
Lowell Thomson came in second and third was Mike Young. Fourth went to the heat winner Micky Dymond and Mike Graig was fifth.
It was obvious that pole setter Danny Thompson had troubles as he came out for the Sport Truck main event. He had white smoke pouring out of his Chevrolet indicating a heating problem. Thompson didn’t let this bother him though as he took the lead with Ivan Stewart in second place. Ivan’s new teammate Jeff Huber settled into third and Walker Evans was fourth.
As luck would have it, Thompson pulled off on the second lap and Stewart inherited the lead. Huber had suffered traffic problems and was now in fifth. Evans and then Roger Mears both got around Huber.
Walker glued his Jeep to Ivan’s bumper and waited for his moment. But he forget about the Iron Mans persistence. Stewart was able to use the clear track and carefully picked his way through the corners. At the halfway point Evans banged into Stewart and lost momentum which allowed Stewart to gain some breathing room.
On the next lap Stewart had three lengths ahead of Evans. Huber had moved into third and Glenn Harris was holding onto fourth but Harris had Rob MacCachren on his tail.
Ivan Stewart went on for the win with Walker Evans a strong second place. Jeff Huber made it 1&3 for Toyota and Glenn Harris brought his General Tire Mazda in fourth. Roger Mears Sr. was fifth.