Johnson was pushed into victory at rain soaked Anaheim opener

“Slippery when wet” would best describe the Mickey Thompson
Stadium Off(c)Road Racing ’93 season opener held at Anaheim
Stadium. As the song says “It never rains in California” but
there is a first for everything. Another first was Rick Johnson
who utilized his “mudocross” experience to keep the Nelson &
Nelson Chevrolet out front to win the Sport Truck main event.

The Sport Utility main was a mud bog but Christopher Neil
kept his Pathfinder under control for the win. The Super 1600
main event was a real fiasco. All the cars were covered with mud
making scoring the event nearly impossible. In fact, the scorers
are still reviewing tapes to announce official point standings.
The only person able to keep his number plate dry was Kevin Smith
and he overcame the horrible track conditions to take the win.
The slippery SuperLite main event took on the character of a
demolition derby. However, Greg George was able to bring his
Nature’s Recipe Special around for a win. The Skat Trak ATV main
was another scorers nightmare. But Donavon Holland was able to
stay out of the muck and lead all the way to the checkered. A
fresh rain cloud had just dropped its load on the UltraCross main
event, and a fresh face for the winners circle emerged. Robert
Drew rode his Kawasaki to his first stadium win by leading the
event wire(c)to(c)wire.

The rain came into Anaheim early so no one expected much of
a crowd. But when stadium fans get a chance to watch their
favorite event they won’t be put off by torrential down pours,
thunder or lightning. In fact 57,036 die hard fans shielded
themselves from the rain as they sat through all the excitement
of every event.

A new season brings out many changes. First off, the folks
at MTEG have changed the series name. The series will now be
called the Mickey Thompson Stadium Off(c)Road Racing series.
Another improvement for ’93 came in the form of a detailed rules
and regulations book. Competitors should find answers to most of
their questions within this updated book. Within the
organization, Brian Turner has been named Vice President of
Marketing and Communications replacing Tom Osiecki. Turner has
been working as a consultant and now will be in charge of changes
he recommended concerning the overall direction of the company’s
marketing and public relations programs.

Five of the six 1992 series champions are back this year to
defend their title. Rod Millen has his Toyota wearing the number
one plate in the Sport Truck class. Tommy Croft has his Jeep
prepared to defend the Sport Utility title, and Jerry Whelchel
returns in the Super 1600 group. Mark Erhardt has prepared for
another year long battle in the Skat Trak ATV challenge. The only
non(c)returning champion not defending his title is Mike Graig.
Graig has left the series to challenge the Supercross title.

Danny Thompson returns this year switching from his
Chevrolet to become a Ford Rough Rider. Thompson will team with
Rob MacCachren in a pair of BF Goodrich equipped Ford Rangers.
Nye Frank also joins the Ford camp as Stadium Program Manager.
Nye Frank, over the past 30 years, has been the guiding force
behind many driver’s titles and world records. Most recently Nye
Frank developed a sleek stadium chassis which featured the first
three(c)speed automatic transmission for 1992 Super 1600 champion
Jerry Whelchel.

In 1992 the Nature’s Recipe SuperLite team dominated the
class. To help keep their dominance alive they have added Shannon
Millen, Rod Millen’s wife, to their effort. This year Team
Mirage, anchored by C.J. and Clint Mears, hopes to bring the
Nature’s Recipe dominance to an end with their new Mirage

A special tribute was given to Rick Mears at the Anaheim
event. Mears may best be known as one of only three four time
winners at Indianapolis, or having 29 Indy wins, with 40 pole
position wins, three championships and career earnings of more
than 11 million. But Rick’s racing roots are deeply embedded in
off(c)road racing. In fact he won the first stadium event held by
the late Mickey Thompson. Mears said of all the hoopla, “Off-road racing helped get me started, and it feels very special to
be remembered like this by the Mickey Thompson Group.”

The Mears Gang was well represented at the Anaheim event as
Roger and Roger Mears Jr brought their Nissans to the Grand
National Truck class. As stated, Roger’s younger son C.J. and
Rick’s son Clint brought new Mirages to the SuperLite division.

The Mears Gang were not the only family members competition
as Walker Evans’ son Evan signed up to drive a Jeep Comanche
entered by Ken Hodgdon. Evan Evans has been active in desert
racing but Anaheim was his first stadium race. If fact, the Grand
National field is becoming a real family feud as Brian Stewart,
son of Ivan, is back again in his Dodge.

Track workers tried in vain to keep the track dry by
covering it during the day. This eliminated qualifying so grid
positions for heat one were assigned in order of last years
overall position. But as a note, unofficial timers said that Rick
Johnson had the fastest lap times during the early morning

Racing got underway with the Grand National Sport Trucks.
Danny Thompson, due to the inverted starting order, sat on the
pole in his new Ford Ranger. Alongside him Brain Stewart in his
Dodge. Behind them were eight other anxious Sport Truck drivers.

Brain Stewart out pulled Thompson on the start and then Rick
Johnson slipped inside for a brief lead. At the second turn
Johnson made contact with the barrier and ended up last. Brain
Stewart held onto the lead with Walker Evans and Rob MacCachren
battling for second. While those two fought Rod Millen pulled up
in the action. But then Walker Evans got upside down causing a

Danny Thompson had the lead on the restart with Rob
MacCachren on his tail. Both drivers held their position and
Roger Mears headed Rick Johnson.

With two laps remaining MacCachren was able to slip inside
his teammate, as Thompson maneuvered to lap Evan Evans. Shortly
after Johnson made a move inside of Roger Mears for third but
caught a barrier and rolled the Chevy to cause another restart.

During the restart excitement Mears moved inside Thompson
for second place and Roger Jr took his dad’s lead and put
Thompson back in fourth place.

Ford became the official first event winner as Rob
MacCachren crossed his Ranger across first. The Mears Gang
trailed in second and third and Danny Thompson was fourth. Brain
Stewart crossed over fifth.

In the first Sport Utility heat Team Jeep came out as a
dominant factor. On the start Tommy Croft pulled out an easy two
car lead by the intersection after the two lane option. Going
into the third lap Croft had demonstrated his championship style
and pulled way ahead of the traffic. Teammate Tim Lewis was able
to grab the second spot.

Current champion Tommy Croft grabbed the lead at the start
and never seen any traffic until they passed him standing on the
podium. Second place went to teammate Tim Lewis. Third was Jim
Smith and fourth Christopher Neil ahead of T.J. Clark.

Donny Banks jumped first off the line and went on to win in
the first 4(c)Wheel ATV heat. Charlie Shepherd tried to steal the
lead on a last ditch effort but had to settle for second. Third
went to defending champ Mark Ehrhardt.

Honda made a clean sweep of the top three spots in the
second 4(c)wheel ATV heat. Chris Berger held off a last minute
charge by Doug Eichner. Donavon Holland was third.

In the first SuperLite heat 13 cars came out to battle.
Mercedes Gonzales grabbed the early lead. On the second lap Greg
George and Tim Baker tangled while battling for second, and
George ended up in fifth after the argument.

Gonzales was driving a comfortable race then spun giving the
lead to Sean Finley with three laps to go. Finley held on to win
in his first time out in the Lovelle Racing Triple EEE. Gonzales
managed to hold onto second and her teammate Greg George moved
into third on the last lap. Fourth went to Scott Klaers and Chris
Urquidez crossed over fifth.

Lovelle Racing quickly learned to love Anaheim. Frank
Chavez, teammate to heat one winner Sean Finley, brought his
Lovelle Racing Triple EEE across for the second SuperLite heat
race. Chavez had not driven for a year and a half before coming
to Anaheim.

Rennie Awana drove his Briggsbuilt across for second ahead
of Don Archibald. Fourth place finisher was Joe Price and Shannon
Millen was fifth.

Defending Super 1600 champ Jerry Whelchel sat on the pole of
the first Super 1600 heat race and when the green flag came out
he quickly pulled out front. But Whelchel would have to restart
again as four cars piled up in turn one.

Whelchel appeared to repeat his advantage on the restart but
Gary Gall and he tangled in mid air with Whelchel landing on top.
The two cars blocked the first option of the two lane track so
another restart was called.

Whelchel sat alone on the front row for the restart as Gall
was sent to the back of the pack. Whelchel quickly grabbed the
lead but spun at the intersection allowing Jimmy Nichols to pull
up and challenge for the lead. But Whelchel was able to hold on
then distance himself from Nichols. Once out front and clear of
the traffic it was all over as Whelchel moved his Ultra Wheel Nye
Frank Special across the finish line.

Second place had Nichols fending off Kevin Smith throughout
the event. Just before the white flag came out Smith took the
outside option and stole the second spot from Smith. Nichols fell
back several car lengths. On the last lap Smith bicycled his
Mirage and Nichols was able to pull up and add some excitement
for second. But when it was over Smith was second and Nichols had
to settle for third. Fourth was Ed Herbst ahead of Gary Gall.

The second Super 1600 heat was plagued with mishap and
mechanical woes. Bob Gordon got the jump on Marty Hart at the
green. The front two and Wes Banks were the only ones not
affected by a multi car pile up in turn one. All involved were
able to untangle themselves so no restart occurred. But this
allowed the front three to pull so far away they were lapping
traffic by the third lap.

Marty Hart found his way around Gordon but before he could
get comfortable had to pull off the track. Gordon no more settled
into the lead and he too pulled off. Wes Banks became the leader.

Banks didn’t suffer from mechanical woes but overshot the
rough section and tagged the barriers. This allowed Bill Goshen
to drive around for the lead.

Goshen was able keep running and win his first ever stadium
event. Wes Banks got going again and took second ahead of Rick
Reynolds. Fourth was Tim Herbst and fifth was Eric Arras.

Thunder and Lightning filled the air as the second heat of
Grand National Sport Trucks took the field. Rick Johnson took his
pole position to the lead and a four truck pile up in turn one
held up the traffic. Current champ Rod Millen managed to slip his
Toyota past the quandary and settled into the second spot. Walker
Evans put his Dodge in third ahead of Roger Mears.

On the following lap it was apparent that last year’s feud
had been rekindled. Millen went to the outside of the option and
he and Johnson came out side by side, but Johnson held on. Millen
found a quicker line around the outside in lap three and came out

Millen pulled out a two truck lead over Johnson with third
place Brain Stewart a full straight away behind. Evan Evans held
Millen up and Johnson was able to pull alongside in the rough but
time ran out and Millen took the win.

Brain Stewart kept his Dodge up front for third and fourth
was Rob MacCachren. Ivan Stewart managed fifth.

Graig Canoy rode his Yamaha to victory in a torrential down
pour during heat one of UltraCross racing action. Canoy jumped out
early and lead the entire race. Second place went to Jim Holley.
Third place and probably the hardest rider of the event was Larry
Brooks. Brooks was doubling jumps and making passes when everyone
else appeared to be stuck in a single line.

When the second UltraCross heat came out Shaun Kalos followed Ryan Carlisle around until just two laps remained. That’s when Kalos made a last ditch effort to steal the win. Carlisle held onto second and third was Jani Sitar.

A steady rain had turned the track to slim before the Sport
Utility vehicle main event. The track had gotten so bad that heat
winner Tommy Croft got his Jeep off to one side and sank in mud,
unable to finish. Christopher Neil used the pole position to become the early leader. The Jeeps driven by Croft and Larry Noel tried the
outside option and found no traction, having to settle for third
and fourth. On the fourth lap the order changed drastically as
Larry Noel moved past Croft. During the confusion both Jim Smith
and Brian Collins found their way around as well.

At the checkered only five of the nine starters were moving.
Christopher Neil took the win with Jim Smith second. Brain
Collins crossed over ahead of Larry Noel.

The 4-Wheel ATV main was another romp through the mud. The
rider that came out looking almost Tide clean, compared to the
others, was Donavon Holland who had lead from the drop of the
gate. Holland was followed by Donny Banks and Doug Eichner was

The SuperLite main event got confusing early. There were
cars running over cars and getting stuck in nearly every corner.
But Greg George found some traction and maneuvered his Nature’s
Recipe vehicle into the winners spot. Second place was Keith
Ehlers and heat winner Sean Finley managed a third.

The Super 1600 main event was the worst of all at trying to
score. Before one lap had been completed all the vehicles were
caked in mud making them almost impossible to identify. However
Kevin Smith was easy to distinguish as his number eight was the
only number identifiable. This possibly due to the fact he was
leading throughout the race. And that his rear number plate is
positioned over the engine.

In the UltraCross main event the mud bath continued but the
track seemed to have cleared some after the Super 1600s. Robert
Drew mounted his Kawasaki and led wire(c)to(c)wire for his first main
event victory. Larry Brooks had to work his way through the pack
but managed to get second. Third went to Scott Myers.

The Grand National Sport Truck main event turned out to be a
real hair raiser. The lead changed hands several times and was
always being threatened. The kind of action that deserves sitting
in the rain and waiting on.
Roger Mears Jr and Rick Johnson sat on the front row. The
second row had Roger Mears and Brian Stewart. Rod Millen, Rob
MacCachren, Danny Thompson, Walker Evans, Ivan Stewart and Evan
Evans lined up behind.
On the start Roger Mears Jr ran away from Johnson who
couldn’t find any traction. Once Mears Jr committed to turn one
he too lost traction and spun the Nissan. This barricaded the
turn and by now Johnson had his Chevrolet hooked up, and avoided
the traffic jam by taking the outside option. It paid off, and
Johnson took the early lead. Ivan Stewart who had started on the
fifth row managed to slip into second. Rod Millen nabbed third.
On the following lap it was Millen who had moved into the
lead and Johnson and Ivan Stewart trailed. On the following lap
Johnson again lead with Stewart this time in second. Shortly
after, Johnson got sideways and Stewart managed to grab the lead.
Johnson however regained control and quickly got back around.

Johnson suddenly had a couple of truck lengths breathing
room and the action slowed down for a lap. Just before the white
flag came out lapped traffic slowed Johnson up and Ivan Stewart
came back into the action with both fists flying. The heated
battle continued all the way to the finish line. Johnson had the
lead and Stewart made his last ditch effort on the last corner.
He got his Toyota nudged into the side of Johnson’s Chevy and
pushed Johnson over the finish line. Stewart ended up on the
barriers and since Johnson had been busy with Stewart he didn’t
see the checkered so he kept going for another half lap before
being stopped.

So it is now official Johnson won the season opener for
Chevrolet and gave notice that his Rookie of the Year award for
1992 was no fluke. Ivan Stewart was looked down upon by the Rough
Driving Committee and sent back three positions for the roughness
with Johnson and an encounter earlier with Danny Thompson. This
moved Rod Millen into second and third went to Walker Evans.

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