Anaheim Stadium hosted the first round of Mickey Thompson’s Off-Road Championship Gran Prix series with nearly 65,000 in attendance.
Many changes occurred for the 1989 season. A new track design was wider and featured fewer switchbacks for quicker lap speeds and room for passing. Heading the driver changes was Robby Gordon. Gordon earned a ride with Team Toyota this year after winning the Super 1600 championship last year at age 19. Gordon was also honored this year by being named to the AARWBA Auto Racing All-America team for 1989. Gordon replaced Steve Millen, last year’s sport truck champion, who has left to compete in the IMSA GTO series.
Also entering the sport truck wars this year was Rob MacCachren. MacCachren made his debut last year at the Coliseum but is a regular Jeep team member for 1989. Another new driver was David Ashley who entered with a Ford.
Missing from the sport truck battles was Team Mazda. The company pulled its stadium support this year because of MTEG rule changes. This left Glenn Harris as the only Mazda-mounted entry — wearing General Tire colors. Team Mazda’s three-truck entry will be truly missed as they were Toyota’s most formidable competition for the last several years. The two teams routinely exchanged blow for blow throughout the series to keep the action high.
Paul Nissley and David Kreisler of North American Raceco have teamed up in the Super 1600 and UltraStock classes with a four-car effort. Former Superlite driver Bill Goshen will drive a Super 1600 this year and Chet Huffman is returning after a three-year absence. Doug Ingels of Quail Valley entered the buggy wars with a Toyota-powered Super 1600. Roger Mears Jr. has also slipped on his driver’s suit in this class.
RACING: Bob Gordon sat on the pole of the Super 1600 Trophy dash. However, when the green flag flew Brad Castle caught Gordon snoozing and took the lead. Gordon slipped into second place and Frank Arciero Jr, tucked in behind Gordon. Gordon held onto second for three laps but suffered mechanical woes allowing Arciero to slip by for second. Once the door was open Mitch Mustard also slipped by.
At the checkered, it was Brad Castle first and Frank Arciero second, followed by Mustard and Kent Castle.
During qualifying of the Grand National Sport Trucks, Robbie Gordon managed to set the second quickest time and Danny Thompson was the fastest. When they lined up for heat one Dan Esslinger sat on the pole with Ivan Stewart next to him. Esslinger took the early lead with Stewart’s Toyota in tow. Robbie Gordon sat behind his mentor and after two laps Stewart found a hole around Esslinger. Gordon foresaw Stewart’s move and passed Esslinger also. With the taste of victory flowing, Gordon set his sights on teammate Stewart. On the following lap, Gordon slipped inside Stewart for the lead.
Once in the clear Gordon showed why he was picked for Team Toyota, as he pulled away and left Stewart for the win. Appearing in his first race for Toyota the young Gordon let the Grand National Sport Truck drivers know he was prepared to race. Second went to teammate Ivan Stewart and Danny Thompson managed third. Fourth went to Glenn Harris and Frank Arciero, Jr. was fifth. Roger Mears suffered power steering problems in the Nissan entry and did not start.
A total of eight Stadium Superlites entered the first heat. Frank Chavez jumped out front but had Triple E teammate Ron Pierce take over after one lap. However, on the last lap, Chavez caught Pierce up on two wheels and took over for the win. Pierce regained his composure to maintain second and third went to a hard-charging Chuck Parker. Joe Price brought his Triple E around for fourth and fifth went to John Gersjes.
In the second Superlite heat, it was all Briggsbuilt drivers. Rennie Awana took his number three car out front and didn’t look back. Second place went to John Hasshaw and third was captured by Terry Peterson after taking advantage of Don Archibald’s lost front wheel problem. Archibald did however remain in the race for fourth place. Fifth went to the lone female driver Mary Sullivan.
Donnie Banks won the 4-wheel ATV first heat at the last corner. Banks tried all six laps to find an opening around Kenneth Delk, but was unsuccessful until the two exited the final sweeper. Banks took the win by a nose and Delk had to play the bridesmaid. Third place went to John Scott and fourth was Mark Ehrhardt. Fifth place of the 21 starters was Don Turk.
In the second 4-wheel ATV heat Marty Hart took advantage of a turn two pile up and stole the lead. Once out front, Hart used the open space to put some serious real estate between him and a threesome arguing over second place. Sean Stubbs, Charles Shepherd, and Joel Bontoux fought for second place until Stubbs clipped a parked ATV and blew a tire. Shepherd took over second and Bontoux finished third. Fourth went to Sean Finley and fifth was Chris Couto.
When the UltraStocks came out only seven of the nine cars entered lined up. Lloyd Castle sat on the pole, with Jeff Elrod sharing the front row. At the start Castle took the lead and he and Elrod were scrapping like two junkyard dogs around the sweeper but Castle held on. On the next lap, Elrod managed to hold on in the rough section to take the lead. Back in the pack, while arguing over last place with David Kreiler, Tim Lewis’ aerodynamic Porsche flew up on the fence. The race was stopped and a tow truck and skip loader were needed to extract him.
On the restart, the front three regrouped and exchanged paint in the rough section. Castle pulled off with troubles and Joey Moore challenged Elrod for the lead and ended up on his top. Vince Tjelmeland made a move on the last lap and ended up on his top just after the short rough section. Elrod bicycled a bit during the conflict but held on for the win. Christopher Neil finished second and third went to David Kreisler. Vince Tjelmeland got going to finish fourth.
In the first 250cc Pro Motorcycle UltraCross Chris Young put his Suzuki out front from the word go and held on for the win. Young was dogged by Brian Manley all through the race. Manley finished second ahead of Michael Jones and fourth went to Jeff Hicks. Denny Stephenson was fifth.
In the second UltraCross heat Jim “Hollywood” Holley jumped out front and showed his confidence as he waved to the crowd while flying over the first double jump. It took three laps before Danny Storebeck, who had hounded Holly from the gate, found a path around Holly. Storebeck went on to win and Holly finished a very close second. Third went to Tallon Vohland and Donny Schmit crossed over ahead of Tyson Vohland.
As a writer, it is easy to say that Eric Arras went wire-to-wire to win the first Super 1600 heat. However, Arras could probably talk for hours about how Mitch Mustard was all over him like daylight. Mustard shadowed Arras throughout the race and had his best shot when a yellow caused by Kent Castle caused a restart.
Third place finisher was Bob Gordon and Phil Carter, Jr. led Billy Beck across the finish line.
In the second Super 1600 heat, a car was spun around by traffic, in turn one, causing a restart. When the race was restarted Al Arciero grabbed the lead with Wes Elrod in hot pursuit. Behind them was total chaos as 16 cars took turns running over each other. Elrod lost second place as traffic spun him around in turn one. Frank Arciero, Jr picked his way through the pile-up and went after Al. Albert Arciero ran into lapped traffic and slowed a bit and brother Frank got within striking distance. On the fourth lap, Albert seemed to experience shifting problems in a corner and Frank took over. Albert fell into fourth place but was able to work through the leaders for second — and even survived a rollover in the final turn. Third place went to Brad Castle and fourth was Scott Galloway ahead of Wes Elrod.
In the second Grand National heat, Glenn Harris sat on the pole with Danny Thompson sharing the front row. The second row was the Toyota’s driven by Ivan Stewart and Robbie Gordon. Walker Evans and Dave Ashley made up the third row, with Rob MacCachren and Dan Esslinger positioned behind them.
One of the most common mistakes of turn-one leaders is to power into the corner and sling their vehicle sideways setting up for the turn. The problem with this is that a carefully placed front bumper against the leader’s rear fender will spin them around. Glenn Harris apparently has learned from this mistake and although he out-pulled the crowd into turn one he locked up the brakes a bit early and chose to be pushed around the corner. The strategy worked and Harris held onto the lead. Ivan Stewart got anxious inside the sweeper and ended up on his nose and causing a rolling restart. Harris retained the lead with Danny Thompson second. Third was Robbie Gordon then Frank Arciero, Jr. On the next lap, Thompson challenged Harris in the rough but Harris held the pedal down to keep his lead. The salt shaker ride must have scrambled Harris’ brain. As he rounded the next corner his preparation for the jump was incorrect, resulting in his Mazda taking a nose dive off the jump. The Mazda’s front bumper dug into the earth and there was Harris, standing straight up in the air, apparently impelled there forever. But then Thompson, who had his momentum going could not avoid but clip the Mazda. This was great for Thompson because he inherited first place. Harris, even though he was back on the ground, was getting clipped by everyone passing by. Thompson’s front fender section had been damaged in the Harris incident and his hood came loose — blocking his view. He held on to the lead for a lap and a half but Robbie Gordon managed to slip inside the blinded Thompson.
Robbie Gordon went on to make it a double win for his first night as a Grand National driver. Danny Thompson won the hearts of the fans and also captured second place for his blind effort. Frank Arciero, Jr. finished third and Dave Ashley was credited fourth. Walker Evans was fifth.
In the Stadium Superlite main event, it was Chuck Parker that jumped out front. Terry Petersen stuck close behind and after two laps put the move on Parker. Peterson managed to put some breathing room between him and a large group of Superlites fighting over second place. When the smoke cleared it was Terry Peterson winning and second place was taken by John Hasshaw. Third place went to Rennie Awana and fourth was Rory Holliday. John Gersjes finished fifth.
A total of 24 riders lined up to battle in the 4-wheel ATV main. At the green, it was John Scott that had 23 other riders behind him going into turn one. Scott held off a race-long challenge by Kenneth Delk for the win and Delk settled for second. Third went Mark Ehrnhardt and fourth was Charles Shepherd. Fifth went to Joel Bontoux.
In the UltraStock main Vince Tjelmeland pulled out front early and managed a comfortable lead over the Porsche of David Kreisler. Third place was Chris Neil. Kreisler, while running in second, flipped the Porsche causing a single file restart. On the restart, Tjelmeland found Neil right on his tail and serious about racing. Behind them was Lloyd Castle and Jeff Elrod being really physical over third place. Once the fiberglass settled it was Vince Tjelmeland winning the main and Chris Neil took second. The third-place battle was won by Tim Lewis and David Kreisler managed fourth. Jeff Elrod was fifth.
In the Super 1600 main event, it was apparent that the Arciero brothers were serious about racing. Albert took the lead with Frank chasing. Third place was grabbed by Wes Elrod with Brad Castle trailing. Before things got good and started Greg George ended up on the railing causing a restart. Albert Arciero was able to keep brother Frank at bay on the restart and traffic moved along without many hassles. After two laps Al fumbled for a gear and Frank took advantage. Then about three laps later the two caught up with traffic and Albert managed to put the slip on his brother to regain the lead. On the last lap, Frank managed to get by Al for the last time and go on for the win. The problem for Al was that he left the door open and ended up in fourth place at the checkered. Second place went to Brad Castle and third was Bob Gordon. Billy Beck followed Al across for fifth.
The UltraCross main was entirely between Jeff Emig and Tyson Vohland. The two battled 9 of the 10 laps with Emig in control. Around the seventh lap, Emig appeared to be losing his concentration and making small mistakes. Vohland appeared to be moving in for the kill on the last lap when he looped out on the s/f jump. Emig went on for an easy win and Vohland, after leaving his motorcycle in mid-air, took a few minutes before getting up off the track. Third place went to Brian Manley and fourth was Tallon Vohland. Fifth was Denny Stephenson.
In the Grand National main lineup, it was the Jeeps of Rob MacCachren and the Ford of David Ashley on the front row. Frank Arciero and Danny Thompson were ahead of Robbie Gordon and Ivan Stewart. Dan Esslinger and Jeff Huber shared the last row. Jeff Huber took over for Glenn Harris who was reported hurt in the heat race mishap. Rob MacCachren took the early lead after Thompson apparently lost power in the rough section. Ashley ended up the leader going into the second lap and MacCachren held onto second until Ivan Stewart moved around halfway through lap two. Ashley was enjoying a 5 car lead with Stewart closing in fast and young, hot-shoe Robbie Gordon closed in. On the fourth lap things really started happening. Stewart closed in on Ashley and in the rough stuff elbowed his way around. Gordon took second place away from Ashley going into the last turn and Ashley ended up on his top. All is fair in love and racing so Robbie Gordon quickly forgot that Stewart was his teammate and muscled his way around for the lead on the following lap. With only four trucks running and two laps to go all Gordon had to do was drive conservatively but he quickly stretched his lead over Stewart.
At the end of the event, Robbie Gordon had won making it a clean sweep for the evening. Ivan Stewart finished a distant second and Walker Evans finished third. Jeff Huber was fourth.