Round seven of the Mickey Thompson Off-Road Championship Gran Prix came home to the LA Coliseum on July 22. The Coliseum gave birth to stadium racing back in 1979 and 45,156 came to see how the sport had developed over the years.
The fans were treated with a new track design which consisted of two separate options of going through the famed LA Coliseum peristyle. As the racers were flagged off turn one actually had two separate gates in which to enter the climb up to the peristyle. At the top, a kicker jump was added to ensure that all the contestants flew into the peristyle. They had two options of going through the peristyle, but they had better be lined up before the jump. Previous years had resulted in many traffic jams in the peristyle so the MTEG group came up with the new design. Once under the peristyle, two left-hand turns brought the racers back to the stadium floor. As the two separate courses came back down a sharp right-hand turn greeted the inside option and a dogleg right hand was added for the longer outside option. The two options intersected going into the back straight section. This section was filled with a generous amount of woops, the kind of woops that taught the drivers what a grain of salt felt like in a salt shaker. After exiting the rough section a left-hand sweeper was interrupted with a jump on its inside line and then two jumps were added in the front straight before beginning a new lap.
The new track design kept the action going and provided a good place for passing. Often the obvious leader coming out of the peristyle found that neck-to-neck competition was waiting for him at the intersection.
The next Gran Prix will take place in Denver, Colorado with the final being held again at the Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.
Racing began with the six fastest Super 1600 qualifiers competing in a Trophy dash. Frank Arciero Jr sat outside on the front row, so he opted for the outside line through the peristyle. Mitch Mustard used his pole position to take the inside option and once they exited the peristyle found the inside line to be quickest. Once in the lead Mustard took off for the win. Arciero had fallen into third place behind Roger Mears Jr. Marty Coyne finished in fourth place and Scott Galloway came across in front of Tommy Croft.
Previous years have resulted in a Mazda-Toyota showdown in Grand National Sport Truck racing, however this year Mazda pulled out of the series leaving Toyota in a dominant position with Team Jeep their closest rival. Walker Evans (Jeep manager) has used the past years to develop a suitable contender but seems to have his hands full with Run Away Rob Gordon.
In the first Sport Truck heat race David Ashley, Ford, shared the front row with the Chevrolet of Danny Thompson. Team Toyota made up the second row with second fastest qualifier, Roger Mears and Rob MacCachren making up the third row.
At the start, Ashley was outpowered by Thompson. Walker Evans came up to challenge and took the outside line through the peristyle. As the pack exited Thompson and Evans were neck and neck going into the back rough section. Thompson managed to grit his teeth harder and pulled out front. Robby Gordon also endured the rough section to settle into third. Walker Evans was able to close in on Thompson going into the third lap but had Rob Gordon knocking on his back door. Thompson again took the inside line but when they came into the rough again there was Robby Gordon. By the time the stutter bumps ended it was Gordon crossing ahead of Thompson. On the following lap, they met again at the intersection but nothing came of it as Gordon was hooked up and headed for a victory.
Second place Thompson had some breathing room between himself and Evans but Ivan Stewart and MacCachren were in a fight for third. By the fifth lap, Thompson had changed his strategy and began taking the outside line through the peristyle. When the white flag came out Gordon was way out front — all alone. Thompson still had a swarm of bees on his tail but held onto second. Evans managed to take third and Ivan Stewart crossed over ahead of Rob MacCachren. The top five consisted of Team Toyota, Team Jeep, and the lone Chevrolet of Thompson.
A total of 20 4-Wheel ATVs took the field in the first qualifying heat. At the start, Todd David took the lead and held that position until the third lap when Kenneth Delk took over. Delk went on to take the win with second place being earned by Donny Banks. Charles Shepherd made it three in a row for Honda with the next two finishers riding Suzuki. Early leader Todd David finished fourth ahead of Derek Hamilton.
The second 4-Wheel ATV heat consisted of 19 riders. Marty Hart, current points leader, showed everyone the fast way around the track. Hart had to contend with Gary Denton most of the race but had put some distance between the two at the end. Third place went to Don Turk and Mark Ehrhardt won fourth with Sean Stubbs fifth.
Super Lite action brought out 11 cars. Joe Pierce sat on the pole with Rory Holliday alongside. The second row had John Gersjes and John Hasshaw. When the flagman said “go racing” Holliday ran off and hid from the pack. He was not challenged throughout the event. Second place was fought for and won by John Gersjes. Gersjes battled with Joe Pierce until Pierce dropped out on lap three. Third went to Don Archibald and John Hasshaw followed. Edward Moore took fifth.
In the second Super Lite heat, it was a battle of attrition. Ten cars started out but only six remained rolling at the end. Rennie Awana kept his Briggsbuilt together and took home the win. Second place went to Frank Chavez and Terry Peterson came across third ahead of Jim Cook. Chuck Parker was fifth.
The first UltraStock heat brought out a newcomer, with Larry Noel adding a VW to the lineup. Vincent Tjelmeland and Jeff Elrod were pitted against one another on the front row. At the start Castle appeared to have the lead coming off the peristyle however at the back intersection E1rod managed to charge. Castle settled into second with teammate Vince Tjelmeland pushing him into third.
The front three met at the intersection again on the following lap and again Elrod held onto the lead. Castle made his attempt on the third lap at the end of the rough section but he and Elrod bounced into one another causing Castle to lose momentum. Castle quickly had to fend off Tjelmeland. On the fifth lap, Castle took over the lead as he and Elrod entered the backstretch. Castle held on for the win with early leader Jeff Elrod having to settle for second. Tjelmeland saw Larry Noel get by for third and fifth went to Tim Lewis.
Super 1600 action began with 16 Gladiators taking the arena. Brad Castle shared the front row with Scott Galloway while row two consisted of Tommy Croft and Mitch Mustard. Once racing, Brad Castle took the inside option to turn one and by the intersection, it was apparent his decision had paid off. Mitch Mustard settled into second ahead of Galloway. The front three positions didn’t change until the fourth lap when Mustard came off the peristyle first and managed to take the lead. On the following lap Castle challenged in the rough section and the two tangled which left Castle momentarily cross-ways the track. This allowed Mustard to gain some breathing room which gave him a comfortable win. Brad Castle held onto second and third went to Danny Rice after Scott Galloway lost a rear tire and Albert Arciero dropped out at the white flag. Gary Gall captured fourth ahead of Chuck Adamson.
Heat race two for the Super 1600s had 15 cars line up. Billy Beck shared the front row with Roger Mears Jr and row two consisted of Marty Coyne and Frank Arciero Jr. Green flag action saw Billy Beck take the early lead and Coyne was able to take second from Mears. Arciero settled into fourth. On the second lap, early leader Beck suffered troubles and retired at the bottom of the peristyle. Coyne inherited the lead with Arciero in hot pursuit. Frank Arciero was challenged in the rough section but had to back out of it. On the following lap, Arciero suffered a flat while challenging Coyne. The two tangled and Arciero went into the hydro barrier but managed to stay in the fight.
At the midway point, Roger Mears Jr took the outside line to challenge Coyne, but as they entered the backstretch intersection Coyne still had a two-car lead. By the white flag, the field had spread out with Coyne leading by five car lengths. Roger Mears Jr took second place and John Sprague found his way around the limping Frank Arciero Jr. Randy Rhinehart took fifth.
Tyson Vohland had to fight off a very determined Larry Brooks in the first UltraCross 250 Pro motorcycle event. At the beginning of the race, Vohland had to fight with Jim Holley. The two traded the lead for a couple of laps and while the crowd was busy watching the battle at the front Larry Brooks put on a spectacular late-race charge. He seemed to come out of nowhere and fly into the lead. As they crossed the white flag Vohland retook the lead.
Tyson Vohland held on for the win with Larry Brooks trailing. Third place went to Mike Craig as he edged out Jim Holley at the finish line. Jeremy McGrath finished fifth out of the 15 starters.
A total of 14 riders battled in the second UltraCross heat. Brian Manley took charge of the event from the word go and never looked back. The race battle was for second place as the next four riders traded this position off most of the event. When all was said and done Brian Manley enjoyed an easy victory with second place being taken at the finish line by Ryan Hughes. Tallon Vohland made it a clean sweep for Kawasaki by taking third. Fourth place went to Terry Fowler and Ray Cromb was fifth.
In the second heat for Grand National Sport Trucks, Dave Ashley enjoyed the front row all alone. The second row had Danny Thompson and Walker Evans eye-balling one another. Row three had Ivan Stewart on the inside and Roger Mears outside. Next was Rob MacCachren and Run Away Rob who with the inverted start got a chance to see what it looks like at the back of the pack. When the action began it was Danny Thompson who made the first move by exiting the peristyle first, but the Jeep of Walker Evans was able to take the lead. Thompson settled into second with Rob MacCachren ahead of Ashley then Mears.
On the following lap, Evans was able to take a comfortable lead as MacCachren battled with Thompson over second. Thompson decided on the outside line of turn one and when they came back to the rough section the two were neck and neck, but Evans held his position. It was still MacCachren in third, Mears, Stewart, Gordon and Ashley.
On the following lap, the Jeep driven by MacCachren was able to out suspension Thompson for second place and this left Roger Mears there to battle Thompson. The next lap saw Thompson retake second when MacCachren got in trouble in the rough. On the following lap Roger outpowered Thompson for second place through the back rough section. On the next lap, Mears got the Nissan up on its side after the peristyle but held his position. But Mears broke an A-arm on the Nissan and had to pull off going into the final lap. Thompson retook second and quickly found he was defending his position from Rob Gordon who had worked his way through the pack to challenge Thompson.
With everyone, busy battling for second Walker Evans cruised to victory. Danny Thompson held off Robby Gordon and Ivan Stewart finished ahead of Dave Ashley. The Super 1600 semi-main brought out 13 cars to vie for the transfer spots. Right from the start, Kent Castle dominated with Albert Arciero running in second. At the checkered, the two finished in the same order and transferred to the main.
In the 4-wheel ATV main 17 bikes started. Charles Shepherd had to fight off a determined Don Turk for his win. On the third lap, Turk pulled his Yamaha in the lead but Shepherd took over again on the following lap. Following Shepherd and Turk to the checkered flag were Kenneth Delk, Mark Ehrhardt, and Gary Denton.
SuperLite main event drew 18 drivers. Terry Peterson and Don Archibald had the front-row advantage with Chuck Parker and John Gersjes behind them. At the start, Peterson and Archibald kept each other busy while John Gerjes snuck up and took the lead. Once out front he used the open track to pull away. Don Archibald took second place and also put some distance between himself and third place Rory Holliday. Holliday dropped back on the fifth lap and Rennie Awana filled his spot. In the end, the front three stayed the same with fourth place going to John Hasshaw and fifth was Rory Holliday.
Nine UltraStocks came out for the main event, with Vincent Tjelmeland and Larry Noel sharing the front. Paul Nissley and Lloyd Castle started in the second row.
On the start, Tjelmeland took the inside line of turn one for the early lead. At the back straight intersection, he was joined by Larry Noel. The two went side by side down the rough section but Tjelmeland was able to hold onto the lead. On the following lap, Noel was more convincing and took the lead after exiting the rough back section. On the third lap, Tjelmeland moved inside but Noel was able to hold the lead so Tjelmeland then took the outside line but again had to settle for battling for second with General Tire teammate Lloyd Castle.
Vince Tjelmeland lost his right front tire and Elrod moved into second place. From here on out Tjelmeland continued falling back. First Tim Lewis and then Chris Neil, followed by Paul Nissley who all motored around the crippled Tjelmeland.
Larry Noel made his debut in UltraStock racing in style by winning the event. Lloyd Castle finished second ahead of Tim Lewis, Chris Neil, and Paul Nissley.
The main event Super 1600 action had 20 contestants with Larry Noel and Danny Rice sharing the front row. At the start, Rice took the lead and decided on the outside line, and it proved to be the fastest line as he took the early lead. Mitch Mustard grabbed second and John Sprague was third. On the third lap, Rice was last to enter the rough section and Mitch Mustard took over the lead with Brad Castle slipping into third. Before the halfway mark leaders were lapping traffic and Mustard, the leader, spun out after the sweeper but he was able to hold the position. Then on the last turn of lap nine Mustard got sideways again and Brad Castle jumped into the lead.
Brad Castle was able to keep the hounds at bay for the win. Second place went to Danny Rice and Mitch Mustard, after leading most of the event, was third. Fourth place went to Marty Coyne and fifth was John Sprague.
A total of 18 riders battled for top honors in the UltraCross main event. Lowell Thomson took the early lead and held it until the white flag. That’s when Tyson Vohland took over and ran away. The battle then was to see who finished second as four riders had consistently traded on and off that position throughout the race.
At the checkered, it was Tyson Vohland by a long shot and Larry Brooks took home second-place honors. Third place went to early leader Lowell Thomson and fourth was well-earned by Tallon Vohland. Jeremy McGrath managed fifth.
Wrapping up the evening’s agenda was the Grand National Sport Truck main event. The eight trucks lined up with Run Away Rob on the pole and Walker Evans next to him. Rob MacCachren shared row two with Ivan Stewart.
Walker Evans edged out Gordon on the start and took the outside option of turn one and it paid off. Gordon was right on Evan’s tail with Roger Mears a close third. On the following lap, Mears stuck his nose in the dirt coming off the peristyle and was out. Rob Gordon took the lead and Evans settled into second place. Once in the lead, guess what? yep Run Away Rob took off and never looked back. He quickly put five car lengths between himself and Evans. Evans didn’t have time to worry about Gordon as Gordon’s teammate Stewart was busy applying pressure to him.
On the fifth lap, Evans dropped out after exiting the peristyle. Rob Gordon had the front stretch distance between himself and Stewart. For anyone to see any action they had to look at third place. Rob MacCachren had spun at the start and had to work his way through the field where he was now pressuring Danny Thompson. Thompson misinterpreted the power generated by the Jeep and got edged out at the checkered flag. Dave Ashley finished fifth.