Round six of the Mickey Thompson Off-Road Championship Gran Prix was held at the historical Pasadena Rose Bowl before 43,000 appreciative fans. With a 10 pm curfew the event had to go without a hitch — and the well organized MTEG crew pulled it off.
A few changes were introduced here with the most notable being a completely new track design. The track was said to be wider, but many drivers commented that they would have preferred it been left alone. Being designed wider made the designers a little generous with the rough sections. One oversight of the track design was really noticeable with the double jump for the pro motorcycle riders. Even the fastest riders would land on the crown of the double jump causing them to wobble coming off the jump. Exciting for the fans but took some concentration from the riders.
Racing got underway with the Super 1600 Trophy dash. The six fastest qualifying cars lined up to battle one another for the trophy honor. Tommy Croft used his front row position to grab the early lead, however he got crossed up in turn one momentarily and lost some momentum and then in turn two lost power. Larry Noel was on hand to take the lead. Series points leader Frank Arciero went wide on the first turn and was left in third place.
As they came across for the checkered it was Larry Noel first and second went to Mitch Mustard with Frank Arciero third.
As the Grand National heat one field came out a new set of grid rules was introduced with pre-determined starting order. No more luck of the draw starting order, a simple qualifying time points system determines their starting order. Now the slowest qualifiers begin on the front row, with the fastest qualifier setting at the back of the pack. In the second heat the grid is determined by points accumulated in the first heat, combined with qualifying points. Passing points are also awarded and added to the total to determine the inverted lineup. No inversion occurs in the main event which means the two fastest Sport Trucks of the evening will go heads up.
Another addition in the Grand National class was a penalty box. During the race if the Rough Driving Committee deems it necessary the flagman designates to the driver to enter the penalty box where he is required to make a stop and go. The penalty was practiced during qualifying but was not necessary during the race.
As the nine trucks took off the fastest qualifiers were in the back of the pack requiring them to work harder for position. One very hard worker turned out to be Walker Evans in his Jeep. Evans, the fastest qualifier, started from the back of the field and by lap two had moved into fourth. Dan Esslinger came from the front row to take the early lead. Glenn Harris had taken the early second spot but was pushed aside by Danny Thompson. And this left the door open for Evans to get by as well.
Thompson got a little over zealous and put his Chevrolet up on its side, causing a yellow flag. This put Evans in the second spot with Dave Ashley in third. Team Toyota trailed with Ivan Stewart leading Robby Gordon.
Walker Evans started in ninth position and by the fifth lap was able to use the yellow caused by Thompson’s roll over to close in on Esslinger, the leader. On the restart Stewart moved up to challenge Evans for second but by the third turn traffic had put Stewart in fifth. Evans and Esslinger swapped some paint in the switch back and Esslinger suffered a flat. Evans took over the lead but found that he had pulled Ivan Stewart into second place behind him.
Walker Evans kept his Jeep out front for the heat win, with Ivan Stewart having to settle for second. Dan Esslinger muscled the wobbly Ford around for third and Robby Gordon crossed over fourth ahead of Dave Ashley.
The MTEG group has found a winner with the inverted start. No longer is all the action in turn one. The fast guy now has to fight all through the heat.
The first heat race of 4-wheel ATVs consisted of 15 riders. Mark Ehrhardt put his Honda out front but had to contend with Sean Finley for the entire six lap heat. Finley let Ehrhardt know he was in the vicinity at every corner, but Ehrhardt took the inside line throughout and held on for the victory. Sean Finley retained second. Another hotly contested battle was for third place between Derek Hamilton and Joel Bontoux. Going into lap five, Bontoux made his attempt going over the front jump. The two collided in mid-air giving third place to Sean Stubbs. Rick Marshall finished fourth and fifth went to John Neary.
The second 4-wheel ATV heat race saw National Champion Donny Banks easily blow the rest of the field away. Banks took off and went uncontested for the win. Second place went to a distant Marty Hart with Mike Olmsted trailing.
In the first Super Lite heat race 11 cars came onto the field. Don Archibald sat on the pole with Tim Baker sharing the front row. Frank Chavez shared row tow with Allen Yaros.
On the start Allen Yaros got up on his nose causing Rennie Awana and John Hasshaw to get caught up in his trouble. John Gerjes grabbed the early lead with Don Archibald second. Frank Chavez settled into third. On the second lap Archibald took the lead and brought Chavez with him. The two front runners consistently pulled further from the pack on each lap. Gersjes trailed in third ahead of Tim Baker and Edward Moore. Archibald was able to get plenty of breathing room after Chavez lost power.
At the end Archibald was mounting the winners podium while seven of his competitors were still racing. John Gersjes held onto second and third went to Joe Price. Allen Yaros captured fourth ahead of Rennie Awana.
In the second Super Lite heat Terry Peterson came off the start from the second row and ran away from the pack. Graig Nuss left the pedal on to long over the first jump and flipped his Triple E.
With Peterson way out front the battle was for second with Ron Pierce and Rory Holliday putting on a good battle. The front three contestants pulled away from the pack and held position until the checkered. The eventual winner Terry Peterson would have found Ron Pierce challenging had there been another lap. Fourth went to Chuck Parker and Jim Cook finished fifth.
The UltraStock heat race seven cars lined up with Lloyd Castle and Jeff Elrod sharing the front row. When the green flag came out Castle jumped his Nissan Pulsar out front and quickly put some real-estate between himself and second place Elrod. The main battle was in third place as Vince Tjelmeland was continually fighting off a very physical Neil Christopher. The two kept the crowd entertained until the fifth lap when Neil was able to muscle his way around Tjelmeland.
Lloyd Castle enjoyed a comfortable win he had at least the front straight length from second place finisher Jeff Elrod. Third place went to Christopher Neil while Tjelmeland finished fourth ahead of David Kreisler.
The first heat for Super 1600’s drew 16 starters. Scott Galloway from Denver, Colo. sat on the pole in a Chenowth and alongside him was Anaheim’s Al Arciero. On the start Arciero used his front row position to lead the crowd around turn one. Turn one traffic slowed down as Wes Elrod over-shot the jump and landed on Don Kolt causing the course workers to have to free them.
On the third lap Mitch Mustard, who had started on the second row, moved up and challenged for the lead but Arciero was able to hold him off. Mustard again pulled along side in the rough but Arciero again held him off. Mustard proved persistence pay when on lap seven he held on the gas that precious moment longer than Arciero to take the lead. Once around he was able to put five car lengths lead between himself and Arciero.
Mitch Mustard sailed to victory with Al Arciero holding off a finish line effort by Scott Galloway. Fourth place went to Kent Castle and fifth was Marty Coyne.
The second heat race of Super 1600s drew another 16 contestants. John Sprague and Danny Rice shared the front row with Brad Castle and Jimmy Nichols sharing row two. On the start Nichols overshot turn one and found himself setting in eighth place coming out of the corner. Rice grabbed the lead with Sprague holding second place until lap two when Larry Noel took his position. Behind Noel was Frank Arciero. On the fourth lap Noel stalled which held up Arciero and allowed Bob Gordon to get into second place. Brad Castle was also able to get by.
With the traffic held up by Noel’s stall Danny Rice was able to run away for the win. Bob Gordon held onto second while Brad Castle finished third ahead of Jimmy Nichols. Fifth went to Frank Arciero.
Heat one for the UltraCross (250cc Pro Motorcycle) class had 11 riders entered. On the start Terry Fowler grabbed the early lead but quickly found Mike Young in front of him. Young rode through the first five laps without much of a challenge but later had to fight Brian Manley for his position. Manley out jumped Fowler over the double jumps to take second but found Young to be an eager long distance jumper as well. Young went on to win with Brian Manley second. Third went to Tyson Vohland and fourth was Terry Fowler ahead of Jeremy McGrath.
In the second heat for UltraCross racers Jim Holly took off from the start and never looked back. Holly had an easy victory with second place going to Chris Young. Graig Davis finished third and fourth was Tallon Vohland. Jamie Munson managed fifth.
In the second Grand National Sport Truck heat Glenn Harris and Danny Thompson shared the front row. Row two was made up of Rob McCachren and Dan Esslinger. Thompson was able to out power the Mazda driven by Harris on the start. Harris held onto second but had both the second row starters on his tail. Ivan Stewart, starting from row four, was held up when he cut turn three to short and got hung up on the hydro barrier. The action seemed to be just getting started when Dan Esslinger rolled his Ford causing a restart.
On the restart Thompson had Rob MacCachren behind him with Roger Mears third and then Harris. During the shuffle Robby Gordon got sideways and held up Walker Evans. The front four were grouped together with Thompson in the lead and Mears hot in pursuit. Mears bobbled once but was able to hang onto his second place.
Danny Thompson held onto the win with Roger Mears second. Thompson had debuted a new one speed transmission for tonight’s event. Third went to Ivan Stewart and fourth was Walker Evans ahead of Glenn Harris.
In the Super 1600 battle a semi main event was introduced to transfer two drivers to the main event. Sixteen drivers were in the event which had Glen Galbraith and Gary Gall at the front of the line up. The second row had Dwight Lundell and Doug Ingles side by side. On the start Gary Gall grabbed a short lived lead, then Phil Carter, Jr. and Jimmy Adams tangled in turn two and the race had to be restarted.
On the restart Doug Ingles came barreling through the field in an attempt for the lead, however Glenn Galbraith grabbed the lead leaving the battle between Ingles and Gall. Ingles took over the second spot and pressured Galbraith for two laps before taking over. On the next to last lap Jimmy Adams rolled his Funco causing a restart.
Doug Ingles held onto the lead at the restart and went on to win the semi heat and a transfer spot. The other transferee was Glenn Galbraith.
MAIN EVENTS: In the 4-wheel ATV main event a total of 24 riders showed up to battle for top honors. However Marty Hart jumped his Honda out front early and left the rest of the riders setting in his dust. Hart went on to win with Donny Banks taking second place. Third place was fought for hard by Mark Ehrhardt who eventually kept Sean Finley at bay. Fifth went to Mike Olmsted.
In the Super Lite main Terry Peterson started on the second row but on the start got around and ran away from the pack. The battle for second continued right up to the finish line with Allen Yaros edging out Jim Cook. Third place went to Rory Holliday and Rennie Awana finished fifth.
In the UltraStock main seven cars lined up. On the start Lloyd Castle slipped inside front row setter David Kreisler to steal the lead before lap one was over. Joey Moore got his Chevrolet up on its top on the sixth lap causing a restart. On the restart Jeff Elrod muscled his was around the Porsche to slip into the fourth position. Chris Neil made a last ditch effort on second place but Tjelmeland held onto second. First place went to Lloyd Castle and third was Chris Neil.
A total of 18 drivers entered the Super 1600 main. Bob Gordon and AL Arciero shared the front row on the start. Arciero took the early lead and Gordon fell in line until the second turn and lost power. Behind them Jim Brockett also had trouble so a restart was ordered. On the restart Al Arciero grabbed the lead again but this time had Mitch Mustard in hot pursuit. Arciero was able to pull a couple of lengths ahead of Mustard with Brad Castle holding a tight third place. The battle for fourth however was several car lengths away between Jimmy Nichols and Kent Castle. Kent Castle knocked on Nichols nerf bar asking for a way around but Nichols held on for several laps.
Albert Arciero held onto the lead to the finish despite bouncing around in the cockpit with a seat belt assembly that had come off. Mitch Mustard gave Arciero a run for the money but had to settle for second and third went to Kent Castle ahead of big brother Brad Castle. Fifth went to Jimmy Nichols.
Jeremy McGrath took the early lead in the UltraCross Pro 250cc motorcycle main event. However the event took on a family affair mood after the fifth lap when Tyson Vohland took the lead. It became Tyson’s third straight main event win and the fourth he and his brother have taken out of the six races this season. Tallon Vohland managed second and third went to early leader Jeremy McGrath. Fourth place went to Paul Vlach and fifth was Jim Holley.
GN MAIN: Walker Evans sat on the pole as the Sport Trucks lined up. Next to him was Ivan Stewart and the second row was made up of Robbie Gordon and Roger Mears.
On the start Walker pulled ahead with a car length between himself and Stewart. The front three closed up and third place Robby Gordon started swapping paint with his teammate Stewart which allowed Evans to gain some breathing room. After the half way mark the small crowd strung out with Evans enjoying a small lead over Gordon after he got around Stewart on the sixth lap. However as they began lapping traffic Gordon closed in.
Gordon was able to make several attempts on Evans but the experienced Evans did not falter. Then on the last lap just before the final high speed sweeper, Gordon stuck his front fender inside the rear fender of Evans. Most drivers would have spun out but Evans was able to hold his position with Gordon hammering down on the gas. Gordon was in an unusual situation, if he let off the gas Ivan Stewart running in third would have possibly won the event. But now Gordon and Evans were hung together going full bore towards the finish line. Evans couldn’t let up on the throttle because Gordon would have ran over him. So here we have Evans being pushed sideways across the finish line. After the two let off the gas they got unstuck but it threw Evans towards the wall, and Gordon was able to head to the pit.
Walker Evans won the dramatic event but young Robby Gordon was disqualified for his actions. Asked about the severe penalty for Gordon, Evans later commented that “I don’t think its just for this event, this type of action (the disqualification) is for an accumulation of past events.” Second place went to Ivan Stewart and third was Danny Thompson ahead of Glenn Harris. Fifth went to Rob MacCachren.