When Robby Gordon announced that his series, the Speed Energy Formula Off-Road, would come to Texas for the first time, no one knew what to expect. But, when it was revealed that the series would become the debut event at the X-Games, everyone took notice. The coverage would be unlike anything they had before, the driver line-up would be the biggest of the entire year, and the fan base would be the largest ever.
The 20-truck field descended on the makeshift track in Austin, a track that included sweeping asphalt corners, tight hairpins, dirt sweepers, a big tabletop, and even a "joker" lane. That lane would be critical as in both the heat races and in the main event, every truck was required to take that lane once.
Drivers would be split into two heats, with only the top eight making the return for the main event.
In the first heat, young Sheldon Creed would start on the pole for the 10-lap sprint. And when he got the launch off the start, he showed that despite his young age, he knew how to handle these trucks. As a previous winner, he already had an idea of how big an X-Games Gold would be. Meanwhile, guys like Justin Lofton and Robby Gordon were working hard up through the field, as was Nick Baumgardner, who earlier in the weekend competed in Baja, flew down to the track in the early morning hours, and would race with very little time to even sleep.
But all of those folks would make it to the main event, as Creed would lead flag-to-flag to advance.
The second heat, it was a bit different. There was more beating, banging, and hammering through the field as even more young drivers were hoping to make it into the field to compete for gold. Guys like Jerett Brooks, Apdaly Lopez and EJ Viso all were looking to get into the big field, but would beat and bang their way to get there.
Lopez seemed to figure it out best as he took to the wet track relatively well, cruising to a heat victory.
Prior to the final, the random draw put both Creed and Lopez in row two due to the invert. Guys like Lofton, Gordon, and others were mid-pack, and needing to figure out how to work their way to the front. At the same time, the track was changing as the sun was coming out, and instead of a sticky clay track on part of the surface, the dirt began drying up, meaning dust would play a key factor.
But, with no more waiting, the anticipation at an all-time high, the 16-driver field took the green and it was on at the X-Games for the gold.
Right away, Creed was not satisfied being in the second row, as entering the tight s-corners he went deep, grabbing the lead. He pulled out on Lopez, but it would be lap 4 when things took a rather spooky turn. Newcomer Bobby Runyan Jr. was entering the second ramp before the option lane, but swept too wide. The truck would only hit the ramp with the left side tires, and at the speed he carried, it was gone. His No. 9 truck went for a huge barrel roll, ending up on it's roof. The damage was beyond repairs and was pulled into the paddock.
The field went back to green, but the impact out front began real early. Lopez and Creed collided hard in the front, destroying the left-rear fender on Creed's No. 74 Traxxas machine, and Lopez made the move around to the front. He would pull out the lead by about five truck lengths, and at the halfway point the caution waved to get the field back together.
The hardest hit of all in the second half of the race came between Gordon and Burt Jenner. On the same jump that put Runyan Jr. on his lid, Gordon came in hot and got on two tires. He would turn hard into the possible roll to save it, but in doing so pushed Jenner into the birm. The hit would do more damage than expected as it appeared the steering on Jenner's No. 50 was compromised, as he would meet the outside wall on another corner just a few laps later.
Out front, Gordon would make up the time and began running down Creed to go after second, but with a lap left Creed took the "Joker" lane to gain an advantage. Since Gordon already used his inside option, he had to try to make it up the hard way, and time was running out.
It eventually ran dry, and Lopez was on cruise control, as he took the option lane on the final lap, and would see the checkered flag, taking home his second win of the season to back up his victory at the Brickyard, and would officially be crowned the first-ever Stadium Super Truck gold medalist at the X-Games. Creed would hold on for the silver, while Gordon would podium once again by picking up the bronze.
Overall, the series was welcome with open arms, and would make a great addition to the X-Games. It's clear that the series is going to keep getting popular, and is likely to make a return next year when this special weekend comes around once again.
It will be a long wait for the series to return as the next slated pair of races is not until July 19 and 20, as for the first time this season the Stadium Super Trucks will go north of the border, making a return to Canada. With Indy Car once again returning to Honda Indy Toronto, so will the trucks. It's the second returning venue from a year ago, and it is anticipated that the crowd will once again be extremely hyped to see these off-road machines hit the streets, and the metal ramps.
Follow the series on Twitter (@SSuperTrucks) and on Facebook for updates to the points, and the schedule for the Toronto weekend.