First Year Down, Stadium Super Trucks Saw Changes, But Success
It was just about a year ago that Robby Gordon decided to undertake his own challenge, and go on his own venture in motorsports. He went back to his background, and wanted to go off-road racing. But, he wanted to bring back something that the new generation of off-road racers had not seen, but was something Gordon and others witnessed years ago.
Gordon decided to bring back the stadium aspect of off-road racing, creating the Stadium Super Truck Series, sponsored by Speed Energy.
It was a new era to a series that Mickey Thompson had run in the 1980s and 1990s, but for a new generation of racers, and something even veterans of the sport would want to be part of. The schedule was set, and drivers began signing on. With a full schedule of 14 events, things looked up for the series, and in April, it kicked off.
Let's look back at each event on the SST Season:
ROUND 1: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
After a year of waiting, the initial event of the SST season happened at a stadium that hosted bowl games, concerts and a Super Bowl. The track crew came in and designed a track that would encompass all the floor space, and included two crossover jumps, plus a sand pit.
The track would test the best drivers, and the equipment, but with a huge crowd on hand, the opening event would provide everything expected of stadium racing.
The main event would come down to top veterans going at in a dash for the trophy, but in the end one of the best off-road drivers would come up victorious. Rob MacCachren would be the dominant driver on this night, as he would take his #21 Traxxas machine to victory, laying claim to being the first winner in the SST Series.
Round 2: Grand Prix of Long Beach
In an effort to showcase that these trucks were versatile and could perform on any stage, Gordon took the series outdoors for the second race of the year, and hit Long Beach, California, to race on the street course. But, to make it interesting, and challenge the drivers, the course normally saved for Indy Cars would see the addition of metal ramps, meaning there would still be some air, but also some drifting.
The concept seemed to work, because each driver entered in the race seemed to enjoy the idea of racing on asphalt, and were open to doing a second event down the road.
One driver that enjoyed it more than anyone was Justin Lofton, who spent time in the Camping World Truck Series, and would show his asphalt-savvy talent, as he would take the victory.
Round 3: LA Coliseum, Los Angeles, California
It would be a return to the venue where the SST launch occurred for the third round of action. The infamous LA Coliseum has hosted USC football, the Rose Bowl, and Super Bowls, and was the first event the Mickey Thompson off-road series ran at. Now, it came full circle.
The track would contain one crossover, and would run up the stairs of the stadium, before both lanes converged and the trucks would launch back down through the pillars into the stadium and into the sand pit. But, the biggest different was that the stadium officials did not want the football field disturbed. So, the track ran along the outside of the field surface, and it was more asphalt than dirt.
With a unique change, it made for a more difficult challenge, especially when trying to decide on the option lanes, whether to go all dirt or all asphalt.
It didn't seem to bother Gordon, as after finishing third and second in the opening rounds, he would take the victory in Los Angeles, and cut the point lead down over MacCachren.
Rounds 4 and 5: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
It's rare in any sport to face the same team, with the exception of the NFL and MLB, twice in the same season, much less in consecutive weeks. The SST Series would head out to San Diego for two rounds of action at Qualcomm Stadium, home of the Chargers.
Both tracks would be different, as the first would include two crossovers, a chute lane, and an option lane where the inside was sand and the outside was dirt.
It would be an intense race in round 4, as Jeff Ward appeared to be cruising to victory, but MacCachren was closing hard in the final laps, and found the timing just right. Entering the final two right-hand sweeping corners on the asphalt, MacCachren moved high and got around Ward, becoming the first repeat winner on the season.
When the trucks returned two weeks later, the track was completely different, with an entire section being just sand, and only one crossover jump, plus a bit more asphalt.
Early on, the biggest problem across the board was a slick track. Too much water was put down trying to keep dust out of the eyes of the fans, so as the night went on, no more water was added, and it held up as the track started to get a solid groove. The truck that figured out that groove on that night was Gordon, who would take his Speed Energy truck to victory for the second time on the year, and also take the points lead for the first time on the year.
Round 6: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, Missouri
For the first time, the series went indoors in a closed dome, as the next round would come in America's heartland, in St. Louis. This time, there was no asphalt in sight, as the track would be extremely tacky with the dirt and clay. It meant that drivers were using a lot more of the front brake and the steering rather than the rear brake, making for a challenge by everyone.
It seemed to help out in some cases as both veterans and rookies had trouble on the night, resulting in a lot of torn up equipment.
In the end, MacCachren would again find himself in victory lane, his third win of the season, and putting himself back in the lead for the series championship.
Rounds 7 and 8: Toronto Grand Prix, Toronto, Ontario
After the halfway point in the year, SST officials made changes to the remaining schedule, and would visit different venues than originally planned. The first one of those events would be a double-header weekend up north in Canada. Once again, the metal ramps would come out as the Toronto Grand Prix would welcome the SST machines for two events.
On the first day, the squealing tires and the high-impact jumps would test even the best off-road racer, as there was no dirt to assist in cornering, and those that were more familiar with low-riding cars would have trouble making the corners under braking.
The first race saw another repeat winner, as Lofton would take another victory on asphalt. But the second day's event would be headlined by a driver that debuted in the third event of the season, and quickly became a favorite among both fans and drivers. Fifteen-year-old Sheldon Creed would finally break through and get his first win of the season in his Traxxas-sponsored machine.
Quite an accomplishment for a young man who still hadn't earned his driver's license.
Rounds 9 and 10: Crandon International Raceway, Crandon, Wisconsin
There are certain venues that mean the most to certain sports. Daytona is NASCAR's meca, while Indy will be open-wheel territory forever. Yankee Stadium is the go-to place for baseball, while the Staples Center is forever the home of the Lakers.
In off-road racing, only one word can sum up the go-to venue: Crandon. The famous track hosted an SST demo last year, and a year later the competition became real, as truck and drivers would come to the famed track to do battle on both a Friday night and Saturday afternoon.
The night race would see veteran drivers dominate, as the battle between Gordon and MacCachren would last for 12 laps, with MacCachren being the eventual winner at a track he's very familiar with. The next day would not only see different winners, and different track conditions, but a different twist never seen at Crandon.
At the midway point of the race, Creed would hold the lead over young Jerrett Brooks, but suddenly the trucks stopped and spun around. It was decided the night before, and with the track crew's blessing, that for the first time ever, the trucks would run the famed speedway in the opposite direction, literally changing how the teams would run the cushion, and where the braking zones went to.
It didn't seem to effect the outcome as Brooks would hold on and become the second 15-year-old driver to see victory, beating out Creed and Gordon for the win.
Rounds 11, 12 and 13: Sand Sports Super Show, Costa Mesa, California
The first triple-header of the year would see a bit of everything the trucks and drivers had seen through the year. The Sand Super Show would create a temporary track at the event center, making the drivers run on asphalt, dirt, and a lot of sand in the quest for victory.
For the first time all year, MacCachren would not be in attendance, but to keep the points lead, he had Keegan Kincaid step into the seat of his truck to maintain the point.
It would prove to be difficult as in the first round, Gordon would outlast the competition for the victory, cutting the lead down.
The second race was about redemption, as the night before, Lofton lost power just before the finish jump, and despite efforts to restart the truck, he would not cross the line. On the second night, with Gordon chasing, he would make that a distant memory, and take the victory, his third of the season.
The third and final race of the weekend would be during the day, and would see the most intense action of the weekend. Even Gordon himself was not immune to trouble, as he lawn-darted his truck early in the race, destroying the body.
Others would see spins, hard hits, and disappointment, as it would be one of the more action-packed races of the year.
In the end, Creed would escape the chaos as he would enter the final race of the year without having seen the track till that day, and would get his second win of the season.
Round 14: Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada
The final race of the year was to take place at Sin City, and would occur during one of the biggest automotive weekends of the year. The SEMA Show consistently has seen improvements in the auto industry, and new cars and trucks revealed, but this time it also hosted a season-finale.
A makeshift 7-turn course would be constructed outside the famous Caesar's Palace Hotel and Casino, which would include runs in the parking lot and around the famous fountains. But the 30-lap main event would only matter in deciding a winner and a champion.
Early on, it seemed like MacCachren would make it happen for him as Gordon would see a rollover, and the opportunity to clinch. But, as the race went on, engine issues would occur for the points leader, and he would be forced to the sideline for repairs, hoping to make it out and get valuable points back.
He would make it back out, but the battle out front would be the story of the night. After coming so close a few times in the season, plus a few on-track run ins with other competitors, P.J. Jones would finally get his first win of the season, taking the checkered flag in Las Vegas.
But, with his strong finish of second, Gordon would overcome his incident and clinch the opening year championship. Very appropriate that the driver that dreamed up the series a year ago would be celebrating a big title at year's end.
What a season for the Super Trucks. It had changes in schedules, changes in surface, new drivers and old veterans, and intense competition.
So what is to be expected when what could be considered the IROC Series of off-road racing returns in 2014? Visit StadiumSuperTrucks.com to find out.