Gomez Sweep: Nor Cal Rock Racing 2018 Round 3
Was it brotherly love or a sibling rivalry? During their main event, Team Nitto's very own trio of top performance drivers, the Gomez Brothers Racing Team, delivered an unforgettable and frenetic fight for victory in the 4400 class. In reverse order of birth dates for these boys, baby brother JP Gomez took the win, while Raul Gomez grabbed second and big bro Marcos Gomez drove into third!
The Prairie City SVRA in Rancho Cordova, California offers a short course of endless views across the ever-changing course that promoter of the Nitto Nor Cal Rock Racing event (NCRR), John Goodby, and his team work hard to bring to life. It included hellish rock piles separating the fearless from the timid, rigid turns causing some unexpected miscalculations, several jumps and woops sections that made for squirrely landings, banked corners causing drivers to over correct and an up-hill gunite rock wall which guaranteed to pop your front end up in the air as you crested the top. Much like last year's Round 3, the forecast called for a hair-singeing 105 degrees, and not a single cloud in the sky.
Fortunately, there was a light breeze to help keep us sane throughout the day. Water trucks were on spin-cycle and shifting gears as soon as the last car cleared, beating down the dust and debris…half of what came from the rolling hills of dry lanky weeds. A warning of rattlesnakes was made pretty clear.
Due to extreme heat conditions, the 4400-class opted out of running a second heat for the day, leaving room to challenge each other for only one five-lap heat, and one 10-lap main.
Three’s a crowd when there’s only room for one winner. Who better to prove that point than the Gomez Brothers: JP, Raul and Marcos? It was like an honest game of tag amongst the tripled troop. Spectators who made it to the show despite the blistering heat were later rewarded with the most memorable NCRR race ever!
Marcos took the lead in the first heat, blocking his younger brother JP the entire time and not allowing him any chance of passing, as if to say, "Kiss it!" Together, JP and Raul played follow the leader. “We didn’t really want to push him out of the way, he was feeling good about himself so we just let him run. We told him main race we were really going to step it up and get around him and really get the throttle going,” said Raul, who finished third, Marcos in first and JP in second.
In the main, it was Marcos and JP in the front. JP made the pass on Marcos in the first corner and took a 20-second lead for two or three laps. JP thought to himself, “At that point, it was drive as fast as I can but not too fast to roll or pop a tire in the rocks.”
Guess who was right on his tail?
“Then Raul came out of nowhere from the left, so he and JP started battling it and I thought to myself, Marcos…these two are going to tangle! They’re going to wad it up around any corner now. So I kept waiting…and waiting…and waiting,” Marcos said. The chase between JP and Raul consisted of an ongoing battle that went back and forth several times.
On lap seven, JP caught up with a lapped driver. The two drivers bashed together in the rocks before one pushed left and the other pushed right, giving JP an exit out and the chance to get back around Raul.
With one lap to go, the crowd was on their feet, just staring. Their heads were pressed forward, not even thinking about blinking! The suspense was thick as it lingered in the air. JP was still out in front with Raul just a few inches off his bumper. As they approach the first rock pile before the finish line, it was JP screaming down it, tires nearly floating above the rocks, but at that same moment, his brother Raul came up, pointing his nose ahead of JP as he spured that blue grasshopper and jumped the rocks! The crowd screamed! But wait. Despite the Goliath effort by Raul, JP pulled ahead through the last rock pile and across the finish line.
“It takes a lot to get the cars out here. To get them ready. Get the trailer here, the mechanics, our friends and family. It’s just an awesome experience and I love it!” said JP. He was not only stoked about the day, but also won the 2018 4400 Nitto Nor Cal Rock Racing series championship!
Stealing the show in their UFO-built buggies, fabricator/owner of UFO Fabrication Joe Thompson was an eyewitness to the win. “It was a great feeling to see all of the Gomez boys finish on the box! The fact that they were in our cars was even better, it makes all of the long and sleepless nights worthwhile,” he said.
4400 Race Results:
- 1st Place: JP Gomez—SERIES CHAMPION
- 2nd Place: Raul Gomez
- 3rd Place: Marcos Gomez
Traveling all the way from British Columbia, Dustyn Friesen made sure he wasn’t wasting any bit of mileage making the drive for another win in the 4500 class. “Everyone showed up to out-gun me and failed,” Dustyn said. After breezing to a win in his first heat, Dustyn admitted to getting caught off guard during his second heat and falling back to third pretty quickly. “At this point it was game on!” he said. Game face on, he passed fellow competitor Mad Mike Bedwell on the down side rock section with a jumping leap of faith. With only one lap left to go, Dustyn was determined to catch up to and pass Justin Hall. “I was able to catch him and go for the pass at the downhill jump. I hit third gear and passed him in the air. Not sure what I was thinking, but we pulled it off and finished first,” said Dustyn. He bested the pressure Justin and Mike kept on him during the main. Despite the heat, the car ran perfect, and so did Dustyn, which earned him first place. In his main, Dustyn knew better than to fool around. With Mad Mike and Justin keeping the pressure well exposed, Dustyn got the jump he wanted, laid the skinny pedal down, and scored the win.
4500 Race Results:
- 1st Place: Dustyn Freisen—SERIES CHAMPION
- 2nd Place: Justin Hall
- 3rd Place: Mad Mike Bedwell
The Nor Cal Rock Racing series wasn’t even on the calendar for Bill Schultz and his team this year. Coming from Seattle, Washington, 14 hours away one way, it takes a lot of planning just to make one race. Despite that, they made it happen for round three! Registering literally three days before the race, Bill and his crew chief, Ryon Davis, felt the urge to come out and compete on one of their favorite tracks. During the first heat, which was shared with the 4500 class, Bill found himself three cars wide coming out of a turn and ended up casing his landing on the first jump, sending the car off-track into the grass. “Somehow I manage to save it and keep it from going into the boulder field ditch!” he said. Pushing forward through the next four laps, they continued to go faster and eventually caught up with the second-place car and made the pass.
The 4600 class decided to skip the second heat and save their cars for the main, which Bill started in second position. All too soon, they found themselves in the same situation as before, exiting the hairpin turn three cars wide approaching the jump. “No! Not again!” Bill said, only to stay on the gas this time and take the jump side-by-side with a 4500 car. “That was badass,” Bill laughed. Now in second place, Bill caught up with the leader at the gunite rock wall and followed him into the hard left, where the leader caught a rut and slowly rolled over. “We pulled up next to him and made sure they were okay before we got back on the gas.” Needless to say, the rest was history for Bill and Ryon during their remaining six laps, as they made their way to the finish line.
4600 Race Results:
- 1st Place: Bill Schultz
- 2nd Place: Anthony Thomas—SERIES CHAMPION
- 3rd Place: Nathan Creer
Over the past few years, the 4800 class has literally tripled in size. Seth Van Dyke entered the racing scene this year with Ultra4’s King Of the Hammers, his first race ever! “Without the friends and family helping me get everything to the track, I wouldn’t have been able to make it to this race. I’m so lucky to have them!” Placed towards the back in his first heat, Seth was able to skirt his way closer towards the front of the pack before the field stretched out. After running several smooth laps, Seth caught up with fellow competitor Justin Day to make the pass, and pass him he did. “Smooth and steady, I put that one in the bag!” Seth said.
After winning his first heat, Seth shared front row starting position with fierce competitor James Hubbard. James took the lead, with Seth charging hard and on his bumper anxiously waiting for a pass. With both soldiers approaching the corner, Seth drove into it deeper than anticipated, almost losing control and sliding off course, giving Justin enough time to pass him. Making up for lost time through the rhythm section, Seth caught up to Justin. While making his move for an outside pass, the two rigs made contact, causing Seth’s passenger rear tire to jump Justin’s front tire and knock Seth into a roll that caused some damage and nearly ended his day.
Heading into the main with low expectations, Seth had but one plan: Let it all hang and have a fun race! Starting towards the rear again, Seth knew he had to make some risky passes to get the job done. Keeping the car floored, he bicycled it around a banked turn for 50 feet and continued on. Passing more and more cars, a lap and a half later, he drove himself up to second position, now approaching leader Jeremy Jones. He made the pass and eased up on the car just enough to keep a steady distance between himself and Mr. Jones down the home stretch. “I couldn’t believe I was making my last lap for the entire series. That felt good but it was probably the most nerve-racking race!”
4800 Race Results:
- 1st Place: Seth Van Dyke—SERIES CHAMPION
- 2nd Place: Jeremy Jones
- 3rd Place: Wade Coleman
Justin Radford started from the back in his first heat. By the third turn he pushed his way to the front. Unfortunately, issues with a battery terminal melting ended his heat soon after that. “We had a battery terminal melt from a loose connection that took us out of heat one and everybody just jumped right on it to get me back out there. I couldn't do it without everyone behind me!” The game plan for the next heat with the day’s temps in mind was to push hard for the first half to get a good lead, and then back it off a tad to keep the temps down. Starting in the back for his next heat, Justin was able to make a few aggressive passes and pull away for the win. It was nothing but clear air during his entire main. Once ahead, Justin focused on driving conservatively, saving the car and keeping the temps down to avoid breaking the truck and not only losing the main, but the championship as well. Congratulations Justin!
Pre-Runner Race Results:
- 1st Place: Justin Radford—SERIES CHAMPION
- 2nd Place: Travis McCalla
- 3rd Place: Matt Taylor
Class 10 Race Results:
- 1st Place: Bill Wayne-Minteer
- 2nd Place: Ryan Sargent—SERIES CHAMPION
- 3rd Place: Max Baggett
Speaking of family, 4400 competitor Brendon Thompson was also fighting for the win. Right behind the brothers, Brendon took fourth place for the day and a third place for the series. His son Austin Thompson held his own trophy, winning the 12 and under division of the 170 class. Dad said, “He did awesome! I was more stoked for him as it was a great battle between the two kids (referring to fellow competitor Brayden Judge).” At the age of 12, Austin is quickly learning what it takes to be a competitive and well-prepared racer.
Starting in the back of the pack, Austin advanced to second within the first five laps of his first heat. Starting in the front row for heat two, Austin got sandwiched between his two biggest competitors, Shelby Waterbury and Brayden Judge. “I knew it was going to be a good race,” he said. Battling it out for the first five laps, Austin got out in front to take the lead in the last turn, and made it by a tire! During the main, competitor Brayden Judge pulled in front for the first few laps until Austin made the pass and held him off long enough to take the win.
UTV 170 Race Results:
- 1st Place: Austin Thompson
- 2nd Place: Braden Judge
- 3rd Place: Wyatt Blevins
Beau Judge needs no introduction. Juggling his time and two different cars from one UTV class to another, he still manages to keep his head above water. “I’m sure from the grandstands my race weekend looked easy. Winning four of the six races was anything but easy,” Beau explained. Starting in sixth position for his first heat, Beau quickly took the lead on his first lap, but not without a few bruises along the way. Even though he was making passes, he damaged his front steering rack, making it very difficult to steer the car. On lap three he hit a rock with the right rear and broke the wheel. After that, he got passed on the straightaway and finished second.
Up against the schedule of the race itself, racing multiple classes and helping his son race, time in the pits was nothing to take lightly. “It was a good thing I had the help from other competitors and crew members from No-Limit to give me a hand.” It was a mad dash to change both the wheel and front steering rack before his next heat. Luckily for Beau, all that hard work paid off. He started in the front row for both his second heat and main. Once he pulled away, the rest was history.
UTV 1000 Race Results:
- 1st Place: Beau Judge
- 2nd Place: Russ Tweed
- 3rd Place: Ben Booker
Overall it was a pretty smooth race day for Hailey McCalla, despite having some mechanical issues. As Hailey was about to line up for her main, she started to have what seemed to be some issues with her clutch. An immediate call for help over the radio to dad, and he came to the rescue, bringing with him his co-driver Rico and fellow Pre-Runner class driver Justin Radford. Making some minor tweaks here and there, the three gentlemen were able to get Hailey on course for the race. Having to compete in two-wheel drive, Hailey managed to stay safely behind the UTV 1000 class and finish her race. “My favorite part was the track. It was a more of a technical track and it really kept me on my toes. I really liked that it was a drivers track and not all just a high speed track. The whole track was a blast,” she said.
UTV 800 Race Results:
- 1st Place: Hailey McCalla
It's double the laps for Beau Judge as he makes it look easy, transitioning from one UTV class to another! Don’t blink because you’ll miss him making his way to the front from eigth position, by lap two. Halfway through lap two, the radiator got clogged with mud, causing his car to go into limp mode. He ended up finishing sixth in his first heat. From the sixth position in heat two, Beau repeated his game and took the lead on lap one. From that point on, it was smooth sailing reaching the checkered flag before the rest of the class. Bumped up to the outside third row for the main, Beau laid it down to take the lead…and a long lead at that. This ended up being necessary because his car started to lose power, and the further he went the more power he lost! “I had to limp it along to the finish line!” he said.
So how did he manage to save the win? That lead he got in the beginning was so large that he had a big enough of a gap between himself and second place to stutter across the finish line. Beau then shared some astonishing news, “After driving through the checkered flag, a hundred yards beyond, the car died and never started up again.” Holding the series points for both the UTV 1000 and UTV Turbo, the NCRR fans are curious to see what Mr. Judge does next as the NCRR SXS Series continues. “All in all, it was a good weekend to sweep both classes as I look forward to the next race and going for both championships!”
UTV Turbo Race Results:
- 1st Place: Beau Judge
- 2nd Place: Jeff Barbarick
- 3rd Place: Breckin Miramon
The family that races together, wins together…on course and off course.
The 2018 NCRR SXS championship series continues with two more rounds! Next round heads out to the Wild West Motorsports Park in Reno, Nevada on July 14, 2018. To see even more of the action from this round, flip through the gallery below.
Additional photograph provided by Lona Scott.