High-Flying Off-Road Racing Action at the 2022 Ultra4 Prairie City Stampede
This was the first time I had ever been to the Ultra4 Prairie City Stampede, and I really didn’t know what to expect, but I’d heard good things. And man, it did not disappoint, it was pure pandemonium. Due to the track layout at the Prairie City State Vehicle Recreation Area, located in Sacramento County, California, the grandstands and general spectator area is placed high above and in the center of all the racing action, so your brain is almost on overload trying to watch all the different types of action going on at any given time. Whether it was one of the violently tough rock sections that were just redone specifically for this race, by the Nor Cal Rock Racing Series and Gomez Brothers Racing who both help out since their shop is only 30 minuets away, or one of the huge jumps that allow the cars to fly though the air, or long high bank turns that racers push the cars to the max on as they drift around, sometimes sliding near sideways picking the front tire off the ground. It was cheers heard all day from the 2500 fans that were in attendance. The Cali weather turned out amazing, it was warm with a cool breeze. The weekend couldn’t have gone better for the 95 drivers who showed up to flat out race at the short course style of racing on the west coast.
The Stampede is a little different style of racing since the course is a shorter one at 1.27 miles, and therefore the whole field cannot be on it at once, so the fairest way to whittle it down is though qualifying and heat races much like dirt bikes or dirt track racing.
For those of you who are new to this style of racing, the team goes out and practices on the course, then qualify—that time will decide where the team will start in the heat race, which is all the racers on the track at the same time. The top 5 out of each heat race will progress on to the main, which is the big show. From the practice to the main, each level decides if you progress on to the next, so you want to push the car, but not so hard that you crash or break. It’s several days of race, wreck, repair, repeat. This is great for the fans, because if they grow bored of watching the all-day racing action, they can always walk through the pits and see drivers, co-drivers, crew, dads, wives, brothers, buddies, and even moms, thrashing to get a race car put back together so they can make it to the big show on race day.
Friday Practice and Qualifying
Usually, practice and qualifying happen at a slower pace so the drivers can learn the course and feel the bumps and jumps. Unfortunately, some racers push that line a little too hard like Steve Graft in his 4800 car who cartwheeled it clean off the track—but he wasn’t the only one, we saw plenty of other cars on two wheels, launching after hard hits from rocks, and even new comer to Ultra4, Madie Moon, drifting around corners.
Prelims, Heat Races, LCQ, and the Main Event
UTV kicked off the morning with heat races and some high-speed action with a handful of classes racing—it was a blast to watch.
Next came the 4600 heat races which started off like normal, then quickly took a turn for the worse. After a few of the stock cars got through a section of the course with a large rock that got several cars hung up because of their smaller 35-inch tires. It had buggies looking more like bumper cars than a race, so after the first few cars got though came around and were waiting on the traffic jam, JT, the Race Director, made the call to stop the race, free all the cars stuck in the pile and give them credit for the first lap, and let them restart from the starting line as they were sitting on the track when they became a parking lot, and then the very difficult rock section was taken out of the qualifying all together for them.
So as the adrenaline was starting to decrease back to a normal level at 10 am, but then the 4500 class had a violent rollover, a fire, and then another rollover all, on the first lap of qualifying, and if that wasn’t enough the 4th though 8th place were all swapping spots as they bumped and rubbed each other around the track for the chance to move on.
The 4400 Race however was by far the most exciting if not simply because they quickly got spread out and you didn’t know where to watch and you looked from section to section trying see all the best parts of the action. Paul Horschel, who has one of the fastest cars and possibly the most horsepower, was absolutely launching it off the big jump and making his orange Nitto Trail Grappler equipped angular “Bronco” look more model car you would throw off your bed as a kid, which is quite possibly what led to his broken driveshaft. Shannon Campbell and his monster fueled hot rod race car was pushing so hard on the first lap he somehow ended upside down, and then caught on fire, which is when they yellow caution flag changed to a red, stop all track in place flag. Once the fire was addressed, the green flag dropped and everyone took off again.
Megan Miller, who purchased Dawson Allington’s old jeep two full weeks ago, showed up not really knowing how the race was going to go and was so hooked! The fact that she finished 5th overall and went home with a check didn’t hurt that fact that she loved every second of racing and will defiantly be back for more.
The highlight of the day, by far, was when during the 4500 race when Jimmy Jack and Kennth Goodall were swapping paint though the big rock section and Jimmy slipped by when Ken got spun sideways, you could see the inside of both front wheels they were covered in fluid, not knowing what it was exactly most thought his motor was about to blow, he was able to limp it to the last turn when he began having serious trouble.
At this point Joseph Modena who was way back in the pack was roaring full steam ahead to catch up, he was put way behind during an unplanned flat tire change. Ken was backing up and pulling forward but not steering, or even trying to back across the finish line, a first-time off-road racing attendee Debra Jones, described the incident as “a driver with a possible head injury, due to the fact it didn’t look as if he knew what he was doing, simply moving back and forth.” Joe was speeding up to the finish line and as the moment he was about to pass Ken, Ken pulled out in front of him and they both crashed and skidded though the finish line, Ken spinning into a guard rail and Joe sliding down track. The crowd leaped to their feet and yelled as Ken climbed out of his demolished race car and jumped on top waving to the fans. What nobody knew was that he lost steering control and was doing anything he could to get the car across the finish—pulling in front of another car was the only thing he could do. He placed 2nd, and Joe took 3rd.
Then the big dogs lined up for the 4400 class. Only 15 teams made the big show, but it was some intense racing and almost the entire event was led by the Ford powered Bronco driven by Loren Healy on Nitto Trail Grappler tires. He was in full send mode as he continually launched his car into space over the jumps which landed him the top spot on the podium.
Loren was followed to the finish line by Paul Wolff, who placed second, and JP Gomez who placed third.
Ultra4 2022 Prairie City Stampede, Folsom CA race results
UTV 170 Limited
1.) Bentley Dixon
2.) Peter Abd
3.) Jaxon Gunter
UTV 170 Modified
1.) Alex Ranuio
2.) Taysom messersmith
3.) Dylan Trent
UTV Stock Production
1.) Joshua Smith
2.) Jason Sears
3.) Bryan Crofts
UTV Pro Modified
1.) Cole Clark
2.) Paul Wolff
3.) Travis Zollinger
1.) Mark Welch
2.) Jacob Versy
1.) Kyle Segglin
1.) John Williams
2.) Albert Contreas
3.) John Snell
1.) Jimmy Jack
2.) Kennth Goodall
3.) Joseph Modena
1.) Toby Stacy
2.) Kevin Condon
3.) Madie Moon
1.) Loren Healy
2.) Paul Wolf
3.) JP Gomez