skip to content
Drivingline Home

Nor Cal Rock Racing Round 3 2019 Recap

What does it take to win a race? First off…what kind of race is it, you might ask. What if I said that you needed a four-wheel drive off-road buggy of some sort? Next you will be running an off road short course, approximately 2.5 miles per lap, inclusive of crippling rock beds, sky soaring jumps immediately greeted by sweeping switchback turns, random stages of whoops and, in fair warning, let’s just add that you will consume a mouthful of dirt if you are caught taking the slightest little siesta behind the wheel. Your race is the Nitto Tire Nor Cal Rock Race (NCRR) presented by California Customs, located in Rancho Cordova, California at the Prairie City SVRA. The only one of its kind on the entire West Coast—it's a pure overdose of excitement for every family member, individual spectator, vendor, race team and pet dog.

Round three brought fans together again on Saturday June 29, 2019. There was quite a lot of pressure on more than a few teams, as some of the classes were collecting points to wrap up the series championship. It was the final round for  4400, 4800, 4600, 4500 and Pre-Runner classes. All UTV classes, including 1000 Pro, 1000 Sportsman, 170 Stock, 170 Mod, 570/800/900 Youth, Turbo Pro and Turbo Sportsman, will continue to a fourth and fifth round to complete their season later in the year.

4400 Class

A helpful blueprint for the big boys (referred to as the 4400 class) to win their race would be your independent front suspension. This is basically a suspension system that allows each wheel on the same axle to move vertically independently of the others, giving drivers better camber change in the turns. “Well my old car had more horsepower (100 more), so that’s not it!  I’d have to say that IFS is the biggest gain!” noted winner of the 4400 class, Mike Bou. With good humor, (a very common side of “Big Daddy” Bou), he added, “Other than that…I just gave up my fear of dying!”

Mike Bou racing his 4400 vehicle

Starting his first heat in the fourth position, Bou was lined up next to Team Nitto driver Cody Addington and behind fellow Team Nitto drivers, Raul Gomez and JP Gomez, who were all running Nitto Trail Grapplers. He got a good start coming out of turn two and ended up right behind both Gomez brothers. Bou's spotter informed him over the radio that Addington had broken a front axle shaft, so Bou drove it smooth and held a steady third position all the way to the end of his first heat. Starting on the inside front row for his second heat, Bou was beat by Raul Gomez expeditiously jumping out in front to take the lead.

Raul Gomez racing his 4400 vehicle

In turn two, Bou was t-boned by Addington. He was able to save the car from rolling over, but damage done to the rear of the car ended up being too extensive for him to continue the heat, destroying his car's third member. “It was awesome to see the amount of people jumping in to help get the car up and running again!” Bou said. With much team effort, the third member was replaced and Bou was ready for his main. Starting in the front row on the inside, Bou couldn’t help but think all he needed to win the championship was to simply finish the race. With that in mind, he started to strategize exactly what he needed to do once the green flag dropped. The course was tactical and tricky to pass on. Bou thought to himself that if he could “hole-shot” Raul, it would be hard for Raul to get around him. “So that was my plan, and it worked!” he stated. Sadly, it wasn’t long before Raul lost a transmission and was out of the race completely. But wait, here comes Gomez brother JP, and in a real big hurry!

JP Gomez racing his 4400 vehicle

JP caught up with Bou, but unfortunately JP lost his motor right before having the chance to make that precarious pass on Bou. Just saying from experience, this would have been the pass the crowd would be standing on their tippy toes for. From there on, it was smooth sailing for Big Daddy Bou, as he happily made his way to the finish line and the series championship.

Mike Bou racing his 4400 vehicle

4400 Race Results:

  • 1st Place: Mike Bou - SERIES CHAMPION
  • 2nd Place: Brenden Thompson
  • 3rd Place: Dan Wyrick

4500 Class

Ultra4’s first event of the year, King of The Hammers, was Rick Lavezzo's first race ever (his car's first race too)! “I just came out to NCRR initially to get seat time since this is my first year in this new car and have been fighting gremlins all season whether it be the steering box, brakes, serpentine belt or the starter. Looks like after this race we finally have the car dialed in,” Rick Lavezzo said. He grabbed the lead from the start in heat one, only to get caught off-guard with muddy track conditions, and ended up getting passed in the rocks. He decided to back down a tad to hold a steady second place finish.

Already strategizing like a pro, Lavezzo and his co-driver decided to take a back seat for their next heat and carefully track what his competitors did. Like a cheetah devilishly lurking thru the tall grass, eyes focused on its prey, he carefully paced himself and waited for someone to make a mistake. Sure enough, the grass parted, and there it was—car #4538 overdrove his turn and rolled while in the lead, letting Lavezzo pass them for the win. After that, winning his main was full speed ahead. Taking the lead from the start and never looking back, he used lapped traffic to gain some ground. “The track was burned in, so we could go for it,” he said. “The track that promoter John Goodby had built, included an awesome jump, that made this 52-year-old man smile every time I went off of it! Thanks so much to all the NCRR guys, we had a blast!”

Rick Lavezzo racing his 4500 vehicle

4500 Race Results:

  • 1st Place: Rick Lavezzo
  • 2nd Place: Mike Amaral
  • 3rd Place: Justin Hall

4600 Class

This is the first year for Craig Honnoll racing his '98 Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJ. Built in a total of 87 days, the Cherokee made its first appearance earlier in the year at King of The Hammers. Next on the agenda was hitting the NCRR series. Round three didn't start well when he experienced fuel issues at the start of his first heat. When the car started to backfire, he didn't think he would be able to cross the finish line first. For his second heat, Honnoll got a jump start on competitor John Snell and pulled out in front. Things were going well for Honnoll until his car started to overheat on the last lap, allowing Snell to pass and win the heat. Back in the pits, and with Snell's help, the team was working hard to correct the backfiring and overheating issues. They fixed the radiator and reattached fans, aiming for a clean race in the main.

Honnoll started on the outside of his competitor Snell and chased his taillights for the first three laps. On the fourth lap, Honnoll got around Snell at the hairpin turn after the ski jump and passed a few other 4500 cars. Snell ended up getting tangled up in the rocks with a 4500 driver and broke a front axle. Older brother and crew chief Brent Honnoll said the biggest highlight of the day was winning the main, as it was the team’s first ever win.

Craig Honnell racing 4600 vehicle

4600 Race Results:

  • 1st Place: Craig Honnell
  • 2nd Place: John Snell - SERIES CHAMPION

4800 Class

After lots of struggles during the last two years racing the NCRR series, James Hubbard happily admitted his car felt perfect and with a little bit of caution in his voice, said it almost felt effortless to drive. “It felt good to be back on top!” he stated. Hubbard started second in his first heat and was caught sleeping when the flag dropped. Due to the late start, he remained in second, was passed once, then caught up to second again. During his second heat, he faced issues with the power steering pump, which luckily held out until the end of his heat, and he remained in second. Hubbard recognized that the way the track was laid out, it was hard to pass. At the start of his main, he knew he had to get out in front of fellow racer Jeremy Jones. “I hammered it at the green flag!” he said. That was enough to keep him out in front all the way to the finish line.

James Hubbard racing his 4800 vehicle

4800 Race Results:

  • 1st Place: James Hubbard
  • 2nd Place: Wade Coleman
  • 3rd Place: Jeremy Jones - SERIES CHAMPION

Pre-Runner

Still running on leaf springs, Matt Kinney has been racing his '72 Jeep CJ5 for five years now at the NCRR series, and we’d say he’s definitely out there having fun. In fact, he was the only one to show in his class for heat one Saturday morning. During his second heat, he had new competitor Jared Byrd on his tail the whole time. For the main, as a penalty for missing his two heats, race officials had new competitor Justin Radford face backwards for the start. Radford was breathing down Kinney's neck the whole way, but on their second lap, Radford came up hard on the big jump, landed and was done, giving Kinney a clear path to the win. “The Jeep was running hot so it’s a good thing there weren’t more than seven laps,” he chuckled. He thought the track was a faster one this year. “It’s always fun!” Yet he always feels safe in his CJ5 and never feels like it’s out of control. The best part of Kinney's day, aside from winning, was the fact that he never had to get out one single tool.

Matt Kinney -racing his Pre-Runner vehicle

Pre-Runner Results:

  • 1st Place: Matt Kinney
  • 2nd Place: Jared Byrd
  • 3rd Place: Justin Radford

UTV 1000 Pro

Qualifying fifth, Matt Lippman battled to get around Jake Hallenbeck in his first heat, but with zero success. “He's a good driver and he knows how to protect and block very well,” Lippman said. In his second heat, Lippman knew he would have to drive aggressively to get ahead of the pack for a good starting position in the main. He was able to make a pass on the leader on the last lap, but he pushed it too hard and ended up biting it in a sharp right hand turn. He managed to save it, but he went off track in the meantime.

Starting in third position for the main, Lippman knew he needed to be fast yet remain calm and stay patient in order to keep it together. “I was feeling great, and knew I had the speed,” he said. He followed behind the first and second drivers, waiting for one of them to make a mistake. As the two other drivers duked it out, one driver over rotated creating a window of opportunity for Lippman to drive around and pass on the outside. Quickly, he approached Billy Nichols in the lead. “I put major pressure on him and a couple love taps.” he said. Soon enough, Nichols biked it on the straightaway. Lippman was right there, drove inside and right underneath him. With four laps left and now his radio out, Lippman continued to drive, taking it easy through the rough sections and driving a smooth line all the way to the checkered flag.

Matt Lippman racing his UTV 1000 Pro vehicle

UTV 1000 Pro Results:

  • 1st Place: Matt Lippman
  • 2nd Place: Billy Nichols
  • 3rd Place: Ben Booker 

UTV 1000 Sportsman

Mike Zunich racing his UTV 1000 Sportsman vehicle

UTV 1000 Sportsman Results: 

  • 1st Place: Mike Zunich
  • 2nd Place: Landon Smith
  • 3rd Place: Brian Frazier

UTV 170 Mod

Wyatt Blevins racing his UTV 170 Mod vehicle

 UTV 170 Mod Results:

  • 1st Place: Wyatt Blevins
  • 2nd Place: Landon Smith
  • 3rd Place: Adrian Martinez

UTV 170 Stock

Right before the race weekend, Braden Judge was performing a routine gear change when he and his father, Beau Judge, discovered that within the tranny, some of the gears were broken. It was time to operate. They had to take everything apart and rebuild the transmission. Once they finished, it was go time and off to the track they went. When they arrived, Braden was ready. Posting the fastest lap time during qualifying, Braden started on the pole for his first heat. With a successful hole-shot from the start line, Braden was able to pull away from his competitors, take the lead and win. He won his second heat with the same strategy. Having zero issues all day, Braden continued his driving technique, which carried him to the checkered flag for his main. Currently leading in series points for the NCRR Championship, Braden will have to finish racing two more rounds yet to come.

Braden Judge racing his UTV 170 stock vehicle

UTV 170 Stock Results: 

  • 1st Place: Braden Judge
  • 2nd Place: Dylan Trent
  • 3rd Place: Jordyn Skaggs

UTV 570/800/900 Youth

Brianna Bonanno racing her UTV Youth vehicle

UTV 570/800/900 Youth Results:

  • 1st Place: Brianna Bonanno
  • 2nd Place: Justin Mello
  • 3rd Place: Austin Thompson

UTV Turbo Pro

Coming out with the fastest lap time by two seconds during his qualifying run, Beau Judge felt confident he had the setup to beat and an edge on the competition. Both heats for the day were a strait shot for Judge and his spotter, who happens to be his son, Braden. “The green flag dropped and I never looked back,” said Judge. As for his main, Judge was placed next to Keith Brooks. Judge knew it would be a fight to get out front, and his goal was to take the first turn in the lead. The flag dropped and off they went. Bumping each other back and forth the whole way to the first turn, Judge pulled in front just in time to take the turn with Brooks behind him. So far so good, Judge continued around the track, lap after lap, adding more and more distance between him and the rest of the cars, and cruised his way to the checkered flag. 

Beau Judge racing his UTV Turbo Pro vehicle

UTV Turbo Pro Results:

  • 1st Place: Beau Judge
  • 2nd Place: Keith Brooks
  • 3rd Place: Darian Gomez

UTV Turbo Sportsman

Retired from motocross racing and now protected with a cage, Cody Vanderveer knew racing his UTV was the right path for a safer future. After qualifying first in his class and leading his first heat, Cody Vanderveer shredded a belt, which took him out of the race. “As soon as I got back to camp all my buddies jumped in and started tearing into the car to get my belt changed before the second heat. I was so happy with the support my friends and family gave me,” he said. Now starting in the very back of his second heat, Vanderveer was able to make his way to the lead position after about one lap of many battles. Leaving a consistent and decent gap between himself and second place, he finished with without any problems. Starting in the third position for his main, Vanderveer was hit from behind. “My heart sank thinking I was going to flip and be out of the race,” he thought. Though he managed to keep it on all four wheels, he had to battle it out for second and third. Shortly after lap three, he took the lead, and the rest was history. “After the race, all my friends and family ran up to me to congratulate me on my victory. The best feeling was seeing my girlfriend Allison running to me to give me a hug. All in all, I had an amazing weekend and met some awesome racers.”

Cody Vanderveer UTV Turbo Sportsman Class

UTV Turbo Sportsman Results:

  • 1st Place: Cody Vanderveer
  • 2nd Place: Ed Fulkerson
  • 3rd Place: Miles Payne

 

Want more Nor Cal Rock Racing action? Follow the series all season long!

 

 

 

Return to Top

share

Recommended For You

Comments

Loading ...