Stadium SUPER Trucks: Thunder on the Streets
If you haven’t experienced a Stadium SUPER Trucks event (formally: Speed Energy Formula Off-Road) in person, you need to.
Founded in 2013 by veteran IndyCar and NASCAR driver Robby Gordon, the series strikes a golden balance between stadium-style rallycross competition, trophy truck carnage and traditional full-course wheel-to-wheel racing...with a little drifting, gymkhana and stunt driving thrown in for good measure.
Originally held mainly in football stadiums, SUPER Trucks (as it’s still commonly called) has taken to the streets, touring the U.S. in tandem with IndyCar and down under with the Supercars Championship series (formerly V8 Supercars) in Australia.
The format is genius: In between sportscar and open-wheel racing the trucks go out and practice, qualify and race just like the cars do, but with the addition of large metal kicker-ramps and assorted other obstacles dragged out on a course, which they must integrate into their laps.
The result is plenty of long, high jumps taken by multiple trucks at once or in very close proximity, and usually, some awkward launches that result in devastating flips and rollovers.
As for the trucks themselves, they’re all spec racing machines, meaning there’s very little mechanically different between them, making for a very pure “drivers’ series” as the racing heads like to say.
Chassis are steel tube-frame with fiberglass fairing bodies on the order of 2,900 lbs, and under the “hood” (there’s really no hood) are 600hp GM LSx engines mated to three-speed transmissions. Top speeds on courses like the Grand Prix of Long Beach circuit are around 140 mph, and drivers regularly take jumps in excess of 70 mph.
Suspensions are soft, with lots of travel to soak up the shock of landing from jumps as high as 20 feet of altitude. Despite this handling handicap, trucks take corners at impressive speeds, often on only three or even two wheels.
Teams have control over vehicle dynamics like spring rate, ride height and alignment (among other variables), and drivers have to balance strengths and weaknesses in all areas to clock the fastest laps possible while battling each other for position on the racetrack.
If 600hp sub-3,000-lb top-heavy trucks on off-road tires seem like a recipe for disaster on a road course…that’s kind of the point. Despite drivers’ best efforts to toe the line between speed and physics, accidents do happen. In fact, they seem to be the norm in Super Trucks racing.
Race 1 at this year’s Grand Prix of Long Beach brought one such moment when Tecate, Mexico’s Apdaly Lopez found himself between a jump ramp and a hard place (the wall) coming onto the front straight, forcing him to split the ramp and flip his no. 19 RPM Offroad machine.
Less than 24 hours later, all was repaired and Lopez was back in the fight for Race 2.
This brings us to another awesome aspect of SUPER Trucks racing: the drivers. In no other series will you find such a diverse group of off-road wheelmen, with circle-track, open-wheel and sportscar racers, along with stunt drivers and talented private entrants of all ages and from all parts of the world.
Nineteen-year-old Lucas Oil Off Road vet Gavin Harlien, from Mesa, AZ, earned a close win against Robby Gordon in the first race of the weekend, followed by 2013 Australian-American Pro Mazda champ Matt Brabham edging out SCORE Int’l alum and Minnesota native Cole Potts to take the Race 2 win.
SUPER Trucks travels to Perth, Australia, in May before returning to the States for three rounds this summer in Detroit, Fort Worth and Elkhart Lake. If you can make a race, do it. There’s nothing quite like the sound and guttural impact of a dozen 600hp all-terrain machines flying through the air in unison to remind you how awesome racing can be!