Team Nitto Goes 1, 2, 3 with Gittin, Gomez and Campbell at the Final 2021 Ultra4 Western Series Race in Sturgis.
Just when you thought that Ultra4 had done it all, they throw another surprise at you. This time around, it was that Ultra4 Racing was going to be joining Bike Week in Sturgis, South Dakota for the Progressive Black Hills Throwdown, acting as part of the entrainment at the world-renowned Buffalo Chip. While we weren't quite sure what to expect with the combination event, things couldn't have gone better with the biggest race field the organization has had at a regional race this year, a new super fun short course, and loads of spectators taking in all the action.
Set up similarly to previous Nationals races, with qualifying on Friday, and then heat races on Saturday before the main races, the Throwdown promised to be packed full of racing action. As you know, Team Nitto never disappoints, and with even more chances to see our drivers race for top finishes, we couldn't wait to get the weekend started!
The Progressive Black Hills Throwdown kicked off on Friday, August 6th with practice in the morning for all classes, followed by qualifying at 2pm. Because of a special Sturgis Bike Rally parade all Ultra4 racers were invited to participate in at the Buffalo Chip Friday evening with 4400 Unlimited Class vehicles leading the parade, qualifying went in reverse order compared to normal, with the 4400 Class qualifying first and the Can-Am 4900 UTV Class qualifying last.
Kicking off qualifying for the Unlimited Class was Team Rufus Racing, followed closely behind by Team Nitto drivers Bailey Cole, the Campbell Crew, Cody Addington, Paul Horschel, and the Gomez Brothers. Vaugh Gittin Jr. and Loren Healy took up the rear of stacked 30-racer class.
Right out of the gate, the course was quick but not without challenges, including slick spots, off-camber jumps and plenty of tight sweeping turns. Wayland Campbell threw down an impressive 2-minute and 44-second qualifying lap early on, holding the time to beat through half of the qualifying runs. Later on in the class, however, Wayland's fastest lap got knocked down by JP Gomez, Paul Horschel, Brian Caprara, and Vaughn Gittin Jr., putting him in sixth overall.
Ultimately, it was Team Nitto's Loren Healy who had the last laugh, however, pulling out the fastest lap of the session to qualify on the pole for Saturday with a smoking 2-minute and 36.948-second lap, beating Gittin's second-place time by nearly a full five seconds! Filling out the rest of the top five was Paul Horschel with a lap time of 2 minutes and 42.315 seconds, JP Gomez with a lap time of 2 minutes and 43.258 seconds, and Brian Caprara with a lap time of 2 minutes and 43.451.
One casualty of the day was Shannon Campbell's car, which experienced mechanical issues on his way back to his pit after his qualifying run. Unfortunately, the issue was big enough that he was towed back to his pit and would not line up to race in any of Saturday's events.
After the Unlimited Class qualified, the Yukon Gear & Axle 4500 Modified Class followed with long-time racer Rick Lavezzo throwing down the fastest time in the class, securing the pole position with a 3-minute and 3.195-second lap. In the Spidertrax 4600 Stock Class, it was Albert Contreras's 3-minute and 33.716-second lap that secured him the pole position in his class, and in the Branik Motorsports 4800 Legends Class, it was Chayse Caprara and his 2-minute and 46.308-second lap that solidified his first position out of the gate for Saturday. Last but not least, out of the 34-racer Can-Am 4900 UTV Class field, it was Ronnie Anderson who came out on top with a quick 2-minute and 51.064-second lap. Full qualifying results for all classes can be found HERE.
Following qualifying, all the racers lined up in their classes with their race vehicles to parade through the campgrounds and up to the main stage of The Buffalo Chip across the street for a special nod that saw Ultra4 Live Show announcer, Miles Hasselquist and Race Director, JT Taylor get up on stage to promote Saturday's race before the night's bands kicked off. Certainly a unique and special ending to a great afternoon of racing.
Saturday, August 7th, racing got off to an early start with heat races starting at 8:15 a.m. First out of the gate was the Can-Am 4900 UTV Class heats, which saw two stacked fields of some of the country's top UTV racers.
With just six laps to prove their worthiness of running in the top few rows for the main race, Jacob Versey and Travis Zollinger quickly separated themselves from the rest of the pack, ultimately taking first and second in the first heat, securing second and third position for the main race. In the second heat, it was Joshua Smith who threw down the fastest time, securing the pole position going into the main race with a 17-minute and 38.517-second race time, followed by Jason Watt driving Jamie McCoy's car, who secured fourth overall for the main.
Next up was the Spidertrax 4600 Stock Class prelim race. Moving up from the back of the pack to take first after five laps, Twitchy McGee proved to be the fastest in the class, followed by Nitto driver John Snell. In the Yukon Gear & Axle 4500 Modified Class prelim race, it was Twitchy McGee who was able to hold on to the first-place position throughout the six laps, putting him and John Mathews in the front row for their main race later on in the day. Similarly, Chayse Caprara was able to hold on to his first-place position during the 6-lap Branik Motorsports 4800 Legends Class prelim race. Joining him in the front row for the mains would be Jeremy Jones.
With eight Nitto drivers qualifying in the top 10 on Friday afternoon, Saturday's 4400 Class heat races were proven to be heavily Nitto charged with even-numbered qualifiers going in the first class heat, and odd-numbered qualifiers going in the second. In Heat 1, Nitto Driver Loren Healy was able to maintain his front-running spot with a 21-minute and 57.305-second run over eight laps. Following closely behind was Raul Gomez with a race time of 22 minutes and 15.123 seconds. Marcos Gomez finished 5th. Though Darrian Gomez finished 7th and completed all eight laps, he opted to not go on to the main race due to his car acting up. Paul Horschel also called out after Heat 1 with mechanical issues that only allowed him to complete one lap.
In Heat 2, Vaughn Gittin Jr. also maintained his first position, completing eight laps in 21 minutes and 58.034 seconds. Following closely behind was JP Gomez with a second-place finish with a time of 22 minutes and 18.275 seconds. Following Gomez was Wayland Campbell in third, Bryan Crofts in fourth, and Bailey Campbell in fifth. The rest of the Team Nitto drivers would have to fight for their chance at competing in the main race in the B Main.
Following the prelims, the 9-lap UTV Main race kicked off at 12:30pm. In a turn of events, 12th-place finisher from the Heat 1 prelim, Ronnie Anderson, quickly started making his way up to the front from the back of the pack, passing more and more competitors as the laps ticked down. When the checkered flag flew, it was Anderson who took the top of the box with an elapsed race time of 26 minutes and 9.278 seconds. He was joined on the box by Jacob Versey with a race time of 26 minutes and 24.338 seconds, and Jason Watt with a race time of 26 minutes and 37.775 seconds.
With the top eight drivers from each of the 4400 Class Heat races advancing right to the mains from their prelim heats, this left 15 racers to fight for their place in the main race through the 4400 Class B Main event up next, through which just five cars would advance. When all was said and done, Cody Addington was able to finish the B Main in first, securing his position in the main race, as well as fellow Nitto driver, Bailey Cole, who found himself in B Main after he shut his car down mid-way through his earlier heat race due to an oil line giving way. At the end of B Main, only three vehicles were still in shape to run in the Last Chance Qualifier, so rather than having the racers beat on their cars even more for the last two main race spots, it was decided that all three cars would automatically make it into the main event with a rear start. This meant 23 would stage for the main race.
Following B Main was the Stock Class Main, in which Twitchy McGee took first, followed by Sean McNamara and Alex Fleming. Next up was the Modified Class Main, in which Rick Lavezzo took the checkered flag, followed by Duane Garretson and John Grounds. Then right before the 4400 Class Main, the Legends Class took the course for their main, with Chayse Caprara securing the top of the box, followed by Chuck Crossland in second, and Jeremy Jones in third.
The last event of the day was the Unlimited 4400 Class Main. Nearing the starting line with just 10 laps to race, competitors in all starting positions were amped for the fast-paced race that was about to go down. When the green flag flew, it was Loren Healy who got the hole-shot, quickly getting out front of the pack in clean air. But his luck didn't last long as he separated a tire from the wheel on lap one, causing him to have to pit early in the game. This left room for fellow Fun-Haver and Team Nitto driver Vaughn Gittin Jr. to run out front, pacing the field for the remainder of the race.
While Healy was able to get back on course on the lead lap, his time in the pits put him at the back of the pack. While he was able to pick off several fellow racers, he ultimately finished 10th overall when the race was over. Bailey Cole, having had a string of bad luck in Sturgis, was working his way up in the pack when he too experienced a set-back. After completing his fourth lap, Cole pulled off the side of the course having experienced engine failure, where he remained the rest of the race. This put him in 20th overall when the race was over.
Running up front the entire race, Vaughn Gittin expanded his lead on the majority of the pack, but the Gomez Brothers and the Campbells were not about to let him win by a landslide.
When the last lap started, it was Gittin followed by the Gomez Brothers when JP Gomez slid in a corner and ended up flipping his car for a local yellow flag. Nothing could be done to save JP's race at that point and he finished 11th.
Raul Gomez stepped up the pace even more and was able to nearly catch Vaughn when the checkered flag dropped, crossing the finish line with an elapsed time of 27 minutes and 50.370 seconds compared to Gittin's 27-minute and 43.468-second run.
Coming in third was Wayland Campbell with an elapsed time of 28 minutes and 2.245 seconds. The top seven finishing places went to Team Nitto drivers while eight Nitto drivers finished in the top 10.
We had an amazing time out in Sturgis for the Progressive Black Hills Throwdown and hope to see more races at this awesome location in the future!
Main Race Results:
Can-Am 4900 UTV Class (9 laps):
1) Ronnie Anderson: 26:09.278
2) Jake Versey: 26:24.338
3) Jamie McCoy: 26:37.775
Spidertrax 4600 Stock Class (6 laps):
1) Twitchy McGee: 20:19.428
2) Sean McNamara: 20:36.862
3) Alex Fleming: 21:49.746
Yukon Gear & Axle 4500 Modified Class (7 laps):
1) Rick Lavezzo: 22:24.157
2) Duane Garretson: 22:40.298
3) John Grounds: 22:45.376
Branik Motorsports 4800 Legends Class (7 laps):
1) Chayse Caprara: 21:10.644
2) Chuck Crossland: 21:41.722
3) Jeremy Jones: 21:49.021
4400 Unlimited Class (10 laps):
1) Vaughn Gittin Jr. : 27:43.468
2) Raul Gomez: 27:50.370
3) Wayland Campbell: 28:02.245
4) Bryan Crofts: 28:15.503
5) Marcos Gomez: 29:24.202
6) Bailey Campbell: 29:34.750
7) Cody Addington: 29:47.787
8) Bret Harrell: 29:54.969
9) Chip McLaughlin: 30:11.404
10) Loren Healy: 30:17.195
11) JP Gomez: 25:07.984 (9 laps)
20) Bailey Cole: 12:09.237 (4 laps)
DNS: Paul Horschel
DNS: Shannon Campbell