2021 Tear Down in Tennessee: Team Nitto Sweeps Second Ultra4 East Coast Podium
The 2021 Ultra4 race season is in full swing and this last weekend, Team Nitto once again delivered by making it to the podium in two different classes and sweeping the box in the Unlimited 4400 Class! On Friday, June 25th, Ultra4 kicked off their second race of the Eastern Series, the Method Race Wheels Tear Down in Tennessee. Held at Adventure Off Road Park in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, this race was slated to have its toughest course yet, and according to racers in all classes, it did not disappoint.
Just like in years past, the qualifying course was just a snippet of what competitors could expect on race day: a .4-mile, tight tree-carving, rock climbing adventure to see who had what it would take to conquer the big course on Saturday. While many were able to push their way through, others were beat by the terrain and/or their machines. Up first in qualifying was the Spidertrax Offroad 4600 Stock Class, which got the same brutal qualifier as every other class. After all five cars had run, it was two-time Tear Down in Tennessee winner, Jon Schaefer who sat in pole position for Saturday's race with a time of 2 minutes and 12.799 seconds. His closest competitor, Tyler Haggard, would run the qualifying course at 15 seconds slower for his second position off the line.
In the Can-Am 4900 UTV Class, a class with an impressive 31 competitors, it was East-Coaster Todd Beckett in his Can-Am that took the top slot, running a qualifying day fastest lap (across all classes) of 1 minute and 13.691 seconds. Qualifying in second position was fellow Easterner, Cody Martin with a lap time of 1 minute and 21.260 seconds.
Next up was the small but mighty Yukon Gear & Axle 4500 Modified Class, which saw young-gun Cody St. Clair throw down a pole-setting time of 1 minute and 41.599 seconds, followed by Duane Garretson, with a time of 1 minute and 45.228 seconds. Just before the Unlimited Class was slated to hit the course, the Branik Motorsports 4800 Legends Class took to the starting line, throwing down some of the fastest times of the day. Out front was none other than Team Nitto driver Casey Gilbert, who threw down a quick 1-minute and 22.822-second qualifying time. Following Casey into the front of the pack was Shaun Rajski with a time of 1 minute and 25.408 seconds.
With Team Nitto drivers (and multi-year king in Miller's case) like Erik Miller and Josh Blyler, as well as the likes of Bailey Cole, Rusty Blyler, Kevin Porterfield, John Moul, and 4800-Class crossover Cade Rodd hitting the course in the 4400 Unlimited Class, we knew qualifying day was going to end in quick times and impressive driving. Team Nitto didn't disappoint with Cade Rodd throwing down the quickest time of the class with a 1-minute and 20.044-second loop. Erik Miller followed closely behind with a time of 1 minute and 22.851 seconds to secure third off the line in Saturday's race, while Kevin Porterfield secured fourth, with a time of 1 minute and 24.141 seconds.
Prominent East Coast driver and 2020 King of the Hammers King Josh Blyler had a bit of a slower run in qualifying, setting him back to 13th starting position with a time of 1 minute and 50.821 seconds. John Moul, a relative newcomer to Ultra4 and the Nitto family, followed with a 15th-place finish with a time of 3 minutes and 5.098 seconds.
So what about Bailey Cole and Rusty Blyler? Well, unfortunately both suffered mechanical issues part of the way through their qualifying runs, causing neither to finish. This would mean a rear start for both Team Nitto drivers, dependent on if they and their crew could fix the issues in time for Saturday's race.
Racing kicked off bright and early Saturday morning, with the 4900 UTV Class hitting the course first. Competitors were in for some true East Coast off-road competition with steep slopes, tons of rock outcroppings, tight tree-lined passages and a little bit of go-fast short-course fun.
With five laps between them and the finish line, the UTVs had 33.75 miles to conquer before they were done. Right off the bat, East Coast Factory Can-Am racer, Jamie McCoy showed his intentions of moving up in the pack from his 12th-place start, but front runners Todd Beckett, Cody Martin, and Adam Kinnett weren't going to make it easy on him. In the end, McCoy's driving prowess and determination secured him the three-time win at AOP he was looking for, beating out Beckett on elapsed time by just over two minutes.
After a short break for the kid's 170 race, the 4500 Modified, 4800 Legends, and 4600 Stock class took to the course for their chance to take on the tough East Coast terrain. Both Modified and Legends classes had five laps to complete, while the Stock class had a slightly shorter four laps, or 27 miles to take on. Early on, pole-setter and Team Nitto driver Casey Gilbert made his intentions to stay out front of the pack clear, hunting for that first-place finish.
While Casey ran well all race long, fellow long-time competitors Chris May and George Schooley were able to sneak around him in the end, with May throwing down a winning time of 2 hours, 2 minutes and 9.875 seconds. Schooley followed, securing second place with an elapsed time of 2 hours, 4 minutes and 41.420 seconds. Casey Gilbert secured third place with an elapsed time of 2 hours, 14 minutes and 27.232 seconds.
A true testament to just how tough the course was this year, only one 4500 Modified Class driver was able to make all five laps. That driver was Jesse Oliver, who finished his race in 2 hours, 54 minutes and 37.008 seconds. Finishing second was Cody St. Clair, with a 4-lap time of 2 hours, 36 minutes and 22.986 seconds. Duane Garretson finished third with a 4-lap time of 2 hours, 55 minutes and 54.833 seconds.
In the 4600 Class, it was Tyler Haggard who secured a first-place finish, completing just two laps in 1 hour, 50 minutes and 25.804 seconds. Second and third place finishers, Anthony Vanoy and Jon Schaefer battled hard all race, but were only able to complete one lap by race finish.
Set to finish off the day, the Unlimited 4400 Class lined up for their 2:30pm start with a slight delay due to recovery still taking place from the previous race. Leading the pack was Cade Rodd, intent on not only securing his spot for the 2022 King of the Hammers, but also putting his car and driving skills up against some of the East Coast's best U4 competitors.
Out back, Rusty Blyler sat to take a rear start after not finishing his qualifying lap the previous day due to mechanical failure. Not in the lineup was Bailey Cole, who after having his team diagnose the issue after his failed qualifying attempt on Friday, realized the extent of the repairs that would be needed to compete were not doable in the time they had. So being the sportsman that he is, he opted to still enjoy the races and help fellow teams in the pits while his race car was down.
By the time the green flag flew, all 18 competitors were chomping at the bit. Cade Rodd ran physically out front from the very beginning, chasing his competition on elapsed time for seven laps, equaling 47.25 miles of brutal race course. Though not physically first, third out of the gate, Erik Miller, was determined to show all his fellow competitors what his solid-axle car was capable of in his experienced hands, running some of the fastest laps of the day. Unfortunately, Miller also ran into some issues, requiring two tire changes and multiple stops at the pit before he crossed the finish line.
While all eyes were on the front-runners, Josh Blyler steadily picked his way through the competition, out-driving many of the 12 drivers who started in front of him. By the third lap, Blyler was battling Miller and Rodd for the lead, proving his East Coast roots and determination were bound to put him on the podium.
In the end, they did just that – Blyler secured his place atop the podium with an elapsed time of 2 hours, 19 minutes and 42.894 seconds. Rodd, having finished physically first, took second place with an elapsed time of 2 hours, 22 minutes and 30.025 seconds. And rounding out the podium for another Nitto sweep was Erik Miller, with an elapsed time of 2 hours, 27 minutes and 13.680 seconds. Team Nitto also took fourth, tenth and sixteenth by the time the day was done.
Congratulations to all of the competitors, especially our Team Nitto drivers who put us on the podium in two classes, and swept the Unlimited Class once again!
2021 Tear Down in Tennessee Ultra4 Main Race Day Results
4900 UTV Class (5 laps = 33.75 miles)
1) Jamie McCoy: 1:49:01.537
2) Todd Beckett: 1:51:14.550
3) Jody Ford: 1:53:48.736
4600 Stock Class (4 laps = 27 miles)
1) Tyler Haggard: 1:50:25.804 (2 laps)
2) Anthony Vanoy: 51:18.13 (1 lap)
3) Jon Schaefer: 3:05:31.562 (1 lap)
4800 Legends Class (5 laps = 33.75 miles)
1) Chris May: 2:02:09.875
2) George Schooley: 2:04:41.420
3) Casey Gilbert: 2:14:27.232
4500 Modified Class (5 laps = 33.75 miles)
1) Jesse Oliver: 2:54:37.008
2) Cody St. Clair: 2:36:22.986 (4 laps)
3) Duane Garretson: 2:55:54.833 (4 laps)
4400 Unlimited Class (7 laps = 47.25 miles)
1) Josh Blyler: 2:19:42.894
2) Cade Rodd: 2:22:30.025
3) Erik Miller: 2:27:13.680
4) Kevin Porterfield: 2:28:44.602
10) John Moul: 2:47:19.866 (5 laps)
16) Rusty Blyler: 1:36:10.828 (2 laps)
DNS) Bailey Cole