Ultra4 Nationals: Nitto Drivers Prove Champions at Season Finale
The end of Ultra4 Racing's season has come and gone with the final race of 2020 that happened over the weekend—the 4WP Nitto National Championships. And once again, Team Nitto made an amazing showing, sweeping the 4400 class podium and securing seven of the class's top 10 Nitto National Championship points positions.
The 4WP Nitto National Championships took place at Crossbar Ranch in Davis, Oklahoma. A well-known and well-loved track among Ultra4 racers and fans alike, Crossbar was selected to host the National Championships after long-time Nationals host track, Wild West Motorsports Park, was unable to host the event this year due to Covid-19 restrictions in Nevada. While the venue change certainly changed many racers' hauls to the track, it made for an awesome season finale location chock full of about every type of terrain found on both coasts.
The 4WP Nitto Nationals race kicked off on Friday, October 23rd with qualifying starting at 3pm. With just about a mile and a half long loop of the short course to complete, competitors made quick time of laying down their best laps. In the Can-Am Motorsports UTV class, competition was fierce right out of the gate, as competitors Jamie McCoy and James Cantrell battled for pole position, which would secure seven more points in the pursuit of the National Champion title and break the tie between the two racers. Other long-time competitors like Cole Clark, Travis Zollinger, Nathan Wolff and Dustin Robbins also battled for their chance to lead the 27 competitors off the line in Saturday's race, but in the end, it was McCoy that secured the pole position.
Next up was the Spidertrax 4600 Stock class, with Nitto driver John Snell looking to secure the pole position and extra points to add to his top-five national points run. But after just four cars qualified and one didn't finish, it was fellow competitor Josh Atteberry that set himself up as the front-runner for Saturday's race.
Then it was the Yukon Gear & Axle 4500 Modified Class and Branik Motorsports 4800 Legends Class competitors' turns to take on the Oklahoma short course. In the 4500 class, Duane Garretson pushed hard for the perfect lap, laying down a 2-minute and 32-second time. But it wasn't enough to rise to the top, putting him in fourth place off the line behind Cody St. Clair, Dan Fresh and Shawn Rants Sr. In the 4800 Class, it was Nitto driver Cade Rodd's 2-minute and 10-second lap time to beat, but in the end Rodd secured the pole position just ahead of fellow competitors and good friends Jeremy Jones and Casey Gilbert, who was driving David Hartman's car for him in the pursuit of Nationals points.
The last class to qualify was the 4400 Unlimited Class, with a number of Nitto heavy hitters all pushing for that coveted pole position, including JP and Raul Gomez, EriK Miller, all three Campbells, Brian Crofts, Cody Addington, father and son, Rusty and Josh Blyler, Paul Horschel, Team Fun-Havers Loren Healy and Vaughn Gittin Jr., and Bailey Cole. Competition was tough as the racers laid down their best, but in the end it was JP Gomez who secured the pole position for Saturday with a 1-minute and 59.698-second lap. Following closely behind was fellow Nitto drivers Loren Healy with a 2-minute and 0.636-second lap, and Cody Addington with a 2-minute and 1.823-second lap time.
You can see the rest of the competition and their lap times by class HERE!
On Saturday, racing started promptly at 7am with the UTV Class up first. The course consisted of multiple laps of both an “A Loop” and a “B Loop,” totaling just about 26 miles. UTV competitors raced three full laps, as did the 4800 Legends Class and the 4500 Modified Class. Competitors in the 4600 Stock Class faced down two full laps, while the 4400 Class had to complete four laps, or just over 102 miles, before their race was complete.
With Jamie McCoy leading the way, 27 UTV competitors hit the course, battling not only each other but also the terrain. From go-fast desert sections to hill climbs and water crossings, the battle for the front-runners lasted for over three hours before Nathan Wolff, having laid down a 3-hour, 8-minute and 37.221-second race time, secured his position on the top of the box, followed by Cole Clark and Jamie McCoy.
Next on course were the limited classes. In the 4600 Class, Josh Atteberry left the gate first and finished first on a corrected time of 3 hours, 3 minutes and 8.484 seconds, positioning him at the top of the class podium, flanked by John Schaefer and Josh Patt, the later of which worked his way from the back of his class to a third-place finish. In the 4500 Class, it was Dan Fresh who raced to the top with a race time of 3 hours, 24 minutes and 45.303 seconds, followed by Cody St. Clair and Team Nitto driver Duane Garretson.
In the 4800 Class, Cade Rodd took his pole position and cranked it up another notch, battling to stay in front of the 15-car pack not only physically but also on corrected time. The competition was fierce but ultimately the Team Nitto driver succeeded, laying down a race time of 3 hours, 16 minutes, and 54.187 seconds. Just 4 and a half minutes slower than Rodd on corrected time was fellow Team Nitto driver, Casey Gilbert, an impressive feat considering he returned to the pits after flatting a tire on the second round of Loop A, only to discover that he had also broken a king pin after leaving for his second round of Loop B. Luckily, a little bit of time spent in the pits and a lot of pedal to the metal, and Gilbert made up enough time to secure a second-place finish for David Hartman. Rounding out the class podium was Chris May.
4400 Unlimited Class
Everyone loves an underdog story and that's exactly what we had in the 4400 Class race. Two-time King and well-known Team Nitto driver Erik Miller was unable to qualify on Friday due to a blown motor, pushing him to a rear start. But you know mechanical issues nor a less than optimal start has ever stopped Miller before and this time was not going to be the first.
With his eye on the championship, Miller and his crew worked through the night to replace the motor in his car. Starting dead last for the main race, Miller had all odds stacked against him but it was right out of the gate that he started picking off the competition.
Having secured the pole position the night before, JP Gomez had odds in his favor. Unfortunately, on his first go at Loop B, he ended his day at the National Championship race with unrepairable mechanical failure. Similarly, his brother Raul Gomez was also running out front, but after just one round of Loop A, he lost a tire and proceeded to suffer many other failures to his car, including a broken chassis and a blown motor, taking him out of the race early on.
In the end, Miller was able to physically pass everyone but Paul Horschel and Vaughn Gittin Jr.. With a corrected time of 3 hours, 49 minutes and 30.808 seconds, he secured the first-place finisher position, followed by fellow Team Nitto drivers Paul Horschel, with a race time of 3 hours, 50 minutes and 2.141 seconds, and Vaughn Gittin Jr., with a race time of 3 hours, 54 minutes and 52.3 seconds – another amazing sweep for Team Nitto.
You can see all of the main race results by class HERE!
Nitto National Championship Points
It's been a bit of a crazy year for everyone, including Ultra4 Racing. Because of that, points for Nationals were calculated a little differently than in previous years. This year, racers chose one race to drop from the following three: King of the Hammers, Tennessee, and Moab. Then the points they acquired from the other two races they didn't drop were added to their Oklahoma race points to determine their National Championship points.
Many competitors raced all four races, giving them the best chance possible for the most amount of National points. The dedication paid off for many, and we'd like to congratulate the following Nitto National Champions, especially the Team Nitto drivers!
* denotes a Team Nitto driver
4900 UTV Class
4600 Stock Class
|1) Jamie McCoy||1) Josh Atteberry|
|2) James Cantrell||2) Jon Schaefer|
|3) Scott LeSage||3) John Snell*|
|4) Travis Zollinger||4) Jesse Haines|
|5) Justin Barth||5) Donnie Kehlenbeck|
4500 Modified Class
4800 Legends Class
|1) Dan Fresh||1) Cade Rodd*|
|2) Duane Garretson||2) Jeremy Jones|
|3) Jesse Oliver||3) David Hartman|
|4) Shawn Rants Sr.||4) Justin Barth|
|5) John Grounds||5) Johnathan Terhune|
4400 Unlimited Class
|1) Erik Miller*|
|2) Josh Blyler*|
|3) Bailey Cole*|
|4) Levi Shirley|
|5) Loren Healy*|
|6) Bailey Campbell*|
|7) Chris Paiva|
|8) Chad Owens|
|9) Shannon Campbell*|
|10) Paul Horschel|