Ultra4 Underclassmen: 2017 KMC Wheels Battle in Bluegrass
The Ultra4 KMC Wheels Battle in the Bluegrass was set for high drama in every class, not just the 4400. Both the 4800 Legends class and 4500 Modified class had their own scores to settle heading into the final race of the Eastern Series. Team Nitto driver Bailey Cole was also riding a back-to-back win streak with a slim 10-point lead on Casey Gilbert for the Eastern Championship points. Duane Garretson and Matt Howell only had 25 points between them for the championship in the 4500 class. Someone was going home happy, and someone was just going home.
(Photos: Doug Dienelt)
The Underclassmen were not exempt from the hill climb in Qualifying by any means. If you have a race car, you climb the hill.
After the short course and hill climb segments were combined, Matt Howell had the pole in the 4500 class, and Kent Fults had the pole in the 4800 class.
Both classes would be running 11 laps or two hours max on race day. Bailey Cole finished 2nd on the short course, but 4th in the hill climb and would be starting 3rd off the line in the Legends class. Bailey had three big goals for this event: 1) win the race and win the Eastern Series Championship, 2) race in the 4400 class car and try to qualify for the 2018 King of The Hammers, and 3) grow his slim lead in the National points.
The green flag dropped, and the teams ripped into the course. In the 4500 class, lap 2 took out Duane Garretson and ended his quest for the East, and Matt Howell drove it like the defending champion he is. Leading from flag to flag, Matt defended his 2016 4500 class Eastern Series Championship, as well as winning the 4500 class at the Dirty Turtle. Cody St. Clair also finished on the lead lap for 2nd place, with Rob Matzell rounding out the podium.
The 4800 class was a competitive grouping, with Bailey Cole taking an early lead and never giving it up. Since he had to race the car in the 4400 race later in the day, once he had the lead, he set it on cruise control and saved the car... that is, until his spotters radioed that Cade Rodd was charging hard. Bailey kicked it into overdrive and laid on it, pulling away and ending the race with a 2-minute lead over Cade. Brad Lovell took 3rd, with Cade’s brother Chace Rodd taking 4th.
Team Nitto driver Bailey had won his third race in a row and the Eastern Series Championship! You would think this would be cause for celebration, but Bailey’s day was not done. While he was on the podium accepting his trophy, his team was checking the car and prepping for the 4400 race, which was about to begin.
After 11 crushing laps of the 4800 Legends race, Bailey was about to hop back in the car for 18 more in his quest for KOH qualification. Splashing the car with gas and doing a bolt check, Bailey lined up and powered out into the big pond with the big boys for the 4400 race.
The car performed well, but Bailey’s body was feeling the toll with bouts of numbness hitting his hands and arms. Running a strong race (still on 37-inch DOT tires from the Legends class), Bailey crossed the line in 11th place overall and was the top KOH qualifier at this event. Triple threat accomplished! Back-to-back-to-back victories, KOH-qualified and the Eastern Series champion. Congratulations, Bailey, on an outstanding season to date.
DRIVER SPOTLIGHT: BAILEY COLE
Giving praise where praise is due...
Bailey heads to Fallon, Nevada, for the final event of the Western Series in two weeks. On top of winning three races in a row, winning the King of France event in Ultra4 Europe earlier this year, and wrapping up the Eastern Series Championship, Bailey also found time to show what Ultra4 and its drivers are all about.
While helping clean the course after the race, Bailey ran into a young boy, Levi, and his father out wheeling. They were excited to meet one of Levi’s favorite drivers, and the boy asked Bailey to sign his shirt. Remembering his own heroes and having grown up in Ultra4 as well, after signing the young fan's t-shirt, Bailey then pulled out his trophy and asked Levi to "take care of it" for him, whose face completely lit up as one of his race heroes bestowed on him an amazing gift.
We might have to make room next to Shannon's photo in the dictionary under #ClassAct. Well done, sir. You've made an Ultra4 Racing and Bailey Cole fan for life.
SRRS vs. ULTRA4 SHOOTOUT
Rock bouncer bonus!
You can’t have a hill climb without rock bouncers in the South. In an awesome cross series display of horsepower and sportsmanship, the SRRS rock bouncers joined the Ultra4 crew after the race for a hill climb bounty! With Holley Performance putting up a $10K purse ($7,500 for fastest climb and $2,500 to the fastest car from the opposite series), fans and drivers alike were in for a treat.
Similar to the Back Door Shootout at KOH, teams registered, lined up and pinned it! SRRS driver Jake Burkey took home the big check with a run of 21:542 and barely edged out Ultra4 driver Jeff Coudill, who scorched it at 21.966, taking home the little check. KOH Shootout fan favorite, “The Maine Maniac” Joe Piece, was 3rd, giving SRRS two of the top three spots. Darrell Gray was the next highest Ultra4 driver in 8th place.
A great time was had by all — the perfect way to end a perfect day of racing.
NEXT UP IN ULTRA4
With only two races left in the season, don’t miss a minute of action. If you can’t make the event in person, tune in online with live streaming the King of the Hammers Facebook page. The next race is Labor Day weekend in Fallon, Nevada, as the Western Series wraps up. Final event of the year is the Nitto National Championship in Reno, Nevada, October 20 at the Wild West Motorsports Park. If you missed out on any of the action this year, be sure to tune into NBC Sports every Thursday night for the “Journey to the Hammers.” The TV series is wrapping up KOH week, so you haven’t missed any East or West Series action…yet!