Wayland Wins Again: Ultra4 Metalcloak Stampede 2018 Recap
Picking up right where he left off last season, Team Nitto driver Wayland Campbell took the checkered flag at the 2018 Metalcloak Stampede in Prairie City, Calif. In a day of drama and feel-good stories, the 2017 National Points Champion kicked off his 2018 season with a heart pounding finish, in what was one of the best short course finals in Ultra4 racing history. After 12 laps and with the checkered flag in sight, Wayland entered the final rocks with Cody Addington and 2017 nemesis Levi Shirley within inches of his car. The three then powered their way through the rocks and drifted around the final turn in a thrilling outcome that had the fans on their feet and the announcers screaming into their mics. “Who is Cody Addington” you ask? Only the new owner of the Red Dragon, perennial top 10 finisher and longtime “every man” who is best known for finishing the 2012 King of the Hammers with a stock(ish) Toyota truck and a paper map. While Wayland took the checkered flag, Cody was the feel-good story of the weekend.
The race format took place over a two-day period, with pre-running and qualifying happening on Friday. Saturday was filled with Heat races as all classes raced this ideal short course multiple times. 4400 Unlimited cars raced in one of three Heats with the top seven spots transferring to the Main. Main B allowed a few more transfers, then the always tense Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ) allowed for one more driver to enter the field at the back of the pack. The course is always in great shape as NorCal Rock Racing hosts races there and assists with the Stampede. It is comprised of gap jumps, rhythm sections, hairpin turns and rock gardens. Fast and furious, there is plenty of room for side by side racing, but little room for error on this Northern California track.
Qualifying consisted of one hot lap, one at a time, to determine seeding in Saturday’s Heats. While there were a few notable big names missing (Tom Wayes, Jason Scherer and Gary Farrivanti Sr, for instance), the field was stacked. Loren Healy and Nick Nelson were sporting matching big horsepower Jimmy’s 4x4 cars and were out to show the world what they could do. The Campbell family is always intimidating with three-time King Shannon and points champion Wayland, but the Stampede marked the arrival of Bailey Campbell’s new car–a two seat masterpiece riding high on Nitto tires and wrapped in white.
All attention during Qualifying, however, was on Cody Addington. Cody pulled a surprise move and bought Loren’s Red Dragon (the most winning car in Ultra4 history) without anyone knowing. He took possession of the car at the course and took his first laps in this masterpiece during Qualifying. Cody epitomizes the garage racer, having started Ultra4 racing in his Toyota pickup in an Everyman class, then working his way up to a fast Ultra4 car and regular top 10 finishes, and now into the baddest, fastest, winningest car in the sport. All eyes were on Cody to see if he could handle the car with prior no seat time in it.
When the dust settled, Nick Nelson was on the pole, Loren Healey was in the garage, and field was set for Saturday’s Heat races. Coming down the rocks at the end of lap one, Loren nailed a boulder and ripped the front A arm off the car, destroying a rim and tire in the process. Loren took a rear start in his Heat the next day. Nick Nelson led Heat 1, Team Nitto driver JP Gomez was second and led Heat 2, with speedster Levi Shirley in third and leading Heat 3. In addition to Loren, other fast cars–such as Darren Henke, who caught fire midway through his qualifying lap–would be started at the rear of their Heats. Saturday was already shaping up to be an exciting day of racing.
Ultra4 has a place to race for everyone. The 4600 Stock class had a strong showing of 12 cars ready to duke it out on track, while the 4800 Legends class had such a big showing, they required two Heats to set the race order and only allowed 21 cars into the Legends Main. The 4500 Modified Stock class rounded out the field with 17 drivers all pushing for the checkered flag. Albert Contreras held the pole for 4600 in the opening Heat, with Van Dyke and Hubbard taking the two 4800 class poles, and Dave Schneider took the 4500 class pole in a car he was driving for Dustin Friesen.
The race of the day for the Underclassmen, however, went to the 4500 Modified Main. Right off the bat, teams dove into the opening sweeper fighting for the hole shot. Team Nitto driver Jimmy Jack took the lead and never looked back. Racing one of the smoothest, mistake free races of his career, his new power plant and track experience paid off. Through eight laps, Justin Hall and Dave Schneider raced hard for position, catching each other and running away from the field in a three-car pack. Matt Howell, after starting in the back of the pack, was also charging towards the front to compete with Justin and Dave. Heading into lap eight, Jimmy Jack had a commanding lead with the other drivers battling behind him for the podium.
Then it happened. Heading up a waterfall area a little over halfway through the lap, Jimmy Jack pulled over. All eyes were on Justin and Dave as they were battling lapped traffic, then suddenly…there was a new leader! Justin Hall took the lead with only a few turns and two rock sections remaining! Fast and furious all day, Justin powered towards the checked flag. Then it happened again! Somehow, Dave Schneider engaged the “levitation drive” on Dustin’s car and jumped the next to last rock section, rocketing past Justin and taking the lead. Both Dave and Justin launched it through the rocks with total abandon, then powered through the final sweeper with Dave taking the checked by a car length!
Two lead changes within the last 45 seconds of the race, a dramatic pass and then horsepower to the flag: It was a tremendous finish that only set the stage for things later to come. Crowd and racer favorite “Mad Mike” Bedwell finished third, securing a podium finish for “Old Guys Racing.” What happened to Jimmy Jack? His flawless racing ended when he lost a wheel after sheering some wheel studs. It was an absolutely heartbreaking finish in what is considered one of Jimmy’s most complete races to date.
The 4800 Legends class was extremely competitive, but marred with yellow flags and a race stoppage from all the carnage on course, including car fires and vehicle rolls. Everyone is physically OK, but some cars will need a lot of love post-race to get race ready once again. Jason Bunch survived the day to stand in the top spot, winning the 4800 Legends class on Nitto tires. David Hartman was second, and Matthew Young capped off the podium to take home third. Dawson Allington won the 4600 Stock class, followed by Josh Atteberry and Brian Behrend. Less than 30 seconds separated the top four finishers in the stock class.
The 4400 Unlimited Class
As the last race of the evening rolled around, it was hard to know which storyline to follow. Team Nitto driver Nick Nelson had set a blazing speed in qualifying and was widely considered the car to beat. Nitto driver Cody Addington had qualified fifth in the Red Dragon and had captured the attention of the crowd and other racers. Wayland and Levi were side by side in matching cars, putting on a repeat of last year’s amazing yearlong battle. Team Nitto drivers and former Kings Loren Healy and Shannon Campbell were deep in the pack, but both had a history amazing come from behind victories. Nitto driver JP Gomez and brother Raul Gomez were up front with super fast cars, home track knowledge and dominating Heat performances. The 4400 Main was set up to be epic and it did not disappoint!
Right off the bat, pole sitter and Team Nitto driver JP Gomez got the hole shot and set a blazing pace with lap times even faster than clear track qualifying times. Hot on his heals were Wayland Campbell, Levi Shirley, Cody Addington, Andrew McLaughlin and Rick Waterbury. You don’t know what horsepower and adrenaline is until you’ve seen a rolling side by side start of Unlimited Ultra4 cars hammer down, fly over the gap jump and drift into turn one in a tight pack of open wheel racing. A beautiful wave of sound, fury, fumes and dirt fly as drivers push hard and fast for the lead.
Former King and Team Nitto superstar Loren Healy was in an unusual position for the Main: middle of the pack. During his Heat race earlier in the day, he had driven from the back of the pack to challenge for the win. Ironically, he was chasing his former car, now driven by Cody Addington, and you could see Loren was hungry to pass. Pushing hard into a turn, Loren rolled his new car, but landed on all four tires and kept racing. After sustaining damage to his hood, it popped up and blocked his view for the rest of the Heat race. Loren eventually was able to grab the hood with his hand and finish the Heat while holding his hood to the side for visibility. While incredibly epic and completely “Loren-worthy,” it also cost him spots and put him in the middle of the pack for the Main.
Wayland and Levi picked up right where they left off last year. Neck and neck, both are consummate professionals who push their rigs to the limit, yet keep them under control the entire time. They also have identical chassis designs, but with individual touches that differentiate them (such as Levi’s six-speed transmission). Wayland and Levi battled it out for second and third as JP Gomez continued to open up a significant lead. Meanwhile, deep in the pack, Shannon Campbell had started one of his patented come from behind runs and was passing cars like they were standing still. He was quickly within the top 10 just a few laps into the race.
What about Cody Addington? Was his qualifying position a fluke? Was his Heat finish just lucky? Nope. With basically no seat time in the car, you could see Cody get more and more comfortable with every lap. The fishtailing became less and less and the power drifting became more and more. As Cody and the car got comfortable, you could see it come alive. What was once a distant fourth, suddenly showed up on Levi’s tail and was actively challenging for the position. Lap times got quicker and quicker as the confidence built. As Wayland got closer and closer in his front view, Shannon was getting bigger in his rear view. What a great way to break in a new-to-you race car. No pressure.
With only a couple of laps left and Nitto cars running one, two and three, race leader JP Gomez fell off the pace and had to pit, creating an opening for Wayland Campbell to take the lead and completely mix up the leaderboard. Raul Gomez was pushing hard in second, with Levi Shirley trying to make it a flashback to last year’s battles. Cody Addington continued to find another gear, closing the gap and turning the podium battle into a victory battle. Cody powered around Levi to take third, then eventually second as Raul bicycled and fell off race pace, creating an opening for the top three shoot-out between Wayland, Cody and Levi.
Going into the last lap, Wayland held a lead of a couple of seconds as Cody and Levi battled it out for second place. With only half a lap to go, lapped traffic checked up Wayland and allowed Levi and Cody to move into striking distance. Knuckles were white in the cars and the stands as these three flew down the back straight. In what was beginning to feel like a replay of the 4500 class race, all three leaders were within seconds of each other heading into the final two rock sections.
With the checked flag in sight, all three drivers left everything on the race course. Flying down the first rocks, it was bumper to bumper as all three cars sent it into the final rock section. Levi briefly pulled ahead of Cody Addington in a kamikaze rock move, only to have Cody duck beneath him coming out of the rocks and flogging every single horse out of the Red Dragon to drag race his way into second. It was unreal! Three of the top drivers in the top cars, bumper to bumper, after 12 punishing laps where anything could happen. This was such an exciting ending to what was one of the best Ultra4 short courses races in history!
The rest of the top 10 rounded out with Shannon Campbell in fourth after driving through the entire field, Raul Gomez in fifth, Letzroll Offroad Racing’s Andrew McLaughlin with a strong sixth place finish, Darren Henke overcame his fire in qualifying to take seventh, Paul Horschel was in eighth, Jeff McKinlay in ninth and Cade Rodd–doing a killer job driving Shane Chiddix’s 4400 IFS car in his first ever 4400 class race–rounded out the top 10. Overall, 12 drivers finished on the lead lap, with Team Nitto drivers Bailey Cole and JP Gomez rounding out the lead lap grouping.
Odd and Ends
First and Foremost: Congratulations to Levi and Miranda Shirley on the announcement of the coming birth of their first child. Many in Ultra4 feel like we raised Levi a little bit, so we all feel like we’re about to become Uncles and Aunts.
Cody Addington: Are you kidding me? From the Toyota to the Red Dragon…what an awesome trip it has been. This year is going to be fun.
Next up: Oklahoma on June 15. The Class at Cross Bar Ranch will be a combined East and West series race. You have to come. You are going to have the West Coast crews of the Campbells, Cody Addington, Loren Healy, Nick Nelson and the Gomez Brothers vs. the East Coast crew of Erik Miller and Josh Blyler. Campbell cars vs. Jimmy’s 4x4 cars vs. Miller Motorsports cars vs. UFO cars. IFS vs Solid axle. East vs. West. Unreal. If you only make one race this year, be in Oklahoma.
KOH 2019 Qualifying: Congratulations to Cody Addington, Andrew McLaughlin, Darren Henke, Jeff McKinlay, Shane Chiddix, Alex Wacker, Mike Bou, Cody Waggoner, Rick Waterbury and Matt Trebino for qualifying for the 2019 big dance. The pressure is off. Now go win some races.