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When Rock Crawling Turned Rock Racing

While “rock crawling” is pretty self-explanatory, often when “rock racing” is talked about it returns looks of confusion. During the 2015 season opener of Nor Cal Rock Racing (NCRR), we got the details on this often misunderstood sport. 2015-Nor-Cal-Rock-Race-NCRR-SWhitford-05 Rock crawling turned competitive in '98 when Bob Hazel threw the first competition in Las Cruces, New Mexico called The Warn National Rock Crawling Competition. Other events soon followed, such as Arca, Pro Rock, WE Rock, and many more. 2015-Nor-Cal-Rock-Race-NCRR-SWhitford-28 Slowly but surely the need for speed took over and rock crawling received a whole new face-lift. Rock crawler John Goodby, who raced BMX since the age of 7, wondered why couldn't one race a rock crawling buggy? With the help of a family business, John launched NCRR in 2008 with the aim of providing a true west coast series that would combine the art of rock crawling with speed for one big mad dashing, rock spitting, dirt flinging short course off-road race. 2015-Nor-Cal-Rock-Race-NCRR-SWhitford-23 Staying stationary at Prairie City SVRA Park in Northern California allows easy-access racing for anyone in the region. Running an annual series of three rounds, NCRR offers a chance for drivers of all levels, makes, and models to come out for the challenge. A variety of classes today include 4400, 4500, 4600, 4800, Sportsman V8, Sportsman V6, Sportsman 4 cylinder, Pre-Runner, UTV 800, UTV 900, UTV 1000, and UTV Unlimited. 2015-Nor-Cal-Rock-Race-NCRR-SWhitford-01 As a regular to NCRR, and former rock crawler himself, Kevin Yoder explains to me why he made the switch to pick up the pace. "There's more excitement," he admits. "Rock crawling is fun and a blast, but it makes for a long day. I like where you can go play hard for 4 to 5 hours then you can head home. Rock crawling is very drawn out, and I like the faster pace of rock racing." 2015-Nor-Cal-Rock-Race-NCRR-SWhitford-12 Iconic rock crawler Jeff Mello, is no stranger to racing. Jeff points out an interesting take on the buggies themselves upon his transition to rock racing, “We had the rigs that were already built for this, pretty tough. Competitive rock crawling was getting to the point where there were occasions where you just had to go ballistic with the throttle to get the job done and we built the cars where they were holding up to that. So… why not just make a race out of it?” 2015-Nor-Cal-Rock-Race-NCRR-SWhitford-31 With a wide range of classes, diverse competitors can all compete for their own unique reasons. Tom Wayes, who competes in 4400 class of Ultra4, says, "I enjoy supporting the NCRR series and Goodby. The Nor Cal series is fun without the pressure on it being part of the national championship points. It’s great to see the Northern California people and clubs. I really enjoy the race tracks Goodby builds, as well as his crew who does a hell of a job running the races. It is also a great opportunity to get some good testing in before Ultra4's Stampede." 2015-Nor-Cal-Rock-Race-NCRR-SWhitford-14 In contrast to Tom, stock class competitor Chad Lujan races on a budget. Converting his Jeep into a NCRR vehicle for less than $600, Chad says, "After watching and helping friends enough, I bought a stock Cherokee in 2012 and raced the street legal class. It's the most fun I have ever had! The thing I like about the street class is that it gives anyone the opportunity to experience what they love watching, on a shoe string budget. In my opinion the street class guys can be just as much fun to watch as the Ultra4 class. It's pretty entertaining to see a bone-stock Jeep get four feet of air and bounce three times when it lands and bottoms out so bad!" This is the part where the crowd goes wild. 2015-Nor-Cal-Rock-Race-NCRR-SWhitford-08 UTV racer Jacqueline Theisen shares why she stopped merely spectating at races, "My first year I competed was 2013. Many of our local friends competed in this series and being a spectator was not enough. I participated in the 2013 King of The Hammers with my friend Lynn Carstens, I was hooked! Came home and purchased my own Polaris XP 900 and started the Nor Cal Series. I was pleased with how John ran the series, and that it was a completely grassroots way to get into racing UTV's." 2015-Nor-Cal-Rock-Race-NCRR-SWhitford-11 From an initial staff of 4-6 people, NCRR has grown to 11 core staff members and 20-25 recovery volunteers. In 2012, John Goodby joined with Ultra4’s head, Dave Cole, to offer yet another “trophy” which extends a qualifying seat at the famous King of The Hammers in the 4400 class. This is just enough to entice some of the big boys to come out and play, and gives the spectators the treat of never knowing who might show up at a NCRR race. 2015-Nor-Cal-Rock-Race-NCRR-SWhitford-39 If you’ve never been to a Nor Cal Rock Racing event, come on out to their June or August race – better yet, check out the entry rules and join in for the racing yourself! If you can’t wait that long, Ultra4 will be having its first 2015 Trail Gear Western Regional Series, MetalCloak Stampede, May 8-9th at the same Prairie City SVRA location in Rancho Cordova, California. Come enjoy fun like no other! id  39357
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