For the fourth consecutive year, the folks at RC Madness hosted the Short Course Nationals. The Short Course Nationals has grown each and every year to bring in racers from all around the country, and this year was no different. The 2012 rendition of this classic race marked the largest turnout ever with nearly 340 total entrants. With new classes, a second track and lots of great battles, this was certainly one to remember.
The 2011 Short Course Nationals was cut short by Hurricane Irene, but things were much better weather-wise for the 2012 race. We had bright sunshine and warm temperatures the entire weekend, which led to a lot of great racing. It wouldn’t be a Short Course Nationals without some rain in the area though, as Sunday featured some rather severe late-afternoon thunderstorms. Thankfully, the entire race program that was to be run on the smaller track for the 17.5T Short Course Truck, Short Course Buggy and Spec Slash classes was able to be completed. We weren’t quite as lucky over on the larger track, however, as the final results in the 2WD Modified Short Course Truck and 4WD Modified Short Course Truck would be decided based on the qualifying results. Let’s take a closer look at each of the classes and the results.
2WD Open Short Course Truck
There was a lot of buzz around the 2WD Open Class this year. First, you had Keith Whisler and Ryan Dunford from Team Losi Racing with the new 22™SCT short course truck on-hand. You also had Greg Vogel, of RC Driver Magazine, with one as well. Not to be outdone, Pro-Line Racing had Gerardo Gonzalez in the house with their new low-CG conversion kit and other option parts for the Traxxas Slash. Paul Sinclair from X-Factory was also at the event going head-to-head with the field. In all, this was one of the deepest and most competitive fields we’ve had in the 2WD Open Class.
Qualifying was amazing to watch, as it seemed like each round someone else stepped up to the plate to try to grab the top spot. In the second round Paul Sinclair turned in a great run to grab the top spot in qualifying with a solid 8-lap run, just ahead of Michael Aliberti, Gerardo Gonzales and Ryan Dunford, who all had 8-lap runs as well. The third and final round of qualifying meant these drivers would be resorted into the same qualifier as a possible prelude to the A-Main.
In the last qualifier you saw a number of different driver’s at the front of the pack trying to get the single fastest run. Gerardo Gonzalez got out of the gate the quickest and immediately set the early pace; however, he was quickly challenged by Dunford, John Cravata and Bill Gajowski. Dunford and Gonzalez ran much cleaner laps with fewer mistakes, which allowed them to separate themselves from the pack and battle it out between the two of them. Just past the halfway mark in the qualifier, Dunford was able to capitalize on some mistakes by Gonzalez to take the lead on the clock and never look back. Dunford’s third round time was fast enough to take the top spot in qualifying away from Sinclair and put his truck on the pole. Gonzalez’s time was also better than Sinclair’s, bumping Sinclair back to third on the grid for the main. When the afternoon rains hit the track, it washed out the 2WD Open A-Main, meaning the final results would be set by the qualifying order. That gave Dunford the overall win, followed by Gonzalez and Sinclair on the podium.
4WD Open Short Course Truck
As great as the 2WD Open Class was, many felt the 4WD Open Class was the deepest class in terms of competitiveness, speed and performance. Team Losi Racing driver Ryan Dunford had his TEN-SCTE working all weekend, as his truck was fast, smooth and predictable all weekend long. He set the TQ pace in the first two rounds; however, local drivers Kyle Rhodes and Greg Vogel of RC Driver Magazine were both fast as the day went on. In the final qualifier, much like in the 2WD Open, the fastest drivers were all resorted and ran in the same qualifier. Dunford stumbled out of the gate slightly, opening the door for Rhodes and Zack Barry to step up and pace the field early on. Dunford put his head down and tried to charge through the field quickly; however, the level of completion in the A-Main resort qualifier was stiffer than he had encountered earlier in the event. Dunford moved around Barry for the second spot and set his sights on Rhodes. The two battled it out over the final laps of the heat, pushing each other to go faster, hoping the other would make a mistake and open the door. In the end neither one flinched, and Rhodes won the final qualifier over Dunford. However, by the strength of his earlier runs, Dunford would retain the overall class TQ. Much like the 2WD Open Class, the 4WD Open A-Main was washed out by rain, meaning Ryan Dunford was your overall winner, with Kyle Rhodes riding his solid third qualifying run to the second position and Greg Vogel taking third on the podium.
Nitro Open Short Course Truck
The 2012 Short Course Nationals marked the debut of the recently-announced Team Losi Racing™ TEN-SCT™ 4WD nitro chassis. While the truck hadn’t started shipping yet, there were five trucks brought in for people to race before they were available. The first five people to sign up through the 2012 Short Course Nationals Facebook page were the lucky racers who got to try the TEN-SCT before buying one.
While there had been nitro truck classes at the Short Course Nationals in years past, the TEN-SCT had a special buzz around it. Here was a truck that shared 90% or more of its design with the TEN-SCTE, making it even easier for drivers to get acclimated to it. It seemed like they got acclimated to it in a hurry, as the lap times and speeds were very similar to the 4WD electric trucks. Drivers needed to learn to throttle back to make a full 5-minute run or stop for fuel before the end of the heat, something they were not used to doing with their electric trucks. This introduced a fun level of strategy to qualifying that drivers would have to learn how to deal with.
Much like in the 4WD Electric Class, Zack Barry and Ryan Dunford were both towards the top of the qualifying sheets. Barry laid down an impressive run in the second round to take the overall TQ to that point. Dunford tried to answer back in the final round of qualifying, but was denied and would have to settle for second on the grid. Mark Smyka, local driver and the man who designed both of the tracks for the Nationals, was able to put in a strong run in the third round of qualifying to take the third spot on the grid. Once again rain put a damper on the mains, and trophies were handed out by the qualifying positions with Barry taking first, Dunford second and Smyka third. That wasn’t all the loot handed out for this class though, as the five drivers who raced the loaner TEN-SCTs also got to keep them! That’s pretty dialed!
17.5T Stock Short Course
They did something a little different with the stock and spec classes for this year’s event. A second smaller track was constructed with the mindset that, since the stock classes have less power on-tap, smaller jumps and a more technical track would be better suited for them. As someone who raced on the smaller stock track, I have to give mad props to the organizers for this call as the “stock track” was ideally suited for these classes.
Early in qualifying, local driver John “Chicken Little” Sohl jumped to the front of the pack and laid down the fastest overall run. Surprisingly, yours truly (Gary Katzer) was able to put in some very solid runs to take second on the grid. Sohl managed to TQ by about six seconds under my time, and I was about four seconds ahead of third-place qualifier Royce Berrio. From there the field tightened up quite a bit, and with two more drivers bumping up from the B-Main to make the A-Main a 12-truck field, there were a number of different outcomes that we could anticipate.
Unlike the classes on the bigger track, we did manage to get the race program completed on the smaller track. That is not to say we had ideal conditions for the mains, as rain and drizzle had changed the track drastically from the way it was in qualifying. From the tone Katzer was able to get a hole shot on Sohl and passed him on the outside through the sweeper and into the first turn. Going into the second turn, slight contact between the two leaders sent Katzer and Sohl back in the field, while Royce Berrio capitalized to take the top spot. Losi driver Keith Whisler moved his way up through the early crashes to move into the second spot, challenging Berrio at nearly every turn. The door opened for Whisler when Berrio’s truck got hung up on a pipe as they approached the sweeper, allowing Whisler to move into the top spot. Several laps later Berrio had a run on Whisler on the outside, approaching the same corner where Berrio had crashed earlier. The two touched, and in a great show of sportsmanship Whisler yielded the position and allowed Berrio to take the lead. This hard battling allowed Sohl to reel the leaders in. As the battle for second heated up between Whisler and Sohl, this allowed Berrio to pull away slightly. Whisler made a mistake in the closing laps, allowing Sohl to move past and set his sights squarely on Berrio. With time winding down, the two leaders battled hard but clean for the win. With one minute to go Sohl made his move, as Berrio made a huge mistake over the triple section, costing him time and momentum. Sohl got through this section cleanly and passed Berrio in the air for the lead. Berrio tried to retake the lead, but would have to settle for second as Sohl cruised on to take the win. Berrio would hang on to take the runner-up spot, with Jay Franz charging late to take third.
Stock 17.5T Short Course Buggy
Much like the Short Course Truck Class, the Short Course Buggy Class was run on the smaller track. Two rounds of qualifying were run on Saturday, with the final qualifier being run on Sunday. Through the first two qualifiers Gary Katzer set the early pace, chased by Keith Whisler, Cruz Zachary and Scott Puma. Katzer and Whisler both bested Katzer’s TQ from the first round; however, it was still Katzer first and Whisler second. In the final qualifier Whisler put up his most serious challenge to Katzer’s TQ from round two. However, Katzer would hold on to the top spot, once again setting the fastest pace in the third round to protect his overall TQ.
The Short Course Buggy A-Main went off immediately following the Short Course Truck A-Main. This meant the track was even wetter than during the Truck main. It also meant that Katzer, Whisler and Steve Charles could have had a slight advantage, as they all ran both the truck A-Main and the buggy A-Main. There was some confusion when the tone went off, as Whisler was not ready for the start. That hurt him as Katzer shot off into the first turn. There was a pileup in the first corner, allowing myself to pull away and Scott Puma to move past the carnage into second from his fifth spot on the grid. Puma moved Katzer out of the way to take the lead, coming in front of the tabletop jump with Katzer returning the favor two turns later. At the completion of the first lap, Katzer turned in at the sweeper way too early and got hung up on the pipe. This allowed Puma, Whisler and Cruz Zachary to move past. Zachary made a mistake, allowing both Whisler and Katzer to move up to second and third. From here the top three went at it nearly every lap, leaning on each other and trying to seize control of the top spot. Puma and Whisler pulled out a slight lead over Katzer at the three-minute mark but tangled after a bold outside pass attempt by Whisler cost them both, bringing the top three right back together. Three turns after this, Whisler crashed in the same place Katzer did on the opening lap, allowing Puma and Katzer to open up a gap on him. Puma turned in a bit early for the first corner and Katzer got into him, allowing Whisler to make up most of the deficit that his earlier crash created. After being marshaled Puma protected his line and pushed Katzer wide into the marbles, allowing Whisler to take an inside line and retake second. From here he set up Puma and in a daring move banged wheels to manhandle the lead back. Whisler would eventually pull away from Katzer and Puma, crossing the line first to take the win. Katzer and Puma battled to the line, with Katzer taking second and Puma finishing third.
One of the staple classes of the Short Course Nationals, the Spec Slash Class is truly what this event is all about. The class is designed in such a way that very few, if any, option parts are allowed to be used. Additionally, the stock ESC, servo and motor are all required as well. Jim Hustins set the pace in qualifying with the only 12-lap run in the class. Jay Franz was the closest to Hustins in qualifying, just barely missing a 12-lap run himself, with Scott Martell hot on his heels. The last main to be run on the smaller track meant the Spec Slash A-Main was to be run on the wettest track of the day. Would experience in the Short Course Buggy A-Main for Hustins or the Short Course Truck A-Main for Franz help them against the field? We got our answer once the tone went off.
Into the first corner Franz and Hustins got together and banged fenders, bottlenecking the field behind them. The both got away cleanly with Franz’s purple and yellow truck chasing down Hustins’ white and black truck. Running the kit tires meant that these trucks had less overall grip than the buggies and stock trucks that had run before them, and that was before the rain hit. Martell and Craig Kerr battled for third early on, as Hustins inched away from the field. Hustins’ truck began going wide in several corners, either due to him trying to carry too much speed into the corner or the front of his truck losing grip by the tires getting loaded up with mud. Hustins got sideways approaching the triples section and misjumped this section, flipping over and being stuck on the wrong side of the pipe. This opened the door for Franz to take the lead, with Martell now right behind Hustins. At the three-minute mark, Hustins made a mistake and rolled his truck, allowing Martell to get by and take second. Hustins quickly recovered as Martell bobbled through the triples, retaking second while Craig Kerr brought his truck into the fight for second. A lap later Hustins got loose in the infield and needed to be marshaled, dropping him back to third again. This was all happening well behind Franz, who was able to navigate through the harder rain, as he cruised to the finish and took the W with Martell taking second and Kerr third.
After the awards had been given out for the standard 1/10-scale classes, the rain subsided and the 1/5-scale guys asked to be able to run their main. Chris Marcy and the RC Madness crew couldn’t think of a better ending to the weekend’s event and gave them the clear light. The 1/5-scale trucks ran on the bigger track with several pipes pulled up to change the track slightly compared to when the 1/10-scale trucks ran on it. Before the main, however, the trucks had to qualify, and in qualifying Josh Howell put his Losi® 5IVE-T™ on the pole. Not far behind were Matt Levy and Less Grimmett, with Grimmett rocking a stick radio.
While the green light was given to run the 15-minute A-Main, a number of drivers had either left already or decided not to run their trucks in the mud and rainwater. As such, Grimmett would take the second spot on the grid and Carlton Colemann went off third. From the tone Howell quickly established himself as the class of the field. While others slipped and slid around the track, Howell’s truck was locked in and controlled. After the 15-minute A-Main, Howell took the checkered flag, followed by Grimmet and Mark Frazin.
I have been lucky enough to be able to attend three out of the four Short Course Nationals, and each year it simply gets better and better. From the excellent track layouts, great competition and nearly 340 entrants, this is simply one of the biggest and best outdoor races of the year. What’s most remarkable about this race is how it has maintained its grassroots feel, even as it has grown. While several mains did get rained out, emphasizing how important qualifying is at this race, the entire race program was completed on the smaller track, and we did get to see the 1/5-scale main run as well. Chris March, Mark Smyka and the entire RC Madness crew deserve a tip of the cap for their hard work to make sure that the racing went off as smoothly as possible. As just one of the 340 entrants, I know I am already looking forward to the 2013 Short Course Nationals.