Saturday, April 6 - Before we ventured over to our Saturday night race destination we visited our favorite Mexican restaurant in the Phoenix area, Macayo’s. This is a family owned business with 15 locations in Arizona and the decor in each of the 15 locations is different but the food is delicious in every one. This was the second Macayo’s location we had been to and the food was tasty. We had a free appetizer card from a previous visit and indulged in freshly made guacamole dip which was wonderful. Our burrito meals followed and soon we were on our way to the University Of Phoenix Stadium, the home of the Phoenix Cardinals of the NFL. Why were we going to a football stadium? Tonight was the first race of the Robby Gordon Stadium Super Truck Series and we wanted to be there for the opener. Robby Gordon, a longtime off-road racer and former Sprint Cup driver, got the idea to revive the former Mickey Thompson Stadium Truck series which ran in the 80’s.
We arrived early at 5:30 PM for the 7 PM start and already the parking lot was filling up. We found our seats 29 rows from the racing surface and actually about 14 rows from the bottom of where people were allowed to sit. The front 15 rows had heavy plastic wrapped over them to keep them from getting dirty. In reality dirt was not a factor tonight as the dirt surface was in good condition and no dust swirled in the retractable (which was open) roof stadium. This place is beautiful and the people of Glendale and the general Phoenix area have built a nice place to see different forms of entertainment.
The racing action got underway just five minutes off the scheduled starting time of 7 PM with four heats for the 8 Big Foot Sanctioned Monster Trucks in attendence. These big trucks raced side by side around the two circuits constructed on the concrete floor covered by dirt. One lap was run by one truck on each circuit with the winner being the first across the finish line after two laps. They were entertaining races and the crowd seem to enjoy them as many of the fans had monster t-shirts on that were cheering. They were followed by one heat for the stadium (dune) buggies which brought 10 buggies to the dance. This group was very racy and we enjoyed their heat very much. The Stadium Super Trucks were next up and raced two heats for their 12 truck field. Heat winners were ARCA driver, Justin Lofton, who looked very good in pacing his heat race and Greg Adler who won a crash filled heat with Arie Luyendyk Jr. nose diving into the track after jumping the table top and rolling onto his side before reaching turn one and P.J. Jones who dumped his truck twice in turn 1 in almost the exact spot after jumping the small hump in the middle of the corner. Then it was the first feature event of the evening with the Super Karts (picture mini stadium trucks) racing 16 karts for 8 laps around the circuit. We figured this was going to be a long one as the competitiors ages 5 through 15 tackled the course. There were several stoppages in the early going including the nasty four time end over end flip by young Brock Jefferson who went flying after hitting wrong off of the table top. Jefferson was OK but I bet he was very sore the next day!! Myles Cheek brought his #1 home first in a good race once they got situated after the early mishaps. Next up was the Monster Truck Semi-Finals with Bounty Hunter and Speed Energy advancing to the finals in two spirited races. It was now 9 PM and intermission time.
After a reasonable 20 minute intermission it was time for the last chance qualifier for the Stadium Super Trucks. Justin Matney of Bristol, VA came home the winner in this one and the entire 12 truck field would contest each other in the main event. The 10 lap Stadium Buggy feature race was next up and took the green at 9:37. It was an exciting, action packed event with Chino Hills, CA driver, Eddie Tafoya, winning the race even though he drove almost the entire distance with a broken left front suspension. It was a gutty run by Tafoya and everyone showed their apprecation by giving him a loud round of applause in victory lane. In the final lap he raced side by side with Robb Harvey and somehow was able to hold him off. Rob Martensen came home with the last podium position. The Monster Truck final was anti-climatic as Darren Migues driving Bounty Hunter easily beat Larry Swim’s Speed Energy monster truck.
Now it was time for the main event for the Stadium Super Trucks which would be 18 laps in distance. In a twist in the starting order Super Truck officials awarded the front row starting positions to the top two finishers in the last chance qualifier so Justin Matney and veteran Mexican off-road racer, Lalo Laguna, shared the front row. Laguna’s truck was smartly painted in white and green with the cartoon character, Speedy Gonzalez, gracing the side doors. P.J. Jones turned turtle for the third time on the night on the opening lap when he rolled onto his side on the backstretch. Laguna paced the first two laps until getting hung up on one of the water barriers and bringing out the yellow flag. In the meantime off-road veteran, Rob MacCachren, shot from seventh to third in one lap. Justin Loftin’s fine evening began to turn sour as he rolled his truck on the double double and had to be turned over to continue. There was a competition yellow at the halfway mark at lap 9 for the crews to do some minor work on the trucks before restarting. Lap 10 saw the end to Loftin’s run as fire appeared from underneath the hood of his truck. MacCachren blasted into the lead on the restart and started to pull away. The racing was further back in the pack as the field beat and banged each other attempting to catch the high flying MacCachren. As the laps wound down it was apparent no one was going to catch MacCachren but the battle was still on for second. Justin Matney was able to hold off Robby Gordon, who started in the rear twice, for second with Arie Luyendyk Jr. claiming fourth and P.J. Jones credited with fifth even though he flipped his truck for the fourth time battling with Matney for second. The final checker waved at 10:54, less than a half hour off the printed schedule for the events for the evening. Not bad considering it was their first race and they had several stoppages which took extra time to clean up.
It was an enjoyable two new track double pushing our career totals to 30 tracks in the state of Arizona. It was an adventure getting here and for me it was a delay returning home on Monday (Pat left late Sunday afternoon) as our plane coming from Las Vegas was delayed due to excessive winds and a dust storm out there. We were scheduled to leave at 4:45 PM but didn’t take off until 6:15 PM thus arriving in Philadelphia at 1:45 PM. By the time I secured the car and was leaving the parking lot it was 2 AM. Lucky for me my body clock was three hours earlier so the drive back was not bad and I arrived at home at 3:30 AM. Arising the next morning at 9 AM was a little tough be not that bad. At least I didn’t have to go to work that day.
Until next time as the area tracks are opening, get out there and get to some good local dirt or asphalt racing in your area.