X Games 2014: Stadium SUPER Trucks take to the sky

DSC_2409 Stadium SUPER Trucks are perfect — tough and rowdy trucks with 600 horse power V8’s that brawl with each other while wailing over jumps with 30 feet of dusty air between their tires and the dirt. Compared to the GRC cars, the scaled down trophy truck suspension allowed the SST machines to use more of the course, like the tall dirt curbing around the inside of the 180-degree hairpin. Once onto the pavement, the trucks were prone to ditch-hooking on the F1 curbing and settling into leaned-over drifts. Bodyroll is a habit, but the relatively insane suspension travel allows for them to mostly keep all four wheels situated against the ground. It’s a wildly entertaining series with an aggressive and competitive field of drivers. DSC_2376 The format is like this: There’s two qualifying heats of ten trucks, where only the top-eight trucks from each heat advance into the 16 truck final. The relatively large number of trucks on course for each heat out numbered any GRC heat, making for tightly packed and very entertaining racing. Lead changes were common, and heroic driving was everywhere as these trucks bounced around like a pack of life-sized R/C trucks. Using a common practice from desert truck racing, a mid-race yellow flag is used to repack the racers before the finish. This prevents the leaders who break away from the pack from running their own independent race outside of the main race pack. The format is interesting and action packed — encouraging exciting racing by keeping the pack dense. DSC_2470 Apdaly Lopez, a 19 year old racer from Tecate, Mexico won gold in the final heat. A protege of desert racing legend Robby Gordon, Lopez dominated the weekend. Other than placing second in the seeding session to Gordon, Lopez won both his qualifying heat and the final with ease. Starting in third position during the final, Lopez first passed Justin Loftin during a minor scuffle in the 180* hair pin — both attempted to dive into the inside of the corner, with Lofting closing the door on Lopez when he appeared to over-rotate the truck. Rather than shut down, Lopez pushed to the outside and pushed Lofton around to secure second before cleanly securing first place 2 laps later by passing Sheldon Creed. The rest of the race was a high speed duel between Lopez and Creed, but Lopez held off Creed’s advances and maintained quick and consistent laps. With his early success in the final, Lopez decided to hold off on using his joker lap until the final lap, just to throw on some extra distance to hold first. “This is the most important event that I’ve been racing so I’m very proud to get the win today,” Lopez tells us through a translator, “This is very important for me. I’m the only Mexican racing this series. I’m very proud representing Mexico and to get the win today for all my countrymen.” DSC_2289 Sheldon Creed started in second, and quickly gained first after Lofton locked up his front wheels while braking for the first corner after the red flag restart due to Bobby Runyan Jr. rolled his truck off a ramp on the third lap. Creed managed to stay out of trouble early, and fought hard against Lopez, though eventually falling to the 19 year old’s unrelenting chase and ultimately placing silver. DSC_2279 Robby Gordon, however was the star of the final heat. Having just returned from the Baja 500 that morning, Robby started in 8th place, and started his 25 lap hunt for the lead. Gordon’s decades of desert racing makes him a cold and calculated driver — setting up for 2 and 3 truck passes in a single corner. Wildly entertaining, and brutally quick driving. With enough laps, I’d wager Gordon could have caught up to Lopez for a teacher and student battle royal — but the race ended with Gordon sitting in bronze behind his “little protoge,” Apdaly Lopez. Stadium SUPER Truck is a much needed refresh on the stadium truck format. Spec trucks with highly competitive driving make for a series which feeds the carnal side of the human mind. While GRC provides higher speeds and a more visceral experience with their high-strung, fire-breathing turbo engines, SST brings wheel-into-wheel racing with a package that can truly handle the abuse and keep fighting. Mechanical breakdowns from minor scuffles were the most common problem for the GRC and GRC Lites — something that the SST beasts were built to take. [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXtB_-Wci-0[/youtube] [Images/Video copyright 2014 Hooniverse/Phillip Thomas/ESPN]

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