AutoMatters: Stadium SUPER Trucks at Caesars Palace
By Jan Wagner
Imagine that you, your friends and family are racing each other with radio-controlled, scale model, off-road trucks, sending them bounding over jumps and frequently crashing into each other. Sometimes they roll over but soon continue on their way after being rolled back onto their tires, leaving pieces of their bodywork all over the track in their wake. Got the picture? Good.
That pretty much describes Robby Gordon’s SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Truck (SST) racing, only the toys are replaced with full-size off-road trucks driven by fearless daredevils. It’s like motocross but with trucks, and as the photos prove this is mayhem on wheels.
It would be an understatement to say that Robby Gordon is an accomplished off-road racer. According to Wikipedia, he has won seven SCORE International Off-Road Racing championships, is a three-time winner of the Baja 1000, a four-time Baja 500 winner and a repeat winner in international rallying, including nine Dakar Rally stage victories.
But that’s not all. He’s won stock car races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, IndyCar races in CART and sportscar races in IMSA. While sometimes controversial, he is very approachable and is well liked by fans.
Robby Gordon and his fellow SUPER Truck competitors demonstrate exceptional vehicle control skills and bravery. When they are seated behind the wheels of their seemingly indestructible, purpose-built Stadium SUPER Trucks (SST), it is an absolute blast to watch them race. Their trucks fly through the air and then crash down hard on the ground, over and over again, compressing their suspensions and big tires to the extreme, and leaving showers of sparks in their wake when on pavement.
The 2013 schedule was jam-packed, with races in Glendale, AZ; on the streets of Long Beach, CA (in conjuction with the IndyCar race); Los Angeles (at the LA Coliseum); San Diego (at Qualcomm Stadium - twice); St. Louis, MO; Toronto, Canada at the Honda Indy race (I wonder if he’s met Toronto’s colorful mayor); on the dirt in Crandon, WI (two rounds); Costa Mesa, CA (during the Sand Sports Super Show, at the OC Fair & Event Center); and, finally, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
The 2013 series wrapped up with plenty of thrills and spills on a balmy November evening on the grounds of Caesars Palace, under the nearby bright neon lights of the Las Vegas strip. The racetrack consisted of tight turns and large metal ramps to jump over, contained by barriers of concrete and brightly colored plastic.
You might remember that this is not the first time that professional races have been held at Caesars Palace. It also hosted Formula 1.
The evening began with a demonstration by high-flying motorcycle stunt riders. Preliminary races included the SST qualifying heats and motocross racing. It all led up to the grande finale: a 30-lap SST shootout. The racers included veterans Robby Gordon, Rob McCachren and PJ Jones.
The racing was intense. Fans and photographers alike never knew which way to look. Fortunately I heeded the advice given at the photo meeting and stood back from the barriers, because during the race a truck turned 90 degrees on the track and crashed into the barrier in front of me. All I had time to do was helplessly watch as it was knocked over and torn apart, coming to rest mere inches from my feet.
Trucks were roaring up the ramps and soaring into the air, bouncing off of and crashing into each other, and sometimes rolling over on their sides, coming to rest against the barriers. What was really amazing is that each time, after one particular truck did this twice, it was simply rolled back onto its wheels and continued on. How crazy is that?
In the end, PJ Jones won the Vegas race (for his first time), followed by Robby Gordon in second place. In a squeaker, Robby clinched the 2013 series title by a slim, nail-biting margin of just seven points.
Then, as if that wasn’t enough of an adrenaline rush, he went on to compete in another Baja 1000 (he finished seventh in the 2013 L1 SCORE Trophy Truck class).
For those who couldn’t be at Caesars Palace in person, the SST racing action was also televised on NBCSports. For more information and to see the 2014 schedule of events as soon as it is posted, go to https://stadiumsupertrucks.com.
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Copyright © 2013 by Jan Wagner – #307