This weekend Matt and I traveled down to West Monroe, Louisiana for the annual Southern Nationals race held at the Ike Hamilton Expo Center. This event is especially great for a few reasons. For one, the track is always a very creative design and a blast to drive on and two, the pits are air conditioned making the extreme heat more than comfortable inside. Also, the host hotel is literally across the street from the building, so that makes things easier too.
Nicely prepared track inside Ike Hamilton Expo Center
Friday morning we walked into the building and were greeted with yet another excellent track and record turnout, which I believe was 425 entries. Throughout practice day, we spent most of the time testing with my NB48.3 trying to get some extra rough track time with it before the worlds. I only ran my Ebuggy and Truggy once each and they were both good-to-go as usual.
Long waiting line for practice....
Qualifying day. Nitro buggy was a little bit rough throughout the day. During the first round, I got an excellent start with a couple of solid laps and then must have landed on a rock or something and had a ghost flame out. We fired it up and finished but that pretty much ended my run as far as points go. After that, I was in the B heat after the resort and was able to get two solid runs in which qualified me 4th for the main. In Truggy, I got the TQ in round one after a close battle with Tessman and Ogden, then a second in the third round after another close battle with Ty and Cole putting me 2nd on the grid. In Ebuggy, I had three rather flawless runs placing me TQ for each and top overall qualifier for the class.
Getting ready for the mains!
For mains day, up first was Ebuggy. We decided to do some testing for the Nitro main since the track was getting rough, so we changed up a few things on my Ebuggy and went out for A1. It went well and I got the win by a decent margin after a clean run. The first lap in A2 started with a slight mistake and slipped back to second place. Within the next couple laps, I was able to get into the lead and opened up a gap staying consistent to the end. Having Ebuggy first for the day also helped with more track time to work on line selection around the rough sections in preparation for the Nitro Buggy main. Since A1 and A2 went well, this sealed up the win and was done with Ebuggy for the day.
Next up was Truggy. At the start, I tried to latch onto Tessman and follow him around. A few minutes in, he made a mistake giving me the lead. I then went into sprint mode and opened up a 10-second gap. Around the halfway point, Ty started to catch up and I was trying everything that I could to stay out front. With about 15 minutes to go, he was on my bumper, got around and I settled into second place. Runner up is a great finish but not what I was hoping for and gives me more motivation for the future.
Nitro Truggy Podium
Last up was the Pro Buggy main. Going into it, I knew it was going to be mostly survival because the track was super rough at this point. During warm up, I got back into my rhythm with the lines that I had practiced in electric and felt pretty good. I started 4th and quickly made my way up to 2nd. Ty pulled a little gap which left me and Cole battling until around the first pit. I then got some clear track and was able to string some fast laps together. I got as close as about 4 seconds to Ty halfway through the 45-minute main but just couldn't hold it there. He pulled away and I settled in for another second place finish.