When the Ultra4 Racing MetalCloak Stampede comes to the Prairie City SVRA it brings the biggest off-road racing event of the season to the park located just outside of Sacramento, California. This race continues to grow every year and brings the best race teams from across the country to compete in this short track location.
Every race in the Ultra4 series is important as teams compete for the national title accumulating points. It is becoming more and more important now to make every race to maximize the national championship points going into the last four races of the season. Racers compete in a variety of classes with each class growing every year.
Wayland Campbell comes into the weekend the points leader.
Going into the race on Saturday, Wayland Campbell was starting with a near perfect 2,950 points with Erik Miller, Clay Gilstrap, and Levi Shirley all trailing by around 100 points. Prairie City SVRA is a short-course at its finest, with a track that varies between two to three miles in length based upon track design for the weekend.
The track was designed by John Goodby of Nor Cal Rock Racing and was full of a variety of tight hairpin turns, wide sweeping turns, jumps, whoops, and different rock sections. The track was sure to test the skills of the drivers and see who brought a vehicle prepared for the grueling short course pace.
UTV Pro Class
Casey Scherer returns after being rolled in the prelims.
There is only one UTV class in Ultra4 this year and everyone who showed up must be prepared to race at the speeds of the UTV PRO class. There were some new faces in the race this year and some favorites returning from last year. Casey Scherer
Casey Scherer lead the prelims until cut off and rolled by another driver in Turn 1. Pauly Hart, the winner of the 2016 race, was looking great in the prelims as well, running solid sub-three-minute laps until being taken out on the back finger section by the same driver.
With the UTV class growing in all aspects of racing, there was plenty of action when they combined the classes.
Casey would be able to repair his UTV and return for the main. The repairs to the Polaris UTV of Pauly Hart were so serious that his team would be unable to repair his vehicle in time to make the main race.
The top three in the main UTV race would be shared by four drivers who would be able to run the sub-three-minute laps required to compete. Darian Gomez would get out early and lead the first four laps with some quick laps in the high 2:40 range.
He seemed unstoppable until mechanical problems would take him out of the race with four laps to go. Casey Scherer would quickly move from second to first and put down the fastest laps of the weekend running a 2:42 to secure his first place spot in his customized SafecraftCan-Am. With the departure of Gomez and Casey Scherer moving into first Greg Uffens would move into second place and Matt Lippman would move into third and would remain in these positions for the remaining four laps.
Jordan Pellegrino rolls over the first jump towards the start.
The main event for the 4500 class was dominated by Jordan Pelligrino in his GenRight Jeep. With Jordan putting down the fastest lap of the heat at just over 3:03 and then solid laps consistently around 3:10, it was just too much for the competition.
Jordan would finish easily in first place by over 28 seconds. The battle for every other position resulted in some of the best racing in any of the remaining heats with second and third position changed almost every lap.
Jimmy Jack started running in second for lap one until dropping back to third and finally further due to mechanical issues. Matt Howell would take over in second and appeared to be the only one who could challenge Pellegrino running at the 3:10 pace for the next four laps until he too went out on Lap 5. This would allow Kevin Stearns, who had been running in third, to move into second and Shawn Rants who had been running in fourth to land on the podium in third.
Ben Varozza approaches the starting line for the 4600 Main.
Racers in the 4600 class were running laps in the 3:30 – 4:00-minute range. The race would start with Michael Lee leading in a beautiful brand new black Savvy Off Road Jeep. Ben Varozza would finish lap two in second with Albert Contreras finishing lap one in third place.
Ben Varozza would overtake Michael Lee on lap two and lead for the remaining laps of the race. Albert Contreras would continue to chase the two leaders for the whole race retaining third place all the way through until the finish.
Bailey Cole charging through the first rock section.
The 4800 class was full of action with the favorite continuing to be Bailey Cole in the Trent Fab car. Bailey had posted the fastest time in qualifying and was the favorite going into the main. Bailey would jump out to the early lead followed by Eric Brinker in the 312 car.
Justin Day would take over second place on lap two and with the unexpected stop in the hot pits. Bailey Cole would finish the next 4 laps in first place followed closely by Kyle Wickham. Baily would drop to eighth place on Lap 3 and then 6th place on Lap 4.
Bailey’s next four laps were all in the 2:50s and would be the four fastest of the day for any car in the 4800 class. By Lap 5 Bailey was back in third place and then Lap 6 would show Bailey continuing to pass getting back into second place chasing Justin Day.
Bailey would then run the fastest lap of the day at 2:52 to pass Justin and lead the last two laps of the race finishing in first place. Justin would hang on to second place. Kyle Wickham would run his fastest lap for the day on the final lap to recover his third-place spot edging out Jason Bunch for a spot on the podium.
Many teams struggled with one obstacle after another throughout the weekend.
The 4400 class draws the fans from every corner of the track and lines the gate three deep to watch the fastest class in Ultra4 racing. This class is full of celebrities in the off-road racing community and almost all of them were registered to race this weekend with a few exceptions.
Erik Miller and Clay Gilstrap, two of the point leaders and favorites for any Ultra4 race, were unable to attend the race over the weekend. The race weekend had been full of surprises as most of the remaining favorites for the weekend had problems before they even got into qualifying.
Shannon Campbell, the winner of last year’s race had lost a motor and appeared to be out for the weekend. Talk in the pits had rumors of Jason Scherer, last year’s second place finisher, also having motor trouble which would likely force him to limp through the main to accumulate as many points as possible.
Loren Healey, third place finisher last year would put down the second fastest lap in qualifying only to have motor trouble himself, leaving him out of the prelims and in question for the main. The fastest lap in qualifying had been run by JP Gomez who appeared to be making a run for a first place finish on his home track in front of the Gomez Brothers Racing family and fans.
JP would go out with a back injury in prelims and he would have to turn over driving to his UFO Fab builder to compete in the Main. It was announced that Shannon Campbell would acquire a car from the Gomez Brothers and be able to compete in the remainder of racing for the weekend.
Levi Shirley and his car “Loretta”.
We had had great weather for the weekend and there appeared to be a capacity crowd filling the stands while TV crews lined the track to capture the racing for an online live feed. With all this news happening before the race even started nobody had any idea what was going to happen.
It seemed like every longshot had the planets aligning and they were going to get their chance at their spot on the podium for the first time. The media chatter on the track still had favorites like Wayland Campbell, the current points leader, along with top three superstar Levi Shirley as favorites.
My personal two favorite wild cards were Tom Wayes and Gary Ferravanti Sr. who had both won events at this track. Bailey Campbell was getting faster every year and is currently standing fifth in points. Would this be her race? As the national anthem played and the driver introductions finished up it was finally time to find out.
Gary Ferravanti Sr. drifts through the sweeping turn one.
The race started with Gary Ferravanti Sr. and Levi Shirley battling for first place on the first lap. Levi would stay out in front for the next two laps with Ferravanti in close pursuit. Jason Scherer with no signs of problems at all was in full pursuit charging hard in third at every opportunity.
Ferravanti would drive his fastest lap of the race 2:48 in Lap 2, but still fell to Scherer who would overtake him taking second place with a quicker 2:40 lap. Tom Wayes would also overtake Ferravanti on this pushing his way into third place running a 2:46.
Jason Scherer would put down two of the four fastest laps of the weekend back to back to overtake Levi Shirley and take first place. Tom Wayes would trade first and second place spots with Levi Shirley over the next five laps as Jason Scherer continued to extend his lead.
Then on Lap 9, Scherer would pull off unexpectedly and be out of the race leaving Levi Shirley to jump into first. He was followed closely by Wayland Campbell, who had just taken advantage of an error by Tom Wayes which caused him to drop even further into fifth behind Gary Ferravanti Sr.
Jason Scherer emerges from the uphill rock section.
By Lap 10 Levi Shirley had his rhythm and Wayland Campbell would chase hoping for an error which would never come. We kept these positions for the next three laps with the only change being a Tom Wayes overtaking Ferravanti after he dropped off the pace the last three laps.
While Levi was not the fastest car on the track he was consistent running lap after lap in the low 2:40’s without any errors. Other drivers had quicker laps, but all struggled with at least one error which put them behind the consistent performance of Shirley, the new Metal Cloak Stampede 2017 Champion.
The next race is this weekend, June 23 in Attica, Indiana. For all the details check out Ultra4’s website.