The Portland Grand Prix has an excellent reputation of entertaining supporting race series for the crowds on Labor Day weekend. For 2019 Portland organizers added the wildly popular Speed Energy Stadium Super Trucks for a double race weekend.
Stadium Super Trucks are owned, built and maintained entirely in house by Robby Gordon Motorsports in Charlotte, North Carolina. The tube framed trucks feature 600hp Chevrolet LS engines. The suspension features 18 inches of wheel travel in the front and 24 inches in the rear. King Shocks soak up the impact of flying a 3,500-pound truck off a metal ramp. Contact options are two 35 inch DOT tires, the Toyo Open Country AT or the Continental Contact AT.
The field was loaded with talent with series regulars Robby Gordon, Sheldon Creed, Cole Potts, and Matt Brabham. Added for the Portland debut were NASCAR driver and Coca Cola 600 winner, Casey Mears. Also Greg Biffle, a 19-time winner at NASCAR’s highest level. Biffle is also a local favorite having started on short tracks in the Pacific Northwest.
Qualifying and practice are handled in one 25 minute session. Drivers have little time to find the right set up. Since the trucks were at Portland for the first time there was no data for handling this road course. The previous two events in the series were also on natural terrain tracks. Most drivers concentrated on getting the suspension right for the four ramp jumps situated around the two-mile racecourse.
Sheldon Creed in the KMC Wheels entry took fast time averaging over 73 miles per hour on his best lap. Robby Gordon brought the Speed Energy truck second, a quarter of a second back followed closely by Cole Potts Security State Bank entry. Last years champion, Matt Brabham was fourth. Race one would start with the field inverted as per their rules. The starting order was:
1. Bill Hynes
2. Greg Biffle
3. Jeff Hoffman
4. Casey Mears
5. Gavin Harlien
6. Matt Brabham
7. Cole Potts
8. Robby Gordon
9. Sheldon Creed
If you’re not familiar with the truck races the trucks run three laps and then a caution is displayed on the backstretch. This bunches the field and makes for better racing. This happens again in the sixth lap. Robby Gordon is concentrating on the fans. He knows a strung-out field is nothing but a parade. Flying trucks are great, but flying trucks side by side or possibly landing on each other is awesome.
The crowd gets rowdy when the trucks come to the starting grid. Nine trucks lined up on a hot, humid afternoon. The announcers did their best to ramp up the crowd, but it was too late. This crowd wanted 10 laps of flying trucks after a morning of firmly planted race cars.
The green flag flew as the United Fibre and Data truck of Bill Hynes charged into the lead at the treacherous Portland chicane. Greg Biffle and Jeff Hoffman battled for second. The bulk of the field dodged left and right jostling for positions three through nine. By the backstretch, the field went single file with Biffle getting second.
The second lap first turn saw Biffle lock up the brakes in the chicane. Several trucks tried in vain to take advantage. Biffle did a great job gathering up the Continental Tire truck and saving his position.
Starting the third lap Biffle out-braked Hynes going into the first turn and jumped into the lead. Hynes went wide allowing Hoffman and Gavin Harlien to move up into a battle for second. Hoffman went wide in turn six kicking up a dust cloud and dropped two spots.
At the end of lap three Gavin Harlien’s VP Racing Fuels truck got into the rear of Biffle and sent him sideways. He recovered once again, this time in 5th. Sheldon Creed jumped the opportunity and came from 3rd to the lead. Meanwhile, Gordon was picking off positions and moving up the field three spots.
On the restart, things stayed stable at the front with Creed, Harlien, and Hoffman chasing each other. Biffle was all over the back of Hoffman. Matt Brabham and Gordon were battling for fifth. By lap five Biffle got a good run going into his preferred passing zone, turn one and slipped into third. Hoffman suddenly dropped back with a broken axle and exited the race track.
Aside from Biffle taking a big look inside in the last turn of the last lap things stayed the same. Creed, Harlien, and Biffle took podium spots followed by Gordon in fourth. Series points leader Matt Brabham grabbed fifth.
The second race of the weekend is 11 laps with competition yellows on laps 4 and 8 to bunch the field. The series inverts the start from race one. Casey Mears said, “We missed the rear suspension set up in race one, the change helped me over the jumps but hurt me in the corners.” Hoffman also was placed at the front to avenge his broken axle when he was doing so well in race one. The starting line up looked like this.
1. Jeff Hoffman
2. Bill Hynes
3. Casey Mears
4. Cole Potts
5. Matt Brabham
6. Greg Biffle
7. Robby Gordon
8. Gavin Harlien
9. Sheldon Creed
At the green Hoffman charged into the lead with his Toyo Tires truck followed by Hynes, Mears, and Potts. Into turn 11 Mears took a big look inside of the second spot but it did not pan out and he lost three places. However, Hynes had to account for Mears big move and that allowed Cole Potts Innovative Computer Professionals truck to move into the second spot.
Lap four saw Matt Brabham make a great inside move and slide up into third place just before the competition yellow. On the restart, the lead trucks went three-wide headed to turn one. Brabham went lower and braked a moment later to take the lead followed by Hoffman, Potts, and Mears. Sheldon Creed and Robby Gordon got tangled up in the same corner and spun each other out sending them to the rear.
Harlien, Mears, and Biffle started a great battle for fourth. On laps six through the lap eight competition yellow they swapped positions every jump and corner. When the yellow slowed the field after all that fighting the three were in the same order they started the battle in.
Gordon used the restart to dispatch of Sheldon Creed. Greg Biffle was next and then Gordon moved Casey Mears out of the way to storm into fourth place.
At the front, Matt Brabham was leading with Cole Potts attached firmly to his rear bumper. Hoffman was close behind the leading duo. Gordon now comfortably in fourth ran out of laps and your top four finished just this way. The crowd went wild as the drivers celebrated by driving on two wheels and doing donuts for the crowd.
You, the average off-roader, be you young or old, male or female, Ford or Chevy know the entertainment factor these trucks can bring. The high flying action can be seen easier from the grandstands than in the middle of a desert.
To anyone not familiar with off-road racing. Robby Gordon knows. He knows because he saw Mickey Thompson do the same thing in the 1980s with his Off Road Grand Prix, winning the series twice. Now Robby has taken that idea and expanded it and taken it places that Mickey never got a chance to before his untimely death in 1988. The future is bright for Stadium Super Trucks.