Tracy Jordan Proves The Flexibility Of His High-Tech Crawler At The W.E.Rock Grand Nationals
Tracy Jordan built his "Rock Bug" to be versatile-capable of running in the treacherous King of the Hammers race and, with a few minor changes, also competing in the Pro Modified class on the W.E.Rock circuit.
Recognized as one of the most technologically advanced rockcrawlers, the "Rock Bug" demonstrated even more of its flexibility by stepping up and winning the Unlimited class at the 2009 W.E.Rock Grand National Championships.
Held October 2-4, 2009 in the Glade Run Recreation Area north of Farmington, New Mexico, the championships drew 30 teams from across the U.S. and Canada that had the best rankings in the Eastern and Western divisional series held throughout the year.
Jordan, who is spotted by his brother Jason, won the final two Western regional events in Pro Modified and was a heavy favorite to capture that division at the Grand Nationals. In a last-minute move, the team announced it would compete in the Unlimited class. Jordan said the Rock Bug was already fitted with rear steer and 39-inch tires from the brothers' recreational wheeling around the Phoenix area, and they decided to "show off" what the car could do in the tougher division. The move went against the grain in a sport that has seen a migration from Unlimited to Pro Modified. Cost doesn't appear to be much of a factor, according to officials and competitors. They see Pro Modified as offering more challenges and marketing opportunities.
"It's a chance to have a 2-seater for trail riding besides competition," says W.E.Rock president Rich Klein. "Also, Pro Mod is built with the idea that it's our NASCAR-type class."
Pro Modified vehicles must have two seats and three-dimensional bodywork that resembles a production vehicle's. Other requirements include a front-mounted engine, a bumper, and maximum 37-inch-tall tires. Unlimited vehicles are often referred to as "moon buggies" due to their stripped-down, purpose-built, "jungle gym" appearance.
"NASCAR is popular for the simple idea that it's Ford against Chevy against Dodge against Toyota," explains Klein. "Indy Cars all look the same. In Unlimited, spectators may ask, 'What is that?'"
Other Pro Modified drivers suggest that the Unlimited vehicles have become "too good," and that the restrictions placed on Pro Mod cars make the competition more challenging for the drivers. "With the bodywork, there's more real estate for sponsors," adds Nicole Johnson, one of two women at the championships. "It gives us a better chance to market ourselves."
The Farmington rock pile was divided into eight courses. Competitors challenged four on the first day and the remaining four on Sunday. Points were assessed against the drivers for using Reverse, hitting a course cone, missing gates, or not completing the course within the 10-minute limit. Teams could also have points subtracted by clearing bonus obstacles and by successfully clearing each set of course cones. Teams are ranked starting with the lowest score. The leading six teams in each division after the second day carried their points over into a final shootout over a course that stretched across the natural rock stadium.
Despite its impressive high-tech credentials, Jordan's Rock Bug wasn't given a free pass in the Unlimited division. Jordan led after the first day with just three points, while former champion Jason Paule was slightly behind with 15 points. Brent Bradshaw's super-clean, single-seater buggy was within striking distance at 32 total points.
On Sunday, Bradshaw, along with spotter Chris Poblano, earned negative scores on all four courses, pulling within just six points of Jordan, who earned negative scores on three courses.
In the shootout, however, Bradshaw rolled off a tall hill and was assessed 37 points. That gave Jordan a 43-point lead, but the most any driver can accumulate on a course is 40 points. Jordan was going to be the champion, even if he rolled during his shootout run-which he did.
If you don't think the spotters are agile, check out Chris Poblano during the Unlimited shootout. His driver, Brent Bradshaw, starts to roll at the top of the hill. When Bradshaw is at the bottom ledge, Poblano has already leaped down a couple of steps to be by his side. Poblano tried to upright the vehicle immediately after it came to rest, but to no avail.