Swamp Rat Weekend
From low-buck barn beaters to 1,000-plus–horsepower tube chassis creations, mud racing has it all. And while winning a trophy and earning a little cash doing what you love always sounds great, for most wheeling enthusiasts mud racing is more about having fun than winning or losing—though admittedly, once the racers are on the starting line it’s all business. The camaraderie in the pits is what continues to prove that the four-wheeling community is one of the best there is.
A great example of the good-natured mud racing community can be found in Jarratt, Virginia, at the Southern Virginia Motorsports Park. Like many organizations, the park has felt the effects of a slow global economy. With fuel prices near record highs, reopening the park for a spring mudbog was a tough call for park owners Bain Rideout and his sister Meredith Thomas. Luckily, they were right and the off-road community was glad to see this quality mud race facility get back in the groove.
Since we’re always up for checking out a good mud race, we gathered up our gear, tossed on our mud boots, and headed just north of the Carolina border into Virginia. To say the least, we had a blast. The full truck roster was a great indicator that the economy and the park are headed in the right direction.
So if you’re looking to try your hand at a little hole-and-hill mud racing or simply want to see a heck of a show, check out the park on the web at www.southern virginiamotorsportspark.com.
While many of the trucks running at the park were dedicated mud racers, there was still a fair number of daily driven pickups willing to give the pit a try. This straight-axle Toyota made an excellent attempt, but ultimately was overtaken by the thick Southern clay.
There was no shortage of orange Swamp Rat Racing shirts on hand, as many of the drivers and attendees were at the park to pay tribute to Wade Maitland. He was very influential in starting the Southern Virginia Motorsports Park and an active racer and builder who will be missed by the 4x4 community.
Another great enthusiast group to watch is the four- and six-cylinder class. Although they don’t have the same growl as the heavyweight V-8s, many of them have plenty of bite and go!
Ultraclean and modified pickups like this classic Chevy were plentiful at the park. Though most of the Armor All–laced rigs stayed away from the pit, there was no shortage of fullsize pickups racing through the mud.
Kicking off the day’s events were the ATV classes. Surprisingly, most of the bed toys made it pretty far, and a few even managed to power their way to the end. Of course, the quad riders didn’t stay nearly as clean as the truck class drivers!
For those that couldn’t make it out of the pit under their own power, the heavyweight John Deere was on hand to give them a yank out. And if the Big Deere couldn’t do it, then the track hoe certainly would.
Most veteran mud racers know that if you can’t find traction in the middle of the pit, head to the wall to try and grab some fresh dirt. While this technique helped many of the drivers push forward, it also brought a few close to tipping over.
This S-10’s removable bed protected the fuel cell, batteries, and radiator when it was powering through the pit. Though playing in the mud might seem like an old-time hobby, there is still plenty of forward thinking and technology in the pits.
Behind this wall of exploding mud and water is Colt Shell piloting an alcohol-injected ’94 GMC Sonoma that’s suspected to have well over a 1,000 hp. Blasting through the pit at just over six seconds, the Big Bad Wolf was one of the most powerful and impressive mud rigs of the day.
To get more out of their racing, many of the participants changed tires sizes throughout the day so they could compete in multiple classes. Some of the more dedicated racers even bolted on rice and cane tractor tires for high-slinging action in the unlimited series.
We were surprised at how many full-bodied pickups were participating in the bog. An even more surprising fact was that the fullsize trucks outnumbered the Jeeps 10 to 1. Is the fullsize wheeler on the comeback trail? We hope so.