The Big House
It’s a high-speed ballet of off-road excess. Trucks slam-dancing on dirt, propelled by 900 hp. Speeds top 100 mph and competitors are airborne for more than 100 feet. Putting power to the ground and the driver finesse in this violent yet somehow artful meshing of man, machine, and terrain have drawn race fans to Crandon, Wisconsin, for the past 42 years.
The local Jaycees staged the first off-road race in Crandon way back in 1970. The early “brush runs” were 101-mile enduros on trails through the woods. Over the years, the annual race evolved into a true short-course competition and moved to the current permanent location in 1984.
Crandon is unique in the way the community embraces the sport of off-roading. In a town with a population of less than 2,000 people located two hours north of Green Bay, Wisconsin, Crandon residents open their arms to swarms of off-road race fans for two weekends each year. Both the Spring Run and the Labor Day weekend “World Championships” are currently part of the Traxxas TORC Series presented by Amsoil. During Labor Day weekend, around 50,000 hardcore off-road race fans pass through the gates.
In addition to the high speeds, technical sections, and intimidating features, Crandon International Off-Road Raceway is quite simply one of the most beautiful motorsports parks in the world. The 13⁄4-mile circuit is natural terrain carved out of the rolling hills in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. The dedicated track crew continues to refine the racecourse, and recent modifications have pushed speeds higher and allowed track records to fall. That adds up to a better show for race fans and new challenges for drivers.
While the exotic Pro 4x4 trucks can cost upward of $300,000, you don’t need a six-figure budget to race at Crandon. There are plenty of entry-level, grassroots classes that will fulfill the need for speed. From Stock Truck and Classix Race Car to 1600 Buggy, the race action is intense. The various sportsman classes allow drivers to move up to faster, more powerful machines as sponsorships and budgets allow. When you get up to ranks of Super Buggies, Limited 4x4 Trucks, and Super Trucks, the competition and speeds are a great transition for those hoping to make the jump to Pro classes.
The three-day race weekend was capped off with the running of the Amsoil Cup. Last year when BorgWarner decided to pull its long-running BorgWarner Cup race, series sponsor Amsoil stepped up to keep the tradition alive. Like the BorgWarner Cup, the Amsoil Cup is unique in that it pits Pro 2WD trucks against Pro 4x4s. The Pro 2WDs are given a head start, since their lap times are a little slower. To win, a Pro 4x4 must catch and pass the entire Pro 2WD field.
Last year, Scott Douglas did exactly that, breaking away to lead the 4x4s then dice through the 2WDs to the checkered flag. It was a fitting tribute to his title sponsor Amsoil. This year, Douglas nearly repeated his success, but heavier Pro 4x4 traffic and a very fast Boss Snowplow Nissan Titan driven by Chad Hord beat him to the checkered flag. Hord jumped out to an early lead and drove flawless qualifying style laps to win the race.
One thing you’ll notice about Crandon is that you see many of the same faces at every race. Both racers and race fans will agree it’s an addicting place. Once it’s in your blood you’ll be back again for another fix. Crandon is simply the best short-course off-road racing in the world.
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Last year’s winner, Scott Douglas, in his Amsoil-sponsored four-wheel-drive truck almost ran down Chad Hord’s Pro 2WD (they get a head start) but ran out of time in the closing laps. Monster Energy’s Johnny Greaves finished Third behind Douglas.
Crandon crowns the winner of each race “World Champion,” putting more prestige into the series points races. The 2011 champions are: Matt Ives in Stock Truck, Scott Mueller in Classix, Bradley Lamarche in Formula 4x4, Brad Erickson in 1600 Buggy, Steve Oman in 1600 Light Buggy, Al Konitzer in Super Stock Truck, Dan Baudoux in Super Truck, Larry Job in Super Buggy, Andrew Caddell in Pro Light, Brice Menzies in Pro 2WD, and Adrian Cenni in Pro 4x4.