When Dodge Won The MTEG Grand National Sport Truck ChampionshipPosted in Features on February 15, 2017
Ivan Stewart called it a "back alley brawl”. It was, but this was with Grand National Sport Trucks. And it was held in a town not known for its Off-road racing, Oakland, California.
In the 1991 Mickey Thompson Off-Road Championship Gran Prix season (MTEG) finale, the Walker Evans-Glen Harris Dodge team was challenging the ‘unbeatable’ Toyota team. Evans was a very accomplished driver, with a number of Baja class wins and an overall at the 1979 Baja 1000. Likewise, Harris had started racing in short course when he was 17, and was a seasoned driver with many wins under his belt.
The late Mickey Thompson began the Manufacturers Cup Challenge in 1983 by and it recognized outstanding performance by a vehicle manufacturer competing in the Grand National Truck class.
At this final race of the season, Dodge was about to unseat the Toyota Team’s hold on the Manufacturers Cup, which they had won 7 years in a row, from 1983 to 1990. The Dodge team led by a slim 19 points when the entire Mickey Thompson circus arrived at the home of the Raiders Oakland Stadium. The Challenge used a convoluted system of points, depending on qualifying positions, heats and final race finishing positions to determine the year end champion.
“Walker’s team sponsors Walter Voss (Dodge), Mike Gaughn (Barbary Coast Hotel) and a Goodyear tire rep all came to me, one at a time, and told me this was a ‘do or die’ situation, and said everything was on my shoulders that night. They just told me to be consistent and get those points needed to take the Championship” Glenn said.
The Evans-Harris team was leading by 19 points going into the event, but the Dodge team’s lead shrank to 12 points when Rod Millen and Ivan qualified one-two and earned seven points for Toyota on race morning. That evening, in the opening first heat, Evans and his Dodge won with Harris finishing fifth. Stewart was DNF and Millen was fourth. That got Dodge back to a 25-point lead.
But that was short-lived, when in the second heat the Toyotas finished one-two and the Dodge team’s 25 points vanished. Going into the final event, points were dead even.
The packed crowd was entertained by the other class races (Super 1600 buggies, Ultra-stock ‘funny’ cars, and the bike and quads), while the real drama was going on in the pits. Crews worked feverishly on their trucks, replacing wheels, tires, body panels, brakes and every thing else but an engine to prepare for the truck finals, the last race of the night.
As the factory trucks (with a few independents thrown in for good measure) lined up for the start, with engines revving loudly, MTEG starter Jerry Stansbury ran from vehicle to vehicle to make sure the engines were running and the drivers were paying attention to the man with the flag.
When the flag dropped for the 12 lap main event, it looked like Toyota was headed for the Championship as Rod Millen led, but half-way through he pulled up with troubles and dropped out. Ivan Stewart passed Rob MacCachren in his Ford for the lead, and finished there. But it wasn’t enough; Walker had placed second and ‘Mr. Consistent’ Glenn Harris was fourth, which gave Dodge the Championship. Mayhem broke out in Walker’s pit. “The place went nuts,” said Harris.
But the drama wasn’t quite over--- the rough driving committee declared that Stewart broadsided MacCachren when he passed him for the lead, and gave the final race first place win to Walker Evans. Evans also captured the class driver’s championship.
Final point tally was Dodge 842, Toyota 786, with Nissan (Roger Mears’ team) 662.
Postcript: Glenn Harris’s teammates and sponsors don’t forget the contribution he made that night. “Everytime I see someone from that team, even to this day, they come up and pat me on the back and say what a great achievement that was” says Glenn.