Ultra 4 Series Nitto Nationals - Challenges & Championships

From The Wild West Motorsports Park In Reno, Nevada

Shaun OchsnerPhotographer, Writer

Wild West Motorsports Park in Reno, Nevada, is known for Lucas Oil short-course off-road racing with its extreme elevation changes and big air jumps. On a mild October weekend, just over 100 Ultra 4 Series racers took over the track and turned it into their rock-crawling playground. You could call it a mini King of the Hammers on the short-course track. Tons of rocks and boulders from the surrounding area were brought in to make the obstacles challenging for the racers. The mountain that surrounds the track already has rocks and boulders built into the terrain, so it was very easy to send cars straight up the mountain and right back down into the existing short-course track for some high, thrilling jumps. Hammerking promoter Dave Cole is not one to make things easy. There was plenty of carnage, rollovers, and vehicle recoveries. Excavators and jeeps with winches were at the ready in the event a rolled over or stuck vehicle needed to be removed from the course.

Race Format
The Nitto Tire Nationals kicked off with qualifying for all classes. Qualifying would determine starting order for the prelim races. Stock, Legends, Spec, Modified, and UTV classes got one prelim race. The biggest class of Ultra 4, the coveted 4400 class ran two prelim races. Only 10 cars from each prelim would advance to the main event. Those failing to make the prelim cutoff could race the Last Chance Qualifier. In the end, just 25 cars would have a shot of racing the 4400 Main event. Gary Faravanti Sr. was the only racer who was locked into the 4400 main event. Faravanti Sr. qualified on the pole position, so naturally all he needed to do was a shakedown of the race car during LCQ. Not surprising during the first 4400 prelim race, Shannon Campbell came out on top. Loren Healy was up in the second prelim. Healy also was in the top spot. Combining the results from both prelims would put Healy and Campbell starting side by side for the main.

Reno’s Nitto Tire Nationals was the final venue for Ultra 4 racers to lock up the National Championship. In order to be a contender for the National Championships, points are added from King of the Hammers, three best scores from either east or west regional events and, of course, the Nitto Tire Nationals in Reno. John Currie was one of those racers who took home a National Championship in the 4500 Modified Class. Currie won the Everyman Challenge during Hammers week as well as top finishes at all three western regional events and, of course, the 4500 Modified win in Reno. Others bringing home large championship trophies were Ben Varozza in the 4600 stock class and Dave Schneider in the 4800 Legends class. Jessi Combs, who was not able to race in Reno due to a leg injury won the 4700 Spec Class Championship. Sportsman UTV is also part of the Ultra 4 Series. Mel Wade IV took home that championship.

Main Event
As the excitement continued to build into Saturday’s main event, the crowd was focused on Loren Healy. Going into the main, Healy only had one more championship to lock up. Healy needed a top finish. Starting side by side with Healy was Shannon Campbell. Campbell is one of those consistent racers who only knows where his gas pedal is and will push hard for the win. You have to be on your game and be ready to outdrive him. Campbell’s patience doesn’t win him races. If there is an open line through the rocks, he’s going for it. That’s exactly what happened on the second lap of the main. Healy with Campbell directly on his bumper hit the rock section in front of the grandstands. Healy hesitated for a split second and Campbell made his move blasting past the #67 rock-buggy for the lead. The crowd went wild and Healy mashed the gas, catching Campbell on the short-course turn. Side by side they drag raced down the big hill in the air together. Healy had the faster line and was back in the lead. Straight up the mountain they went and around. On the downhill in the ravine Campbell hit a boulder on the track breaking his car and sending him tumbling down the hill ending his run. Healy may have thought he now had clean air and no competition. It would come down to just 13 seconds at the finish separating Healy and Erik Miller. With that Healy would lock up the National championship.

As the fans filed out of the grandstands, podium finishers celebrated, others loaded up broken race cars into trailers, everyone could only talk about one thing. Getting ready for the next event, which happens to be by far the biggest and first event of the Ultra 4 race season, the 2015 King of the Hammers. There, Healy and Campbell will face off again. Both are two-time winners of the prestigious event and this time around, Campbell will be ready.

Results Box

4400 Ultra 4 Unlimited Class
1 Loren Healy
2 Erik Miller
3 Levi Shirley
4 Tom Wayes
5 Wayland Campbell

4500 Modified Class
1 John Currie
2 Doug Faloni
3 Jordan Townsend
4 Mike Bedwell
5 Steve Lopez

4600 Stock Class
1 Matthew Peterson
2 Ben Varozza
3 Mel Wade III
4 Kevin Adler
5 Brian Calhoun

4700 Spec Class
1 Rob Butler
2 Jade Wickham
3 Jessi Combs
4 Jim Marsden

4800 Legends Class
1 Ernie Hardaway
2 Jade Wickham
3 Jim Brown
4 Rory Romero
5 Dave Schneider

UTV Sportsman
1 Darren Mitchell
2 Andrew Gorman
3 Brian Hogue
4 Melvin Wade IV
5 Phillip Cagliero