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Dirt Riot Nationals - The battle for the championship

Valeri DouglasPhotographer, Writer

Deep in the world tonight a caravan of off-road racers are journeying to the next race that fuels a fire inside to drive full throttle over desert and rock, up waterfalls and through ravines with an eye on a coveted first place trophy. It’s no different in the USA, Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia, or Dubai. It’s for the love of the sport, an addiction to dirt, a passion for large engines and driving fast, and the adventure of off-road racing.

That craving brought together the best from East vs. West as competitors converged on Northwest OHV Park in Bridgeport, TX, for the Dirt Riot National Rampage. Not only was this the final race of the season, but the overall points championship was at stake. Pro 4400 competitors also drove hundreds of miles and a chance to gain one of two coveted entries in the 2016 King of the Hammers race in February.

UTVs, Stock Trail, Stock Modified, 4500/4600 and 4400 Ultra4 cars gathered at the map dot of Bridgeport, TX, in full fanfare, complete with state patrol escort, to a meet and greet at the Rock City Grill on Friday evening. With the main event on Saturday, Bridgeport welcomed Dirt Riot with open arms at the meet and greet, and turned out in force to watch the racing action for Saturday’s race.

Everything is bigger in Texas, and the Dirt Riot National Rampage held true to that mantra. From broken axles, spindles, wheels, roll overs and even a car flombè, teams pushed their vehicles to the limits on the 6.6 mile track that climbed up rock strewn hills, went down almost vertical descends into ravines that wrapped into wooded rolling hills. There was even a muddy bog that sunk few competitors.

As the sweltering heat settled in for the day, the UTV and Pro UTV classes lined up for the first race, one hour long, as many laps as you can complete. The field of 20 dwindled to 12 at the half-hour point. By the time the race was over only 8 vehicles completed four laps to take the checkered flag as Terrel Gauny finished first in Pro UTV and Zach Beavers in first for UTV class.

The next race was between 4500 and SuperMod Trail. Temperature leveled at 98 degrees and several SuperMod Trail buggies were out by the end of lap one. Greg Neff experienced the suction of the mud bog as he missed a sharp right hander and put his SuperMod Trail buggy on its side in the middle of the boggy mess. Jason Shipman dominated the class with a six minute win over second place Ryan Miller, who gave it all he had on the last lap, literally, as his engine let go crossing the finish line. Rowdy Trubenbach rounded out the top three for the class. With Mitch Funk, from Funk-N-Fast racing and Duane Garretson battling all race for the 4500 class, this was one of the closest races of the day with only one minute, twelve seconds separating first and second place. Kevin Rantz rounded out the podium for 4500 class.

The Stock Trail, Modified Trail, and 4600 classes were only able to complete three laps within the allotted hour time limit. Stock Trail class Carlos Banegas swept the season with firsts, and took the overall in points, with Jessica Barnwell in second, also second in overall points, and Angie Bonser-Lain finishing in third. 4600 Class Josh Jackson was on average two minutes ahead of eventual second place finisher Tim Adkins for the first two laps and held on for the win. In Modified Trail, Ryan Cruse took the checkered flag for first, Jeff Trowbridge second and Jason Dehn third, however 67 year old Miss Emma Wilson only had to start the race to finish the year as the points champion, and she clenched the win! Congrats Miss Emma!

The Pro 4400 race crowned a national champion. Two IFS cars led the hour and a half race; Jason Shipman from Farmington, MO, and Clay Gilstrap from Lufkin, TX, battled with only two minutes, thirty four seconds over nine laps separating first and second place. Shipman was reeling in Gilstrap and shaved eleven seconds off his last lap in an effort to gain ground on Gilstrap, but it wasn’t enough. Darrell Gray found himself in third place overall for the race, and the fastest solid front axle vehicle.

With the races over, Rich Klein, President and founder of W.E. Rock Events and Dirt Riot Racing, was able to announce podiums per race, season points champions, and the two drivers of record who gained entry into the 2016 King of the Hammers race in February: Darrell Gray gained entry as the Series Points Champion for Pro 4400 class, and Chad Wheeler gained entry as the highest finishing Pro 4400 class finisher who was not already qualified.

Dirt Riot is one giant family, and the Gilstrap’s in conjunction with their sponsor Total Equipment and Service, made breakfast and lunch for all competitors, staff and media on race day. Very rarely do you experience such camaraderie between racers, and it is what makes Dirt Riot enjoyable from the racer perspective, and spectator perspective.

It is an amazing group of people that keep coming back year after year that make Dirt Riot unique. To follow Dirt Riot racing for 2016, go to werocklive.com.

Terrel Gauny, winner of the Pro-UTV class scales up the rock ledge before the finish line.

Terrel Gauny, winner of the Pro-UTV class scales up the rock ledge before the finish line.

Jeff Trowbridge takes the checkered flag from Rich Klein. Trowbridge took second in Modified Trail class.

Ryan Miller descends into the “bowl” of rocks before the start/finish line.

Clay Gilstrap takes one of two lines into the abyss of the back section of course.

Hot off the start line, Chad Wheeler takes turn two on three wheels launching huge rocks into the debris field.

Darrell Gray makes a great save from going over before dropping off a rock shelf.

Blake Knab ripping around course on a flat tire in a true “Honey Badger fashion”.

Shelby Gilstrap launched it up a rock climb to stretch out the gap between her and Cody St. Clair.

Mitch Funk was no-holds-bar flying up one of the rock hills to increase his lead in the 4500 class.

Greg Neff took a tumble into the mud bog earlier in the race, which caused a lot of damage to the cars components. He was able to finish one lap before retiring from the race.

Rowdy Trubenbach landed the Maxxis jump before the hot pits on lap 4. Raceday faired much better than qualifying where he ended rubber side up.

Ben Swain leading the way through the rock section with Darrell Gray hot on his tail.

Ben Swain leading the way through the rock section with Darrell Gray hot on his tail.

Rowdy Trubenbach goes for the full throttle pass on Todd Seawell up the hill.

Clay Gistrap had a close encounter with a third kind with the fence; a little too close to be exact as the wire twisted around his knuckle.

Pro 4400 podium: First Place Clay and Lindsay Gilstrap, Second Place Jason Shipman and Andy Shipman, Third Place Darrell Gray and Shawn Inman.

Season Points Champions for Pro 4400: First Place and earning a spot in KOH is Darrell Gray, Second Place Clay and Lindsay Gilstrap, Third Place Rowdy Trubenbach.

Jason Shipman, with Andy’s help, loads the Ultra4 car into the back of the semi in the light of the full moon.