|Brian Shirley of Lucky Dog Racing drops into the course at the beginning of the heat one. Paired up against his son, Shirley raced with a "this is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you" attitude.
If you missed out on this year’s ‘Xtreme Rock Racing Association’s East vs. West Finals, held at Ram Off-Road Park in Colorado Springs, Colorado, then you missed a race for the ages. Never before have the top six qualifiers, at the end of four heats, been separated by such a small margin. Only 30 seconds separated first from sixth. With such a small gap, it was anyone’s game to win or lose.
The Jimmy's 4x4-sponsored team of Derek West came out to race against his mentors. West, the Eastern Division champion, kept his V6-powered racer right up there with the big V8s, earning him a respectable third-place finish.
Ten Eastern and 18 Western teams invaded the Rocky Mountain Front Range town to see who was the fastest rock racer in the nation. The lineup strategically paired the fastest and highest ranked drivers against one another. And for the first time, the highly anticipated battle of father and son came to be. Brian and Levi Shirley, who raced both the East and West series, put on a great show as they went all out on the familiar XRRA courses. Both racing Campbell Enterprises built cars, the high revving action of the father/son matchup was a fan and competitor favorite. Neither made the final rounds due to two-minute banner penalties, and at this event, where three-tenths of a second separated second- and third-place finishers, two minutes may as well have been a lifetime.
|Stan Haynes and the whole team from Branik Motorsports made the trek from Fort Wayne, Indiana. Haynes got a taste of what it feels like to come up a little short on the tricky gap jump.
|The Amsoil/Torchmate sponsored car of Brad Lovell tentatively airs out his Ford Ranger, soaring into first place and earning the national championship title.
Due to the narrow time gaps between the top six finalists, the competitors had to pilot their cars both quickly and prudently to be effective in the last two heats. One slight mistake was the difference between victory and defeat. The last run of the day came down to the Amsoil/Torchmate-sponsored car of Brad Lovell and the Precision Heavy Hauler-sponsored car of Rick Deremo. Going into the finals, Deremo held a slight lead over Lovell, but Lovell was able to take that lead in the first of the final two runs.
|Ralph Mills earned his spot at the finals by placing eighth overall in the Western division. The home-built and mostly self-sponsored racer continued to do well in only his second year of competing.
During the last run of the day, Lovell’s plan was to drive conservatively and not make any mistakes that could cost him the race. Deremo, on the other hand, knew he had time to make up and continued to race as he had done all day – like a madman on a mission. Deremo finished the last heat before Lovell but after calculating all six runs, Lovell was able to squeeze out the victory by a mere seven seconds.
|The Western series champ Shannon Campbell got delayed in one of the technical rock sections. Still able to make the finals, Campbell was unable to bridge the time gap and a costly roll in the finals gave him a sixth-place finish.
|The independent front suspension car of Rick Deremo could be seen flying around the track all day. Deremo abused the car for six heats, and he once again proved his car has what it takes to be competitive in the rock race world.
Now both Lovell brothers have an XRRA national championship under their belt, and another trophy to add to their collection. They will try for a national championship rock crawling title at this year’s Grand Nationals, one of the few rock sport titles that have eluded them.
|Flying over one of the gap jumps is Adam Carter, who's sponsored by The Off-Road Connection. Carter, who was runner up in the Eastern division, took home a fifth-place finish.
XRRA National Finals
Colorado Springs, Colorado
1. Brad Lovell (W)
2. Rick Deremo (W)
3. Derek West (E)
4. Ray Mandell (W)
5. Adam Carter (E)
6. Shannon Campbell (W)