DirtSportsMag.com Feature: "My Race" With Brad Lovell
Jellico, Tennessee, is a long way from home. It is a long way to drive for a one-day event that could end quickly with a broken truck. This is what I kept telling myself as we headed east. There was word that we would be running extra laps to bolster overall race times but 23 hours in the hauler adds up. Little did I know that by the end of race day I would be emotionally exhausted and feeling like I just stepped off a battlefield. Here is our story from the race.
#32 DirtLogic Ranger
Roger’s season has been marked by ups and downs. He’ll have a lightning-fast run and then succumb to vapor lock at the starting line for the next race. In one form or fashion, cooling problems have plagued him all year. Being that this was a one-off event, we decided to try something new and put my wife, Natalie, in the co-driver seat. Natalie had done a great job for me earlier in the year at the ROC Race in Colorado Springs. She is very vocal and aggressive, something that might make Roger run a bit harder.
Their first run went well and was a good test of the communication. It seemed they felt confident working as a team. After debriefing and watching the course closely, Roger was ready to turn it on. His second run was some of the best driving I have seen from him. He absolutely pushed the Dirtlogic Ford to the limit. Several times he was on two wheels, slinging around a turn or mashing through the rocks. Natalie could be heard over the engine, giving commands. Their time was about 15 seconds slower than mine, but I have no reason to think anyone could get the truck to the finish line any faster. They were poised for a trip to the finals if they could pull together for the rest of the day.
The third race started in fast fashion and #32 darted around the first couple corners to the backstretch. As the crowd waited, the truck failed to materialize, and the safety crew could be seen running to the scene. When I got there I saw Roger (now DQ’d) climbing up the slope and back on to the course. Apparently, the truck barrel rolled off the course after stabbing a large hole on the outside of a curve. Their hopes of defending the 2007 championship faded with the misstep, and the team failed to qualify in the top six. Undeterred, Roger put on a great show to the delight of the crowd, and he is finding the limits of the vehicle.
#232 Fabtech Ranger
We have talked all year about how fast, stable, and capable this vehicle is, and it continued to shine at this event. High-horsepower moon buggies are hard to beat, but this truck can hang with them. As long as I control it adequately, the #232 Ford will do its part. I did not use a co-driver for this event, which seemed the best choice for the relatively fast course. As luck would have it, I was once again at the start of the field and sprung out of the gate toward the jumps and boulders. It was a frantic attempt and I sawed back and forth on the wheel. I brutally smashed the truck into rock after rock, and felt like a pinball. In retrospect, I was going too fast, but the adrenaline had control. I finished, and it felt too early to concentrate on times. The loose rock and sharp edges pummeled driver after driver as the course got beat down.
I was convinced I needed a bit more control for my run in Lane #2. As always, I was telling myself “you need to finish to win.” Off the line, over the jump, up the dirt, down the rocks - I can replay the whole course in my head, and I didn’t make any mistakes on this run. I could have been faster in some sections, but it was not worth the gamble. I set the fast time and started to feel in control of the race. The afternoon runs went in similar fashion, and I felt comfortable that I had a spot in the finals.
I qualified number two for the finals, 11 seconds behind Shannon Campbell and seven seconds in front of Rick Dermo. I remember telling a reporter that “this is where it gets exciting,” and he was not disappointed. I lined up against Shannon and made up the 11 seconds on the first of two races. I was in the fast lane for this round, but now we were dead even with one race left. With only minutes until our next run, I stayed in the truck while Natalie looked for damage. Everything was looking good until the engine died.
Assuming low fuel we scrambled to find some. Fellow racer JT Taylor came to our aid with a gas can and after some time, it again ran correctly. I pulled up to the start line and as I staged the engine started to act up again. With only two minutes to fix the issue, Natalie exploded into action. As she literally ripped the hood off, an army of fellow racers came to our aid. Again, JT Taylor helped out and diagnosed vapor lock. He cooled the fuel pump and with seconds remaining, the engine again came to life.
I was shaken by the near disaster but able to regain my focus. In the slower of the two lanes the Fabtech Ranger put everything it had to the ground. I was so fast that I stayed even with Shannon on the first lap and avoided his dust. It all came down to the last lap! We were neck and neck going into the jumps, and I lost sight of Shannon. Through the rocks and turns we went, but Shannon was able to avoid any further mistakes and reach the finish line first. It was a heartbreaker to come so close to winning the championship after Roger had done so the previous year, but I was lucky to have a running truck for the final round. Second place felt pretty good in this extremely competitive field.
Is It Over Already?
The 2008 Rock Sport season has come to a close. We didn’t end up victorious in every event but we racked up four wins and a season championship. The new truck has set the standard for two seaters, and when we avoided massive mechanical failure we were on the podium. We have had a lot of great races this year, and as a team need to extend a sincere thank you to all our supporters, including Fabtech, AMSOIL, BFGoodrich, Art Carr Performance Products, K&N Filters, Alloy USA, and Spidertrax.
We won’t be quiet for long as we prepare for the biggest and longest rock race yet – 2009 King of the Hammers.
All the best,