2019 4WP Nitto Nationals -- Race Recap

Battles Fought and Won At the 2019 Ultra4 Season Finale: The 4WP Nitto National Championships

Photos by Ryan Del Ponte of The Redline Projects

There's nothing quite like an Ultra4 season finale – with high horsepower, points on the line, an enormous and excited crowd, and last battles to be hashed out on and off the dirt. The 2019 4WP Nitto Nationals, held at Wild West Motorsports Park this past weekend, was no exception!

Qualifying:

Similar to Stampede, the Ultra4 Nationals combines qualifying, prelims, and main races for two full days of racing action. Following the Thursday afternoon and Friday morning practices, qualifying kicked off at 2pm with incredible excitement.

With two cars on the track at a time, all classes were pinned against the clock as they took on a single lap of the short course portion of the Wild West track. First out of the gate was the Can-Am UTV class with heavy hitters like Casey Scherer, Jamie McCoy, Anthony Yount, Travis Zollinger, Jacob Versey and Dustin Robbins all looking to put their best times down and earn themselves the best starting positions possible for Saturday's prelims. Next on the track was the smaller but ever-fierce Spidertrax 4600 Stock Class with drivers like Dawson Allington, Josh Atteberry, Jon Snell, the McNamara boys and Jesse Haines attempting to put their best times down on the dirt.

Following the 4600 Stock Class into qualifying was the Yukon 4500 Modified Class and the 4800 Branik Motorsports Legends Class, touting drivers like Justin Hall, Dan Fresh, Kevin Stearns, Shawn Rants Sr., Dave and Bailey Cole, Casey Gilbert, Arturo Soria, David Hartman and Cade Rodd.

Last, but certainly not least, the Ultra4 4400 Class hit the track with everyone from the Cambells, Bryan Crofts, Levi Shirley, Dan Wyrick, and Loren Healy (sitting in for Vaughn Gittin Jr.), to the Gomez Brothers, Paul Horschel, Mike Bou, the Blylers, and Erik Miller all looking for top times.

Pushing hard led to a number of victories throughout qualifying as well as a number of fumbles. Coming to the end of his impressive qualifying lap, Casey Scherer launched his car off the first set of rocks on the front straight only to go end-over-end, causing injury to himself and the car so much they called their race. Other tumbles included Rusty Blyler's bicycle-turned flip over the K-rail, which only stalled him momentarily before he was off running again; Jeff McCullough's cartwheels near the finish line; and Brenden Thompson's qualifying-ending somersault.

In the end, over 90 cars went through qualifying, solidifying their preliminary orders (and battles) for Saturday.

All qualifying results can be found HERE! You can also re-watch the LIVE qualifying action HERE and HERE!

Race Day:

Race Day got off to an early (and chilly) start Saturday morning at 7am, starting with the Limited Classes drivers meeting. Shortly after the meeting adjourned, the UTVs took to the track in qualifying order for a fast 7-lap race around the short course to determine starting order for their Main later in the day. It was apparent early on that the battle between racers was on hot and heavy, resulting in some low 2-minute lap times among many of the top competitors. When the white flag dropped, it was Cole Clark's race to lose, but he maintained his lead to start in first place for the Main.

Next up was the 4600 Class, also taking on a 7-lap race on the short course, led out of the gate by Dawson Allington. Fighting for points, the top contenders battled it out in true “rubbing is racing” fashion, resulting in just two competitors finishing all seven laps. Taking the checkered flag first was Jon Schaefer, two minutes ahead of Allington on the lead lap.

By the time the 4500 Class hit the track for their prelim, the stands were full of eager fans to cheer them on. Taking on not only the short course but also the long hill climb and new switchback cut from Top Rocks to the bottom of the valley for their preliminary round, the 4500 Class was in immediate battle mode as Justin Hall fought to keep his pole position against 12 other anxious drivers all wanting to take his spot in their main race. Unfortunately, Hall wasn't able to fight off all the competition and fell back about mid-pack, finishing the prelim in fifth place. Switching places with Hall was John Mathews, who moved from fourth off the line to first, taking the checkers for the 4500 Class prelim.

The 4800 Class prelim proved to be just as exciting as the rest of the morning. First off the line was Casey Gilbert, or Erik Miller driving Gilbert's car rather, after Gilbert stepped out of his car in lineup wrong and broke his foot. Following Miller out of the gate was Gilbert's closest National Points rival Bailey Cole, followed by Cade Rodd, David Hartman, Arturo Soria and Jeremy Jones, all looking to take the first-place starting position from Gilbert for their main race.

Though Miller fought hard to keep Gilbert's pole position, the 7-lap full-course race proved to be a tough one on Gilbert's tires, causing Miller to have to pit three times due to flats and pushing him back in the pack to third when it came to the finish. Out ahead when the checkers flew was Bailey Cole, who finished his full final lap on just three wheels (wow, what a sight to see!), followed by Arturo Soria, who, in a last push through the rocks on the front straight, was able to secure second place just ahead of the Miller/Gilbert car duo.

Following the UTV and Limited classes prelims, the three heats of the 4400 prelims kicked off. Broken up by qualifying results so that the top three drivers from the afternoon before all led individual heats out of the gate, Heat 1 saw Dan Wyrick and fellow UFO chassis driver Marcos Gomez go head-to-head off the line, with the likes of Loren Healy (driving for Vaughn), Paul Horschel, Ian Koentges and Josh Blyler, among others, chomping at their heels. After a hard-fought battle of seven laps, it was Horschel that took the checkers in the first heat.

Heat 2 was led by Shannon Campbell, lined up to go off the line right next to his future son-in-law, Bryan Crofts. It was a battle royale for the first lap, with Shannon keeping the rest of the pack, including the Campbell kids, at bay until he lost a tire and was ultimately passed by Crofts in the MBRP Rocks. From there, it looked like Crofts would take the win as he continued to increase his gap on the rest of the field. But Crofts' luck changed when going into his seventh and final lap, he lost a rear wheel assembly, brakes and all, causing him to have to retire right after the first down-hill rocks. Fortunately, his performance throughout Heat 2 gave him enough ground to go through to the finals without having to fight it out in B Main or LCQ. Taking the checkers after Crofts retired was Rusty Blyler.

Heat 3 was just as packed with heavy hitters, as Raul Gomez led the pack off the starting line, followed by Erik Miller, Levi Shirley, JP Gomez and Cody Addington, all vying for positions. Unfortunately, Raul's lead didn't stick for very long as he suffered a mechanical failure on lap 2. This was enough to let Miller, Shirley, JP Gomez and many others by. When the checkers dropped, it was Raul's brother JP who took top honors.

Only seven racers from each heat moved on to the main, leaving 15 drivers to battle it out in B Main for their chance to compete in the final 4400 race (all prelim results can be found HERE).

Following the three 4400 Class prelim heats, the UTV Main got underway. With just 11 laps on the short course between the first drop of the green flag and the wave of the checkers, the battle for position was on as soon as the UTVs hit the first set of rocks on the front straight.

True wheel-to-wheel racing action ensued, with Cole Clark defending his front position with everything he had. By the time the front-runners hit their ninth lap, nearly half of the field had broke, gotten snarled up, or had otherwise retired, leaving room for the top seven finishing positions to battle it out to the end. When all was said and done, Clark was able to defend his position and come away with the win, followed by Jamie McCoy in second and Jacob Versey in third.

With 15 4400 Class competitors still itching to make it into their main race, the 4400 Class B Main was next, pinning eighth through twelfth from the first three heats against one another with competitors vying for just five spots moving on to the Main. Following mechanical failures, flat tires, somersaults and ultimately bad luck in the first heats, competitors like Raul Gomez, Shannon Campbell, Dan Wyrick, Kyle Wickham, Alex Wacker and Jeff McCullough, to name a few, went into B Main with no holds barred, making it anyone's race to win.

After seven laps, it was Raul Gomez who took the top position. Coming in after Raul was Kyle Wickham, Dan Wyrick, Shannon Campbell and Ian Koentges, leaving the rest of the field just one last chance to qualify into the Main.

The 7-lap 4600 Stock Class main race kicked off next, with Dawson Allington leading everyone off the starting line. Vying for points and position, the Stock class tackled the rocks and go-fast sections with drive and determination. Though the class only competed on the short course portion of the track, it proved an exciting race with true skill on display.

In the end, it was Dawson Allington atop the podium, followed by Jesse Haines in second and Bill Schultz in third.

Next up was the 4500 Modified Class main race, an 8-lap race covering both the short course and the hill section of the track. After winning in the 4500 prelim, John Mathews had the honor of leading the field out onto their parade lap and off the start line. From there, it was every man for himself, as the class's top drivers battled it out for national points and ultimate bragging rights.

When the checkers dropped, it was Dave Cole (driving for Dustyn Friesen) who took the win, having fought his way up from the very back of the pack after not racing in the class's prelim. Following him up into a podium position was Jesse Oliver, who fought his way up from mid-pack, and Dan Fresh who also fought his way from the back of the pack after only finishing one lap in the prelim earlier in the day.

Once the 4500 Class had cleared the course, it was the 4800 Legends Class's turn to show off their skills. First off the line was Bailey Cole, side-by-side with Arturo Soria and directly tailed by Erik Miller driving Casey Gilbert's car. As soon as the green flag dropped, it was a race to see who could survive and finish seven full-course laps in the shortest amount of time.

In the end, it was Cole who proved the quickest to complete seven laps, taking first place. Following Cole to the checkers, Kyle Wickham proved a strong competitor with a second-place finish, followed by David Hartman in third.

With the 4400 Class Main nearing its start, just one race remained – the 4400 Class Last Chance Qualifier. With others broken or having already called their race, just five competitors took to the track for the 2-lap race, vying for just two positions that would move on to the Main.

The battle was brutal and quick, but when the dust finally settled, it was Alex Wacker and Jeff McCullough who earned their spots in the Main.

The last race of the day kicked off with the singing of the National Anthem and driver introductions for the 28 competitors who had fought their way into the 4400 Class Main. When the green flag dropped, it was JP Gomez and Rusty Blyler up front working to defend their positions, while the rest of the pack jockeyed for clean air and their preferred lines around the course.

Eleven laps was all the competitors had to make their moves and ultimately solidify their placements and points at the season finale. When all was said and done, Cody Addington took the checkers, followed by Mike Bou and Loren Healy for Vaughn Gittin Jr.

A huge congratulations goes out to all of our podium finishers from the 2019 4WP National Championships, as well as our 2019 Nitto National Champions who fought all year long, race after race, to garner top honors in their classes for the 2019 race season.

Be sure to check out the full race day results HERE and the live show of all the racing action HERE!