The fifteenth running of The Dirt Nitro Challenge, held since 2007 in the (normally) sunny state of Arizona, got off to a rare start: clear and sunny skies carrying through practice yesterday and today’s qualifying rounds for 1/8-Scale Truck, a far cry from last year’s blanket of snow. In typical Joey Christensen fashion, the track is high-speed and littered with obstacles that require full commitment – from the large gap jumps to the many abrupt rhythm sections that place an emphasis on perfect timing. The DNC is well-known for attracting terrible weather, but with no rain falling yet this week and no precipitation in the forecast, the track displayed a deep blue groove when the first round began. Despite the already dry and grooved conditions the track crew has been watering the track between various heats in order to control dust and help maintain the track surface, leaving the drivers with a slick surface at the beginning of the heat that changes their tire strategy.
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The first round of Pro Truck was captured by two-time defending champion Ty Tessmann, driving a Hot Bodies D8T featuring many prototype parts built in conjunction with Pro-Line – that, according to Ty’s father Gord, may see production soon as a “Ty Tessmann Edition” of the multi-championship truck.
As he did at last year’s ROAR Nationals, Tessmann finished just ahead of the new TLR 8IGHT 3.0 of Dakotah Phend – the fastest of the rest of the drivers who simply hoped to start off the weekend with a clean run. Like Tessmann, Phend chose M3 Holeshots in the first round and endured the slick surface after the watering break in order to have his truck work best late in the run as the track began to dry out.
In his first big race for Mugen Seiki Seiki, Drew Moller finished third with a strong run – feeling confident after yesterday’s practice, he simply said that he needed to focus on not making any mistakes. He was joined in the top ten by fellow new Mugen Seiki driver Carson Wernimont, who finished eighth ahead of Arizona youngster Tanner Stees to round out the surprises in the top ten.
1. Ty Tessmann (Hot Bodies/O.S./Pro-Line) – 10/7:20.778
2. Dakotah Phend (TLR/Orion/Pro-Line) – 10/7:21.065
3. Drew Moller (Mugen Seiki/Novarossi/AKA) – 10/7:22.953
4. Jared Tebo (Kyosho/Orion/AKA) – 10/7:25.676
5. Cody King (Kyosho/REDS/Pro-Line) – 10/7:26.157
6. Josh Wheeler (XRAY/O.S./AKA) – 10/7:26.505
7. David Ronnefalk (Kyosho/Orion/AKA) – 10/7:27.899
8. Carson Wernimont (Mugen Seiki/O.S./AKA) – 10/7:29.577
9. Tanner Stees (Hot Bodies/REDS/Pro-Line) – 10/7:30.479
10. Ryan Maifield (Team Associated/Novarossi/JConcepts) – 10/7:33.627
The second round of Pro Truck saw three new names enter the top ten – with Barry Pettit, Cole Ogden, and Ryan Lutz displacing Josh Wheeler, David Ronnefalk, and Tanner Stees. The changing track conditions played a factor, with the TQ run being two seconds slower than the first round, and with the temperature dropping significantly for tonight’s third round the track may only get slower – which could play havoc on those drivers in desperate need of a fast run in order to improve their chances of qualifying for the main event.
Out front in the second round this afternoon was former winner Jared Tebo as he stopped Ty Tessmann from wrapping up the overall TQ by less than one tenth of a second. Ending up in yesterday’s ‘B’ heat after the reseed after practice along with fellow top ten finishers Cody King and Dakotah Phend, Tebo didn’t get off to the best start – and in fact didn’t take over the lead of his heat until a mistake from Phend with four laps to go.
Tessmann had the advantage of watching Tebo’s run, and three laps into the heat was on a TQ pace – it lasted the penultimate lap, when a slight bobble dropped him too far behind despite putting in his fastest lap of the race on the final circuit of the track, though still over a half-second slower than Tebo’s best (Tessmann’s 43.758 to Tebo’s 43.186).
After a strong beginning to his pro career with Team Durango, Carson Wernimont’s first race with Mugen Seiki got off to a great start – especially with a third-place round finish with the MBX6T truck. His father/mechanic Russ, whose company makes custom parts for Harley-Davidson motorcycles, strapped on these aerodynamic Lexan pieces to the truck’s front suspension “just to mess with people” – but they must have worked!
1. Jared Tebo (Kyosho/Orion/AKA) – 10/7:22.247
2. Ty Tessmann (Hot Bodies/O.S./Pro-Line) – 10/7:22.340
3. Carson Wernimont (Mugen Seiki/O.S./AKA) – 10/7:24.899
4. Cody King (Kyosho/REDS/Pro-Line) – 10/7:25.014
5. Drew Moller (Mugen Seiki/Novarossi/AKA) – 10/7:25.297
6. Dakotah Phend (TLR/Orion/Pro-Line) – 10/7:25.538
7. Ryan Maifield (Team Associated/Novarossi/JConcepts) – 10/7:25.603
8. Barry Pettit (Mugen Seiki/Novarossi/JConcepts) – 10/7:26.082
9. Cole Ogden (TLR/REDS/Sweep)– 10/7:30.201
10. Ryan Lutz (Team Durango/Alpha/AKA) – 10/7:30.939
The battle for the overall Top Qualifier honors and valuable advantage heading into Saturday night’s Pro Truck final came down to two former winners, with Ty Tessmann and Jared Tebo splitting the first two rounds on Thursday. As standard operating procedure for the Dirt Nitro Challenge, the heats were run in reverse order in the third round – which meant that Tessmann would be running before Tebo’s heat for the first time all day.
Tessmann did exactly what he needed to do in order to secure the overall; he led the ‘A’ heat from start to finish, finishing nearly four seconds clear of everyone else in his qualifier. Despite the deteriorating track conditions and colder temperatures, Tessmann locked in his second best run of the day (and all three of his runs were within 1.7 seconds of each other – how’s that for consistency?) to start off the third round and put the pressure squarely on Tebo’s shoulders.
Though all eyes may have been on Jared Tebo when the ‘B’ heat hit the track, it was TLR’s Dakotah Phend who stole the show – outrunning the former winner by over two seconds and posing the biggest threat to Tessmann’s TQ time. He slipped off of the pace with just four laps to go PHOTO OF TEBO Jared Tebo’s shot at stealing the TQ from Tessmann lasted just one lap – after two consecutive slow laps to start off the heat outside the top five, Tebo never recovered for a chance to challenge Tessmann’s time. He did, however, get back on track to finish the round in third and erase his first round score – good enough to secure the second spot on the grid for Saturday’s final.
1. Ty Tessmann (HB/O.S./Pro-Line) – 10/7:21.374
2. Dakotah Phend (TLR/Orion/Pro-Line) – 10/7:22.032
3. Jared Tebo (Kyosho/Orion/AKA) – 10/7:24.899
4. Drew Moller (Mugen Seiki/Novarossi/Pro-Line) – 10/7:25.295
5. Mike Truhe (Serpent/TOP/Pro-Line) – 10/7:26.206
6. Cody King (Kyosho/REDS/Pro-Line) – 10/7:26.696
7. Carson Wernimont (Mugen Seiki/O.S./AKA) – 10/7:28.060
8. Adam Drake (TLR/Novarossi/Pro-Line) – 10/7:29.406
9. Ryan Lutz (Team Durango/Alpha/AKA) – 10/7:29.418
10. Barry Pettit (Mugen Seiki/Novarossi/JConcepts) – 10/7:32.490
Inside Ty Tessmann’s Hot Bodies D8T prototype.
Developed in conjunction with Pro-Line Racing, Ty and his father Gord created a few new parts to help take the D8T to the next level – and the formidable pair has been the most dominant in 1/8-Scale Truck for years. It may not look that different underneath the Pro-Line Bulldog 2.0 body, but the smallest of details add up to huge advantages on the racetrack.
Tessmann may have won Pro Truck in each of the last two years, but he’s never done it from the first spot on the grid – which is where he’ll start Saturday night. The 21-year old Canadian was easily the fastest and most consistent driver throughout Thursday’s qualifying rounds and will begin the 45-minute main as the heavy favorite to complete the first-ever DNC three-peat. Though Jared Tebo will start closest to him on the starting grid, the entire A-Main field (to be joined by three bump-ups from the B-Main) is a truly colorful and decorated list. Drew Moller and Carson Wernimont, both in their debuts with Mugen Seiki, will start in the top six and are joined in the final by East Coast teammate Barry Pettit – making Mugen Seiki, with three trucks, the most represented manufacturer in the field after placing zero trucks in the main event last year. Former Silver State Pro Truck winner Cody King, Tebo’s Kyosho teammate, will start fifth after a quietly competitive day netting nine points. Mike Truhe’s first qualifying effort with Team Serpent ended with a solid mid-pack qualifying effort to make the A-Main, a huge victory for one of the smallest teams here – along with Josh Wheeler, who drove his XRAY to into the tenth spot and Ryan Lutz, whose Team Durango truck will line up behind him in eleventh. Ryan Maifield also made the A-Main in his Novarossi debut, and last year’s Pro Truck TQ Adam Drake, despite scoring only one top ten run in the final round, grabbed the last spot in the final.
1. Ty Tessmann (HB/O.S./Pro-Line) – 0 points
2. Jared Tebo (Kyosho/Orion/AKA) – 3 points
3. Dakotah Phend (TLR/Orion/Pro-Line) – 4 points
4. Drew Moller – (Mugen Seiki/Novarossi/Pro-Line) – 7 points
5. Cody King (Kyosho/REDS/Pro-Line) – 9 points
6. Carson Wernimont (Mugen Seiki/O.S./AKA) – 10 points
7. Mike Truhe (Serpent/TOP/Pro-Line) – 16 points
8. Ryan Maifield (Team Associated/Novarossi/JConcepts) – 17 points
9. Barry Pettit (Mugen Seiki/Novarossi/JConcepts) – 18 points
10. Josh Wheeler (XRAY/O.S./AKA) – 18 points
11. Ryan Lutz – (Team Durango/Alpha/AKA) – 19 points
12. Adam Drake – (TLR/Novarossi/Pro-Line) – 21 points