Arizona’s own Ryan Maifield took a well deserved victory in the buggy class at this year’s Dirt Nitro Challenge held at the Fear Farm track in Phoenix, Az. The four day epic marathon of an event ended with glorious sunshine although a bit cold having started out with sleet, snow and hail. Much of Sunday we heard A Main Hobbies driver Austin Blair mentioned race after race, bumping from the bottom of the Pro buggy order all the way to B main – an effort especially worthy of a dignified mention or two. Also due a shoutout, Mark Pavidis – winner of the ‘old dudes’ class – showing the youngsters that despite being dinosaurs, they can still drive like Champions! Also Guillaume Hebert of France – winner of both truck and buggy open classes – perhaps the first ‘international or overseas’ driver to achieve that feat? Great drive from the Nemo, Agama backed racer.
Back to the pros, where Mike Truhe, Carson Wernimont and Dakotah Phend bumped from the B to the A main – Martin Bayer looked to be in with a good chance to make the show but ran out of fuel, the Czech star saying sometimes ‘that’s racing’. A Main’s funnyman Tyler Vik, downbeat to miss the main but always the driver with the biggest smile missed out by 4 secs to a recovering Dakotah Phend, making the final but not fighting at the front. Worlds finalist Ryan Lutz had a weekend to forget as his day finished with a broken car in the C main –below expectations having been leading comfortably in the blustery conditions.
The final got underway as the sun had set to a beautiful pink Arizona sky, an air of anticipation was evident as racers picked ‘their top 3’ finishers – as the tone went Jared Tebo got the holeshot but not the best of starts as Maifield looked hungry and aggressive, on the first lap going up the hill Maifield carried more speed, perhaps nudging Tebo’s – (he may also as a result of the line into the corner not carried enough speed) MP9 in the air, sending it barrel rolling onto it’s roof – he lost what felt like a century of time and once on all 4 wheels, last with some work to do. P3 man Drake cased the step up and allowed Boots to pass. Meanwhile at the front Maifield had the lead with Boots not far behind, the traveling Worlds TQ qualifying 4th and pumped up to show the Americans what one man and his stick radio can make a car do. Chaos ensued behind them as Savoya went tumbling along with other drivers.
It wasn’t long before he pressured Maifield and took the lead, however it wasn’t to last long despite Boots building a comfortable lead very quickly. The leading pair broke away v. easily from the rest as somehow, Tebo had sliced his way into 5th behind Cavalieri in 3rd and Cody King in 4th. Up front Maifield had claimed the lead and had a bit of a gap, enlarged by a series of bobbles from Boots, the leading trio all jumping the center table top with 4th placed Tebo taking the safer shorter landing option, 2nd placed Boots however would be the first retirement of the night with a broken car, a sad end to the Brit’s hopes. Boots’ demise gave Maifield a pretty insurmountable gap which he enlarged to Cavalieri, and so was the pattern for much of the main, Tebo would fight his way past, resist late challenges from Cav in the dying minutes and claim 2nd.
Maifield looked to be in a class of his own, no doubt benefitting from having a clean getaway and running a very consistent, mature pace. Cavalieri took 3rd despite from the looks of things nursing a slightly sick car to the finish – a strong result, Tebo – pumped up after yesterday’s truck result not going his way will curse his luck as the crash on the opening lap came to define the final’s storyline with him not cast as the main protagonist. B main bumper Carson Wernimont took a great 4th, the young Team Durango driver a rare talent, P5 went to Reno Savoya, again he suffered in the start but recovered well. All praise to Joey, Aaron, Curran, Kenny and the whole team for another wonderfully, unforgettable event – it attracted somewhere in the region of 700 entries across many classes, is there a bigger race around?!