On Saturday, Texas Motor Speedway hosted the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Rainguard Water Sealers 600 weekend. In conjunction with the event, two truck-based racing series joined IndyCar as undercard events: the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ winstaronlinegaming.com 400 on Friday and two SPEED Energy Stadium Super Truck races on Saturday, taking place 30 minutes before and after the 600.
The date was announced in August 2016, with SST founder Robby Gordon and TMS president Eddie Gossage revealing the news together. The news came a week after the series raced at the dirt track of Texas’ Speedway Motorsports Incorporated sister track, Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“When you think of Texas two things come to mind: trucks and things that are big,” Gordon stated. “Stadium Super Trucks gives you both, with the excitement of competitive door-to-door racing with big air.”
For the race, TMS unveiled a nine-turn dirt/asphalt circuit utilizing parts of the tri-oval, pit road and legends car short track. Four jumps were included, including a crossover in the dirt portion residing near turn two. The turn two location became the site of the track’s “Off-Road Ruckus” expo, where fans would be permitted to drive their off-road vehicles (with approval from track officials) along an obstacle course, as well as observe various exhibits relating to off-road racing.
Friday’s morning practice session was canceled due to rain, though skies cleared up in time for the Camping World Truck Series race later that evening. 15 minutes after the race’s conclusion, the Stadium Super Trucks practiced under the lights for half an hour. Points leader Paul Morris was the fastest during qualifying with a time of 55.26 seconds, but an inverted grid meant he started at the rear of the field and Erik Davis (58.92) started 1st for Race #1 alongside Bill Hynes (58.13).
Gordon, who started 6th, quickly moved his way up the field with Gavin Harlien (7th) and Sheldon Creed (10th) in tow; by lap five, the three were in podium position. On the other hand, the #75 Always Evolving truck of Davis began to fall, and his day came to an end in bizarre fashion on lap four: as he entered a jump, his truck turned and instead got stuck on the SAFER barrier dividing the oval from the infield course. The red flag was waved to allow track officials to remove Davis’ truck from the track. The red flag also shortened the race to nine laps.
When the race resumed, P.J. Jones started his charge to the lead, aggressively moving up front. With five minutes remaining, he took the lead from Gordon and went on to record his fourth career SST win and first since the Sand Sports Super Show in 2015. Gordon finished 2nd, followed by Harlien, Morris, Matt Brabham, Jeff Hoffman, Arie Luyendyk Jr., Hynes and Sheldon Creed (who finished a lap down). However, Jones’ driving style proved to be costly in the end, as he was penalized three weekend points.
Initially scheduled to take place at 10:15 PM local time, the 15-lap Race #2 was delayed by an hour as the IndyCar Series race ran longer than expected, instead starting at 11:20 PM, the first SST race at night since the 2015 season finale at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Event Center. With the grid being a slight inversion of Race #1’s finishing order, Davis and Creed started on the front row, while Jones and Morris started at the back.
For the second race, SST introduced a Joker Lane in the infield, which allowed drivers to bypass the off-road section and instead take a shorter asphalt section, but were still required to jump the crossover ramp. Divided into three segments, drivers were also required to take the Joker at least once per stage. Another addition to the track was a second ramp over the pit wall.
A slow start by Creed did not impede his progress as he and three other trucks (Harlien, Morris and Jones) took the Joker Lap to take the lead. Creed would lead every lap in the first segment with Harlien tailing him in 2nd. By the first competition caution on lap five, Creed, Harlien, Hoffman and Morris comprised the top-4. As he came to the green flag, Creed intentionally slowed down to force the rest of the field to stack up before he accelerated, allowing him to pull away. The top-4 took the Joker Lap on the first lap of the second stage and remained in their same positions. During the segment, Luyendyk drove off-course and knocked over cones, prompting the booth to joke about him driving a John Deere and speculation about penalties as doing so could result in losing positions.
Creed remained the leader when the second competition caution came out, with Harlien, Gordon and Hoffman behind him. The two-time champion performed the same strategy as earlier at the green flag, bunching up the grid before taking off. As Creed and Harlien remained in the top-2, Brabham passed Gordon for 3rd on lap 11. Brabham and Gordon continued their battle for the position before the former made the pass with two laps to go. Just hours removed from arriving in Fort Worth after running Friday’s ARCA Racing Series race at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania, Creed would continue his domination to win his 32nd career SST race. Harlien finished 2nd to record his sixth consecutive podium finish, followed by Brabham, Gordon, Hoffman, Jones, Davis, Luyendyk, Morris and Hynes.
“Hopefully, I can be in this Winner’s Circle one day in a (NASCAR) Cup car,” Creed remarked in Victory Lane.
Next week, the Stadium Super Trucks return to Australia, though running at Hidden Valley Raceway for the first time in series history as a support for the Virgin Supercars’ Darwin Triple Crown. Three races will be held from June 16–18.
Featured image courtesy of StadiumSuperTrucks