After 19 rounds across three continents, the 2017 SPEED Energy Stadium Super Trucks season came to a close with the inaugural Race & Rock World Championship at the Lake Elsinore Diamond Stadium in Lake Elsinore, California. 16 drivers comprised the field, with Matt Brabham, Paul Morris, and Robby Gordon battling for the championship; entering the weekend, Brabham held a 12-point advantage over Morris and led Gordon by 31. However, Morris was replaced by Jerrett Brooks – a Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series veteran who won an SST race at Crandon International Off-Road Raceway in 2013 – for the weekend, with points earned by Brooks went to Morris. Other notable faces in the grid included two-time series champion Sheldon Creed, four-time AMA Supercross 450cc champion Ryan Villopoto, 2014 X Games gold medalist Apdaly Lopez, motocross rider Sara Price, Trans-Am driver Adam Andretti, and NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Casey Mears; the World Championship marked Villopoto, Andretti, and Mears’ SST debuts.
Two races were held, one each on Friday and Saturday, with a practice session, an off-road expo, and qualifying preceding Friday’s racing. Two eight-lap heat races determined the starting grid for the feature event, which lasted 14 laps with a competition caution midway; drivers were required to take the Joker Lap once per half. Mears’ father, off-road racing legend Roger, served as the grand marshal for the event.
The first heat consisted of Mears, Lopez, Burt Jenner, Arie Luyendyk Jr., Brooks, Greg Adler, Price, and Andretti. Mears led the race early until Lopez passed him, and Mears began to fall when Luyendyk passed him for 2nd. When the white flag came out, Adler rolled his truck while attempting to race Mears, bringing out the yellow flag and setting up a one-lap dash to the finish. Brooks took the lead for the restart, but flipped after just two turns. Lopez eventually won the heat; behind him, Adler hit the wall, while Mears got stuck in a turn and forced four other trucks to stop. Behind him were Luyendyk, Brooks, Price, Jenner, Andretti, Mears, and Adler.
The second heat featured Villopoto, Jeff Hoffman, Brabham, Creed, Gavin Harlien, Gordon, Bill Hynes, and Erik Davis. Hoffman quickly took the lead from Villopoto when the Supercross champ went wide in the turn, while Creed began battling with Brabham before the latter pulled off to take the crossover jump. With Brabham running a different lane, Creed was met by Hoffman, but held him off to win the heat. Following were Gordon, Hoffman, Brabham, Hynes, Villopoto, Davis, and Harlien. Mears, Adler, Davis, and Andretti failed to qualify for the Feature.
Luyendyk started the Feature on the pole, but Lopez – who started third – quickly moved up to the front. After three laps, Hoffman retired from the race for mechanical problems, with Hynes and Villopoto doing the same on laps five and eight, respectively. Lopez would go on to win his first race since the 2014 X Games, while the two series champions Creed and Gordon joined him on the podium. Harlien, Brabham, Jenner, Luyendyk, Brooks, and Price rounded out the finishing trucks.
Entering Saturday’s racing, Brabham’s lead over Morris/Brooks had grown to 15 points. The first heat’s grid featured Creed, Adler, Gordon, Brabham, Harlien, Villopoto, and Hynes. Jenner did not appear in the race due to technical problems. Creed led the entire race; as he came to take the white flag, Hynes became the first flip of the day when he rolled his #57. During the caution, Brabham reported issues with his truck, which jumper cables failed to fix and forced him to be towed off. Creed continued to lead as Adler dropped to fourth following a pass by Gordon and Harlien in one turn, the latter landing on Gordon following a jump and maintaining second. Behind the four were Villopoto and Hynes.
Heat #2 saw a grid of Price, Mears, Lopez, Luyendyk, Brooks, Hoffman, Davis, and Andretti. Price built an early lead over Mears as Lopez and Hoffman took the Joker Lap, granting the former momentum and a lack of opposition in front. Mears eventually took the lead from Price with a move on her inside as Brooks did the same, though Mears lost the position when he entered a turn too deep. The NASCAR veteran eventually took the Joker, and began closing in on Lopez, whose truck appeared to have problems that continued to the end of the race. Davis rolled his truck to bring out the yellow flag, though he was able to continue upon being rolled back. When the race resumed, Brooks established himself as the dominant truck as he won the heat, with Lopez, Mears, Hoffman, Luyendyk, Price, Andretti, and Davis in tow. In spite of Brabham’s problem in the heat, he was able to finish second in the Last Chance Qualifier behind Luyendyk to transfer into the Feature to keep his championship hopes alive.
Gordon started the Feature on the pole and led the first lap before Lopez attempted to pass him, instead getting caught in a turn and allowing Harlien to take the lead. Gordon quickly retook the position as he faced pressure from Brooks. Creed was the first drive to take the Joker Lap, which eventually put him in first. Brooks also passed Gordon to take second. At the competition caution on lap seven, Creed led Brooks, Gordon, Harlien, Luyendyk, Hoffman, Brabham, Adler, Mears, Andretti, and Villopoto.
On the first lap of the second half, Creed and Brooks ran the Joker and isolated themselves from the rest of the field, as did Luyendyk, Brabham, and Mears. As Brooks chased Creed to the white flag, Brabham ran his Joker Lap; during the lap, Lopez flipped his truck but kept it driving. Brooks could not catch up to the two-time champion as Creed claimed his 33rd win in the series. Gordon joined the two on the podium; behind the three were Hoffman, Mears, Adler, Harlien, and Brabham. Villopoto, Lopez, and Andretti retired from the race.
With Brooks’ second-place finish, he is expected to have clinched the championship for Morris’ #67.
“Me and Creed, we go way back from when we were buddies,” Brooks stated during post-race interviews. “That’s one of the most fun battles I’ve had.”
“That was pretty rad. That’s what Stadium Super Trucks is all about,” Creed said. Although he will run the full ARCA Racing Series schedule in 2018 with MDM Motorsports in addition to other asphalt events, he also announced his intention to “play around in Stadium Super Trucks when [he is] not busy.”
In 2018, the SPEED Energy Stadium Super Trucks will return for its sixth season from March 2–4, racing in the Clipsal 500 weekend at Adelaide Street Circuit.