The 2018 SPEED Energy Stadium Super Trucks season came to a close with the Robby Gordon Off-Road World Championships at Glen Helen Raceway. By the end of the two-race weekend, Jeff Hoffman and Gavin Harlien were on top.
2018 marked the inaugural year of the Robby Gordon Off-Road World Championships at Glen Helen in San Bernardino, California after being announced in August. As part of the festivities, other disciplines like motocross, off-road buggies, UTVs, and a jump contest were held.
Two-time SST champion and newly-crowned ARCA Racing Series champ Sheldon Creed made his return to the series for the weekend for the first time since Lake Elsinore in January, driving the #57 UFD Racing truck for Bill Hynes. Casey Mears and Arie Luyendyk Jr. also rejoined the series, while Jerett Brooks returned for his first SST race since Lake Elsinore.
After rain plagued practice on Thursday, qualifying was held on Friday. Creed was the fastest with a lap time of 1:53.102, followed by Hoffman 1:55.099), Blade Hildebrand (1:55.452), Cole Potts 1:55.509), Brooks (1:55.590), Luyendyk (1:57:225), Harlien (1:57.423), Gordon (1:57.627), Matt Brabham (1:57.683), Aaron Bambach (1:59.774), Mears (2:05.711), and Erik Davis (2:07.951).
The bottom six drivers in qualifying were placed on the front row in a land rush start. Gordon quickly jumped to the lead with Brooks in tow.
On the hill on lap two, Gordon rolled his truck before Creed bumped him back onto his wheels, an incident that race commentator Sean Sermini joked was a gesture of appreciation for Gordon’s support of Creed over his career.
Creed took the lead on lap three.
After the race resumed following the lap five competition caution, Gordon and Brooks exited the race with damage to their trucks. Moments later, Bambach nearly flipped his truck but continued as Brabham entered the podium position.
Potts eventually rolled over onto his side; he had spent much of his run with his hood popped up. As a result, race officials elected to call a local caution as the race continued.
Hoffman moved up to second and began chasing Creed down. When Creed passed him, Potts was able to be placed back on his wheels.
Despite Creed’s domination, his truck stopped on the final lap with a motor issue, which Hoffman capitalized on to pull ahead and score the win. It is his second career win and first since Perth in May. Brabham took second and Luyendyk third, followed by Harlien and Davis. Creed settled for sixth, followed by Hildebrand, Potts, Bambach, Gordon, Brooks, and Mears.
“We qualified second this morning, so we started second row, took off, ended up getting into the back of someone in turn one, hood came off,” Hoffman stated. “I ended up spinning it out in turn three and I was like, ‘Oh jeez, this is over,’ but no. Ended up coming back, made a couple more passes, and then Sheldon just slowly died off on the last lap and I ended up getting by him. Sucks for him, hopefully they can get it finished up for tomorrow and he can be back out here because he definitely had that one locked up.”
When asked about his improving performance at off-road courses, Brabham commented, “I’m getting there. I wouldn’t say I’m as good as Sheldon and the Hoff and those guys that kick it up front. They were unbelievable today and I didn’t have the pace that they did; I just survived. That was an absolutely insane race.
“From a driver’s cockpit, all you’re seeing is dirt in your face, cars getting on two wheels everywhere, and people breaking stuff and crashing into each other. I’ve never seen so much entertainment in such a small amount of time my whole entire life. I was just glad I got through and I was lucky, and congrats to the Hoff; he was charging through. He passed me like I was nothing, sailed off into the distance. I’m stoked for second, that’s awesome.”
“It was pretty much mayhem out there,” Luyendyk said. “Survival of the fittest. Typical off-road race. The Hoff was really quick, he had some mistakes up there, but he just kept pulling me.
“It feels good, though, I’m really stoked for third. I’m bummed for Sheldon, he broke down right before the finish. […] The soft dirt and the climb of these hills is hard on the truck, but what a show. It’s pretty awesome. I had the best seat in the house, though, for sure.”
Bambach’s #3 truck did not start Sunday’s race.
Seeking his first career win, Hildebrand began to tail Brooks as Gordon ran third. Hildebrand briefly led until Brooks took the Joker Lap.
At the competition caution, Creed exited the race with mechanical problems. On the hill, Davis nearly rolled before sticking the landing. Brooks eventually spun and broke an axle, eliminating him from the race as Hildebrand inherited the lead.
Davis flipped onto his right side, pausing the race. At the time, the top three consisted of Hildebrand, Gordon, and Hoffman. Racing resumed with two laps to go as Hildebrand continued to lead. On the final lap, Hildebrand spun and Hoffman fell off the pace, prompting Harlien to take advantage and score the victory.
Brabham took second, ahead of Hoffman, Hildebrand, Gordon, Potts, Davis, Brooks, Creed, Mears, and Luyendyk.
“My race was crazy right off the bat,” Hoffman said. “Gavin and I got tangled up right here. We did a full restart, I think I was running third for most of the race behind Robby; he ended up pulling off. I just played it smart, honestly, the last one was to survive out here.”
“It’s so good to be back on the podium on a dirt race,” Brabham stated. “This is unfamiliar territory for me, so to get the DeVilbiss truck, Ford Performance, and all my sponsors up on the box is phenomenal. I’m just stoked to be up here. Obviously, I’m not on the same level on dirt as these guys like Gavin, Hoff, Sheldon, and Robby, they were just going crazy up front. But I was just lucky to survive, that was it. We survived the race and the last one standing are the one up on the podium.
“It was pretty cool. The last lap, Gavin and I had gone for the championship, we were the last two left pretty much on the track going for it, so it’s pretty special. I had a good time.”
“The race was full of carnage, it was wild,” Harlien said. “I did not expect to win, to be honest. I didn’t even know I was in first coming to the checkered, but just survive. I don’t even know how many trucks finished, but you just got to take care of your equipment but still be fast at the same time, and that’s what I did in the UFD truck.”
Harlien intends to return for another full campaign in 2019. “Still trying to battle for this championship. I’m looking forward to next year so I can get in the lead and not have to chase down Matty again,” Harlien added. “Super impressed with Matty, he’s a dirt driver now. I think we’re going to be battling for the championship once again in 2019.”