My Car Quest

November 23, 2017

SPEED Stadium SUPER Truck Event At The Grand Prix At The Glen

by Derek Meluzio –

A very special “thank you” goes to both Don M. and especially Mike G. for letting me contribute to such a wonderful automotive website. For quite some time now I have been reading the articles on My Car Quest and enjoying them. Now getting to contribute and share my experience is quite an honor.

When you think of Watkins Glen International many long time motorsports lovers think of top level world class open wheel racing. Growing up I always heard about and saw pictures from the golden era of the United States Grand Prix.

Legends such as Graham Hill, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, and James Hunt all visited victory lane at the famous track located in the Finger Lakes region throughout the 60’s and 70’s. The track and the race gained so much notoriety over the years it really became more or an event or a happening where thousands and thousands of fans flocked to see motorsports at its best.

Robby Gordon's truck

Robby Gordon’s blue and white Safecraft Safety Equipment truck

More recently the Verizon Indycar Series has been working hard to re-establish the tradition of top level open wheel racing at “The Glen”. The Grand Prix at the Glen has been held eight times in the modern era. The race has been won by some famous teams and drivers in IRL and Indycar. Some of them include Chip Ganassi Racing, Penske Racing, Andretti Autosport, Scott Dixon, Will Power, and most recently former Formula One driver and recent Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi.

Robby Gordon's truck

Robby Gordon in the same truck launching off of a ramp on the front straight

With all that being said, I knew when I made plans to take my family to the race Labor Day weekend we were in for a treat. I expected and knew we would be seeing some of the best that open wheel racing had to offer in the United States.

Modern day Indycars really are quite amazing. They are so fast and so loud. Watkins Glen recently spent a large amount of money repaving the track and it makes them even more impressive to watch. The speeds are that much higher and the lap times are that much quicker.

They are impressive on the straightaway but seeing them go through the esses and the bus stop chicane so fast was mind boggling.

The race itself was wonderful. Rain threatened but thank goodness never arrived and fans were treated to some good weather and great action on the track. 2016 Indy 500 champion Alexander Rossi dominated the weekend and took the win on Sunday for Andretti Herta Autosport.

It was a great event. Beforehand, I figured it would be amazing, and it was. Oddly enough, what I wasn’t expecting to witness that weekend is exactly what I am telling you about and sharing with you now. The track and the event made a late addition to the list of series that were participating. The Verizon Indycar Series would headline the show with the usual support from the Mazda Indy Lights series, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Series, and the Mazda MX-5 Cup.

Matt Brabham's truck

Matt Brabham’s orange DeVILBISS truck

What no one was expecting was that Robby Gordon’s SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Trucks World Championship would in fact share the same surface as the Indycars and race on the famed road course!

After multiple events around the United States, in China, and in Australia, the SUPER Truck series held practice, qualifying and two main event races that weekend at Watkins Glen International. One race was on Saturday, and one was on Sunday just prior to the start of the Verizon Indycar Grand prix at the Glen.

Prior to that weekend I had seen Stadium SUPER Truck type vehicles race on TV before. Usually it was in the Baja 1000, at various off road events, and even in the Dakar Rally. As I did some research online I learned more about the series founded by off road and road racing legend Robby Gordon (keep in mind Robby is most famous for off road racing but he is a multiple time winner of the 24 Hours of Daytona as well).

Robby Gordon and Derek Meluzio

The author and Robby Gordon

Robby has his series visit a variety of venues. Some are true stadium races, some are like a rallycross event and combine a traditional road course with off road or infield portions, and many of them are even held at street courses like in Detroit or at the Long Beach Grand Prix.

For this event the trucks would race entirely on the asphalt using the Watkins Glen NASCAR short course but the series threw in multiple large steel ramps for some added excitement. The trucks used are high horsepower identically prepared beasts that are capable of fast top speeds but also handling tight corners and the series signature ramps.

The entry list had quite a few big name drivers on it. Obviously the biggest name was series founder and off road legend Robby Gordon. After that though, many people would recognize a few drivers who were looking to defeat the former Watkins Glen winner (Gordon won the 2003 NASCAR race at the Glen).

Series points leader Matt Brabham was entered. Fans recognize that name as Matt is the son of IMSA GTP champion Geoff Brabham and the grandson of three time Formula One World Champion Sir Jack Brabham. Indycar fans enjoyed seeing Matt race because they know him from the fact that he competed in multiple Verizon Indycar races in 2016 including the 100th Anniversary running of the Indy 500.

As a motorsports lover who is the perfect age to remember the IMSA GTP days I was delighted when I literally stumbled across Geoff Brabham himself in the SUPER truck paddock. He was a true gentleman and we talked about the old Camel GT days and how neat it was that I followed his career and now my kids are here with me watching Matt his son.

The other powerhouse name in the field was Paul “The Dude” Morris. Paul is a multiple time Australian Touring car and GT racing champion. He is the only driver in the world to have won all three major events at Mount Panorama (Bathurst 1000, Bathurst 6 Hour, and the Bathurst 12 Hour).

His diverse background also includes him racing for the PacWest team in Indy Lights in the late 90’s and he now competes in the Australian sprint car series. He is a true real racer like Gordon who will get behind the wheel and be successful in any type of car.

Derek Meluzio and sons

The author and his sons in the SPEED Stadium SUPER Truck series trailer getting a tour

Those three were the guys to beat all weekend. Robby Gordon took the victory in race one on Saturday followed by Morris and Brabham who completed the podium. Race two on Sunday was won by Matt Brabham with Gordon right behind and Morris in third. Rain and wet conditions played a part in both events which just seemed to add to the excitement and variety that the series has to offer.

In short, the trucks were loud, fast, and great looking. The racing itself was amazing with lots of overtaking and even some contact. The series has multiple rules that make every race interesting. One of them is the fact that the grid is inverted. The fastest qualifiers for race one start in the back and following that the winners of race one start in the rear for race two. It really adds to the excitement and the entire name of the game is entertainment for the fans.

I have seen all forms of racing in my life. I have seen IMSA GTP cars in their prime at Daytona, I have seen Indycar race through the streets of Baltimore. I have seen NASCAR race at Dover. This series did the best out of all of them as far as being geared towards the fans and putting on a great show. The paddock is approachable and fan friendly. The fans can get right up close and personal and see and touch the trucks.

SPEED Stadium SUPER Truck

The race action on the Jumbotron screen

The drivers, even Gordon himself, are approachable. I got to meet and take my picture with Robby Gordon. No joke, it was seven minutes prior to the start of their race and he was taking pictures, signing hero cards, talking to fans, etc. It was amazing. He took a selfie with me and asked, “Hey man, I wanna hang out a few more minutes can you stay with me and let me know when it is three minutes until we start then I’ll have to stop.”

On the pace lap some of the drivers side jump the ramps going up on two wheels. During the race they put on a show literally launching off of the ramps and traveling hundreds of feet in the air side by side. Then when the race is over the field parades around waving to the crowd and the winners do donuts and drive their victory lap up on two wheels!

Even once the racing was over, Gordon himself opened up his truck to the fans. He put a step stool next to it and let each and every child climb in for a photo opportunity. One thing that was perhaps even more impressive took place during race one on Saturday.

The race included a small chicane following the last turn onto the front stretch slowing them down just a bit before they hit the ramp. Only a few laps into the race one driver slid wide and crashed into the yellow sand barrels at pit exit. It sent debris and sand everywhere.

Despite the track crew and their best efforts there was another support race after this one and they could not get it cleaned up in time and the race was red flagged and stopped.

The series was unable to finish race one at that time. The fans who were very excited to see the action were upset and so were the drivers and crew. We walked back to the paddock to see the trucks and we were looking for Robby Gordon. We could not find him because he was busy trying to work out a deal to get their race rescheduled later at the end of the day so that the fans could still see a race.

On top of that, the SUPER Truck series crew felt bad for the fans so they opened up the series truck and trailer to young fans and invited them inside for an up close behind the scenes tour. That to me was the definition of a fan friendly series.

Myself and my kids loved it. We loved everything about it. The trucks were loud, they were fast, they launched through the air, and they put on a great show. In a time that many racing series are losing fans or adding too many rules, and making it harder for the fans to get up close and personal it was a real treat to see these trucks race. When you go online you see that the series is gaining support and fans like crazy.

Now I know why. I am not a truck guy. I am not a truck owner. I am however, a motorhead. I love anything with four wheels and an engine and love to watch them race.

On top of it all, I love to do all of that with my friends and family. It was a special weekend with special people watching some pretty special racing.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

 

 

Three Short Videos

The opening lap of race one.


Brabham and Gordon put on a show for the fans at the end of race two.


The start of the Indycar race.


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SPEED Stadium SUPER Truck Event At The Grand Prix At The Glen
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SPEED Stadium SUPER Truck Event At The Grand Prix At The Glen
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No one was expecting that Robby Gordon’s SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Trucks World Championship would share the same track as the Indycars and race on the famed Watkins Glen road course!
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