North Florida R/C Racers United Presents: The Summer Shootout,
Hosted by River Rat Raceway
North Florida R/C Racers United Presents: The Summer Shootout, Hosted by River Rat Raceway, marks the second successful race put on by this Facebook group. The southeast has quite a few tracks for racers to choose from and the North Florida group was created with the goal to give local racers a place to simply share where they were going racing next. The group was started just over a year ago with 30 or so members and is now just shy of 700 as it has become a great source of RC knowledge as well.
Racing outdoors this summer in Florida has been frustrating. Many tracks were plagued with down pours during the week that made the track undriveable by the weekend or showers that would end the race day before mains could be run. The week of the Summer Shootout started out bright and sunny as the River Rat track crew put some final touches on a new layout. The forecast showed evening showers on Friday and a 80% chance for a evening thunder storm on race day. Steven Stratton (owner) and Ricky Layman were determined to hold the event. River Rat Raceway had the right equipment and the two put together a plan to have the track ready for racing Saturday no matter what Fridays rain would bring.
Part of the plan was to paint the lines and leave the pipes off of the track until the last minute. I’m sure this got some confused looks but would allow them to freely move equipment around the track if necessary.
Only a few came early enough Friday to try the new layout. The evening rain did come and ended practice. It poured for over an hour Friday evening. Normally this would have ruined the track but the layout had been designed to allow all of the water to drain to the front of the track, then out past the pit area through drains.
Despite the fantastic drainage, the top 1-2 inches of the fresh layout was going to be too soft to run on. Early Saturday morning the River Rat crew put part 2 of their plan into action and started scraping the soft layer of clay off of the track with a skid-steer. For the back straight-away that had already dried, they used a power trowel to smooth out any imperfections. Once that was all done, they ran golf carts around the track to smooth out the rest of the surface. Pipes were put down and practice was opened. Racers only got about half an hour to try the new layout before racing was to start.
It was clear that a portion of the track was still soft but our diehard racers, 77 entries overall, were ready to hit the track and get the first round of qualifying underway.
First up was the 2wd Stock buggy class. It was clear from the start that this was going to be a fight to the end between Brandon Denmark and Bobby Smith. Both put down fast laps but an early mistake gave Brandon a big lead. A mistake by Brandon several laps later had Bobby back in the hunt for TQ. The two would go back and forth for the rest of the qualifier. In the end Brandon would set the TQ time for the round just a second over Bobby.
Next up would be the novice class. These drivers may have been new to racing but showed some great patience and put on a great show. It was Robert Borsnik that would set the TQ a full lap ahead of the field.
The stock SCT class was a repeat of the stock buggy class. Brandon Denmark again leading most of the race but this time it would be Doug Smith who would grab the lead with just 2-minutes left to go. A slight mistake by Doug would let Brandon narrowly slip by for the lead and his second TQ.
One of the biggest classes of the event, 4wd SCT, hit the track next. There were some fast drivers on the track including Ricky Layman, John Bernard Jr., and Kyle Conover but it was Brandon Denmark who would get the hat trick and set his 3rd TQ of the day.
E-Buggy was the biggest and fastest class to take the track. The track was starting to show a groove as it dried out. The E-Buggies got close to turning sub twenty second laps. Each E-buggy heat reset the TQ. In the final heat, Ben Burtle took the TQ over a hard charging John Bernard Jr., Chris Schaefer, Chris Giraldo, and Shaun Davis with the only 15 lap run in qualifying.
Nitro Buggy saw serious competition as well with the likes of Shaun Davis, Ben Burtle, Juan Gascot, and William Goodwin out on the track. Another close finish had Shaun Davis take the TQ less than 2-seconds ahead of Juan Gascot.
The last class of the round would be the nitro Truggies. Juan Gascot, Ricky Layman, and Tim Barth were the only ones to do 14 laps. Juan Gascot would hold off Ricky Layman for the TQ.
Many races have been decided by qualifying order so to avoid that and beat the weather the decision was made to skip straight to the mains. The mains were slated for double electric A-mains and 30-minute nitro A-mains. But first the B-mains would take the track to fill the last two spots of the 10 car A-mains.
The Novice A-main was a great race. Robert Borsnik, Kenny Morris Jr., and KG Owen swapped the lead for most of the main. Robert Borsnik would hold off Kenny Morris Jr. for the win with KG Owen taking third.
The stock buggy A-Mains were a repeat of the qualifier. In both mains Bobby Smith pushed Brandon hard for the race lead but both times Brandon held him off to take the overall. Bobby would lock up the 2nd podium spot and Mike Smith would edge out Doug Smith for the final podium spot.
Brandon Denmark ran away with the Stock SCT A1 and A2. Both mains would be a fight between Justin Cole, Johnnie Yeomans, and Doug Smith. When the dust settled Justin Cole would take 2nd overall with Johnnie Yeomans edging out Doug Smith for the final podium spot.
Both 4wd SCT A-mains were exciting. A1 would start with TQ Brandon Denmark catching an unlucky break and tumbling coming off of the straight-away drop down. This would let Ricky Layman and Kyle Conover sneak by. Kyle Conover would later take over the lead and hold on for an A1 win. A2 had a great start for Brandon but the whoops section would bite him, dropping him all the way to 5th. This let Ricky and Kyle slip by again for what look like a repeat of A1. Brandon seemed to be looking for redemption as he quickly fought his way back through the field taking the win. Brandon would turn the only sub 20-second lap of the 10th scale classes. After a tiebreaker, it would end up being Ricky Layman taking the overall win, Kyle Conover in the 2-spot, and Brandon taking 3rd.
The most heavily contested class of the event took to the track. A1 of E-buggy showed how fast the track was getting as the drivers knocked nearly 2-seconds off of their lap times. Ben Burtle fought off an inside move by John Bernard Jr. off the start but it opened the door for Chris Giraldo to take the lead. John and Ben would eventually chase down Chris. John took the lead and held it until an electrical issue would cause him to withdraw. Ben took the win, with Chris Giraldo in the 2, and Gary Kierce, one of the B-Main bumps, would take the 3rd spot.
A2 was exciting to watch. Ben Burtle got off to great start putting down back to back 18’s and quickly stretching out a 3-second lead over the John Bernard Jr. It was quickly apparent that the track had significantly improved since running the A1’s. Ben and John were evenly matched and the 3-second gap wouldn’t change until John started tripling the section that had been double-singled all day. Ben and John would swap the lead several times with John running the fastest lap of the day but in the end it was Ben Burtle that would take the win with John a close second. Chris Schaefer, Mr. Leadfinger Racing, would grab the 3 spot early by laying down consistent 19’s. Our second bump-up, Mark Soliman, worked his way up from 10th on the grid to challenge Chris for the 3 spot. A crash by Chris midway through would put Mark with in a second of taking over 3rd but an unfortunate bobble left Mark stuck until traffic cleared enough for the marshal to get him. Chris would hang on and finish 3rd with Mark taking a respectable 4th.
Ben Burtle took the overall win with back to back wins. 2nd and 3rd came down to another tie breaker with Chris Schaefer taking 2nd and Chris Giraldo 3rd.
During the 30-minute nitro Truggy A-Main, Juan Gascot, Ricky Layman, and Ryan Lecuyer all had their turn at leading. Juan and Ryan both suffered mechanical failures that opened the door for Ricky Laymen to take his second win of the event. Roy Hines came home in the 2, and Tim Barth finished off the podium.
The nitro buggy 30-minute A-main saw great action as well. Ben Burtle, Shaun Davis, Jamin Kerby, Juan Gascot, and Mike Bellotti would all occupy a podium spot at one time or another. Juan Gasot would take the lead early with Ben Burtle hot on his heals. Consistency would pay off for Ben as he would eventually take the lead and drive to a size-able victory. Mechanical failures would cause Mike and Juan to retire early. Shaun Davis would finish in the 2 with Jamin Kerby, a B-Main bump-up, finishing in the final podium spot.
I’ve never seen prizes given away like this event. To give everyone a better chance to go home with something, only one ticket was given to each driver. The organizers worked with sponsors: Jconcepts, Proline, Leadfinger, VP-Pro-USA, AKA, Tekin, AsiaTees, Viper/Xpert, BocaBearings, Team Associated, MIP, MaxAmps, Atomik/Venom, and Tower Hobbies not to get a couple high dollar items but dozen of smaller items. This meant just about everyone went home with a pile of prizes.
A-main drivers even went home with some cash in hand thanks to donations from: Sparkle N Shine Detail, Layman Well Drilling, Conkey’s Hound and Hunting, Action Title Services, Palatka Truck Center, Small Engine Repair Of Hastings, Barnes Farms, East Palatka Tire And Lube, and East Palatka Towing.
I’d like to thank everyone for coming out and braving the forecast. The track ended up fantastic and everyone left with a smile. Look for another running of this great event next year.
You can find videos from the race here for all classes
And all photos from the race here