Remotely Operated Auto
Racers, did you know that? But that's not what I mean when I ask... What does R.O.A.R. stand for.
As I sit and reflect on the 2019 ROAR Nationals and the time spent at this amazing facility at Thornhill, I can't help but wonder what this race would have been like if it were run like it was supposed to be, or even advertised to be by the standards set by the sanctioning body in which we base all of our rules and guidelines by. I can't help but feel bad for the amazing people behind Thornhill after they did their job to bring us the surface, facilities, staff and opportunity to crown 2 new national champions to only be overshadowed by the lack of preparation, staffing, knowledge and lack of actual F’s given by the R.O.A.R. organization. Lets face it, they have 5 national events a year to run proper and they literally could give two shits when they are actually on site. Normally in this situation it would be a racer who is upset due to getting the raw end of a deal that maybe was a call that could go either way or something along those lines. But I feel that I’m personally qualified to speak my mind about this specific situation, scenario and event. For those who don't know my background I come from an event promoting background for a company which was very successful over a 40 year span and I run and organize racing at my shop and track annually. I also was part of a sanctioning body that oversaw the series we ran. So yes, I feel I am qualified to speak on this subject.
I understand that these 3 "R.O.A.R. Officials" are unpaid elected volunteers. So I would like to acknowledge that and thank them for their time. But when it is all said and done, they have a job to do and a responsibility to the racers to do what they were elected to do. So lets start off from the beginning of the week. Please also keep in mind this write up is completely from my personal experience and does not reflect the views of others…. However I know for a fact there are plenty of racers who experienced the same experience in one form or another.
On Wednesday we had a form of controlled practice. It would have been nice if it was somehow by heats so you didn't have to wait in long lines, but that would have had to been done prior to make it happen smoothly. If you got a couple sessions in with each vehicle you probably did pretty good. (This was not run by R.O.A.R.
On Thursday we started off with a 2min warm up practice session to get you in your heat and then went into a drivers meeting. First off there were 300+ people stand there at the drivers meeting and the roar official stood low on the drivers stand and didn't use a mic or anything to help get the sound out to all the drivers and crew members looking on. Lots of info was not conveyed to the crowd and it wasn't conducted very well. In this first drivers meeting all the rules were laid out, "Don't marhsall, loose a lap, won't tolerate rough driving, had to have grill and head lights on truck body, take vehicle to tech after qualifying etc... It was also said that they would have another drivers meeting prior to the mains. I heard him also say the president would be on site for this event and I heard he was but I personally never saw him, met him or got to speak with him about things. Honestly, he should have thrown a shirt on and helped out, because we all know they needed help. So as I get ready for my heats I realize that there is none of the top guys sprinkled in with the rest of the population. I think it is crazy that the top 20-30 in the country get to play by different rules than the rest at an event where there is no class variations. The heats should have been made random no matter the excuse or reasoning behind it. They got clean or cleaner heats than anyone else and that is bending the rules for specific racers and in my eyes considered favoritism. They should have to deal with traffic just like anyone else and they should have to resort or seed into their proper heats like the rest of us. We all know they would have ended up where they belong or were pre-sorted too but that is besides the point. When the day of seeding was over there was little to no communication to the racers through any channel. Even though they have every racers email addresses from signups and most everyone follows them on the Facebook, there still wasn’t anything. Oh which brings me to another point. Why not have a paper printed schedule to hand out to ALL the racers at check in? It’s not like they didn’t know who was racing a month ago? Am I right?
So Friday rolls around and we start our 2 min practice session prior to our first 2 rounds of qualifying. It goes by quick and they basically roll right into qualifiers which were based off of our seeding rounds. Instantly you knew they were not going to enforce some of the rules talked about or threats given in the drivers meeting. The rough driving in qualifiers was real and there were many times marshals were not present and nothing was done about it. There were times the most needed spots to be covered were left wide open and cause issues for racers in those sections. Ultimately finishing at 6pm was more important than the racers who traveled hundreds if not thousands of miles and paid their money was. Nice work keeping on schedule…
Saturday was 2 rounds of qualifiers and the start of the lowers. We were told there would be another drivers meeting before the mains and we were told this would be a very long day. That being said after all the quals were done, there was not a drivers meeting which gave no forum for the roar officials to be asked any questions, explain starting procedures or be confronted about the shortfalls that already have occurred to this point. There was a needed break between the quals and lower mains in which they held the concourse contest (very few people knew about it because evidently it was announced during race 20 while the race was going on or something to that effect I was told). Once again making it even more important to post a schedule or hand a hard copy to every racer at check in. They literally knew how many they needed and how many people were racing. This race sold out months ago. I personally caught the concourse in time to barely get my truck tires on and get judged but I know lots of racers who would normally have been involved or competed that didn’t even know about it. When the lowers started on Saturday night they were short handed on marshals as they had a couple lightly participated mains. Lots of spots were unmarshalled but the way I felt and saw it was they didn’t care, they needed to get the mains in and they weren’t the top racers at the event. Also on the first main of the day the literally had a false start because they didn’t go over the starting procedures in the first drivers meeting for the second one that never happened. So from my personal experience in the one main I raced on Saturday evening, I got blown up by multiple racers with no consideration of using brakes or better judgement. My car was the best it had been all week and it was all for not in the main because there was no respect, no courtesy and no professionalism. My race was over early so when I walked off the driver stand and noticed the R.O.A.R. official standing behind the driver stand looking at his phone I was angered. Not because I was broke by poor driving, but more because they literally don’t care about the participants enough to do their jobs and call the races the way they said they will or call out racers driving over their heads. I then proceed to ask said official why he wasn’t on the driver stand calling out rough driving or watching the race and his response was… “If I’m not up there, then the 2 other guys in the booth are to watch for rough driving”. So first of all, one of the “2” roar officials in the booth was the owner of livetime who was running the scoring software. I wouldn’t expect him to have to make a call on a racer as he has bigger things to worry about. The other “Official” was the announcer. How the hell is he supposed to call a race while trying to watch everyone else for rough driving or cutting the track. Of course he was there to help but that is not his job. Shame on the official who did not care one bit about doing his job.
Saturday is gone and Sunday is here. There was a power issue so the racing couldn’t start on time and that was no fault of ROAR or the track. Some speculate too many tire warmers hooked up to the grid LOL. Thornhill had the power company on that so fast we were back up and running at 9am sharp. Great job by everyone to get that potential disaster under control before it got bad. As Sunday got rolling another one of my personal experiences was in my truck main. I got a good start and ended up caught up in a 10 truck pile up before the top right double. I probably went into that turn in 5th or 6th and came out 15. Nothing anyone could do about it and it happened all weekend long. But after that a few minutes I was around a certain truck who just would not use his brakes. I guess 8 tires is better than 4, it just so happened that 4 of those tires were mine and I didn’t give him permission to use them. There was one point where I passed this said truck and drove down the 200ft straight and he literally never turned at the end of the straight away in attempt to drive through me which backfired for him as he went flying into the fence. Felt good to know that even though he wasn’t caught for blatantly trying to take me out that he got the bad end of the deal. This driver drove through me so many times had someone actually been paying attention he may have been parked. It was that bad. That being said it was the worst and roughest driving mains I have ever been a part of or witnessed. My day was over but I sat back and took the rest of the event in. I helped pit when friends or team members needed help. But I just kept on getting surprised on how the rules were only implemented when they wanted to implement them. For example. The called for 15 and under signups. Once they got to many entries hey said they will take the top 15 qualifiers that sign up. They ended up with 21. So instead of doing what they said they went on to let 21 buggies on the track because they felt bad saying no. Well that wasn’t what they said and it wasn’t fair to the top 15 qualifiers.
So as a whole I think the event was awesome. Right now there is not another sanctioning body to compete with R.O.A.R. to keep them on their toes or to add to the prestige of the sport we love so much. We have to as an industry, racers and paying members hold them to a standard in which they should operate these events. They can’t choose when they want to follow the rules or not follow the rules. They need to be held accountable and they need to care while they are there. The fact of the matter is this. They are all capable of doing their specific job while in attendance of these events. When they don’t want to do their part then they are failing us the members and paying racers. There should be no reason what so ever that there is any skid mark on this event or associated with the Thornhill name. You can NOT treat the Fuel Nats like a club race. We need R.O.A.R. to care. To me it was so bad I considered mounting a 2020 campaign to join ROAR #BD2020. I know and read that most if not all the high-profile pros thanks ROAR for a great event yada yada. But lets be honest here. They were the only racers and group that were tended to and virtually unaffected during this entire event by the organization.
Congrats to Spencer, Ryan and CJ for their great accomplishments. I was heart broken for Maifield when his motor let go. The bad luck just continues for him at Nats. What a run by Ryan Lutz, that dude is just so consistent and so resilient. I know there are lots of great runs but finally great job to Tyler Jones. I think he was a stand out at this years Nats and he will be seen much more at the top in big races to come.
Some things to take away from this event:
- No accountability for not marshaling after your race
- No referee for calling rough driving or track cutting
- Rules were bent for upper echelon racers for seeding
- Rules were broken for Jr 15 under championship entries
- Communication was at a minimum
- Track layout was fun but surface was 1/10 scaleish
- Thornhill is the best 1/8 facility in the country
- Young racers are coming in HOT!
- JConcepts tires seemed to be the ticket in the mains
- The Tessmans are actually human
- Texas is F’ing hot in June
- TQ didn’t race semi (not the way it was last year)
- 4 Truck mains in a row
- Roughest driving I’ve ever witnessed
I would like to thank all my sponsors and peeps for helping me and allowing me to enjoy the awesome journey I am on. I wouldn’t be able to do this without my wife who is my rock and keeps me grounded. The boys at the shop kill it when I travel and allow me to feel comfortable everything is going to be aight. All my track friends thank you for good times, all the help, support and spirit. Next stop is Asti Italy for Rounds 5/6 of the RCGP. Until then, catch ya at a track soon.