Saturday , 13 August 2022

Event Coverage – 2010 HPI East Coast Baja Nationals

2010 HPI East Coast Baja Nationals

In 2008, HPI held the first ever Baja Nationals on the West Coast. It was a huge success and drew people from all over the country. In 2010, HPI decided to organize another national event but this time the setting would be somewhere on the East Coast. The venue was none other than Digger’s Dungeon, home of the infamous Grave Digger monster mruck! RC fanatics, Dennis Anderson, his Grave Digger crew, and John Schultz from HPI put together a truly awesome event. The offroad track included long straights, big jumps, rhythm sections and banked corners, and was built for speed with the right number of technical areas to test every man and his machine.

On the flip side of the drivers stand, a huge dirt oval was meticulously groomed to allow all the EDM, Late Model and 5B/5T entrants to lay down some serious power! With a 1,000-foot center line, this track definitely saw its share of huge power, wheelies and ultimate carnage.

2010 HPI East Coast Baja Nationals

With some heavy rains earlier in the week, the track had become a little soft during qualifying, leaving some pretty big ruts in the track. But this is offroad, baby, and he who could avoid the ruts would come out on top. Local hero Rusty Mihelich set the fastest time in the 15-minute qualifier by just two seconds over Tony Phalen. HPI’s Baja guru, John “Banana in the tailpipe” Schultz, qualified third followed by Jady Baumgardner and Joe O’Neill. As the horn sounded, everyone got away great, but through the large, right-hand sweeper, things got a bit ugly, and that shuffled the order pretty quick. By the end of lap one, Rusty was still in the lead, followed by Schultz and Dave Clutterback. The next couple laps allowed the drivers to get in their groove. On lap 8, Phalen passed Mihelich for the lead, but on lap 13, Rusty’s truck encountered problems and he was out of the race. This allowed Scotty ‘Champ’ G to slot into second place. At about lap 14 Tony’s truck started making some intermittent grinding noises and it was evident something was wrong. Lap times dropped and hearing this, Scotty G put his truck into overdrive and made his move. On lap 36, the two were nose-to-tail, with Phalen almost giving up the lead. On lap 41, Scotty G made a slight bobble that allowed Tony a little bit of breathing room. Racing to the line on the final lap, Tony pulled off the win with Scotty G finishing a close second and John Schultz rounding out the third place podium spot. Joe O’Neill would finish fourth and Jack Holister fifth.

2010 HPI East Coast Baja NationalsA MAIN – BAJA 5B
The 5B finalists would see slightly tougher track conditions than the 5T competitors encountered. It seemed to affect everyone but Scotty G as he set a blistering TQ pace, followed by Tony Phalen and Rusty Mihelich. At the sound of the tone, Scotty was gone and was in a race all by himself. By lap 7 he was almost half a track ahead of the rest of the field! Behind him, the real race was between John Schultz, Tony Phalen and Rusty Mihelich for second place. On lap 9, Tony passed Shultz for second place but soon after lost power on the straight and was out of the race. That left Rusty and John to duke it out for second place. On lap 17 Rusty jumped into second place and held it for the rest of the race with Shultz bringing home another third place podium finish. Michael Dayton would finish fourth and Jady Baumgardner fifth.

2010 HPI East Coast Baja NationalsA MAIN – BAJA 5T OVAL
Those participants who wanted to compete in additional classes with their 5Bs or 5Ts were encouraged to enter either the 5T and 5B Oval classes. The cars had pretty much the same rules as the offroad side. However, you could change your setup for running oval. The 5T Oval class saw Rusty Mihelich TQ by 7 seconds over second qualifier Steve Massita and third qualifier Dave Clutterback. At the start, Rusty lead the pack around the first lap. However, a melee in turn 2 sent Clutterback and Massita to the back of the pack. Fourth qualifier Jack Holister took advantage of all of this and slotted himself into second place. On lap 5, Jack passed Rusty for the lead, but that would only last 2 laps. Rusty took the lead back and would hold onto it for the rest of the race. Jack would hold onto second and Massita would fight back into third place. Michael Davey finished fourth with Carlton Coleman rounding out the top five.

The 5B Oval class would see Rusty Mihelich set a TQ pace that was 31 seconds faster than second qualifier Travis Mowery. Third qualifier Jerry Goggin had some problems before the race and couldn’t get his car started, so that sent Dustin Brown to the third starting position. At the sound of the tone, Rusty once again found himself way out front. Then a first turn pileup would send Mowery all the way to the back. Jack Holister was once again at the right place at the right time, jumping into second with his sights set on Rusty. On lap 13, Rusty got caught up on some lap traffic, letting Jack through and into first. Nose to tail they went for the next couple laps until Rusty finally found an opening and squeezed himself into the lead. All that battling allowed Mark Murgia to catch the two leaders. On lap 29, Mark passed Jack for 2nd, and the two would spend the rest of the race rubbing paint. In the end, Rusty took the win followed by Holister and Murgia. Dustin Brown and Woody Saunders rounded out the top 5.

2010 HPI East Coast Baja NationalsA MAIN – BAJA EDM OVAL
By far one of the best races to watch was the Baja EDM Oval class. These LTO (Left-Turn-Only) prepped Bajas were outfitted with RCRC EDM bodies and some major horsepower. This was basically an open motor class; a run-what-ya-brung type deal…and some guys ‘brung’ out the big stuff. Hostile Rob threw down the fast time to set TQ, followed by Rusty Mihelich and Kevin Hetmanski. At the horn, the typical first-turn pileup collected almost everyone but Rob and Rusty, and allowed sixth place qualifier John Hawkins to drop into third place. With lap times in the 13-second range and, in some cases, way too much power in some of the cars, the leaderboards were constantly changing. Hostile Rob would take the wire-to-wire win, followed by Mihelich and seventh qualifier Henry Cross. In my opinion, this is one of those Baja classes you have to try. It’s fun and fast even though it’s a flat track, there’s plenty of action!

Another new class to appear at the Nationals was the fully-enclosed Late Model cars. With huge bodies and lots of power, these cars rocked and rolled (literally) their way around the track. Don Owens would set the TQ over second qualifier Lance Jones and third qualifier Ricky Smith. Fourth qualifier John Schultz was experiencing some pull-start troubles with his completely sick 62cc powered monster. With only 3 of the 4 cars making the race, it turned out to be a really laid back race that was fun to watch. At the end of the 10-minute main, Don would take the win over Lance and John.

2010 HPI East Coast Baja NationalsLAST MAN STANDING
During the break between qualifying and the mains, a quick round of Last Man Standing was run on the offroad track. If you are unfamiliar with this type of race, it is basically a race with a set time limit or lap count. The catch is there are no turn marshals on the track…if you crash, you’re out of it (unless, of course, someone runs into you and sets your car back on its wheels…or a masked bandit shows up and flips your car over). Sounds easy, right? Well, there was a second catch to this race…it would be run on the offroad track but in the opposite direction! Twelve cars lined up to start the race and, on lap one, five had already flipped over! On lap two, another had dropped out and, on lap three, two more drivers found themselves watching the race. This race was all about smooth driving and keeping all four tires on the ground. Joe O’neill took the easy win (and a brand new HPI Blitz) over Steve Paul and Gravedigger driver Bari Musawwir.

Baja 5B Top 5
1. Scotty G.
2. Rusty Mihelich
3. John Schultz
4. Michael Dayton
5. Jady Baumgardner

Baja 5T Top 5
1. Tony Phalen
2. Scotty G.
3. John Schultz
4. Joe O’Neill
5. Jack Holister

Late Model Top 5
1. Don Owens
2. Lance Jones
3. John Schultz
4. Ricky Smit
5. –

EDM Oval Top 5
1. Hostile Rob
2. Rusty Mihelich
3. Henry Cross
4. Brian Higgins
5. John Hawkins

5T Oval Top 5
1. Rusty Mihelich
2. Jack Holister
3. Steve Massita
4. Michael Davey
5. Carlton Coleman

5B Oval Top 5
1. Rusty Mihelich
2. Jack Holister
3. Mark Murgia
4. Dustin Brown
5. Woody Saunders

This was my first visit to Diggers and I have to say that this event (and the location) was well worth the trip! Friendly people, awesome track and a well run program (thanks to Eric from Debbies RC World) made my experience a memorable one. A big thanks to the sponsors of the event. Their support was so huge that all the participants were able to go through the ‘Prize Line’ several times! Keep an eye out for future events at the Diggers Dungeon and make your plans to go. You won’t regret it.

Full gallery of additional photos can be found here: 2010 HPI East Coast Baja Nationals Gallery

About Tony Phalen

Tony Phalen - As an avid RC enthusiast, Tony has been building, bashing and racing RC Cars for over 25 years. He has raced everything from 1:18th scale trucks to 1:5 scale motorcycles and everything in-between. He's also worked on both sides of the industry fence; working at and with many major manufacturers (as well as being a sponsored driver) to working for a high-profile industry magazine. During this time he has learned many tricks, tips and techniques and has transferred that knowledge to CompetitionX - the most informative RC website on the internet!

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