Loren Healy Dominates Glen Helen
Entering the Glen Helen Grand Prix, Loren Healy had one thing on his mind: fine tuning his newly built IFS buggy and building a foundation for the remainder of the season. What he ended up accomplishing was more than he could have ever imagined and likely sent a stern message to the other drivers still in the championship hunt.
When the Ultra4 series announced earlier this year that teams would be able to run two different vehicles throughout the season, Healy knew that he had to invest the time and money into building an independent front suspension (IFS) car in order to keep up with his competitors. While it was his trusty solid-axle buggy that propelled him to victory at the King of the Hammers, the self proclaimed toughest single day off-road event in the world, that just wasn’t going to be enough at the ultra fast short course events like Glen Helen.
Less than a month ago, this new machine was an untested and untamed beast. While Loren and his #67 ATX Wheels/Nitto Tire team were able to squeeze in a few test sessions, it’s difficult to determine where you’re at until you have something to compare it to. So when Loren went out and sent quick time in qualifying at Glen Helen, everyone came to the realization that he may be a whole lot closer than he thought he’d be. Setting the fastest lap was one thing but going out and dominating the first preliminary race was what really sent shockwaves through the pits. Entering Glen Helen as the national championship points leader, the mindset quickly changed from just maintaining his lead to extending it.
On a short course like Glen Helen, starting up front is key. Seeing as southern California is in the midst of a massive drought, the track was very slick and dusty. Despite being watered down throughout the event, the amount of dust and roost makes it very difficult to catch and pass, let alone see the competitors in front of you. When the green flag flew Saturday evening, Loren took off and never looked back. While rival Levi Shirley kept Healy honest throughout the race, he was never able to apply any direct pressure with the exception of when Loren pitted to refuel. Upon re-entering the track, Healy quickly chased Shirley down and made an epic pass on the outside of a big bowl corner. From there, it was just about putting in a few more solid laps and minimizing the mistakes. As Loren came to the white flag, he was pumping his fist in excitement and brought it back around to the checked flag and his second Ultra4 series victory of the season.
As friends, family and competitors came over to congratulate Healy on his dominating victory, one thing became apparent: Loren was in as much shock as everybody else. He felt the car still could be tuned a bit better and that he could have driven it even harder if he needed to. This isn’t good news for his fellow teams and drivers. The victory also solidified his stranglehold on the points championship, Loren’s ultimate goal this season.
The rest of the Nitto Tire team had more than their fair share of issues at Glen Helen. Nick Nelson, the two-time defending champion of this event, qualified 2nd before his engine came apart in the preliminary race.
Rick Mooneyham was quick all weekend but had problems just three laps into the main event finishing 38th.
Randy Rodd didn’t necessarily have the speed but managed to complete 17 of the 20 laps en-route to a 12th place finish.
Last but not least, Jason Scherer missed all of practice and qualifying on Friday in an admirable attempt to rebuild the motor. His first laps on the track were Saturday during the preliminary race. Despite not even knowing the track, Jason wheeled his #76 Rubicon Express Nitto Tire buggy to an 8th place finish and started the main in 16th.
Scherer tore through the field and managed to race his way all up to third place before trouble struck. As he was running down the two leaders a lapped vehicle veered into Jason on a high-speed straightaway. The contact sent Jason into the rocks which flung his car up onto a tractor tire completely destroying the right front in the process. Despite the DNF, Jason was credited with a 20th place finish.
(Article & Photos by: Kyle Jackson)