The ChampTruck World Series kicked off it’s 2016 season at Palm Beach International Raceway (PBIR), located just minutes from the beautiful white beaches of West Palm Beach, on April 9-10, 2016. The racetrack, which is a 2-mile road course, features two of the longest straightaways that ChampTruck will race on this year. The facility itself opened in 1964 and has been the site for many sports car events, including the Grand American Series of Professional Drag Racing, SCCA Trans Am Series and SCCA national events, and several IHRA and NHRA events. The facility was also the location for several drag racing documentaries, as well as “Pinks All Out.” Now, ChampTruck racing can be added to this illustrious list.
ChampTruck is North America’s home for real, affordable, competitive big rig truck road racing. We’re talking real racing, real tracks, and real big trucks, with plenty of six-wheel drifts and gear-jammin’ action! On top of that, ChampTruck is open and available to anyone – racing pros and those without any prior racing experience. This series is for diesel gear-heads who know that real transmissions have more than five or six gears. It’s a series for people who flat-out love competition… on the largest possible scale.
Nothing says America more than big diesel-powered rigs, and truckers are the backbone of this wonderful country. These hard-working individuals, who travel from coast-to-coast, deliver our food and the products we use, and keep this country running. ChampTruck has transformed this backbreaking, tiresome, never-ending “lifestyle” into a thrilling competition series featuring bucket-list tracks, squealing tires, and drivers with personalities as big as their trucks.
This year, in addition to several other new sponsors, 10-4 Magazine was added to the list as the series’ official media outlet. Each month, race reports and driver profiles will be featured in this iconic publication, as well as on their website and social media pages. So buckle up and get ready, because the 2016 season is now under way!
As the ChampTruck staff and teams rolled into the raceway for tech and safety, it was like a family reunion, with the return of many teams from last year, along with a few new faces, as well, which were welcomed quickly into the fold. Jupiter Motorsports, compiled of Ricky Rude in his #14 Peterbilt 378 and Allen “Turbo” Boles in the #3 black and lime green 359 Peterbilt, were joined by newcomer Justin “Boost” Ball in his #17 black and purple Peterbilt. Justin is new to the Jupiter team, but not new to ChampTruck. Also returning was #23 Truck Race Team USA out of Hungary, in their Bendix-sponsored Volvo, driven by their newest team member, Miklos Maricsek (Miki). Not to be forgotten is the 2015 ChampTruck Champion, the formidable #88 Mike Morgan and his Powershift Performance Race Team’s big black “Mackvader” Mack.
New to the series and brand new to racing is Chris Kikelhan, driving the #31 Freightliner Colombia sponsored by Optima Batteries and Continental Tires. Chris is no stranger to diesel rigs (his 1956 Kenworth is the cover feature of this month’s magazine) – his passion for trucks started when he was just a little boy, when he could be found either in the truck with his dad or working on them in the garage. He has fond memories of watching truck racing at Flemington Speedway, watching the bobtails run on dirt. The sound of 2-stroke Detroits and black smoke filled the air and made for some awesome racing memories.
In 2001, Chris bought his first truck and started Sundance Transport, which hauls entertainment equipment for special events all over the country. Chris was also recently featured in a few episodes of the A&E television show Shipping Wars. On Shipping Wars, like in real life, Kikelhan drove his clean white Kenworth T-600 with orange flames.
While no stranger to driving a rig, for Chris, getting the chance to race them was a new opportunity that he couldn’t pass up. One aspect of ChampTruck that impressed him the most was the family environment. The challenge for Chris was switching gears from driving on the road to racing on a track – learning how to set up for a turn, figuring out where the apex is, how to accelerate out of a turn, and setting up to pass. But for Chris, this was the most awesome experience – he picked up the racing aspect very quickly, and will soon be a formidable competitor in the ChampTruck World Series.
The weekend’s events consisted of two practice sessions, qualifying, four heats and the main event. The lineup for Heat Race #1 was based off qualifying times, with the driver with the fastest time on the pole. For the first race of the season, the pole position went to Mike Morgan and his #88 Mack.
When the first green flag of the season finally dropped, everyone could feel the excitement in the air as the trucks started jostling for position going down the front straightaway, heading into the first turn. Mike Morgan took a quick five-truck lead over Ricky Rude of Jupiter Motorsports. Jupiter’s newcomer, Justin “Boost” Ball, was experiencing power issues coming out of Turn 9 into Turn 10 and lost two positions, going from 4th to 6th, and had a lot of real estate to make up. Miki Maricsek, a rally driver in Europe, racing in ChampTruck for Truck Race Team USA, was holding his own in 4th place, and closing in quickly on Allen “Turbo” Boles of Jupiter Motorsports, who was in 3rd place. When it was all said and done, the final results for Heat Race #1 were: 1st #88 Mike Morgan; 2nd #14 Ricky Rude; 3rd #3 Allen Boles; 4th #23 Miki Maricsek; 5th #31 Chris Kikelhan; and 6th #17 Justin Ball.
With day one in the books, all of the teams and drivers had a good idea about what adjustments needed to be made prior to Heat Race #2. As the sun rose up over the racetrack on day #2, it was obviously going to be another beautiful day in Palm Beach. The starting lineup for heat races are a complete inversion of the final results from the previous heat race. For Heat Race #2, that put the #17 of Justin Ball on the pole. With the first race not going as planned for Justin (he spent most of the race on the side of the track with technical issues with his rig’s ignition switch), Justin was going to take advantage of being on the pole. And take advantage, he did.
As soon as the green flag dropped, Justin was able to hold off Miki of Truck Race Team USA, who tried hard to make an inside move at the start heading into Turn 1. After holding him off, Justin took a good lead over Miki and never looked back, taking the checkered flag for the first time in the 2016 season. The final results for Heat Race #2 were: 1st #17 Justin Ball; 2nd #3 Allen Boles; 3rd #88 Mike Morgan; 4th #14 Ricky Rude; 5th #31 Chris Kikelhan; and 6th #23 Miki Maricsek.
After two more heat races, both won by #88 Mike Morgan, it was time for the main event. The lineup of the podium race was determined by the total accumulated points from all of the heat races – the higher the points, the further back you started – which put the #88 of Mike Morgan in the very back. With the parade lap done and the pace car coming in, it was time to go racing.
Kikelhan, who started on the pole, took a very aggressive start, but was quickly challenged by Miki Maricsek. Making bold moves and picking off trucks one-by-one was the 2015 champ Mike Morgan. Meanwhile, at the front of the pack, it didn’t take Justin Ball long to get into position and take the lead away from Kikelhan. Boles, who started in 4th, over-drove his truck into Turn 9 and slid off the track, ending up about half a lap down. Justin was holding onto a good first place lead, but Mike Morgan, showing everyone why he was the guy to beat, very quickly raced up onto the bumper of Justin. As they headed into the front straightaway, side-by-side, Justin took the inside line into Turn 1, which set up Morgan to make a bold dive inside into Turn 2, where Morgan made a clean pass to take the lead, which he never relinquished. The final results were: 1st #88 Mike Morgan; 2nd #14 Ricky Rude; 3rd #17 Justin Ball; 4th #23 Miki Maricsek; 5th #31 Chris Kikelhan; and 6th #3 Allen Boles.
It was an exciting first race of the season, which set the stage for the nine upcoming races. The biggest win of the weekend was every driver heading home with a brand new hydraulic Scorpion Jack from one of ChampTruck’s newest sponsors, Stan Design. Stan Design is a design and manufacturing organization specializing in auto and truck jacks. They manufacture rolling and floor service jacks. The ChampTruck World Series would like to thank all of its sponsors, ChampTruck drivers and ChampFans. They would not be able to do any of this without your continued support.
The next ChampTruck race will be held at Virginia International Raceway on April 30, 2016 in conjunction with a K&N NASCAR Series race. The next event after that is May 20-21 at New Jersey Motorsports Park. To find out more about the ChampTruck World Series, visit www.champtruck.us.com or keep reading 10-4 Magazine! Thanks to Matt Brown for all the great pictures.