By Aaron Waldron
Story by Tom Erickson
Photos by Randy Perillo, Al Horne, Tom Erickson
Proline Challenge/Factory Tracks Invitational
I travelled across Region 5 visiting tracks on my way to the Proline Challenge/Factory Tracks Invitational hosted at Leisure Hours Raceway in Joliet, Illinois last weekend. The weather had been cold all week with no change on the horizon. We even had some snow which is not that common in April even in the Windy City. The atmosphere inside the purpose build RC racing facility was much warmer with over 90 people enjoying a challenging track for the weekend. The well stocked shop, customized pit spaces and little details implemented in this Mecca of a RC racing experience is why this event was so special. Al Horne coordinated the 5th annual Reedy style invitational to showcase some of the fastest drivers in the region. Racing action was close in every heads up heat!
Scott Hill and Mike Nelson organized their crew to build a new track with some difficult obstacles. I have always enjoyed tracks with elevation changes and this track was certainly full of ups and downs. The start-finish line was at the base of the front side table top that kicked your car skyward landing into a bowl that was probably below the footings of the building. It was super fun to hit the face, hit the brakes, and point to the inside and set-up for the mid-sized double on the exit. This led to a 180 turn that was not super tight feeding into a long, wide triple. Few would risk clearing the triple with a Mod 2wd Buggy but most of the Invitational drivers would fling their 4wd Mod Buggies hard landing smooth on the inside speeding into the wagon wheel turn. After a switch back the track entered the most difficult part of the track. Up and to the right 160 degrees, then a small double fed into a hip turn jump in the far left corner of the space at least 10 feet above the bottom of the bowl. Those that hit the landing perfect with confidence would scream down the full length back straight and maneuver the increasing radius sweeper stairs. A complete lap was rarely below 20 seconds on the fastest classes.
2018 Reedy Race of Champions Open finalists Austin and Ayden Horne, Tom Rinderknecht were on the heat sheets along with 2018 Reedy Open Champ Brad Shearer. Reedy Invitational drivers Cole Tolard (7th in 2018), JP Richards and Chad Due also present vying for the 2018 top spot after 10 rounds of heads up racing with both 2wd Mod and 4wd Mod Buggies. With only one drop per class, tensions were high as the first round hit the track. After the three heats completed it was JP Richards, Chad Due and Will Cushing capturing the initial wins. I spoke with Ayden who finished 3rd in his opening round and we both thought about Supercross Champion Ryan Dungy at Daytona in 2017 saying, “You win championships on how you finish on your worst days”. A third place finish is not far off the finishes you need to win a Reedy style event. Ayden slightly improved in round 2 with 2nd place finish as his brother Austin captured his first win. Brad Shearer and young Austin Wick put down nearly flawless runs to put a #1 in their box marking six separate drivers with a win. Round 3 was brutal for many drivers with cars breaking and Austin Horne grabbing his second win and overall lead. Ayden finally grabbed his first win as did Mason Neubert. Mason needed all he could get after a 9th place in round 1. Cole Tolard and Gavin McCreary both put themselves on the list of heat winners as Ayden was able to also claim a win and a slight edge over Austin for the overall. As the first day came the close for 2wd Mod Buggy racing, Will Cushing, Brad Shearer, and Gavin McCreary all recorded second wins closing the gap to the Horne brothers. Ayden’s advantage was very small but still enough for the over lead with that first round 3rd place finish being his drop.
Many of the drivers I talked too felt that 4wd Mod Buggy was their better class. Craig Scheigel knew at the start of day two that he would improve his results for sure. Tom Rinderknecht had consistent runs in 2wd Buggy holding the lead in no less than 3 of the 5 for many laps in the 2wd class. He was able to dominate his first 4wd heat and score his first win. Brandon Marsh also grabbed a much needed win holding off JP Richards and Brad Shearer. Ayden Horne increased the gap to Austin slightly with his first 4wd win ahead of him. Round 7, second of the 4wd class, added Al Horne to the list of heat winners moving him up on the leader board. The round would see Austin and JP Richards also getting additional wins closing the gap to Ayden. Austin took over the lead in the overall with his fourth win in Round 8. Cole and Tom added wins as well keeping them in the hunt for the overall. Austin, Ayden, Cole, Tom and JP all within shooting distance of the overall as the ninth heat hit the track. Round 9 saw new drivers record wins. Craig Scheigel lead a charge with Tom, Brandon, and Gavin all leading the round in the beginning. Craig gunned the last feet to pass Tom with less than 0.1 seconds on the clock and capture the win. Cole and JP battled on the opening laps connecting and forcing errors. Mason Perillo waited patiently and slipped into the lead. Mason ran flawlessly growing his gap on Cole and JP and adding his name the short list of heat winners. The final heat of round 9 went to Ayden Horne running consistent and smooth as his brother Austin had bad luck with lapped traffic finishing in 2nd place. Another lap and Austin could have captured the win. The points spread leading to the last heat gave a small advantage to Ayden and Austin over Tom, Cole, and JP. The last round lead off with Ayden and Austin in the same heat. Austin needed a win which seemed impossible after a first lap crash that sent him to last. Gavin and Cole traded the lead as Austin passed car after car to join them mide race. Ayden also experienced issues and moved behind Austin who was challenging Cole for the lead. Cole held off Austin for another win. Tom and JP both were able to win their last heats clearing off their worst finishes and hoping it was enough to challenge Ayden and Austin. The 4wd class alone was all Tom Rinderknecht with three wins and two second place finishes. This was still not enough to overcome his 2wd runs. The overall points came down to Austin and Ayden. Solid Consistent runs in both 2wd and 4wd secured the overall for Ayden Horne defending his win from 2017 marking the first back-to-back Champion for the program.
The event also follows the Reedy race model for qualifying for the Invite class. The winners of the Proline Challenge Open 2wd Mod Buggy and Open 4wd Mod Buggy classes earn a spot in the 2019 Factory Tracks Invitational. Cody Lundberg ran the Open Mod 2wd Buggy class securing the TQ after three rounds of qualifying. He lead the main event start to finish with a hefty 4.5 seconds gap over 2nd place Brenton Miller. Cody also finished well in the Stock Buggy classes demonstrating his skills further. The Open 4wd Mod Buggy class was won by Alex Vaugh who also secured TQ. He was challenged mid race by Mike Lyday and was able to regain the lead and win the second spot in the invite class for 2019.
All results are online at http://leisurehours.liverc.com/results/
The event was a huge success. Mike Nelson announced the invite classes and made them even more exciting. All the racers were having a great time filling out many classes. Everyone in the region should make sure to plan to attend next year’s Factory Tracks Invitational event. Top drivers racing together in heads-up racing each round is always a great thing to see. I know this event will be on my schedule next year.