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THE UNPROFESSIONALS: Dirt Nitro Challenge picks

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By Tyler Hooks

The Unprofessionals is sporadic column where we lend our interns or otherwise opinionated people a platform for their voice on RC matters or racing events. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of LiveRC. Got an opinion? Submit your story to and we might publish it!


It's time for the first major nitro event of the year. No one has posted who they think will win yet other than the B and C teams rooting for their star drivers from home. I am pretty much as unqualified to provide these picks as one could be, so I figured I would throw my opinion out there because no one is stopping me. These are 100% opinions and in no way reflect statistics or quality observations.

The Favorites:
These guys are boring, not because of how they drive, but because they are expected to be at the top which doesn’t always make for stellar racing. It is consistent though which is why they all have jobs.

Ryan Maifield:
The most current off-road WC is coming in to Nitro Challenge with a solid program headed by a new platform (Mugen MBX8), and some controversy with electronics sponsors which I personally don’t think will phase him in the slightest. Ryan is second in wins only to Ty Tessmann at DNC and after wins last year in all three premier classes I’m sure he is ready to show it wasn’t a fluke. 

Ty Tessmann:
The previous WC and XRAY 1/8-scale figure head and his family enter 2018  with an extremely solid program after hopefully minimizing battery connection problems. I’m sure the five-time 2017 ROAR National Champion is ready to shake off his results from last year's DNC and extend his overall wins lead. 

Ryan Cavalieri:
He’s won some, not as many as the first two but some. He is always in the mix though and as 2016 showed, a win is definitely doable for not-so “pudge.” To compete as well as he did and not get the win at Reedy, I’m sure left him wanting more and we will see if that translates next weekend.

Robert Batlle:
A personal favorite of mine to grab a win next weekend, I feel like Robert hasn’t had this strong of a package in a long time, if ever and it’s showing. The recent Montpellier winner is rocking a fresh car platform with Mugen, an O.S.-based Ninja engine, and new comer Hot Race Tires. Next weekend we will see if he can finally pull off a win.

Ryan Lutz:
Making no major changes program wise, and enjoying a relatively quiet off-season, I feel like you can never count out Ryan in any class. With an ever growing Tekno presence and more team support I feel like this plays to the Lutzinator's advantage.

David Ronnefalk:
I personally thought 2017 would be an unstoppable year for the current 1/8-scale WC. He had solid finishes but lacked a break out win. I don’t think that means we can count him out, he has had great success in the past at DNC and continues to grow and develop with the HB Racing team. 

Jared Tebo:
The first major 1/8-scale race of the year is the perfect time for Tebo to show up to 2018. A fresh team manager and a renewed fire to get on top will fuel Jared if he can get comfortable. DNC has been solid in the past for Kyosho USA’s figure head so I refuse to count him out.

The Wild Cards:

This is where feelings will get hurt which sucks, but it’s my opinion and it wouldn’t be valid if it was fake. Can they win? Probably. Would it come as a major surprise to me? Yes. 

Dakotah Phend:
Dakotah is on this list because 2017 wasn’t kind to the phenom in nitro. Does this mean he lacks the ability to win DNC? No not in the slightest, but I think that if his bad luck continues he might have a rough time. I would love nothing more than to see him win, but I think he needs some luck on his side.

Spencer Rivkin:
“Spenca” has the speed, but in order to get a win at DNC I think he still requires some mental stamina. “But didn’t he win Silver State in the past?” Yes but the DNC track isn’t forgiving, isn’t nice, and doesn’t care about your feelings. It requires some major focus and patience. 

Joe Bornhorst:
Sorry buddy, you’re a wild card. I think races like this are still an anxious affair for Joe. If he can get out of his own head and stay loose he can win. It’s as simple as that. 

Cole Ogden:
Cole's been on fire but it hasn’t been his time yet. It seems like HB Racing is taking him more seriously, the team is putting in the work, and 2018 might be the year of “the Ogden.” 

Adam Drake:
Will Adam make the mains? Very likely, but I don’t think he will win. Stranger things have happened though and I think “The Drake” loves to prove idiots with keyboards wrong. 

Renaud Savoya:
There is definitely still fire and a will to win in the Savoya camp, but age, work, and family life I’m sure are making things difficult. Reno has the ability to win but some stars would need to align. 

Alex Zanchettin:
Alex is insanely quick and completely flat out. I think having the Tekno team around to help fit a setup to his style for the tough DNC surface will do him some good. Look out for him in the mains.

Joseph Quagraine:
He isn’t going to win, but he has some time on the “Black” edition of his signature JQ rides. He could definitely be fast enough to be in the way though; look for him to ruin some people’s days. 

Marco Baruffolo:
One of the most recent Xray aquisitions, Marco is already looking incredibly strong at races in Europe. He has had great success in the past with TLR but I personally think his new car will fit him better and with some time he could be a major contender. He is the true definition of a wild card so I’m excited to see where he ends up.

In truly unprofessional fashion I'm forgetting people, but here are multiple solid picks and reasonings. Sorry if I offended you or forgot you — prove me wrong, or don't.

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About the Author

Tyler Hooks is a recent college graduate with a BBA in management and a Minor in Communications from St. Edwards University as well as a ROAR Stock National Champion and was apart of the IFMAR World Championship USA team in 2016. Tyler is currently an Editor as well as in the Advertising department at Live Race Media and frequently is apart of the broadcast team at major events.

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