Aug. 28, 2006 By Katrina Ramser

Waggoner beats Zeller in Shoot Out for long-anticipated win, but misses out on Western Series championship due to Campbell’s tiebreaker point.

By Katrina Ramser

A world-renowned location, mountainous views and weather, enthusiastic fans and the race for Western Series titles on outstanding courses turned Rock’n at the Ranch into the number one W.E. ROCK event to attend of the year. The granite slopes at Donner Ski Ranch, California, made for perfect wheeling and a picturesque display of over $2 million dollars worth of off-road technology, from August 25th to the 27th.

With thousands of dollars going out for prize money, over 60 teams competed in the chase. Would Unlimited class Shannon Campbell have an easy ride keeping Jason Paule away from an event win, and thus his series title? Was Cody Waggoner’s desire for a 1st place win hard enough break his three-way series tie with Bruce Zeller and Tracy Jordan? With one point ahead of Dean Bullock in the standings, would Pro Modified class Jeff Mello be able to get a grip on terrain that has historically been kinder to the “Iceman”? The air might have been mountain-fresh, but you could still feel the tension. And it got even thicker when Unlimited competitors driver Jason Scherer and spotter Lance Clifford showed up, as well as Professional Modified competitors Brad and Rodger Lovell – all in order to put on an incredible show and ultimately throw a monkey wrench into the Event #4 competition results.

Zeller and Jordan were running in the same group and in mentioned order. Beginning with A2, both drivers climbed up the starting gate rock slab with ease and worked their way around the back of the course’s rocks before taking the final drop (or leap) off a ledge that had competitors scratching heads with concern. Despite some concerns from Tracy regarding the judge’s communication over an out-of-bounds issue, both scored –3. John Hall and his brother – yes, the Halls turned up and with a very loyal following— used their frantic energy, voices and skill to score a very notable 8 points on A2, letting the competition know they would be a team to bargain with this weekend. “It feels good to get back into it,” he said.

Over on A4, Ellinger was leaking fuel and generally having trouble bellying up a ledge (38 points). Where Rick Dermo timed out (A3), Mazzoni pleased the crowd (8 points) on this spectator-central course. This was the infamous course that snarled Scherer in his final run, in his final moments (38 points) and robbed him of a Top Three placement for the day. Here, the A3 judge sited Cody’s performance as a “perfect run” (-4 points). It was all good news from Cody Waggoner and his scorecard (A1/–4; A2/-1) at this point, but his strategy was to remain steadily optimistic and poised for trouble. “When you see others struggle, it makes you concerned,” he said. “Knock on wood, hopefully we’ll get the next one too.”

End of Day One Totals:
1st Waggoner –13
2nd Campbell –12
3rd Jordan –10
4th(tie) Paule 6
4th (tie) Zeller 6
6th John Hall 12
7th Mike Papola 13
8th Jason Scherer 25
9th Brent Bradshaw 35
10th Jake Hallenbeck 40

Move IT or Loose IT!

Shane Yost ended Day One with 120 points and held the honors of being the only team needing to be winched off the course. This will certainly jeopardized his 10th place season standings. Scott Ellinger ended Saturday with a less-than-stellar total of 66 points; like Yost, he’s pressured to pull through on Day Two if he is going to even think about remaining in the Top Ten season standings. Competitors like Bradshaw, Downs and Mazzoni proved they were more than happy to move up in the series points. Pro Modified Jeff Mello’s engine seizing up on him during B2 and caused him to miss B3 entirely – his series standing was slowing melting away (along with a lot of motor oil). This helped our “visiting friends” the Lovells secure 1st place standings for the day – and don’t think Bullock wasn’t right behind, because he was, and then Bob Standage and Becca Webster.

Enter Sunday and course B1, arguably the toughest line rock crawling has ever seen. Cody drove like there wasn’t anything else in the world he wanted more than a W.E ROCK season win and earned the top honors of being one of the few teams to make it over the course’s rocky ledge (11 points). However, nothing could compare to watching Scherer and Lance plot a successful vertical catapult up and over the B1 Bonus Line for a –4 points. You have to give credit to Lance who has professionally and personally reinvented himself to maintain a competitive edge. He gave it back to Scherer by pushing him to think the unthinkable and thus drive the un-drivable.

However, if you prefer the spectacular display from seasoned professionals, then watching Campbell shoot straight the gigantic boulder on B4’s Bonus Line was the moment for you (-22). “This proves the fact why he was the Driver of the Year,” commented (Little) Rich Klein. “To stump someone like Shannon is a really big deal.”
But you couldn’t keep the talk away from Scherer, who was creating the most murmurs on the mountain: He too was one to watch on B4, his performance pointed out by Little Rich. Course B4 (and possibly course designer Little Rich) enjoyed fooling competitors into thinking they were safe after the boulder climb and rolled the likes of Rick Dermo (31 points) with its dips and gullies. “We’re old, but we’re having fun,” laughed a good-natured Dermo. “We’re putting a show on for the people.”

The real show began at the Unlimited Shoot Out, and began rather timely at 3:00 pm for the Pro Mods and around 4:30pm for the Unlimited. The Lovells struggled on the course and Bullock took the Pro Mod win. For the Unlimited, Zeller was in the lead with –32 points, followed by Waggoner (-27), then a tie between Scherer (-23) and Jordan (-23), Campbell (1) and Paule (26). Close matches as these are not without its tension, and this particular pre-event controversy involved the suggestion of an arm wresting match between competitors for a Shoot Out running order, and near after the rejection of that idea, the accusation of someone’s bathroom break near (or on, as the controversy states) someone else’s competition vehicle. Paule ran first across Little Rich’s A3-C1 combo Shoot Out course and used rear steer. Scoring only 22 points on the Shoot Out, Paule made it very clear he would remain 6th in the event and land further on down the line up in season standings – Paule also made it clear this was a race for moonbuggies.

Second up came Campbell, who made a Bonus-Line-attempt-turned-freewheeling-move that would make skateboarders proud (15). Campbell would take 5th in the event. How did Campbell open up the door for the others? By trying to unsuccessfully take B1’s Bonus Line. Jordan turned it on for –13 in points, which tightened the gap and had the loyal crowd and competitors running numbers in their head. Cody Waggoner was all business at the starting gates and was successfully navigating through Rich’s twists and turns when he realized, to his and the crowd’s horror, he had missed a loop. With two minutes to go, Waggoner shot up the final slab wall and made it to the gates in time for –15 points. With Zeller up next, quick calculations proved he needed at least a –10 to win the event. Zeller, the only competitor not to back up in the Shoot Out, hit a cone at the starting gate. Without that cone, he would have gotten a –16. With the cone and in reality, Zeller got a –6. It was Waggoner’s W.E. ROCK 2006 win. Waggoner almost took home the Western Series championship from Campbell, had it not been for a tiebreaker point. With the upsets and narrow wins, you wondered if the some of competitors were going through the old Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda argument. Sometimes you know it doesn’t matter, but sometimes it eats away at you until next season.

1st Cody Waggoner -42
2nd Jason Scherer -39 (extra point due to tiebreaker)
3rd Bruce Zeller -38
4th Tracy Jordan -36
5th Shannon Campbell 16
6th Jason Paule 48
7th Jake Hallenbeck 55
8th Jeff Downs 63
9th John Hall 85
10th Peter Mazzoni 110

For more scores in Modified Stock and Professional Modified classes as well as the Series Standings, check out www.we-rock.cc/series_standings.php The final round of the series decide who competes in the U.S. National and World Championship events taking place in Dallas, Texas and Las Vegas, Nevada this fall.




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