The US Gear Tear Down in Tennessee Was One for the Books

Photos by MRB Photography
The 2019 Ultra4 4WP Eastern Series kicked off its season this last weekend at Adventure Offroad Park (AOP) in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. Known for its plethora of 4×4 trails and Bounty Hill events, this was the first time AOP played host to Ultra4 Racing, and the event was definitely one for the books. If you weren’t able to join us, here’s what you missed!

Qualifying kicked off on Friday, April 12th at 2pm with all classes lined up together to take on the short, tree-lined qualifying course one by one. Set up just off the finish line of the main race course, the qualifying loop proved to be a fast get for most competitors, with lap times of under a minute laid down by top Legends, UTV and 4400 drivers. Modified and Stock class drivers also proved their prowess in the trees, with most laying down lap times in the 1 minute to 1 minute and 20-second range.

With over two hours of qualifying in the books, the leaders of each class emerged, solidifying Derek West, Casey Gilbert, Duane Garretson, Ken Carter and Matt Zeiler as the KMC Hard Charger Award winners and pole sitters for their respective classes for Saturday’s races.

Saturday, racing started at 10am with the UTV Class race – a 5-lap run of new and existing trails throughout the park, as well as a newly built short course in full spectator view. Challenged by the steep and boulder-lined terrain, UTV drivers were offered a bypass within the first canyon originally ear-marked for the Stock Class competitors. Though there were a number of trails where various lines were offered along the 4-mile loop, winching became the name of the game for just about every team. In the end, the steep hills, tight trees and slick, rocky passes proved too much for some, while others prevailed.
Pole sitter, Matt Zeiler fought from the very beginning, maintaining his first-place position from out of the gate to the checkers, followed by Dustin Robbins and Anthony Yount taking second and third.
Next was the Limited classes race, pinning Legends and Modified competitors up against a 6-lap race and the Stock Class up against four. Just like with the UTVs, the terrain proved to be a challenge for all competitors, including East Coast favorites, with slick spots becoming ever more treacherous with the moisture and wearing of the course. Even the most experienced drivers battled breakages, flattened tires, and tangles with trees, keeping Ultra4 and park staff on their toes with recovery help.

When all was said and done, just one driver was able to complete all six laps to take the checkered flag – East Coaster, Casey Gilbert in his 4800 Class car. Rounding out the podium in the Branik Motorsports 4800 Legends Class was Jonathan Terhune and Irl Christie. In the Yukon 4500 Class, Jesse Oliver raced to top honors, followed by Shawn Rants and Duane Garretson. And in the Spidertrax 4600 Class, it was John Schaefer who took first, with pole-sitter Ken Carter earning a second-place finish and Chris D’Auria coming in third.

The third and final race of the day was run by the 4400 Class, heavy with East Coast racing talent. Regional favorite, Derek West fought to keep his first-place position right out of the gate, but was eventually overtaken by another talented East Coaster, Josh Blyler, and the talented Levi Shirley.

With six laps to race, the 4400 Class made quick time of each loop, bringing the first competitors off the line through the start/finish stop-check just minutes after the last 4400 competitors had taken to the course. While the tight trees, steep hills and boulder-filled canyons took out a third of the field within the first three laps, 11 competitors were able to complete all 6 laps to take the checked flag. Proving his East Coast upbringing an asset to racing in Tennessee, Josh Blyler took first, finishing six laps in just 1 hour, 25 minutes and 28 seconds. Chasing him down to the finish was Levi Shirley, with a race time of 1 hour, 25 minutes and 52 seconds, followed by Derek West, with a time of 1 hour, 32 minutes and 11 seconds.

We had an awesome time at Adventure Offroad Park and we hope to return next year for another Eastern Series race. Next up for the East Coasters, is the Holley EFI Clash at Cross Bar Ranch, coming up in the middle of June out in Davis, Oklahoma.

For full race results from the US Gear Tear Down in Tennessee, click HERE.