For the past few years, the Pros, who race with Expert and Amateur racers, got their shot at this year’s course on Saturday. As the custom there are two head start positions auctioned before the start.
The only woman racing on Saturday was 20-year-old college student Brooke Hodges. After winning her class last year she said, “thought I’d try the main show this time.”
This time Denny Hannel bought a two-minute head start, while Rob Baker bought the one-minute advantage. After them, the rows of 10 riders would start at 15-second intervals.
And again the pros started in the very first rows where one California rider started and stormed to victory.
“Actually everything went according to plan the way I wanted to do it,” said Rodney Spencer Jr. “I took off, Irving passed me right away and I knew I had nothing for him at the beginning so I let him go. I passed him when he got hung up with a lapper or went but after that I just tried to pick it up each lap and ride a clean race.”
By checkpoint four, the top five were Powers, Spencer, Anson Maloney, Alex Dorsey and Brian Garraham. Behind the top five, Nathan Tiearney, who usually races in motocross and former winner, as well as VC native, Reece Honea were moving forward.
As the end of the first lap, Powers had a several-minute lead, but heading toward the pits at the end of the second circuit, the gap was only 18 seconds with Spencer charging hard after the leader.
Asked about the diminishing gap, Spencer said, “I tend to be a slow starter but halfway through the first lap I started feeling better and better.”
Lap traffic can be a problem, especially for the faster riders, and everyone has a different way of dealing with them, from revving their motors or yelling, to sometimes giving the slower bike a nudge. As a result, things may work well for one rider and not so for another.
While Spencer was able to get through, Powers’ race soured when he broke the front brake on his bike after hitting a lapper. After that he was riding with a wounded bike.
“You can’t really ride here with only your rear brakes,” Powers said. “I went over the handlebars a couple of times but made it back to the pits where my crew fixed the brake. After that I just was racing to make up time.”
After that, Spencer’s focus was on a clean ride, staying on it and keeping out of trouble.
Finishing about a minute back in second was Brian Garraham, who said, “It was fun, I’m happy to be up here and the first time I raced this race was 20 years ago and won amateur day.”
Honea upheld the local’s honor with a third-place finish after a determined ride.
“The bumps felt like they were getting bigger and bigger towards the end,” he said. “They had some things I’ve only run once before, the course was fun and Sutro Canyon was way gnarlier this year. I was just trying to finish the race as I’m pretty beat.”
Next highest local rider was Tiearney, who lost a chance at a top five when he hit a tree but rallied back to end up seventh. Behind him came locals Stephen Tichenor and Powers, who charged back to ninth.
Unfortunately Hodges didn’t have the best day as her bike broke during the second lap and she had to drop out. Having a better day was Larry Wright, from Yerington, who won the Over 50 Expert class with a 32nd place finish.
If there was a hard charger award it would have gone to Robert McAdam, from Fernley, who started dead last, passed 200 other riders on his first lap and ended up besting over 440 other racers to finish 124th.
After taking the checkered flag he said, “The race was good, it was brutal and really, really dusty. The first lap there were a lot of bottlenecks, got around those and it ended up a really good race.”
At the VCGP a staggered start is used as all the riders, except those with head start positions line up 10 abreast and are sent off in 15-second intervals. So a rider’s actually finish is determined by their corrected time rather than just track position.
While this seems complicated bar code labels on the helmets of the competitors are scanned by the MRANN scoring crew and their computers correct the times and set the finishing positions.
And the head start positions, those are auctioned off with the money going to local charities.
After a night of celebration Sunday dawned as the Novice, Vintage and Bomber racers got ready for their day in the dust. Their race is a bit shorter, three hours, but over the same course.
Buying the head start positions were Nichole Collins, from Jackson, Calif., who would get a three-minute head start while Beth Legenbauer from Reno got a two-minute advantage.
Everyone got off cleanly but shortly after the field headed into the hills there was a call on the race radio of an enormous bottleneck. The result was Collins has an almost five-minute advantage over Stuart Thomas as they headed for the pits at the end of the first lap.
After that things settled down as the racers negotiated both the rocks and high-speed sections. While it was drier than Saturday, there seemed to be less dust over the circuit.
This time a local won the day as Brodie Honea, a 15-year-old high school freshman, scored the victory finishing three laps in just over three hours. A bit over five minutes later Ian Murphy claimed second place just six seconds ahead of Stuart Thomas.
“Just riding with Reece (His uncle.) helps me,” he said. “I learned to attack the rocks. The toughest part today was on the side of Sugarloaf as it was super rocky and it kind of bottle necked up there so you find a line around it.”
The next highest local rider was Adam Thissen, riding a bomber bike and he ended up sixth overall while Fernley rider Jesse Jensen took ninth and won the Over 30 Novice class.
For her part, Collins did win the Women’s division but she slipped back to 10th overall at the end. Legenbauer, the other head starter, wound up second in the Women’s and finished 29th overall.
Asked when people finally caught her, Collins said, “The middle of the second lap was when people started passing me in the rocks.”
During the two days there were several crashes and the Storey County Fire Department transported three riders on Saturday. Things got crazy at the very end of Sunday’s event with at least three riders earning trips to the hospital.
Now the Comstock is silent again but next April her siren call will be heard again by those that want to both race in this classic event and be tested by one of the toughest courses around.
OTHER RACING NEWS
•This week, starting at 6 p.m. Saturday, two oval tracks will be in action.
East of here Rattlesnake Raceway in Fallon hosts another points race and features the new Outlaw Kart division. North of Reno the Diamond Mountain Speedway in Susanville, Calif. will be staging another of its points races.
•Three of NASCAR’s Nevada Quartet spend the weekend at the Richmond International Speedway. Kurt Busch drove a car owned by young brother Kyle and came from 10th to win Friday night’s Nationwide race while T.J. Bell started last and worked his way to a 28th place finish.
In Saturday evening’s Sprint Cup race, Kyle Busch won his fourth consecutive spring race here while older brother Kurt didn’t do so well starting 13th and ending up 28th.
Virginia City Grand Prix
• Saturday, April 28
Overall - 1. Rodney Spencer Jr., 2. Brian Garraham, 3. Reece Honea, 4. Alex Dorsey, 5. Anson Maloney, 6. Justin Bonita, 7. Nathan Tiearney, 8. Stephen Tichenor, 9. Irving Powers, 10. Jimmy Dowden, 11. Johnathan Estes, 12. Steve Garnett, 13. Ryan Toomey, 14. Kale Elworthy, 15. Michael Aranda, 16. Michael Berenbak, 17. Robbie Pickens, 18. Sean Berryman, 19. Cody Burke, 20. A.J. Lehr
Class winners and overall finish:
- Rodney Spencer Jr., Pro., 1st O.A., Johnathan Estes, Open Exp., 11th O.A., Michael Aranda, 250 Exp., 15th O.A., C.J. Crandall, Open Am, 22nd O.A., Rob Baker, 40+ Exp., 23 O.A. Ty Tremaine, 125 Exp, 26 O.A., John Hatfield, 250 Am, 31st O.A., Larry Wright, 50+ Exp., 32nd O.A., Josh Wilson, 30+ Exp., 44th O.A., Sam Bird, 40+ Am., Ryan Jackson, 30+ Am., 55th O.A.
•Sunday, April 29
Overall - 1. Brodie Honea, 2. Ian Murphy, 3. Stuart Thomas, 4. Travis McFadden, 5. Wesley Haskell, 6. Adam Thissen, 7. Parker Evans, 8. Dylan Nevens, 9. Jesse Jensen, 10. Nichole Colling, 11. Wyatt Brittner, 12. Eric Cramer, 13. Mike Kenney, 14. Will Allen, 15. Rob Rael, 16. Taylor Ward, 17. Conor Heley, 18. Joshua Paloma, 19. Ben Mihali, 20. Patrick Kluge
Class winners and overall finish:
— Brodie Honea, 250 Nov., 1st OA, Ian Murphy, 30+ Nov, 2nd O.A., Wesley Haskell, Open Nov., 5th O.A., Adam Thissen, Bomber, 6th O.A., Nichole Colling, Women, 10th O.A., Mike Kenney, 40+ Nov, 13th O.A., Dave Anderson, 50+ Nov., 21st O.A.Pete Prichard, 60+, 36th O.A.,Reece Dominguez, 125 Nov, 38th O.A., Chris Loer, Vintage, 59th O.A.
* - The results are unofficial and subject to change. For a complete list please check the VCGP.com website as the full list will be posted this coming week.