The RCAA-sanctioned Goodyear/Skyjacker Rock Crawling Championships held its fourth season-ending event in Johnson Valley, California, and the 2002 Series winners are Mike Shaffer and Lance Clifford. Chris Durham won the first series in 2000, and Team Currie finished first in 2001. Although the number of rockcrawling events has grown to more than 30 events in 2002, the RCAA events have always attracted the top drivers and their wild 4x4s from around the country. If you win a Goodyear/Skyjacker Rock Crawling Series, you've competed with the most experienced drivers and vehicles in America.
The Johnson Valley OHV open area is located about 25 miles north of Yucca Valley, California, near the intersection of Highway 62 and 247. In the weeks prior to the event, the area recorded some of the hottest temperatures of the year (more than 100 degrees). Those temperatures left the desert dry and dusty. Spectators, competitor teams, and normal area traffic created a large dust cloud that hung over Means Dry Lakebed like a heavy fog at the beach. Fortunately, the competition was held on a rocky section north of the dry lake and most traffic needed only to drive through the dust bowl to reach the competition site. Even though temperatures dropped from the 107 degrees recorded the week before to the mid-90s during the event, two spectators were treated for heat exhaustion.
Team Shaffer/Clifford worked hard to stay on top of the pack. Going into the final event at Johnson Valley, team Ken Shupe/Kevin "Moose" Nalley were trailing team Shaffer/Clifford by only 14 points and would have liked nothing better than to take the lead away from Shaffer. After three events, John and Kip Gilleland were down 18 points and in Third. After the first day of competition in Johnson Valley, Shaffer and Shupe teams tied for 13th place with -4 points. Tracy Jordan finished in First place with -19 points. Joel Randall took Second place with -16 points. Curt Hildebrand held Third place with a score of -14 points. John Gilleland, Don Robbins, and Chris Durham finished the first day in a three-way tie for Fourth place with a score of -13 points. The top contenders were so close in points that even touching one of the cones marking the course would determine who would win (hitting a cone costs a competitor 10 points.) On Saturday, the last day, the competitors were feeling the pressure.
In the first year of RCAA competition (formerly known as ARCA), a score of zero on an obstacle was a perfect score. In the second year, extra credit routes were planned into some of the obstacles, thereby giving the teams an opportunity to earn a score below zero. Although the Shaffer and Shupe teams finished 13th on the first day, their accumulated points for the series still placed them at the top of the pack. The next three competitors had closed the point gap and were now close behind. Saturday's scores would determine the top five positions in the 2002 Series. The extra credit routes would become even more critical. If a driver tries and fails to make an extra credit route, he could time-out or even roll over. But the extra credit points were critical to winning and the drivers knew it.
In order for Shupe to win, he needed to close the 14 point gap to the leader, team Shaffer, on the final day of competition. In fact, they both needed to do better than 13th place or John Gilleland and Joel Randall would overtake both of them. When the Saturday competition started, the top competitors got very aggressive. Shaffer nearly rolled over several times, but he managed to keep his vehicle on its wheels and better his score by turning in a score of -23 points. This earned Shaffer a Third Place in Johnson Valley and First Place in the 2002 Goodyear/Skyjacker Series. Shupe, on the other hand, did not fare so well. He timed out on an obstacle while attempting an extra credit route and turned in a score of 58 points. Although Shupe placed 16th in Johnson Valley, his accumulated series score earned him a Fourth place in the Goodyear/Skyjacker Series. John Gilleland took First place and Joel Randall won Second place in Johnson Valley.
Rumors exist that next year's Goodyear/Skyjacker Rock Crawling Championship Series will introduce a modified-stock class into the four event series in 2003. If you thought the RCAA events have been exciting, wait until two classes of vehicles start competing on the same tough course, especially when the lower class couldn't drive some of the obstacles. Watch for a lot of winching.
|2003 Goodyear/Skyjacker Rock |
Crawling Event Schedule
|April 10-12 ||Reno, NV |
|May 22-24 ||TBA |
|July 10-12 ||Cedar City, UT |
|October 4-11 ||Farmington, NM |
|2002 Goodyear/Skyjacker Rock Crawling |
|Final Scores |
|1. ||Mike Shaffer ||550 |
|2. ||John Gilleland ||540 |
|3. ||Joel Randall ||524 |
|4. ||Ken Shupe ||514 |
|5. ||Don Robbins ||506 |
|6. ||Jason Paule ||502 |
|7. ||Tracy Jordan ||488 |
|8. ||Walker Evans ||488 |
|9. ||Ian Lijeblad ||474 |
|10. ||Chris Durham ||466 |
|11. ||Jason Bunch ||458 |
|12. ||Nantz/Bonney ||458 |
|13. ||Currie/Waggoner ||440 |
|14. ||Mitch Guthrie ||440 |
|15. ||Charlie Copsey ||418 |
Rock Crawling Association of America (RCAA)