CRANDON, WI -- For the first time, a Sportsman high-performance off-road pickup truck racer got the jump on bigger and faster professional drivers and was first to register for the 2003 BorgWarner Shootout. Ben Wandahsega, Bark River, MI, who ...
CRANDON, WI -- For the first time, a Sportsman high-performance off-road pickup truck racer got the jump on bigger and faster professional drivers and was first to register for the 2003 BorgWarner Shootout. Ben Wandahsega, Bark River, MI, who finished 20th in last year's race, is primed and ready to go for the 9th annual race this coming Labor Day weekend at Crandon Raceway. Wandahsega's official registration for the most important off-road race of the year was the first received by the Crandon track office. Off-road racing's most prestigious race, the Shootout for the $100,000 BorgWarner Cup is the main event at the annual World Championship Off-Road Races, August 29-31, Labor Day weekend.
"The heavy metal BorgWarner Shootout is one of the most anticipated events in all of racing -- not just off-road," said the soft-spoken Wandahsega. He drives a 750 HP, 2-wheel drive Chevrolet on BF Goodrich tires and is newly-sponsored by the Potawatomi Bingo Northern Lights Casino and Indian Springs Lodge - both in Carter, WI. Other Wandahsega sponsors include Bob's Homes, Inc., of Iron Mountain, MI, Kobas Electric, Delta Do-It Center, Hilltop RV Super Store, U.P. Mortgage Specialists, Gundlach Champion, Edwards Collision Center, A-1 Sports, Tom's Muff-ex, Meier's Signs, Frei Chevrolet, AMSOIL, and ATD Transmissions. "Our team is delighted to be the first to register for the Shootout," said Wandahsega. "We are particularly happy to get this recognition for all our sponsors and make our main sponsors -- the Potawatomi Bingo Northern Lights Casino and Indian Springs Lodge -- number one as well," he said. "I watched for the registration each day and returned it the same day our team received it and it is a real honor to be first and the first Sportsman racer to beat the pros at this," he said.
Driver registrations for the World Championship BorgWarner Shootout are all posted per U.S. mail guidelines on various days and are sent to the country's top off-road truck racers nationwide. This year, Shootout registration packages were mailed from southern Florida to every driver. Cliff Flannery, president, Crandon Raceway, said drivers take the Shootout very seriously. "There is a lot of money on the line and prestige with the silver and gold BorgWarner cup," he said. "It's just the nature of the racing breed," he noted. "Whether they are walking around the block or racing in the Shootout, drivers just want to be first no matter what."
Chad Schlueter's Rampage Racing Team (Ford) was first to register for the inaugural Shootout event in 1995. Dan Vanden Heuvel, Appleton, WI, (Chevrolet) was the first to register in 1996. Curt LeDuc, Cherry Valley, CA, (Ford) registered first three consecutive years from 1997 to 1999. Carl Renezeder, Laguna Beach, CA, (Chevrolet) was first in 2000 followed by Johnny Greaves, DePere, WI, (Toyota) in 2001. Jason Baldwin, Newport Beach, CA, was first to register his Ford 4x4 last year. All the previous drivers to register first were in the Professional divisions.
Wandahsega enters the record books as the first Sportsman to beat out his more formidable pro drivers. "There is no doubt that Crandon Raceway is the greatest off-road track in the country," said Wandahsega, who lives in Michigan's Upper Peninsula about 90 minutes from the track. "I have a lot of fans who attend the annual World Championships and who knows, maybe this is the year a Sportsman driver wins the biggest race of them all," he said. "I love this race and the other heavy metal challenge shootout held in June -- the Potawatomi Governor's Cup race," said Ben.
Stranger things have happened in off-road racing where fans never know who will take the checkered flag in the big Shootout races at Crandon. Last year, a 2-wheel drive pro racer, Scott Taylor, Belvidere, IL, shocked the off-road racing world by winning both the BorgWarner Shootout and the Potawatomi Governor's Cup race. He was the first 2-wheel drive racer to win either event in the modern history of off-road racing.
Earlier this year in the Forest County Potawatomi Governor's Cup race at Crandon, there were seven lead changes in the 10-lap shootout with Toyota driver Johnny Greaves battling Ford driver Curt LeDuc right down to the last turn on the last lap. Greaves took the checkers.
Crandon's precarious first turn and wide open passing lanes mean anything can happen at any time. Wandahsega said his goal with his #297 Chevy is to rip off a fast time in the NISMO time trials for entry into the BorgWarner Shootout. The time trials are held Friday, August 29 at the track. The top five 2-wheel drive trucks receive a handicap lead at the start of the race. "If I can be one of the 'Fab Five' and be a part of the handicap LeMan-style start, I have as good a chance as any driver to win," said Ben.
Off-road race fans can see Wandahsega's run for his first BorgWarner Shootout win at the BorgWarner World Championship Off-Road Races, August 29 - August 31 at Crandon. Upwards of 325 racers in various classes will be competing for World Championship recognition over the weekend. More than 125 racers will be competing for points in the Lucas Oil CORR series. Vehicles range from entry level buggies to high horsepower, high performance 4x4 race trucks. The venerable off-road raceway expects a record crowd for its 34th anniversary of World Championship off-road racing.
The race draws the "best of the best" said Flannery. Ford Trucks has won the coveted Cup the last six years in a row. The 44-inch, 150-lb. award has been on display at the Ford Truck Product Development Center in Dearborn, MI. If Wandahsega is successful, the Cup would make its way to Chevrolet headquarters in Detroit, MI, for the second time.
In addition to BorgWarner, other key sponsors at Crandon International Off-Road Raceway include the Forest County Potawatomi, NISMO, Snap-On Tools, Rancho, Phil's Automotive Warehouse, BF Goodrich, Indian Springs Lodge, Goodyear, Coca-Cola, Miller Lite, Bergstrom Ford, Johnsonville Sausage, KC Hilites, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Brands, Miller Electric Welders, Baumgart Tire, Precision Gear, Parsons Chevrolet, Amsoil, Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry, Summit Truckstyle, Associated Bank, Kumho Tires, Potawatomi Bingo Northern Lights Casino, K&N, Skyjacker, Fabtech and GM Hydra-Matic, among others. The Fabtech BorgWarner Shootout will be tape-delayed broadcast on Speed Channel later this year.
Crandon kicks off the 2003 World Championship weekend with the Friday evening, August 29 "Xtreme Thunderfest", sponsored by Forest County Potawatomi. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. and features the unusual and bizarre from the world of motorspots. Well-known monster trucks such as Avenger, Brutus, and Destroyer will perform. Also performing will be Little Miss Dangerous -- the country's top female monster truck driver -- and Avenger -- a finalist in the the World Championship Monster Truck freestyle competition last year. The Xtreme Thunderfest also features an appearance by the mysterious and bizarre Transtormer robot truck.
On Saturday, racers will compete for World Championship titles in off-road racing classes ranging from American Sedans to 4x4 trucks. On Sunday, Lucas Oil Championship Off-Road Racing action continues all day with the BorgWarner Shootout scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.