Student 1, Teacher 1 Rivas loses to Ellis in G-Squared rematch The Mohegan Sun team of rider Chris "Rocket" Rivas, tuner Rugged Mike Ruggerio, and owner Jesse Fenton could barely keep their smiles between their ears. With a 7.10 personal best on...
Student 1, Teacher 1
Rivas loses to Ellis in G-Squared rematch
The Mohegan Sun team of rider Chris "Rocket" Rivas, tuner Rugged Mike Ruggerio, and owner Jesse Fenton could barely keep their smiles between their ears. With a 7.10 personal best on their billet-motor Buell "Juliana" (named after Fenton's mom), they were qualified #2 for the NHRA Powerade Series national event at National Trail Raceway near Columbus, Ohio. Right across the pit road, the multi-million dollar Vance & Hines Screamin' Eagle team was just a tick of the clock ahead with a 7.09. Operating at a fraction of the V&H budget, the Mohegan Sun team had reason to be proud.
"We're in a tough bunch, I'll tell you that," Jesse said, looking over the ladder. "It's not gonna be easy." And it wasn't.
Chris started raceday off by beating Mike Berry, who redlit, in round 1. "I saw Mike's redlight when I took off," said Rivas. "I wasn't sure if it was his or mine, but I was pretty sure it was his. I was paying attention to that too much and missed my 1-2 shift, and that's why we slowed down on that pass."
"After round 1, we went back to the pits and I said 'We're not gonna change anything,'" reported Rivas. "We didn't really have any good data to tune off of because I'd kinda plugged it along lazily after the redlight."
Rivas then met with G-Squared mentor Chip Ellis in round 2. This was a rematch from the previous week's event in Atlanta, where student Rivas whipped teacher Ellis. Not so in Columbus, where Chip advanced past Chris to an all V-Twin semifinal.
"We left pretty much dead even," said Rivas. "I had a better 60 foot and I could see that I was pulling ahead, then he was pulling ahead, then I pulled ahead and then he got me at the line. It was so much fun! Of course I want to win, but if I have to give up a round to somebody, I'd prefer to give it up to them than anybody else."
Having so much fun in the race against Ellis enlightened Rivas on how he'd been treating his racing up to this point. "The whole thing for me still doesn't feel that real," said Rivas. "After all the years of watching the NHRA, it always seemed like an unattainable level. But I guess we're doing pretty well. This is the most success my team owners have had in racing and we've already exceeded their expectations. I should be having more fun like I did on that pass against Chip and take some of the pressure off of myself. Every time we have good time, I feel like it should be better."
"Chris is riding the bike just great," said Brian Bozsum, who co-owns the bike with Fenton. "I know Chris wants a pole and a win, but we're really pleased to be qualifying in the top half of the field."
In an effort to do better at the next race in Chicago, and to take the lead in their own personal tally with Ellis, Rivas and the team will be doing some massaging on the Buell. "We're trying to figure out some quirks in the fuel injection system," said Chris. "One of my specialties is dynotuning fuel injected V-Twins, and this system is a little tricky. A lot of the carbureted guys think we have a huge advantage with the fuel injection, but it's just like putting jets in a carburetor. We put our tune-up in back at the trailer and if the weather changes, we're stuck with it just like the carb guys are."
After the Chicago race comes the race at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey-the closest stop on the NHRA calendar to the Mohegan Sun Casino and Resort. Mohegan Sun will be holding a special event honoring all of its race teams on June 15th from 3-6pm. In addition to Rivas and the Buell, Paul Athey and his IHRA/NHRA Top Fuel car and Matt Kobyluck and his NASCAR Northeast Busch series car will be at the entrance to the arena's casino. Drivers will be signing autographs and giving away prizes to casino visitors that day, so make a trip to Mohegan Sun part of your race week plans.