Chetek, WI (May 30, 2012) – Eric Ruppel opened his team’s sophomore PRO-Light race season at Red Bud MX and ran one of his best races to date as a PRO competitor. The limited budget team from northwest Wisconsin looks like the driver and the #73 McGunegill Engine Performance/J & H Transmission/Optima Batteries/Phil’s Inc. Ford Ranger are ready to have a break through TORC season.
The unseasonable hot weather was just one more obstacle that was added to the already complex and technical .75 mile long Red Bud track. The layout was much faster than last year’s course, but the big elevation changes and the tight corners still made Red Bud the most challenging track on the TORC Championship trail.
The first Friday practice session saw Ruppel land hard off the Start/Finish Line jump nearly ripping of his bumper and giving the Chetek, Wisconsin as slight scare as his back received a “stinger” when the truck landed. Immediately Eric brought the truck back to the hauler to physically recuperate from the incident and get the team working on the chassis set-up.
Crew chief Kent Kramer went to work on the shock valving as Ruppel rested his sore back. The team determined it would be best to get man and machine one hundred percent ready for the next time on the track, so Ruppel Motorsports bypassed the afternoon practice and qualifying session. The allowed the team to get some assistance from Jenkins Brothers Racing on the improving the chassis setup.
The #73 McGunegill Performance Ford Ranger lined up at the back of the starting grid due to not making a timed qualifying lap. When the green flag was waved for the fifteen lap affair, it seemed like a UFC fight broke out. Bumpers were in constant contact with other bumpers as well as the racing surface. The racing was door to door and chaotic somehow Ruppel crossed the finish in eighth place. When the black #73 Ford got back to the hauler it was missing a rear quarter panel, the entire front bumper and grill, and the driver’s side door panel and nerf bar were caved in.
“Today’s race was survival of the fittest,” remarked Eric Ruppel. “It was more like making it through a battle instead of a truck race. This truck is tough and we will make one more slight shock adjustment and we will be ready for tomorrow.”
Based upon the finish from Saturday, the #73 Ford Ranger started in the eight spot on the grid. This time an actual race broke out. Unfortunately the race truck entered the race without a front bumper. This made it a real challenge to pass other trucks knowing that one wrong move could terminally end your day. Ruppel battled Hoek for several laps before making the pass stick and then began to run down Baumgartner only to run out of laps. Ruppel Motorsports finished Round Four in seventh place.
“Even though our result was the same, today I really enjoyed myself actually racing other trucks the entire time,” commented Eric Ruppel. “Racing without a front bumper (forgot to bring the spare) was a real challenge. It took me longer to cleanly get around Ross (Hoek), and then I caught Nick (Baumgartner) but ran out of time. Running without the front bumper probably cost me a spot or two at the finish…. Really had fun today and I’m really excited to get to Crandon.”