RIDGEFIELD — Junkers, clunkers and beaters bashed their way around the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds track on Friday.
Then on Saturday, WGAS Motorsports Tuff Truck races returned for another round, with Monster Trucks tearing up the track Sunday.
These events are regulars at the Clark County Fair, which was canceled for two years in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds is offering the Family Fun Series as a substitute this summer, with Tuff Trucks and a handful of other fan favorites continuing through mid-August.
Tuff Truck competitions have two racing classes: street and open. The street class allows only street-legal vehicles to complete — usually trucks or SUVs — while the open class allows for more heavily modified vehicles.
Each racer gets two attempts per day to come up with the fastest time around the track, which features several jumps, moguls and a mud pit. If racers go off the track and hit a safety cone, five seconds gets added to their time. The open-class grand prize was $1,000 each night, with trophies for all classes.
Chess Archibald of Vancouver said he’s been racing in Clark County on and off for 15 years. His entry this year was a fairly standard street-class 2005 Jeep Cherokee with one special addition: an inflatable dinosaur riding an inflatable camo-colored rubber duck strapped to the roof — for the kids, he said.
Friday wasn’t the first time Archibald ran his Jeep through the race.
“I got it from Bend, Ore., about three years ago for Tuff Trucks,” he said before his first lap. “Ran it here, had a blast with it. I rebuilt the front end and ran it again two years ago.”
Archibald said he then replaced the front struts and lifted the jeep in preparation for this year’s race. He said he was sad the event was canceled last year but was happy with the extra time it gave him to prepare for the 2021 run.
Drivers lined up their cars in a parking lot across the street from the grandstand two hours before the race. Most spent the downtime doing last-minute tuneups or spray-painting designs on their vehicles.
Chris Holt of Castle Rock had his front airbag removed by a mechanic before the race. His vehicle of choice was a 1996 Jeep.
“Rusty, crusty and crappy,” Holt said. “It has no resale value. But it’ll be fun.”
As Friday’s 7 p.m. race approached, fans began filing into the stadium, buying food from the Lion’s Club grill and drinks from the bar. Signs around the arena encouraged social distancing and noted that masks were required for the unvaccinated. Most attendees were maskless. Hand sanitizer stations were placed throughout the grandstands.
More than 40 racers drove their rigs onto the track for introductions and descriptions of the cars. Sponsors for some vehicles included Precision Wheel Repair, Affordable Auto and, simply, “your mom.”
After intros and a short countdown, the racers revved their engines to ear-splitting volumes, sending the small but eager crowd into a frenzy.
Finally, it was race time.
Lap times varied from just under 24 seconds for Friday’s open-class leader, Jason Smolarek, to 90 seconds or more for those who had mechanical breakdowns at some point on the brutal track.
Bumpers went flying, engines sputtered and Archibald’s rubber duck and T-rex decoration nearly flew off as the announcers encouraged the crowd to cheer for every racer.
Alisha Taylor and her family sat at the top of the northern end of the grandstands. She said they usually come to see Tuff Trucks every year, and her kids love it.
“We wish the fair would have happened this year, too, but we’ll take what we can get,” Taylor said. “This is definitely one of the highlights.”
Between laps, the other racers waited in line and repaired what they could on their vehicles.
Archibald, who slammed into the mud pit hard in his first run but otherwise had no issues, took the time to re-inflate his rubber duck.
“It’s a new course this year,” he said between laps. “It was a lot of fun. I loved it. The water (from the mud pit) somehow missed me for the most part.
“It’s a blast out here, man,” he added.
Unfortunately, the night’s races ended prematurely because the track became too dark at around 9:30 p.m. The final few street-class racers completed their laps, but the open-class racers weren’t able to have their second run of the day.
Josh Johnson led Friday’s street class with a time of 27.873 seconds.
Once the event was called, fans slowly trickled back to their cars. Some waited in line to ride around the track on the back of a real Monster Truck a few times before the grounds closed.
Woodland residents Steve Schimmel; his wife, Jamie; and their daughters Ashlyn, 4, and Ellie, 2 — still full of energy — chased each other around the nearly empty parking lot on their way back to their car.
“It was a great event as a comeback from COVID and the shutdowns,” Steve Schimmel said, with Ashlyn on his shoulders. “A lot of family fun.”