By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
The SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Trucks hosted its first of two rounds that’ll wrap up its 2018-19 season Saturday at the Foro Sol ballpark located inside Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, with Robby Gordon defeating Matt Brabham to win the Race of Champions Mexico SST Race No. 1.
Both competitors battled the circuit and tried avoiding making a mistake. However, the third lap proved to be the race changing moment as Brabham struggled with his truck, resulting Gordon to have a 2.62 second lead as he took the white flag and ultimately winning by over 2.5 seconds.
“Robby was a bit too quick for me there,” said Brabham. “I did everything I could to try beat him, but he was the better man today.”
However, a semifinal exit by Gavin Harlien and advancing to the finals officially locked the series championship for the 24-year-old American/Australian.
Brabham said winning the championship after losing last season’s title over Paul Morris by one point made the losing effort over Gordon bittersweet.
“It’s awesome to win the championship, so it’s bittersweet,” said Brabham. “There’s plenty more races and I’m just so stoke to win the championship.
“It was such a heartbreak last year, (losing it by) one point. I’m so happy to get it this year. Thanks to everyone that’s supported me, DeVilbiss, and all my sponsors. We finally did it so I’m happy.”
Despite winning for the third time this season, Gordon was a bit concerned that he and Brabham were going to run out of fuel on the last lap. However, that didn’t happened as he thanked ROC organizer Frederik Johnson for bringing SST this weekend.
“That was pretty good Race No. 1. I think we ran the trucks too long without putting any fuel in them and I think both Matt and myself were running out of fuel on the last lap,” said Gordon. “What a cool event Frederik (Johnson) does with Race of Champions. It’s an honor that we can bring Stadium SUPER Trucks here and race with them.”
Gordon’s road to victory however proved to be challenging as he felt multiple times that elimination was near due to hitting cones and barriers, which warranted a five second penalty.
“The track is really, really tight,” said Gordon. “We struggled and I figured two times that I was eliminated because I ran over cones. But the guys racing around me ran over more cones which brought me back in. So a couple of times I thought I was out, but I was still in.”
Unlike its traditional beating and banging that’s made SST one of the most popular forms of racing today, the format was a bracket format resembling the ROC that’s also held this weekend.
The concept was five races in the first round with the winners moving on and the fastest loser also advances after all races are completed. They’ll run around the tight and narrow circuit for three consecutive laps to determine who moves on. For the main event, it was extended to four laps where the victor takes top step of the podium in the ROC Mexico SST’s opening race.
Harlien said this style of racing comes down to driver mentality when competing in this weekend’s format.
“Usually, we’re used to banging and battling and passing each other in corners,” said Harlien. “Now it’s all really technical and focusing on speed and not so much on speed. It’s definitely different, but we got to adapt and do our best.”
Brabham added that he’s not used to this style of racing in the SST and misses it, but he’s having fun running the circuit in Mexico.
“I think the track is awesome, the layout is good, it’s fun to drive, but we’re not used to that element of just qualifying and racing as each other,” said Brabham. “We’re used to biffing and bashing, throwing it out on the inside, hip checking each other out of the way. We’re missing that a little bit, but it’s still fun.
The 20th and final round of the 2018-19 campaign will take place Sunday and it’ll air live on the Stadium Super Trucks Facebook page at 5:30 p.m. EST.
The newly crowned champion said he’s been enjoying the crowd that stuck around after opening day of the 2019 Race of Champions commenced.
“It’s so much fun racing here,” said Brabham. “It’s such a great atmosphere and to come out here has been awesome so far. I can’t wait for tomorrow, get a good rest and hopefully I can do some homework and beat Robby. He was fast out there, damn.”
ROC Mexico SST Race No. 1 Results
1. Robby Gordon
2. Matt Brabham
3. Cole Potts
#2 Blade Hildebrand def. #9 Jerett Brooks
#3 Jeff Hoffman def. #8 Casey Mears
#4 Matt Brabham def. #7 Cole Potts
#5 Davey Hamilton, Jr. def. #6 Gavin Harlien
#1 Robby Gordon def. #10 Apdaly Lopez
Fastest Loser: Potts
#1 Gordon def. #3 Hoffman
#4 Brabham def. #2 Hildebrand
#6 Harlien def. #7 Potts
Fastest Loser: Potts
#1 Gordon def. #6 Harlien
#4 Brabham def. #7 Potts
#1 Gordon def. #4 Brabham