A Day at the Track, Robby Unser Wins Goodguys AutoCrosser of the Year
Robby Unser won the Duel in the Desert Saturday and in the process earned the title of Goodguys 2017 F.A.S.T. AutoCrosser of the Year. The road to the title was a yearlong affair that started right here at Westworld of Scottsdale in March. After a season’s worth of preliminary qualifying events on the Goodguys event tour, the Duel in the Desert AutoCross serves as the year end championship. And what a race it was.
The format of the race is similar to that of the NCAA Basketball tournament only the field size is 32 cars here which equates to five elimination rounds, the quicker driver in each bracket advancing to the next round. Penalties are also in play. If a driver nudges a cone it’s a one-second penalty. If the cones gets knocked over the officials deduct two seconds which as you might imagine is a sure fire way to lose your round.
Cars came from across the country for the Duel as well as Canada. In all, drivers from 12 states pulled into the starter’s box to assault the asphalt. The qualifying grid was insane! The top half of the field was separated by one hundredths and one thousandths of a second. Unser relied on his driving skills and the engine/chassis setup on his Team Speedway ’68 Camaro to qualify on the pole with a 40.342.
As eliminations got underway after the lunch break, it was clear Unser was on his A-Game. In the opening round, he dispatched #17 qualifier Bob Bertelsen from Canada with a 40.960 but upped the ante in the round of 16 with a 39.976 to defeat the 2017 Goodguys Pro Class Champion Chris Smith who checked in with a losing yet competitive 40.640 in the RideTech ’71 Corvette. In the quarter finals, Unser escaped a duel with 2014 Champion Brian Hobaugh running a 40.616 then took care of Jared Leisinger (the quickest car on the grounds at 39.784) in the semi-finals for his final round date with Mike Maier.
Maier, a second generation AutoCross racer and multi-time SCCA Solo Champion from Northern California was a worthy final round foe. In his semi-final race against the Detroit Speed Corvette of Ryan Mathews, Maier clicked off a flawless 40.400 which advanced him to the finals by just five one hundredths of a second.
The money round proved anticlimactic when Maier was overly aggressive and knocked over a cone resulting in an off-the-pace 43.584. Maier’s unfortunate run allowed Unser to basically coast to the win in 41.222 seconds. It might have been his slowest lap of the weekend but it was the sweetest. “To beat a 32-car field of this caliber isn’t easy,” said Unser – a nine time Pike’s Peak Hill Climb winner and son of Indy 500 legend Bobby Unser. “The Team Speedway bunch thrashed all year long on this car to get it dialed in. Four years we’ve been getting our butt kicked but to win it in the Team Speedway Camaro feels really really good.” We agree with Robby. It should feel good. In the event’s four year history, Only Corvettes had won.
With the win in the bag, Unser was not only crowned AutoCrosser of the Year, he also received a winner’s check of $3000 and got a customized tool box from Snap-on as well as a custom garage floor from RaceDeck. Not a bad haul for a Saturday of weaving through cones!
Checking in third during the Duel was Jared Leisinger with that quickest-of-the-day 39.784 lap and running fourth was Ryan Mathews with a 40.132
Next season, Goodguys will run AutoCross competitions at 16 of 20 events. If those are anything like this weekend’s shootout in the desert, it promises to be throttle-mashing fun.