BARK RIVER - Escanaba native Dan Beauchamp was once again looking like he was going to make the hometown crowd proud. He held an aggressive lead midway through his Super Stock Truck class Sunday afternoon. But for the second straight day, problems with his truck derailed his chances and prevented him from finishing.
It summed up a disappointing weekend for many of the local drivers at the 38th Annual Bark River Off Road Races, part of the TRAXXIS TORC series.
Beauchamp held the lead for the second straight day but when the mandatory competition yellow flag came out, he pulled off to the side and took himself out of the race.
Nick Baumgartner, left, of Iron River flies over a jump ahead of the pack early in the Pro Light race Sunday afternoon at Bark River International Raceway. (Daily Press photo by Keith Shelton)
"When we got the caution flag, at the halfway point, my truck started misfiring," Beauchamp said. "I was able to keep up with the pace truck, but that was about as fast as I could go.
"Once I got near the hot pits, I knew my crew guys were there and they could look it over. What it ended up being was the ignition. The coil malfunctioned and that was the end of my race."
It was an unexpected weekend for Beauchamp, who was the overall points champion in Super Stock a year ago. On Saturday, he came within 50 yards of a first place finish before his truck had a fuel issue and came to a halt.
"We were team of the year last year and it's sort of a bummer to have these issue come out now. We did test last week in Crandon and we were hoping we would have found them then, but unfortunately, they came out in the middle of race here.
"It's going to be an issue because the guy that won yesterday (Don Demeny) took second today, and he's one of my bigger competitors. I'm down two races now and have eight left. I'll have to pretty much win 50-percent of the coming races, so I have my work cut out for me."
Beauchamp did say he has faith in his crew to get everything back in working order.
"Before I even went out and watched another race, we already had my truck fixed. It's too bad we didn't have another race," he said. "Because I'd be ready to win again."
Nick Byng took first in the Super Stock class.
The three Upper Peninsula drivers in the PRO Light class also ran into mechanical problems during the weekend.
Nick Baumgartner led until just before the competition yellow flag flew. He fought off CJ Greaves at first, but the 17 year old from Team Monster eventually overtook him and held a commanding lead for the rest of the race.
"Everything was going good, I felt comfortable in the truck and it was working," said Baumgartner. "Then my spotter told me CJ was working inside and i could see the front of his truck. So I checked up a little bit and threw it to the outside to come back underneath him when he slid through. I missed him by an inch. If I had waited one second longer, I would have cut under him, but I hit his bumper and it straightened us both out, and then I went through those triple bumps, crossed up and I was all over the place.
"If you don't have that wheel straight when you go off a jump, you never know which way the truck is going to go."
Baumgartner settled for a fourth place finish, behind Shawn Morris and Keegan Kincaid. The Iron River native had a large following on Sunday.
"A lot of people came out and watched today, and every time I come out and interact with the fans, I get more fans," he said. "That's the reason we do this. If we don't have fans here cheering us on, no one is going to give us the time of day or the money to come out and race, so we appreciate the fans, and Bark River is always a blast."
The weekend was a homecoming of sorts, nine years in the making for Mark Kleiman of Wilson, who finished eighth in the PRO Light class. After taking a nine-year hiatus from Off Road Racing, Kleiman is still getting used to driving in the pro circuit. He acknowledged he may have been a little too aggressive from the start Friday night, in front of the hometown crowd.
"We were in fourth place coming into the weekend and being at home, I really wanted to put on a good show for them," he said. "Unfortunately I got a little carried away on the first lap Friday night and hit that wall and cleaned everything off on the drivers side, the wheels, everything.
"They worked on it Friday night until 3 a.m. Saturday morning and got the truck back together. Unfortunately on Saturday I had a couple brake lines that were giving us issues and I lost all my brakes. Something happened with the carburetion and I picked up a piece of dirt somehow and it started causing the motor to run ill. We struggled just trying to finish that race.
Kleiman said Sunday's race was clean, but the technical track at Bark River posed a whole new set of challenges.
"Wow is this track different, it's changed a lot," he said. "It's picked up a lot of speed, the jumps are spaced out a little different and these trucks are a lot faster than what I used to drive, they're a handful," he said. "The guys on this track, the Lions Club do a fantastic job of keeping it in shape. It's one of my favorite tracks. Unfortunately, I wanted to do a lot better, but today I started getting that thing to work."
Chad Hord of Felch, came in seventh in PRO 2WD after finishing second Friday night and fourth on Saturday, Another local driver, Brad Erickson of Bark River, placed second in 1600 Buggy after finishing third on Saturday. Scott Beauchamp of Gladstone also had some ongoing engine issues during the weekend and placed 10th Sunday in the PRO Light class.
"We're alright as far as truck suspension, but we're struggling a little bit with the carburetor ignition system; it just seems to be overloading with fuel and running rough," he said. "We did a bunch of work on it Saturday night, we just haven't nailed it yet, new truck blues."