ESCANABA - It takes 10 grueling tests of man and machine to crown the Traxxis Off Road Championship Series Super Stock winner.
The series includes five weekends with a race on both Saturday and Sunday, 10 opportunities to challenge yourself, your truck, your team and your nerve against a field of competitors all trying to beat you. It takes dedication, experience, a great truck, a great team and commitment to purpose. It takes a champions' will, because in the end there can only be one champion.
For 2012, that champion is Escanaba's own Danny Beauchamp and his team #826 Ford F150.
"Going into the last race weekend at Crandon we were two points up and won both races, which was cool and helped us win the overall championship," Beauchamp said, "If you win the Saturday race at Crandon it's considered the World Championship, which we did and it was huge. I had watched other guys win it and it was cool to finally win it ourselves."
His strong finishing weekend allowed Beauchamp to win the overall championship by 15 points, driven by a season of consistency. In fact, Beauchamp led 15 of 16 laps over the final weekend.
"Our worst weekend of the year was our opener at Red Bud, an awesome track where we finished fourth and fifth," Beauchamp said, "the rest of the year we took a podium spot."
That's impressive when one considers just how close the racing can be in the Super Stock Division.
It's intentional on the part of the organizers. It's a division that puts an emphasis on the driver by limiting what the driver can, and can't do with their truck, from the size and type of tires, to the amount of fuel that can be run through the motor.
"Super Stock allows 12-inches of travel in the class, and we run a restrictor plate with a two-barrel which keeps the racing tight," Beauchamp said. "Plus, we run a 6,500rpm rev chip that they check before the race and seal so you can't change your set up before we go racing. The racing is super close in this category and the better driver and truck wins"
It took more than 10 races for Beauchamp to become champion, however. He's been racing most of his life, first with dirt bikes and then after watching his cousin run the very same class. Beauchamp decided to race the Traxxis Super Stock division himself, which he has done for six seasons now - learning, practicing and working on his truck - until finally last winter he made the decision to start over and build a new truck.
The decision wasn't difficult to make considering the abuse he and his ride endured during the 2011 season, which included several nasty, violent crashes, including one particularly bad end-over-end crash, called an "endo", at Bark River International Raceway.
"When I 'endoed' at Bark River I got out and started walking back. The truck was on its top and fluid was everywhere. It looked done," Beauchamp said. "We got it back to the pits and all the dedicated guys said let's get it back to the shop. About eight guys were welding and wrenching and got me back to the track the next day where we finished fifth."
It was the last push Beauchamp needed to start over, and build his new team #826 truck. He found a new frame, moved what parts were worth moving, and the team set about building him a new ride, one that would win the championship.
"When we bought the truck six years ago, the guy raced it and we used it as a starting point, but we really only used the roll cage on the new truck," Beauchamp said. "Dialing it in is the hardest part. We started with a 10th place truck and turned it into a first place truck."
That didn't happen overnight. Beauchamp's new ride is an impressive piece of engineering even while sitting still in his race shop. It's a Ford F-150, or at least it started out as an F-150 because one would be hard pressed to find many recognizable parts from the stock model. Beauchamp's model runs a 351 Windsor motor with a semi-automatic transmission, 12 shocks, motor radiators with electric fans, and much more. It is an impressive and imposing vehicle.
The transformation was a time-consuming process.
"We started January 1st this year and got together every Tuesday and Thursday through March to rebuild the truck and get it ready for the year," Beauchamp said. "As a single guy, I'm here pretty much every night."
The "we" part is his team, which consists of Kevin and Jason Frossard, Jeff Solomon, Octavian "Otto" Hartwell, Scott Brunette, his parents, and plenty of local help and sponsors, one of whom provides Beauchamp space for his race shop.
"The shop is huge. Back Mobilities is one of my sponsors and they supply the shop and it really makes a difference," Beauchamp said. "Every Thursday during the season we have four guys that are pretty dedicated that work on it all the time, guys that are Ford mechanics that come here and have fun and then follow the races."
While talking with Beauchamp it's easy to see that fun is what it's all about.
"This class gets a lot of people and interest because it looks like their truck and it's so competitive, people can relate to it," Beauchamp said. "To win this division is huge."
But there is also a long-term goal here. Beauchamp plans on running the circuit again next year and defend his championship, and he'd like to turn pro someday.
"It's definitely a goal and not too far fetched. Hopefully (sponsors) noticed we won a bunch of races," Beauchamp said.
"Not this year, but in the future. We'll prove we can do it again this year and go from there."