In 2016 Eric Ruppel just missed out on back to back Sportsman Super Truck titles and with the changes in the series, the Chetek, Wisconsin native thought the time was right to move the #37 Maxxis Tire/Chetek Off-Road/J & H Transmission truck up to the PRO level. The opening weekend at The Dirt Oval at Route 66 in Joliet, Illinois saw the blue and orange truck reach the top spot in its first race of the year.
For the 2017 TORC season the PRO-2 rulebook saw a significant rewrite. The powerplant and drivetrain regulations were now very similar to the former Sportsman Super Truck class. Along with other changes in an effort to better manage the cost of racing, the class now runs on DOT tires. With these changes in place a very stout field of full-size two-wheel drive trucks made the trek to south suburban Chicago.
Right from the first practice, Ruppel seemed to have his hot rod dialed in to the high flying straightaways of the Jeff Nordstrom built race track. Ruppel and his crew chief Kent Kramer were confident that a strong result was in the cards.
The eighteen lap opening round of the TORC Series presented by AMSOIL saw the Maxxis Tire equipped truck quickly move into a top three position. Another former Sportsman driver, Mitch Dorr was running wheel-to-wheel with Ruppel just waiting for a miscue from the leader. A late race charge and incident between Johnson and Lovell saw Johnson move back to fourth place as Lovell crossed the finish line in the lead followed by Eric Ruppel.
Immediately after the race, officials conferred and determined Lovell was too aggressive when racing with Luke Johnson. This put Eric Ruppel on the top of the podium as the winner of the race.
“I’m jacked up, but it’s a bittersweet feeling,” said Eric Ruppel. “I don’t like to take a win that way, but I will.”
The next day Kramer had the Maxxis Tire hot rod for a repeat performance. Unfortunately, after four laps Ruppel pulled off the track with ignition issues.
“Overall we had a really good weekend, “noted Eric Ruppel. “Nobody knew what kind of racing would we have with the new PRO-2. There are a few more wrinkles we need to work out with the rules, but this will be a competitive and fun group to go door-to-door with. Saturday’s win was about running hard and clean which we did. So did the rest of the class except for one incident. We are looking forward to ERX as it’s the closest track to our shop.
Thanks again to Maxxis Tire, J & H Performance, Petit Development, Chetek Off-Road, Matuszak Builders, A&J Landscaping, Trailready Beadlocks , The Wrap Guys and of course Kramer and my wife.”
Just two days after the race weekend, a tornado touched down and passed through Chetek, Wisconsin. Fortunately, Eric’s immediately family was not affected, but taking care of the community comes first before attending to the race truck.
Next race is June 10-11 at Elk River Action Track in Elk River, Minnesota. Remember if you can’t get to see a TORC event live, each weekend will be streamed live at torcseries.com.
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