NEWRY — Red Bull’s caffeine-infused Frozen Rush took to the slopes of Sunday River on Friday in a first-of-its-kind truck race.

Resort officials said an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 spectators turned out for the event, which featured a bracketed, single-elimination format.

The eight drivers, mostly desert-truck racers, matched times as they sped around a mile-long course that included a 500-foot vertical climb — on snow. With two trucks on the course, one starting 25 seconds after the other, the second truck to start was always racing the clock.

Featuring 900-horsepower engines, the trucks in the downhill portion of the course reached speeds of 95 mph.

Motorsports fans said that while the race was not part of any regular racing circuit, many were familiar with the big-name drivers from following them on the Off-Road Championship Series. Several fans said they drove up to the resort for the day just to check it out.

Tom Villacci of Windham said he expected the event to be thrilling and he wasn’t disappointed. 

“The smell of the fuel up here is awesome,” Villacci said. “It’s 104, 110 octane. So between the Red Bull and the octane, something is gonna get ya.”

Villacci and others who weren’t skiers or snowboard riders said they were glad the resort was trying different things to draw crowds, and they appreciated the free admission.

“Me and the gang here, we are all outdoor enthusiasts, snowmobilers, four-wheelers, all that crap, that’s what brought us up here,” Villacci said. “It’s great the guys at the mountain share it with the motorheads.”

Rick Folsom of Fairfield said he was impressed. “This was awesome,” Folsom said. “They went hard the whole time; I mean, they just didn’t stop.”

Other fans said they appreciated Red Bull’s staff which, among other things, doled out free samples of their product to people in the crowd.

While many spectators were from around Maine, others came from far away. 

Rick Buffkin traveled from Dallas-Forth Worth to see the show. Buffkin said he has a friend with a place at Sunday River and he usually comes up to ski once a winter, but he made the trip this year to see the race.

In a Texas-flavored accent, Buffkin said he was a big NASCAR fan.

“I do watch a lot of NASCAR races, but I’m always up for watching something new,” Buffkin said. “This is wild, really wild.”

As for the truck drivers, they also seemed to be enjoying themselves. Used to largely racing on dirt, sand and mud, snow and ice provided a new challenge for them, many said.

Three-time TORC Series Champ Ricky Johnson pioneered the concept of putting the trucks on snow during a February 2013 event at Mt. Snow, Vt.

But Sunday River’s event Friday was the first time trucks were pitted against each other in a race.

“We are like monkeys being shot into space,” Johnson said after winning his first heat.

The 49-year-old former motocross and supercross athlete said he enjoyed the challenge of taking on uncharted territory, including soft snow, steep terrain, ice and freezing temperatures, and he wanted more off-road drivers to experience the thrill.

The other seven drivers who braved the course were Bryce Menzies, Greg Adler, Johnny Greaves, Scott Douglas, Rob MacCachren, Carl Renezeder and Todd Leduc.

Fans were thrilled by a heat between Greaves and MacCachren that ended with an identical course time. But after a quick review of the video, race officials determined MacCachren hit one of the flags in a slalom-like portion of the course, and he was given a 5-second penalty.

Until that point, MacCachren had the fastest course time but was knocked out in the heat.

Following the heat, Greaves indicated that he knew it would be close based on time trials and qualifying runs the two drivers had made earlier in the week. Greaves said the two men had gone back and forth on times, with one being faster one day and the other faster the next.

“So I knew I had to have a perfect run, no mistakes, and I really did concentrate on the slalom poles,” Greaves said. “Because with Rob, a 5-second mistake ain’t gonna fly. So I knew it was going to be close — dead even. Man, that’s really close.”

Despite some trucks tearing off their own fenders with their half-inch spiked tires, the event went smoothly.

“Frozen Rush exceeded our expectations and we’re calling the entire event week a success,” said Darcy Morse, communications director for Sunday River. “Red Bull is a fantastic partner and we were honored that they asked us months ago to participate in this one-of-a-kind event.”

While many fans said they hoped Sunday River could bring the trucks back next winter, nothing was finalized, Morse said.

“We haven’t talked about plans for the future — that will come down to Red Bull — but we definitely consider today a success and are proud of what everyone accomplished,” she said.

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Frozen Rush results

1st place: Ricky Johnson
2nd place: Johnny Greaves
3rd place: Bryce Menzies
4th place: Rob MacCachren
5th place: Todd Leduc
6th place: Scott Douglas
7th place: Greg Adler
8th place: Carl Renezeder


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