Budweiser Fall Classic - Buggies Are Back!

Lorrie JohnsCheck out the Gallery

Postponed due to heavy rains, this year’s season kick-off for the World Famous Naples Swamp Buggy races was moved to the second weekend in November, Saturday the 12th and Sunday the 13th. The delay didn’t squelch the competition or the enthusiasm.

While I don’t have exact numbers, the buggy count appeared to be up over last year. And while I’m sure the delay confused ticket buyers, Sunday’s crowds were encouraging and certainly having a good time under Southwest Florida’s sunny skies.

The heavy rains this fall seemed to take a little bit of toll on the “mile o’ mud”… the water did appear to be a touch deeper and there were conversations discussing changes to the bottom of the track. Nothing stops these guys and gals though. They were on the throttle hard with several motors being blown up during Saturday’s qualifying.

The big showdown came in Sunday’s Big Feature. Intermediate Feature winner, Lorrie Johns found herself pinched between two Pro Modifieds belonging to Troy Ortega and Lorrie’s son, Tyler Johns.

When the flagged dropped, Lorrie was clearly out-horsepowered. Orteg and Tyler Johns simply checked out. But as the two buggies made the turn, the wake took over and Tyler got way up on two wheels. Ortega made it through and went on to win.

“I thought I had a chance to make the turn. But the wake got both of us up in the air. For me, everything went 90 degrees but I didn’t go all the way over,” Tyler Johns said. “Troy’s a good driver and he stuck it in there and made it through.

“It didn’t actually hurt the buggy too much. Just the gate,” the fearless driver of the Patriot said laughing.
“I didn’t know whether Tyler would make the turn or not,” Ortega said. “I saw him on two wheels and went by. Once I got around, I was just hoping he was OK. He has a baby daughter and my wife, Courtney, just had our baby daughter. You think about things like that. You don’t want to see anyone get hurt.”

Ortega’s Big Feature victory came after making the finals twice before.

“Oh my gosh, I prayed a lot out there today,” a jubilant Lorrie Johns said. “It was awesome. I’m just glad Tyler’s OK after that last race. It was a wild one.”

The Budweiser Fall Classic is the first of three points events that will determine the 2011-12 Budweiser Cup winner. The next two races are set for Jan. 28-29 and March 3-4.

Swamp Buggy Class and feature-race winners in Sunday’s Budweiser Fall Classic at the Florida Sports Park:

  • Big Feature – Troy Ortega, Terminator 3
  • Intermediate Feature – Lorrie Johns, Lady Liberty
  • Little Feature – Joey Smith, Duck Tape
  • Pro Modified A Main – Tyler Johns, Patriot
  • Pro Modified B Main – Troy Ortega, Terminator 3
  • V8 Sportsman – Lorrie Johns, Lady Liberty
  • 6-cylinder – Roy Ortega, Terminator
  • 4-cylinder – Joey Smith, Duck Tape
  • Air-cooled – John Parks, Sidewinder
  • Jeeps – Jeremy White, General Lee


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