Merrill’s Bob Gremler walked away from a wild crash at Crandon International Off Road Raceway Sunday, Sept. 2 with minor injuries and a world championship title. He accepted his trophy and gave his podium speech before realizing he’d suffered a concussion.
This was Gremler’s second full season racing Super Trucks, the highest amateur class in the Traxxas Off Road Championship (TORC) Series. After placing second in Super Trucks in 2011, Gremler dominated the class this year. He won seven of the 10 races in the series and placed second in two others. The only race he didn’t place in was the very last race of the season, which ended in a crash.
“It was my only time off the wheels all season,” Gremler said. Luckily, he already had the season title in the bag after a win on Saturday.
Contact between trucks is actually pretty uncommon in the Super Truck class, but during Sunday’s final race two drivers were airlifted to the hospital after separate crashes. In the second crash, Gremler and another driver were jockeying for position on a restart when the other driver tried to get the inside line going into the first turn and made contact with Gremler’s truck, spinning him around. The other truck went up and over Gremler, causing his truck to do a couple of barrel rolls. The crash from the viewpoint of a video camera on Gremler’s dashboard can be seen on YouTube. The other driver was seriously injured and his truck was destroyed.
The crash tore up the suspension and damaged the roll cage of Gremler’s purpose-built racing truck. He figures the crash caused around $10,000 damage to his truck.
After the Labor Day weekend racing finale, the 29-year-old Merrill business owner was back at his day job serving his customers at Bob’s West 64.
He’s made it to the top of the amateur ranks in off-road racing, but would only go pro if he was racing on someone else’s dime.
“It’s gonna be a hobby until I get a million dollars to go pro,” he said.
Gremler has a number of local sponsors that help pay his racing expenses.
“It’s not a cheap sport by any means,” he noted. “I have quite a few little sponsors that make a big difference.”
Gremler has always been a fan of off road racing, attending races at Crandon since he was a kid. Five years ago, he began racing in the Stock Truck class.
“That was more of a demo derby, and I got sick of fixing stuff,” he said.
When he was presented with a great deal on a Super Truck racer, he couldn’t pass it up.
The Super Trucks are two wheel drive racers with 700 horsepower engines similar to Busch series stock cars. They are pushing 100 mph on the fastest sections of the off road tracks.
The TORC series features racing at Crandon, Antigo, Bark River, MI, and Buchanon, MI. Gremler set the Sportsman Super Truck record for the longest jump at Bark River this year, sailing almost 150 feet.
Gremler is quick to credit his crew for all the work they put into the truck, both at the races and at home. Mitch Pester, Ross Heller, Anthony Hein and Chris Nienow have been friends of Gremler’s since long before he started racing. They share his love for the sport.
“It really is a team sport,” Gremler said. “When it comes to the truck, I trust these guys.”
Gremler and his crew put a lot of time into the truck between races. He said that has a lot to do with his dominating the class this year.
“We come to the track prepared every weekend,” he said. “We unload ready to go.”
“We take the truck apart 100 times in a year and put it back together,” Pester added. “Somebody is on the truck all the time between races. We can put it together with our eyes closed.”
“For every minute I’m in the truck, probably five hours of work goes into it,” Gremler said.
At every race, Pester is up in the spotter’s tower, communicating with Gremler over the radio.
The team is already looking forward to next year. Racing starts around Memorial Day and they’ll be ready to defend the title.
“You get addicted to winning,” Pester said.
On race weekends, the trucks run on both Saturday and Sunday. The crew spent plenty of nearly sleepless Saturday nights getting the truck ready for the next day.
“I’ve had the same crew since I started,” Bob said. “Every one of us has the drive to win. Second feels like you just got beat up.”
Bob and his crew members have a lot of support from their families at the races.
“I think most of us would go even if I wasn’t racing,” Bob said.
Bob said he’ll keep racing until it isn’t fun anymore – “and right now it’s awesome. It’s something that goes through my mind 365 days a year.”
He had to force himself to leave the truck alone for a week after the season ended. But soon the truck will be taken completely apart, repaired and rebuilt in preparation for next year’s racing season.