AFTON--Greg Ward started working with trucks and helping his dad with mud bog competitions when he was a child.
About four years ago, he decided to start competing with D-Ranged Mud Racing, a racing organization.
“It’s something that I guess is in your blood,” said Ward, a Beaverdam, Virginia, resident. “My team is three generations. It’s just a family atmosphere that we hold in the sport. My dad, myself, my son and basically all of our kids are involved in the sport to a degree. It’s dirty, family fun I guess.”
Ward was with his family, girlfriend Latosha Hudson, of Richmond, and at least 100 other people Saturday during the Rockfish Valley Volunteer Fire Department “Pit of Dreams” Mud Bog in Afton, which benefits veterans organizations.
A mud bog is a competition between various types of vehicles, such as big trucks, that drive through a large mud pit while drivers avoid becoming stuck. The competition includes various classes of vehicles including stock, four- and six-cylinder classes, women’s and more.
Fire department President E.G. Pannell said the revenue from the event will go to nonprofits that support injured veterans and veterans who are disabled.
Pannell said Saturday’s competition is the “cleanest, dirtiest fun you could ever have” with about 40 competitors and 110 runs through the pit. He said drivers came from West Virginia, North Carolina and all over Virginia to participate in the event.
Front Royal resident Megan Pietrucha was with friends and her family to support her brother, Adam Ramey, a driver with Mudder Puckers on Saturday.
“My brother is running, and it doesn’t happen that often, so this is a chance for us to all get together. This is a fun way to get together, spend some time together,” Pietrucha said while sporting a neon green Mudder Puckers shirt. “The kids get to have fun. The adults get to have fun. Everybody enjoys it, and nobody is left out.”
Pietrucha said her brother built his truck from the ground up and started participating in mud bogs two years ago.
“It’s fun to watch and see how much time and energy people put into these to keep them running, to run the races. They really put their hearts and souls into it,” Pietrucha said.
Ramey’s mother, Susan Logan of Winchester, said it’s “a little scary but exciting” to see her son racing because once he’s done with the race, “he has a big smile.”
From a young age, Logan said her son always has been interested in mechanics and trucks.
“He’s always liked the big trucks like the monster trucks, and this is probably as close as he can get to monster trucks,” Logan said.
While Pietrucha, Logan and other family members stood a few feet away from the safety fence watching large trucks with names like Dog Gone Crazy, Hillbilly Whistle, Narrow Minded and others fight through the 275-foot-long mud pit, others took shade from the blistering sun sitting in folding chairs under tents they brought with them.
Narrow Minded driver and Roanoke resident Ben Roper said he’s been mud bogging since 2000 and attends mud bogs at the fire department “all the time.”
“It’s a great pit. It’s deep. A lot of pits we go to don’t have no mud in it. This one has quite a bit of mud in it,” Roper said.
Roper said he has “a lot” going through his mind while he’s strapped in his blue and white truck trying to find the smoothest way to get through the thick mud faster than his opponents.
“You’re trying to make sure you do everything the right way, and it keeps your adrenaline going. You don’t have but a few seconds to make your decisions,” Roper said.
Ward said while he’s waiting for his turn at the pit, he’s watching the drivers before him to see what routes they’re taking in the pit and how it fares for them. Two trucks before it’s his chance to speed through the mud, he said he goes to his truck, straps himself in and “go to my place.”
“I just clear my mind. It’s just a different feeling when you strap in the truck, and you shut the door. It’s an overwhelming feeling that comes over you, and you’re really focused because a lot can happen within 3 to 8 seconds,” Ward said.
No matter the outcome of the races, several drivers and spectators said the event brings a sense of camaraderie to the group.
“Everybody here is like a family. We all help each other. We’re competitors first but family second,” Ward said.
Liz Ramos covers K-12 education for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5532.