Tag Archive: Checkered Flag 500 BBQ

  1. Sonny’s Smokin Showdown, Orlando, FL

    Comments Off on Sonny’s Smokin Showdown, Orlando, FL

    By Brian Walrath, Pitmaster of Brown Liquor BBQ

    I was honored to be asked by champion pitmaster Mark Gibbs of Checkered Flag 500 BBQ to tag along and help him cook the prestigious Sonny’s Invitational event in Orlando, Florida.  Along with fellow pitmaster Don Wallace of Life if Good But BBQ is Better, we headed down for the event on Wednesday night.  Our first destination of the weekend was just outside Atlanta to pick up Mark’s trailer that had been resting there since a recent cooking class at the Deep South Smoker’s headquarters in Cumming, Georgia.  Sitting in a pick-up truck with two fellow pitmasters for several hours on the road can lead to some interesting discussion.  From rules, to smokers, to the best gas stations to stop at led the initial discussion during this first part of the trek.  Throw in several movie quotes from Caddy Shack, Stripes, The Hangover, Animal House, etc…and you can imagine the direction we were headed!

    Thursday morning brought us to the trailer and all was well to hook up and go…well, all except one minor detail of Mark forgetting the key.  With the handy work “Deep South McGyver,” and a wire, we were hooked up shortly thereafter and on our way for the open road from Atlanta to Orlando.  Well, except that Atlanta has quite possibly the worst traffic ever…and I’m from DC!

    Our seven hour drive on Thursday took about 12 or 13 but we finally arrived around midnight at Camping World Stadium, site of the event!  Many teams were already there.  We quickly dropped the trailer, grabbed a beer and walked around a bit to get a lay of the land.  It was pretty quiet so Don and I headed over to the hotel…but not before catching Llama Gratis on TV!!!

    Friday morning we arrived at the site and got settled in.  Two ancillary categories were happening this weekend and Mark turned over the keys to Don and I to do them.  First off was one of the new SCA Steak competitions.  We had a good time cooking on Sharon Gibb’s new Deep South Mailbox and cooked a might tasty steak.  We didn’t fare well in the results, but we had fun trying!  Fast forward here briefly to the mystery meat category on Saturday and again we didn’t fare well in the results but our tri tip street taco with cilantro lime slaw topped with queso fresco we thought was amazing!

    Mark’s cook went well and we turned everything in on time despite Don figuring out our comp clock was six minutes off!!  (Those who know Don well can imagine the anxiety this may have caused!).  Everything was solid but the brisket was incredible.  The judges agreed and awarded CF500 its sole walk of the day, 10th place brisket.  The team finished 27th out of 49 teams with a 690…yes, a 690!!  In this field of all past champions, that’s not too shabby!  Congratulations to Iowa’s Smokey D’s on GC and Shake ‘N Bake BBQ on reserve.

    Special thanks to Mark and Don for a great weekend.  I do have note the amazing feat by Mark on the way home.  We pulled out of Sonny’s Saturday night around 7pm.  Mark drove all night and had us home by early Sunday morning…amazing…perhaps a little foolish, but we made it safe!

    Click here for the full results from the Sonny’s Invitational.

  2. MABA Well Represented at the KCBS Banquet

    Comments Off on MABA Well Represented at the KCBS Banquet

    by Luke Darnell, MABA President and Pitmaster for Old Virginia Smoke

    2017 was another fantastic year for MABA teams at the upper levels of the KCBS rankings.  This region continues to thrive year in and year out, and has become a force to be reckoned with in the BBQ world. Congrats to all that heard their name called at the KCBS Banquet in January, and good luck to everyone in the upcoming year!

    KCBS Overall Top 25 MABA Teams

    8.  Wolf’s Revenge BBQ

    13.  Old Virginia Smoke

    24. Checkered Flag 500 BBQ

    25.  Redneck Scientific

    KCBS Chicken Top 25 MABA Teams

    1.        Old Virginia Smoke

    18.      Who Cares BBQ

    23.  Shortsville Smokers

    25.  Sauced! BBQ Team

    KCBS Ribs Top 25 MABA Teams

    11.  Muttley Crew BBQ

    17.  Wolf’s Revenge BBQ

    19.   3Eyz BBQ

    23. Good Smoke BBQ

    KCBS Pork Top 25 MABA Teams

    10.  Good Smoke BBQ

    11.  Shortsville Smokers

    20. Sauced! BBQ Team

    23.  Redneck Scientific

    24.  The Smokehouse Mafia

    KCBS Brisket Top 25 MABA Teams

    5.  Wolf’s Revenge BBQ

    6.   Checkered Flag 500 BBQ

    20.  4:20Q

    25.  Old Virginia Smoke

  3. Currituck Heritage Festival, Powells Point, NC

    Comments Off on Currituck Heritage Festival, Powells Point, NC

    by Luke Darnell, MABA President and Pitmaster for Old Virginia Smoke

    Ride Em Bronco!  BBQ and Bulls in Currituck a BLAST  

    Instead of a hurricane, 25 teams descended onto the Outer Banks for Currituck Heritage Bulls and BBQ Contest in Currituck, NC.

    The sites were fantastic, with water and power at every site, and the organizers took care of dinner on Friday and breakfast on Saturday morning.

    The competition was fierce as well, with Checkered Flag 500 taking Grand Champion, followed by Buttman and Rubbin finishing as Reserve Grand Champion.

    But the greatest winner of the day was MABBQA..  MABA gained George DiMartz from Twisted Pair out of Raleigh, NC as a member!  George is a fantastic human, who showed up at 9:30 on Friday night to be the 25th team.  George was rewarded with his first ever 1st place in a category in pork.

    George also gave us this fantastic video from later in the evening at the Rodeo.  (He may have been tricked by the MABBQA President.)

    Chicken –Checkered Flag 500 BBQ
    Ribs – KIRBBQ
    Pork – Twisted Pair BBQ
    Brisket –Buttman & Rubbin

    RGC – Buttman & Rubbin
    GC –Checkered Flag 500 BBQ

    Full KCBS results here.


  4. Mid-Atlantic Teams Do Well at “The Jack”

    Comments Off on Mid-Atlantic Teams Do Well at “The Jack”

    by Mark Gibbs, Pitmaster of The Checkered Flag 500 BBQ

    The Jack Daniel’s World BBQ Championships is in the books for 2017.  This was the Checkered Flag 500 BBQ’s first trip to the hollow and it was a great experience.  This contest is a huge event with a lot of ancillary competitions and side events for the competitors to do.  96 teams from around the world came together to compete and name the World Champion.

    Tuffy Stone and Cool Smoke took home the Grand Champion honors for the 3rd time in the last 4 years.  He has the mojo at this contest for sure!  On a side note, why isn’t our friend from Richmond, Virginia a member of the Mid-Atlantic BBQ Association?  The next time you see Tuffy make sure you ask him and hand him an application!

    MABA was very well represented this year at this prestigious contest.  MABA members took some walks to the stage and gathered up some trophies for the mantel.

    Sauce This – 4th Overall


    Wolf’s Revenge BBQ – 12th Overall


    Chix, Swine & Bovine, bbq – 14th Overall

    BEERBQUE – 22nd Overall

    Checkered Flag 500 BBQ – 28th Overall

    Redneck Scientific – 29th Overall

    Aporkalypse Now – 49th Overall

    Smokin’ Hoggz BBQ – 63rd Overall


    Game On BBQ – 72nd Overall

    Finn’s Finest BBQ – 83rd Overall

    Until this year, I did not realize how big this contest really was for folks that have been there.  This contest has the addictive properties of crack.  The first thing that you think about on the trip home (no matter where you finished in the standings) is how am going to get back next year?  Here is to the competitors of the 2016 Jack and to everyone with hopes of making a trip to Lynchburg in 2017!

  5. Mark Gibbs of Checkered Flag 500 BBQ Shares His Tricks of the Trade to a Full Class of Eager Students

    Comments Off on Mark Gibbs of Checkered Flag 500 BBQ Shares His Tricks of the Trade to a Full Class of Eager Students

    by Brian Walrath, MABA Board Member and Pitmaster for Brown Liquor BBQ

    Checkered Flag 500 BBQ has been on a tear lately.  Pitmaster Mark Gibbs, along with his wife Sharon and lovable hound Sterling, are on a grand championship tear, earning them an automatic spot in this year’s prestigious Jack Daniel’s World Championship in Lynchburg, Tennessee in October.  Mark had a gap in his busy schedule and decided it was time to offer a true tell-all competition class, teaching EXACTLY what he does to win and win often in the Mid-Atlantic.

    Twenty-three students, all competition cooks from as far away as North Carolina, were in attendance.  And the quality of cooks in attendance was strong…many with grand championships of their own.  Most of us knew each other well, and that made for a really fun time, catching up and learning in an environment free of the stress and busy schedule of a competition weekend.


    Mark began stating he was nervous, never having taught a cooking class before, but he dove right in like a seasoned pro and held the attention of the room for the entire night.  On this first day of the class, Mark would teach us how he trims, selects, and pre-seasons his meats.  About four hours of instruction and lots of great interaction from Mark and the students ensued and seemed to go very quickly.  The class was then treated to an awesome dinner highlighted with Mark’s secret recipe of crab cakes accompanied with delicious ribeye steaks!  Big thanks to Dan McGrath, owner of Galvinell Meat Company for providing and cooking a great meal.  Also, big thanks to John Layton for cooking as well and being Mark’s right hand man the entire weekend.

    Saturday morning came and Mark ran this day on a KCBS schedule, modified two hours since his normal timeline starts super early.  After a tasty breakfast of sausage gravy and biscuits, everything came together splendidly and again, Mark’s instruction and techniques were great and held the classes attention close!  Turn-ins were actually right on time and the food was fantastic.  As a judge too, I can see why Mark has had so much success.  And true to his word, Mark held nothing back…every little trick and twist was given.

    I left the class inspired and eager to try several things I learned.  I know everyone else too was quite happy with their investment.  If you’re thinking about taking a class, you can’t go wrong with attending Mark’s next class!

  6. Interview With the Champs – Checkered Flag 500 BBQ

    Comments Off on Interview With the Champs – Checkered Flag 500 BBQ

    by Brian Walrath, MABA Board Member and Pitmaster for Brown Liquor BBQ

    Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 11.13.38 PMMark and Sharon Gibbs of Fawn Grove, Pennsylvania have been tearing it up on the KCBS trail over the last calendar year with many big wins in the Mid-Atlantic.  I recently caught up with Mark and was able to extract some great nuggets of information that I’m happy to share with you in this month’s “Interview With the Champs!”

    Congrats on winning your 7th contest and getting that all important Automatic entry into “The Jack.” So, which contest was the clincher?

    Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 11.14.23 PMMark Gibbs, Checkered Flag 500 BBQ:
    Thanks!  It is just an honor to be able to go to Lynchburg and represent our region this year.  I have to be honest, it did not really hit me until the draw happened.  I knew we were going, but when I saw our team name on the list with 7 other teams that have won 7 GCs I actually got a little choked up.  I would have been thrilled with a draw in, but winning 7 to get in still has my head spinning!  The clincher was Smoke on the Mountain in Galax, VA.  Was lucky enough to get an entry from Luke Darnell that he won at the MABA banquet.  They cooked in New York that weekend.

    To what do you credit this great run your on this year?

    MG CF500 BBQ:
    Consistency.  Looking at the great cooks that we have here in MABA, I asked myself what they are doing that I am not on a week to week basis.  We always see new names near the top of the list, but there are always about 6 to 8 teams that you can count on being there at every contest.  I have worked really hard this year at sticking to a timeline and doing the same processes.  If something goes wrong, I can pinpoint it and try to fix it.   My pit temp debacle in Laurel was one example.  My pit was 150 degrees over my cooking temp for 3 hours.  I thought my pork and brisket were torched, but I was able to salvage them and come out of there with a strong finish.  I also have to say that having the new trailer and Deep South Smoker has made a ton of difference too.  It is great having Sharon and our Lab, Sterling with me every week.  Creature comforts help a lot when you can get rest and take a nice shower at a contest.

    Tell us a little more about Checkered Pig 500…who makes up the team and how long have you been doing competition bbq?

    MG CF500 BBQ:
    Well, the Checkered Pig 500 would be a combination of myself and Tommy Houston.  I would not mind that combination at all!

    [Editor’s note…Ok, I can’t be the only one to have ever made this mistake…Mark rolled right with it like a pro, so I kept it in!]

    The Checkered Flag 500 BBQ team consists of myself, my wife Sharon and our dog Sterling (the real boss of the team).  We have been blessed to have my good friend John Layton of Red Brothers along with us on a bunch of occasions.  This season we have also added two new associate team members, Kim Darnell of Old Virginia Smoke and Mark Kenney of Sauce This BBQ.  They stepped up and helped me while Sharon was recovering from her ankle injury.   I have to give a shout out to our other associate team members, Leigh Anne Terry of Old Virginia Smoke and David and Cindy Bryant of Covington Cork and Pork fame.  The three of them stepped up when Sharon fell and had to go to the hospital at Buckhannon, WV and did all of my turn ins and clean-up.  They got a 3rd Place overall finish for us that day and I will never forget their kindness and love!  We have been competing since 2012 and we just completed our 77th contest in our career this past weekend in Bel Air, Maryland.  We love being around our BBQ family and as long as it remains fun we are in for the long haul!

    So, judging by the name, you’re a racing fan, right?

    MG CF500 BBQ:
    We both love to watch NASCAR races.  The sport is evolving and we are not as attached to it as we once were but we still enjoy seeing a good race when we can.

    Who’s your driver and what’s your favorite event?

    MG CF500 BBQ:
    My driver was Dale Jarrett for the longest time.  He retired and I latched on to Kevin Harvick.  I like the bad boy attitude and he is a winner.  Sharon is a Carl Edwards fan and I don’t hold that against her.  We have been to two Daytona 500’s.  The carnival atmosphere there is really a lot of fun and you can really sense the speed of those racecars there.

    This year you debuted a fine looking new rig…can you tell us more about it and how it’s made a difference?

    MG CF500 BBQ:
    The new trailer is a 28’ Southern Dimensions Trailer.   It has made a huge difference in our contest life this year.  It has AC, a bathroom, shower, satellite TV and a porch for the smoker.  It is really all of the comforts of home in a box.  Dan Hixon told me in 2012 that getting sleep is one of the most important things to build in to your competition timeline.  It was really hard to do that with 2 EZ-UP canopies.  We moved to a Class C RV for two seasons and that was nice, but it was not a competition setup.  I was able to custom spec this unit out and it really does make a world of difference in our timeline.  Sleep is my friend at a comp these days.

    Now that you’re qualified for the Jack, what other special events do you have planned for the rest of the year?

    MG CF500 BBQ:
    We were planning on cutting back from the 22 contests we did last year.  That did not happen!  I have 29 on the schedule and we are in the middle of an 18 week out of 21 week run of competitions.  Sharon is taking a couple of those weeks off under my orders because I know she will wear herself out trying to keep up with the crazy schedule I created for us. We will be doing our first American Royal in October, the Sam’s Regional in 2 weeks and hopefully the finals in Bentonville.  There are just so many contests that we love to do that we could not knock them off of the schedule this year.  We will be concluding with the Queing in Cumming contest in Cumming, Georgia the weekend before Thanksgiving.

    Ok, I always ask our winning pitmasters this…what’s the one tip you have for those teams to help them break through and win their first GC or up their game in competition BBQ?

    MG CF500 BBQ:
    I think that the most important thing a new team or a team that is trying to get over the hump in competition BBQ should do is take a class.  I was two contests into my competition life in 2012 and I did the 3 Eyz “experience” where I cooked the contest with them at Pork in the Park in Salisbury.  I believe that they finished 19th in the contest (Dan said I was not bad luck they never did really well there), but I took away some valuable information that I still use today in my timeline.

    Anything else to add before we sign off? (Feel free to plug your class here)

    MG CF500 BBQ:
    Thanks Brian, it has been a blast getting to chat with you about what has been going on with us this season.  Still a long way to go too!  The Checkered Flag 500 BBQ is hosting our first ever tell-all competition class September 2nd and 3rd.  It is Labor Day weekend, but it was the only one that I had available until November.  The response to the class has been great and we do have some room for a few more students.  I am going to really give you every step that I use in my competition process and I am holding nothing back.  It is going to be a fun time and we will be supplying dinner on Friday and breakfast on Saturday.  There may also be a supply of adult beverages on hand as well!

    Congratulations to Mark and Sharon and continued good luck the rest of the season!

  7. Covington Cork & Pork Festival Covington, VA

    Comments Off on Covington Cork & Pork Festival Covington, VA
    by Mark Gibbs, MABA Board member and Pitmaster of Checkered Flag 500 BBQ
    Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 9.50.03 AM

    The 2016 Covington Cork and Pork Festival in Covington, Virginia was a huge success despite horrible weather in the area that threatened the contest.

    Twenty-seven teams battled the elements and made the trek to compete in Covington.  David Bryant and the folks in Covington couldn’t be more accommodating to the teams. On Friday night they supplied everyone with a great Italian buffet on the back of a gator tractor. On Saturday the same Gator tractor came around with a great display of breakfast sandwiches with all the fixin’s and David stayed on top of his people who were so helpful in giving the teams everything that they needed to have a successful weekend.

    The weather Thursday night into Friday did actually threaten the stability of the contest, but the folks in Covington decided that we would go on as planned. The weather broke on Friday and we had great weather for the rest of the weekend and there were no disruptions or any issues because of the weather.

    This is my second year doing this contest and it’s one that I always have on my list of to do contests.  They treat the competitors great and they’re just a great bunch of folks that love good barbecue.  If you have a chance to put this one on your schedule next year you should really do it.  Dave Bryant said that they may move the date next year to help accommodate more teams and avoid some scheduling conflicts.

    Looking forward to Covington Cork and Pork in 2017!

    First place winners:
    Chicken – 2 Rhodies BBQ
    Ribs – Checkered Flag 500 BBQ
    Pork – Sauced! BBQ Team
    Brisket –Checkered Flag 500 BBQ

    Grand Champion –Checkered Flag 500 BBQ
    Reserve Grand Champion –Sauced! BBQ Team

    Check out the full competition results here.

  8. Chillin & Grillin In The Glades – Wise, VA

    Comments Off on Chillin & Grillin In The Glades – Wise, VA

    by Luke Darnell, MABA President and Pitmaster of Old Virginia Smoke

    (This post is mostly satire)
    Chillin’ and Grillin in the glades was held July 8-9 in beautiful Wise, VA. The contest was fantastic, in a fantastic town with great people. A huge congrats to Big Show BBQ Team on the GC.

    But much head turning and corner-whispering was done due to Mark Kenney, of Sauce This fame, cooking alongside Mark Gibbs of Checkered Flag 500. Checkered Flag 500 would have a phenomenal day, finishing with RGC on the day amid a torrid streak of top 3 finishes.

    Are the two a new couple on the BBQ circuit? Does Danny of Sauce This need to be worried about losing Kenney? Stay tuned to the MABA newsletter.

    Pic of Mark and Kenny sharing a margarita
    Mark and Mark…just a couple of fellas sharing a margarita!

    Ok, on to the serious stuff…the results!

    First Place Winners:
    Chicken – Big Show BBQ Cookin’ Team
    Ribs –Big Show BBQ Cookin’ Team
    Pork – Checkered Flag 500 BBQ
    Brisket – Q Factor

    Grand Champion –Big Show BBQ Cookin’ Team
    Reserve Grand Champion –Checkered Flag 500 BBQ

    Check out the full competition results here.

  9. Que for the Troops Levittown, PA

    Comments Off on Que for the Troops Levittown, PA

    by Mark Gibbs, MABA Board member and Pitmaster of Checkered Flag 500 BBQ

    Que for the Troops #Q4TT2016 is an annual BBQ festival and competition held at Falls Township Park in Levittown, PA each year to support the Philadelphia USO organization.  This year’s contest featured 67 teams (a new record high for Q4TT) from all over the region.  The weather was ordered by the Chamber of Commerce!  It was a beautiful weekend for smoke, music and fun indeed.  Matt Markey of Falls Township does a great job of setting up the competitors with the best amenities for each of the BBQ teams.  There is always ample power, water and a great breakfast on Saturday morning for all of the teams.

    The social scene was alive and well on Friday night.  The skies were clear and teams were taking advantage of the opportunity to visit and catch up with friends and fellow competitors.  The weekend started off with an Anything Butt Category and a Dessert Category on Friday evening.  JURASSIC PORK – PA took home the honors in the Anything Butt with a fried shrimp offering.   MABA’s own BBQ Bob Trudnak finished second in the category with this great platter of Surf and Turf Guru Style (pictured below).  Those shrimp must have been amazing if this was second place!  Our Bark is Better Than Your Bite took home the honors in the dessert category.  Congrats to everyone in those two categories!  We love BBQ, but we have some chefs in our region that can make your head spin with some gourmet dishes!

    image of surf and turf
    BBQ Bob Trudnak of BBQ Guru finished in second place with his surf and turf offering!

    Saturday brought another beautiful day to the park and the competitors had the smoke rolling.  A passerby remarked that the smell coming from the BBQ rigs was amazing.  He was not lying!  The awards ceremony was at 4pm and right on time.  The Q4TT team does not waste any time when it comes to awards.  The teams were crowded in around the stage and the awards began.  Top honors in the Chicken Category went to MABA’s own Smokin’ Foolz of New Cumberland, PA.  The big Rib trophy went home with Dead On Q of Fairless Hills, PA.  First in Pork was Eastern Beast BBQ of Valley Stream, NY (one of three top 5 calls!).  The Brisket trophy went home with yours’ truly, Checkered Flag 500 BBQ of Fawn Grove, PA.

    The Top 5 Overall were Checkered Flag 500 BBQ, Hawg Nation BBQ of Phoenixville, PA, Eastern Beast BBQ Team, Dante’s Inferno out of Newportville, PA and Smokestack Redemption from Phoenixville, PA.  Four of the top five finishers are Mid-Atlantic Barbeque Association members!  Way to represent MABA!

    Image of Grand Champion team
    Grand Champions Mark and Sharon Gibbs of Checkered Flag 500 BBQ!

    Congrats to everyone who had their names called and huge congratulations to the folks at Que for the Troops for another great competition.  Rumor has it that they are already making plans for 2017 and beyond!

    image of Reserve Grand Champs Hawg Nation!
    Reserve Grand Champs Hawg Nation BBQ!

    First Place Winners:
    Chicken – Smokin Foolz BBQ
    Ribs – Dead on Q
    Pork – Eastern Beast BBQ Team
    Brisket – Checkered Flag 500 BBQ

    Grand Champion – Checkered Flag 500 BBQ
    Reserve Grand Champion – Hawg Nation BBQ

    Check out the full competition results here.