Best In The Desert hosted its 20th annual General Tire Vegas to Reno just this last week, titling it “The Long Way.” Time Trials were on Wednesday, Tech Inspection were on Thursday, and two days of racing raged across the silty and rugged Nevada desert on Friday and Saturday.
Boasting his largest turnout ever with 342 teams from 10 countries, including teams from Japan and Israel, BITD honcho Casey Folks beamed with pride at the huge overflow crowd that attended the driver’s meeting at the Alliante Hotel ballroom. Folks came to tears showing his sincere appreciation for the sponsors, long-time friends, and supporters in attendance. Folks, who had just received the permit for the race at 5:00 pm on Tuesday, profusely thanked the cooperation of BLM for what he said was the “most political BLM permitting process ever,” which included race mileage through a Basin and Range National Monument.
Day One – At The Starting Line
Veteran Rob MacCachren, who raced in the first Vegas to Reno race in 1996, fittingly won the “Team Ford” Pole Award for his best-time finish at Time Trials and was poised to challenge Jason Voss, who was looking for his fourth consecutive Vegas to Reno victory. In this race, where the silt beds proved to be deep and treacherous, clean air would be paramount. Harley Leitner of Youtheory Racing followed up on his pole position win at Laughlin and took second place at Time Trials, blazing in at less than a second behind MacCachren. Voss qualified in third place, with Andy McMillan polling in the fourth slot.
Friday’s 295-mile stretch was lead off by the Trick Trucks and Unlimiteds in the order of their finish at Time Trials. The big trucks were followed by the Class 1000, Class 6100 and so on, down to the UTV classes.
Almost immediately, the desert dust and the silt beds claimed their victims. A huge pile-up of overturned and disabled trucks, buggies and UTVs marked Day One of racing at race mile 6. For those that got beyond the carnage, a military helicopter crash near the race course on Thursday night meant that teams had to trailer their race vehicles at Pit 1 and then transfer to Pit 2, where they would restart. Fortunately, nobody was seriously injured in either incident and while the teams’ times were maintained through the transfer section, there was some reported controversy with teams speeding to Pit 2 in order to gain a position advantage, as well some clean, silt-free air.
BJ Baldwin led all racers to claim Day One in Tonopah for his new Team Toyota, and he led by a substantial five minutes. Andy McMillin jumped one spot to third place after a day of racing with MacCachren and Voss keeping close in the top 5. After the first day, race trucks, buggies, and UTVs lined up on their trailers at the car wash across from the infamous Clown Motel to wash away the silt that had accumulated over the past 295 miles. All teams worked out the kinks on their vehicles through the night at Camp Adventure, or for those fortunate enough to have reserved a room, in the parking lots of their hotels.
Because Day Two’s start order was determined by the finishing time from Day One, some UTVs, Class 1000’s, 6100’s and other less powerful trucks started out from Tonopah ahead of some Trick Trucks. Nick Mills’ #6178, out of Texas, led all Class 6100’s after Day One and actually, from course side, looked like he was in a Trick Truck all day. Johnny Buss, part owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, claimed fastest Class 1000 for Day One in his purple and gold Jimco buggy.
On the UTV side, while some 70 race teams crowded the field, the undoubted king of hype coming into Vegas was the new Can-Am Maverick X3 being unveiled by two of the most high-profile UTV Can-Am sponsored teams, S3 Powersports and Murray Racing.
Not to be outdone, Polaris unveiled its new Turbo RZR XP4 Turbo with Jagged X Racing. S3 Powersports’ Dustin “Battleaxe” Jones was eliminated early in the silt beds as he got jammed up in an unfortunate multi-car rear-ender at around race mile 18. Murray, however, avoided trouble and posted a solid Day One into Tonopah.
The fastest UTV on Day One, however, was #936 Jake Carver in his Polaris RZR XP Turbo. Carver outpaced his next competitor by about ten minutes on the day, which led to an interesting start on Day Two among the Trick Trucks, Unlimiteds and Class 6100’s. Bill Zemek and Mitch Guthrie Jr. rounded out the Pro Turbo Class on Day One, while the Polaris RZR XP 1000 dominated the naturally-aspirated Pro UTV Class. Justin Lambert, Matt Burroughs and Rhys Millen finished the day at the top of their class.
Day Two – Finale
Day Two for the big trucks was a classic war of attrition as the desert forced BJ Baldwin to take an extended pit, while Jason Voss suffered mechanical issues; no historic four-peat for Voss. Andy McMillin took advantage in his TSCO Racing T-1 Truck. At around 140 miles to the finish, he took a lead that he would never give up. Rob Mac could never make up the eight minute lead that Andy had built and finished second overall. Laughlin Desert Classic Champ, Josh Daniels, had the second fastest time on Day Two, but finished 10 minutes back from the leader for third behind McMillin and Rob Mac.
The Class 1500 winner was Cody Parkhouse, who took fourth place overall and finished 22 minutes behind McMillin. Troy Herbst ended just 40 seconds behind Parkhouse for fifth place overall. The remaining Top 10 finishers in order were: Brett Sourapas, BJ Baldwin, Sam Berri, Luke McMillin and Tim Herbst.
Class 6100 was won by Nick Mills, who stayed solid for Day Two and finished 15 minutes ahead of McInley, who was followed by Pecoy, Laughlin and Angal. Jerry Buss also held solid for Day Two and easily won Class 1000 and 25th overall, and 27 minutes ahead of Earn. John Hsu won Class 2400 in 24th Place overall and Dan Werle took Class 7200 (32nd overall).
With Polaris and Can-Am both unveiling their new machines at V2R, both did really well. Team Murray won their class in the new Can-Am Maverick X3, while Polaris-stocked teams dominated the podium. Cognito Motorsports’ Justin Lambert, in his RZR XP 1000, easily won top overall UTV, justifying his credentials as perhaps the top UTV desert racer in the world. Matt Burroughs came in 17 minutes later, followed by Jason Murray in his Can-Am Maverick MAX X ds Turbo, followed by Guthrie Jr and Carver. Polaris was so elated with the performance of their team, that they doubled the bonuses of their sponsored race teams, and offered Jake Carver a sponsorship contract on the spot.
The 20th Annual General Tires Vegas to Reno Race Presented by Fox lived up to its anticipated hype. It was an epic race for the teams, and it showcased the ability of Casey Folks and his Best In The Desert crew to put together a race worthy of being called the longest continuously run desert race in America. Stay tuned as Off Road Xtreme brings you coverage from the Parker Bluewater Challenge happening October 6-9, and be sure to check out the complete gallery below!