Much of the desert is made up of dirt and rocks. In Pahrump, Nevada, where the Legacy Racing Series held its 4WP Desert Showdown, the terrain is composed of more rocks than dirt. There is still plenty of sand and silt to deal with, but much of the course is literally atop a stone pile. It wreaks havoc on tires, wheels, shocks and suspension parts. The fast, straight sections of racecourse can offer a nice breather, but there are countless g-outs and tricky turns along the way. Missing a turn is almost guaranteed to result in a blown tire or worse. Many competitors have finished on a flat, or had a tire go down while doing their post-race interview on the ramp. The challenge is to be fast enough to beat the competition, but not so fast that you beat yourself. It’s an accomplishment just to finish. Taking a win or landing on the podium is a huge bonus.
Competitors had their first taste of the course on Thursday when the pre-run took place. With so much cross-grain, and rain ruts out there, it was good for everyone – competitors, and race officials alike – to get a look at the track conditions. There was a substantial rain storm just a week before. The lunch stop was at Crater Flats, the location of pit 3. What does that name tell you? Those are two things racers try to avoid… At least lunch boxes from the Pahrump Nugget Casino were provided. The pre-run ended at 4:30 pm when registration took place back at the Pahrump Nugget Ballroom. Qualifying for Turbo UTV’s started early Friday morning with staging at 7:00 am.
During qualifying on Friday, Can Am’s took the top four spots with a lone Polaris driven by Justin Welch in 5th. Garrick Lastra took the pole position, followed by Kolton Hustead, Andrew Blood, and Jeremiah Scott in Dan Fisher’s car. With qualifying over, all that was left to do was go through technical inspection and contingency, and then the driver’s meeting Friday night before the race started on Saturday Morning.
After a Police Escort to Johnnie where the course begins, the racers took off into the Nevada desert. The rocks, the g-outs, and the tricky turns are always there, but when the dust gets involved, it makes everything worse. Finding a gap with clean air can make or break your race, literally. Catching the car ahead is one thing, but making a pass is another. Sometimes there just isn’t room for the car ahead to pull to the side to let someone by. If a driver loses patience, and takes a gamble, it’s usually a bust. What lies directly off the course is usually really bad. Just ask all the unlimited vehicles on the DNF list (did not finish). If it can take out a truck with over 20 inches of travel, and 37 or 40 inch tires, just think what it could do to a UTV.
Despite the Turbo Class cars starting first, it was the Unlimited Class car of Nolan Williams which crossed the line first. He was 14th overall – the first UTV to finish and the winner of his class. He said he took advantage of another team’s mistakes, and had a trouble-free day just driving at his own pace. The first of the Turbo cars finished (the 910 car driven by Jeremiah Scott), but Carson Wernimont beat him on corrected time in his naturally aspirated Kawasaki. He credited the lack of any belt changes on his Kawasaki for the strong finish. That made Wernimont 18th overall and Scott 19th. One of the best things about desert racing is the many families who race together. Most of the time they are in the same car, but not with the Bolton’s. Father Joe Bolton finished 20th overall, 2nd in the naturally aspirated class, and Son Austin was two cars behind to take 3rd. Finishing between the two Bolton’s was Kyle Schafer who had an amazing run to finish with the leaders in his Stock Mod S900 Can Am.
As the cars continued to make it into the finish, there were a lot of tired faces with big grins on them. Andrew Blood earned another podium finish at 2nd Place. He said it was tough keeping the car straight after hitting so many boulders. It’s especially tough for Andrew as he drives with hand controls. He has one hand on the wheel, and the other hand is working the twist throttle, and brakes. Andrew is paralyzed from the waist down after a work accident, but it hasn’t stopped him from racing – and being competitive! His Blood Brothers foundation is instrumental in putting more people behind the wheel as well. He has designed, and built many vehicle control systems for people who have lost the use of their limbs. He once ran a race with Evan Evans who is also partially disabled. They each wanted a different style of controls so their race vehicle had two different styles that both functioned simultaneously. Andrew is as good a designer as he is a driver. He was in the lead for a while, but a flat tire cost him some downtime.
Most of the UTV racers kept their heads on straight, and made it to the finish despite the rocky course. The race distance was 250 miles, which is one of the shorter distances for an off road race, so they got in before the sun went down which is always nice for the crew. It’s great to start off the season with solid results at a tough race. They’ll need the morale boost since their next race will be the BAJA NEVADA on May 4th – 7th. That will be a brutal 650 mile point to point race that will be very different from the 4WP Desert Showdown.