We were holding a steady first place in class physically (and on corrected time too) in the hardest offroad race in the USA, we had a lead of over 14 minutes on course - then it happened - total disaster. All this work, all this time invested and … wait, there is hope … holy shit we are going to finish, and finish second! It was an insane emtional roller coaster, but we finished, and we finished second in class. How did this happen?
Ok before I get into the crazyness, let me first acknowledge some folks right away. This finish took everyone performing at 100% - and as I will explain, this is a totally new crew. Dan and I were blown away by the professionalism, passion, and damn amazing skill this crew of a just a few exhibited. We could not be more excited for things to come.
Coming off the 2018 Mint400 we had a broken car, and we had no events on the schedule for the rest of the year. Things looked quite dismal for our future. We needed some changes, and some energy to get things moving again. Desert racing is hard, and failing is miserable, and depressing, especially if you have a background of not totally sucking in some other similar discipline like road racing. Your expectation is you will be great at this new form of motorsports. Just to be clear, desert racing had spanked us, humbled us and sent us home with our tail between our legs.
But, we don’t give up, and I wasn’t ready to stop trying. It took us a bit to get our legs back under us, get a plan, and move forward. We dub this the reboot.
We got a plan together - to race the 2019 UTV worlds. We would get all new crew, we would move back to the sportsman UTV class, and we would move the car to Texas (at my house). The idea being, let’s step back and get a finish under our belt. We assembled a hand-picked crew of friends, and Mike was staying on to crew chief. John was moving from crew to co-driver. Energy was building.
But before we even got that plan fully fleshed out, John had a birthday, and his loving wife wanted to take him to the mint. We said screw that, he’s gunna co-drive the mint! All the sudden, we were racing the Mint. The goal became - do 3 races in 2019 and finish 2. A tall order considering our past performances.
After our problems at the 2018 Mint400, the car needed some love. She got an all new steering rack from Shock Therapy, new steering arms from Kryptonite, new FK rod ends and we switched to BFG KR2 tires on KMC Grenade 15” wheels. We got new Hostyle nets, a new Atlas46 tool roll and we did a lot of general maintenance. BTW, if you are using LSR long travel kit with the Shock Therapy rack, the Kryptonite steering arms are the only good option for you - trust me. A few weeks before the 2019 mint we got a test day in and got things tuned right up. She was ready - or so we thought.
Let’s put it this way - we realized we had a configuration as well as the age of some parts that led us to want to replace the clutch components on the car. Testing had shown we had a weakness and we needed to get it fixed. The good folks at 3P racing got us sorted out with a new STM primary and Polaris secondary. This new config looked promising but we didn’t have any time on this new setup. More on this in a bit.
Time to race!
One downside of having the car in Texas is the drive to Nevada is massive. The good news is, we did get some time testing the car (albiet brief) somewhere in AZ on the way towards Lake Mead. Don’t ask me where! After a couple of tweaks, the clutching was perfecto.
The plan for the race was for me and John to start, then Dan would switch to drive with John, then lastly I would finish with Dan co-driving (should we get a 3rd lap). I am not going to lie, the anticipation at the start line waiting to go was killing me. My strategy was simply to deliver a car in good shape to Dan. We needed to finish, just finish. I started off at 50% effort and slowly raised it up to 70%. The course was brutal and very fun, the car was doing great. It was pretty clear that it would be easy to over drive the car and break it. She wanted to RACE! We hit well into the 80MPH mark during the race. She was FAST. We started 3rd in class, fell back to 4th, then surged forward to first for a brief bit before me turning the car over to Dan in second place in class. The car was in good shape.
The guys did an amazing stop. They changed the belt, fueled, inspected, and got the drivers changed like they had done this a million times. It was pro work - especially for first timers. I am not going to lie, I was tired! Mike, Zach, and DanMo you guys rule. We even had help from Julie and JMO!
Dan set a blistering pace - he came out swinging. John had a lap under his belt now, Dan was driving like a bat out of hell and we started gaining ground on first place. I don’t remember at what point in the stint, but at some point the leader stopped and we passed them into first place. The next car (physical) was behind us by something like 14 minutes and we could tell they wanted it. Dan and John were staying ahead of the second place car and walking away ever so slightly. We had about 20 miles left to go - but at that moment we figured we would go out for a 3rd lap - we were making pretty good time.
Then it happend. Sitting in the pits I could see the icon on the tracker stop moving. We verified via our iridium. Fuck, they were on the side of the course broken. They had struck a rock and the wheel was destroyed. We hoped they would quickly turn it around but it took a bit and the second place car passed us for the lead. When they went to start the car back up, after replacing the tire, it wouldn’t start. We had no idea what had happened and we put on our thinking caps. Dan and I both realized at the same exact time the problem was a lose ground wire. In a flash Dan had it fixed and they were moving! I scrambled to get my gear on before they pitted but then stopped when we realized they got the checkers!
We rolled over the line second in class. We finished the 2019 Mint400, we were on the box, we were absolutely elated. The reboot worked. I was emotional as shit. My wife was texting me so excited. My kids cheered with glee when they got the news. We had done it - the spell of doom was over. We could finish a desert race - and not a half bad result!
A huge thank you to the entire team - Julie, John, Dan, Dan Mo, JMO, Mike, and Zach for all huge contribution. All of you left Nevada changed. A huge shout out to our families who supported us all the way, and believed in us the entire way. Of course a huge shout out to our sponsors as well.
With that, it’s on to the UTVWC, and back to the 1900 UTV pro class.