The 2019 General Tire Casey Folks Vegas to Reno race kicked off August 16th – August 17th. It was a 510 mile race between Vegas and Reno. It was put on by the Best in the Desert (BITD) racing organization. It was far from a clean race, but we finished! The icing on the cake was coming in 2nd in our class!

Huge thanks to our sponsors: RPG Offroad, Raceline Wheels, JE Reel, sPod, PRP Seats, Fuel SafeNot our sponsors, but holy crap, we couldn’t have made it without BF Goodrich Tires and Baja Designs lights. Amazing products!


The Race!

Prior to the race, during a training sessions, I managed to bend our 14b rear axle, requiring us to build a new axle for the race. The install finishing August 14th, Wednesday, the day we were scheduled to leave for the race. During the race I managed to roll it on two separate occasions, had two flat tires with a broken jack, and in the final 10 miles, just when we thought we were in the clear, we managed to drive head first into a mud pit that had the entire front end buried deep.

New 4" SpiderTrax Axle built by RPG OffRoad
New 4″ SpiderTrax Axle built by RPG OffRoad

With each hurdle, however, the team rallied and overcame. The end result was beyond anything we could have expected. We had a very simple strategy – let’s run a smart race, let’s be conservative and get to the finish. This strategy was especially important because not only were we running a new configuration in the rear, the Driver of Record (DOR) was me, Tony Perez. I am new to off-road racing world. This was my second race, and first as the driver. Coaching me through the process was Darin Doucette an accomplished veteran off-road racer.

The original plan was for me to run the full 510 miles, but I called an audible after the second roll, at mile marker 261. More important than my ego was getting to the finish line, that was our original goal and it was important for everyone that invested their time to help us get here.

Catastrophe Hits

There was never a truer test of the quality of the work on this vehicle than after the two rolls. Can’t begin to thank RPG Offroad enough for their work, especially Jordan, Connor, Clayton and everyone else at the shop that made this happen. The first roll happened a mile outside of Pit 6. It was a result of not checking up soon enough and driver error; I came into a soft turn too hard with too much brake. We were extremely lucky, the next vehicle to show up was a JeepSpeed and they took the time to roll us back over. We were extremely lucky with this one! Once we got the rubber back on the ground we were able the assess the damage: One bent top light bar and 1/4 of our gas gone. The second role happened five miles before Pit 8. The reason was the same as the first one, driver error. Honestly, I think I was just tired and making mistakes. I think I lost my confidence after the first roll and when fatigue hit it just got worse. It’s what contributed to calling the audible.We got lucky rolling next to race officials that helped us get the rubber back on the ground. The impact however was a bit different, having rolled on the driver side this time, we had leaked power steering, blew our main battery fuse, flooded the engine with oil and cracked the the engine manifold. At first it seemed like we were done, but Darin composed himself and got to work assessing what might be happening. He ended up removing 7 spark plugs in the dark, flushing the engine of oil, burning his hands against the exhaust, and got Sparky screaming again! We lost about 2 hours, but everyone cheered as we roared away! Can’t even begin to describe the feeling!We weren’t in the clear, however. The impact of the rolls were catching up to us. We started to feel some electrical gremlins and lost our top bar light in the middle of the night. We could smell some gas and the engine started burping something fierce. We did all we good do at the point, throttled out!The cab was quiet as we ripped through the desert in the middle of the night. hearts pumping and adrenaline flowing. Holy shit, did we really just do that!Just when we thought we were in the clear, 10 miles from the finish, at the top of the ridge we came across the last obstacle. Right smack in the middle of the trail we found ourselves head first into a mud pit (which I categorize as a lake). Talking to the officials post-race there were supposed to be markers warning the drivers of the mud pit. Unfortunately, with no markers and no lights we ran straight into it. We had the longest, quietest, 30 seconds of the entire trip as we stared at our buried hood. There we were, 10 miles from the finish and there was nothing we could do. We were stuck. Again, luck was on our side. About 30 minutes later, another JeepSpeed shows up. They graciously helped us out, and in return we helped them up the next hill. With that, we were off again! Holy crap!

Success

We left the line at 12 pm on August 16th, and we arrived at the finish line August 17th at 5:15 am. The longest 17 hours of our life. Neither of us had ever run a race this long, especially not in this rig; but my goodness, what an amazing feeling. The high was immeasurable and almost indescribable. We took a skeleton crew with us and they were amazing. Everything from Jordan and his 3 stacks of Peanut Butter & Jelly’s, that will forever be our new tradition, to the communication dissertations by Dre, to very inconvenient parking choices by Clayton. We could not have asked for a better crew! They were integral to making this happen and I personally salute them!

Left to Right: Dre Armeda, Clayton Dahl, Jordan Hettinger
Left to Right: Dre Armeda, Clayton Dahl, Jordan Hettinger

Now we have to really assess the damage, but we’re hopeful we’ll see you on the dirt very soon! Until next time, thanks everyone!

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