Las Vegas, NV – Lonestar Racing driver Tracy Graf and his crew made huge strides at the Best in the Desert, General Tire Vegas to Reno off-road race. Graf, who shared the driver’s seat with Dale Dondel on the 534 mile course finished 13th in class 1500, 25th overall. They qualified 32nd which does not sound notable until you learn that nearly the entire field was separated by a mere 20 seconds. Tracy’s teammate James Horvath, who won the unlimited truck class at the recent HDRA, Eldorado Fireworks 500 race was without a ride; he is waiting the completion of a brand new Racer Trophy Truck.
When you’re racing against some of the fastest and most experienced drivers in the dirt, you have your work cut out for you. The Lonestar Racing team is learning what it takes to compete in the unlimited class, dialing in a new car and experimenting with some innovative concepts too. Each race they make progress; learning more about the car’s set-up, logistics and race strategy.
The team had several issues during the race but responded admirably to each challenge along the way. The plan was to have crew at each pit and dump fuel at 4, 8 and 12. They made good time at the start of the race until they encountered a mystery flat before pit three. Most of the time a driver can pinpoint the cause of a flat, a large rock, a branch or some other sharp or unforgiving object struck on the course. A mystery flat is one you get when supposedly you didn’t hit anything. Due to the thick, blinding dust and the abusive terrain at Vegas to Reno there were many mystery flats throughout the field. Unknown to Tracy and navigator Curtis Warner they had a tire that was slowly losing pressure until the rim caught a rut throwing them sideways off course cutting a second tire. With two flats and one spare, they were forced to drive on a flat rear until they reached the next pit. Their Method Race Wheels proved to be tougher than the dirt and rocks as they made it to pit 3 without any further damage. The crew changed two tires, loaded a fresh spare and sent them on their way. Back at full speed they made up for lost time.
The plan to have crew at each pit was a good one because the frustrating belt issue that has been plaguing them returned once more. Racing can be cruel as it is but when you have a simple mechanical assembly like a belt running on a set of pulleys that defies logic it makes you wonder how the complicated stuff works at all. The same set-up that works fine on other cars keeps spitting out belts without reason. To make matters worse, when the belts malfunction, rubber is deposited on the crank trigger pick-up causing the engine to drop cylinders. Fortunately, the team diagnosed the crank trigger issue quickly and a different belt configuration will be in place at the next race.
With an accomplished driver like Tracy, an innovative car builder like Dale Dondel at Racer Engineering and a dedicated team like the Lonestar Racing crew it’s only a matter of time before they get the kinks ironed out on the new car. “Our plan is to run as many races as we can this year to get the car dialed in,” says Tracy, “We may even run the Baja 1000 in November. Once we get a couple of wins under our belts and figure out the series we want to contend in we will make a charge for a championship. We know what it takes, it will be tough but we love it! We want to win races but it’s also about having fun and enjoying the challenges along the way.”
Photography By Brian Binkert
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