Jean, NV – The General Tire Trophylite Race Series is known for its highly competitive racing. Any driver in the field has the potential to take the victory on any given day. As they headed into the final race of the season, the Best in the Desert Henderson 250, PJ Guglielmo, Ben Abatti and Perry Coan were all within striking distance of the championship title. Guglielmo was up 8 points over Abatti who had a narrow 3 point lead over Coan in third. The three drivers all had a championship on their mind but there were seven other drivers entered for a total of 11 who were just as determined to win.
The race course had a little of everything, twisty technical sand washes, rocky mountain passes, wide open lake beds and a few whoops that missed blading. The racers and their crews would also have to contend with the weather. The Henderson 250 used to be held in August. The race was moved to December to beat the heat. Instead of scorching temperatures, race day conditions included strong winds, sleet and snow flurries. Despite the cold, damp conditions there was still some dust to contend with as well.
From the drop of the green flag one thing was obvious; despite the high stakes everyone was charging but none greater than Logan Holladay. He started eighth and in just 10 miles he had passed everyone except Ben Abatti; sometimes two trucks at a time. It was the beginning of a back and forth battle with Abatti that lasted nearly the entire race. Out of the championship contenders, Perry Coan was the first to succumb to the brutal pace. Perry was driving for his brother Jeff who has been sidelined due to illness. Perry wanted to win the championship in Jeff’s honor but it just wasn’t to be. “I had major fog in my helmet shield from the start and ran with it cracked open which trashed my eyes early,” said Perry, “It made it so I couldn’t read the terrain at all. Regardless, I don’t think I could have run with PJ or Ben the way they were going. That’s how to go after a championship, go out and grab it by the throat. It has been a great year; I got to drive a cool truck against some tough racers. Everyone was awesome to Jeff and I and our entire team. I have to thank Kevin Smith and Skyler Gambrell for all they did including winning Vegas to Reno. Trophylite number 6030 is going to be in the capable hands of Jeff Proctor next year and I know he will be a great addition to the TL group.”
In his first Trophylite race, Eric Norris came out like a shotgun. Eric has the love of motorsports in his blood. He has NASCAR racing experience, ran a Protruck in Baja and rode along with his famous Father Chuck during celebrity offroad races.
On lap one he had a brake issue that slowed him somewhat. After fixing his brake issue he took after the leaders on lap two. “I outdrove my talent,” said Eric, “I went too fast in the whoops and ended up on my lid. I’ve been over before riding with my Dad but it’s my first time while driving. It was fun getting back in a truck and spending time with my buddies at the race. We are already tracking down the financing to run the Trophylite season next year.”
The master himself, Gary Messer was in contention for a podium when his fuel pump overheated dropping him to fourth. “We ran a stock fuel cell thinking it was cool enough that we didn’t need to modify the pump,” said Gary, “Running the outlet from the bottom cures the issue, we should have done that. The tires had too much air in them on the first lap, it felt like I was on ice. We dropped them down on lap two and the truck was handling much better. I had to pull over to let the pump cool down. That dropped us down to fourth by 40 seconds.”
Out front it was Logan Holladay and Ben Abatti exchanging the lead with Andrew McLeod, driving his Southwest Boulder and Stone #6044, the newest Trophylite chassis to come out of the shop and PJ Guglielmo close behind. PJ’s plan was to be conservative and get to the finish; he had a championship to win. “I was hesitant at first,” said PJ, “I crashed at the last race and there was a lot on the line. Going into the whoops I was trying to roll through them while the rest of the trucks were skipping across the tops of the bumps. Finally, I just had to go for it.” PJ lost his GPS so his copilot could not call out the corners. “We were blowing the corners bad. We were trying to save the truck but they were killing it out front; we had to keep pushing. The rain helped us out. The trucks ahead left fresh tracks in the dirt that we followed.” PJ read the tracks, seeing when to get on the brakes for the corners.
Ben Abatti was having a great race out front. He started fifth but battled his way through the field. On lap two his pit crew got him out ahead of Holladay. On the final lap he had stretched his lead to 8 minutes. With 20 miles to go, a bolt broke in his steering. He tried to keep going; steering with one wheel but had to stop to make repairs. “If we won the race we could have taken the championship,” said Ben, “We had problems at the beginning of the season but took three podiums that got us back in the points. We have been waiting to get a break but it just didn’t come. We’re disappointed but we will be back next year ready to kick some butt.” Ben robbed a bolt from one of his shocks to fix the steering and crossed the line in 7th place.
When Logan Holladay passed the wounded truck of Ben Abatti he knew he was now in the lead. He did his best to keep the truck straight in the rocks. He slowed when he needed to and hit the gas when he could. Despite Trophylite co-owner Rick Johnson’s absence, he was throwing a surprise birthday party for his wife Brenda, The Trophylite crew put together some fast pit stops when they needed them to also aid in Logan’s effort. Logan crossed the line in first place, his second win in a row. Logan and codriver Tyler Eubanks have burst onto the scene with back to back wins. Tyler has a perfect record so far, winning in the only two offroad races she has ever competed in. “The sleet was sticking to my visor making it hard to see,” said Logan, I was driving blind when I hit something, I don’t even know what it was but it cut a tire. We had practiced a tire change before but never had to do one during a race.” They changed the tire and where back at it in only four minutes. It was only after finishing with the Trophylite win that they learned they missed the overall victory by just 4 seconds! “We could have won the overall had I known but we were kind of cruising at the end,” said Logan, “We can’t wait until Parker to see if we can go three in a row!”
The results are not yet official but it looks like PJ Guglielmo will win the championship and Trophylite Rookie of the year. “As the season went on we kept getting faster,” said PJ on his potential championship, “We didn’t have the speed that Ben and Logan have but maybe we played the game a little better. I’m excited but it’s still not clear whether we got it.”
As the 2013 season progressed, the competition in Trophylite got even more intense. Without the help of their great sponsors, the teams would not have been able to push as hard as they do. Congratulations on another great season go out to General Tire, KC Hilites, Impact, MasterCraft Safety, Method Race Wheels, Azuñia Tequila, Maxima Racing Oils & FOX.
Complete Results (9 out of 11 Finished):
1. Logan Holladay
2. PJ Guglielmo
3. Michael McLeod
4. Gary Messer
5. Chris Wacker
6. Perry Coan
7. Ben Abatti
8. Dave Carlson
9. Brian Antle
A total of 68 trucks showed up to battle in the series in 2013. The families, friends, codrivers and crews on those teams need to be congratulated for providing the most competitive racing action in the desert. The drivers of record that scored points includes: P.J. Guglielmo, Ben Abatti III, Perry Coan, Mike McCarthy, Chris Wacker, Edmundo Chantler, Michael McLeod, Charles Currie, Brian Antle, Larry Schmueser II, Ben R Phillips, Logan Holladay, Kevin Smith, Lance Wells, Jeff Proctor, Mason Meachum, Jeff Mortis, Dave Carlson and Patrick Dailey. Even bigger and better things are in store for the Trophylite series in 2014!
Photography By Bink Designs