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The countless twists and turns that make up the Best in the Desert Silver State 300 course, round 3 of the General Tire Trophylite race series, were somewhat overshadowed by the twists and turns of fate that took place in the closing miles of the race. After hours of flat-out running, the top five Trophylite trucks all had a shot at the win. Keith Sato had the speed to come out on top winning by only seconds.

Both Keith Sato and co-driver Eric Helgeson have tons of desert racing experience but this was only their second race in the Trophylite series. It was not without challenges; co-driver Matt Helton who was scheduled to go the entire distance got sick in the truck. “We are here to race but Matt’s also my good friend,” said Keith Sato, “He was willing to tough it out but I told him to get out at pit 3. It might have been the altitude, we are not sure.” The plan was to do a driver change at pit 4 so Keith drove by himself to the next pit where driver Eric Helgeson jumped into the co-dog seat instead to navigate for the remainder of the race.

They had some overheating issues that caused the motor to go into limp mode. It forced a change in strategy. They made time by hanging it out through the technical sections and had to limit their top speed in the fast sections to keep the engine cool. Like the rest of the top four they chose to forgo a splash of fuel at the final pit to run all the way to the finish. “From the minute Eric got in the truck he was yelling Go, Go, Go! We wanted to finish our first race at the Mint 400; with that accomplished we were going all out to win this one! We had a good day with no flats; we kept it clean, kept it fast. We had no idea where we were on time, we just knew we didn’t want to lose it by a couple of seconds.” They took the win on corrected time beating Brian Antle by 55 seconds.

With only 80 miles to go, Brian Antle was leading the race by 20 minutes; closing fast was Keith Sato and Jeff Mortis. “We were just trying to cruise to the finish but we got caught up in a pile up of stuck trucks in a deep silt rut,” says Antle.” With no path of escape, they too became mired in the deep silt. “Shortly after the silt we had to stop and change a clogged air filter which completely erased our lead.  Leaving the last pit we were 1- 1/2 minutes ahead of Sato but we needed 4- 1/2 minutes to beat him.  I drove the last 30 miles like a mad man, taking a lot of chances but it wasn’t enough.  It looks like he got us by only a few seconds. My crew guys did a flawless job keeping me out front all day just came up a little short. Thanks to TL for such an awesome series.  It’s amazing that a 300 mile race can be so close at the finish.” Brian successfully held off Jeff Mortis and Chris Wacker for second place.

Jeff Mortis was behind the wheel at mile 20 when he hit a boulder and killed a tire. He had already passed a couple of Trophylites but despite a quick change by co-driver Brett Young the rest of the field got around them. “Brett did a fast tire change and did a great job all day calling out the turns and silt ahead. We hit one patch of deep silt that completely buried the truck but we punched through it. Our Parker Pumpers were clogged making it tough to breathe but we did our best to avoid the deepest silt so our K&N filter did the job. We used the silt to our advantage getting past others who were stuck. You have to keep your eyes ahead and pick the best line.” When Chris Wacker took over the wheel at pit 4 Jeff had climbed back up to 4th place. Chris and his co-driver Derek Husen battled in the top four the rest of the day finishing on the podium in 3rd.

PJ Guglielmo was 4th. He was a contender but ended up on his side and had to stop a couple of times to clean the silt out of his filter. The silt beds were deep after the big unlimited cars and trucks tore them up clogging filters, blinding drivers and trapping many trucks. 5th place went to the Southwest Boulder & Stone team of Andrew McLeod. They had vapor lock issues that put them into limp mode slowing their pace. Ben Abatti III or B3 as his friends call him was sharing the driving with younger brother Braden. They too had a shot at the win but getting stuck and stops to clean the silt out of their filter cost them time. They were coming on strong at the finish but ran out of time finishing in 6th place. The Abatti’s were followed by Logan Holladay and Eric Norris in a Trophylite rental truck. They had power steering issues, a broken brake fitting, a tip over and fuel pump failure. They fought through it all to get to the finish in 7th place.  The final finisher was Chris Hall driving in his first TrophyLite and first desert race ever behind the wheel of TrophyLite chassis #1. His co-driver also fell ill so he drove from pit 3 to pit 6 solo. He learned a whole lot, some of it from the Trophylite crew but also through trial and error. The new body on the truck is still in one piece and it’s being prepped right now. To say that he was stoked after the race is an understatement.

Jeff Proctor’s Metro Honda / Metro Acura team lost an engine after the crew had already changed a transmission borrowed from the Tanimura & Antle crew. The entire team is putting forth a great effort; they just need a little luck to come their way. Once they catch a break, they are bound to be running up front. Eight out of ten Trophylites finished the race. Unfortunately Mike Slater was not one of them. He was driving the entire race for points leader Todd Jackson who was unable to make the race. What was thought to be a transmission problem was actually a broken axle shaft. Failures in the Currie Enterprises rear ends are so rare, the actual problem was overlooked until it took them out at pit 3. The dnf will shake up the points battle going into the next race, Vegas to Reno.

Troubles on the course also plagued the Trophylite R8 of team Azunia Tequila. Jim Riley and crew never gave up and finished the 6100 truck in 7th place. “Casey gave us a great course to run the TL R8,” said Jim, “After a long day of ups and downs we finished mid-pack without a single flat thanks to our General Tires.” Jim and his crew are tough as nails and always have a good time regardless of the challenge.

The Metro Honda / Metro Acura hard charger award was too tough to call at this race; every team was pushing it to the maximum. It was decided to roll the 1K prize over until Vegas to Reno making the pot $2,000 when the Trophylite series takes on the longest off-road race in the United States August 14-16.

There will also be a $500 Kartek bonus up for grabs that will sweeten the pot along with the generous support and incentives already offered by General Tire, KC Hilites, Mastercraft Safety, Impact, Method Race Wheels, Azuñia Tequila, Maxima Racing Oils, FOX Racing Shox, Metro Honda / Metro Acura, Currie Enterprises, Children of the Dirt Apparel, Tanimura & Antle, Baja Junkies and Kreed Eyewear by Fortress.

The Trophylite series has incredibly tight racing where anyone can win. The teams are tough on the course but in the spirit of great competition still pitch in to help each other when they can. Trophylite offers a unique and affordable off-road racing series that now includes short course competition as well.

Go to: http://www.trophylite.com to find out how you can be a part of the series.

Photography By: Bink Designs

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