BITD Bluewater Desert Challenge
The Best In The Desert Bluewater Desert Challenge was a new two-day race last year, and this past weekend it made its return to Parker, Arizona, for its second year. The name of the game was attrition, with more than half of the cars failing to finish. The 26-mile course used many of the same trails as its big brother, the Parker 425, with all racers running three laps each day. The treacherous and punishing course took its toll on many racecars and featured silt, rocks, sand, huge whoops and lots of dust.
The event began on Thursday with time trials on an approximately three-mile course, but the qualifying used a new format from past time trials. This time the Trick Trucks went first and ran by themselves, while the Class 1500 cars raced after the trucks were done. When the dust settled, BJ Baldwin wicked it up to take the top spot in both Trick Truck and overall with a time of 3 minutes and 3.05 seconds, with an average speed of 51.13 mph.
"We used a new super secret compound on our General Tires," Baldwin said after the results were posted. "To qualify well you have to almost crash in every single corner, and that's what I did today. The entire lap was a close call, a big lump almost catastrophic crashes laced together."
Baldwin's General teammate Jason Voss qualified second 4.7 seconds back, with Josh Daniel in third just four-tenths behind Voss. The race format called for the top qualifier to get a one-minute head start in clean air with the rest of the field starting side by side, but Baldwin elected to give that up to start side by side with Voss for the Saturday race.
In Class 1500, former Jeepspeedster Ray Griffith took top qualifying honors with a time of 3 minutes, 4.04 seconds, with an average speed of 50.86 mph. Griffith was shocked to take the pole saying, "At the start I thought it was the worst run I've ever had but it ended up being pretty decent." Shannon Campbell was second just one second behind, and Sam Berri was third being just two-tenths behind Campbell.
The race action began early Saturday morning and continued into the afternoon. Controversy continues to follow Class 2000 driver Andrew Neal as he worked his way to the front of the field and finished with a three-and-a-half-minute lead, but he was issued a 30-minute penalty for excessive nerfing after the race. On Sunday, Neal again picked his way through the field and finished with a large lead, but he was assessed another 30-minute penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct moving him from first to last for the weekend. Vince Viola took the win in class with a combined time of 3 hours and 26 minutes, Paul Kurz was second 8:37 back, with Robert Alatorre finishing third 1:32 back of Kurz.
Class 1500 was full of excitement as well attrition on Saturday, as 25 vehicles started but just nine finished. Polesitter Ray Griffith rolled on his first lap while in the clean air and dropped way back in the pack. This gave Shannon Campbell the physical lead and he made the most of it. Back in the pack, Chuck Hovey was fighting the thick dust to get around Mike Childress, finally making the pass at race mile 18. At this point, Campbell had stretched his lead and Hovey was aware of a hard-charging Kyle Conlon coming up from behind. Hovey turned it up and managed to take the win by just eight seconds on corrected time. Hovey's win was bittersweet however, as he was driving back to his pit he smelled trans fluid and when he got out of the of the car he found a two-inch hole in the case and all the fluid was gone. He did not have a spare transmission so his weekend was done.
On Sunday, Campbell started first and ran up front with the rest of the field chasing. Campbell was looking good but went down on the third lap, leaving the door open for Steve Appleton to take a narrow win with a total time of 2 hours, 56 minutes and 15 seconds. Shelby Reid was second, finishing 25 seconds behind Appleton, while Garrick Freitas took third after finishing three minutes back of Reid.
The highlight race of each day was the always exciting Trick Truck class. Eighteen starters lined up in two rows to take the green flag, but only seven would officially finish the race. Jason Voss took the holeshot but BJ Baldwin was glued to his bumper with Josh Daniel close behind as they left the start area around the pits and headed out into the desert. All three fell to the side with problems on the first lap, leaving Steve Sourapas and Adam Householder to fight for the lead. Householder held the lead into lap three but broke a wheel with just seven miles to go giving Sourapas the lead and the win for Saturday.
Eleven trucks returned to the start line on Sunday. Sourapas jumped out to an early physical lead on course and things were looking good, but two miles from the finish while in cruise mode he nailed a big hole at about 70 mph that gave him a flat left front tire. Sourapas decided to press on to the finish, and in doing so he took top honors. Sourapas also won the inaugural version of this race last year, making him the race's only Trick Truck winner. His two-day winning time was 2 hours, 45 minutes and 28 seconds, finishing with an average speed of 56.5 mph.
"Short of one bonehead move it was a perfect day," Sourapas said at the finish. "After getting the flat I also lost my brakes, so I put it in second gear and just putted in so I didn’t overdrive any corner. That is what happens when you start cruising; I should have just driven hard the whole time."
Sourapas also talked about this win compared to last year's. "This one was a whole lot smoother,” he said. “I got to drive both days and get to see the course in a Trophylite as well. The comfort level was just a lot higher. This is a team sport, it's not just me. There are a lot of people helping, building motors, transmissions, parts and everything else that it takes to get these trucks to the finish."
Finishing in second place was Cameron Steele, who was 2 minutes and 43 seconds behind the leader. Rounding out the podium in Trick Truck was the team of John Swift and Steve Olliges, who finished 7 minutes behind Sourapas.
BITD returns to the dirt on December 3rd with the Transwest Ford Henderson 250. For more information, visit BITD.com.