Coverage: 2012 HDRA El Dorado Fireworks 500
Nevada is known for its rough, punishing and unforgiving deserts. The HDRA Fireworks 500 held just outside Reno, Nevada, was no different. Racers took to the brutal racecourse at the newly formed Tahoe Reno Motorplex, a venue that promised racers would have something to talk about.
Coming off Independence Day celebrations, the event began with qualifying on a four-mile course below a spectator area situated on a plateau. The qualifying course briefly previewed what lied ahead for racers.
Cameron Steele earned the top spot in qualifying, followed closely by Mike Mitchell and local favorite Sam Berri.
“Josh Daniel drove the qualifying run for us and obviously did an excellent job”, said Steele. “We have a couple of fast guys behind us, so hopefully being first off the line will give us that edge we need to win.”
On Friday morning, racers met at downtown Reno for tech, contingency and the The Great Eldorado BBQ, Brews and Blues Festival summer kick-off celebration. It was a perfect venue for fans to meet the racers, get an up-close look at the racer’s machines, hear live music, sample some great BBQ and even catch a freestyle motocross show.
But the fun was over before the night got old, as race day came early Saturday morning. The racers filed up at the starting line in anticipation to take the green flag. Some racers may have wished they never did when the Fireworks 500 turned out to be one of the toughest races for many. Five times around an 80-mile course seemed simple enough, but the Nevada desert had another agenda, and that was to punish racers into submission with never-ending rocks, silt, and impossible hill climbs hour after hour for nearly 500 miles. Sounds fun, right?
It was clear the Nevada desert was winning this race when it took out top-qualifier Steele, while hometown favorite Sam Berri was within a single lap. This left Mike Mitchell from Hyde Park, Utah, out front, which is where he stayed until the end. Mitchell finished the race in 10 hours, 43 minutes, 28 seconds – almost 40 minutes over the second-place finisher Clayton Scudder.
“This race should be renamed The Bone Crusher 500!” said an excited Mike Mitchell at the finish. “I’ve raced in every desert there is from Baja to Vegas to Reno, and those races have nothing on this! This race is a true test of intestinal fortitude, so to be able to stand up here on top is a great feeling. I challenge anyone who thinks they have what it takes to come out here and take the challenge. It’s tough, but it’s worth it!”
Clayton Scudder mirrored Mitchell comments: “This was a brutal course! We didn’t have any problems all day, just had to make sure to take care of the tires, that and maintain a good, steady pace and make it here to the end.
“Those rocks out there seemed to get bigger as the day went on,” Scudder said. “I do have to say the HDRA crew did an amazing job of keeping the course clear and helping the broke racers out. I want to say thank you to them. Those guys are awesome!”
Third overall and first in Open Truck was Canadian and class newcomer James Horvath. “It was awesome man. I’m so happy to be here!” said Horvath. “It was a really tough day out there; these BFG tires really had their work cut out for them. We had an issue with an alternator early on and then at the end the rear end started to go but we limped it in the 30 miles or so. It was a really tough course, but that makes my first win in this class even better.”
Racers trickled in throughout the night. Many felt as if they had been through a battle, but it was a battle they chose. If they didn’t win, they chose to finish. Some might complain the course was too rough or too hard, but there are some who accepted that challenge as a test measuring what they are made of and a standard to judge themselves.
As UTV racer Bill Morris said at the awards: “Finishing a race like this is more than just race; it’s how you handle life. Some will cry about it and say it’s too hard, too tough. A lot of people are going to bitch and complain about this course. To them I say: If it's too rough then this sport is not for you. Take it to the pavement because this is off-road racing. It separates the men from the boys!"
The next race for the HDRA crew will be held under the stars at the “Dusk Till Dawn” in Primm, Nevada, and ORC will be there!