Coverage: BITD Vegas to Reno Off-Road Race
Vegas to Reno. The “longest off-road race in the United States” has a record-breaking 306 entries this year. The race, put on by BITD (Best In The Desert), is really a week-long event for many teams, as most began this race on Tuesday, August 14th, by heading out to Las Vegas to prepare for Wednesday’s Time Trials to see who would take the pole position for the coveted clean air off the start for the Trick Trucks and class 1500 Unlimited Buggies.
Time Trials started Wednesday afternoon with a total of 53 vehicles entered, 24 of which were Class 1400 Trick Trucks and 29 being Class 1500 Unlimited Buggies. This year’s Time Trial course was rough, rocky and a blistering with the heat reaching 109 degrees.
Rob MacCachren was driving Steve Sourapas’s #6 Trick Truck and took first overall and first place in Class 1400 at Time Trials with a time off 4:07.181. He beat Harley Letner, who took second overall and first in class 1500 with a time of 4:22.656. A super close third overall and second in class was #19 Tim Herbst followed by #10 Greg Nunley and #35 Jason Voss.
A few fan favorites had some issues at Time Trials. BJ Baldwin got a flat tire halfway around the course and still charged forward on his flat to take 17th off the line and eighth in Class 1500 but BJ’s bad luck did not stop there. During the race at pit #4 BJ pulled over and got out of his truck and began to puke and was sick as a dog. Dale Ebberts happened to be in the pits and BJ asked Dale to drive his truck due to him being sick. Dale gladly accepted and took off in BJ truck, but because Dale was not a registered driver and did not have driver’s wrist band BJ got disqualified for this race.
Robbie Gordon also had trouble at time trials and his car stalled out about 50 yards from the finish leaving him to start second to last and 53rd off the line. Gordon definitely has his work cut out for him for the championship after coming off a phenomenal season so far with a first overall at the Parker 425, first overall at the Mint 400 and a first in Class 1500 at the Silver State 300.
Tech and Contingency began Thursday morning at the Aliante Station Casino Hotel located in North Las Vegas. If you have not been to a tech and contingency it is a great way for the fans to meet the divers, see the racecars up close and see all the latest off-road merchandise from a variety of off-road vendors.
This 534-mile race began bright and early Friday morning in a small town called Beatty just outside of North Las Vegas. The bikes, quads and UTVs left the start line at 5:45 in the morning, and the four-wheeled trucks and buggies left the start line at 9:30 a.m. with Rob MacCachren leading the pack in Sourapas’s #6 Trick Truck. The truck had clean air almost the entire race up untill the end where Chuck Hovey #1518 made it past him and was the first to cross the finish line. But in corrected time Hovey actually finished fifth overall and fourth in class 1500.
Second off the start line was Harley Letner, and he was gaining on MacCachren from the start. “I was running good for a while and caught Rob Mac at Pit #1 but could not pass him,” Letner said. “Then the car stalled out about mile 70 and I lost a few positions. Once we got going all seemed to be good ‘til all the converter bolts broke off at Pit #5 and that ended our day.”
As the race progressed, the two vehicles to watch were Garrick Freitas #1572 and Robbie Gordon #1537. Freitas, last year’s Vegas to Reno class 1500 winner, started this year’s race 24th off the line and 12th in class. Garrick finished first overall and first in Class 1500 this year. This overall win makes it back-to-back class wins and overall wins, a huge accomplishment in the United States longest off-road race.
At the finish line it was all smiles for the Freitas off-road team. “The first 300 miles we (co-driver Trevor Freitas) worked our way through the dust,” Garrick Freitas said, thanking his sponsor General Tire for helping keep him on the racecourse with no flats. “The dust was bad so we took our time and waited to capitalize on others making mistakes. From mile 300 to the finish we (co-driver Steve Shahan) just let everything hang out and went for it.” This win puts Garrick in second place in points for Class 1500.
With Gordon starting second to last he was on a mission to make up time and keep his three-in-a-row win streak going, which he almost pulled off. With 52 other racecars in front of him and gaining time on each on, Gordon was the 14th car to cross the finish line after passing 39 other Class 1400s and 1500s giving him a second place in Class 1500 and a second place overall only finishing 00:37.984 seconds behind Freitas.
Third place overall and first in Class 1400 was Mark Weyhrich in the #9 Trick Truck. It was a great day for Weyrich after starting 26th and working his way through the pack to earn the class win.
Adam Householder, Trick Truck #24, had some trouble just before Pit 10 as he barrel-rolled his truck. After the crew spent some time working on the truck’s damage, the team had the truck back in action and Householder finished the race!
One of the scariest moments on the race course goes to Mikey Childress and crew, as the team fueled the racecar and it caught fire. Childress and co-driver Travis Howard jumped out of the burning car. Howard did not know he was on fire but Brad Beintema saw he was and tackled him to the ground and did the old stop, drop and roll technique. No one was hurt and luckily they got the fire out on the racecar in time and continued the race all the way to the finish line.
In all, BITD does put on the best races in the U.S. desert. Vegas to Reno had it all: extreme heat, rain, rough whoops, rocks everywhere and fast terrain. Check out BITD.com to see info about the last 2two races of the season. The next race is the Blue Water Desert Challenge in Parker, Arizona, October 12-14th.