SNORE KC Highlights Midnight Special
HiLight'n Up the Sky!
With a name like "SNORE", you'd think that action, excitement, and "balls out" racing would be hard to find. You'd be wrong. Quite wrong. Southern Nevada Off-Road Enthusiasts are widely known for putting on some of the finest racing action in the desert. And they just keep getting better.
Being a non profit org., the volunteer staff, all elected by the general membership, go out of their way to put on the best show for the dollar, bare none, but are quickly loosing the mantle of "shoestring budget race promotion". With several thousand dollars per class in prize money, an increase of contingency sponsors, and a year ending prize of a brand new, top of the line 1/2-1600 car, it's little wonder that SCORE/SODA hotshoes like Danny Anderson & Rob MaCacchran are regular competitors at this promoters events.
Stars of the sport aside, the meat and patatos of SNORE racing remains the low - medium budget, and family racing teams that have been the backbone of the sport since the beginning. Here, there are no labyrinthine point systems & outrageous entry fees that have turned so many teams away from other promoters. Here a few people can build a good car, take it racing for the weekend, and get their moneys worth, because here, the majority of the competition is doing the very same thing....and it makes for some highly competitive racing.
Did we mention the courses? SNORE probably deserves an award for course marking, and that feat is made even more impressive considering that there's only a mere handful of people doing the job. Arrows accurately placed, and honestly representing what's in store for the drivers, aren't always easy to come by in today's desert races, but here they are. And it's a good thing.....
Did we mention brutal? Class 10 driver Tom Sturgis, one of the course marking volunteers, told us how much "easier" it was than in previous years. Tom it seems, underestimated his abilities....by a wide margin! The high attrition rate truly separated the men & women from the boys & girls, and made for some of the best "win it in the pits" racing that the desert has seen in some time.
Did we mention this was a night race? KC HighLights was race sponsor for the "KC HiLights Midnight Special", and nearly all the racers were sporting the sponsors hardware. With an occasionally overcast sky, and only half a moon to work with, 4 lights seemed to be the bare minimum, with several competitors loaded down with racks of lighting, and extra alternators to match.
I had originally gone to the KC Midnight Special to do a straight cover of the event, complete with photos et all, but like many things in life, things just didn't work out that way. After shooting a few starting line pics, I strolled back up to the pits of T&G Racing, Tim & Gary Hart's Class 9 team, who Off-Road.com had sponsored for this event. In a last minuet change of strategy, Tim & Gary had opted to let their "midway" team (Rich & Lee Culver) start the race.
I had planned on letting the field thin out before returning to the well lit "infield" area for some good jump & action shots, but as the first cars completed lap one, there was obviously something wrong. While the Class 1 cars had left the line first, followed by the Class 10's, it was the 1/2-1600 cars that came across the line in the lead positions! .......Houston, we have a problem..... Sturgis' "Easy" course was eating the big boys for lunch, and the race had just begun!
Within a few moments, T&G's radio crackled "We need a co-driver....Lee's getting out"....Not knowing what happened, I got suited up, and ready to hop in. Once underway, it was obvious why the big cars were sidelined...and why Lee hopped out with chest pains. The course was about 50/50. Half ultra high speed fire road, and half altar of human / mechanical sacrifice. This thing was evil incarnate...especially in a Class 9 car.
Rich had set a quick pace, but not quick enough to break the car. The whole strategy was to stay within striking distance of class leader Mark Bunderson, and most importantly, keep the car out of the pits. Half way into lap 2 we had already passed several broken 9's, and at this rate, we'd break the top 5 on "no breakage" alone. Unfortunately, bad ball joints, and a nasty section of shattered rock unaffectionately called "BLM's Revenge" had other ideas.
After expertly navagating his way through a mogul field of whoops & rocks, we were unceremoniously dumped into the "3 down" nightmare, and shortly thereafter, the passenger side upper ball joint snapped. With steering seriously hampered, we were reduced to 1st & 2nd gear, and decided to forge on to an upcoming pit, still some 8 miles away.
Once at the pit, we experienced something common to desert racing, but rare as hens teeth in just about any other motorsport. Where else, I ask you, can you pull in to a direct competitors pit, and have their crew spring into action as if your car were their own? While they didn't have the parts we needed, they did have good old McGuyver technology, and with a few dozen wrappings of bailing wire, we were back on course, with Rich able to hold 3rd gear on smoother ground. We had only lost about 10 min in the pits, and were still mobile, now all we had to do was get it back home, and we could make full fledged repairs, sending Tim & Gary out in a semi fresh car......Until lightning struck twice....sort of.
Rich had the car in a long, steep walled ravine, lined in big rocks. B-I-G rocks. Can't go right, cant go left, and wouldn't you know that there's a Class 1 bearing down on us at about 110mph. Since it didn't look like he was slowing down, Rich chose rocks over certain whiplash, and headed for the right, snapping all that stopgap bailing wire in the process.
"This is not good".
When the 1 car came around (up in the left side rocks), he tagged our driver side front wheel, snapping IT's upper ball joint as well.
"Now this really sucks".
With about 12 miles to go, we radioed the pit to let them know we were in need of serious help. Rich kept the car in motion, using lock to lock turns for minor steering adjustments, only getting out of first on one extremely flat / smooth section of road. Time was seriously wasting, and that top 5 finish was slipping farther & farther away.
When we got to the pits, there were no parts waiting for us. There was some heated discussion as to whether a weld would hold if really babied, and it was finally decided to trailer the car....until Lee came running back from another competitors pit with the parts we needed.
By the time we had r&r'd the front end (encountering several problems along the way), We had lost about 1 1/2 hrs total. With luck we could still salvage a top 5, but that would depend on a combination of our good luck, and our competitions bad. Definately not good odds, even in Vegas.
Tim & Gary set out on the course, with the rest of us doing a lot of praying & finger crossing. At best, we would finish 3 of the 4 scheduled laps....would it be enough? Sadly it wasn't. Tim & Gary broke another ball joint, and limped the car in, mere minuets after time had expired, leaving us with 9'th place, a broken car, and the all important "season points" flittering away on the cool desert breeze. .
The next morning, The Nevada Palace hosted the award ceremony, with many of the racers in attendance. After a few rounds of "shudda', wouldda', coulda'", your typical post race bench racing, trophies, prize money, and an added bonus from BF Goodrich, sent many of the assembled racers home happy, and able to take pride in a hard fought, often times brutal event.
If you have never attended a SNORE event, here's your invitation. You won't be seeing a lot of glitz & glitter, but you will be seeing some good people, fierce competitors, outstanding racing, and an atmosphere that breeds comradery. And isn't that what the desert is all about? Or at least "Supposed to be"?
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