“It was a great race and the season opener for the 2016 Best in the Desert season. Shane and I were fortunate enough to get a victory in the Pro Production Turbo UTV class with myself driving and Shane Dowden co-driving. This was a very exciting victory to take because not only was it the first race of the year but it also marked the first race ever for the Pro Production Turbo UTV class! Thank you guys very much for your support and taking a chance on the boys from the south taking the trip all the way out to the west coast to give this desert racing a try! We know without your help we would not experience this success”!
Friday we had a good day. Everything went smoothly during Tech. The car checked out well. We just checked over the car after the win last year. The car was completely new from top to bottom, except the engine. Our Maverick was new and ready to race.
The morning of the race, Cory approached us with a factory ECM, still in the package. Apparently, some other racer(s) had protested, saying we were running a re-flashed ECM, so Cory brought us this ECM and gave us the option to change it. He told us that no one had put up the protest money, but that he could install this factory ECM, if we wanted. We said, “Absolutely.”
It was very important that we put on a good showing at the Parker 250. We didn’t want anyone to discount our performance. We had ZERO time to test with the new ECM, except driving up to the starting line.
We started on the fourth row next to #904, Scott Sappington. We had a good light and took off quickly. Scott was able to holeshot us into the desert. He beat us fair and clean, but it didn’t take us long to catch him. A good part of Shae road was spent right on his rear bumper. About halfway down Shae road, we passed #921 Johnny Angal. down with what appeared to be a blown belt. I was little disappointed to see him stopped.
We kept chasing Sappington. About three-quarters of the way down Shae Road, there was a left-hand turn. Shane said, “Pass him there!” It just so happened that it was a hard left-hand turn, and Scott locked it up going into it. We hit him really hard, and spun him, sending his car sideways. The impact broke our front right axle. All this in just the first few miles of the race! Fortunately, we both came out of it “clean.” We made another hard charge and caught them again. This time, Scott eased over just enough to let us by. We got around him just in time to enter the wash near Shae Road.
#910, Dan Fisher, was a little ways ahead of us in the Lonestar Racing car. We could kind of see him, but he was keeping a really fast pace. We started pushing super hard to try to catch him. It was all that we could to do to gain a little ground. We chased him for about 10 miles, slowly gaining on him a little at a time.
Finally, we caught up to Dan and hit the siren. He slid over and let us go by. We were ROLLING! I could see him in our rearview for most of the wash before we got to the road crossing. He was there for a good part of the race. At one point, it came to a split in the track that wasn’t marked very well. We took an incorrect turn, and Dan followed me into a wrong way. I slowed down and turned right, back onto the track and it just so happened that the track merged back into the wrong way. Dan followed that wrong way until it merged back. Being the good sportsman he is, he actually slowed down and let us come back around him even though we were probably 50 yards behind him. He did that because he recognized he got around us by going the wrong way. It showed great sportsmanship on his part.
The first half of the track was pretty uneventful besides being extremely rough to race. There were a lot of rocks, more than I remember from last year. It really beat us to death.
While we were trying to make up time on the leaders, we lost a belt. We pulled to the side to change it. Once we stopped, we fell back to 18th place overall. I opened up the belt box, and the secondary was packed full of belt. We lost probably 10-15 minutes trying to change it and get all of cord off the secondary. I was in there with a knife trying to cut the cords out. We were almost done when I slipped and stabbed Shane in the hand as he was telling me, “be careful with the knife.” I didn’t stop there. I sliced him again across the top of his hand. Finally, we got a pair of diagonal cutters to get all of the cords cut. We put a new belt on and got the car put back together. We got strapped back in and starting making another run. Everyone had passed us and we knew we had given up a lot of time. At this point, our goal was to finish in the top 10. We had given up on any chance of being on the podium. We were just hoping for a good finish, to get some points and finish the season mid-pack. That’s when Shane and I started pushing. We were making decent headway and the car was working flawlessly before a rock got crammed underneath the bead of the wheel. The only thing that kept it from going flat was the Monster Seal.
At the main pit, we grabbed fuel and changed the right rear tire. When we got ready to leave, I noticed several of the Pro Turbo cars still in the pits. Mitch Guthrie, Jr. and Branden Sims were still in the pits. We advanced a couple of positions there. We knew they were in front of some super competitive cars, so we left, on a mission. Our pit crew told us we were 13 minutes down when we left the pits. Starting the second lap, we were in clean air and very little traffic. We hit a really good rhythm once we got into the wash by Shae Road. That’s when we started going faster than we did the first lap.
We knew we had a lot of time to make up so we started freaking rolling. Everything was clicking, and we were rocking along. The car felt good, despite the broken axle. After the second pit, we caught a pack of four naturally aspirated RZRs on the fire road. We had a freaking battle with those guys. We could catch them, but the dust was so bad that we were having trouble passing them. Plus, all of those guys were within 30 feet of each other. Larry Ragland was running us hard. We came into a tighter section, and everyone ran as a group for a couple of minutes. Shane let me know that there was a tight left-hand turn coming up. Instead of trying to run around the outside, when we hit that left, I turned in for a late apex and came on the inside of Larry Ragland and the other four cars. I carried so much momentum that I didn’t need to lift. It was the perfect line. When we broke out from behind Ragland, it opened up to clean air, and we made the pass on those four naturally aspirated cars. Fortunately, we made the pass right before we went into the last third of the track. It was an immediate left-hand turn before the bridge, and we passed them right before we went into a single line and entered a really rough section. That would have eliminated all our chances to pass. We made a cool pass there on four cars.
We caught Gastel in the rock garden toward the end of the track. He was having some brake issues. Just as soon as we got to him, he saw us and we just kept on rocking by. We never even had to let off. He didn’t hold us off or slow us down.
As soon as we reached the Murrays, we hit the horn, and they moved over. It just so happens, we caught them on a long two-line section. We pulled up, and ran beside them for about a mile and a half at 72 miles per hour. We just cruised right next to them until we came to a one-lane section and they let us go first. After that, we started to conserve and try to hold off the Murrays and Gastel.
About five miles from the finish, we came around a corner and saw the #904 car, pulled off to the side. He was one of the last competitors in front of us. We knew at that point that we were doing pretty well. We didn’t know exactly where we were, but we knew we were doing decent. We still hadn’t seen a couple of other racers.
We rolled through the finish line and everything looked good. We noticed there were no other turbo cars that beat us to the finish line. We still didn’t know exactly how we’d done. We pulled across the line and George let us know that we were second across the line, and we were first in the turbo class! I was shocked, especially considering what we had been through and how fast everyone was. We are fortunate and thankful. We ran from 18th position overall all the way to second overall and first in our class, from the first lap until the end.
I drove the entire race, but Shane has the most important job in the car. He takes care of every aspect of the race except pushing the gas pedal and steering the wheel. I have no doubt that without Shane as a co-driver, I could not be as fast as I am. He makes unbelievable calls. His memory is impeccable. He literally remembered rocks on the course from the first lap. When we came back around for the second lap, he said: “Dude, you need to be careful of that rock over the top of this hill.” Sure enough that rock would be there. I would pick Shane over any co-pilot in the series.
The last two times we ran at Parker we either ran horribly or wrecked the car so to open the season with a win is nice. You never expect a win, but this is a good leg up. It’s also a good leg up for Can-Am because we swept the podium, and we are looking to do it again at the UTV World Championship!
Special thanks to our sponsors: DWT RACING, S3 Power Sports, Can-Am BRP, Vision X, Double E Racing, Airdam Clutches, Muzzy Performance, Motor Master, RCV Performance, Gates Belts, Steinjager Heims, Driven Racing Oil, Factory UTV, Warranty Killer Performance, Evolution Power Sports, and PPEI.