2016 Vegas To Reno 1965 Race Report


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2016 Vegas to Reno #xpWarrior Race Report

2016 Vegas to Reno was called “The Long Way” and would be a two-day event taking our team 664 race miles from Alamo, NV to Dayton, NV.

Thursday Morning, we loaded the 1965 xpWarrior Polaris RZR on the trailer and headed to Aliante Casino for registration and tech/contingency. We rolled through with zero issues and gave away some backpacks to lucky people that saw our Instagram post. The heat was brutal so early in the day we headed back to the house before all the excitement took over with the unveil of the Can Am Maverick X3 racecars. Later that evening we attended the drivers meeting. During the drivers meeting, my co-driver, Chris, received a text message that caused him to leave with haste to the hospital with a family emergency. I received a little info from him later that night telling me he wasn’t coming to the race…. we all thought the worst.

Friday, missing one team member we jumped in the trucks and drove to Alamo, NV for the start of the race. The conversation in the truck was full of speculation about our missing teammate and news of the military helicopter crash. We are very grateful that of those aboard there was news of all those aboard surviving the incident. We unloaded at Del Mar Airfield near Alamo, NV and got ready to race. A little talk of strategy…”get to the finish, that is your only job”, stated a crew member. Knowing that all we came to the racewith for spare parts were a few tires, stock OEM take-off shocks, and a borrowed A-Arm…it was nerveracking to know we were about to embark on 645 miles of grueling desert. UTV’s were staged behind all of the big fast vehicles, the same as last year. Number 1965 “xpWarrior” was to be 21 of 35 Pro Production NA UTV’s and behind the Top Ten finishers from Laughlin and all of the Turbo UTV’s. Our game plan was to take it easy and make it to Day 2. We really wanted to finish this race to keep our place in the point standings for the season.

We decided to put Peyton in the co-driver seat since Chris Edmonson was unable to make the race. Peyton, a Marine Vet with tours in Afghanistan, was a great choice because he has a WORCS UTV and knowledge of RZR’s. This was going to be an “all-in” trial by fire for Peyton and an introduction to desert racing like he had never experienced. At staging we joked with a couple other racers while waiting for our placement and did an impromptu interview with “Parker” James, the biggest desert racing fan I have ever met. If you haven’t met “Parker” you might not have attended a desert event in the last few years; this kid knows everyone racing and can tell you things about teams you wouldn’t think people remember. Around 1150 we got the green light and the clock started. We headed off and within a mile of the start; we vanished into a dust cloud. For miles we couldn’t see further than the hood of the racecar. Running blind, we pushed forward to get through the silt and found many TT and 6100 trucks stuck or wrecked on course. I can’t tell you the exact mileage but we came to a bottleneck that claimed about 6 vehicles and we had to find an alternate course to continue forward.


After finding a route down a dry creek, we got back on course and found deep silt that browned out the entire car and our vision. I had silt inside my helmet, which caused visibility to be even worse. The silt beds were long and often rutted deep. I tried my best to keep the car out of the TT ruts but when we would fall into them it would drain horsepower like we were pulling a trailer. The clutch and belt became a concern in the silt and Peyton did a great job of monitoring the temps. The Fuel Customs Clutch Cover was amazing and I believe was the sole reason our clutch temperature never reached higher than 190. I worried that we would blow a belt in the silt and be stuck or cause an accident on the course; luckily we raced smart and had the right tools to get through the brutal silt beds. SO many race vehicles were wrecked or stranded through out the first 48 miles and attrition had begun.

We pushed forward and made it to Pit 1 in good time. On the arrival we were told to trailer the racecar to pit 2 and to not work on the car. Being in the chase truck for 30 minutes was a blessing and curse. We were able to hydrate and discuss the race, but it took us out of the mindset for a little while. On arrival at Pit 2, we unloaded and hurried back on course. It seemed to be a mad dash for teams to get unloaded and racing again and I soon learned why. After taking on a couple gallons of fuel, we were on course and had the luxury of some clean air. That luxury became short lived as a class 10 struck us from behind that was blinded by our dust and moving faster than we were. Once they got around us we had to drive in dust for a few miles before realizing we had a flat.


We nailed a boulder hidden in a bush that blew our rear right tire when I was hit by the Class 10 and pulled to the side still at speed. After changing the tire we started moving forward and within twenty yards I realized something was wrong with the steering because the car was pulling hard to the left. I stopped and had my co-driver take a look. He didn’t see a flat so off we went; the steering wheel fighting me with every bump and rut we hit. More times than I would like to admit the car would abruptly change course and we would be headed into the desert on two wheels about to roll violently down the course. I worked my ass off to keep control and all four wheels on the ground. The pucker moments were plenty and the car was difficult to control at high speed. I realized that keeping the car below 60 was more manageable and some rough sections needed to be under 45.


The car continued to fight me every chance it had. Not wanting to hurt our chances for a finish I had to keep the speed lower than we would like in order to make it to the finish. We took fuel at Pit 4 and by the time I got the car to Pit 5, we asked for a visual to look at the alignment as we cruised through. The guys told us on the radio that it did look like we had a tow issue, but we elected to push the next 80 miles with what we had. The guys in the pit were spot on! It is simply amazing to have a crew where they need to be when you need them, without question. The logistics were a big part of success that day.


Getting to Tonopah, NV and ending the first leg of the two-day race was a great feeling. Fans were scattered along the last five miles taking photos and cheering cars on as they passed. Once we saw mile 296, we felt a little more relaxed in the car and brought her in to the finish while talking about all the beautiful scenery we passed throughout the day. Day 1 we encountered water crossings, mud, silt, water crossings that bordered silt, large rocks, cross washes and mountainous trails. Besides the silt, it was a paradise to drive through.


Friday evening the guys began looking over the car while I ate, hydrated and looked for fellow racers to see if they made it to the finish. The crew pulled the air box cover and found ZERO silt or dirt on our filter. The S & B Filters Particle Separator did its job and kept clean air feeding the engine. The chassis was full of silt and when they dropped the skid plate it was packed into the structure of the car. Like I said earlier, even the inside of my helmet was full of silt. The next item that was looked at was the clutch. The Fuel Customs Clutch Cover kept our clutch temp below 190 the whole day! Even with a toe issue and silt, which combined to make the racecar into a silt plow, the clutch stayed cool and saved the belt. Once everything was opened up the car headed to the car wash to get the mud and silt out of the chassis. This is a must, when possible, to get rid of the extra weight. Also these things can start causing wear on the driveline if a rock is mixed into that stuff. After grilling out some burgers and dogs, I wished the team a good night and headed off to bed at the infamous “Clown Motel”.

Saturday morning I showed up to the car with BK for the team but they were still focused on making sure the car was ready. Off to the starting line, staging seemed to take forever probably due to my desire to get back into it again and finish this race. We began Day 2 mixed in with the larger vehicles. The starting order was determined by how you finished Day 1. I was number 124 so I was to start behind the 6012 truck and had a buggy and George Felix behind me.

I watched as vehicle after vehicle left the start. Joey D , from UTVUnderground was out there doing a live show from his phone and I didn’t really even realize it until after the race. Once we got the green light, it was back into the unknown and dust. I knew we would have to keep a good pace going and monitor the vehicles behind us so we didn’t get run over. About twelve miles in, we realized our toe issue was still causing problems and it was preventing us from maintaining a good speed to stay in front of those big vehicles behind us. I found a flat clear spot and pulled over…about 40 yards from live racecourse to look at the car. Peyton and I jumped out and our front end was so far out of alignment that we knew we needed to adjust it in order to continue the day. I pulled the tool bag while Peyton tried to look for the cause. Then we discovered we were missing a wrench we needed to adjust the tie rods. We decided to get the car moving and fix the problem at the next pit.

We radioed to the Chase teams that we needed to stop at the first pit and fix the front-end issue. The crew did a great job of keeping us calm in the car and going with the flow and figuring it out. After about 15 minutes in the pit, all of our chase teams were on the job. They had to pull the front of the car completely apart and pulled the upper bolt while the car was on jacks. The hole in the forward mounting bracket had wallowed into an egg shape allowing the arm to move. The 1/8 inch of movement at the bolt caused almost two inches of toe-out condition at the wheels. Also the bolt had a groove worn into it that could have cause a complete bolt failure. This was a good pit stop and once it was back together we had a little better control of the car.


I tried to get back some of the lost time. Soon it was the elements that began to get the better of us. Peyton and I started realizing how thirsty and hungry we were and that dehydration was slowing our response time. We radioed to the chase teams to have a power bar and water at Pit 8. By the time we got to Pit 8, the crew let us know that we were doing good on picking time back up so I had Peyton tell the crew we would get the food and water at our scheduled fuel stop. On our way to the next pit, we worked really hard in the car to maintain a good pace. I can’t remember the mile marker but we had been gaining on a strobing blue light and all of a sudden it crashed in the distance. As I got to the crash, the UTV was resting on its side and both occupants were getting out of the car. I stopped, Peyton and I ran back to the flipped UTV. Everyone was fine and we helped the father daughter team get the car on all four wheels by pushing it back over. Once in our car we radioed the chase team to let them know what was going on. Radio communication was key during this race and it allowed us to radio in problems we found all throughout Day 2.

At the pit, we stopped for fuel and those power bars. I hopped out of the drivers seat and tried to help Aaron from our chase two truck since he was down a man and the primary chase truck was still a couple minutes away. While putting the light bars on the car, the car shut down. We couldn’t get it to start back up. The guys started checking everything and we may have thought a little too big at first. They pulled spark plugs, the throttle body, injectors and right when we were worrying about the fuel pump or compression Greg (our Crew Chief) asked if anyone check circuit breakers and fuses. Low and behold, the Fuel Pump Fuse was blown. Really a fuse I thought…we were down for over an hour due to a fuse!!! In went a new fuse and the car started right up…. but while strapping into the car it died again. Greg pulled the fuse again and it was blown. That fuse got replaced with a larger fuse and the car stayed running. Not the perfect solution but it worked. Off we went but we had left just after Voss brought his TT to the pit and the sun was setting. Knowing we were now on the verge of not making pit closures unless we picked up the pace we drove our asses off.


A few miles from the last pit we encountered sand trails, lots of single track sand littered with cross washes. Then we were hit hard from behind. The car went into the side of the course and hit the one boulder sitting along the course and blew the right rear. We also noticed at the tire change that the S&B Filters Particle Separator has broken from the bracket. We quickly changed the tire and made some desert repairs to hold the S&B in place. Zemak had been leading for some of Day 2 in the Turbo Class and was trying to make up time after a costly hub failure. Little did I know he was moving very fast and I got in his way. He did send me a message after the race explaining that he tried to get around and didn’t mean to hit us that hard. I definitely appreciated the apology and understand.

We drove further into the course and the sun had finally set. Jason Voss was moving again but we didn’t know that….yet. We entered some long rolling hills on a fire road and that’s when Peyton told me he could see lights behind us a mile or two. After thirty seconds I asked him to look for the vehicle to see if it was gaining fast. Peyton told me we must have lost him because there weren’t any lights anymore. Just as he finished saying that I heard the siren and a bright light illuminated the racecar for a second. I quickly moved to the right and Voss drove around us in his powerful TT. He passed clean and I was grateful for his patience. The dust left in his wake was settling into the valleys of the rolling hills. We would drive down a hill and disappear into the unknown basin filled with a dust cloud hoping big rocks weren’t waiting for us. Hill after hill we worried about this settling dust but made it to the next section and into Top Gun for fuel.

After taking on all the fuel the car could hold we set back out on a mission to finish our first Vegas to Reno. Five miles outside of the pit I noticed I had lost power steering and the caution light was on. Peyton told me to find a spot to pull over and shut the car off so the power steering could reset. Little did I know that I had left all the maintenance lights on, illuminating the suspension and undercarriage. These lights combined with all the other systems began draining the charge system. Our big lights weren’t a problem but with every system on in the car combined with idling in the pit, it was too much. Then I unknowingly shut the car off with a low battery. When I tried to restart the car all it did was click. We realized what was wrong right when we heard the clicking and shut everything off but it was too late. Without radio and lights I found a new reason to carry my phone with me on the course. I used it as a flashlight (yes I forgot to put a flashlight in the tool bag) to get the reflective markers out and then tried looking for signal to make some calls.

Now our teammate and normal co-driver who was back in Vegas, Chris, became very important. Chris was the only person I could get a text message out to. Calls wouldn’t connect and texts weren’t completing to anyone else on the team. With Chris in Vegas I hoped he could get in touch with someone to send out a jump box. Chris came through and after an hour in the desert a Best in the Desert official showed up followed by the 988 car. We took a jump box from 988 and got the car started up. With all systems unplugged, we let the battery recharge for about ten minutes…down time ended up being over an hour. Then we elected to start back on course with only the rear lights, radio and GPS turned on. We still had caution lights on the dash but continued moving forward. I drove the rest of the race with pumpers, light bars, and any other accessory turned off. After about twenty miles the caution lights went out and the battery was fully charged, and I had power steering again.

As we passed the Pits, check-points and road crossings people were cheering us on. We were apparently the last moving vehicle on the course (little did we know at the time). I was telling Peyton about how if we broke down now we would have to spend the night in the desert just like the S3 boys did last year. No joke we talked about that for miles and when we got to 17 miles from the finish we found two UTV’s broken on the course. Probably in the same place that Dustin and Shane spent the night. What made it worse was one of them was our friend Amin Patel who gave us a spare A-Arm prior to the race.

I stopped and asked what was wrong. Amin told me his starter took a crap and asked me to tow him to the finish. The other car had a stack of spares on the rack all chewed up and had another rear flat. I told Amin I would try to pull start him if he had a strap. The second car with the flat began its perilous journey up the boulder-ridden hill. Amin tied a strap to the rear bumper of the xpWarrior and gave me a shout that he was in the car. I yelled for him to put his car in high and hold the ignition on. As I began moving forward the strap snapped. Amin backed me up to him again and tied another strap onto the car. I moved to get tension onto the strap and put my car into Low. I began pulling him but with the incline of the hill, boulders and weight of the car the second strap snapped at some point but I didn’t realize it until I had gotten to the halfway point of the hill. There is a rule that you cannot go backwards on the course so we couldn’t go back for Amin and it weighed heavy on my shoulders. About a mile ahead the 1983 car with all the blown tires was stopped on the course. We knew we had mere minutes to get to the finish at the pace we were running after spending so much time with our charging issue and trying to help Amin. I couldn’t stop again and inched passed the 1983 with our right wheels close to the edge of a cliff on the side of the course.

Then after a few more steep hills and 180 degree turns we came across Amin’s co-driver walking down the course. I am pretty sure he was very new to BITD because he asked if I could drive him back to his disabled car and help them. Sorry buddy but that would be 6 miles backwards on the course and we were very close to not making the finish in time.

I have to say the last 30 miles of Vegas to Reno have everything you could ever find while driving offroad. I was dumbfounded by the degree of grades, width of course, boulders, abrupt turns and obstacles we came across. At moments I wondered if Casey was trying to kill us, lol. Finally we saw the last mile marker 644 and the finish was in sight. The emotion of the past year had started to come over me as we drove by the abandoned chair where once sat the person with the checkered flag. Down the hill we drove to find a bright area without cones or banners or flags or people. I was quite lost at first and I started hearing some yelling. I turned toward the sound and it was Casey and some of his crew trying to direct me to their location. We shook Casey’s hand and found out that we had been the last moving car on the course for the last hour and a half. We were offered a slice of pizza and I gladly accepted. So with an empty finish area and no one but my team and a few BITD officials our finish was very emotional for us but went widely unnoticed by the rest of the racing community. I reported all of the broken vehicles we came across and one motorcycle that we couldn’t find the rider. I drove onto the abandoned Mesa and woke up George to let us thank sponsors even though they weren’t there.


All in all, Vegas to Reno this year was fun. A lot of fun! There were moments during the race that I thought to myself that this was dumb and not worth everything it takes to be there. Once you cross that line and get a finishing pin all of that goes away. Knowing that you finished the longest race in the United States, beat some of the best racers on the planet is something you can cherish forever. Some of life is making those stories you will tell grandchildren one day. I am glad that Casey and the entire Best in the Desert crew are giving me and my team a chance at making those stories. Thank you to all of the guys on the team and their families, we don’t finish races without you. A special thanks to all of the people that helped us put the car back together after the devastating fire in Laughlin, Beurrier, Felix, Smith, Sims and others….I am deeply indebted to you. Thank you to Dan Fisher and Lonestar Racing for providing the best suspension and racecar components we have ever used. There is a reason why more cars use Lonestar than any other company…the stuff is amazing coming out of that shop. Raceline and Sedona Tires thank you for taking a chance on us. The only flats we had were technically driver error. The Rock-A-Billy tires are desert proven and got us through Vegas to Reno. Thank you to the UTV Underground crew for maintaining the hype on desert racing and furthering the sport every chance you get. Thank you to all of our sponsors and friends. I can’t wait for the next race!!!

Lonestar Racing

Raceline Wheels

Sedona Tires

Aces Racing LED Lighting

S&B Filters

Fuel Customs

RideNow Powersports

Elka Shocks

Sparks Racing

PRP Seats


PCI Radios


This race was dedicated to those lost on BEETLE 12, a U.S. Air Force MH-53 that went down in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

I was telling my brother the other day as we were checking out the NA standings that you guys are for sure the epitome of the phrase "privateer effort" great job guys as always ... ##Joe schmo !!!!!!!!
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Thank you bluediamond...we are trying our damnedest to keep up the good fight. The last two races should be interesting. Looks like a descent battle for 2-6 places in NA and a few good battles in Turbo as well!
Congrats on making it to the finish...sounds like you fought one heck of a battle out there to get it across the line.

I remember reading the thread about the fire...awesome that you were able to get the car back together and have this experience

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