Most forms of racing start off grassroots, but then they get corrupted when the money comes in and pushes out the little guy who wants to race for fun on the weekends. It happened in stock car racing, it happened in desert racing, and it is happening right now in rockcrawling. Corporate sponsors and exotic chassis have replaced the guy who built his truck in his garage with the help of his friends.
Fortunately we still have mud racing. In the Mid-Sates Mud Racing Association (MSMRA), tow rigs that double as ranch trucks during the week have yet to be replaced by the matching crew uniforms and tractor trailers. We recently attended the season finale at the Buffalo Chip campground in Sturgis, South Dakota. The weather was cold, but the racing was hot and you could afford to bring the whole family.
The MSMRA runs 10 sanctioned races each season at locations throughout South Dakota and Nebraska. They have been around for several years and are completely run by volunteers. Any money that is collected is used to pay the facilities where the races are held or goes into the purse for the winning competitors. Six classes are run during the event-Powder Puff, Small Block Super Stock, Small Block Modified, Big Block Super Stock, Big Block Modified, and Extreme. The Powder Puff class is strictly for the ladies, and the Super Stock classes require factory intake and exhaust manifolds with tire size limited to 35 inches. Modified classes only require DOT-approved tires and no forced induction or nitrous. In the Extreme class, anything goes, including nitrous and agricultural tires. Those wishing to run more than once an event can also compete in higher classes, but not lower ones.
Fords seemed to be the truck of choice, while Chevys were also well represented. There were a few Jeeps, but Dodges seemed to be limited to the diesel tow rigs that filled the parking lot. Foreign vehicles were nonexistent, lacking the displacement necessary to be competitive. Typical entries consisted of a mid-'70s Ford pickup or Bronco minus superfluous parts such as the windshield and bed. Modifications consisted of welded differentials, big Super Swampers, exhaust pipes through the hood, and either a relocated radiator or a shield to keep mud out of the cooling system. Even with these modifications, cooling seemed to be the biggest issue, with numerous competitors blowing radiator hoses on the course.
For more information about upcoming events, go to www.msmra.com. Whether you are a competitor or a spectator, it is hard to have more fun per dollar than mud racing.