In January at the Parker 250 Winter Nationals motorcycle and UTV race, the Best In The Desert racing series suddenly lost it’s leader. Casey Folks passed away after suffering a massive heart attack. Casey never had any plans to retire so there was nothing official in place to cover the loss suffered by the racing series and off-road community. Casey was a hands on leader. You would find him in the trenches marking the course, attending BLM meetings, and shaking hands with the racers at the start line. Casey was a one on one guy who kept his word. He had relationships and contacts with government officials and landowners across Nevada. If a racer had a problem, they could call the office and Casey would almost immediately call them back. It’s clear there is no replacing Casey Folks. So how does a race series like Best In The Desert move forward?
Donald Jackson was named operations manager of Best In The Desert after Casey’s passing. Jackson was born and raised in Caliente, Nevada, a small town of just over 1100 residents located north of Las Vegas. Jackson got his start with his dad, as a volunteer for one of Casey’s races that would come to town. Right away Casey recognized Jackson’s can do attitude and work ethic. At age 20, Jackson was hired to work full time for Best In The Desert. For the next several years, Donald Jackson would handle a manager role for Casey and Best In The Desert. Jackson was basically responsible for issues on the course during race day and making sure all the volunteers were in place and had what they needed. He would spend days with Casey marking racecourses. One could call him Casey’s right hand man or second in command.
Casey Folks left behind three sons. One of which has been very involved in the race series. Darryl Folks owns a business leading off-road motorcycle rides throughout the Nevada desert. He has built up a list of important government and landowner contacts just like his dad. A former president of a motorcycle-racing club in Nevada he knows the process. Darryl Folks also says the motorcycle ride business has helped, he is still learning about being a race promoter as he is going. Government forms for race permits and the information requested is endless. This is the type of stuff Casey always handled alone. Darryl and the team don’t want to change how the main operation works. Casey created a formula for the race that works. It was made clear by the series and government officials that everyone wanted to keep the wheels turning forward. The only difference is instead of Casey doing the heavy lifting; the entire team would wear many hats to keep things going. The plan is share duties. Best In The Desert has always set the example for other events in Nevada.
This year’s Vegas to Reno was the biggest challenge for the team. Teams of two marked over 545 miles of course over a period of a week. Leap frogging through the dirt on Polaris UTV’s outfitted with supplies, course markers and hundreds of wooden stakes. Just two days before the race, Darryl Folks set out on a motorcycle to ride every mile of the course, checking to make sure markers were still up and roads were not washed out.
Planning for a massive undertaking like the Vegas to Reno starts over a year out from the event. There are meetings with each county the race runs through. Meetings with at least three BLM districts within Nevada. Approvals from private landowners. BLM is going to grant the series a five-year permit to help streamline the process of paperwork. Best In the Desert will have an option of routes to get approved each year for the race with the main groundwork and foundation for the event already laid out. After the race is over a cleaning crew comes through and removes all the course markers, fills in holes and re-grades roads. The goal of the crew is to restore the desert back to the conditions before the race.
Darryl Folks would like to bring some changes to the registration process making it easier for the racers. Plans to put in an online registration and payment system are being worked up. He also wants to build up the Best In The Desert brand on the marketing side as well as bring in new sponsors to the sport. While Casey Folks was one of a kind, he has laid the foundation for a successful racing series for years to come. Teams will continue to race in Casey’s honor every time they enter a Best in The Desert Race. Booyah!