Author: Jim Ober Photo: Noel Dietrich, Trackside Photo
It was September of 1990, and time for running the Nevada 500, a long loop race that started and finished in Pahrump. David Kreisler, owner and chief builder of the Raceco brand of Unlimited Class buggies, had turned over driving duties to his co-driver, Rick Scalzo, for the final run to the finish of the Nevada 500.
Kriesler was well established as one of the premier racecar builders, with his creations having already won many top races of the era with Bob Richey behind the wheel, and others with Kreisler piloting his own car. Danny Letner and Ron Brant also campaigned Racecos, and the brand had even won the Baja 1000.
Scalzo, who started the race in this new car, noted, “except for Bob Gordon (in his two-seat Chenowth) this car was 10 mph faster than anything else in its class, it was phenomenal.” He turned the car over to Kreisler one-third of the way into the race, then got back in for the last run back to Pahrump, the finish line.
“We came up upon Bob Gordon out there, who was pulled over for a CV joint problem. We checked and made sure everyone was OK, and we took the lead then,” said Rick. “Since we weren’t allowed to prerun the last 10 miles of the racecourse, we didn’t know what was ahead. We were coming flat out down this road to a road crossing at 115 mph. Some kid in a vest and a flag waved us on through, and at the last second, I recognized the big berm on the other side of the road from way back in my career as a bad spot.”
The location was at the Crystal Road crossing, which was infamous for having a cat house nearby. “My co-driver, ‘Sarge’ Bertrand, said ‘go for it’, so we did. We hit that berm at full speed, thinking we would make it okay. We didn’t.” About 150 feet later, the front end hit and dug into the earth, catapulting the rest of the car backward at 100 mph. After two or three endos, the car ended up on the side of the road, upright.
“I think my eyeballs almost came out of my head,” remembered Scalzo. “I also broke some ribs, but didn’t know that until later. The seats and belts ripped out of the car floor. We broke a front link pin too. Sarge, (a fabricator at Raceco) was okay, but he was prompting us to get out of the car and get it fixed and on its way.”
After a bit, Kreisler and some pit folks appeared and, together with Sarge’s expertise, repaired the car enough to continue. “Kreisler took over and finished seventh in class and overall,” said Scalzo. “That was one tough and fast car.”
The next week Scalzo had problems breathing and went to a hospital. There he found that he had broken six ribs on one side along with a couple on the other. “It was six months before I got back into a racecar,” he recalled.
EPILOGUE: Although Kreisler was known for fast and tough cars, and was working on a tactical vehicle design for the U.S. Army, funding finally ran out and David sold off the business to Jack Motley. Kreisler now sells specialty pipe and steel, something he knows very well.
As for Rick Scalzo, he is semi-retired from the general contracting business in California’s Orange County, and still helps and cheers for his nephew Tim, and Tim’s son Parker, who is 11 and races TrophyKarts in short-course. He is always quick to add: “Remember, the only off-road race Mickey Thompson ever won was in a Raceco. That was the 1982 Baja 1000.”
Vaya Con Dios from the Staff of Dirt Sports