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2001 Vegas To Reno and the Stock Mini Ford Ranger that Won - The Free And The Brave

Posted in Ultimate Adventure on March 1, 2002
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As we blasted through the siltbeds that covered the racecourse a few clicks shy of Tonopah, Nevada, the scene looked worse than a Saharan sandstorm. It was all we could do to catch our breath. We struggled violently to get a visual in the side mirror and faintly caught a glimpse of something fast and furious coming up behind us. While wiping the dust from our burning eyes and fumbling for a water bottle to wash down the silt that coated our throats, we told Haas Racing's winning driver Joe Custer about our situation. "Joe, Fabtech's Ford truck number 7120 has been on our tail for the last couple of miles, is less than a hundred yards away, and is steadily gaining on us." That's all Joe needed to hear. He immediately put the hammer down in our modified Ford Ranger, increasing the distance between our pursuant - for the time being. Then, the unthinkable happened, as it frequently does in the world of off-road racing. Joe barked through his microphone, "We've lost our power steering." As we limped off the course like a whipped pup, Craig Turner and truck number 7120 blew by us with the fury of a cyclone, leaving us in a cloud of dust.

The RouteFrom its start just north of Las Vegas, a competitive spirit burned like a river of spilled racing fuel, surrounding the participants of the Vegas to Reno race, an off-road adventure of unparalleled proportions. "The unforgiving 500-mile course follows the old Pony Express Trail and twists through some of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet, making it the longest off-road race in the United States," says Best in the Desert Director Casey Folks. From the sweltering desert floor, the route heads north through twisty sand washes, 100-mph dry lakebeds, and treacherous mountain passes. The Old West towns of Beatty, Scotty's Junction, Goldfield, and Tonopah could be seen in the distance as racers fought their way to finish line in Reno, The Biggest Little City in the World.

The SpiritWith more than 250 entries, the turnout for this event was overwhelming in spite of the recent terrorist attacks. Patriotism seemed to be on the minds of everyone, a vibe that remained deeply felt throughout the competition. During the driver's meeting at the Suncoast Hotel in Las Vegas, Casey Folks introduced a stunning video presentation, a symbolic reminder of the horrific event. The film honored the fallen victims of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon along with the heroic actions of firefighters, police, and volunteers who raced to save lives. The same patriotic spirit that brought our nation together engulfed the off-road racing family at the Vegas to Reno race, which symbolized winning a war for our freedom.

The RaceThe American flag flew on nearly every chase truck as crews headed off into the Nevada desert toward pit No. 1, a few miles north of Pahrump. Dale Ebberts led the way in his Class-1500 No. 1 car with Troy Herbst and Mark McMillin not far behind.

Dale finished the race in an incredible 10 hours, 13 minutes, and 6 seconds. Kyle Taylor had the second-fastest overall time in his Class 8 Chevy with an impressive 10 hours, 17 minutes, and 44 seconds. Third Place overall fastest finish was awarded to Troy Herbst, a feat he accomplished in 10 hours, 23 minutes, and 9 seconds.

Among the mix of truck, buggy, motorcycle, and ATV entries to take the green flag on Friday, Sept. 28, 2001, was Joe Custer in his Class 7s Ford Ranger. Joe was definitely the one to watch out for in his class. Owner of C&C Motorsports in Carson, California, Joe and his Haas Racing Team won the Nevada and Baja 2000 and are in the lead for points in this year's Best in the Desert Series. Custer managed to fix the power steering (replaced a belt) and caught up with Richard Long in truck number 7120, who had apparently pulled off the course with engine problems. Custer was once again in the lead with a fighting spirit that goes way back to Little Bighorn. At the driver change in the BFG pit near Tonopah, driver Gene Haas took over. Within 20 miles, truck number 7120 was fixed and overtook Team Haas once again. Haas caught up with them at pit No. 10 near Luning, hellbent on overtaking them. Gene got his wish when he got word that Long had blown an engine not far out of pit No. 11. Now well past midnight, Haas delivered warm clothes, food, and water to his broken-down rivals and raced on to pit No. 13, where Joe Custer and Michael Rudd took over to win the race.

Rob MacCachren clinched the First Place title in his Stock Mini Ford Ranger with an impressive elapsed time of 14:21:58. MacCachren is well on his way to setting a standard in off-road racing, climbing to the top of the ladder in four different off-road racing series (CORR, Best in the Desert, SCORE, and SNORE).

An off-road race wouldn't be complete without the mega-horsepower Trophy Trucks that always seem to be a favorite with the spectators. Damen Jefferies of Oak Hills, California, screamed through the Goodyear Mesa finish line near Reno in 10 hours, 56 minutes, and 14 seconds. Not far behind was the Brian Collins/Larry Ragland team finishing Second in 11 hours, 1 minute, and 1 second. Jim Baldwin placed Third in his Ford Class 1400 Trophy Truck in 12:35:04.

The 2001 Vegas to Reno off-road race was like no other in history. The course was definitely one of the most challenging and brutal in off-road history, testing man and machine to the max. More importantly, the overall spirit encompassing the Vegas to Reno represents our expression of freedom, hopefully an expression that will last forever. Long live America and the spirit of off-roading.

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