Apparently the folks from Best In The Desert decided to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the longest off-road race in America by making it the toughest race in America, too! The General Tire Vegas To Reno “The Long Way,” Presented by Fox also featured a unique split into two days and nearly 350 entries, including 60 UTVs. As the defending winner of this race, DragonFire decided to stack the deck with a full house of racers, including last year’s BITD Pro Unlimited UTV class winner Lacrecia Beurrier, short course sensation Corry Weller, Lucas Oil Regional champ Bobby VanBeekum and UTV Rally Raid winners Jimmy Keys and Russell Griffin.
“DragonFire really upped the ante for the 20th Anniversary of V2R,” says DragonFire Racing’s Operations Manager Brice Ginn. “With a pair of queens in Lacrecia and Corry and a couple of kings with Bobby and Russell, not to mention a Joker with Jimmy, we thought we had a winning hand to beat Vegas To Reno… we really did.” Pre-race odds placed VanBeekum at 4:1, Buerrier at 6:1, while short course sensation Weller went off in a nearly stock Yamaha at 7:1 and the KeysCrete team wasn’t even on the board.
Unfortunately a raw deal saw Bobby VanBeekum having to fold on Day 1. “Very sorry to say we did not finish the first day… We lost the water pump line which ended up taking out a head gasket,” explained the odds-on favorite to win the DragonFire Cup awarded to the top finishing DragonFire team. “I do want to thank all the great sponsors that stand behind us and let everyone know we will be back out front next time.”
“That is when we started to see the ghost images of upside down trophy trucks, just the rear wheels sticking out of the ground, and outlines of drivers and co-drivers waving frantically at us to avoid the carnage all around,” she explains. “One of the shadowy figures waved us to a space just big enough for us to squeeze through without stopping. We managed to make it through that mess without stuffing our own YXZ1000R into a ravine or hit anything.”
The efforts of good Samaritans somehow saw all three remaining DragonFire teams make it through to the restart at Pit #2. “My team unloaded, fueled and sent us back out still in the top 5,” says Lacrecia. As the teams plowed through another 200 miles of pure silt, belt temps began reaching 240-degrees, overheating the CVs and melting the occupants inside the race cars. “Luckily a couple of water crossings gave us a bit of a cool down. We crossed the finish line on Day 1 6th overall UTV and 3rd Pro Production UTV.”
Desert racing newcomer Corry Weller started 27th position in class, out of 30+ entries, and after all of the Production Turbo UTVs. “We also started after the bikes, quads and trophy trucks,” she notes. “This meant a very torn up course for us and very deep truck ruts… but that was to be expected.” Nothing like eating the dust of 300+ entries and running a basically stock UTV in the longest desert race in the U.S. for a real trial by fire. “We wanted a light and simple race car for our first outing, so we went with stock suspension and only added the basic Best In The Desert safety requirements because we know what a great machine the Yamaha YXZ1000R is for this type of racing!”
A twist for Day 2 was that all vehicles started in order of finish… that meant Trophy Trucks, buggies and UTVs were all mixed up. “This time, not only were we in the top 10 of the UTVs, we were running in the top 65 of all the cars and trucks,” says Lacrecia. “Our DragonFire teammate Russell Griffin just beat us on time Day 1, so we started right behind Jimmy who was in the saddle for Day 2. Although we always wish our teammates well, we didn’t want to be eating Jimmy’s dust all day.”
Running with the big dogs did help Corry catch up to the front of the UTV field. In fact coming into the final 50 miles, the three DragonFire cars were in order on the track and made a charge for the podium. Dreams of an all-DragonFire podium will have to wait for another day, but at the end of the longest race in America, #1970 Griffin, #1924 Beurrier and #1870 Weller finished 5, 6 and 7! “Just to finish this race is a huge achievement, but to finish where we did is awesome, especially in a stock machine,” adds Weller.
When the silt settled, the DragonFire teams were topped by KeysCrete’s 5th out of 34 in the Pro Production class UTVs; 10th overall out of 70 total UTVs (including the Turbos and three new Maverick X3s) and 62nd overall out of all the truck/car/UTV class entries. “Guess it really is true that three of a kind beats the two pair we had at the start of Vegas To Reno,” says DragonFire’s Brice Ginn.