By Wayne Matlock
September 26, 2015 – This was one of the hottest and roughest races I have done in a long time. We went into this race like we do any other race…with one thing in mind…to win. This race happened to be in my own backyard, a desert that I have raced in for twenty plus years. I knew that if I didn’t win, it would be because I drove the car too hard and broke it. Our race started out on Thursday with Sam Hayes and I going down to the desert to do our pre-run. We got ourselves signed up and ready to go. I was pretty excited to pre-run because I thought there was going to be some pretty good lines. I found a few, but for the most part it was pretty straight forward. Unfortunately our pre-run was cut short around mile 32 because the pre-runner became overheated and we were unable to complete it; leaving us to flying blind for over two-thirds of the first lap.
On Friday morning I got up early and headed out to meet our mechanic, Greg Forsberg, along with one of our newest crew members/team doctor, Dr. Ken Gilden, at tech inspection. Ken is actually a chiropractor who likes to play doctor. We breezed through tech with no problems then loaded up the car to head out into the desert for some clutch testing. We ended up spending 6 hours out in the 113 degree desert heat trying to get it dialed in. I didn’t want to have any problems with the belt and was determined to get it figured out. I had the “good doctor” riding in the co-dog seat during our testing. On our first run, I hit a fun section at race speed and heard some mumbling coming from him. I asked him what he was trying to say. He said, “I was trying to say…oh shit!” I’m not sure who enjoyed themselves more, he getting the ride of his life or me getting to scare the shit out of him! After we were done testing we hurried back to our trailer in the main pit. Greg and Ken kept on working until well after sundown, while Sam and I went to the driver’s meeting.
At the driver’s meeting I told Sam that I wanted to go check the drawing results. He looked at me funny because we put that we wanted a rear start on our entry form. I told him that I just wanted to see how many UTVs were entered. I was shocked when I saw the results; apparently SCORE did not get my request for a rear start since we were on the results as first off the line! Sam looked at me and said, “What are you going to do?” I could tell that what he really meant was…are you going to be stupid and ask them to change it or are you going to keep your mouth shut and take the gift? I decided that it was a sign and just rolled with it. After the meeting was over we headed back out to the pits to finish getting everything ready. Then it was off to bed to get 4 hours of sleep before the alarm would go off at 4am.
Race morning came all too early! I had flashbacks of racing quads. It hadn’t taken me long to adjust to the car/truck race schedule where you get to sleep in, have breakfast, and start the race at the crack of noon. This particular race though was split into two races that consisted of motorcycles, quads, UTVs, and a few other cars/trucks in the morning and then later in the afternoon the remaining car/truck classes would race. Our team had the main pit set up and the other trucks loaded and ready to head out to the alternate pits. Sam and I jumped in the car and headed over to the start line. We were now lined up at the starting line and ready to go. They were starting everyone two at a time and we were lined up next to Factory Can-Am racer, Cory Sappington, in his TURBO Maverick. I was sure that he would get the hole-shot on me, leaving me in a cloud of dust in the early morning darkness. When that flag dropped I tried to push the pedal through the floor of the car. I’m not sure how, but our Alba Racing RZR XP4 1000 Non-Turbo car out ran his Turbo car and I was shocked. With a smile ear to ear, it was Sam and I that was disappearing out into the morning darkness leaving him behind in a cloud of dust.
I kept the throttle pinned and after leaving the infield pit area our pit told us over the radio that we had a 27 second gap on second. Now that we were out into the desert I was confident that we could hold our own and pull out a gap on the field. I was in my happy place. I was on a whooped-out, dusty, beat up desert road…and was loving it. We were hitting all of our lines and the car was working flawlessly. We came through pit 1 at race mile 20 and didn’t have to stop. As we passed by, I asked one of our crew members, Derek McGaughy, to give me a time split back to second place. Sam and I were on a roll and started passing quads and dirt bikes. It was a little sketchy because we were heading straight into the sun and the dust was thick. Derek came on the radio and told us that we had a 4 minute lead on second place. I knew this course was going to be a killer and our car was only capable of running 68-70 mph downhill with a tail wind and our ears tucked back with this clutch setup that we were running. We were cruising along great and soon came through pit two at race mile 76 where Steven Smith was manning the radio while Heath Parsons and Marc Behnke were ready with tires and a jack. We drove right on by them without any problems. I asked Steve to give a time split on second place when they came by. Sam and I were on our way back into home check when Steve came on the radio and told us we had a 12 minute adjusted lead on the second place car of Scott McFarland.
About this time Sam and I were approaching the maze of an infield trying to navigate our way through it without missing any of the VCPs(Virtual Check Points). We popped out onto the short course track that they made for us. This thing had huge jumps. Well, me and jumps never have seen eye to eye…that’s why I race in the desert. Some guys like to jump 100’ and some guys like to go a 100 mph. I definitely fall into the second category. So we rolled the jumps, charged the whoops, and then pulled into our main pit. Greg looked over the car, Ken and Justin dumped the fuel, and Kristen “womanned” the vent can on the other side of the car. We were in and out of there in no time and not one wrench had to be put on the car.
We were now on our last lap. Knowing that we had at least a 12 minute lead we were able to back it down and cruise. As we were coming into pit 1, I smoked a bush with the rear driver side tire while swerving to miss a dirt bike that I was passing. I called Derek and Mike on the radio and asked him to check it out. We pulled in, he checked it out, and luckily it ended up being just fine. I asked him to give me a time split again back to second place. Sam and I pressed on and caught back up to a sportsman class 1 buggy that we had been eating the dust of the entire race. I tried to do a sneak attack on him by trying a line off to his right on the outside. Well I found out why no one was using that line. We hit the biggest sand berm in the desert. We hit it so hard that the sand came over the hood like it was water and got under our helmet skirts and filled the car up as well; we shook it off and kept going. Derek came on the radio and told us that second place was now #1917 Murray Racing Brothers and they were 20 minutes back on adjusted time.
The race was now ours to lose, so we kept it on cruise control to the end. We passed by pit 2 without stopping and made our way to the finish line. We ended up finishing the race 27 minutes ahead of second place, but after penalties it ended up being 32 minutes.
I would like to thank Terry Hui for making all of this possible…for giving us the opportunity to race and win…all while having a great time! Thank you to Sam Hayes for keeping us on the course and ensuring we didn’t miss any VCPs. I would like to thank all of my friends and family that came out to help pit us and support us. As well as all of the sponsors that stand behind us and provide the products that let us beat and pound on them all the way to the podium…thank you: Maxxis Tires, Polaris RZR, Fox, Alba Racing, Lone Star Racing, DWT, Coyne Powersports, Baja Designs, Jimco Racing Inc, Rugged Radios, Cryoheat, Factory-UTV, Mastercraft, Fly Racing, Maxima, UNI, Motion Pro, Inc., IMS, Monster Seal, KZ RV, and Copy Boy Printing.
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