Just like the flood waters that flowed throughout Nevada in the days leading up to the Best in the Desert Vegas to Reno race, the event remained fluid as the promoter did everything possible to make the race happen. Course changes continued to the very last minute. When sections of the course became impassible, BITD and the BLM took decisive actions to provide competitors and fans with a challenging race that lived up to Casey Folks’ standards. In fact, the new impromptu sections were much more technical and reminded many of the Silver State 300 course.
Instead of running wide open across not-so dry lake beds, racers traversed several twisty mountain passes and seldom used river washes. Drivers also had to rely more on course markings than the GPS file for a little old school twist. Despite the many changes, the racers loved it. It gave the race a whole new perspective. One thing that didn’t change was the immense challenge and wide array of potential pitfalls to be overcome. Those who had no problems, or quickly solved issues ended the day standing on the podium. Mother Nature threw everything she could, but the level of competition was the overall deciding factor.
Vito Ranuio credited his overall win to having zero issues all day. It was Ranuio’s first overall win and second Turbo Pro Class victory in a row. He battled Can Am teammate Phil Blurton all day until Phil had an unplanned stop. He also got around Can Am teammates Dustin Jones, and Dakar winner AJ Jones who were in the lead pack in the final section of the race. Can Am teammate to Vito Ranuio, Phil Blurton finished Second Place in Turbo Pro class and Third Place Overall.
“We got the win because we had zero issues all day,” said Vito. “We turned it up from the start. We just followed the dust ahead of us all day. When we got past someone, we started chasing the next dust cloud ahead. After seven hours of racing, Phil [Blurton] was only seconds away from us. He was first on the road; [but] we had the lead on corrected time. When we passed him, we knew we had the overall win. Dan Fisher from Lonestar Racing built us a great car. This is our second straight win. We run mostly stock parts on the car. Can Am puts so much of what we learn racing into their cars. We couldn’t be any happier with our Can Am. There were a lot of last minute changes that made things confusing during the race, but BITD did a great job, the course was well marked.”
Third Place in the Turbo Pro Class Branden Sims fought from mid-pack to earn his step of the podium. “I was sitting on the starting line at qualifying as they counted down. I was looking at the track and could see a blue groove in the corners. I knew there was a ton of traction available so I was looking forward to a great time. Just as they counted down to 8 seconds they waved me off. There was a crash on the course. I sat and watched the water truck come out and make three passes while they moved the car off.
The track was now a slippery mess. I think I qualified 20th or so. On race day everything went smoothly. I’ve always struggled at this race. There was always some issue that took us out of contention. We finished on the podium in Third Place last year, and now we finished 3rd again. Our only issue all day was a belt after Pit 10. I haven’t lost a belt in three years; it was totally random. I’m a little rusty changing them at speed. If it wasn’t for that we might have had a chance at the overall.”
Sandwiched between the Can Am’s was Mitch Guthrie who took the win in his Trophy Unlimited Class Red Bull Polaris RZR. In Second Place (5th overall) was Lonestar Racing’s Dan Fisher. “We had a really good day at the Vegas to Reno,” said Dan. “We have been consistently finishing so our strategy was to run a pace that would get us to the end. Coming into pit 6 we heard a knocking noise that we couldn’t figure out. As we left the pits, the crew came on the radio and told us to come back. For some unexplained reason we had a wheel coming off. They only noticed it as we drove away from them.
I don’t know how that happened; we had no other issues all day. We babied the belt temps but still ran a steady fast pace. It made for a very fun day. We didn’t have to take any risks. Our team gets a lot of credit. My co-driver Kyle Anderson, Our second driver Garrick Lastra and his co-driver Horacio Contreras Alarcon, our head mechanic Shawn Fisher, and Tanner Naz. Everyone had a part in this. We do a lot of prep for other teams at the shop so we get a lot of feedback. This new car shows what we’ve been learning.”
Taking the top spot in UTV N/A Pro was Max Eddy, 5-time Baja 1000 motorcycle winner. Max has raced all kinds of venues and vehicles since he began racing at age 4 and is applying all that experience to his UTV program. “The rains really caused a lot of damage to the course, there were some gnarly dangers,” said Max. “It was a refreshing change to get off some of the super-fast roads and into where the new sections went; anyone can hold it wide open. We got our second straight win. We had some exhaust pipe issues at the silver state race, but got them fixed and went on to win.
For Vegas to Reno we knew it would be hot so we ducted more air into the engine compartment and it worked well. We didn’t have the same heat issues. It’s a brand new car for us and we’ve had 2 wins in 2 races. We do everything 100% in house so I am really proud. Racing is all I’ve ever really known, and nothing gets me more motivated than winning! I prefer racing for wins more than anything, and my goal is an overall win in the UTV’s.” Second Place in UTV N/A Pro went to 15 year old Ethan Groom who is holding his own against an extremely talented field of professionals including Third Place finisher Kaden Wells.
During time trials on Thursday in Primm, Cody Bradbury used his extensive short course experience to lay down the fastest time in qualifying. He started out front for the race but things took a turn for the worse. The short course specialists still managed a top ten finish in 8th Place.
“We qualified very well and the race started well for us,” said Cody. “Mitchie caught us at Pit 3 and opened up a little gap on us. We started having a charging problem. When we got to pit 9 the car died and it took 30 minutes to get going again but with no lights. We had a podium in our sights until the charging issue. The last miles of the race were sketchy driving with a flashlight. It all came undone but overall it was a good race for us. We are done with the short course, and are looking forward to racing in 2023 with Can Am. I am sharing the driving with my nephew Corbin Leaverton which is new for both of us.”
Vegas to Reno can be very humbling. There is just about every condition out there that can end your race. It really is a great achievement just to get to the finish as many don’t make it. This year’s race had a lot more variables courtesy of Mother Nature. It gave even more of a sense of pride to the winners in every class.
UTV TURBO PRO:
- [T950] Vito Ranuio & Joey Olsin – 08:10:10.066
- [T944] Phil Blurton & Beau Judge – 08:16:00.045
- [T913] Branden Sims & Skyler Howell – 08:22:22.261
- [T978] Dustin Jones & Dustin Henderson – 08:30:41.112
- [T917] Jason Murray & Derek Murray – 08:33:03.766
UTV TROPHY UNLIMITED:
-  Mitch Jr Guthrie & Kurtis Elliott – 08:14:17.782
-  Dan Fisher & Kyle Anderson – 08:29:58.753
-  Trevor Leighton & Russell Frisby – 08:40:35.489
-  Travis Zollinger – 08:41:00.495
-  Ryan Piplic, Blake Barnum & Shanon Powell – 08:45:05.654
UTV N/A PRO:
-  Max Eddy, Austin Eddy, Justin Cockerell & Robbie Cockrell – 08:54:04.515
-  Ethan Groom, Dale Fenton, Eric Dollente & Jake Velasco – 08:56:26.899
-  Kaden Wells & Emma Cornwell – 09:10:07.152
-  Elias Hanna – 09:15:02.327
-  Jonathan Mcvay & Mark Milne – 09:18:46.708
UTV SUPER STOCK:
- [S951] Conner Maxwell & Cole Bassler – 09:25:14.821
- [S999] Bella Birchard & Cruz Birchard – 11:02:42.568
- [S906] Mitchell Alsup – 11:07:36.055
- [S901] Alexia Leaming, Robert Furnell & Jaxon Leaming – 12:12:26.993
- [S970] Jacob Zuccone, Brook Lynn Deman & Todd Zuccone – 13:41:59.497
UTV SPORTSMAN RALLY:
- [R950] John Lynch, Mark Gross, Kirk Dooley & William Francis – 11:33:24.844
- [R880] Brent Stowell, Jesse Stowell, Logan Gillespie & Jon Stowell – 11:46:01.495
- [R949] William Eisenberg & Hailey Waunch – 11:55:36.193
- [R963] Peter Huntley, Maxwell Huntley & Oscar Huntley – 13:18:34.735