Just like the title sponsor VT Construction, the competitors at the Legacy Racing VT Construction Battleground event know dirt. Most of the top finishers have decades of off road racing experience – especially around Jean, Nevada where the race took place. Despite the familiarity, the same old Jean racecourse was not the same. It has been raced on for a long time so the ruts in the corners are deep and the whoops are huge, but the summer monsoon rains added something special to the mix.
The dirt that usually fills in the voids between the rocks was gone. What was left behind was literally a pile of rocks. Not only did that make it even more punishing, but it also made holding a line in the corners much more difficult. An average turn was now a minefield of potential catastrophe. Typically, you want to stay in the established race line, but now the race line was no different than the open desert; an inhospitable place for tires, suspensions and everything else mechanical.
For Naturally Aspirated Class winner Carson Wernimont, it appeared to be an easy race. He started on the front row, took the early lead and then went on to the win. Carson is only 26, and has been racing for a couple years but grew up in the sport. If he makes a win look easy, it’s because he was prepared. Despite all the suspension work he’s done this season, he still had a rough time with the rocks.
“We got the hole shot and from there we just held it wide open … never looked back,” says Carson. “We didn’t get a flat; never even got out of the car. We’re going for the championship so it’s what we needed to do. I knew if we didn’t do anything stupid we could get it done. We were running at a good pace; the fastest UTV overall. I was driving everywhere except in the main race line. There were exposed rocks everywhere. The big trucks made huge ruts and they were pulling rocks the size of microwaves into the course. I did some shock tuning before the race and it really paid off. I run Walker Evans shocks with the Wernimont twist on them. We didn’t take any hard hits and didn’t bottom out, despite the big holes. We had a great year winning four out of five and the championship. We could have had a sweep but the Baja Nevada race slipped out of our hands. It was a great series with a lot of diverse courses. You have to have a good car like my Kawasaki that works well everywhere.”
Second overall UTV was Travis Sallee who crossed the line around 2 minutes behind Wernimont. Sallee is another second generation racer who has been around the sport for years despite being only 14 years old. He ran unopposed in the UTV Open class, but ran a blistering pace in the challenging conditions. It was an impressive performance by the Polaris racer.
Taking the win in the Turbo class and third overall was Cody Schafer. Schafer is another long-time racer with tons of experience. A former USA ISDE (motorcycle) competitor with Baja wins under his belt, Schafer suffered an arm injury when he was struck by another bike that left him partially paralyzed in his left arm. His competitive spirit is still strong, so he is transitioning from two wheels to four. He is learning about UTV’s but has a ton of racing experience to draw upon.
“We ran smoothly from the start,” says Cody. “We were trying not to tear anything up, and it was working. We passed a couple cars on the side of the course that started in front of us in the first 30 miles. We were running first with my brother in second. We had a strange belt failure and it took a while to get the shredded bits out of the clutch; my brother got around us. When he had issues we got the lead back and cruised into the finish. We were running one-two but he had a hub come apart. (Kyle DNF’d). The course was a good mix of fast roads and real brutal stuff. You had to pay attention or you would tear up the car. It was my first year in UTV’s and we are still learning the car. It’s great to get our first win in the Can Am out of the way. I’m looking forward to putting together a better program next year. On the bikes, the rider is the weakest point. These cars can survive a lot of punishment, but you have to learn how much they can take. They are so much different than a bike.”
Finishing behind Cody Schafer overall and second in the Turbo class was Jimmy Perry. He is another racer with tons of experience but is now learning how to race a UTV. “This was our first season in this new car and we are getting it figured out,” said Perry.
“We had some engine troubles at the beginning of the season that turned out to be an electrical problem. We have not had much help from fellow competitors; they clam up real quick when you start asking questions. We’ve had to figure it out by ourselves. The course had a miserable half and the other half I loved. The whoops were so big; I had a hard time finding a good rhythm. We were chasing a blue light in a big whoop section and after about a mile we only got 50 feet closer. We were watching our belt temps but still managed to lose a belt with no warning.
…It was fine before the race and only had 80 miles on it. We lost the belt on lap one, and then stopped to adjust the shocks. After that the car was much faster. We did not know where anyone was so we thought we had won at the finish. We had too much down time. I usually race with my Son co-driving but he was expecting a child and he knew if the baby came I was not going to stop and let him out. I had Tim Martin with me for this race and it really helped. Tim and I raced Jeepspeed before and he gave me a lot of good insight during the race. We are getting this Can Am figured out. I’m really liking the faster car, and I’m excited about next season.”
Finishing three minutes behind Jimmy Perry and third place in the Turbo class was Troy Dyer; also driving a Can Am. Kolton Hustead was fifth place in the race which gave him the season points championship in the turbo class. Jeremiah Scott took second and Jimmy Perry’s top finish landed him third in points overall.
Finishing second and third place in the naturally aspirated class were veteran racers Mark Milne and Joe Bolton. Bolton finished second in the championship behind Wernimont and ahead of his son Austin, who was third in the championship. Mark Milne was not in the championship points chase but his second place finish at the VT Construction Battleground was a welcomed result. Milne has raced everything from motorcycles and quads to class 9, 10 and 1600 in his 32 years off road. The entire time he has done his own prep on his race vehicles.
“The course was awesome, it was challenging, it had a little of everything,” said Milne. “We got a flat tire that I earned when I went into a turn a little too hot. It was the first race ever for my co-dog James Dempsey. He did a great tire change for us. We had to watch our belt temps with so many long uphill sections. Once we headed back downhill it was fine and when the sun started going down, the temperature dropped; it was perfect racing weather. There was not much wind and once the big trucks caught us on lap two the dust was bad. They were battling hard and kicking up a lot of dust. Our suspension was a little too soft for all the rocks on-course so we were losing time in the rough stuff. I had a great time racing with Legacy this year. Baja Nevada and the Caliente races were my favorite. Their races run smoothly and are very professional.”
In the Unlimited class there was another long-time racer at the top of the podium. Winner Mike Lesle has been around racing for decades and is now having fun behind the wheel of his Polaris UTV. Mike is the points champion this year followed by Nolan Williams and Nicholas Gurries.
The Legacy series gave veteran racers and newcomers alike a lot of challenges this year. As Carson Wernimont reflected, each course was so different, “The Stateline Shootout was kind of a short course race, Dirt Rebelution in Utah had lots of trees, Caliente had a little of everything, Baja Nevada was long and tough and the VT Construction Battleground race was super rocky. It’s a smooth and professionally-run series that’s a lot of fun.” The competitors got to learn a lot of dirt this season and are looking forward to next year. Legacy racing resumes January 25-29 2023 in Pahrump, Nevada at the 4WP desert Showdown.
- [T916] Jeremiah Scott, Luis Palacion – 04:27:13.153
- [T810] Andrew Blood, Jon Turner, Quinn Olesky – 04:49:54.958
- [T938] Kolton Hustead, Manny Viena – 05:12:59.430
- [T904] Cory Sappington, Shane Moore – 05:37:08.474
- [T924] Garrick Lastra, Randy Raschein, Robert Villarreal – 06:39:51.478
U NA 1900:
-  Carson Wernimont, Reid Nordin – 04:22:23.904
-  Joe Bolton, Dana Jones – 04:34:37.533
-  Austin Bolton, Daren Carlson – 04:37:38.567
-  Matthew Banuelos, Jordan Evans – 04:40:08.954
-  Cody Mitchell, Analysa Silva Montero – 05:48:25.365
U SPORTSMAN 3900:
-  Starley Stevens Jr, Dorian Lamone – 05:28:53.799
U UNLIMITED 2900:
-  Nolan Williams, Michael Flores – 04:09:54.675
-  Nicholas Gurries, Marcos Galdamez, Kyle Mc Clatlin – 04:59:15.640
-  Mike Lesle, Marshall Lobo, Dane Miller – 05:06:46.547
U STOCK U900-U950:
- [U938] Tyler Stewart, Jody Crotts – 05:06:52.478
U STOCK MOD S900:
- [S924] Cody Schafer, Kyle Schafer, Barry Schafer – 04:37:21.534
- [S923] John David, Dave Gardner – 05:22:24.943