It was a heck of a battle. Less than four minutes separated the UTV podium finishers at Legacy Racing Association’s Baja Nevada competition.
Racers faced a two-day challenge of 611 miles that included a mix of slow, technical sections and blistering fast stretches through the southwest Nevada desert for round two of the seven-round series. Cars began staging at the Pahrump Nugget Hotel and Casino on Friday, May 12 at 8:30 in the morning. A police escort then led drivers to the starting line in Johnnie, Nevada, for a 10 a.m. departure.
When the green flag waved, drivers blasted north for 16 miles to the first pit stop. From there, drivers navigated another 48 miles to the second pit at Omni Station. Another 45 miles later, they reached the third pit stop to refuel and handle any mechanical needs that may have cropped up.
While going fast is rewarded on the race course, it’s penalized in the pits. That’s exactly what happened to Can-Am/Lonestar Racing’s Garrick Lastra (T924), competing in the UTV Turbo class, who was docked four minutes due to speeding in Pit #3.
The trek from Pit #3 at Bonnie Claire to Pit #4 at Cottontail, while shorter at only 23 miles, was no less of a challenge. As time passed, competitors navigated the long and tiring day in their machines. Averaging speeds in the mid-70 mph range, competitors encountered a few straight stretches across dry lake beds where they really wicked up their speeds.
Leaving Pit #4, drivers conquered an additional 161 miles before retiring for the day in Tonopah, Nevada, finishing the day with 293 miles under their belts. Lastra was in the lead of the UTV classes on Saturday, despite his penalty.
“We came into this race with high hopes,” said Lastra. “After a two-win streak with the 4WP Desert Showdown and the Mint 400, we felt we were ready to battle. Day one was fast and rocky. We set the car up for high speed and high tire pressure for the rocks and less rolling resistance. We battled our Can-Am teammates, Dustin Jones and Michael McFayden, all day. They were keeping the pressure on me for more than half the race until they had some unfortunate issues. We ended up winning day one, even with a four-minute penalty for speeding in a pit that I had no idea was a pit.”
UTV Turbo driver Dustin Jones (T978) was right on his bumper, just under two minutes behind for the day.
“With it being the longest race in the United States now — a 600-mile two-day race — I knew it was going to be a tough undertaking,” said Jones. “We knew we were going to have to do some prep in between days, but, most importantly, wanted to make sure the car lasted.”
Jones said his strategy going into day one was to push hard, get a gap, try to run high speeds, and keep the car in good shape for day two to reduce the prep overnight after day one. His team accomplished that, even despite two belt breakages.
“Such long high-speed runs are really hard on rubber belts on these UTVs,” Jones said. “We still finished second-overall UTV [on day one], so it was a pretty good day even though we had about six minutes of downtime.”
While the racing may have paused at the end of Saturday, the work was far from over for pit crews. The team members making repairs and meticulously checking over the machines as they prepared for the next day’s assault on the desert.
Jones, runner-up on day one, said his team looked over the car and did some light maintenance on it, because day one was a pretty easy, fast, and smooth track. “So, you know, some driveline replacements, change the clutches, full fluids changed…” Jones said. “Anything that had a little wear in it, we went ahead and replaced it. Day two was going to be rougher and more technical.” Pro-Craft Construction/KWI’s Michael McFayden (T838) sat in third after the first day of competition.
The next day, UTV teams lined up for a 9:30 a.m. start from Tonopah and focused on the 318-mile course ahead of them for the day. Saturday started with a 42-mile jaunt northwest to Millers Rest Stop. Lastra was 18th off the line, in a mix of trucks and buggies, for day two.
“With Dustin Jones starting right behind me on day two, I knew I couldn’t let my guard down,” said Lastra. “He’s one of the fastest guys out there. I couldn’t make any mistakes. When we left the line, I caught the first 6100 truck within the first 10 miles and could not get close enough to use the push to pass button, siren, or give him a bump. His dust was bad and couldn’t risk getting a flat, or worse, wrecking the car. So I waited patiently for the right opportunity to make the pass. Once we got around that truck, we came into pit number four, and Dustin was on my bumper, with Michael on his. My pit crew told me they both had me on corrected time, and I needed to get going. I ended up getting stuck behind a truck once again. Fortunately, he made a mistake and blew a turn. It gave me the opportunity to make the risky pass going off-course, and it paid off. Dustin and Michael both got stuck behind him, and it gave me the chance to put some time back on them.”
From there, drivers headed southeast to Pit #10. They continued to zigzag through the mountainous terrain throughout the day, with most legs of the race being around 50 miles in length. Temperatures hung in the high 70s and low 80s with clear skies as drivers laid down fast times and set their sights on finishing back in Tonopah.
Despite breaking both sway bars and losing time in the tight and technical sections, Lastra was the first UTV to physically take the checkered flag at the conclusion of the two-day competition. With corrected time, he was second for the day.
With a total corrected time of 10:16:48.263 over both days, this marked the Arizona resident’s second Legacy Racing Association win of the year, after taking the UTV overall win at the 4WP Desert Showdown in January.
“We had enough time buffer on day one to make up the time for day two, and that gave us the overall win between both days,” Lastra said. “I want to thank my team. Carolyn and Randy Raschein for the opportunity to pilot their Can-Am. Thanks to Brandon Jackson and Chase Willford for the pit support, and credit to Jared Gomez and Dana Harlow for navigating the two days. Thanks to the guys at Lonestar Racing — Shawn Fisher, Joey Olson and Horocio Contreras — for awesome prep and shock service. Without these people and more sponsors in our corner, this wouldn’t be possible.”
Lastra also gave a shout-out to his sponsors Riverland Rents, Can-Am, Oregon UTV Parts, Lonestar Racing, King Shocks, Tensor Tires, Method Wheels, Modquad, EVO Powersports and Icebox Performance. McFayden, of Redlands, California, took the day two win in his Can-Am backed by Pro-Craft Construction. He finished just two minutes and 19 seconds behind Lastra in the combined time to capture second overall at Baja Nevada.
“I enjoyed the opportunity to get out there and run a two-day race with the top UTV and Trophy Truck racers,” McFayden said. “My co-driver, Jeremy Gray, and I had a great time on the course. On day one, we dealt with two flat tires, and on day two we had a clean race where we pushed hard to make up for the time we lost on day one. We were a couple minutes from first place, but are very happy to take home second place.”
Rounding out the UTV overall podium, with third on the day and third overall for the weekend, was Jones, competing in his first-ever Legacy Racing Association event. He finished with an elapsed time of 10:20:36.341 in his S3 Power Sports-backed Can-Am. After the second pit of the day, the Louisiana-native had to balance running his machine hard and avoiding overheating it after his fan went out.
“We could only run like 65 miles an hour until we cooled the motor down, and then we could run like 75,” Jones said. “We ended up with a podium finish, even with blown belts, four flat tires and an overheating car. We had a tough time, but thank goodness we still kept it together and kept the car moving.”
After two arduous days in the desert, 24 of the 28 teams were able to cross the finish line. Turning to the UTV Unlimited class, Tim Fitzpatrick (2906) concluded the competition with a time of 11:30:33.655, capturing the class win. Steve Allen (2943) was just 29 seconds behind, and Travis Sallee (2999) rounded out the podium. Becker Chase (1950) seized the UTV Naturally Aspirated win in his Polaris, finishing in 12 hours, 13 minutes. Joe Bolton (1957) of Corona, California, took runner-up, while Ian Torfi (1912) landed third. Las Vegas’ Bryan Houghton (S923) scored the UTV Stock Modified win in his Can-Am, checking in at 13:25:21.425. Craig Macintosh (S915) followed, with Nicholas Gurries (S983) in the number three spot.
Following the checkered flag, drivers cooled off and packed up their rigs, assessing the damage to their machines as they loaded, and started taking mental notes of the work to complete when they arrived back at their shops.
Between motorcycle, ATV, UTV, truck, and buggy classes, more than 100 competitors attempted to tackle the unforgiving Nevada desert. Heading into the race, winning is at the top of each competitor’s mind. After putting in hours of practice ahead of time, boatloads of personal money in addition to support from sponsors, countless hours of building and prepping machines to face more than 10 hours of unpredictable terrain, and driving hours from home to line up on the starting line, a racer’s end goal is to stand on the podium. Some might say it’s a gamble. Others might say it’s a calculated risk. Either way, only a small number of people are willing to take on the task. For Lastra and other class winners, it paid off at Baja Nevada.
Legacy Racing Association’s VT Construction Battleground event, originally scheduled for March but moved to June 22-25, is now next on the schedule. Drivers will head to Caliente, Nevada, to see how their machines and navigation skills stack up to their competitors on a course that’s approximately 325 miles in length.
- Garrick Lastra (T924), 10:16:48.263
- Michael McFayden (T838), 10:18:57.214
- Dustin Jones (T978), 10:20:36.341
- Nolan Williams (T822), 11:00:20.436
- Michael Mack (T821), 11:04:36.227
- Tim Fitzpatrick (2906), 11:30:33.655
- Steve Allen (2943), 11:31:02.011
- Travis Sallee (2999), 11:57:06.368
- Jonathan McVay (2952), 15:14:25.461
- Austin Johnson (2951), 05:23:09.936
UTV STOCK MODIFIED
- Bryan Houghton (S923), 13:25:21.425
- Craig Macintosh (S915), 14:04:22.503
- Nicholas Gurries (S983), 06:45:09.951
UTV NATURALLY ASPIRATED
- Becker Chase (1950), 12:13:10.789
- Joe Bolton (1957), 12:40:19.932
- Ian Torfi (1912), 12:50:50.482
- Angie Mitchell (1907), 13:49:10.697
- Dan Phillips (1967), 14:18:24.401