Although Nevada might tout the nickname “Silver State” dating back to the mid-1800s, the state is now one of the largest producers of gold in the world. And since chasing gold is every racer’s goal, it’s only fitting that Legacy Racing Association & VORRA would boast a competition coined “Gold Rush” departing from Virginia City, Nevada – an old silver and gold mining town in the shadow of Mt. Davidson. Over the weekend, 43 UTV drivers embarked on a treasure hunt through the desert on their way to the finish line in Tonopah, Nevada.
The GPS file landed in teams’ inboxes less than a week before the penultimate round. Drivers and pit crews planned their assault on the desert and dreamed of besting their competitors in the days leading up to the race. On October 19, drivers of select classes had the opportunity to qualify to secure their starting order. The next day, contingency and technical inspection, a racer’s meeting, as well as general race prep filled the day.
On Saturday, UTV drivers began to leave Virginia City at 11:30 a.m. to start their trek east to Pit 1, just 31 miles in. From there, they traveled 52 miles further to the next pit stop and then reached the third pit 139 miles into the race. Drivers completed four more pit stops before reaching the finish line 207 miles after Pit 3.
The series had seen UTV Turbo class competitor Garrick Lastra (T924) go undefeated until Legacy’s Dirt Rebelution competition in September when fellow class competitor Michael McFayden (T838) claimed the overall win. Heading into the weekend, McFayden was just three points behind Lastra. Running his 2021 Can-Am Maverick X3 XRS RR, 17-year-old McFayden backed up his prior-round win, topping the podium at Gold Rush with a time of 06:07:43.109.
“Taking P2 in qualifying set us up well for race day,” McFayden said. “The [nearly] 350-mile race course was fast and rocky. Jeremy Gray and I were able to get by the first physical UTV at pit three, putting us in first place. Jeremy navigated me through the dust perfectly. We set a pace and got to the finish line with a two-minute lead – taking first in pro turbo and the overall UTV win. I am thankful we were able to make it to the finish line. Thank you to my pit crew for being extremely fast in the pits, and thank you to Legacy and VORRA [Valley Off Road Racing Association] for putting on a great event. We are ready for the next one!”
The teen from Redlands, California also thanked his sponsors and his family for supporting him on his racing journey. He currently holds the lead – by just two points – in the series standings heading into the final round.
While Can-Am’s Lastra didn’t find the gold he was searching for, he managed to seize silver – just 3 minutes, 14 seconds behind McFayden. With a smooth qualifying run, Lastra hoped that his race would continue in that same vein.
“I had a good run in qualifying – pushing the car hard – and felt we had a pretty good shot at the top three,” Lastra said. “We ended up first in qualifying. Within the first five miles of the race, we got a check engine light and the car was stuck going 75 mph for the majority of the race. When we stopped for fuel, we shut the car down hoping the light would go away – and it did for about a mile. Then, it came back on. We just pushed as hard as we could for the entire race and got second. I’m happy with the finish and want to congratulate the McFayden Racing team for the win. I’m looking forward to the last race, as it comes down to it for the championship.”
Even with mechanical challenges, Lastra persevered. With three overall UTV wins this season and a runner-up finish over the weekend, the Arizonan has already begun to set his sights on adding another win in the final round. However, McFayden isn’t planning to make that an easy task for Lastra to achieve. Claiming the bronze medal was Carlsbad, California’s 15-year-old Travis Sallee (2999) with an elapsed time of 06:11:20.088. Although the UTV Unlimited class competitor captured third overall, he managed to notch his first class win of the season.
With McFayden and Lastra taking overall distinction, 55-year-old Randy Adams (T932) rounded out the UTV Turbo class with a time of 06:40:56.000 in his Can-Am. Turning to the UTV Unlimited class, New Mexico’s Herman Johnson (2951) piloted his Can-Am to the finish line in 6 hours, 27 minutes and 12 seconds. California’s Tim Fitzpatrick (2906) rounded out the class podium, taking the checkers just under eight minutes behind.
Broken Skull Beer’s Zach Kisman (1941) dominated the UTV Naturally Aspirated class in his Kawasaki. After 7 hours, 10 minutes and 25 seconds of competition, the 29-year-old was relieved to reach the finish in Tonopah, Nevada. Driven Off Road’s Dan Benfield (1911) followed behind, and LSR Racing’s Ian Torfi (1912) took third in class.
“Gold Rush was awesome!” Kisman said. “The course had a little bit of everything, including some great technical sections where the Kawasaki KRX really excels. It was a hard-fought battle – and I had a new navigator with me, but we made a great team. There were some pretty challenging spots out there, and a lot of teams struggled with multiple tire changes, but my Maxxis tires held up great.” He added that taking first place at Gold Rush is exciting on its own, but it also means that he won the Championship for the VORRA series in the Pro N/A class.
“Our whole team had a great race, my teammate ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, also took home his first win in the Sportsman UTV class with my dad as his navigator. This was a great race for the entire GFI team! A huge thank you to all our sponsors and the crew who make this all possible.”
Californians conquered the UTV Pro Stock class. Competing in his third-ever Legacy race, Nicholas Gurries (3983) put in a strong run to take the class win. He collected a time of 07:03:10.596 in his Can-Am. Powell Roofing’s Brian Powell (3950) took second in class, while Gil Medrano (3970), backed by All Weather Sheds by Ed, rounded out the podium.
“We were extremely pleased with the race course,” Gurries said. “It was technical and fast. We were in position five to leave in our class, and we just kept a consistent pace to get out front. Once we got out front and we got a little distance, we just took it easy because there was a lot of dust. We tried to keep the car together and keep a safe pace. I’d like to thank my family and my pit crew.”
The UTV Sportsman class saw Steve Austin (316) cross the finish line in just under 7.5 hours – more than an hour ahead of his nearest classmate. James Alford (5912) and Dawn Aveggio (5944) took the second and third-place spots. UTV Stock1 winner Sarah Stewart (U905) navigated her Polaris-backed machine through a variety of terrain. The 42-year-old Las Vegas resident finished with a time of 08:03:48.838. Upon finishing, she had a good laugh as she clapped the layers of dust out of her hair.
“The Gold Rush was such a fun course!” Stewart said. “It was 346 miles of silt, power line roads, high-speed rollers, mud pits, washouts, long full-speed straights and a whole lot of boulders. My stock Polaris Turbo S has never faltered. We have been able to finish every mile of every race we’ve entered the last two years with Legacy Racing Association – something like 3,500 miles. It’s been a great car!”
Stewart added that she was bummed that their other two team cars competing in other classes – including her husband’s car – didn’t make the finish.
“We had to help tow in my husband’s car,” Stewart said. “I’m not going to lie, I hesitated about stopping to help him but figured he’s the one who makes my racing dreams come true – so I’d better rescue him. We lost about 15 mins doing that, yet we were still able to make great time and take home the first-place trophy.” Stewart continues to lead her class standings.
Sixty-two-year-old Craig MacIntosh (S915) scored the UTV Stock Modified class win with a time of 08:32:49.155.
“The race was fast,” MacIntosh said. “Edward Sou, my Navy Vet and navigator, had a blast. We raced into the night and ended up in first place. It was long and fast in some places, wet in other places and had lots of rocks. We got one flat, and neither of us had ever changed a tire while racing, but we had it changed in about five minutes. The racing community is amazing, and Legacy Racing is just an awesome organization. A big thanks to Lone Star Racing, KWI Clutching and Race to Erase 22.”
More than one-third of competitors were unable to finish the Gold Rush, which made crossing the finish line even sweeter for those who were able to accomplish the task. With just one round remaining in the series, teams will have to be diligent about their opportunities to clinch titles. The overall championship will be decided at the Stateline Shootout on November 30 in Primm, Nevada, so McFayden and Lastra will have to battle it out once more in 2023.
- Michael McFayden (T838), 06:07:43.109
- Garrick Lastra (T924), 06:10:57.473
- Randy Adams (T932), 06:40:56.000
- Alex Baker (T909), 07:04:02.307
- Curtis Armstrong (T843), 07:18:19.018
UTV Naturally Aspirated
- Zachary Kisman (1941), 07:10:25.675
- Dan Benfield (1911), 07:32:05.739
- Ian Torfi (1912), 08:15:20.118
- Angie Mitchell (1907), 08:21:58.551
- Brian Thompson (1915), 09:15:56.929
UTV Pro Stock
- Nicholas Gurries (3983), 07:03:10.596
- Brian Powell (3950), 07:26:47.256
- Gil Medrano (3970), 07:28:33.686
- Ed Conrad (3967), 08:44:07.461
- Travis Sallee (2999), 06:11:20.088
- Herman Johnson (2951), 06:27:12.665
- Tim Fitzpatrick (2906), 06:34:52.383
- Steve Austin (316), 07:26:30.236
- James Alford (5912), 08:27:35.941
- Dawn Aveggio (5944), 08:44:48.483
UTV Stock Modified
- Craig MacIntosh (S915), 08:32:49.155
- Sarah Stewart (U905), 08:03:48.838