The wind rips across North Texas in the late afternoon, swaying the oak and elm trees from side to side like a sullen cowboy in his saddle. The dust from nearby farms and ranches fades the sunset into a warm orange glow, sliding slowly over the edge of the earth. Small towns are scattered across the countryside, their quintessential courthouse squares surrounded by boutique businesses, a local watering hole, and thrift shops inside old Elks Lodges. The highways leading to these towns are wide and fast, lined on either side by shopping plazas, hotels and fast food chains. At first glance, it’s barren, and perhaps a bit boring.
The roadway, which draws a line from Dallas to Decatur, is a long stretch of nearly nothing, where speed limits are merely a suggestion. Pecan and mesquite make this part of Texas seem more intimate than it really is, offering respite in the sweltering summer months and layering across the landscape to make the surrounding hills seem like some kind of bright green birthday cake. It all seems so far away, so empty and isolated, yet the city of Decatur is only 50 miles from the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, an easy Uber ride out, but a hard one to acquire coming back in.
Launched in 2022 as a way to provide local UTV racers an opportunity to test their skills against an assortment of professional athletes, the Red Bull Scramble Series National Championship made its inaugural stop at Oak Hill Raceway in Decatur, TX last weekend. Dubbed the Red Bull Ranch Scramble, the race would be the third stop in a newly expanded eight-round series for 2023. More than 45 drivers in both the SXS Pro and SXS Sportsman classes lined up to challenge the newly updated 1.8-mile short course racetrack.
Described by some as the fastest track in the series, Oak Hill Raceway offered drivers hairpin turns, a whoop section, and added jumps, making for spectacular racing beneath the Texas sun and clear blue skies. For some racers, including recent Dakar winner and Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team driver AJ Jones, the Ranch Scramble would be their first short course racing experience.
“It was my first time racing a short course, it was tough but really fun,” said Jones. “It was quite the learning curve for me, coming from the desert, but it was fun to learn something new. The best moment of today was the battle against Mia in the last race. I had a great time and want to do it again.”
Race day kicked off with a free practice session at 9:00 am, offering drivers a chance to put their eyes on the renovated racing facility, and also shake down their vehicles ahead of qualifying. Brothers Cody and Hunter Miller, fresh off a strong finish at King of the Hammers and with a lifetime of short course racing experience in their back pockets, set the time to beat early in the day, dancing their Can-Ams around the course like two cowboys at a county fair country western dance. After putting in as many practice laps as they could, racers returned to the course at 11:00 am for a single round of qualifying, followed by a last chance qualifier (LCQ) to settle where they would line up later in the day.
“I started off the day by losing a rim, but made it up for the main event, started third row, and had a great time,” said Mia Chapman. “There were a lot of back-and-forth battles with AJ, which was fun. I’m hoping to come back to Texas next year.”
With the warm Texas sun directly overhead and the afternoon wind turning from wandering gusts to a bittersweet breeze, the green flag waved at Oak Hill Raceway around 2:00 pm. The Ranch Scramble was underway, beginning with the seven-lap SXS Sportsman race that would showcase the racing talent of amateur off-road enthusiasts from the surrounding area. Austin Braden collected the checkered flag first with a total race time of 16:17.960, just a half-second ahead of the second-place finisher Mickey Schroeder. The racing was close, to say the least, and the action was non-stop from flag to flag, with a handful of racers seeing their hopes of glory come crashing down around them as the course pushed their skills to the absolute edge.
Hunter Miller had qualified ahead of his brother, Cody, to secure a prime spot on the front row when the SXS Pro class lined up for their seven-lap main race. Hunter would go on to lead the field through six of the seven laps, only to be overtaken by his brother, Cody, in the penultimate corner of the final lap. “I was sitting there in second place, and I was concentrating on the mental game, figuring out where I was going to make my move and execute. Hunter and I battle back and forth and work together as a team sometimes, but in the end, we just really want to beat each other,” said Cody.
Corbin Leaverton and Cody Bradbury, who took the Red Bull Sand Scramble SXS Pro class one-two finish in December, made their return to the Red Bull Scramble Series in Texas. Chasing the Miller brothers from practice to qualifying and green flag to checkered, the duo would go on to finish fifth and third respectively. Short course newcomer AJ Jones, fellow Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team member Seth Quintero, and Red Bull athlete Mia Chapman battled it out in the midfield, crossing the finish line just a few seconds apart.
Experience pays off, though, and the one-two finish for the Texas native Miller brothers proved that. Hunter and Cody ran wheel-to-wheel and door-to-door for the entire race, gapping Bradbury in third place by a cool 13 seconds. When the checkered flag waved down the front straight, Cody’s last gasp to grab first place from his brother paid off, crossing less than one second ahead of Hunter.
The Red Bull Ranch Scramble was the third stop in the Red Bull Scramble Series National Championship. As a result, racer John Barnes moved into second place in the SXS Pro Class overall, and sits just 16 points behind the leader, Johnny Greaves. Austin Braden’s quest to victory in Decatur catapulted him into third place in the SXS Sportsman Class Overall, bumping former third place holder TJ Kounkel. The series moves on to Wildwood, NJ for the inaugural Red Bull Beach Scramble on May 6.
SXS PRO CLASS
- Cody Miller – 15:22.697
- Hunter Miller – 15:23.472
- Cody Bradbury – 15:36.284
SXS SPORTSMAN CLASS
- Austin Braden – 16:17.960
- Mickey Schroeder – 16:18.423
- Jordan Colichia – 16:30.041
The remaining 2023 schedule features five unique locations:
May 6, Red Bull Beach Scramble in Wildwood, N.J. (NEW)
May 20, Red Bull High Desert Scramble in Nephi, Utah
June 24, Red Bull Solstice Scramble in Anchorage, Ala. (NEW)
Sept. 16, Red Bull Stone Scramble in Huntsville, Tenn.
Dec. 9, Red Bull Sand Scramble in Glamis, Calif.