Saturday, February 5, 2022 started out with a cool breeze as riders lined up at the start line for the Metroprint Nevada Laughlin Hare Scrambles. Although winds had been gusting at 40 to 50 mph throughout the week, Saturday morning was much calmer. But wind is not always a bad thing on the day of the race especially when the start is side by side with 2 bikes taking off at the same time. This race course has a unique format where riders go out on loop one which is 15 miles long and brings them to the Main Pit and begin loop two which is 19 miles long. Once they reach the end of loop two they complete one lap making it a total of 34 miles and go back through Main Pit to do it all over again. This is where riders would take the opportunity to hand off the bike to a teammate, work on any mechanical issues, grab a quick snack and some hydration. And then there were other riders that took this opportunity to get out the needle nose pliers to dig out some cholla cactus from forearms and other various parts of the body.
With the green flag waving at 7:30 AM, 1st row off the line was 2021 defending champion Axel Pearson on his Gas Gas 3X bike with teammate Tallon Taylor taking the first loop. Lined up next to them was the 2021 Series Champion in Open Pro running the 1X of Danny Cooper and Blayne Thompson with Blayne riding the event solo. 3X would get the hole shot and be the first one to head out onto the course followed closely by 1X. Next off the line was 61x Tyler Harvey and Eric Holt who won the Open Expert Championship in 2021 and took the leap up to the Pro Class adding Marlo Carducci to the team. Next to them was the 11X of Ricky Dahlberg and Greg Pheasent. The 61X would get to the corner 1st but a small bobble let the 11X slip by. Last off the line in Open Pro was 2021 Defending Ironman Pro Champion and winner last year of Taylor Stevens. He decided to pick up a teammate for 2022 and made a good choice with Wyatt Brittner.
At the end of Loop one, 3X maintained the lead and handed the bike off to teammate Axel Pearson. Axel would charge hard into Loop two and gain some ground on the competition. Keeping them within their grasp was the 1X, 95x and 11X. These 3 would battle each other for the remainder of the day making for a very exciting day in the desert. The 1X rider Blayne has been battling leukemia and going in for daily treatments. It was amazing to watch him ride the entire race by himself while going through these treatments and be able to keep the pressure on his competition.
At the Finish Line, the 3X would have a 10-minute lead over the remainder of the Open Pro Class and repeat his 1st place finish from 2021 and take-home top honors. The 95X team made up some significant ground, this course was familiar to Stevens but Brittner, never riding these conditions in Laughlin before, was able to keep the pace. “It was awesome to race an old school desert race where you had to hit all your lines and read the terrain like a real desert race” said Brittner at the finish. They took home 2nd place in class. And the 11x team and rider Ricky Dahlberg was wishing that the race was 4 laps going into Lap 2 but partway through lap 3 realized that a few more miles were plenty to take home 3rd in class.
16J Carl Maassberg convinced his good friend Russell Pearson, who had been retired for 13 years from racing, to come out and have some fun in the Over 30 Pro class. Carl would take the green flag and just off the start have a rough ride through the whoop section and cause him to go down injuring some ribs. Russ would jump on the bike thinking he would have to ride all 3 laps by himself. Luckily for him, his brother Nate came to the event to show support and provide mechanical services. Fortunately, Nate brought some riding gear with him and signed up as a back-up rider. After completing Lap 1, Russ was excited to see his brother standing in the Pit all geared up and ready to give him a breather. One 15-mile break was all Russ needed to regain his strength and charge hard passing several in the field including 11X Ricky Dahlberg. Ricky stated at the finish line, “The old man still has it, Russ snuck up on me in a sand wash, passed me and was gone before I even knew it”. For Russ, this was the first time that his kids were able to come out and see him in action as he retired just about the time his children were born. Russ would cross the finish line with his hands bleeding through his gloves. With blood, sweat and tears, the 16J team would finish fourth overall and take home the Over 30 Pro win.
In the Ironman Pro Class, 2M Warren Healey and 11M Colten Scudder leaped off the line against each other with 11M getting the slightly better start. 18M Tucker Norman was a row behind and put the hammer down, not letting the two out front get too far ahead. Coming off of Loop 1, 2M suffered a mechanical failure and pulled off track without being able to resume racing. The race was on between the 11M and the 18M. But out on Lap 2, the 11M had a “personal connection” with a cactus and had to pull over a find a couple sticks to get them disconnected from his forearm. 18M charged hard and put in a great final lap, fast enough to grab 3rd overall and 1st in class. The 11M finished strong and snagged 2nd position in class.
In the Over 40 Pro class, 70K Ray Jewett, brother-in-law to Marc Lewis who owns MetroPrint Nevada, was convinced to switch classes from Ironman to Over 40 on Friday and picked up riding partner Danny Cooper. They started behind the 9K of Chris Fry and teammate Nacoma McCormick and the 69K of Brett Stephens, Ron Norman and Rich Nelson. 70K would build up a good lead going into the final lap to cruise home with the 1st in class win. 9K and 69K stayed close to each other all day but it was the 9K getting to the finish line ahead of the 69K giving him the 2nd in class with the 69K finishing 3rd.
In the Over 30 Expert class, 316, retired helicopter pilot Steve Hammack and Sportsman Cycle owner Gary Smith, would come out and defend their 2021 Class championship and improve on their 2nd place finish from the 2021 Hare Scrambles event riding their Beta. But fellow competitor and Sportsman Cycle sponsored 305 of Tyler Miller and Calvin Whipple were not going to make it easy on them riding there Husqvarna. 316 would come in after Lap 1 with a lead over the 305 team. They would continue in that order with the 316 improving his 2nd place finish and securing 1st in class with the 305 crossing the line 2nd in class.
Open Expert would see the 150 Father/Son team of Mike and Laine Stephens line up against 132 Andy Vance and Kyle Hearold. The 150 team would jump out to an early lead with young Laine onboard. The 132 team would keep them within their sites on Loop 2 with the help of all the “extra rocks being moved off the trail” by the marking crew to keep Vance from falling down. At the finish line, the 150 would take the win with Father Mike stating “I need to find Laine a new teammate because I’m the slow guy on the team”. The 132 would cross the line a few positions back in the overall standing but still hold onto 2nd place finish in class.
In the Ironman Expert class, 722 Bryce Nebeker would start next to 727 Karson Boyce followed by 713 Coby Cochran. 727 would get the early lead with 713 getting around 722 on Loop 1. 727 would put down a fast pace early but 713 was not going to let him get away. The 713 pushed hard, maybe a little too hard, as he found himself blasting through a cholla cactus and ended up with a souvenir in his shoulder and covering his left forearm but he just couldn’t catch the 727. 722 tried to keep up but ended up having brake problems that caused him to take a slower pace to avoid a costly mistake.
Ultimately, 727 Karson Boyce would have a flawless day and get top step on the podium. He was followed by 713 Coby Cochran whose new nickname is “Porcupine” because it took nearly 10 minutes to pull all the cactus needles out of his forearm. But he rode like a champ to get 2nd in class despite being in severe pain. 722 Bryce Nebeker would safely bring his machine home for a solid 3rd place finish.
In the Expert Women’s class, Krista Conway won free entries at the 2021 Legacy Racing Year End Championship Celebration for the entire 2022 Season. She teamed up with Kimberly Loppnow on the 11W bike to finish 1st in class and 13th overall. Krista would be considered a Veteran in the Laughlin area as she has raced here since she was a teenager but this was Kimberly’s 1st opportunity to face the challenging terrain.
Changing out a steering wheel to handlebars and 39” tires for 18” wheels, Gaunt Motorsports (158) again took to the 2 wheels but this time they challenged their pit crew Grabow family (182) to race this event against them in the Open Amateur class The 193 Race to Erase 22 team of Thomas Tangedal and Brian Lopez kept their 2021 season tradition in place by playing Paper, Rock, Scissors to determine who would start the race which Thomas lost so he would start. And with a 4th team in the mix, 153 of Justin and Jason Storey, the stage was set in the Open Amateur class. 158 would get the better start over 153 and 193 got the jump on 182. At the end of loop 1, 158 would lead 193 and 182 out onto Loop 2 with 153 falling off the pace and ultimately suffering an engine failure a few miles into Loop 2. So now it was a race between 3 teams: the race car drivers, the pit crew and the defending class champions. And to add to the excitement, Father Rickie Gaunt (158) was going to get on the bike at some point and in 2021, he made a mistake on Loop 1 and somehow ended up on Loop 2. This really had the pit crew (182) jazzed up thinking they could strike when Rickie got his turn on the bike. Beginning of Lap 3 and Rickie swings his leg onto the 158 bike. Now the pit crew can see their opportunity to put the 182 into the lead on the final lap and bring home the bragging rights. But the 193 Defending champs are right on their heels to capitalize on any mistake by either team. They bolt off onto Loop 1 knowing this is their chance. As the teams wait anxiously at the end of Loop 1 waiting for the bikes to come and switch riders 1 final time, the dust starts to appear in the distance. “Who is it?” the 158 team asks, “I can’t tell.” Replies the 182 team. As tensions begin to mount, there it is, here he comes, it’s the 158 machine. Rickie has done it, he’s made it around the loop without getting lost. As the bike pulls in, Rickie’s son Chasen jumps onto the bike for the final 19 miles to take home the Amateur Open class win and bragging rights over 2nd place finisher 182 Grabow team.
The 399 Amateur class saw the 2021 Class Champion and last year’s class winner Dylan Tondreau, Mathew Vendetti and Dayton Esposito on the 298 machine go up against the 295 Race to Erase team of Vincent Ruiz and Jeff Dages. The 298 team would get the holeshot on 295 and put their heads down and ride hard. They would again bring home 1st in class and put themselves in a great spot to defend their class championship.
Sandy Cone from Cone Industries generously donated $200 dollars to the 1st Ironman Amateur Finisher. With $200 on the line, Ironman Riders 754 Kyle Delmue, 755 Anthony Biondo and 766 Trevor Epps had the opportunity to win back almost their entire entry fee thanks to Cone Industries. It was 754 that struck 1st and took the early lead followed by 766 and 755. 755 would have an issue on Loop 1 that would take him out of competition leaving 766 and 754 to battle it out for the class win and the prize money. In the end, 766 got the best of 754 to take home the Ironman Amateur Class win and the $200 prize with 754 getting 2nd in class.
Both Race to Erase 22 teams would be the last 2 bikes out on the course. As our team of volunteers would call in as they passed the 193 and 295 would switch positions. One time 193 would be the last on course and next check it would be 295. As they both got closer to the finish their team was anxiously watching at the finish to see who would cross first. In the end 193 Thomas Tangedal would take the checkered flag before teammate 295 Jeff Dages. Both 193 and 295 carried pictures of fallen soldiers who have lost the fight against PTSD. To learn more and to get involved with this great program, visit their Facebook page Race to Erase 22 and let’s help prevent any more service members from losing the fight to PTSD.
As the motorcycle racers were winding down the Quad racers were gearing up to battle. The quads had their own 10 mile technical course to navigate. First off the line would be Utility quad and defending 2021 Champion 1A of Don Higbee and Jeremy Gray. They were out to claim victory again and the Overall for the weekend. They were able to do just that. After 1A received the checkered flag he headed straight to the podium not even stopping at the waving people by the box van. After flagging him down to congratulate him and give him his finisher medal he asked if he could go, not because he was tired but because he was ready for his cold beer that was waiting for him. We let him go but shortly after, his teammate Jeremy wandered back over to check lap times, he was told if his laps weren’t fast enough he would not be getting dinner that night, luckily for Jeremy he’s a fast man on a quad and earned himself dinner.
The quad expert class saw some familiar faces from 2021 and some new faces. 2021 Class Champions, Roman Brothers Racing were back to defend their title. 845 Alan and AJ Romans partnered up again for 2022 to battle and hope to take home the first place this year. The defending 801 of Jason and Austin Romans convinced long time racer Alan Levinson to dig out his old riding gear. Alan is no stranger to racing but has been behind the seat of a caged vehicle for a number of years now. But as the Romans boys found out, he’s still fast on a quad. After a two year hiatus from racing Alex Kollitz was ready to get back at it and Dylan Pool was sweet talked into racing by the Romans brothers.
With the quads being wider than the motorcycles and the start being narrow, the quads would take off 1 by 1. Pool would get the first draw and get a 30 second head start over the Romans brothers and Kollitz. He would keep position one until he suffered some mechanical issues on lap 5. As Dylan pulled into the Pit he was defeated but there was a plan to get him back out on the course. 850 of Alex Kollitz was riding solo as his co-rider was unable to attend at the last minute and he was unsuccessful in finding a last minute partner. Luckily with Dylan’s quad now down, he was available to take a lap for Alex to give him a much needed break. Dylan was a little hesitant, as Alex’s quad had a thumb throttle and was not what he was used to. In the end Dylan ended up doing two laps and Jason Romans would not be left out and jumped on for a lap. Alex was able to finish the last lap and bring home 3rd in Class. One of the best parts of desert racing is the camaraderie and watching teams help each other out even when they are competing for the same title.
Battle for 1st and 2nd was still going on between the two Romans teams. In 2021 Jason and Austin brought home the number 1 and Alan and AJ were out to take that from them. The race was tight and each lap 845 would make up a little time and get closer to 801. In the end 801 would out run them and take home the #1 position again. 845 would take home 2nd. As the saying goes “with age comes the cage” but 906 Michael Sluski was not ready to give up his days of quad racing. At every event someone comments on the uniquely small UTV looking machine at the start alongside the quads. 906 is a Polaris ace, which has the cage like a UTV but is more like a quad in its power and chassis. It provides the safety of a full cage but the mobility of a quad. Sluski has been running the Ace in the Ironman expert class. He was able to beat his 2021 time by 37 minutes and take home the win.
As the final quads finished the sun was quickly setting behind the hills of Laughin. The first motorcycle and quad event was now behind us. We want to Thank our Title Sponsor MetroPrint Nevada. Even though owner Marc Lewis was unable to attend we know he was at home cheering on his brother in law Ray.