BITD TransWest Ford Henderson 250
It's Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 1:00 p.m., and the air is filled with the rumble of 30,000 horsepower at idle waiting to be unleashed on the Time Trial course in the EL Dorado Valley just outside of Henderson, NV. There are 37 Trick Trucks and Class 1500 cars set to fight for the pole position for BITD's final race of the year, and the points battle is as tight as ever with five contenders in Trick Truck and four in Class 1500 all vying for the championship title.
The three-mile Time Trial course was similar to past years and featured many tight hairpin turns. As is usually the case, the technical layout favored the light and nimble buggies over the larger, lumbering trucks. True Time Trial talents Sam Berri and Chuck Hovey were at the front yet again, with Berri taking the pole in 4:08.03 followed by up-and-comer Ray Griffith, who was just 3.5 seconds back, while Hovey was in third just 6 hundredths off of Griffith. Andy McMillin was the fastest Trick Truck and fifth overall with a time of 4:15.99, with Jason Voss a half second back. B.J. Baldwin was on smoking fast lap, going up on two wheels three times in three different corners while pushing his truck to the limit, but an electrical problem caused his engine to sputter and die a mere 150 yards from the finish line giving him a DNF.
Due to various environmental and dust concerns, the race took place in Jean, NV, despite its Henderson namesake for the second year. The 80-mile course started just North of Jean and headed north to Haul Road then east into Hidden Valley, and the famed rock garden before looping south to Primm and winding its way back north across Roach lake to the finish. The race was broken up into two groups, with limited classes racing in the morning and doing two laps, and the unlimiteds running in the afternoon and completing three laps. Dust and rocks quickly became a problem for most racers. A lack of wind combined with extensive blading of the course caused a 2- to 3-inch top layer of silt and brought out many rocks which made for a treacherous and low visibility racecourse even though most of it was smooth and rally-like.
The morning race featured some tight points battles for the championship in class 2000, 1100, and 8100. Ryan Plowman was first off the line in his 1100 followed by Lee Banning Sr. and Jr., who went into the race nine points ahead of Plowman. Both cars dropped back into the pack on the first lap but they continued to stay close and battle the entire race. Plowman had two flats but fought back to pass Banning in the final 20 miles for the win, but Banning's performance was enough to secure the championship by a single point over Plowman.
The biggest shock of the morning race was class 2000 racer Kevin Smith. Smith passed all the 1100 cars and by the midpoint of the first lap he was first on the course. He held his dominant pace the whole day and managed to take the overall win in the morning race and the Championship in the process.
Class 8110, also known as Stock Full, was tight between Tim Casey in a Ford Superduty and Randy Merritt in his Ford F-150. Casey only needed to finish to capture the title, but he had no plans of taking it easy. "While we only have to finish to win, the title we are not going to back down, we are going out there to win the race," Casey said prior to the start. Casey did just that winning the race and the championship with authority.
In Trick Truck, the points battle was unprecedented with B.J. Baldwin, Andy McMillin/Steve Sourapas, Rick D. Johnson, Marc Ewing and Jason Voss all capable of winning the title. McMillin led the truck field through the first half lap but suffered a flat tire, and before changing it he pulled way off course where he would not be seen changing it. That gave to lead to Jason Voss who did not find out he was leading until told by his crew in the main pit at the end of lap 1. Voss kept driving hard and pushed his way to victory just after the sunset.
"We made it in just in time – without a light bar we could not see much," Voss said at the finish. Voss's victory makes him the only two-time Trick Truck winner in 2010 with his win at the Silver State 300. McMillin and Sourapas finished second in Trick Truck close behind Voss.
Baldwin started 37th and last off the line and had his work cut out for him in the chase for the championship. Further complicating matters, Baldwin's truck had just completed the 1061-mile Baja 1000 which is notorious for chewing up and spitting out racecars. The team had just 12 days to transport the the truck 1200 miles back to Las Vegas and prep it for Henderson.
"It's pretty much coming straight from the 1000, all the arms have been magna-fluxed and the rear end was checked for cracks,” Baldwin said. “The guys on my team are just bad-ass; they don't mess around."
Baldwin's original plan went out the window after his qualifying run, and many wrote him off for the championship. But he was not about to give up, and he hung it all out and started picking off the cars ahead of him one by one, pushing himself and his machine to the limit. He worked his way up to third in Trick Truck at the finish and that was enough to secure the title. Voss needed one more truck in between himself and Baldwin if he was to win the title and had to settle for second on the year. Rick D. Johnson was a strong contender for that spot but he dropped out of the race with a rear suspension problems. Bladwin's championship is his third (he has two previous SCORE Trophy Truck titles) and the first for General Tire.
"I was going to try and lead the way but qualifying was disastrous for us, and we ended up having to try and rip through the pack." Baldwin said at the finish. "Through the dust we had to really go fast and not be conservative. It was nice to actually not have anything to lose. It was about really beating on this truck hard and that's what I love to do anyway. My favorite thing to do is have nothing to lose and just link up a chain of close calls without disaster striking, to push my luck as much as possible."
While Baldwin was busy eating dust, polesitter and class 1500 driver Sam Berri made the most of his ideal starting spot and a dust-free first lap to put a huge lead on the field. By the end of lap one he had put six minutes on Voss and seven minutes on Ray Griffith, his competition in class 1500. Berri continued to lead the race wire to wire and took the overall win in the process. Berri has faced a rash of bad racing luck recently despite his excellent qualifying results and he grabbed the monkey off his back and hurled into the desert with authority with the win, his first since the 2008 Silver State 300.
Travis Chase finished second in 1500, which also secured the Rookie of the Year title for the new racer. Chris Kemp finished third, giving him enough points to secure the class championship. To win he had to beat Steve Appleton, Steve Croll and Vince Galewick, all who were ahead of him in the points coming into the race and he did it with ease as the other drivers went out with mechanical problems.
In class 8000, Macrae Glass won another championship in his I-beamed Ford. "We did not have any problems whatsoever," Glass said at the finish. "The truck could have been a little better in the front, the shock adjustment was off. The rebound was too slow and the truck would nose over in the big whoops. I'm just really happy to be here. I want to dedicate this win to my wife Kathy; she always believes I can get it done and reinforces what I hope I can do. I'm just stoked, this truck has a lot of wins and finishes and I'm happy to get one more."
While the 2010 BITD season has come to close, the racers have plenty of work ahead of them to get ready for the 2011 season opener on February 3rd at the Parker 425. For more information about the upcoming season, visit http://www.bitd.com/.