Dirt Track Demons

Off road racing has always been a part of the Laughlin scene.
Drivers of heavy duty racing trucks and buggies like the challenge of negotiating hairpin turns and switch-backs over a rugged desert course that calls to them, daring them to take their skills to the next level — and this year, there’s a twist nobody saw coming until it showed up on the schedule for the 2017 McKenzie’s Rage at the River.
We’re talking about the racing event presented by Southern Nevada Off Road Enthusiasts, a.k.a. SNORE, an organization that has been a part of desert off-road racing for 46 years. Based out of Las Vegas, it was a natural fit for SNORE to fill the Laughlin racing calendar when Southern California Off Road Enthusiasts departed several years ago. They do just that with their annual season ending grand finale race held in Laughlin each December. This year McKenzie’s Rage at the River, takes place on Friday-Sunday, Dec. 8-10. Driver and media registration is Thursday, Dec. 7 (6 p.m.-8 p.m. at the Laughlin River Lodge). Friday is reserved for Time Trials, Drivers Fun Run, registration and the Tech & Contingency Inspection, where everyone can get together, meet the drivers and talk cars to their heart’s content.
There is double the excitement because once again SNORE has teamed up with a similarly named group based locally, MORE (Mohave Off Road Racing Enthusiasts) to present the race over a 13.5 mile course centered at the Laughlin Events Park (northwest corner of Bruce Woodbury and Thomas Edison Way, one block west of Casino Drive, up from the Edgewater entrance). The event is sponsored by the Laughlin Tourism Commission (LTC).
“We team up a little bit with MORE on this race,” said C.J. Hutchins, SNORE race director. “It’s both of our year-end races for the championship, so they draw in a lot of extra cars to the event, and there’s definitely a good amount of them from Havasu, Kingman and Bullhead City.”
According to the SNORE website, 427 drivers have already signed up for the race.
“We teamed up with MORE last year, too, but this year we did a lot more marketing, trying to pump up the race and we have a lot of big bonus pay back which helps draw in extra cars as well.
“It’s good for the whole area down there. We sell more hotel rooms, and draw more spectators, and everybody makes more money.
“Prize money for drivers depends on the class they drive in,” Hutchins explained. “The more entries in your class, the more money you win. So, some of the bigger classes will be taking home $5,000 plus.”
The big wrinkle in this year’s course — Saturday’s course will be driven clockwise; Sunday’s course direction is counter clockwise.
“So people have been talking about doing this for a long time, but nobody would ever do it,” Hutchins said. “Now that I’m race director, I said, ‘Hey let’s do it, I think it would be super fun and a whole new challenge.’
“On Saturday, we’re going to race the course backwards to our normal direction, and then after the races on Saturday, we will remark the course the other direction, so the inclines and shortcuts and things people had on Saturday, are no longer gonna work on Sunday. It’ll change it up quite a bit. There are multiple lines all over this course. Most of this course has two options, you know, so running it one direction then running it the opposite direction the next day it’s gonna be a whole ‘nother ball game.”
The 2017 McKenzie’s Rage at the River will consist of two days of heat races on Saturday-Sunday (see schedule next page) spread out in classes to include: 1300; 1500; 7s; 5; 5/1600; 1450; 2000; VORE; 1600; 10; 12; 3000, TL; Unlimited Truck; 8; and Heavy Metal.
To get to this finale of the 2017 SNORE schedule, drivers and teams had to do some serious traveling even before getting into their off road rigs. The season schedule saw them compete in the King Shocks Battle at Primm, Nevada; the Motion Tire 300 in Ridgecrest, California; the Knotty Pine 250 in Caliente, Nevada; the KC HiLites Midnight Special in Lucerne Valley, California; and the SNORE 250 in Kingman, Arizona. After all that racing, the season long winners get sorted out in Laughlin at the “Rage at the River” this weekend.

The drivers…
The competitors in this event come from far and wide and are some of the best at what they do. Among the standouts are Pat Dean who is the current Class 1 points leader from Las Vegas and Justin Davis of the Southern California area, who is the Class 10 points leader. Troy Messer, from Kingman, Arizona, is one of the Class 10 front runners.
“SNORE is a long standing partner of Laughlin and we will continue to bring off-road racing to our fans for years to come,” says MJ Smith, executive director of the LTC. “BLM and Clark County worked closely with the organization to ensure access to miles of exciting course. We are lucky to live and work in an area where our governing bodies and population support events which brings millions of dollars to our local economy.”
Hutchins pointed out that their Laughlin race is one of the biggest.
“This is the biggest off-road vehicle race anywhere near here — bigger than any Best In The Desert race, bigger than the Mint 400 and bigger than the 50th anniversary of the Baja 1000 that just happened,” he said. “That’s pretty cool for us being a small non-profit, volunteer-only organization to be putting on an event that’s bigger than all of them as far as car count.
“Our motto with SNORE is we are racers that put on races for racers,” he said. “Like me, I’ve been off-road racing pretty much my whole life. I started in desert races when I was 13, so I have my own race car, as do many of the board members and officials of SNORE. So we try to put on races for the racers.”
For those who stay away because of their concerns about dust, think again.
“We pride ourselves on trying to keep the dust down at these small races,” Hutchins added. “For me personally, it’s a safety concern, as far as being in our vehicles and being able to see on these short courses with so many cars on the track at one time.
“So generally you won’t see any dust until the last two races of the day. The first five races, there won’t be any dust. We will run water trucks all night long, which is a lot better than all that dust in the desert.”

Viewing the races…
Spectators can view the “Rage at the River” heats at only one vantage point (NOTE: no viewing from the area near the Laughlin High School as in years past. Also spectators won’t be able to park near “The Hill” which sits along Thomas Edison Way and overlooks the infield).
The Volunteers in Partnership will be collecting $5 per car for the area near the infield of the Laughlin Events Park — the only designated area for spectators this year.
Proceeds from spectator charges go to benefit local charities and scholarship programs. In the past, monies raised have benefited Little League teams in Laughlin and Bullhead City, West Care, Riverfund, SAINT, and the Cancer Connection.

The schedule of events:

Friday, December 8

10 a.m.—Time Trials at Laughlin Events Park with one car/truck every 90 seconds; Unlimited and Class 1 every 60 seconds
12:30 p.m.—Reconnaissance Lap/Fun Run Staging for participants only at Laughlin Events Park.
Noon-7 p.m.—Driver registration in the Coronado Room within the Tropicana Laughlin (adjacent to the Pavilion Theater).
1 p.m.- 7:30 p.m.—Tech and Contingency in the rear parking lot of the Tropicana Laughlin with all vehicles on view for inspection.
The public is invited to come out and view the cars/trucks/buggies and meet-and-greet with the drivers.
There will also be vendors set up during the inspection in this parking lot located behind the Tropicana Laughlin.
8 p.m.-9 p.m.—Drivers’ Meeting in the Tropicana’s Pavilion Theater

Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 9-10

Race schedule applies for both days; subject to change

Pre Runners (2 Laps)
5:50 a.m.—Heat One staging
6:11 a.m.—Heat One
7 a.m.—Heat One finish

Classes: 1500, 1300, SXS Sport (4 laps)
7s, Stock Full, Stock Bug (3 laps)
Trophy Lite (5 laps)
6:19 a.m.—Heat Two staging
6:46 a.m.—Heat Two start
8:12 a.m.—Heat Two finish

Classes: 3000 (5 laps); 9, 5/1600, SXS Ltd/Turbo (4 laps)
7:50 a.m.—Heat Three staging
8:16 a.m.—Heat Three start
9:47 a.m.—Heat Three finish

Classes: 1600 (5 Laps); 1800 (5 Laps)
9:21 a.m.—Heat Four staging
9:51 a.m.—Heat Four start
11:17 a.m.—Heat Four finish

Classes: 1450, 2000 (4 Laps)
11:10 a.m.—Heat Five staging
11:40 a.m.—Heat Five start
1:13 p.m.—Heat Five finish

Classes: 10, 12, 5U (5 Laps)
12:45 p.m.—Heat Six staging
1:22 p.m.—Heat Six start
2:55 p.m.—Heat Six finish

Classes: 1, UT, HM, 8, 7 (5 Laps);
6100, 450 Pro (5 Laps)
2:30 p.m.—Heat Six staging
2:59 p.m.—Heat Six start
4:29 p.m.—Heat Six finish

Sunday Dec. 13
8 p.m.—Awards ceremony in Harrah’s Laughlin.