Keeping on Course

February is a very unpredictable month as most residents in the Colorado River area are well aware. This time of year, temperatures are near perfect except when blustery winds and spontaneous thunderstorms seem determined to stir the pot, and not in a good way. But it still beats triple-digit heat even in October. Therein lies part of the challenge of off-road racing the Laughlin northwest desert is known for. So gentlemen, and possibly ladies, will be starting their engines a little early this year when the 5th annual King Shocks Laughlin Desert Classic “Duel in the Desert” returns to Laughlin, Thursday-Sunday, Feb. 20-23.
“There were multiple factors in our decision to move this event to February, and yes, climate has a lot to do with it,” said Donald Jackson, operations manager for Best In The Desert, the sanctioning organization for this race.
“Our first two events of the year were held in Parker, Arizona,” he explained. “With us adding a third event there, we didn’t want all three to be back-to-back-to-back and like Laughlin, climate is a big factor. So we moved the Laughlin October event to February when the weather is a little cooler, the town isn’t as busy with concerts and the race teams get a better variety of venues. And with the two events being back-to-back in Laughlin, it helps with costs from our side on equipment transportation.”
Both new faces and crowd favorites will be making the trip to race in Laughlin.
“We’re expecting 220 race vehicles, which equals about 400 arm banded racers and 1,500 crew members,” Jackson said. “Names to watch for that have signed up already — Jason Voss, returning race winner, winner of the 2020 Parker 425 and three-year class champion; Justin Lofton, returning class winner; Steve Olliges, fastest driver for the 2019 season; Harley Letner, fastest qualifier from the Parker 425; Ryan Hancock, class 6100 runner-up and sponsor of 6100 qualifying; Conner McMullen, class winner last year, third fastest driver at the Parker 425; and the 2019 Class Champion, Seth Quintero, the youngest Red Bull athlete who had a perfect season last year until the very last lap of this race. He had a mechanical failure but finished and won the 2019 championship.
“There’s also Mitch Guthrie Jr., another Red Bull athlete who won this race last year and came back from four thin points before this race to win and put himself first in the championship; Phil Blurton won this event in 2018; along with Justin Lambert, Derek Murray and Brandon Schueler,” he added.
This race on a 17-mile loop is for off-road truck, car and UTV drivers who love a challenge. All race events take place at the Laughlin Events Park at the corner of Bruce Woodbury Drive and Thomas Edison Drive (a short drive up from Casino Drive and the entrance to the Edgewater).
“At Best In The Desert Racing Association, our goal is to make certain competitors’ experience with us is nothing short of exceptional,” Jackson said.
To that end, BITD ensures drivers’ participation and enthusiasm to the sport of off-road racing meets with the professionalism they expect and deserve. Sponsored by the Laughlin Tourism Commission, the event is spectator friendly, offering excitement for all ages.
The race course this time is particularly challenging.
“The race course will be similar to last year, but it will run in the reverse direction so that changes the perspective tremendously,” he said. “The infield will be redesigned and Spectator Hill will be front row as the racers get the checkered flag.”
One of the event’s highlights is the Baja Designs UTV Night Race on Thursday.
“For the UTVs, the night factor is always a challenge. The UTV night was part of the October event and we wanted to keep them involved for 2020 with a night race,” he added. “The night race adds a different element because the majority of racers don’t experience a race at night. So not only do they get a very challenging course, but they also have the dark factor that plays a role in the outcome of the event.
“The UTV industry has exploded over the past five years and we are seeing that market affect us in positive ways with entries. Almost half of the entries signed up for this event will be racing in UTVs,” he said. “So far, only one local entry has signed up — Matt Laughlin.”
And this year’s event host hotel is Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort.
“We are very excited to work with the Riverside Hotel,” Jackson said. “This will allow the Event Expo to be right along Casino Drive and showcase these amazing products and vehicles.
“The Riverside is a perfect fit for this type of event and we are excited to have them as the host hotel. It’s cool Matt is still racing and signed up for this event.
“The exciting Laughlin Desert Classic start/finish and parking area will be only five minutes from our host hotel.
“Along with our host hotel, we are very excited to have King Shocks come onboard as the title sponsor of the event,” he added. “King is a family-owned business, who has been in business since the early 1980s. They are a leader in shock technology and will be a great asset to this event.
“Also new for 2020, there will be a Racer Appreciation Social Hour sponsored by Method Race Wheels (5 p.m.) in Losers’ Lounge.”
Another new element is the 2020 Ford Ranger Giveaway Friday night.
“Alexander Ford is donating a truck for us to give away to one lucky winner,” Jackson said. “All it takes to win is be signed up for the race by Friday, Feb. 21 (4 p.m.) and you will automatically be put into a random draw held at the drivers’ meeting. That’s a $40,000 truck that comes tricked out with a Woolworth Leveling kit, Method Race wheels and BFG tires and the winner must be present at the time of the drawing.”
Thursday and Friday are the most spectator-friendly portions of the event when the Tech Inspection & Contingency, and Race Expo portion of the program takes place in the Riverside Resort’s parking lot. This is where race fans will have the opportunity to get up close and check out all of the race vehicles while they weave their way through contingency row filled with around 45 vendors showcasing the hottest off-road and racing accessories from the industry’s top manufacturers.
UTV Tech & Contingency is Thursday, Feb. 20 (9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.); Car and truck Contingency & Tech is Friday, Feb. 21 (9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.). UTV Night Racing starts Thursday, Feb. 20 (staging 5:15 p.m., starts 6 p.m.); the second UTV heat (staging 8:45 p.m., starts 10 p.m.). The Method Race Wheels Racer Appreciation Social Hour takes place in the Riverside Resort’s Losers’ Lounge Friday, Feb. 21 (5 p.m.). Racing action gets underway Saturday, Feb. 22 and Sunday, Feb. 23, promptly at (6:30 a.m.).
Admission for all spectators is a $5 parking fee donation to benefit the Laughlin Volunteers In Partnership. This year, spectators may park only at the Laughlin Events Park. There is no parking at the high school. That area will be closed.
For more information visit

Schedule of Events
(subject to last-minute changes)

Wednesday, Feb. 19.
– Registration for the Time Trials for Trick Trucks, Class 1500 and 6100, Riverside Resort Starview Room (6 p.m.-8 p.m.)
– UTV early tech, Hot Pit (1 p.m.-6 p.m.)

Thursday, Feb. 20
– One escorted practice lap for the time trials, time trials immediately follow (7:30 a.m. staging, 8:30 a.m. meeting, 9 a.m. escort begins)
– UTV Tech & Contingency, Riverside Resort parking lot (9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.).
– UTV Registration, Riverside Resort Starview Room (10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.), UTV Driver’s Meeting, Don’s Celebrity Theatre (4 p.m.).
– 1st UTV Staging and Night Race Start (5:15); 2nd UTV Staging and race start (8:45 p.m.)

Friday, Feb. 21
– Drivers Registration, Riverside Resort Starview Room (9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.)
– Car/Truck Tech & Contingency, Event Expo, Riverside Resort parking lot (9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.)
– UTV Awards, Don’s Celebrity Theatre (noon).

Saturday, Feb. 22
– First race of the day starts (6:30 a.m.)
– 1st Race (3 laps) – 1100-1200-1700-2700-3700-7100-7300-8100-VINT
– 2nd Race (4 laps) – Class –2000-3000-4400-4700-5000-6000-7200
– 3rd Race (4 laps) – Class 1000-1500-6200
– 4th Race (4 laps) – Class 6100-8000
– 5th Race (4 laps) – Trick Truck Race

Sunday, Feb. 23
– Race Day 2 starts (6:30 a.m.)
– 1st Race (3 laps) – 1100-1200-1700-2700-3700-7100-7300-8100-VINT
– 2nd Race (4 laps) – Class –2000-3000-4400-4700-5000-6000-7200
– 3rd Race (4 laps) – Class 1000-1500-6200
– 4th Race (4 laps) – Class 6100-8000
– 5th Race (4 laps) – Trick Truck Race
– Cars/Trucks, Awards Presentation at Riverside Resort Starview Room (7 p.m.).