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There are only eight days left until one of the nation’s most grueling and exciting off-road races passes through Churchill County.
On Aug. 20, the annual “Vegas to Reno” race along existing dirt roads is expected to cross Highway 95 at the Top Gun Raceway turnoff before noon during its mad east-west dash through rural Nevada.
“This year we are celebrating our 20th anniversary of the race, and I promise it will be the best one we’ve ever had,” I was told this week by Casey Folks, the executive director of the Boulder City-based Best in the Desert Racing Association which sponsors the four-day extravaganza.
Although it is billed as the “Vegas to Reno” race, it starts Friday, Aug. 19, near the Southern Nevada town of Alamo, which is about 100 miles north of Las Vegas and ends in Dayton after it goes through Churchill County next Saturday. Folks said that 335 teams have already signed up for the 500-plus-mile race in several categories that include tricked-out cars and trucks, UTVs, motorcycles and quads.
“This is the longest and most challenging off-road race in the United States, and I hope people from Fallon, Churchill County and neighboring communities will turn out at the Top Gun Raceway cutoff, which is about 14 miles south of downtown Fallon, to see the race pass by,” Folks said.
Following is the race schedule that Folks has just sent me. He noted that the route could deviate slightly during the first day of the race if the Bureau of Land Management, for environmental reasons, denies the race promoters’ request for the route to go through a 37-mile stretch of road that goes through the new Basin and Range National Monument that is located in portions of Lincoln and Nye counties. He hopes the BLM will render its decision today or Monday.
“We have multiple options to replace the route through the Monument, and the race is a 100 percent go even if we have to make a last-minute change,” according to race spokesman Don Hall.
Aug. 18 — Racers check in and have their vehicles inspected in the parking lot of the Aliante Casino Resort in North Las Vegas.
Aug. 19 –The race begins near Alamo off Highway 93. The route goes northwest near Hiko, Railroad Valley, and Warm Springs to Rachel, and continues on to Tonopah where the vehicles and their drivers will spend the night. All of Tonopah’s hotel and motel rooms are fully booked, and many racing personnel, members of the media and race fans will spend the night in private homes, campers and trailers.
Aug. 20 — Leaving Tonopah in the early morning, the racers go west to Coaldale off Highway 95 and then north past Luning and Hawthorne to Frenchman, where it goes northwest until it reaches the Top Gun Raceway turnoff on Highway 95. Then the route proceeds west to Weeks, near Ft. Churchill close to the Carson River. From here, it continues west to Dayton, where the race officially ends. The vehicles and their drivers, race staff, racing fans and the traveling press then leave for Reno, where they spend the night at the Sands Regency Hotel, the race’s Northern Nevada headquarters.
Aug. 21 — There is an 8 a.m. buffet breakfast at the Sands Regency followed by an awards ceremony in the hotel ballroom.
Casey Folks reminded me that safety is the race’s number one priority. There will be 14 pit stops along the route where the vehicles will be inspected, and medical and law enforcement personnel will be stationed at several intervals. The use of drones along the race path will not be permitted because “they are very dangerous to the safety of all concerned,” according to a memo Folks e-mailed me.
The financial and tourism benefits of the race cannot be overestimated. Hotels, motels, restaurants, auto parts stores, grocery stores and RV parks count on the race each year as an important part of their annual incomes. “The race generates multiple millions of dollars in Nevada,” said spokesman Don Hall.
I have covered the race twice, my son, Dave, has covered it about five times, and I include with this column a photo he took during the race several years ago.
Both of us agree that the annual event is just about the most thrilling, exhilarating, breathtaking and over-the-top drama we have ever witnessed. The sight of the speeding vehicles, which sometimes reach 100 miles per hour, hurtling across the Nevada desert in clouds of dust can’t be beat!
David C. Henley is Publisher Emeritus of the LVN and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.