This weekend I headed out to Nevada for the Best In The Desert Silver State 300. Arguably one of the most enjoyable races on the BITD calendar, the Silver State course winds its way through the scenic mountain roads and twisty sand washes of northern Nevada. There aren't many whoops to speak of, a few rockier sections, but for the most part the terrain is comprised of high-speed, graded, twisty roads, something everyone enjoys.
With this weekend being one of the busiest of the west coast calendar (there was the Silver State 300, the National Hare & Hound, Endurocross, the Primm Big 6 - and Supercross if you’re into that kind of thing...) I was going to be riding the race solo. My teammate Ricky Brabec has been excelling at the Hare & Hounds and has a shot at the championship, but since he is the rider of record, his absence means only one rider can fill in for him.
I felt this was a great opportunity to see how much I’ve progressed toward the form I want on the bike. It was also a good chance to test my body and see how it would hold up. Even though there isn’t too much in the way of rough terrain, nearly six hours on a motorcycle still offers its own set of physical challenges (bathroom anyone?).
Anyone that’s raced in Nevada can attest that dust is a factor, making the start draw a pretty big point of interest. I drew third start pick, behind the N45 Honda team of Carl Maasberg and Jordan Kundert and the N66 Kawasaki of David Pearson and Matt Gosnell. The Beta entry would start behind me and faced the same situation I did; with Nick Burson racing the National, Tallon Taylor would solo the race for them.
As is customary for Best In The Desert events, the race started bright and early, this time at 5:30 a.m. With the sun just beginning to illuminate the landscape, still hiding behind the mountains, the first bike took off the line, followed a minute later by David. I waited another 60 seconds on the line, watching the dust lazily drift through the still morning air, until the starting lights turned green and released me onto the course.
The dust was predictably thick in the first miles of the race, reluctant to drift off of the route ahead of me, but I was able to maintain a pretty good pace and stay close to the two bikes leading the way. Through Pit 3 I had a very smooth ride, the only real action coming in the form of a cow trotting across the road in front of me, but I had plenty of time to slow my speed and allow the cow to pass.
A couple miles after Pit 3 (a little more than 100 miles into the event) there was a paved road crossing with a mandatory stop just before. I was surprised to see the back of Matt Gosnell crossing the highway just before I came to the stop; this meant I had reeled the Kawasaki in quite a bit, usually a difficult task in the morning. From there I stayed close to the dust of the Kawasaki and could see the billowing trail of the Honda further up the course, but I couldn’t ever get close enough to see the rider ahead of me, let alone think about a pass.
As the course left Pit 5 (about 172 miles into the race) I found myself slipping into a mental lull; the course had been pretty high-speed and straight so I hadn’t had to focus very hard on line selection or obstacles. Not too much later the route turned up a twisty mountain pass and I told myself to buckle down and push hard with the hope of getting close enough to the bike ahead to make a pass in the pits.
I lifted my pace as the racecourse dropped off the back of the mountain and could see that I had closed on the bikes ahead. I came to the mandatory stop just before Pit 6 (race mile 212) and saw the Honda just pulling into his pit crew. David had made his way by at Pit 5 when the Honda had a bit of a lengthy stop. I actually overtook Maasberg in the pit, but as I stopped for gas he was able to ride back by and take second-place physically once again.
This was unfortunate for me for a couple reasons: the first one was that David and Matt now had clear air to set their own pace out front; the second reason, which I was soon to discover, was that there were a few sections of silt ahead of us and the wind was blowing straight down the course.
Leaving Pit 6 there were a few miles of sand wash, where the dust wasn’t quite as thick, and I tried my best to push the pace and catch Maasberg, but to his credit he was flying through the sand and held his gap over me (even catching back up to within 15 seconds of the lead bike). Unable to make up the ground I needed in the sand wash, the course then turned onto a few sections of silt and with the wind blowing the dust of two bikes straight at me, I didn’t have much of a choice beside backing down my pace in the decreased visibility.
As we reached the final pit (Pit 7; 264 miles into the race) I was about a minute and 20 seconds behind the lead Kawasaki of David and Matt and around 50 seconds behind the Honda of Kundert and Maasberg. This meant that after adjusting for the start intervals I was close to 20 seconds behind the Kawasaki with the Honda a little more than a minute behind me in third. Here things got interesting.
About 25 miles from the finish there was a two-mile long shared section of racecourse and the big trucks were just starting their race. There were a few officials at the merge, giving the right-of-way to the trucks, and as I came up to where the courses met the officials brought me to a halt. I sat there for two minutes waiting for a clear section of course before I was finally sent on my way- I was actually a little panic-stricken as I wondered how this would affect my finish time, but the officials assured me that I would be credited for the time I had been held after the race was finished.
The final few miles were fast and I pushed hard through them, as there was still a chance of victory. I crossed the line two minutes and 43 seconds behind David on the N66 Kawasaki and about three minutes behind the N45 Honda of Maasberg; now it was just a bit of math to figure out the adjusted finishing order. After accounting for the start time intervals and the amount of time each of us were held at the course merge, I ended up finishing second-place behind David and Matt by a mere 13 seconds (the Honda was about two minutes back in third). After 300 miles, I was so close!
After realizing how close I was to the win I’m definitely a little bummed I wasn’t able to find thirteen seconds out on the course somewhere, but I’m also very happy with how I rode and how well my body held up. This was a great race for me and I had a whole lot of fun along the way as well. I’d like to thank my team: THR Motorsports, Monster Energy, Precision Concepts, Kawasaki for the support and each of my personal sponsors as well: MSR, Shoei, Sidi, Spy, Focus Apparel, USWE, EVS, Alamo Alarm, FMF, BRP, Ryan Abbatoye Designs, Northland Motorsports, Jan’s Towing, and ATP Mechanix. I also want to congratulate David and Matt on their well-deserved win, and Carl and Justin as well as they put in a heck of an effort and rode really well all day as well.
Lastly I want to thank Casey Folks for continuing to be so passionate about not only off-road racing, but about the bikes and quads that race as well. Like every Best In The Desert course I’ve ridden, this one was very enjoyable and well marked, especially at any dangers. Thanks to the entire Best In The Desert crew for doing all that they do to host these events; as a racer and off road enthusiast, I’m very appreciative of how much work they put in to it.
Thank you to each of the team sponsors: Hoosier Precision Machining, Dunlop
, GPR stabilizer, Hinson, VP Race Fuels IMS, BRP, Kalgard lubricants, LA Piston Co., A’ME grips, Braking, RK/Excel, ARC levers, DT1 filters, Acerbis, Zip-Ty, Ryan Abbatoye Designs, Seal Savers, Baja Designs, Northland Motorsports, CryoHeat