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Best in the Desert King Shocks Laughlin Desert Classic: Race Preview

The 2022 Best in the Desert season approaches its conclusion this weekend with a return to Laughlin, Nevada for the King Shocks Laughlin Desert Classic. The final event of the year where all of BITD’s car, truck, UTV, motorcycle, and quad classes will all run together, Laughlin will see the series’ car and truck divisions wrap up their seasons, with Trick Truck, Unlimited Car, Class 6100, and more all crowning their champions at the finish.

Unlike most other events on the BITD calendar, Laughlin features two days of racing on Saturday and Sunday, with a handful of classes competing at a time on the 17-mile loop. Racing starts at 7AM each day with five laps for the motorcycles, quads, and 3-wheelers, but most other classes running throughout the day will do four. The premier Trick Truck and Unlimited Cars will start the seventh and final race of the day at 4PM each day. The fastest cumulative times across both days will determine the race winners.

But there’s more to the Laughlin Desert Classic than just those two race days. Thursday’s full slate of action includes not only qualifying for six of the fastest classes, but also the Laughlin Leap, which will feature three divisions—Car/Truck and UTV for race-registered entries, and “Run What You Brung” for other vehicles. A total of $10,000 is on the line across the three divisions, with $1,500 apiece for the furthest UTV and Run What You Brung jumpers, and $2,000 for the biggest Car/Truck jumper. Friday’s tech and contingency day, meanwhile, will feature a full slate of Youth UTV races.

In the Unlimited Truck division, consistent performances by BJ Baldwin—including two race wins—have him 17 points up on Nic Whetstone and 21 ahead of Sterling Miller for the class title, and he enters the event having finished first on Sunday and third overall last year. In the 6100 class, it’s Conner McMullen on top by 21 points on Jerry Herling and 22 on Bryan Scheible; he raced a 6200 vehicle in Laughlin last year, but won that class and his group overall in doing so. If Baldwin and McMullen post the same kind of runs as they’ve been having all year, each is likely to walk out of Laughlin as a BITD champion.

On the UTV front, with an additional race still to run, trailing drivers in the standings have a little more opportunity to close the gap. Nonetheless, Vito Ranuio’s consistency still has him 27 points clear of Dustin Jones and 29 ahead of Jason Murray in the Turbo Pro class, while Dan Fisher has 14 in hand on Trevor Leighton and 19 on Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in Trophy Unlimited. The closest fight remains between Max Eddy and Josh Row in N/A Pro, as the two are separated by just four points after closely matching each other’s performance all season long.

In total, 188 entries are set to compete in Laughlin, including 14 Trick Trucks, 17 Class 6100s, and 17 or more entries in the three premier UTV classes. The UTV Trophy Unlimited class may boast one of the toughest lineups of all, as Ryan Piplic and Brayden Baker, winners of last year’s UTV Legends Championship in the Turbo and RS1 classes, and last week’s California 300 class winner Chris Blais are among those joining the title contenders on the grid.

Following the King Shocks Laughlin Desert Classic, UTV, motorcycle, and quad racers will wrap up their 2022 Best in the Desert season with November’s World Hare & Hound Championship in Tonopah. The 2023 campaign kicks off on January 4-9 in Parker, Arizona, with the Parker 250 for powersports classes and 425 for cars and trucks now running on the same week.

Chris Leone

A veteran of the motorsports industry (both physical and digital), Chris Leone contributes coverage of race events of all types to Off-Road Racer. Elsewhere, he is the marketing/communications manager at iRacing, media director of Jim Beaver's Down & Dirty Show, and a frequent contributor to UTV Underground.