One of the premier desert racing events in North America goes green on Friday, as the sport’s biggest names take on Vegas to Reno, the crown jewel event of the 2021 Best in the Desert schedule. With a robust entry list that includes dozens of Trick Trucks and hundreds of UTVs across the Pro classes, not to mention the usual assortment of motorcycles, quadss, and additional four-wheel vehicles, winning this year’s event will be a feather in the cap of whichever driver is lucky enough to bring the victory home.
This year’s Vegas to Reno course is the longest single-day point-to-point race in the United States. The original plan to run the course in reverse may have been scrapped months earlier, and a last-minute course change due to flooding has shortened the layout by four miles between Pits 7 and 8, but drivers and teams will still have nearly 500 miles of grueling racing to deal with as they charge through the state of Nevada.
Bryce Menzies and BJ Baldwin topped Wednesday’s time trial charts in the premier Trick Truck class, but it was rallying and rallycross superstar Ken Block who surprised with the third-fastest time in class while qualifying on Jax Redline’s behalf. Block and Alex Gelsomino, his rallying co-driver, will start and run the majority of the race. Tim Herbst and Eric Hustead completed the Trick Truck top five, while CJ Hutchins was the top 1500 qualifier. The biggest surprise was a crash for the Concrete Motorsports team, which had been dominant up to this point in the season; as a result, Kevin Thompson and Harley Letner will need to resume their defense of the number 1 plate from back on the grid.
Elsewhere, Vegas to Reno posted one of the largest qualifying sessions in desert racing history, with most of the fastest classes able to post times. Conner McMullen surprised by putting a 6200 buggy ahead of all of the 6100 trucks, led by Christopher Polvoorde, in their session. Dalton Shirey beat former Dakar Rally winner Ricky Brabec on the motorcycle time sheets, while Wheeler Morgan will start first in Class 1000 and UTV Turbo points leader Phil Blurton will look to add yet another Vegas to Reno victory from the top spot.
For those running the full BITD season, it’ll be crucial to bring home some big points in the close championship battles. Blurton only has a nine-point advantage on Mitch Guthrie Jr. in the UTV Turbo duel, while Thompson’s lead over Kyle Jergensen in Trick Truck is a tenuous 15 made even more uneasy after qualifying. But it’s hard to imagine anything tighter than the 6100 championship battle, where Ray Griffith leads Justin Blower by just two points and Dustin Grabowski by four.
To follow along with the 2021 Best in the Desert Vegas to Reno and watch the broadcast of Wednesday’s time trials, click here. After this event, the series heads to Laughlin, with the UTV Legends Championship for UTVs, motorcycles, and quads on September 9-12 and the Laughlin Desert Classic for cars and trucks on September 23-26.
Images via Ernesto Araiza (1); Harlen Foley (2)