It was once again influenced by factors outside of race organizers’ control, but finally, a desert racing series was able to complete an event for the first time since March.
Wildfires forced Best in the Desert to cut the distance of this year’s VT Construction Silver State 300 short, ending the planned 303-mile trek at the sixth pit for the safety of competitors and event workers. It injected some extra drama into an event that already had plenty of it in the premier Trick Truck class, where it took corrected time to resolve the fight between Luke McMillin and Concrete Motorsports’ Harley Letner and Kevin Thompson, with the latter unofficially taking top honors by just over 20 seconds.
The postponement of the Baja 500, SCORE’s planned season opener, from July to August freed up a number of teams to run Silver State for the first time. The biggest entry list in event history saw names like BJ Baldwin, Wayne and Kristen Matlock, Rhys Millen, and Justin Lambert run this year’s event after skipping the 2019 edition, or not even racing in the series at all since last year.
Saturday’s race didn’t just feature a stacked entry list, though. It also saw a first in the media realm, with live helicopter and on-board footage following Bryce Menzies throughout the event. The stunning visuals of a dusty road ahead may not have been much consolation to Menzies, though, as a 15-second penalty for clipping a cone in time trials left him starting in the pack on race day. The #7 team still managed a third place result.
Steve Olliges came home fourth, just two and a half minutes short of a podium place, while Baldwin rounded out the top five. Polesitter Jason Voss ran up front for much of the race, but fell victim to mechanical troubles midway through the event. He would eventually wind up 10th in class, giving up nearly 20 minutes due to a broken axle.
Jake Johnson held off Millen for top honors in Class 1500 buggies by just over nine minutes, while Kyle Jergensen continued his dominance of the Class 6100 spec trucks with a nearly three-minute victory over Travis Williams. Ladd Gilbert and Troy Messer completed the class podiums, respectively. Ricky Brabec, who became the first American to win the Dakar Rally on a motorcycle earlier this year, traded in two wheels for four on Saturday to finish ninth in the 1500 class.
A stacked field of UTV racers in both the Turbo and Production classes couldn’t produce new winners, as Phil Blurton and Seth Quintero successfully defended their respective victories from last year’s race. Blurton held off Dustin Jones and Mint 400 winner Branden Sims for the Turbo victory, his third straight BITD podium this year. Quintero’s key battles in the Production class were with defending SCORE champion and 2020 Parker 250 winner Kaden Wells and Dominick Gaglione, who finished second and third. In UTV Unlimited, only 92 seconds separated the podium of Robert VanBeekum, Randy Raschein, and Michael Isom.
Full unofficial results from the 2020 VT Construction Silver State 300 can be found here.
The 2020 Best in the Desert season resumes on August 12-15 with the Maxxis Tires Casey Folks Vegas to Reno, the longest point-to-point race in the United States. The season continues in Laughlin on September 25-27 with the Jagged X National Desert Cup and wraps up in Parker on October 22-25 with the return of the BlueWater Desert Challenge.