I had no idea that races were held in the desert or that people and strange looking vehicles gather to participate or to watch as spectators. These are not demo derby crash cars, but fine tuned, monster machines with big tires. They had sponsors and obviously generous funding resources.
We had the opportunity to go to Parker, Arizona to view the vehicles prior to the Saturday race. We were amazed at the beautiful vehicles and massive engines. All had extra sets of tires hooked somewhere in the vehicle. Parker is the start and finish of the 425 mile race. Racers drive a designated route making three laps to add up to the 425 miles.
It was a festive event in Parker with streets being closed for vehicles on display, food tents, bands and clothing vendors everywhere. The excitement grew visiting with the drivers and the owners of the racing vehicles, each hoping to get the plaque trophy. I was wishing them all the best of race. I had no favorites only because I knew so little about the race or the seriousness of the desert terrain. It is far more complicated than I could have imagined.
Spectator areas are marked at certain areas in the desert where the racers whiz by on a curve or over a hill. We brought our lawn chairs but Donna and I stayed inside our trucks to protect us against the dust that got stirred up by the fast paced race.
The race started early on Saturday with the smaller wheelers, then the larger racers began after lunch. These big boys were 800 hp! The guys in our group headed out early to catch the starts, while Donna and I came a couple of hours later.
The racers roared their engines, kicked up the dust and sped across the desert flat lands, around curves and over hills with dips and ruts. It is a timed race but the cars still whizzed by trying to find a way to pass one another. One team had a tire lose pressure (also known as a blow-out) right in front of us on our turn of the raceway. They were quick to hop out, grab the jack and get the tire off, knock out the broken lug and then put a fresh tire back on. I guess that they were their own pit crew. I didn’t catch all of the rules but I overheard someone say that had they accepted assistance with the repair that they would have been required to drop out of the race. These young drivers did a good job of being safe while changing the tire, limping back onto the track and staying in the race.
There was a lot of action that no one could actually see from the sidelines, but the helicopters kept spectators informed via radio broadcasts. There was an engine fire that was under control before the fire department reached them and several other mishaps. At one flat spot in the wide open desert, there were seven vehicles flying side by side one another. I think that was a tad against the rules, but no referee was giving out yellow cards in that remote area. I did use the term flying. These vehicles would actually go airborne coming over the hill and downward toward the ruts and into the curves. I don’t think that anyone was seriously hurt during the race, but I can only assume that some vehicles would be in need of some repairs after such a grueling ordeal.
We spent the afternoon watching the excitement but did not get to see the finish as it ran late into the night. Sunshine Spectators like us left mid-afternoon and others arrived late in the day loaded with firewood and coolers for the late night finish. It was still a hoot!