Photos by Drew Ruiz, Adam Booth, John Lamb and Brad Houshour
They don’t call it “Sin City” for nothing; Las Vegas can suck your wallet dry and leave you in a disheveled, dehydrated, morally relaxed heap if you’re not careful. Fortunately, we dirt bike riders view the city in a different light than your average card counter. Rather than letting it all hang out at the poker table or throwing down a risky gamble, we prefer to let it all hang out on the track and place our bets on our luck while racing. Vegas actually plays host to a surprising number of two-wheeled events each year, and it just so happened that four such races took place on the very same weekend earlier this summer. In order to take full advantage of this action-packed weekend, we let each staffer choose a race to explore and then placed our bets on who would find the biggest Vegas adventure. These are our stories.
Marriage, endurocross & A Broken Nose
Vegas is as strange as it is normal, if that makes any sense. The location of the opening round of EnduroCross for 2012 was once again the Orleans Arena, which I’ve been to dozens of times over the past six years, racing and covering both EX and MiniMoto SX. I’ve lost more than I’ve won and I’ve been broken off way too many times, but I love it. This year’s EnduroCross had a different feel for me; I was distracted from racing and I knew it. The night before the event I was married to my lovely longtime girlfriend, who was escorted down the aisle by our two-year-old son. This kid is constantly bouncing off the rev-limiter, and the wedding was no exception. He yelled “dirt bikes!” the entire ceremony! A few close friends made it out, as did the entire Dirt Rider crew. It was a great way to kick off a chaos-filled Vegas weekend.
Race day is usually filled with butterflies and anxiousness, but mine was filled with laziness. I was dragging from the wedding night, and the early morning practice sessions were not high on the priority list. As I’ve learned through impacts with rocks, logs and the dirt, EnduroCross requires your full attention, and I wasn’t giving it until my handlebar tried to cut me in half. Without full commitment I didn’t quite clear the last two logs in a section, sticking the shock linkage and sending my face into the front fender. I spent the rest of the practice session watching twinkling stars as I crept around the track. I made it out of practice alive but dreading the matrix log section. Never mind the brutal rock garden coming down the over/under section, I had already fallen on that three times! In my Vet qualifier they took the top three to the main, and I spent time in second, third, fourth and fifth before finally whiskey throttling my way into third just 10 feet before the finish. I was a disaster!
With work, wedding and riding on the brain I was struggling just to get myself geared up at 9:30 p.m. for the Vet main, but a quick kick in the butt from my crew at DR had me staring down the start straight and ready to go for it. The gate dropped and all I can say is I entertained the crowd. I heard the “ooooohs” and “aaaaahs” above the other bikes and through my helmet. I crashed off the top of the over/under and then a lap later sent my bike flying on a rookie loop-out maneuver. I ended the night safe and unhurt and had enough time to run up into the stands to sit with my newlywed wife and boy. He screamed and cheered the entire pro main event.
The beauty of Las Vegas is you never know if Lady Luck is on your side, and the same can be said of EnduroCross. The undefeated Taddy Blazusiak was dealt some bad luck in the pro main and went down while eventual winner Colton Haaker had nothing but good luck (mixed with his great skill, of course). Racers and fans love EnduroCross because nothing is a given; I’ve had great luck racing EnduroCross and I’ve also completely imploded. It’s a constant challenge personally and against the other riders, and that’s what keeps me picking up my bike and coming back every year!
To end a crazy weekend I decided to race the MiniMoto SX event at the Orleans on Sunday. The track crew tore down the EX course and built an awesome mini track all in one night! I probably should have quit while I was ahead, though, as I walked away with a wedding ring, a finish in the EX Vet main and a severely broken nose thanks to a crash through the whoops on my mini. Some days you’re the dog, and some days you’re the hydrant. That’s Vegas for ya! —Adam Booth
Sleep When You’re Dead
Every good Vegas story usually involves an all-nighter, and this tale is no exception. After rocking out at Boothy’s wedding on Thursday and racing EnduroCross on Friday, my brother Scotty and I set off into the moonlight at 2 a.m. on Saturday bound for the legendary Silver State 300 desert race. Put on by the iconic Best In The Desert Racing Association, the Silver State punishes both bike and truck racers with 300 miles of wide-open roads, tight sand washes, deep silt beds and tricky elevation changes. If you ask me, that stuff beats a Saturday morning by the pool any day!
Luckily, I wouldn’t be racing it alone; fellow journalist and speedy off-roader Ryan Dudek offered to join me, and Navy SEAL Desert Off-Road Race Team captain and desert racer Andy Wilkins rounded out our three-man team. Not only did Andy bring a ton of organization and desert racing experience to the table, but he also offered up his Chris Haines–prepped CRF450X race bike for us to ride, as well as a crew of dedicated, highly trained “operators” to help get us through the event. What could possibly go wrong?
Dudek blazed off of the start at first light and quickly pulled into fourth overall. As soon as our #312 Honda was out of sight, our convoy broke off into different directions so as to be at our designated pits at the proper times. All was going smoothly until Johnny Law decided that Scotty’s van needed to be pulled over. Fact: You should never tell a highway patrol officer that you’re in the middle of a race and you’d appreciate it if he would keep it quick. In the time it took him to write us one ticket, I could’ve chiseled a ticket into a stone slab and still had enough time to whip up a dozen donuts from scratch. When we finally came skidding into pit number three, it was all I could do to jump out of the truck, water a tree and put on my goggles before Ryan came in and handed off the bike.
Probably the biggest difference with desert compared to anything else I’ve raced was the sheer speed—you can forget about the 25-mph enduro speed average out here, I was wide open! My section was a well-marked mix of two-track washes and fast road sections, with the occasional rock segment sprinkled in for taste. Honestly, the BITD crew really impressed me with the safe, fun track they laid out. It seemed that whenever I would start to get even slightly bored, a new terrain type would pop up and I’d be grinning again.
Then I got passed—by a quad… Well, three quads, actually. We were on a fast, slick dirt road, and my flat tracking was no match for their four-wheeled fury. For a moment, I was impressed enough to take back every bad thing I’d ever said about ATV riders…and then I hit their dust and starting cursing them again. Feeling slightly deflated yet still having a blast, I stopped briefly for the quickest gas stop I’ve ever experienced (dump cans rule!) before hammering through more dust, getting passed by two bikes and handing off our machine to Andy.
Being the brutally competitive individual that he is, Andy took off like an animal in pursuit of the dudes ahead. The one rider in our class who’d gotten me earlier had blown up his bike, leaving us first in the Open Expert class and fifth out of the bikes when Andy crossed the finish line. Looking slightly dazed, our team captain confided in me that he had “clipped” a cow and spent five minutes in a ditch getting untangled and pointed in the right direction. I agreed to keep the bovine bowling incident quiet in exchange for his silence regarding the quads. Vegas may be a city built on betting, but that doesn’t mean you can’t strike a deal or two while you’re there! —Chris Denison
Whether you watch it from the comfort of your living room with a bowl of nachos or in the stands among a wild group of beer-guzzling, churro-chomping, opinionated fans, supercross is an amazing sport. But the fans are the true icons of our sport—the guys and gals who pay retail for everything—and that in turn funds the racers and their teams. Who wouldn’t spend some hard-earned cash to watch some of the most competitive athletes in the world rip around a supercross track in Las Vegas that’s within stumbling distance of the strip?!
Well, the truth is the exact fan described above is a very special breed. I went undercover on this project to find out what exactly drives them to such extreme levels of enthusiasm, and I found a few interesting things. It turns out that plenty of shenanigans go down in the pits leading up to the eventful night of racing. While cruising before the race I talked to many fans about favorite riders, their thoughts of the 450 class and mainly who they wanted to win the East/West Supercross Lites shootout. With the supercross class championship already decided and the amount of talent coming from both the East and West Coast divisions of Lites riders, the bets were on and everyone was babbling about who was going to come out victorious in Sin City. —Chris Green
My First Race
From EnduroCross to supercross to the MiniMoto SX, my work never stopped during our weekend in Vegas. Being the busy web producer that I am, racing may have never been in the cards until Chris Denison and Adam Booth dealt that joker to me in a staff meeting and informed me I’d be racing MiniMoto. I spoke with Michael at SSR Motorsports, who set me up with an SX160R ripper to race for the weekend. Let it be known, this would be the first time I had ever lined up at the starting gate! Every year I’ve been at MiniMoto, the women’s class consisted mostly of WMA pro riders, which meant I had a lot of work to do with only a few weeks to go until the gate drop.
Saturday came fast, and so did the track conversion from EnduroCross to MiniMoto SX. I thought I would be golden in the whoops section, but I would soon learn that they would kick my butt. We started practice from the gate, the guy pointed at me and I took off feeling the torquey power of the bike and riding like a complete goon. I tried to see what I was comfortable on…nothing, apparently! I was feeling a little overwhelmed by the pitbike, but I love whoops and a few laps in I decided to go for it. It all went well until I reached the last three deep ones and gave it gas for an upcoming jump. Then…BAM! I was flying through the air towards the bleachers. Halfway through being airborne, I decided to let go, thinking, “I’m going to sleep.” The bike hit the orange barricade and split it open, allowing space between the hard plastic barrier and the not-so-soft concrete, which I then landed on. I was still conscious but hurt my hip pretty badly. Thankfully the medics and track crew helped my unbroken, bruised body up and pushed my bike back while I limped to the rig slightly embarrassed.
I won’t lie; that crash put fear in my head. After having the medics tell me to sit there, take a moment and not move I just didn’t want to race anymore. I had to switch to something slower if I was going to do the night show on Sunday; I was not enough rider for that wickedly fast SSR. Boothy offered his personal machine for me to race instead, and the next sessions and my heat race went much more smoothly. Just before my heat race, Adam had an incident with almost the same barricade I did. He was holding second in the Vet class with a herd of minibike racers behind him in the whoop section. And then he was nowhere in sight and the yellow flags came out. We ran over there to see him and he looked like a bloodied MMA fighter…wild!
Then it was show time for me. Our crew of Dirt Riders were sprinkled throughout the track, and the stands were full of family, friends and MiniMoto SX fans. With my hip being hurt, I couldn’t kickstart the bike, but when the adrenaline was pumping I was able to start it when I stalled coming out of the tunnel. I had decided before the race that I was just going to go in cruise mode, have fun and finish the race, which I did in eighth place and still beat one girl somehow. The whole experience of having gear with my name and number on it, fans cheering me on, meeting other racers, having the most awesome pit crew ever and racing in an arena in Vegas was surreal. It was an awesome first experience with racing, and you can bet that I’ll be back next year! —Lindsey Lovell
The Online Planning Guide To Our Wicked Weekend In Vegas: