here do short course off-road
racers come from?
Some, naturally, come from desert
racing and still bomb through the wilds of
Nevada, California and Mexico. Many
come from motocross, looking for similar
excitement with four wheels and a nice,
secure steel cage. Still others are born into
it, coming into the sport as second- or
even third-generation racers who start
young and develop their skills in the
Trophy Karts. But most racers in the Lucas
Oil Off Road Racing Series are made, and
they have to get their start somewhere.
That’s where the Lucas Oil Regional Off
Road Series comes in. With three
divisions, based in Arizona, Southern
California and Utah, the Regional Series
conducts its events mostly on the same
tracks at which the professional series
races, such as Glen Helen Raceway and
Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park in
Southern California, Speedworld Off Road
Park and Firebird International Raceway
in the Phoenix area, and Miller
Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah.
But SoCal racers don’t have to travel up
to Utah or Phoenix; likewise, many Arizona
racers can conduct almost their entire
season within an hour’s drive. Less travel,
cheaper entries and a class structure
designed for entry-level racing all equal a
reasonable way to get started in the sport.
“It’s laid back and casual,” says Lee
Perfect, competition director for the Lucas
Oil Regional Off Road Series Southern
California. “That’s really what we’re striving
for, not a lot of drama and pressure.
Come out and learn the tracks and learn
your car. One-day events keep it cheap.”
The other methods of cost
containment are lower entry fees (most
of the Regional classes are about a tenth
of what a Pro 2 entry is at one of the pro
events) and the class structure. While
every class that races in the pro series
has a place to race in the Regional (which
is quite useful for the pros to test or learn
new cars), it’s the Regional-only classes
where the costs are held down.
That happens in two forms. One is by
accommodating almost any desert racing
vehicle that can pass the series’ strict
safety inspection. Everything from Ultra4
racers that compete in combination
desert racing/rock crawling events like
King of the Hammers, to more traditional
desert racers such as the many varieties
of buggies and trucks like the 1450s.
The other is short course-specific classes.
One of the fastest growing is Mini Stock,
where almost any compact pickup can be
modified with roll cage and suspension to
be set up as a short course racer.
“Take a stock Toyota, Ford Ranger,
Nissan…You can change the springs and
shocks, strip them down and add the
safety equipment and go racing for less
than $6,000,” says Perfect. “General Tire
is already sponsoring the class, and
I think it’s going to be a premier class.
We’re talking about a truck that costs less
than a full set of shocks for a desert racer.
Those are the guys that next year maybe
go up a class, or get an older ProLite.”
Andrea Pathiakis is a college student
who grew up in desert racing. She says
while it was a lot of fun, once she started
going to short course races, she realized
she liked the fact that fans get to see all
the action up close. But it was the
affordability that really made it possible.
“Mini Stock allowed me to start racing
in short course,” she explains. “I think
we’ve probably spent under five grand.
With a truck that we got for $1,000, to
be able to put together a race-legal truck
from a stock vehicle for that amount is
awesome. That’s what’s really bringing
It would be easy to assume that
anything based on a well-used stock
compact pickup is bound to be slow and
boring. Naturally, Pathiakis, who dreams
of someday racing in the pro ranks in a
big truck, would disagree.
“When you’re in the truck, you’re
working hard, driving as hard as you can,”
she says. “You’ve got racers on both sides
of you. It’s exciting. I feel like a Pro 2 or
Pro 4 racer when I’m racing my Mini Stock.
When the race is over, I just want more…
I have so much fun in my truck.
“The first time this year that we had
some good door rubbing and bumper
tapping, I kept thinking to myself,
‘That’s exactly what I wanted, close –
but not crazy – contact.’ That’s what
I was preparing for and I was ready for
it. Racing close together like that, hard,
(MAIN) Ultra4 trucks are let loose at Glen Helen.
These desert racers are becoming a growing
presence at Lucas Oil Regional Off Road Racing
Series events. (RIGH T) Andrea Pathiakis in
action. (ABOVE) Fans get to see a lot more
action in short course than out in the desert.
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