LaRoza and Robison Maintain Tenuous Points Lead in BITD 7300 Class after 3rd Place Vegas 300 Finish Steve LaRoza of Tracy, California and off road racing specialist Austin Robison of Chandler, Arizona head to the last race of the 2006 Best...
LaRoza and Robison Maintain Tenuous Points Lead in BITD 7300 Class after 3rd Place Vegas 300 Finish
Steve LaRoza of Tracy, California and off road racing specialist Austin Robison of Chandler, Arizona head to the last race of the 2006 Best in the Desert season with a slim points lead in the 7300 mini truck stock production class championship points race, after struggling to bring the #7313 Ford / BF Goodrich / LaRoza Construction backed Ford Ranger FX4 home 3rd in this past weekend's Vegas 300 BITD event. Off road racing is certainly a testament to endurance of both machine and driver, and this year's Las Vegas 300 was a particularly good example, as LaRoza and Robison endured a motor with a cylinder down, a broken header and broken transfer case during the shortened 180 mile event.
Robison started the #7313 2nd in the 7300 class, with LaRoza's daughter Allison working as navigator for their stint. Robison immediately noticed that engine power was down upon leaving the ramp for the start of the event. Despite losing ground early on due to the later diagnosed dropped cylinder, Austin used his vast experience in desert racing to avoid potential obstacles and make the most of the vehicle underneath him. Eventually, through some smart driving and with a little help from attrition, the Austin/Allison duo was able to work back around some competitors.
Changes Mid Way
Based on wet weather immediately preceding the race, and with dark skies threatening another deluge, Robison was advised just before the halfway point of the first loop that the decision had been made by the sanctioning body to adopt a Grand Prix style finish. The finish would be based on when the overall leader completed all three laps and at that point the remaining finishers would be classified based on the lap they were on at the time. With this information, and knowing that the speed of the overall leader would be much faster than the lower class trucks, the team determined that only two laps would be completed for the 7300 class race distance.
Earning the Points
Robison turned the white BF Goodrich shod Ford Ranger over to team owner Steve LaRoza and co driver Matt Robertson of Chandler, Arizona at the end of the first loop. LaRoza and Robertson seemed to be holding a steady pace until the vehicle abruptly came to a stop with a broken transfer case. Robertson quickly evaluated the problem, and after selecting two-wheel drive only, the #7313 7300-class championship leader took to the desert race once again. A broken header began to reduce power even more as the race wore on, but just as the team had experienced in the previous event, the Ford Ranger may have been down but it certainly was not out. With a little coaxing, LaRoza brought the hard working truck home and secured some much needed points for the championship race.
Down to the Wire
LaRoza and Robison will head to the "Henderson's Terrible 400" December 1,2 and 3 which marks the final race of the 2006 BITD season. Although LaRoza and Robison will show up to the 400-mile endurance event with the championship lead in the 7300 mini truck stock production class, they must finish the entire race distance to take the trophy home. It will be an all or nothing weekend for the team, and vehicle preparation, driver race pace and pit work will all be at a premium in this down to the wire championship battle.
Steve LaRoza -- LaRoza Racing Team Owner
"We were really looking at the big picture and trying to keep the truck going to the end. We had lost the transfer case a bit into our stint, and although we both wanted to keep a strong pace going, we both realized that finishing the race was the most important thing."
"I ran the truck as well as I could even though we were definitely low on power, and on a three lap strategy at the start of the race. When I found out that our race was only going to be two laps, I started to push a lot harder. The conditions were really rough with differing grip levels everywhere, especially since it had rained so much the day before. It's a shame that the motor had its problems, and it felt like we really only had enough power to run in two wheel drive. But just like we saw at the Vegas to Reno race, our Ranger gutted out the whole distance and gave us some points for the championship. We'll take our points lead to the last race of the season in December and do our best to secure a championship for Ford and LaRoza."
-credit: jms motorsports