LaRoza and Robison Maintain Points Lead in BITD Class 7300 With 4th Place Finish in Vegas to Reno Event
LaRoza Racing team owner Steve LaRoza of Tracy, California, and off road racing veteran Austin Robison of Chandler, Arizona endured engine problems and a broken driveshaft to race to a 4th place finish in this last weekend's TSCO Vegas to Reno Best in the Desert off road racing series event. The team's hard fought and well earned finish ensures that they continue to maintain the point lead in the 7300 stock production mini truck class with only two races left in the 2006 BITD season.
Team Owner Double DutyJJThe team's finish was even more impressive considering that LaRoza started the day racing a bike and switched to the team's #7313 Ford / BF Goodrich / LaRoza Construction backed Ford Ranger FX4 for the final driving stint of the race. While Steve drove a long stint on the bike, and ended up clinching 1st in the BITD championship on that machine, he left Robison to complete some 450 miles of the 584 mile event, choosing to drive the final stint of the race and bringing the white ranger to the checkered flag.
LaRoza's #7313 entry was slotted to start first in class, and Robison was at the controls with navigator Matt Robertson of Chandler, Arizona in the right seat. Robison started with a strong pace and passed several vehicles during the start of his stint. With Robertson keeping close track of temperatures and potential hazards, Austin was able to open up over a two-minute time gap on the 7300-class field.JJHard Knocks
Roughly fifty miles into the event, on a hard packed dirt road, Robison had closed on traffic, and was preparing to pass under poor visibility when the LaRoza Ford Ranger clipped a large boulder that had been knocked onto the road by another vehicle. The contact caused sufficient damage to the driveshaft that Robison and Roberston were forced to stop outside a pit and make the change. Much of the credit of the team's strong finish goes to the duo, as they took only 20 minutes to make the swap and get back underway.
Following the stop, Robison was determined to make up time, and again he was able to pass several trucks as he worked to keep the LaRoza Ranger in the hunt. With a strong truck underneath him, Austin was blindingly quick in some of the faster sections of the circuit that included some hard packed mountain roads with technical and sometimes daunting corners.
What was later determined to be a burned piston due to a potential problem with a fuel injector, began to plague the #7313 stock production entry from roughly the 200-mile marker on. The 7313 Ranger had made up enough ground on the Stock Production Mini Truck class that Austin had the leader of the class in sight when the engine problems began to arise. As Robison and Robertson felt the performance of the engine begin to decrease and as water temperatures began to increase, they decided to pit at mile 204 to assess the problem and figure a potential fix. With only limited information and time available, the team could only try one fix at a time, and therefore Robison elected to pit at the next three stops to further work on the vehicle.
Ultimately, the power problem would stay with the truck until the end of the race. LaRoza and navigator Tresco Botard nursed the vehicle home during their stint, aware that making the finish was critical to the championship points race. Despite running on only five cylinders for almost 400 miles, in the hands of both driving crews, the LaRoza Construction Ford Ranger hung tough to complete the entire race distance and earned a hard fought 4th place finish.
Austin Robison Quote
"Sure, we had a couple problems along the way in this race, but I have to say that this LaRoza Construction Ford Ranger really got the job done. We were strong right from the green, and I think we were able to really open up a bit of a lead there in the first 50 miles. It's a bit upsetting that we ended up hitting a boulder like that, and really its not something that I typically do in these events, but its part of the sport to be sure, and I'm glad that we were able to get the driveshaft changed out super quick. My hat is off to Steve (LaRoza). What he did today in racing both the bike and the truck was a huge challenge, and he came through in both vehicles. Luckily, we still hold the points lead in 7300 and we'll take that cushion to the next two events. I think its probably going to be a fight all the way down to the wire for the championship."
Coming Up Next
Robison and LaRoza will finish off the 2006 season with BITD as they prepare for the Las Vegas 300 October 13-15 and then the Henderson's Terrible 400 December 1-3. For more information on the results of the Vegas to Reno race and any of the upcoming events log onto www.bitd.com. Austin will be making his new website available in the next couple of months, so stay tuned.
-credit: JMS Motorsports