LUGO\OLLIGES RACING EARNS 2007 BEST IN THE DESERT TRICK TRUCK CHAMPIONSHIP WITH 1ST PLACE FINISH IN SEASON FINALE AT THE HENDERSON'S TERRIBLE 400
Henderson, Nevada. (December 1, 2007) At a rain soaked Henderson's Terrible 400, the sun shined brightly on Team Ford #36 Trick Truck drivers Wayne Lugo and Steve Olliges, who overcame obstacles on and off the course to win their first race of the year and in doing so captured the highly coveted 2007 Best in the Desert Trick Truck championship. The win was a stark reversal of fortune from October's Las Vegas 300, during which a victory looked certain until a fluke belt failure stole the win from them less than 20 miles from the finish.
Despite a 9 point lead over second place G&R Racing heading into this race, Lugo and Olliges had their sights on a convincing class win to lock up the championship. At the Las Vegas 300 in October, Lugo and Olliges swapped the lead several times with G&R driver Garron Cadiente on the last lap, and after flats slowed Cadiente in the last 50 miles, Lugo was cruising to a first place when, 20 miles from the finish, the motor inexplicably lost a belt. Despite suffering through over 60 minutes of down time with complications related to the fix, Lugo was still able to salvage a 4th place, while Cadiente went on to the win..
Before qualifying on Thursday, Olliges was excited about their chances. "Wayne and I can't wait to get in that truck again, it works so well. We had a fantastic race in Primm with Garron last month, with no mechanical problems or flats through the last checkpoint," said Olliges, who drove the first 120 miles. " We were certain we were going to be in contention for the win going into the race and less than 15 minutes away from our goal, after picking off people all day, it was devastating to lose it because of a quirky failure like a belt. Wayne and I have been around this sport long enough to know that desert has a strange way of causing crazy mood swings, and spitting a belt while only a few minutes out of overall contention certainly is a good example. It teaches you not to pop the champagne until the truck is on the trailer and the math is all done correctly."
Cautiously optimistic about the championship yet hungry for the win, Olliges showed the truck's strength early by posting a career best 3rd fastest Trick Truck qualifying speed during the Time Trials on Thursday. The Team Ford Pole Position Trophy and the $1000 cash went to Sam Berri, who beat out Trick Truck driver Todd Wyllie by just over 3 seconds. On race day, Lugo/Olliges indeed set their pace off of Wyllie who was not in championship contention, and judging by the blistering lap times, was obviously looking for an overall win by dicing with eventual overall winner Chuck Hovey all day. Lugo and Olliges were themselves pushing hard and chasing down Wyllie when an off course excursion late in the race cost them some down time in the pits, relegating Lugo further back in second place just barely in front of the third place G&R entry. However, as a second place finish loomed, bad desert luck instead this time bit the Wyllie team, who were the victims of a broken lower A arm only 2 miles from the finish. Lugo/Olliges finished first in the Trick Truck class, and had the third fastest overall time out of all car and truck competitors, behind Hovey and second fastest, Shawn Croll.
"The #36 Ford F150 has never performed better than it did today and it felt great," said Lugo, whose codriver Bart Walker said it was the best race he has ever seen Lugo drive. "Steve gave me the truck in perfect condition like he has done every race this season, and I was pushing for an overall win, which we believed was achievable today. I worked very hard and made this truck work even harder, and it never let me down. We passed a lot of cars and trucks but had to suffer through a long final pit stop, which cost us for the overall. I tried to get it all back within the next 40 miles and not surprisingly got flats on the last lap. With Bart's help we were back on the course in no time, I was able to gather myself, and we were making some time on Wyllie when he broke. It is a shame for his team, but I know that our team deserves a win, and even more so deserves the championship. It is the most dedicated and hard working team of friends and family I have ever been associated with and everyone on this team is a champion. I am very happy for all of them."
"This is most fulfilling and satisfying championship I have ever been a part of," said Olliges, who now has 7 desert class championships to his credit. "Our Stewart's Raceworks prepared Ford finished every mile of every race this year, and a ton of credit should go to Wayne, who is one of the most underrated drivers in our sport, our team manager Peter Treydte and Tony Deno of Stewart's Raceworks, along with all of the rest of the team. I knew at the beginning of the season at Parker when we finished second to Rob MacCachren that we were going to be very fast, and even more consistent, and would be in the middle of the championship hunt at the end of the year. What I didn't know was that this group of people would, every race, be so totally dedicated and continually give us the best truck that I have ever driven. It just got better and better as the season progressed and today again it was totally flawless. It is an absolute pleasure to drive and I am thankful to Wayne for the opportunity, along with Casey Folks and the Best in the Desert staff. The icing on the cake for me is that Wayne and his family, my codrivers Derek Tenney and Chris Curtis, and the rest of the team and their families are such great people and a pleasure to be around. It is truly a perfect partnership and I can't wait to drive the bright red F150 Trick Truck with a big "#1" next to the Team Ford logo next year. "
Along with the class win and championship, Lugo\Olliges also wrapped up 2nd place in the season long quest for the BITD "King of the Desert" honors, awarded to the driver who completes every mile of the five BITD races of the season in the shortest elapsed time. Wayne and Steve completed all 1867 miles of rugged desert course this year at an average speed of over 50 mph, and were second to only Chuck Hovey , who also won the Grand Champion chase. Hovey had the most championship points of all competitors this year, and Lugo\Olliges had the 5th most