BITD: Terrible's Town: Mongo Racing race report

Mongo Racing opens BITD season with a strong finish. Coming off a confidence building 3rd place at the 2001 Best In The Desert Las Vegas 200 and their fifth consecutive 1st place at the 2002 Whiplash/SNORE Parker 400, the Mongo Racing Team was...

Mongo Racing opens BITD season with a strong finish.

Coming off a confidence building 3rd place at the 2001 Best In The Desert Las Vegas 200 and their fifth consecutive 1st place at the 2002 Whiplash/SNORE Parker 400, the Mongo Racing Team was setting their goals for the 2002 Best In The Desert Racing Association season.

On a sunny Arizona morning, Thursday April 4, 2002, Mongo Racing loaded up and headed out to Pahrump, Nevada. The trek would take the Mongo caravan northwest across the desert through several towns and cities in California and Nevada, taking just over four and half-hours to complete the road trip.

After arriving in Pahrump, the team checked into the Saddle West Hotel*Casino*RV Park and race weekend had began. Strategy was talked about at dinner, stories were told and friendships were made. That night Owner/Driver Randy Merritt told the crew, "We place well, we are going for the season points championship."

Friday morning was clear and warming up fast. With the race nearing, Randy and Co/Driver Steve Solaiza ordered up a high cloudy overcast for race day. Contingency was bustling with racers and fans alike, with everyone checking out the various vendor products and race vehicles with an eagerness that only comes with a BITD season opener. Mongo Racing pushed through the crowds of people and completed the technical inspection required to race in the Full-Stock Class at BITD. The crew heard several comments like "I like the old truck" and answered many questions as to the sponsors and specifications on the truck. During the trip through contingency Steve Solaiza said "I really do like talking to people about this truck, because we have put an incredible amount of time and money into it and right now I just want to show it off to everyone." After the Friday night Driver's meeting the crew met up at the Saddle West for the pre-race pit meeting to discuss the race strategy.

With the sun rising from the east on an early Saturday morning, Mongo Racing was excited that race day had finally arrived and was anxious to begin. Crew Chief Jerry McGuire had made the decisions the night before about pitting, but he had his hands full with Randy and Steve wanting to get in the truck and go. The crew went over the last minute checks and deemed the truck ready for the task at hand. The weather was turning out to be what Randy wanted, with ominous clouds lurking to the west and a breeze that pushed the dust off the track. At 11:08 a.m. Randy Merritt and Steve Solaiza took the green light to begin the Best In The Desert's Terrible's Town 250. With 257 miles of grueling rocky, sandy, silty terrain ahead of them, they set out to run with the leaders and be there to challenge at the end.

After the first 60 miles, Mongo Racing was securely in second place and challenging for first. The Team Hummer truck was running a hard pace, but the Mongo built Ford was matching it right there throughout the race. Jerry and the pit crew turned out a really good pit stop at 4 and at pit 5 Randy and Steve passed Team Hummer. By pit 6 Team Hummer had caught up to Mongo Racing. Randy and Steve had to stop for their last fuel stop when team Hummer took back the lead. With 50 miles left in the race Randy started his charge. The Mongo race truck had been great all day and then with less than 30 miles to the finish the carburetor stem sheared into three pieces with one falling into the carburetor, causing the truck to run at either idle or full throttle. Steve found and removed the broken stem and replaced it. After the short stop Randy and Steve were back on their way, but just a few miles later Randy had his first flat tire in three Best In The Desert races on GoodYear Tires. Back in the truck and on the gas, Randy and Steve were now down over 40 minutes, but still in second place. Mongo Racing and Team Hummer had such a great battle for most of the race that their lead was over an hour beyond the rest of the class.

At the finish line Randy and Steve were greeted by an ecstatic Mongo crew, family and friends for their finest finish in the Best In The Desert Racing Association to date. On the Podium, Randy thanked the Saddle West Hotel and Casino for their sponsorship and hospitality and said the truck ran great, the Sway-A-Way shocks worked all day and GoodYear Tires gripped well in the silt.

"If not for the carburetor stem we were right there this time," Randy added.

After the race Steve said, "The Autometer gauges were a big improvement in the cab of the race truck and the crew did a great job getting us in and out of pits very quickly. Today we got good fuel mileage and want to thank Parker Oil and 76 racing fuels for their support."

In all, it was another great day and hopefully, the start of an outstanding season for Mongo Racing.

Visit Mongo Racing on their web site www.mongoracing.com today get the scoop on this up and coming off road team.

-mr-

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