Laughlin Desert: Event preview

With Three New SCORE Trophy-Trucks, Duralast SCORE Desert Series opens Saturday with 8th SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge LAUGHLIN, Nev.--Talented Southern California racers Damen Jefferies, Darren Skilton and Scott Steinberger will make major ...

With Three New SCORE Trophy-Trucks, Duralast SCORE Desert Series opens Saturday with 8th SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge

LAUGHLIN, Nev.--Talented Southern California racers Damen Jefferies, Darren Skilton and Scott Steinberger will make major career moves this weekend when they each debut their new high-tech trucks in the featured SCORE Trophy-Truck division at the 8th Annual SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge. All former SCORE class champions, the trio will help open the six-race 2002 Duralast SCORE Desert Series.

Being held 90 miles south of Las Vegas, the first major motorsports race of the year will again be the opening round of America's foremost desert racing series. Racers from 11 U.S. States, Mexico and Japan will launch the new racing season during the unique, four-day SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge, which features the $25,000 Laughlin Leap and Pit Crew Showdown. A total of 17 different classes, including the featured SCORE Trophy-Truck and unlimited Class 1 divisions, will compete in the race.

Getting a major head start on the new year in motorsports, thousands of desert racing fans will join nearly 125 racers at the increasingly popular event, held along the banks of the Colorado river adjacent to the growing Southern Nevada resort destination of Laughlin.

Jefferies, 29 of Oak Hills, and Steinberger, 34 of Cypress, will both drive Ford F-150 SCORE Trophy-Trucks while Skilton, 34 of Lakewood, will pilot his new prototype Kia sport utility vehicle. The sport's marquee division features unlimited production trucks with up to 750 horsepower and which can reach speeds of nearly 150 miles per hour over the rugged desert terrain.

Unique in format in all of desert racing, the SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge kicks off Thursday, with the $25,000 Laughlin Leap and Pit Crew Showdown.

The race itself is split into two days of action (Saturday and Sunday) with the 17 classes for desert race cars and exotic race trucks divided into seven groups for seven separate races each day. From sunrise to sunset, SCORE desert racers will heat up the abbreviated 13-mile loop desert course in multiple-lap races with time limits of 75 or 85 minutes each. The event finishing order, by class, will be based on the combined two-day elapsed time of each racer.

Jefferies, who splits driving time with his younger brother Casey, has won three SCORE class championships in three different classes and one overall SCORE point crown. Moving up to his No. 10 Ford F-150 for this season, He won the Class 9 season title in 1994, the overall and Class 1-2/1600 crowns in 1997 and Class 10 in 1998 prior to racing in Class 1 the last three years.

Skilton, won four consecutive Class 3 titles (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000) in a Kia Sportage before spending last year building the new No. 9 Kia SCORE Trophy-Truck and racing a limited Class 3 schedule.

Racing in Laughlin in both the SCORE Trophy-Truck and the Protruck division, Steinberger, won last year's Protruck season title and will be in the No. 7 Ford F-150 SCORE Trophy-Truck in addition being among 15 Protrucks entered so far for this weekend.

This weekend's starting grid will be filled with even more top SCORE racers, including the four drivers who have each won the SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge four times.

Besides Las Vegas' Ed and Tim Herbst, who have teamed up to win this race in 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2000, the only other four-time winners, Brian Collins and George Seeley Jr., are also entered this year.

Las Vegas' Collins, who won the featured SCORE Trophy-Truck division last year for his third straight SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge, picked up his first victory in 1996. His first three wins were in Class 8.

Seeley Jr., Glendale, Calif., has also won three straight after earning his first title in 1997. All of his wins have been in Class 5 for unlimited VW Baja Bugs and he has entered his VW Rabbit in the same class this year.

Besides Seeley Jr., who has won the SCORE Class 5 season crown three straight years and four of the last five, nine other defending point champions in the Duralast SCORE Desert Series are entered so far.

Leading the group of reigning SCORE season champions is Las Vegas' Troy Herbst, the youngest of the three racing Herbst brothers, who has won a record five consecutive titles in the unlimited Class 1 division.

Other 2001 SCORE champions entered are: David Ashley/Dan Smith, Riverside, Calif. (SCORE Trophy-Truck, Ford F-150); Allan Gregory, Alpine, Calif. (Class 5/1600, 1600cc VW Baja Bugs); Craig Turner, Yorba Linda, Calif. (Class 7, Ford Ranger); Doug Siewert, Oceanside, Calif./Cory Susag, Dana Point, Calif. (Class 7S, Chevy S-10); Ron Dalke, Tucson, Ariz. (SCORE Lites, Tatum); Eric Solorzano, Tijuana, Mexico (Class 11, VW Sedans); Dr. Macrae Glass, Kingman, Ariz. (Stock Mini, Ford Ranger); and John Griffin, Mission Viejo, Calif. (Stock Full, AM General Hummer).

The start/finish line area will be at the Laughlin Events Park at Thomas Edison Way and Bruce Woodbury Way. In front of grandstands, a vendor's village and food court, the stadium-style course will include the Laughlin Leap, switchback turns, mini-jumps and moguls, helping to give spectators the rare opportunity to cheer their favorite racers up-close.

On Friday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., fans can meet and greet their favorite racers and check out their high-tech racing machines throughout the day at the manufacturer's midway and technical inspection held in the start/finish line area.

Race weekend festivities will once again start with the extremely popular $25,000 Laughlin Leap and Pit Crew showdown on Thursday. Starting with the Pit Crew battle at 6 p.m. at the Laughlin Events Park Stadium followed by the bodacious Laughlin Leap, drivers and crews will test their own skills and the quality of their race vehicles. Participants will attempt to beat the existing records. The fastest pit stop was performed in 2000 by the crew of Dale Ebberts, Canyon Lake, Calif., in a record 44.96 seconds. The longest Laughlin Leap was recorded last year by Dale Dondel, Hemet, Calif., whose Nye Frank race car went airborne for a distance of 120 feet.

Late entries will be accepted through the close of on-site registration on Friday.

General Admission tickets for grandstand seats in the Laughlin Events Park will be $10 each for Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. By mandate of the Bureau of Land Management, the start/finish line area is the only "designated" spectator area on the course. To place ticket orders or for more information, contact the Laughlin Chamber of Commerce at (800) 227-5245 or (702) 298-2214.

The 8th Annual SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge is sponsored by the Laughlin Tourism Committee and the Laughlin Visitors Bureau, a division of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and Las Vegas Events. The race is sanctioned and produced by SCORE International of Los Angeles.

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Drivers Damen Jefferies , Darren Skilton , Tim Herbst