By Mike Henle
Fritz Kroyer is renowned in off-road racing circles all over the world.
Measure this: He won the first-ever SNORE 250 on the grounds of what is now the plush Spanish Trail 50 years ago although he rolled the car on the first lap of the race.
The car rolled right-side-up and Kroyer went to work winning the SNORE 250 in a Funco two-seater converted into a single-seater.
Even more impressive is that Kroyer –now 75 – recorded back-to-back Mint 400 titles in 1971 and 1972. The Mint is known world-wide as the toughest race of its kind.
In true off-road-racer tenacity, if you want an interview with the colorful off-road racer/race car engine builder, you had better be ready for an early start considering that Kroyer arrives at his shop early every morning at Kroyer Racing Engines on the grounds of Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Kroyer is the picture of the Iron Man competition since he works out three or four times a week. A true example of today’s rugged senior citizen, the man is not interested in retiring.
After his racing days subsided in the mid-80s, the colorful Kroyer went to work creating and building off-road machinery, as well as guiding younger drivers in a sport where only the strong survive.
Kroyer moved to Southern Nevada from Bakersfield, where he worked for Roger Mears, before going to work for hotel magnate Michael Gaughan, in Las Vegas.
There is no sign that Kroyer is going slow down any time soon. His latest victory was defeating cancer about six years ago.
“I was thinking that this could be it,” recalled Kroyer of being told about the disease. “My cancer doctor said they got everything through 32 radiation treatments and chemo.”
It’s been full-speed ahead for Kroyer ever since his doctor released him.
“I get to the shop anywhere between 2:30 and 3:00 in the morning,” explained Kroyer. “There’s not much traffic at that time. This is my hobby. When I get up in the morning, I look forward to coming to the shop.”
“We have machines that are fully-automatic and that gives us more hours. I fire up the machines in the morning. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I thought about cutting my hours back, but that lasted about a day.”
Almost all of the work done by Kroyer Racing (the business is co-owned by son Kevin Kroyer and Michael Gaughan) is related to off-road racing including short course and some of the bigger events such as Crandon in Wisconsin during the summertime.
“Working in the business is my passion,” Fritz Kroyer said.
“It’s a full vehicle approach,” explained Kevin, who started working for his dad since he was a very young boy in Reseda, Calif. “I was washing parts when I was a kid. I went to work for one of his racing partners after I graduated from high school.”
There was absolutely nothing in the area when about 200 entries entered the SNORE 250 that was run five decades ago in 1970. When the checkered flag dropped, Kroyer shot out of the chute en-route to the first turn.
“I went into a straightaway in a gravel pit about a half-mile long,” recalled Kroyer. “When I got to the turn, the car rolled all the way over”. There were a lot of people watching. Everyone had to be laughing at me. The car landed on its wheels. The two lights on top of the Open Class Buggy broke off. I pulled the lights off and went on hoping it wouldn’t get dark before the end of the race!
In an era when there was no radio communications, Kroyer wasn’t sure how he was doing.
“I remember passing cars,” he said. “The win in the SNORE 250 was my biggest win before winning back-to-back Mint 400’s.”
SNORE is an amazing group, according to Kroyer.
“As an off-road organization, SNORE has been around for the longest amount of time,” he said. “There are certainly a lot of dedicated people in SNORE. Putting on an off-road race is expensive.
“There have been many off-road racing organizations cease in the past half-century.”
Kroyer Racing has been in business since 2004.
“Next month will be 15 years that it’s been open,” said Kroyer of the business. “It’s very busy here. When I go home, I sit back in my chair and think about being here at the shop.”
This year’s SNORE 250 is boosted by the fact that Troy Herbst of Terrible Herbst fame has added $5,000 in prize money to the event. Scheduled Feb. 15-16, in Jean, Nev., the SNORE 250 is expected to draw a field of more than 100 entries.
The SNORE 250 kicks off a busy motorsports schedule that also includes the Penzoil 400 Weekend Feb. 27-March 3 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the Mint 400 March 7-10.