Checkers 35th Anniversary Dinner

Checkers 35th Anniversary
Bob Bower announcing the 2010 officers

Checkers 35th Anniversary Dinner

First, RDC would like to extend a personal thanks to Greg Krasnow, the 2010 elected Checkers president, for an invitation to attend the Checkers 35th anniversary dinner.  When I received the invitation, I was very excited to experience such a recognized Checkers event.

The Checkers dinner was held at Michael Gaughan’s South Point Casino in Las Vegas—the perfect city and venue for a party with such an eccentric bunch of desert racers.

The History of the Checkers Off-Road Club

The Checkers Motorcycle Club was formed in 1951 by some of the early pioneers of motorcycle desert racing.  This unique group of competitive racers were some of the top names in the early days of the Hare n’ Hound events, which took place in the desert regions of Southern California.  The legendary J.N. Roberts was one of the top racers during these times.  Roberts held the #1 plate for years while riding under the Checkers banner.

Soon after, race promoters started holding long distance desert races for 4-wheel vehicles.  At this time, some of the older Checkers Motorcycle members decided to form the Checkers Off-Road Club.  The Checkers Motorcycle Club and the Checkers Off-Road Club do have some similarities and they do share some of the same members; however, they are both completely separate clubs with separate agendas.

Many have referred to the Checkers as the “Hells Angels” of off-road because of the intense membership requirements to join the club.  First, a prospective member must be sponsored by a current member and participate in a “state of intent” period at which time he must attend at least two races.  After he attends two races, he is then only a prospective member for the next six months until the blackball vote process.  Then, if he receives three blackball votes, he is voted out.

The Checkers have a 100 member max and a strict no women allowed policy.  Although, there are many women that not only stand behind the men but are very well known for the large role they play in the running of the Checkers club.  They are known to show their support and to help facilitate the many Checkers events.

Both the Motorcycle and the Off-Road divisions have had their share of winning racers over the years with a strong reputation to dominate the track at times.  In 2009 alone, Checkers Off-Road had 52 top three finishes and 17 first place finishes.  And they are continuing the tradition in 2010  with Kory Hapoloff winning class 1 at the SCORE Laughlin race and Mikey Lawrence winning class 10.  And also at the first MORE race this season with three more podium finishes, Andrew Neal first in class 1600, Chris Anderson first in class 1100, and Willy Berumen third in class 5.  This is proof that this unique group of desert racers is not only a group of partiers, a reputation they are well known for having, but also a reputable group of racers.

Some Notable Checkers Awards and Acknowledgments

At the Checkers 35th Anniversary Dinner, they gave out their annual Checkers recognition awards.  Some of the more notable Checkers awards that were handed out that night were:

  • Harley Letner—rookie of the year
  • Mike Lawrence—driver of the year
  • Ed Jahn—pitter of the year
  • Greg Krasnow—pit captain of the year
  • George Thompson—Checker of the year.
  • George Jirka—lifetime achievement award (a prestigious award which is not given out every year)
Vic Van Ella award
Vic Van Ella award

Jim Clements, from the MORE race series, was awarded the Vic Van Ella award, a special award that was created in memory of Vic Van Ella, a Checker member that passed away in a car while racing years ago.  This award has been given to a select number of individuals, companies and groups over the years.  Even the Locos Mocos pit crew, of which I am a proud member, received the award in 2002.

Besides the annual recognition awards, Steve Kassanyi, a.k.a “Dr. Checker”, has been creating very unique awards over the years.  You can see a few of the more creative ones in the RDC picture gallery.

As well as handing out awards, The Checkers announced the 2010 officers, which are as follows:

  • President: Greg Krasnow
  • Vice President:  Randy Spahr
  • Treasure:  Ed Jahn
  • Secretary:  Josh Gilliam

Overall, the Checkers 35th Anniversary party was a huge success and I was very impressed with every aspect of the event.  The food was excellent and Bob Bower, as always, is an excellent host choice for an event like this.  Also, let me extend a big thanks to Michael Gaughan for sponsoring the cocktail hour that preceded the dinner.

The Checkers have a long history with many interesting stories (some of which should probably remain a secret.)  I look forward to seeing and hearing about this great group of guys for many years to come.  And hopefully soon, I will be able to hear some more great stories and meet some more fascinating Checkers while enjoying cervezas on a beach in Baja.

Story and photos by Curtis & Jannel Guise