With a fresh season and a clean slate the Desert Assassins team took the SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge by storm. Held on the banks of the Colorado River in a two-day format the event marks the start of the five race series that culminates in the Baja 1000 in November.
The DA has won many awards and championships over the last few years and in 2009 they are off to a quick start. DA drivers hold down 3 of the top 5 places in the early 2009 SCORE Desert Series Overall points standings.
Last year Heidi Steele was able to win the SCORE and BITD series championships in the semi limited mid size truck class and at the kick off event she surprised a few people by switching to the unlimited mid size truck classes. “Last minute we were able to make an agreement for an unlimited class 6 vehicle with Ross Savage and we decide to change classes” said Heidi Steele. Steele continued “we are viewing this class as the future of mid-size truck racing”.
The traditional “unlimited” mid size class, class 7, calls for a stock frame and limitations that favor 15+ year old technology so Heidi moved to the true unlimited class with Ross where they were crowned the winner although they were the only entry. “This is where the mid-size trucks will be in the future but just to be sure we also raced the 7 class in our limited truck that Heidi won the championship in last year and with less than half the suspension of the other trucks she raced against they were 3rd for the weekend” Said Heidi’s husband Cameron.
Cameron also had a great opening weekend for the series as he earned his best finish ever in the unlimited truck class know as Trophy Trucks. Cameron was also working Winter X Games this weekend for ESPN and was planning on having partner Rick Geiser do the Jump event, practice, qualifying and the Sunday race with Cameron able to only be in Laughlin on Saturday. “Rick was injured in the jump event and we had to make a call as to who would drive qualifying and on Sunday” said Steele, who continued “I had a lot of options and everyone had an opinion but in the end I chose “Bean”.
Justin “Bean” Smith has been a part of the DA family since inception and has been a navigator in the Trophy Truck but had never driven it before Friday at Laughlin. He had driven and won with Cameron, Heidi and others in limited buggies but this was a huge step. Bean was also racing this event in his own 1600 car for the first time and is eligible for the SCORE Rookie of the year award as it is his first year as Driver of Record and he started off with big results..
In the end Bean would drive half of the Trophy Truck race in the Yokohama Tire/Lucas Oil #16 and he and Cameron would finish 2nd in class. Bean also finished 3rd on Sunday in his 1600 car and set a new record while winning the Laughlin Leap for the 1600 cars.
Also in the 1600 class DA Kingpin Brian “Cheater” Burgess teamed up with DA driver Aaron “Pop tart” Hawley for the runner up position. Brian was the 1600 class champion two years ago but had to take some time off to kick cancers ass. “Cheater is back for the entire season and being teamed with Pop Tart will make them tough to beat” said Cameron. At the end of the weekend the only driver able to top their team was current 1600 champion and DA member Adam Phankuch.
“Adam, Brian, Aaron and Justin are all committed to racing the entire SCORE season in 1600 so if the DA doesn’t win this championship we will all shave our heads” joked Cameron
In a twist Cameron’s former racing partner Clyde Stout had his best day ever in SCORE, just like Cameron, finishing 3rd. “Clyde took the time to go out and build his own truck and he landed on the podium with it, I am super pumped for him. It was like having the whole circus together again with our buddies Trigger, Jake, Vano, Cody, Greg and BR being there with all the usual suspects” said Steele. “Man if one of us could win the championship it would be one hell of a party in the OC come December!”