Best in the Desert’s Vegas to Reno is the longest, most treacherous, off-road race in the United States. Starting outside of Las Vegas in the mining town of Beatty, NV, the 550-mile course winds its way across the badlands of Nevada. Racers encounter a mix of high-speed graded roads, wicked silt beds, rocky washes, mountain passes, and giant rolling hills. With more than 300 entries, this race is one of the most difficult to finish, let alone win.
The Monster Energy Off-Road Team lead by Trophy Truck Champion “Ballistic” BJ Baldwin came with guns blazing as the team managed to qualify four vehicles in the top-20 during qualifying on Wednesday. The team consisted of “Ballistic” BJ Baldwin, Troy Herbst, Tim Herbst, Larry Roesler, Jerry Zaiden, and Jerry Whelchel in Trophy Trucks. Representing Monster Energy in Class 1 was bike veteran Mikey Childress and Rock Crawler Champion Shannon Campbell.
Mikey Childress had a great start moving up from 5th to 4th until he had transmission problems with a failed torque converter that ended his day early at Race Mile 118. Shannon Campbell also fought the course, the field, and mechanical issues to at 19th overall and 9th in class finish. The team of Jerry Whelchel and Jerry Zaiden managed to fight their way through the dust to move from the 22nd starting position to nearly win the race! Towards the end of the race a combination of a dented drive shaft (which kept them under 80mph) and smashing multiple wheels on the giant embedded boulders that lined the racecourse like rows of teeth waiting to strike, took out their chances of overall victory. The team still managed to finish 4th in class and 7th place overall.
The team of Troy Herbst and Tim Herbst also started off running well until at race mile 210 they were stopped in a remote area with a broken transmission in the number 49 Herbst/ Monster Energy Trophy Truck. The team of Ed Herbst and Larry Roessler in the number 19 Herbst/ Monster Energy Trophy Truck also ran strong until they also lost all forward gears in the transmission at race mile 312. Undeterred off-road legend Larry Roessler put the truck in reverse and drove it backwards nearly 20 miles to the next pit where they were able to change the transmission and get the truck in for a finish.
“Ballistic” BJ Baldwin had issues all day; starting with a leak in his helmet visor that let in dust interfering with his vision and breathing all day. Then BJ had a failure in the dry brake fueling system causing him to be short fueled at multiple pits shortening his fuel range and forcing him to stop at almost every pit for fuel. Additionally BJ experienced a crank position sensor failure causing him to stop for over twelve minutes at Pit 9. Despite all the changes BJ managed to finish 3rd overall and 2nd in Class. In the end, The Monster Energy Off-Road team came away with one podium, and 4 top-20 finishers.
Words by Matt Martelli
Photos by Jason Zindroski