By Mike Henle
JEAN, Nev. — In the old days of SNORE’s continuously-running schedule that dates back to its beginning in 1969, the desert heat was more than a mild challenge. The heartiest of souls can’t handle the desert when daytime temperatures peak at more than 120 degrees from June through September.
Denny Selleck and his wife, Wauna, were big backers of SNORE for many years. Denny was one of the SNORE pioneers who helped create the annual KC HiLites Midnight Special that will be staged Friday through Sunday north of Jean.
So some of the old-timers of SNORE including Denny Selleck, Jon Block, Bob McCachren, Bert Vaughan, Ken Freeman Sr., and Don Dayton swore they were going to find a way to race without having to buck the brutal desert that prompts people to think about going to the beach this time of year.
Surely, there was a way to keep SNORE’s drivers from melting while cruising across the desert at 100 miles an hour. The key was being able to run the race at night, but the ingredient was headlights so that the drivers could see where they were going after the sun disappeared over the mountains to the west.
Selleck, the ultimate showman of off-road pioneers, was a PT Barnum-like entrepreneur whose weekdays were spent working for developers and whose weekends were saved for other outdoor festivities that ranged from fishing to building guzzlers for the Nevada Department of Wildlife and off road racing.
So when it was finally understood that off-road racing could not possible be held in the desert during the summer, Selleck did what all former soldiers do when it’s time to make things happen.
As the story goes, Selleck got really serious. He grabbed a couple of bottles of Jack Daniels, called someone from KC HiLites and arranged a come-to-Jesus meeting.
Allegedly, when the Jack Daniels disappeared, an off-road race was born. The KC HiLites Midnight Special was unleashed and has now been going strong for more than 40 years. In what undoubtedly turned into a motorsports version of baseball’s grand slam, the event is a must-see for those who like watching an off-road race that for the most part is run during the dark, KC HiLites remains the invaluable sponsor and SNORE remains the tireless and dedicated sanctioning body that puts on the race without a hitch every year.
Added former SNORE president and competitor Kenny Freeman, “SNORE added the night race because there was a big hole in the schedule from the spring until the fall. The only way to fill the void was to run at night, so the Midnight Special was born.”
The 2017 version of the KC HiLites Midnight Special is scheduled for Aug. 4-6 in Jean south of Las Vegas and as usual, there will be another solid field of drivers of about 80 drivers that will journey to the desert from numerous surrounding states. If there was ever a serious challenge, this particular event is it considering that competitors start at dusk, weave their way through the desert for several hours and finally arrive at the start-finish line as the midnight hour quickly approaches.
Then, when all is said and done, those same drivers and their crews must pack up their gear, load their off-road machinery and find a place to sleep before making the return to their hometowns.
Is the KC HiLites Midnight Special a unique challenge?
And is the race what Selleck and Dayton anticipated many years ago as the bottles of Jack Daniels quenched the thirst of anyone willing to drink it?
SNORE president John Pellissier, himself a former racer, said the course and the event provides numerous challenges.
“This course is Nevada’s signature terrain, but this time at night,” Pellissier explained. “The way to conquer this course will be with the best lights in the desert provided by KC HiLiTes.”
Former SNORE president Kenny Freeman said the event would include laps of 64 miles.
“From last year to now, about half of the course is new from last year,” he said. “It’s going to be a challenge just to finish the event.”
Freeman will compete in the 1600 class, which is always a very competitive division.
“It’s an open field,” Freeman said. “There are a lot of new people out there. I’m going out there to win. The 1600 class is so competitive that something as simple as a flat tire can change everything. Our class has the best racers in the country. It’s a very tight division. If you want to race against the best, try the 1600 class.”
Other top-notch drivers slated to compete will be Dallas Luttrell, who will run a Trophy Truck formerly owned by Brian Collins; Pat Dean in Class 1, Justin Davis in Class 10 and Kevin Thompson in 1450.
The race will start at 8 p.m. two miles north of Jean off Las Vegas Blvd.
The event is part of the 2017 Patrick’s Signs McKenzie’s Championship Series that also includes the PCI Radios SNORE 250 Oct. 7-8; and the McKenzie’s Rage at the River in Laughlin, Nev. Dec. 8-10.
Further information regarding SNORE can be found by visiting www.snoreracing.net.