The 2017 TrophyLite series kicks off with a bang! February 20, 2017
Parker AZ, - After a short off season, 15 TrophyLite teams made the trek to the first race of the 2017 Best in the Desert season. Nestled alongside the Colorado River, the small desert town of Parker had received large amounts of rain in the prior weeks leading up to race day. The moist dirt would provide great side by side racing throughout the day as the ever brutal Parker course would start to deteriorate.
This first event of the year would see several new faces join the ranks of the 6000 class, including Mike Szlauko, Randy Sooter, John Ferrari and Wyatt McMurray in the TrophyLite rental truck. Series regulars had returned for blood, with new paint schemes and a fire lit to uncrown the 2016 TL champion Todd Jackson now sporting the red 6001 number plate. As Jackson would dominate the 2016 season, it would paint a target on the back of the orange and black MovementCo TL prepped by Jake’s Fabworks.
First up to challenge the champion was Brandon Arciero in the 6017 FST Sand and Gravel, Racecarcoatings.com backed TrophyLite. After starting 6th and getting the jump in his side by side start, Brandon and co-driver Tommy Payne would set a pace that would take them to the top 3 of the field by the end of lap one. A brief tire change after striking a rock was the only issue early, and the team continued to charge around lap two. Shortly before the end of the second lap, the 6017 would pass the 6001 of Jackson to take the physical and corrected lead. Starting to fight steering issues, the team decided to gamble and take off into the desert for lap 3 trying to hold on to the valuable track position they had fought so hard for. Shortly into lap 3, the team would notice the transmission temp as well, as it was starting to climb north of 300 degrees and needed to adjust their pace accordingly. Between pit 1 and 2, the converter had finally decided that it had been through enough of the extreme temperature and had a catastrophic failure taking the 6017 out of the race. Proving that the team has the speed to run up front, the 6017 will be at the Mint 400 with an extra boost of confidence.
Running with the lead pack all day, the 6021 of Craig Spitz and his son Jacob in the Tri State Equipment, PCG Powder Coating, Parker Fuel truck had a great showing right out of the box in 2017. The father son team would start deep in the field run a conservative pace yet find themselves passing competitors but in the end their luck would run short. Craig would find his race plan come into place while on the third lap after his final pit stop. Sitting in third place on course, he would be chasing down the 6017 and the 6048 into the desert on the final lap. After Arciero had his issues, the 6021 of Craig and Jacob would find themselves sitting in second place reeling in the 6048 of Jeff Mortis. After over 100 miles of chasing the win and making up over 5 minutes on course, the 6021 would fall just 4 min 30 seconds short of a win. Craig and Jacob are pleased with their season starting with such a strong podium finish and their amazing team that helped them put it on the box.
Also coming from deep in the field, the 6048 Challenge Motorsports entry of Jeff Mortis was out for blood! Coming off a Baja 1000 win in November while piloting the Honda HPD Ridgeline, Mortis had momentum on his side coming into Parker. A series veteran, Mortis and team have enjoyed several successful seasons behind the wheel of their ever competitive TrophyLite, but have never been able to best their three in a row 2nd place finishes. After a flawless first lap moving from an 11th place start to 3rd on corrected time, Mortis and co-driver Bret Young would hand the wheel over to team partner Chris Wacker for the final two laps. Continuing the trend to the front, Wacker would run a solid pace, slowly picking off trucks throughout the 135 mile Parker course that would fall into the traps of the ever worsening terrain. Picking off the 6001 on the end of lap two, the 6048 with Wacker behind the wheel would have luck strike as the 6017 of Arciero had his last lap misfortune and put the Challenge Motorsports entry in physically first place and have a great corrected time lead. Wacker would strike a rock and get a flat that would be changed quickly by new navigator Jared Crane. Back underway, the 6048 would run a flawless rest of the day to edge out Craig Spitz and team to the finish. The Jake’s Fabworks prepped TL would have no mechanical issues all day running at full song, with a perfect pit stops by the entire Challenge Financial team. Metro Honda – Metro Acura would like to congratulate the 6048 team with the Superior Performance Award.
If you are considering the purchase of a new vehicle or ready for service on your current ride be sure to check out Metro Honda / Acura in Montclair or visit www.metrohonda.com or www.metroacura.com
The reigning points champion and Parker ‘425’ winner for the past 3 years, the 6001 of Todd Jackson with his veteran navigator Mike Slater would start at the front of the pack and try to set a goal to stay there. “We put our KC lights to good use for the first couple hours and as the sun came up we settled into a good pace”. Lap two was coming to a close when trying to pass a faster class car the champs struck a rock. When Slater started to assess the situation, he had quickly noticed that the radiator was billowing steam. After borrowing some water from a nearby official, the team was able to continue on to main pit with no further overheating issues to speak of. Quickly into lap three, they were bit by high temperatures again, signaling to the team that they had a fan starting to fail. Limping to pit one, the 6001 would lose a large amount of time but their never say die attitude would keep them in the hunt. A replacement fan was installed and away the team went to reel in the 6043 and 6010 as best as they could with the leaders of the second race hot on their heels. With just miles to go in the grueling race, the 6001 would be able to take advantage of the misfortune of the 6010 and 6043 and capitalize enough to reach the last podium spot. After such a hard fought second lap, the MovementCo, Jakes Fabworks truck endured whatever the Parker desert could throw at them and managed to salvage a 3rd place effort.
In his first TrophyLite race new 6043 TL owner Mike Szlauko said “Let me start by saying how much fun these little, extremely tough trucks are! This is a great class with talented drivers and teams. To top it off, everyone was very welcoming to our new team. You just can't ask for more than that.” Mike hadn’t even tested his new to him truck, and his co-driver Dom hadn’t sat in it until race day! This didn’t slow the veteran desert racer down, and from the green flag drop the duo had smiles from ear to ear. The pair spent the first lap tuning the ride to their liking, and trying to keep the rubber side down managing only one flat. The brakes disappearing and a stuck throttle for about 50 miles made for an eventful first loop. Lap two saw a flawless run for the Clark Griswold family truckster themed TrophyLite, and Szlauko and new navigator Collin Mckee could see a possible podium in their near future. “On lap 3 we started to push and with some luck found ourselves in a race! Once 10th, now we were actually fighting for a possible podium spot! Just miles from the finish a blazing fast 6001 car went by us. We knew we had to just stay close to him to beat him on time, which is no easy task I might add.” Just miles from the finish, the lead truck from the second race would strike Szlauko while against a canyon wall. The result was two flat tires and a ruined fiberglass body. Only having one spare tire on TrophyLite vehicles, Szlauko was forced to finish the race on a front flat in 4th place after his encounter. “We are so happy to have earned a finish, but even more happy to have found TrophyLite!”
With all of the circumstances surrounding the journey to the finish line of the Parker ‘425’, TrophyLite would like to award Mike the $500 Metro Honda – Metro Acura Hard Charger Award. Congratulations Team SzLauko!
The 6010 of George Mortis, brother to Jeff, also had a great run going throughout the day. Starting 13th, George would find himself battling in the top 5 by the end of the first lap. The 6010 would trade spots with the 6061 several times until the Vision Hype truck had rolled over just miles before the end of the first loop. Mortis and co-driver Bruce Kerstner would have a fairly uneventful second lap, but a mistake on the timing officials at the finish line gave the 6010 a checkered flag prematurely. After losing roughly 5 minutes arguing their point, Mortis was back underway. The third lap would see the duo in 3rd place with less than 5 miles to go when they were caught by a faster class vehicle from the second race. While re-entering the course, they would strike a hidden rock in the dust in turn breaking a driveshaft on his TrophyLite. A quick repair lead the team to a 6th place finish after the long grueling 425 mile day. “All in all it was a good run especially the first 422 miles and I’m pleased with the result, the broken driveshaft not so much, but that’s racing. After sitting out Parker last year this was my first 425 of the two race format and I couldn’t be happier!” Once the team finished their 3rd lap they brought their case of the early checkered flag to BITD officials and after some deliberating the 6010 team would receive a time credit of 4 min and 55 sec which earn them a bump up one position to a 5th place finish.
Edmundo ‘Doc’ Chantler racing the PJs Performance backed 6098 TrophyLite started 9th next to Austin McKnight. Chantler and co-driver Steve Kirkby would edge ahead off of the start but just before mile 3 the 6025 would make the pass on Chantler. Seconds later Austin hit a huge hole sending them into a barrel roll and striking the left side of the 6098 while Chantler moved to avoid them. Feeling shocked to see what just happened in front of them and suffering a little body damage they continued on. Not far in to lap 1 they would lose the packing in the muffler. The sound of the 2.4 engine screaming made it impossible for Doc and Steve to communicate to each other. While battling their way to the front of the pack on lap 2 and hanging around the 3rd and 4th place positions the 6098 would pit before they began lap 3 and hand driving duties over to former 1980’s Indy Car driver, Bill Whittington. Bill became comfortable fairly quick and with the leaders having issues the 6098 would find themselves in 1st on the road and corrected time. However the lead would evaporate around race mile 85 as Bill had over-shot a turn and got the truck stuck. Down for over 30 minutes and watching TrophyLites pass Bill and Steve were able to get back on course and take it to a 6th place finish. We we spoke to Chantler about the race he said, “We are in for the MINT, and Bill is looking to redeem himself.”
The 6012 Quest Nutrition backed TrophyLite entry of Greg Bragg would have a solid day on course. Starting the race with son-in-law Nick Chivello in the right seat the first lap would be pretty uneventful until the end of the lap where Greg would hit a rock and at main pit they would fuel up, change a tire and co-driver. Mike Osborn, COO of Quest Nutrition is now in as navigator and the 6012 would be hanging mid-pack and just after pit 4 the gps display shut off. A few minutes later the truck would do the same. Once they switched to the back up battery everything came back up but still appeared the alternator was working intermittently and beginning to fail. Finally at pit 2 the alternator was done and needed to be replaced. Once back on course Greg would keep a consistent pace through lap 3 but the 6012 would get one more flat just before they took the checkered flag for a 7th place finish at a grueling Parker ‘425’.
Starting in the second row would be the SafeCraft Safety TrophyLite of Josh & Jason Cobb. However Jason wouldn’t be racing in this one, not that he wouldn’t want to but as a promise to his wife to take it easy after just recently being diagnosed cancer free. Willing to sit out one more race, Jason asked his SafeCraft Safety partner Larry Roeseler if he would fill in for him. As we all know Larry has many miles and victories under his belt and when approached with the opportunity he said “Heck Yea! I’m all for it”. Larry didn’t really have any driving duties to tend to during the Parker ‘425’ weekend as they Trophy Truck is being prepared for the MINT. The race plan would have Larry and co-driver Mike Watson race the first lap and a half in the 6066 then hand it over to Josh and Treavor Lindblom. Pulling the hole shot off the side by side start and feeling good the SafeCraft team was quickly passed by the 6017 of Brandon Arciero. A pit stop at pit 2 to fuel would have them sitting 3rd on course but shortly after Midway the 6066 got a flat. During the tire change they noticed the engine was running way to hot so they hard wired the radiator fan to the battery, a stop that cost them about 20 minutes. Back on course and starting to make up time on those ahead it was time for Josh to get in and do his best to wheel the truck to the podium. While in the pit they were passed by the 6012 entry of Greg Bragg. Josh said, “With Bragg passing us during our pit we had our sights set on him. We passed him at Midway then charged hard to run down Spitz but would come up short.” Just about 30 miles from the end of lap 2 Josh would shear off all 5 lug studs on one side, another setback that would cost them about hour and since the second race had started Josh and the 6066 team would receive a Gran Prix finish as they completed lap 2.
New to TrophyLite Randy Sooter in the 6034 would have some issues out on course limiting the team to only 2 laps and would finish 9th.
Traveling south from British Columbia, Wyatt McMurray would rent one of the TrophyLite House Trucks and share driving duties with his son Jonathan, and Dean Acton where Arthur Condin would navigate. First up to drive the A&W Restaurant backed TL would be Jonathan and co-driver Arthur. Starting in the 4th position, next to the 6066 entry of Cobb, Jonathan would end up chasing the 6066 in to the Parker desert. Unfortunately at race mile 24 Jonathon would tip the truck over on to the right side. Suffering only minor body damage, they were able to get the rubber back on the ground and back out on course. Jonathan was able to complete lap 1 and a stop a main pit to fuel and change drivers. In the left seat now is Dean. The 6009 out on lap 2 and moving along pretty good but at race mile 33 Dean would have the wheel studs shear off on the left rear. The two pulled out the axle, secured the brake caliper and replaced the axle with the onboard spare. Back out on course again pretty smooth to the end of lap 2 where they were greeted with a Gran Prix finish as the second race had already began. Ending their day shot of a lap, Wyatt was not able to get in the truck as planned on lap 3. The McMurray had a great time and we look forward to getting the rental truck ready for them again this season.
Starting strong, Kyle Ahrensberg took the Vision Hype 6061 truck on a mission to get to the front. After losing the side by side start to the 6010 of G. Mortis, Kyle would overcome the second Mortis truck in the desert, and continue his charge forward. Towards the end of lap one, Kyle and navigator Michael Tollision would find themselves in the top 5 before striking a rock in the rough “Jeep Trail”. Tollision and Ahrensberg would find themselves behind the wheel after only losing minimal time on the exchange. Shortly after while trying to make up lost ground, the 6061 would find itself upside down on the course near the infamous River Road. Gracious nearby spectators and BITD officials were able to right the neon colored TrophyLite painted by Lil’ Michaels Customs (Michael Tollision) and get back underway in under 4 minutes. Lap two would see some handling issues arise for the Vision Hype entry, but the team continued to push forward and find themselves back in the top 8 heading back out for the last lap. A scheduled driver’s change on lap three would put past TL owner/ driver Russ Phillips behind the wheel. Russ would take the 6061 to 5th place on the road before something in the engine would fail around mile 45, causing the truck to come to a halt and ending the race on the spot for the team.
Parker also saw the return of the Dunari Wild powersports 6013 of John Ferrari. John would split driving duties with Gray and Casey Hull, whom would start the race. Gary and Casey would have a very clean lap and a half, with nothing more than a missing fuel cap to hamper their day. At pit two on the second lap, John and co-driver Christian Moody would hop in and take over controls of the 6013 for the remainder of the race. Around mile 110, John would strike a large rock while still getting used to his TrophyLite and continue on. A few miles later after already striking rock two, rock three would break his wheel and cause the team to change the front flat. While rendering service to the Wild Powersports 6013, John noticed that the new wheel had a large amount of play, which turned out to be a faulty hub assembly. While trying to crawl back to main pit, the hub would fail completely causing the truck to block the race course. Shortly after, a spectator would assist the 6013 off the course after getting stuck themselves. Due to time restraints, John and Christian were unable to get their TrophyLite repaired and back on the road.
Tony Sato and the Elite Laser Cutting TrophyLite would draw the pole position but would have quite the task ahead as the 6056 entry would be starting next to the ever dominant 6001 of Todd Jackson. Feeling good off of the start the two were able to run door to door until first jump when Jackson would pull ahead. Tony said “I pushed our lil hamsters as hard as they would go, but it was aggravating to say the least to watch The King's blue light fade away in the distance on the straight away.” Any of the drivers in the TrophyLite Race Series will tell you it is no easy task to stick to the bumper of the 6001 team once they get ahead of you. Unfortunately the 6056 would suffer from “the dreaded fuel pump issue” as Tony described it. After having both pumps fail they were able to get a tow back to pit 2 and install their spare pump in the fuel cell. From there the Elite Laser Cutting team brought the truck back around to the finish line receiving a Gran Prix finish for the day. Tony says the 6056 team will be making some big changes to get it ready for the MINT ‘400’ coming up March 1-4.
The McKnight Racing team had a nasty roll over just before rm 3 which, needless to say ended their day. The strength of the TrophyLite chassis and MasterCraft Safety equipment kept both the driver and co-driver safe and both walked away without injury. Here is a link to the in-car video of the incident. Click Here
Overall a great way to kick off the TrophyLite Race Series and we like to thank all of the teams who support the series and choose to race with us! We would also like to thank our sponsors who continue to support the class. Congrats to Jeff Mortis and the Challenge Financial Team as they were able to catch the class win they have been looking to celebrate for the past few years. For some, the first race of the year would become a tough day in the desert and evaluating their race plans for the race 2 of the season, the legendary Mint ‘400’. A record number of TrophyLite teams participated in the Parker ‘425’ and the same is to be said about the Mint ‘400’ as well.
Don’t forget to keep up with TrophyLite! Our social media channels are constantly updated with race information, teams activities and promotions.
Facebook: @trophylite (Trophylite Race Series)
We also have a podcast you can listen to and can be found at soundcloud.com/trophylite or in iTunes search TL Throwdown. An easy way to gain insight to the race series and the teams involved who continue to make this so much fun. We will see you at the MINT!
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About TrophyLite – TrophyLite.com
The TrophyLite Race Series was created to provide an affordable alternative to the high cost of racing. Drivers are pitted against each other in identical vehicles that provide the thrill of competitive offroad racing without the million dollar price tag. All TrophyLite race vehicles are precisely constructed to maintain parity and use the finest quality components available. TrophyLite allows you to compete in a fun, fast, race proven vehicle right out of the box.
With generous sponsorship from
Method Race Wheels,
Challenge Financial Services,
Safecraft Safety Equipment,
Metro Honda &
Maxima Racing Oils
Tanimura & Antle
Fast Line Driving School
Southwest Boulder and Stone
Children of the Dirt,
PCI Race Radios,
K&N Filters, and
Photo Credits - DirtFocus.com, MWilson Photo and Rick L. Johnson