Mortis steps up for win in convincing style!September 10, 2017
Reno, NV - Just when the 2017 TrophyLite Race Series comes back to life after the short summer break, Jeff Mortis and Chris Wacker turn up the heat at the famous Vegas to Reno event. As if the 110° temps were not enough, the 6048 Challenge Motorsports team would put the pressure on the field to run a flawless race to keep pace all of the way to Dayton, NV nearly 550 miles after the start in Beatty. Through nearly every imaginable terrain, the TrophyLite competitors fought tirelessly throughout the day and night to achieve a 72% finishing ratio for the longest race of the year.
Starting with Jeff Mortis behind the wheel with his veteran navigator Bret Young, the 6048 would push from their third place start position to the front of the field early by getting around the very fast Spitz and McKnight teams. However the excitement of being 1st on the road would be short lived, just as they were heading out of Pit 1 the crew quickly called them back as the retaining pin for the tire jack came out and had they continued the jack would have been lost for sure. Co-driver Bret said, “I would like to say that Jeff and I were calm and supportive of our crew’s decision to make us stop and give up 4 spots but that wouldn’t be an accurate description of what was being said over the radio”.
Back on course and passing a few teams the 6048 made its way back to the front of the pack by Pit 3 and enjoyed a few sections of clean air. The clean air and a well-executed pit strategy would play into the hands of the Challenge motorsports team and allow them to stretch out to a 15 minute lead by race mile 300. Jeff and Bret know a decent cushion can evaporate very quickly in the TrophyLite class and with Jackson, Arciero, Cobb, Spitz and McKnight team wouldn’t be very far behind them.
At the finish line the 6048 was the 1st truck physically, but was it enough on corrected time? Bret said, “We tried to avoid making eye contact with Wacker and Jared we sat at the finish line, instead we all stared down at our watches and waited. Did Wacker do enough to hold off the 6017?” Anxiety was building as the team waited, and every set of lights that came over the hill that marked the finish line created an emotional roller coaster until the allotted time had passed and it would be determined the 6048 was the winner and the celebration began.
Pit 7, Jeff and Bret out, Chris Wacker and Jared Crane in. The duo was back at it and held a steady pace to Pit 10 where they added the light bar. Carefully watching time splits through each pit monitoring a very fast 6017 who was making up time. This was challenging as the racingtrax tracker was not working for the 6017 or the 6048 forcing everyone to rely on what they saw in the pits.
On the behalf of Metro Honda/Acura, TrophyLite would also like to congratulate Jeff and the entire Challenge Motorsports team with the $500 Superior Performance award. Metro Honda/Acura is a big supporter of the TrophyLite Race Series so if you are considering the purchase of a new vehicle or ready for service on your current car or truck be sure to check out Metro Honda / Acura in Montclair or visit MetroHonda.com or MetroAcura.com.
Along with all of our great sponsor contributions, this year for Vegas to Reno, TrophyLite acquired some extra perks for those who can take their truck the full 540 miles. First off we had Ryan Winner of Winner Motorsports Group and Fabtech Motorsports put together some AMAZING trophies for the top 3 finishers. These trophies were designed and assembled by Ryan himself and the teams who landed on the podium get to take home some awesome hardware. Fabtech Motorsports is located in Chino, CA where they develop, manufacture and distribute aftermarket suspension components, leveling kits and shock absorbers for 2 and 4 wheel drive vehicles of nearly all brands. We would like to thank Ryan and the Winner Motorsports group for their contribution to the class and you could thank them by visiting Fabtechmotorspots.com!
For the team who battles their way to the top spot on the podium, another fantastic prize put up by John Ferrari and the Wild Powersports – Coolermods.com team. John awarded this modified ride-on, 48v cooler fully tricked out with the front and rear Fatty conversion which features larger tires and a stronger front end that includes disc brakes! Thank John and his company by visiting their website or stop by his booth at contingency and say HI! You can find more of the Cruzin’ Coolers and different styles at Coolermods.com
SunRype USA was also on board at this race as well. With a liitle more focus on nutrition for this long and hot race, many drivers test their body and its physical endurance. We made a connection with SunRype through our webmaster, Gene Addison and his wife who are ultra marathon, endurance athletes to bring some of thier tricks to keeping mentally focused and maintain energy through long distance events. SunRype is a variety of 100% fruit strips and bars that are easy to digest when your body is stressed. They have great flavor and not only do the kids love them, many of the "grown-ups" on our TL teams do as well. SunRype donated 10 boxes of product to TrophyLite for the race where we handed out the fruit strips during contingency and put up 1 box for the top 5 finishers. You can find SunRype at most grocery stores in the produce department or visit Amazon.com and search Fruit To Go to order your box today! You can find more info about and their products and social media channels at SunRypeUSA.com.
The FST Sand and Gravel entry of Brandon Arciero was looking to turn their 2017 season around coming into V2R and had high hopes of a good finish after a serious pre-race prep which included a new wiring harness, relays and ECU. Picking a rear start position, Brandon knew that any truck they caught, they would be ahead of on corrected time. Using a quick pace, and a mentality of needing a finish, Brandon would slowly pick off TrophyLite competitors all morning long. Just out of pit 2, the 6017 would find themselves at the front of the pack but the luck was short lived when a fuel delivery issue appeared caused by a broken ground terminal on the fuel pump. Just over 10 minutes of down time and they were back on course, and in pursuit of the valuable track position that it had lost. In the process, Arciero would earn 2 flats that would challenge the team to fight for their chance at a podium finish.
Knowing the 6048 was not too far ahead Brandon felt they needed to turn up the heat a little if they wanted to put the FST Sand and Gravel TrophyLite in the top spot. However another flat would set them back once again. After battling with the 6066 all day to contend in the top 3, Arciero and Tommy Payne would find themselves just 6 minutes off the winning time of Jeff Mortis. Brandon and the Arciero Motorsports crew earned a hard fought 2nd place finish. Brandon said, “Congratulations to all those who finished, that was a huge feat in itself, congratulations to Mortis and Whacker and the entire 6048 crew for their 2nd win of the season, congratulations to the 6066 for the fun battles and taking home third.” More than being a smart and fast driver needs to fall into place at a race of this distance. Brandon said about his crew, “Tommy was on his game all day calling out stuff and killing it on tire changes even after riding in the truck for 8 hrs with me. Our crew was on fire this weekend bouncing pit to pit to keep up with us and ensure we had what we needed to continue on.”
Rounding out the top 3 was Josh Cobb. Josh had won the previous year in just his first ‘Vegas to Reno’ in a TrophyLite and was confident the team was poised to make a run at it once again and attempt secure valuable points for the championship. Josh would start 10th of 11 trucks and within about 15 minutes of taking the green flag, Josh managed to get past 6 trucks and get a little clean air. At RM32, only 3 trucks ahead of him and running physically 4th would have the lead on corrected time. At Pit 2, the 6066 was right on the bumper of the Spitz Motorsports 6021 and passed by the McKnight team that was in their pit. This was a scheduled fuel stop for Josh as well but there was one thing missing… The pit crew and fuel! 6 and a half minutes were wasted as Josh and co-driver Alex drove around looking for their crew. Team owner and Josh’s dad, Jason Cobb scrambled around and was finally able to locate some fuel from a UTV team and got the 6066 truck back on course, only now they were shuffled to the back of the pack. Tensions were high but Josh and Alex were able to get back into the 4th position as they arrived into Pit 3, however the 6066 had a front flat and had been driving on it for nearly 5 miles. As you can expect the rim was badly damaged and became a problem to remove. Additionally the team missed the locator designed to hold the truck onto the jack when being lifted and the truck came crashing down. Once the truck was lifted once again, the wheel was pounded off and replaced.
Off into the desert and nearing Pit 4 the truck felt as if it was running out of fuel and with some quick math it was determined not to be the case. Alex discovered and corrected a plugged vent tube and had to switch fuel pumps from the overheated pump 1, another issue costing the team another 15 minutes of valuable time. A huge rock caused another flat and by Pit 5 it was obvious the team was on edge. Todd Jackson was at the pit awaiting the arrival of his truck and spoke with Josh, inspiring yet firm conversation would get the boys settled down, focused and put in perspective the race ahead. “Todd knew exactly what to say to Josh and you could tell it really hit home and relaxed him a bit.” Said Josh’s dad Jason. Something must have clicked because the young Cobb made it into pit 6 and on into 7 without a hitch and they were starting to get into a serious groove but the leaders had put some a distance on the team. RM300, a drivers change, Josh would get out and Jason would get in. Alex stayed put in the right seat and would direct Jason into the night, making their way closer to the front ready to take advantage of any mistakes made by the leaders. The truck left Pit 11 in good shape but would end up getting behing a 6100 truck for over an hour without being able to get close enough to get around. The team was beginning to realize their chances of contending for a win were fading so they began to run more conservative pace for the last 70+ miles and earn a solid 3rd place finish. Making it onto the podium was a great reward for a long days work but most of all the team was estatic with the changes and improvments they had made to the truck over the break and think this will set them up for success for the remaining two races in the series for 2017.
Bringing home the 4th place honors was the 6021 of Craig Spitz. Craig would share driving duties with Nic Lyon, who would start the race for the team. Nic would have a clean run in the top 5 to mile 300 where the team had their scheduled drivers change. Keeping the 6021 within striking distance, Nic and co-driver Chris Gonzales didn’t disappoint in their section of the most grueling race of the year. Craig and his son Jacob would take the reins to the finish while battling with the 6025 of Russ and Austin Mcknight. Striking a rock and getting a flat early, Craig and company would continue to swap positions with the Mcknight team to the last mile. Just edging out the 6025 by one minute, the Spitz family was very excited about the outcome of their first Vegas to Reno race.
After an eventful battle with the 6021 of Spitz, the 6025 of the McKnight father and son team would claim the last spot in the top 5 for the challenging 540 miles. Starting from the first position, the team’s strategy was to get the truck to the finish and see how their Vegas luck would pan out. Starting up front meant the team would see clean air frequently and quickly catch up to some of the slower UTV Turbo drivers. Austin and co-driver Daniel Plaza would run a clean and conservative effort to pit 5 where Russ and his navigator Christian would take the truck into the night. Shortly after the drivers change, the nasty Nevada silt would slow the race process for the 6025, causing it to lose critical track position. With their never give up attitude, Russ would push for the next few pits, gaining time on the field before handing the truck back to Austin and Daniel for the finish charge from pit 11. Driving into the darkness presented some challenges, zero wind became a major factor when it came to making a push to pick up positions in the class. Ultimately getting the truck to the finish was priority. Russ said, “Vegas to Reno is such a long race and our main focus was to get it to Reno in one piece and with as few issues as possible.” The Transwest Ford TrophyLite team managed a top 5 finish in a very competitive class and also picked up some valuable seat time in the 13 and a half hours it took to complete the course.
Finishing 6th was the 6001 of Todd Jackson and Mike Slater. The duo came to the race looking to extend their points lead, but suffered some race day setbacks along the way. Fighting from a mid-pack start, Slater would strike a rock while passing slower vehicles and require the 6001 to make up lost ground early. During the tire change, the team noticed that their on-board jack had failed making the exchange even tougher. Roughly 100 miles later, Slater would encounter some of the grueling Nevada silt beds that claim so many vehicles every year. A hidden rock buried deep beneath the flour like substance would flatten both passenger side tires at the same time. Struggling to make it to the next service area, the 6001 would get stuck in a corner with its two flats and remain there for 4 hours until a BITD recovery vehicle was able to render much needed help to the exhausted driving team. On the road again, Jackson would relieve Slater behind the wheel and put the truck in survival mode for the next 250 miles. Slowly picking off vehicles through the night with their KC HiLites, Jackson and crew would find themselves in a race for position with just 60 miles to the finish with the 6044 of Mike and Steve Horner. Through the rocky, mountainous final miles, the 6001 would pass the 6044, picking up the position at the finish line to secure as many championship points as possible.
Determined to keep pushing to the finish line no matter what obstacle presented itself, the Jackson and Slater duo picks up the $500 Metro Honda / Metro Acura Hard Charger Award. Congratulations to Todd, Mike and their team in an outstanding effort and display of grit and perseverance.
The continued support of Metro Honda & Metro Acura provides TrophyLite teams with the opportunity to pick up $1000 in extra cash with the Superior Performance and the Hard Charger Awards. If you are considering the purchase of a new vehicle or ready for service on your current car or truck be sure to check out Metro Honda / Acura in Montclair or visit MetroHonda.com or MetroAcura.com.
The 6044 Horner Brothers Racing entry took the FastLine Driving School rental TrophyLite for a spin in the Vegas heat for their first TrophyLite race. Steve Horner would take the green flag and set a great pace out of the start in Beatty while maintaining his position through pit 1. Around race mile 60, Steve would have some difficulty navigating an off camber turn in the slippery Nevada desert and tip the 6044 on its side. After about 20 minutes of downtime, Steve and his navigator were able to right the truck and continue on with no other issues. Mike Horner would get in the truck at race mile 100, and drive to the finish 450 miles later. The duo were very impressed with the strength and reliability of the TrophyLite class, as even with their mishap at mile 60, the team never had to turn a wrench or change a General Grabber X3 tire along the way. 15 hours and 22 minutes after their green flag, Mike would fly through the timing tower in Dayton with a 7th place finish.
Mark Harber in the Harber Heating and Air entry would have an eventful day in his 6073 entry. Fighting blinding dust early, Harber would settle into a pace to keep his TrophyLite in one piece and make it to the finish. Shortly after mile 50, the 6073 would start to encounter some issues with the engine shutting off and the team would struggle to find the culprit. After trying to chase down the gremlins for what seemed like hours, the steering system would fail about 20 miles before pit 3 causing the team to retire early. Mike would like to thank his determined crew for all of their help and dedication trying to get the truck to the finish line.
Spitfire Racing and the Lewis Energy Group would have their struggles as well but would not give in to the inhospitable race course. The 6074 Driven by Brad Pace and experienced TrophyLite co-driver Jacob Andrew in the right seat the team was able to overcome obstacles all day long that would carry them into the night. Just over 16hours and 36minutes the Spitfire Racing TL crossed the finish line in the 8th position.
The Wild Powersports TrophyLite underwent a major overhaul prior to this race, stripped down to the frame, power washed and powder coated the truck was re-assembled from the ground up. Replaced components that had worn from years of racing and few testing days to verify all systems were go. The team arrived in Vegas on Monday night with basically a brand new truck, team owner and driver John Ferrari wanted to get some testing done on the desert. This time was beneficial as John would discover a ‘tick’ in the power steering which was concerning, trans temps hanging around 300 and a couple of issues that would be addressed prior to the start on Friday. Starting in the 4th position the 6013 takes the green flag and is off and running but it wasn’t long before they lose the power steering. John muscles his way to Pit 1 where they were able to borrow a new pump from the 6025 team, once installed they found this was not the issue. Drove to Pit 3 and was able to locate a new steering ram from the 6073 team, which did the trick. Back on course and through Pit 4 the 6013 was starting to get in to a groove but just 5 miles past the pit the transmission had enough of the 300+ temps and they all forward gears. After a tow back to Pit 4, it was determined they wouldn’t have enough time to swap the transmission before the pit closing time. John said, “We had a GREAT time! I’m really starting to feel comfortable driving the truck, plus we didn’t hit anything or get stuck all day. We will be at Tonopah with a new trans and ready to go!”
Greg Bragg and the GB Racing TrophyLite entry would have a short day as well. The team started quickly and was holding strong in the 5th position through Pit 3 but it was shortly after that the 6012 began having issues with the transmission which would eventually take them out of the race at mile 109.
TrophyLite would like to thank everyone who has come out to race the TrophyLite Race Series and take their shot at the awesome Prize Purse available to them from our great sponsors who are a tremendous help to make this all possible.
Make sure to tune into the “TrophyLite Throwdown” Podcast – Available on SoundCloud and in the iTunes store 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.
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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 hope we will see you all at the Tonopah 250!
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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, Da Rumble-Eric Minks and @MrMaxweld <-- Thank you!