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BITD: BJ Baldwin finishes second at "Vegas to Reno" Race

The Best in the Desert "Vegas to Reno" race is the longest off-road race in the United States. Well known for high speed graded roads, treacherous silt beds and tire killing rocky washes, the course still traverses part of the same trails that the original Pony Express ran from 1860 to 1861.

The race starts just outside of historic mining town of Beatty, Nevada and continues on through the badlands of Nevada coming to an end in Dayton, Nevada just south of Reno. BJ has previously won "Vegas to Reno" in trophy trucks but the overall victory he has yet to win. During last years race, BJ stopped to help an injured bike competitor, which ultimately cost him the overall victory. This year’s "Vegas to Reno" featured a record number of entries including over 25 trophy trucks. Unlike other off-road series, Best in the Desert features a unique time trial qualifying for start positions. Qualifying took place Thursday August 21st just outside Las Vegas.

Fresh off of his victory at the SCORE Baja 500, BJ Baldwin managed to win the top qualifying spot in his number 97 Baldwin Motorsports trophy truck. Starting the race off in front would be an advantage, allowing BJ to stay in front of the ultra dusty Nevada course. BJ exploded off the start sliding his truck like a rally car down the high speed sweeping right hand graded road disappearing into the unforgiving Nevada desert.

BJ immediately charged ahead, eventually putting thirteen minutes between him and the next car. BJ was first stopped by a flat at race mile 280 just outside of pit 7 at Luning. Due to the ultra soft terrain the truck fell off the jack and BJ and his co-pilot had to dig it out. Thrashing away, the truck kept sinking into the silty sand and it took over fourteen minutes to change the flat. Andy McMillin was able to pass BJ during his tire change. Once moving, BJ charged hard and caught back up to Andy, passing him by the next pit at Hawthorne, near race mile 294. BJ again put several minutes of distance between him and Andy.

BJ got a second flat around race mile 330, which again was a problematic tire change. BJ’s co-pilot had to use a manual jack and the truck kept sinking due to soft silty sand. BJ was once again passed back by Andy McMillin. BJ got moving and caught and passed Andy while he was stopped for fuel and tires at Top Gun, Pit 10, at race mile 381. The pair dragged to the road crossing which BJ managed to get across ahead of Andy. The pair spent the last seventy-four miles of the race swapping position back and forth. Once out in front, BJ pushed the pace on the graded roads to well over 130 miles per hour.

Ultimately, BJ was able to get out and front and finish ahead of the young McMillin, putting him across the finish line physically first. BJ sat and waited for the other vehicles to come in. After all the times were in BJ would finish 2nd in trophy trucks and 3rd overall, not the overall victory he was looking for but still a strong finish nonetheless.

"We had two flats that cost us a lot of time, I think that’s what cost us the race. The first flat I deserved, the second one was a surprise. The racing was great! We were battling back and forth all day with Andy McMillin, even into the last stretch from top gun to the finish. We crossed the line physically first, so I thought we had it sewn up. The overall has eluded me. I thought we had it sewn up until Rick Johnson came in. It was his day, my hats off to him. I will be back next year for the overall!" Stated the confident BJ Baldwin.

2008/09/09 | 00:49 CET | Editor: MR/Mad Media/Rita Konya

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