Overcoming an unexpectedly stacked field and one of the most unusual environments in off-road racing history, Bryce Menzies claimed the 2020 Best In The Desert series Maxxis Vegas to Reno off-road race last weekend.
Driving the No.7 Red Bull/AMSOIL/Toyo Tire-sponsored all-wheel drive unlimited truck, Menzies repeated his 2019 performance with a back-to-back race win. He finished in a time of 7 hours and 48 minutes; 8 minutes and 45 seconds faster than second-place finishers Kevin Thompson/Harley Letner’s No.70 Concrete Motorsports/BFGoodrich two-wheel drive truck.
In today’s COVID-restricted environment, the overall feeling among promoters, sponsors and race teams is that every successful off-road event is a blessing this season. While SCORE International is publicly optimistic it can run the BFGoodrich Baja 500 and Baja 1000s later in the year, nothing is certain in 2020.
That mindset bolstered the race’s turnout to a record entry of 394 vehicles, including 34 unlimited Trick Trucks (Trophy-Trucks) and 38 Class 6100 limited trucks. The UTV ranks also answered the call, with 53 UTV Turbo Pro cars and a staggering 111 side-by-sides spread across various classes. In fact, entries were up in every category with the motorcycle division showing a huge turnout as well.
While the BITD organization had executed the Silver State 300 race in the earliest days of the pandemic, pulling off a longer and much higher profile 515-mile Vegas to Reno proved to be a more complex matter. Mask-wearing was mandatory at race registration, in technical inspection and in the pits, although the excessive heat on race day made the latter an uncomfortable option. The Driver’s Meeting was held virtually, and there were tighter restrictions by BITD at the start and finish line areas.
Even with these restrictive plans in place, there were massive behind the scenes efforts with the state authorities and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that come down to the final week before an official green light was granted to BITD management. There was even a COVID-19 testing request sent out to race teams only two days before qualifying, a clear signal of the immense pressure all sides were facing.
Fittingly, for this year’s race the qualifying format took place late Wednesday night, with the fastest vehicles running entirely in the dark. It was a radical departure for race organizers to take, as no major desert race has ever run qualifying at night. While the move was questioned by many before the session, the lingering dust and limited visibility during qualifying only stoked the fires of controversy.
Former Baja 1000 winner Cameron Steele drew the coveted number one qualifying spot, a dust-free advantage that garnered the popular racer night’s fastest time. Behind Steele came the Trick Trucks of Bryce Menzies, Luke McMillin, Jonathan Brenthel, Robby Gordon, Jason Voss, Rob MacCachren, Kevin Thompson and Ryan Arciero. Brock Heger set the fast time in Class 6100 followed by Ray Griffith, Jax Redline, and Troy Messer. Jeff Proctor in the factory Honda took the Class 7200 pole while Brent Fox was fastest in qualifying in Class 1000 and Brandon Bailey in Class 1500.
On race day Steele’s advantage was wiped away with an early flat tire and brake issues, opening the door for Menzies to get out front and in clear air. Luke McMillin (No.83 4WP/BFGoodrich unlimited truck) and Kevin Thompson/Harley Letner were in the hunt, but Menzies’ low-slung Huseman chassis and all-wheel drive was too much of an advantage. Gordon suffered an early driveshaft failure in his newly revamped all-wheel drive truck, forcing the star driver to make up time and finally get his so-called “Unicorn” to the finish. MacCachren made a rare driving mistake and hurt his back, forcing him to turn over the keys of the family race truck to son Cayden despite his never driving more than guiding it on a trailer. Amazingly the younger MaCachren made it to the checkered flag.
Sadly, the same wasn’t true for the No.32 Levi’s/BFGoodrich Herbst-built truck driven by Arciero and co-driver Kyle Washington. A failed hub seal caused a rear rotor and tire assembly to catch fire. While an electronic sensor triggered a dash alarm to allow the duo to stop and exit safely, the mid-six figure race truck burned to the ground.
This is Menzies’ second time winning the Vegas to Reno marathon, continuing an impressive streak for the popular driver and navigator Oren Anderson. The duo also claimed the 2nd Annual Toyo Tires Desert Invitational off-road race in February of this year and will look to carry his momentum to the SCORE Baja 500 in September.
“As a Las Vegas native nothing makes me happier than winning Vegas to Reno,” said Menzies. “It’s a great race and BITD did a fantastic job of ensuring it happened this year given all the uncertainty. With two wins stateside, I’m looking to get back down to Baja and keep the momentum going!”
Other major Vegas to Reno victories include Bailey in Class 1500, Ray Griffith in a highly competitive Class 6100 and Seth Quintero driving a Red Bull-backed Polaris in the UTV Pro Production category. The No.T944 Can-Am of UTV master Phil Blurton took home another win against the massive UTV Pro Turbo class.
The longest point to point desert race in North America, the event is the cornerstone of the BITD season and was first organized by its late founder Casey Folks in 1996.
“If you asked me if to imagine all of the challenges we just faced in putting on an off-road race I would have said you were crazy,” commented BITD co-owner and CEO Daryl Folks. “All I can say is that I am extremely proud of our staff for persevering, our race operations team for never giving up, our volunteers for all their support and sacrifice, and most of all, our racers. They were true heroes rising to the occasion and helping us pull this event off. Somewhere, some-place I know my dad is smiling.”
Watch a beautiful 4K recap video of Bryce Menzie’s overall victory here:
Complete Vegas to Reno results here.