Milk-N-It Motorsports headed out to the Best in the Desert, Vegas to Reno off-road race, with the same confident exuberance as usual. The team has come a long way since that first race where they had little more than a car and a trailer and the will to succeed. The team’s collective experience in this first full season together has grown exponentially during the previous few races and it showed at Vegas to Reno, (V2R) when they qualified 16th overall, 8th in their class driving their 1500 Jimco Champion race car.
V2R is the longest desert race held in the US and travels through some of the most inhospitable and remote areas of the Nevada desert. The course is littered with ruts and rocks that are sometimes obscured by the countless silt beds that often emerge out of nowhere. It’s a grueling race that takes a toll on drivers, crew and equipment. As the drivers battle it out on the course crew members have to hustle to keep up as they leapfrog from pit to pit on their way to the finish in Reno. The sense of urgency adds to the tension as the field charges on forsaking all those who falter, leaving them behind in the dust.
Driver Todd Tuls and son TJ would drive the first half of the race and then hand the car off to Mark Miller and his son Jake. Tuls and Miller have been friends for 25 years and take great pleasure in sharing the trials and tribulations of racing with their 19 year old sons. There is nothing that compares to off-road racing for teaching the importance of hard work, sacrifice and perseverance.
Just before pit 4, Tj got his first action of the day when one of those hidden rocks bent a wheel causing the tire to go flat. The hard hit had bent the rim around the brake caliper causing a slight delay getting it changed. At pit 4 the team topped off the tank and put a fresh spare on the car before they headed back out into the fray. They were now making good time as the miles clicked past but again would suffer another flat, This time TJ had the tire changed and was strapped in ready to go in a mere 3 minutes. When they got to pit 7 the crew was there ready to fuel the car and check out the rest of the mechanicals. They warned of stragglers from the bike race who start early in the morning but had fallen way behind during the race.
After leaving pit 7 they were third in class making great time on the course and running just behind Roger Norman. Todd was on edge after hearing the reports of slow utv’s on the course. Milk-N-It motorsports has a strong will to win but not at any cost. Their commitment to safety for the crew and their fellow competitors trumps any race results at the end of the day.
As Todd and TJ were running through a dusty silt bed they came upon a huge cloud of dust as Roger Norman had just rolled his Trophy Truck. Todd caught a glimpse of bright orange which in that split second made him think of the straggler on an atv. He veered to the left to avoid the wreck only to come upon another racer with a flat stuck in the silt. As Todd pulled hard right on the steering wheel to avoid the class 1 car and Roger’s truck, they shot back across the course but caught a wheel in the deep ruts and launched into a violent barrel roll going over 3 to 5 times before they came to a rest. Thanks to the strength built into the Jimco chassis, Todd and TJ were shaken but not injured. All the hard work, preparation and intense effort that went into this race were dashed in a fraction of a second.
The car was pulled out and taken back to pit 7 where the crew jumped in assessing the damage and making plans to get it fixed and back out on course when it was determined that the rear trailing arm was beyond repair and they didn’t have a spare. You can rest assured that will be changed before the next race but those are just the things you learn as you go along with a new team.
The team’s next race will be on familiar terrain for the first time when they go back to Parker Arizona for the second time this season. It will give them the chance to apply what they learned at the season opener and get a gauge on how far they’ve progressed so far.
For more information and the latest photo gallery head over to the newly finished team website www.milknitmotorsports.com
Sponsors: Tuls Dairies :: Refuel with Milk :: BFGoodrich Tires :: Mark Johnson Fabrication & Race Prep :: Spoiled Oil Change :: Kartek :: Bink Designs
Photography by: Brian Binkert
Bink Designs – www.binkdesigns.com