The last weekend of May brought about the McKenzie’s 400 hosted by Mojave Off-Road Racing Enthusiasts. The 400 mile race would be a great way to start the summer months. The festivities would begin with Lucerne Valley Middle/High School, hosting the pre-race technical inspection and driver registration. At Tech there was a variety of vendor support. The Dirty Lens Cap (DLC) Production team began interviewing the competitors at the end of Tech row. Racers, who volunteered, were able to be interviewed during a live streaming broadcast. Some of those interviewed were Clarence Cleary, Harley Young, and Matt Creveling. DLC Productions would continue their live coverage on race day, bringing viewers live coverage of the race from the historic “Wall” at race mile 20.
A steady breeze blew through Lucerne Valley Saturday Morning, as 90 off-road vehicles came to life, ready to take on the rugged California desert. The McKenzie’s 400 course would cover 43 miles of desert terrain, hitting the racers with everything from bottomless silt-beds, to jagged rock formations. It featured some 15 plus miles of long forgotten course including “The Wall”. The nearly forgotten area would once again be lined with spectators and media, ready for some high flying action, as racers would be launching their vehicles into the air. Hitting the wall at just 20 MPH is going to put you into the air, but Clarence Cleary, driver of the single seat 197 buggy, would pin it with the crowd cheering go big or go home! Spectators cheered and the photogs quickly snapped pictures, later naming Clarence the “Largest Launcher”, earning him $500 in Kartek Cash! Clarence would not just go big off “The Wall”, he would keep pace with the top dogs in the unlimited class all day, making it to the McKENZIE’S 400 finish line First Overall! If this isn’t impressive enough, Clarence conquered the California desert with only his Father and one friend for pit support.
Shawn Croll would make an appearance at this race in the Grove Lumber Trophy Truck. They brought the truck with 300 miles of abuse already on it from their previous race at the Silver State 300. During a post-race interview the team spokesperson said they wanted to participate in this race because of the technical challenges it offers each year and to see what might brake first on the truck to test it for longer races like the Baja 1000. Grove Racing would keep a lead on the competition for most of the race until the last lap when they broke a driveline and split their transmission down the center. They stopped at each pit on their last lap to add transmission fluid and finish the 400 mile race.
One of the largest class fields of the day was Class 10. Sammy Ehrenberg and David Norris were set to battle once again, but they would be joined by Peter and Eric Hajas from Minnesota, and the Barstow duo of Shane Brown and Matt Gumz. Matt Gumz would set fast lap in class by a mere 6 seconds over Peter Hajas, but it would be David Norris who took the checkered flags, slipping ahead of Sammy Ehrenberg who suffered two flats late in the race. Norris, driver of the 1040 car, dedicated the win to his late father Michael Norris Sr.
The 5 unlimited Class was the surprise of the weekend with 10 unlimited VW Bugs leaving the starting line Saturday morning. The competition was tight early on, but Scott Moldenhauer, driver of the #502 bug, would end up dominating his class. Coming in 39 plus minutes with all 8 laps completed before the second place finisher John Willard in the #514 bug would complete 7. Dennis Sletten accepted the challenge stepping up his limited 5/1600 baja bug against the likes of the 5 Unlimited Class. Dennis would take 3rd place in the class coming in only about an hour behind John Willard.
In Class 9 Matt Creveling would have to keep the gas pedal down and his rear view clear to bring home a win. Fighting the dust and deep whoops on the course, he kept a steady pace and won in his class driving the Desert Concepts sponsored #990. Harley Young wouldn’t go down without a fight setting the fast lap time of 1 hour, 5 minutes, and an average speed of 39.6 MPH. Harley still managed to get a second place finish even with a roll over early in the race.
The class that set the tone for the race was most certainly the 1600 racers, who were battling for the CT Sales $700 Bonus. Eleven 1600cc VW powered buggies would leave the line Saturday morning, but only one car could finish atop the McKENZIE’S 400 podium. The early battle was between Daniel Deen piloting car #1686, against the #1622 car piloted by the Craig brothers. Daniel would set fast lap in class, but it would be his last, completing only 3 of the 8 scheduled laps. Lucas Knecht of Lone Kid Racing and his co-driver Bryan Johnson would take a solid second place finish followed by Zach Sizelove. This left the Craig brothers, Timmy, TJ, and Jeremy on top, setting 5 fast laps, earning them not only the 1600 win, but also the McKENZIE’S Most Dominat Driver Award earning them a custom trophy and an extra $1000 cash.
The Class 1400 competition for this race would bring about some challenges as well as a triumphant finish by driver Robbie Cockrell in the #1470 truck. Robbie averaged 46.2 MPH over his 6 laps landing him in the 1st place position. Jerry Fisher, behind the wheel of the #1430 McKenzie’s sponsored truck would come in second and also take home the fast lap cash with a lap time of 51 minutes and 7 seconds with an average speed of 50.5 MPH. Half of the 1400 class would complete the 6 laps required for this race. Sal Gomez of SG Motorsports #1413 was holding a solid second place with only a 4 minute gap behind the leader when a pitman arm would break causing the steering box to crack on their last lap around pit C. After repairing the truck, Sal was able to finish the race in 6th place. After the race, Sal said, “That’s racing.” After this race, he will be doing a complete tear down of his race truck to get it ready for the Freedom 250 on July 26, in Barstow, California.
Kurt Young, owner of DC Shock services, would once again bring out his Class 2000 truck. The DC Shocks truck would not only take the 1st place podium finish, but also claim the fast lap cash at the McKenzie’s 400. The team completed their first lap in 1 hour and 6 minutes with an average speed of 38.9 MPH. Joser Herrera racing #2022 would come in second place just shy of 5 minutes behind the leader in class 2000.
The McKENZIE’S 400 turned out to be a very tough race. The technical 43 mile course claimed 56 of the 90 race vehicles that left the line Saturday morning, leaving only 34 who made it across the finish line before the time limit. Big thanks to all the racers, their families, and crews who made the McKENZIE’S 400 a great race!
Additional Class Winners
Class 12 – Brian Bowles
Class 1300 – Travis Howard
Class 1350 – Megan McLeod
Class 3000 – Cheri Nutter
Class 5/16 – Sean Hoglund
Class 3 – Robert Morton
Additional Fast Lap Awards
Class 1 – Shawn Croll
Class 12 – Brian Bowles
Class 5 – Rick Holmes
Class 1350 – John Morgan
Class 1300 – Gill Garcia
Class 3 – Robert Morton
Special Thanks to:
Jeff and Kim at McKENZIE’S
Lucerne Valley Middle/High School
All the Volunteer Support
The Diry Lens Cap Crew
ENGAGE Off Road