Driver Sean Cook and Co-Driver Joey Brasil of the SPEED Energy / Jackson Rancheria Casino / Black Rhino Performance team took first place in the Pro UTV class at this past weekend’s big desert race, the HDRA Eldorado Reno 500.
On Friday, the team arrived for tech and contingency where they were prominently displayed on tech row during the Dirt Live Expo. That afternoon, the team participated in the team pit challenge where they unofficially took second, but after discovering a loose lug nut, they were penalized, and the Monster Energy Team of BJ Baldwin took official second place. Sean Cook noted it was an amazing attempt by the team considering two members had just flown in from Michigan and had zero experience in this venue.
The team was very excited just to be representing at such an event. Rigid Industries, one of Cooks sponsors, provided plenty of Rigid Nation shirts for the team to wear. The team had some last minute tweaking to do to their Rugged Radios, and with help from Rugged Technician Nick, they were off to the races!
The team arrived at the Tahoe Motorplex bright and early on race day Saturday, and made any final adjustments to the car. Driver, Sean Cook, along with his first time Co-Driver, Joey Brasil, left the starting line at about 10 AM. Cook drew the #2 spot behind Paul Boughten’s Arctic Cat. At mile one, Cook experienced his first flat tire which was not the result of any type of problem with the tire, but rather from the amount of rocks on the rough course. Brasil leaped into action, had the tire changed quickly, and they were back on course in no time.
At about mile marker 50, Cook experienced a failure with the lower driver side ball joint which made the vehicle veer over the embankment and nearly roll. With the great radio reception provided by their Rugged Radios system, Cook was able to radio in his chase team, and help quickly arrived.
Lap two began to show more carnage as vehicles were consumed by the incredibly rough terrain. The team was making great time catching up to race leader, Doug McCrady, in the #1901 Arctic Cat. At mile marker 74, another ball joint failure brought the team to a halt in the bottleneck of a canyon where vehicles began to pile up. Cook and Brasil dug out the boulder that held up the truck to clear the #1440 truck, and the bottleneck was re-opened. Cook was impressed to see the Monster Energy helicopter fly into the canyon to deliver the parts to fix the RZR even though they were the wrong parts. Crew Chief, Jeff Correia, drove out as close to the broken RZR as possible, still hiking nearly 2 miles up the canyon to make the necessary repairs.
The RZR was running again and, unknown to Cook, he was in first place. When Cook came across the start/finish line, he was informed that the #1901 car was broken down about 20 miles behind him. He wondered if the race would be called since he was the only car still running, but HDRA officials advised him to complete the next 22 mile loop. Finally, at 11:30 PM HDRA reported across the radio that #1901 had cleared the start/finish line and was continuing onto their third lap. Cook and Brasil immediately roared off into the desert darkness, knowing he must play it safe to finish. Cook felt the eerie atmosphere of the desert at night, with many broken vehicles over the edge, leaving just their rear ends exposed to the road, and others abandoned in the middle of the road with no drivers.
The third lap changed dramatically with rocks hidden under silt as deep as the top of the tires. The team stayed on task, guiding the RZR to the finish line at 2:30 AM. Cook stated, “It was a great sight to see George Antill still waiting up for [us]” where Cook was awarded first place in the Pro UTV class!