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For a Pair of DFR-backed Drivers, Elvis Has Left the Boulders

February 24, 2012

Photo courtesy of BongoMedia

It’s weird how you can wake up on race day with one scenario in your head — winning — and end the same day on an entirely different note. For two of our DFR-sponsored drivers, the 2012 King of the Hammers UTV Race earlier this month in California’s Johnson Valley became a chance to either complete a rugged desert race relatively unscathed, or, when all was lost, have an opportunity to help your competitors move past Elvis.

And Elvis — which is without question the most difficult rock section on the course — played a prominent role in the race results for a pair of our sponsored drivers on that grueling 78-mile race.

UTV driver Jon Crowley describes the action that day from his viewpoint behind the wheel of his Polaris RZR XP 900. He and his team arrived at the lakebed five days before  the race on Thursday, Feb. 9. His intention was to shake down his Kawasaki Teryx, but two days into that effort, his well-equipped UTV blew a head gasket.

Undeterred, Crowley turned to his Polaris RZR, which was not only at hand, but was already equipped with harnesses as well as a raft of Race Pace products from DragonFire. These include front and rear bumpers, backbones, a tire carrier, replacement A-arms, V-brace and radius arms. All he needed to add were window nets, an amber light and an aluminum roof and Bam! — he was in like Flynn.

Crowley got permission to move from the Unlimited 4 class to the Production 1000 class for the renovated RZR, starting 25th off the line. That put him and his crew 12 minutes behind the first cars, along with the accompanying dust clouds.

Driving cautiously the first five miles of the race, Crowley began to pass other cars. At one point, he used his DragonFire “Bash” bumper to assist a driver in front of him that was blocking his way, then headed toward Elvis — where the big rocks are — at the 45-mile mark. Elvis was jammed with a huge line of cars in front of them, but by the time they pushed, pulled and maneuvered their way to the bottom, they had passed another half dozen cars and were on the desert floor.

At the pit stop, they were told there were only a few cars in front of them, and they rolled across the finish line with a fourth-place overall finish. On the good side, Crowley said they had no flats, no broken bolts, no problems and they were one of 17 out of 39 cars to actually complete the race. And he said they accomplished what they intended to do: finish the race and have fun doing it.

Meanwhile, Brian Bush and co-driver Greg Frantz were on hand to back up their third-place finish from last year. This DFR-sponsored team drew the No. 1 starting position for Thursday’s race, holding the lead for 35 minutes in Bush’s Rotax-powered Rhino. That’s when Mitch Guthrie, the eventual winner, passed them. Almost immediately, Bush and his co-driver made a navigational error that enabled three more cars to pass them by. After a pit stop and taking on fuel, they headed toward Elvis, where everything it seems, fell to pieces.

Bush arrived at Elvis in third place, but a lower ball joint on his Rhino gave way, prompting a flat tire and wedging the vehicle between a pair of rocks. Despite their best efforts, the team called it a day, pulling the UTV out of the way for other drivers.

But here’s the thing: Instead of whining and complaining, making excuses or pouting on the sidelines, Bush jumped in and helped every single competitor behind him who became entrapped in Elvis grasp. He pulled winch cable, moved rocks, shouted encouragement and helped create alternate lines to help drivers out of this nightmare portion of the race trail.

So there you have it: Two competitors and no prizewinners. One of these riders was just happy to have completed the race on a beautiful day in the desert; the other was more than content to help his fellow racers after disaster dashed his own dreams. That’s what we call sportsmanship. And we’re pretty sure that’s what desert racing is all about.

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