Opportunity for seat time came knocking with the MDR McKenzie's 400. Held in the heat of the Mojave in late June, the team turnout for the 400 is historically light. The light turnout is owed to the length of the race (most MDR rounds are 250-milers) and the mercury level (90s to 100-plus). Placing well in a long, hot race takes a dedicated crew, a talented driver, and a well-built truck. This set of requirements meant that Towery Off-Road Racing was primed and ready for a strong showing. An overall win would be tough, as several Class 1 unlimited buggies were on the starting grid, but it wasn't out of the question.
Lucerne's racecourse is both well-worn and well-liked. Even though the Johnson Valley OHV area (home to the Lucerne 400) is an open-travel OHV area, the BLM has restricted race promoters' options for courses. Vast valleys alternate with tight, whooped-out sections. Deep sand is thrown in for good measure. Lucerne also has several wide-open pin-it-to-win-it sections where every racing class gets a chance to wind out to maximum velocity. The pine-clothed San Bernardino Mountains in the distance add tremendous scenic value to the Lucerne experience.
Prerace testing had gone well for Matt and his crew. The truck was handling well, and there was abundant power on tap under the hood. One thing was cause for concern: This was the truck's first race in the heat, and the temperature gauge hinted at hot times inside the engine block. The culprit was one of three things: not enough airflow, not enough radiator surface area, or ignition timing that was too far advanced. C&D had selected a large aluminum radiator during the build and had provided extensive ducting to channel as much air as possible directly through the aluminum core. The team decided to try the easiest possible solution first: They removed the grille-mounted lights. Airflow increased - problem solved. The truck and the team were both ready for the starting line.
Matt is quick to share his hard-earned Class 8 experience with others. He arranged for a codriver change each lap. Eight lucky souls would have a chance to experience Lucerne from Matt's spectacular vantage point. Final codriver breakdown: six team members and two journalists. Collette would ride Lap 5, and I would ride Lap 7.
In a nutshell, the standard of excellence has been upheld. Matt's truck worked as beautifully as it looked. It was great to be ready when opportunity came knocking.