Story Source: Scout.com / Dan Bova
If you see a rather large dust cloud rising over Parker, Arizona this weekend, don’t worry that the Apocalypse is upon us. This weekend marks the 42nd running of the Parker 425 off-road desert race. It’s gonna be loud and it’s gonna be dirty.
The Parker 425 course features all kinds of madness for those crazy enough to get in the drive’s seat: 425 miles of deep sand, dry river beds, rocky outcrops, silt and even some mud depending on the weather.
Speed is critical, obviously, but it’s only one element critical to winning these off-road ragers. Cool under pressure, stamina and the ability to change a flat in the blink of an eye are vital to making it across the finish line in one piece. One of this year’s elite drivers in the Trophy Truck division is Dale Dondel, with Roberts Racing. We caught up with the seasoned pro to find out what goes into driving a $1 million truck like you stole it a few days before the green flag got waved.
Scout: How long have you been racing?
Dale: I’ve been building and racing race cars for twenty years now.
Scout: How long have you been with Roberts Racing?
About four or five months. They came aboard late last year and have been gearing up for this year. We are all excited and ready for some good luck this year.
Scout: How bruising on your body it is to be in one of these trucks?
It takes a toll on you just like any racing. You have to do your best to be in good physical condition. The Parker race is 425 miles, you’re going to be in a car for about 7 1/2 hours in the desert. In NASCAR races or Indy car races, you have a straightaway and can kind of rest your mind and think about something different than what you are doing. In our racing, you have to concentrate every inch of every every mile. Ditches, trees, animals—there is a lot going on out there. At the end of 7 1/2 hours not only is your body physically drained, so is your mind.
Scout: Did you have to learn that the hard way?
I came from a motorcycle racing background where it was really similar. If you aren’t paying attention and you hit a rain ditch or a rock, then you’re done. So pretty much since the age of fifteen, I’ve learned the importance of training your mind.
Scout: Tell us a little more about the Trophy Truck heat.
Trophy truck racing doesn’t have many regulations on the specs: it’s pretty wide open on chassis and engine packages. Some of these trophy trucks get up to 11,000 horsepower. They definitely are exciting to watch compared to some of the limited classes.
There are only a few guys who go over 800 horsepower. Power so far has proven to be not a huge advantage because there’s a lot of wheels spinning in sand. There’s a lot of consideration that goes into these trucks: weight ratio, tire size and balance of the weight…You’ve definitely got to do your homework and test it and build the correct vehicle for road racing for sure.
Scout: How many people are in the truck while you’re running?
Two people, one drive and one navigator. The navigator has the GPS in front of him and is constantly calling out directions and alerting you to danger. If the vehicle gets a flat tire, the navigator needs to get out and change it and get back in. We’re talking about a 150-pound wheel and tire. We like to see that done in a minute and a half.
What would you tell someone who hasn’t watch this before, what are they missing?
Probably the most exciting auto racing in the world. It’s action packed. You can watch guys drive a car around a parking lot or you can watch guys drive around an 850+ horsepower, 30-inch wheel travel truck with speeds approaching 140 miles an hour in the middle of the desert. There is action every inch these trucks travel.
Is there anyone you are looking forward to seeing in your rear-view mirror?
There isn’t one particular guy, there are like five guys who are my closest competitors for sure. You have to keep an eye on them. No one has an extreme advantage over the next guy. We are all really competitive with one another, so it’ll be a battle out there for sure.
Photography By: Bink Designs