The Best in the Desert Parker 425 has always been one of the toughest races in off-road. This year’s event was somehow even tougher. After just one lap, harsh square edged holes developed all over the course. Some say recent precipitation loosened the soils that bind together the unique mix of dirt and rocks in the ground. The sandy sections had issues too, the ground was damp and heavy. The combination wreaked havoc on driveline parts; particularly torque convertors, drive shafts and transmissions.
After suffering parts failures on Dale Dondel’s Trick Truck and Jared Roberts’ Racer Engineering unlimited car, Roberts Racing was down to one vehicle running; Andy Lambert’s #1588 Racer Engineering unlimited car. The team needed to get the 1588 car to the finish and had just the man to do it. When the going gets tough and you need someone you trust to get the job done, there is nobody more qualified than Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer.
Not only has Dakota proven himself under fire but he has an infectious confidence that brings out the best in everyone around him. Many would feel some pressure. Instead, Dakota and co-driver Brian Busby just hopped in and went for a fun ride. They brought the car home in the 20th spot after 14 hours of racing. “It was a great honor for the team to allow me to drive at the Parker 425,” said Dakota, “I look forward to racing with Brian Busby again at the Mint 400.”
The race started out like any other and by that I mean, Dale Dondel qualified fastest. It was his seventh straight race qualifying in the number one spot. On lap one, Dale started building a gap on the field. By the time they pulled into the pit at Midway on the second lap they had an 8 minute lead. Co-driver Mike Dondel had been monitoring the gauges calling out the temps and levels; everything was running perfectly. The Roberts Racing crew got them re-fueled and ready for more work when disaster struck. Pulling away from the pit forward motion just stopped. After closer inspection it was found that the output shaft on the transmission had sheared. Whether it was the grueling terrain or just a flawed piece the result was the same; they were out of contention.
The same bad luck was visited upon the 1585 car with Jared Roberts driving and Dakota Meyer in the right seat. Their torque convertor called it quits leaving them without forward progress. Their day was over too soon but they did get one heck of a thrill on lap one. “We went off a steep drop a little too fast,” said Jared Roberts, “We launched halfway down a huge hill landing in deep sand. The impact ripped the body panels off on both sides of the car.”
The 1588 car of Andy Lambert did not get by unscathed either. They had to replace a CV joint in the rear before Meyer and Busby jumped in to bring it home.
Dakota Meyer had the team’s hope of getting to the finish riding on him as well as something else that is very special. While attending a ceremony at ground zero, Meyer was presented with a flag that had flown over the 911 memorial. He takes the flag wherever he goes. It has gone to Afghanistan when Meyer was there to support the troops and now it has run the Parker 425. On March 13-15 the flag will be in Las Vegas when Dakota and the Roberts Racing crew will compete in the legendary Mint 400.
Photography By: Bink Designs