August 21st, 2019: The longest offroad race in the United States, Vegas to Reno. 505 miles of tight trails that wrap around mountains, lake beds, wild silt beds, dirt roads and a few whoop sections for good measure; the Nevada desert has something for everyone. We came with the intention of giving it our all in both Trophy Truck and Trophy Spec, but mostly to defend our 1st place finish from last year in the 6100 class. Our TT, having been on hiatus for the 2019 season, made its grand re-appearance with a guest driver Johnny Angal, who was also defending last year’s overall win in TT. It was a perfect match. Bringing the two top overall finishers from last year together on one team to rekindle the magic of 2018.
Trophy Truck 81, as you know, was making a comeback with a new and improved V10 motor and new package. With the race day bearing down on us there was little time for testing, but in true Mills fashion, we went for it. And so did Johnny Angel, sending the big blue Geiser Bros TT off a HUGE drop in time trials to effectively win the internet for the week. Was an “extra” kind of day for Mills Motorsports, to say the least. Fellow teams and the BITD crew received a show from Johnny Angal. As Racesafely had said, “Johnny hasn’t lost his love for absolutely sending it over the jumps.” Johnny was the only driver to launch off the drop t the end of the Fox Proving Grounds. Johnny replied saying “I finally had the balls to go big, I knew I had to do something to get a decent qualifying run.” Meanwhile, driver Taylor Mills and navigator Josh Huff ran an incredibly smooth lap in the Trophy Spec 6178. Taylor nailed it with our best qualifying run for times landing him with a 6th starting position for race day.
The morning after time trials before tech n contingency we had also replaced the transmission with a fresh one just to be sure everything was tip top. I don’t know who said going to a race is a vacation for us but its nothing like that, actually quite opposite its a constant battle of going back and forth with yourself asking if you forgot something and the stress of anything that could go wrong.
By race day everything has been checked and double checked with the exception of one thing, although everything was fine the day before. We had no communications between the TT and the chase crew. Johnny could transmit to us but he couldn’t receive communications from us. As 81 launches off the start in the blind, Taylor and Josh gear up. They are 6th in position to head out to face what Nevada has in store for them. Communication check, Go-Pros Check, Overall inspection check. We see them off the line and immediately head off to Pit 3 where TT and TS have their first fueling stop. Trophy Truck is first to roll in and Johnny and Vance are killing it they are 7th truck on the road and unofficial time. We fueled and had them out as quick as they came in. Now, as we wait on 6178 next to come through it is taking longer and we have a feeling something is wrong, we call in and they are still too far to hear us. We ask the helicopter if they know the whereabouts of 6178 and we get word back that 6178 was stuck behind traffic that had built up and Taylor was following the other trucks around and over the berm but the truck in front of him dug it up a bit by hitting the throttle so in the end Taylor had ended up high centered over the berm. After about 30 minutes they had rolled through pit 3 and received fuel and they had gotten a flat so the crew switched out the flat on the rear of the truck for a fresh wheel and tire.
Driver change for 81 Trophy came at pit 9 for Johnny Angal and Vance White. Rob Martensen and James Jeleniowski was taking over, with Johnny switching over while being 2nd TT on time the pressure was on for Rob and James. No other way to describe this driver change pit then “stupid long”. This is when everyone starts getting frustrated and emotions are getting the best of us. By the time Rob Martensen and navigator James make it out about 3 TT have passed them in the pits. The good news, they are back on the road and heading to the finish. Pit 9 for Taylor Mills and navigator Josh Huff was exciting, snack time was going on as Josh asks for a Monster/RedBull and Taylor would like some food and a drink. They shut the truck off we were all laughing talking shop talk back at each other then Taylor says ” Man we are like dead last huh, haha?”, Bart replies “no absolutely not, yall are like 14th on road” the look on Taylor’s face was priceless he was back in race mode “well what the hell lets get out of here I thought we were like last haha, let’s go josh!”
Did we mention this race was an interesting 505 miles race to the finish line? Pit 12 was our last pit stop for both TT and TS. As Rob and James are making their way into the pit, the crew is advised they had received a flat and need a tire swap on the back and tire change in the rear. The crew noticed that the caliper bridge was broken due to the last flat they had on the course. The team races around trying to get this fixed so they can send them off as Rob is telling them “its fine, it’s fine, to go, let’s go”. The pressure is on and continues to the finish.
Taylor and Josh are exhausted they roll into pit 12 with a leaky servo, off with the hood and fluids are replaced. Back at the finish line Rob and James have made it in the TT 81 with a 9th place finish. Meanwhile, the second half our team is still out sending Taylor Mills and Josh off to the finish. We head to the finish to ensure our 6178 TS makes it to the finish, at this time the sun has set and we race to reno, safely.
Both trucks finish, the crew is together and we are happy. Could we have done any better? Absolutely, this is what we do. We race hard we prep even harder and we live and learn from our mistakes. We would like to thank Mr. Mills again and as always for allowing us to chase this lifestyle with him and his sons. We are thankful for everyone on this team the volunteers who help, and the shop crew. Until next time, and we will be back. Laughlin us up next! Ya’ll ready?
We would also like to thank all of our sponsors: Rathole Drilling, BFGoodrich, Method Race Wheels, Geiser Bros, SDHQ, SteelIT, Fox, Baja Designs.