Desert Dog Racing – Volume II

With our first race in our rear view mirror, it was time to set our sights on our next race.  On December 10th 2016, S.N.O.R.E. (Southern Nevada OffRoad Enthusiasts) would be hosting its season finale race in Laughlin, NV called McKenzie’s Rage At The River.  The format of this race proved to be the most interesting, featuring a 12 mile course, run over two days, with classes being split into several heats.  For the class 9 cars, our heat was scheduled for an 8 am start with 4 laps.  In order to prep for the race, we would need to breakdown and clean the car;figure out a new air filter setup; check compression on our motor; reassemble the car; and finally complete a test run at our annual Thanksgiving desert trip.  After some investigating, we decided to go with a UMP air filter, while this was a little pricey, we thought the investment was worth it, in order to protect our motor.  Working with a neighbor of Jay and Johnny’s, we were able to fabricate a setup that would work.


Testing went well at our Thanksgiving trip and we were able to give rides to all of our family members who support us.  With all of our boxes checked, we signed up for the race and paid our entry fee.

As the race weekend started approaching, figuring out the logistics of getting our team to Laughlin proved to be challenging.  The Conroy’s would be taking the car out on Thursday the 8th.  They would also be pickingout our cold pit spot.  The McNeil’s would be coming out at various times on Friday the 9th.  It was a race to get to Laughlin, as the tech inspection and driver’s meeting were both scheduled for Friday night at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino.  Also scheduled for Friday, was a one lap fun run to check out the course.  Johnny and a friend were able to enter this, which proved to be a great choice, as they were able to provide real feedback.  At mile marker 6, there was a pretty big drop off, so the advice was to stay to right and then ride it out! As we got to the tech inspection, the Conroy’s had already got the car in line.


Along this line, all the vendors that support racing, setup their booths to sell merchandise, promote their products, and provide support to the various race teams.  Since my oldest son Mitch works for PCI Race Radios, he was lucky enough to be able to work this race.


When we finally made it up to inspection, all of our safety equipment was checked along with any contingency stickers, and just like that we were done.  The next step was the drivers meeting at 8 pm.  For this race, there were 328 cars entered in the various classes, so the drivers meeting had to be held in the ballroom of the Tropicana.  The meeting went well; the car was put to bed, so it was time to enjoy a little bit of fun at the gambling tables of Laughlin.

Saturday morning came early, plus we were all moving a little slow after staying up to try our luck at the craps table.  At the track, cars were coming off their trailers, race officials were setting up, and the cars for the first heat were gathering in the staging area.  The Conroy’s had picked the best cold pit possible so we could see the starting line.  At sun up, the first heat of the day started.

With our heat scheduled to start at 8 AM, it was time to get our car out of the trailer.  We started it up, checked tire pressures, looked for any leaks, and made sure we didn’t have any loose nuts.


Jay and I were Team 1 for this race, so we got suited up, strapped in, and headed over to the staging area.


At 8 AM we pulled up to the starting line in the middle position.  Last race we were the second team so this was our first green flag. The flag man counted down the last five seconds with his fingers; five, four, three, (get the RPM’s up), two, (don’t stall it), one, and we were off.  In my mind I did everything perfect, but the other cars were able to pull away.  I down shifted to see if that would help me get on top, but it wasn’t enough.  Since we only were doing four laps, Jay and I decided to make the best of it.  We made it thru the first section of turns and then hit a long straight away.  At the back of the course, there was a sharp left that took us along the base of the mountains.  With Johnny’s practice lap in our heads, we knew the drop off was around mile marker 6, so Jay kept calling them off over the radio as we passed them; 4, 5, 6. Finally we hit the drop off and I decided to play it safe and rolled over it. Looking down, it felt like we were going right off a cliff.  We finished the back of the course, turned left, and headed for home. At mile marker 10, we came to a blind high bank left turn.  As we entered the turn, I had to slam on the brakes because there was a car on its roof.  Luckily I didn’t hit them, but I had last all of my speed.  We had to wait a minute as the track crew quickly flipped the car over and then we were both back on our way.  We finished the first lap in 20 minutes which put us dead last in our class. Jay and I continued to battle thru the other three laps, but we were only able to shave a minute off our lap times.

We pulled back into our pit and were greeted by our family and friends.  Overall we felt like it was a huge accomplishment for us, as we were able to finish our part of the race with the car still in one piece, or so we thought.


Now it was time to prep the car for day 2.  After all, Johnny and Chaz had to go faster than their dads, right? Once again we started checking everything and just when we thought the car made it thru ok; we found a problem with our skid plate.

One problem with a class 9 car is the limited suspension.  This limited suspension causes the car to bottom out a lot on the track.  At some point, the rear part of our skid plate came un-tucked from the front plate and got folded over.


After trying a couple of desert fixes to straighten it out, Jay’s wife Christy found a metal fabrication business that said they could help us straighten it out.  So a bunch of the guys jumped in a truck and headed over.  After a couple of hours it was in good enough shape to work.

Sunday’s schedule would be the same as Saturday, so after another late night at the tables, we were all back at the track before the sun came up.  Johnny and I discussed the speed issue, but he wanted to see if the problem was the car or the driver. Chaz and him got suited up, strapped in, and headed over to staging.


Since this team had started the last race, they were old pros at the green flag.  With some final words of encouragement over the radio, they were off.

Out of the gate it looked like they were having the same speed issues as us.  We discussed it briefly over the radio, and Johnny decided he would try a couple of different shifting approaches to see if it helped.  But with nothing left to try, he pushed the peddle to the floor and focused on his driving.  As we listened to Chaz call out the mile markers, it was clear they were going to have good lap times. All of us in the pit rushed over to the infield, as you could see the last mile of the track. In this section thereis a big 180 degree turn.  The track was getting really chewed up, so when they brought the car to this turn on the first lap, they stalled in the deep sand.  Knowing Johnny, he wouldn’tmake the mistake twice.  As they raced thru their second lap, they came back into the last mile and entered the turn with more speed.  Take a look at what happened next.

They did a nice mule kick that caused the crowd to cheer.  They powered on thru the rest of the race and ended up finishing 9th overall. After discussing our speed issue with a couple of other race teams, we determined that our transmission was not geared correctly.  We checked the SNORE rulebook and there it was in black and white;

“Stock VW type 1 gears only. Close ratio 3rd and 4th allowed. Axle cover tubes

allowed. Other internal modifications are optional. No 3.88 ring and pinions and

no close 1 and 2 gear shafts.”

We needed to make some modifications to our transmission in order to get our speed up.

One of the biggest reasons we do this, is for the opportunity to spend time with our family and friends doing something we love.  Without their support, none of this would be possible.  So, from Jay and Johnny Conroy, Kenny, Mitch, and Chaz McNeil, thanks to everyone for their love and support.



Ken McNeil

Director of IT Service Management

Author: JC Whitney

JC Whitney is the largest and oldest catalog and Internet direct-to-consumer auto parts and accessories retailer in America. Since 1915, JC Whitney has been filling the needs of customers by providing the right part at the best price. You can always shop with confidence at

Share This Post On

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *