Race 3 Recap from Knesek Ranch
Written by Mike Kowis
After the long, hot summer break, off-road racers were chomping at the bit for
more cross-country racing action from the TX4 cross-country series. Luckily,
Round 3 races held at Knesek Ranch didn’t disappoint. As the weather
continues to cool off and more folks hear about this exciting new XC series in
Texas, I suspect turnout for the next race on October 29 & 30 will be bigger and
better. Below is my race recap. Enjoy!
Rockdale, TX… it’s a small town approximately 40 miles west of College Station.
This property is mostly flat and covered with thorny mesquite trees and prickly
cactus plants surrounding a large, grassy pasture near the front of the property.
For anyone who hasn’t yet experienced one of the TX4 race weekends, they are
packed and keep racers busy at all times. Here’s my schedule from this event:
6:45am – Leave home
10:00am – ATV inspection
10:15am – ATV practice
11:30am – ATV race
4:15pm – ATV podium
5:00pm – Set up my primitive campsite
7:00pm – Poker Run (chance to win $$$ and hang out with friends)
10:00am – UTV practice
12:30pm – UTV race
2:30pm – Pack up the campsite
3:30pm – UTV Podium
7:30pm – Get home
As you can see, it’s a non-stop weekend and leaves me 100% exhausted. But it’s
totally worth it!
Saturday and Sunday were warm with sunny skies and mid-90 temps. The hot,
dry weather meant racers dealt with dust on the track. Luckily, a constant
breeze carried it away quickly (most of the time).
The ATV and SxS courses were similar except for a different section of tight
woods near the first mile or so. The quad track was 3.8 miles in length according
to my speedo and the UTV track was 3.4 miles. Both tracks started with several
zig-zag runs in the open pasture area, then ran though tight, twisty woods on
the far right side of the property before coming back across the pasture area
and finishing the last 2 miles in the sparse wooded section on the left side of the
property. Overall, the track was fast and flowed well. The pasture track was
wide and had plenty of sweeping turns. The woods were littered with tire
hazards (prickly cacti, thorny mesquite trees, and small cut-off stumps/roots).
Those obstacles and the occasional low-hanging branch kept racers on their
On Saturday morning, ATV racers met up with Zach R. (a TX4 staffer and fellow
ATV racer) for a quick tech inspection and then headed to the starting line for
practice at 10:15 a.m.
As I slowly zig-zagged my big, heavy utility quad around the ATV track for the
first time, I noticed the first mile of the course was much different than the
previous races held here by another series. Never before had we ventured into
the woods on the right side of the pasture, so this section was new and exciting.
Other than the first mile, the rest of the course felt familiar in terms of the
terrain and track layout.
I also noticed how tight the new wooded section was. On the first practice lap, I
had to stop and back up b/c I didn’t turn sharp enough to get through an “S”
curve lined with thick underbrush and small trees. Obviously, stopping/backing
up is no bueno during the race. So I had to quickly crank the handle bar from side
to side to pass that section of track without getting hung up.
During the first lap, I let John G. (a fellow ATV utility class racer) pass me and my
2021 Renegade 1000r (dubbed the “Couch Rocket” by Terry D.) in the woods.
Unbeknownst to me, John snagged a tree soon after he passed me and rolled his
utility quad. Luckily, both he and his Polaris Sportsman 850 were unscathed. But
unfortunately, that was a sign of things to come for him.
Joining John G. and me in the Utility Amateur Class on this day were Sean B.
(this time he brought a 16 year old Bombardier 400) and his brother Gene
(complete with a cast on his left hand) riding a Kymco 500. and his buddy John
G. that I mentioned above. The four of us were a motley crew.
The Utility Amateur Class lined up on the last row behind the Open C, Vintage,
40+ Amateur, Blasters, and Trikes. When it came time for our class to finally
start, I lined up the Couch Rocket on the far right side and facing the first left-
hand turn approximately 75 feet ahead.
As Cory W. pointed to each rider on the starting line, I nodded my head to
indicate I was ready and then focused my attention solely on the green flag he
was holding. As soon as he waived it, I immediately hit the start button and shot
off the line. John had a good start too as we both took the early lead towards the
first turn. I grabbed the holeshot followed closely by John. Sean and Gene
followed suit. Woo hoo! So far, so good.
ATV LAPS 1-6:
After turn one, the track repeatedly zigged left and zagged right through the
large grassy field towards the entrance gate. A half-mile later, the course took
racers into the tight woods where the super tight “S” curve was located. I
carefully maneuvered through it without incident and continued onwards.
Soon after that spot, I could hear one of my competitors on my rear bumper. I
was too focused on the track ahead to look back, so I wasn’t sure who it was.
Suddenly, I hear a loud hissing sound and instantly thought I popped a tire. This
was no time to pull over and check, so I kept pushing forward and waited to see
how the Couch Rocket handled.
A few turns later the course dumped riders back into the open field, and I was
relieved to discover my quad handled fine (no damage). More important, the
rider who was previously right on my tail had vanished as quickly as he
appeared. After the race, I found out it was John G. who caught up to me in the
woods, and he hit a fence post/flipped his quad over when he tried to pass me.
When he got it upright, he discovered his valve stem was damaged (which
explains the hissing sound I heard). With John out, that left Sean and Gene in hot
pursuit behind me. At that point, I had no idea John was done for the day and
kept the hammer down in case he was still chasing me.
As I entered the scoring schute at the end of lap one, I tried to grab the hose
connected to my camelback. To my surprise, I couldn’t reach it and signaled
Chad W. (a TX4 staffer and fellow UTV racer) for help. He handed it to me on
the right side and as soon as I let go, it immediately became out of reach again.
Ugh. I thought there’s no way I can finish this race without water. At the end of
lap 2, I stopped next to Chad again, and he quickly untangled the hose and
moved it to my left side. It was a huge relief to finally get access to water
whenever I needed it.
The second half of the race was mostly uneventful except for passing a few of
the slower racers from other classes. Some pulled off the trail quickly and let me
pass, while others made me work for it. I always smile whenever I ride up on a
trike in practice or during the race as I grew up riding them in the 80s. However,
it was a bit frustrating to eat their roost for 2 miles through the woods til I could
finally find a safe place to pass. Grrr.
As the race wore on, I started getting tired and looked forward to seeing the
checkered flag. As I pulled into the scoring schute at the end of lap 5, I was
hoping to see Chad waiving the big black and white. Instead, he was pointing 1
finger in the air to signal ONE MORE LAP. Ugh! I had 1 finger that I wanted to
show him. LOL
When I finished the race after lap 6, I ended up with the win followed by Gene
finishing second and Sean taking third. Congrats to both of them.
Around 7 pm, Terry (the TX4 Promoter and fellow UTV racer) slowly led a dozen
or more side-by-sides and ATVs around the UTV track for a poker run. Having
attended all 3 TX4 races so far this season, this fun event has become one of my
favorite parts of the weekend. It’s relaxing and a great way to meet/socialize
with other racers and their families. Just as important, racers get a sneak peak
of the UTV track (which sometimes varies from the ATV track). For those
unfamiliar, participants chip in an entrance fee of only $20 and form a train that
is slowly led around the course by our fearless leader, Terry. Occasionally, he
stops to let folks draw a random card from the deck.
On this evening, the pot reached a whopping $400 with half going to the lucky
winner and the other half supporting the TX4 series. Congrats to John G. for
having the best poker hand and taking home the cash prize. Gene B. won a free
T-shirt for having the 2 nd place hand. Win or lose, everyone enjoyed lots of
friendly conversation and cold beverages.
Afterwards, I returned to my trailer where I enjoyed another night of primitive
camping next to the track.
Things got interesting around 12:15am when a nearby train rolled through. Its
loud horn was startling, but not as disturbing as what I heard next. Several
COYOTES somewhere in the dark woods behind me began howling. I nearly wet
my pants as I realized I wasn’t alone. Feeling vulnerable, I climbed inside the
safety of my truck. A few minutes later, I came to my senses and realized I
couldn’t sleep in the front seat of my pickup. So I reluctantly went back to my
bed set-up on the trailer and tried to put on a brave face. Around 3 am, another
train rolled through and started my heart pumping again. Eventually the sun
came up, and (sleepy or not) I was never so happy to get out of bed.
On Sunday morning around 10 am, the UTVs had a parade lap plus one
(optional) hot lap. The track looked somewhat similar to the ATV track with the
exception that the Side-by-Sides ran a different section of tight woods near the
first mile of the track. To enter this section from the field, racers ran through an
opening along an old fence with barb’d wire loosely wrapped around the left
post. If you got too close, it would definitely shred your left tires. .
After completing the parade and hot lap, I went back to the truck and topped off
the fuel, cleaned the air filter, and checked tire pressure on my 2018 RZR Turbo
(nick-named “Big Blue”). After killing a little time, I suited up and headed to the
starting line. Yee haw!
When it was time to start the UTV races, Cory (a TX4 official and fellow ATV
racer) lined up the sole Pro SxS competitor (Terry D.) on the front row, then two
Turbo SxS racers (John G. and me) on the second row, and separated the half-
dozen racers in the naturally aspirated UTV class into two rows. While the SxS
numbers were much lower for this race, I’m sure they will return to normal at
the next one.
After Terry took off, I pulled Big Blue (#77) to the right side of the starting line
and John G. (and his co-pilot) lined up his 2021 Turbo RZR on my left. I said a
quick prayer for the safety of all racers, and then it was finally time to put on my
The flag went up and off we went. John got off the line slightly ahead of me and
quickly moved in my direction to get a good angle around turn one. With him in
my direct path, I had no choice but to let off and fall in line behind him as he took
SXS LAPS 1-10:
I followed John through the grassy field and a half-mile later we entered the
first woods section. At this point, I was only a few car lengths behind him. A few
turns later, I could tell he was quickly pulling away from me. By the time I
entered the 2 nd set of woods, I was only seeing John’s dust in the air. Gulp! But I didn’t panic b/c I realized it’s an endurance race (not a sprint). Anything can
happen in a 70-minute race.
About half-way through lap 1, I spotted John through the trees and counted 16
seconds til I reached that point. After I exited the scoring schute and started lap
2, I spotted John again in the open field as he was headed into the woods. I
counted 35 seconds til I reached that point where I spotted him and realized
there was no way I could catch him if he kept up that pace. My only hope was
that he might have a mechanical issue or get too friendly with a tree. Sadly, I
never saw John again until I reached the finish line (after 10 laps of hard racing).
I later found out that somewhere along the way John had a flat tire and had to
pull over to change it. I’m told that his lovely bride and helpful friends changed
his tire so fast that Nascar called them afterwards! Despite his unplanned pit
stop, John managed to easily beat me by 3 and a half minutes. Mucho congrats
to John for taking the win!
BIG THX TO TX4:
As usual, I want to THANK Terry, Cory, and the entire TX4 staff for hosting
another FUN event! I hope to see everyone at the next race scheduled for
October 29 th and 30 th at Powell Ranch.