Race Recap from TX4 Round 4 at Powell Ranch
Written by Mike Kowis
Oct. 29-30th was an amazing weekend of offroad racing at Round 4 of the 2022 TX4 cross-country series. This exciting event was held at Powell Ranch, and the weather was nothing less than perfect. In addition to ideal racing weather, competitors enjoyed H.E.R.O. dirt (meaning “Heroic Effort Racing Opportunity”).
Despite having raced at this property just 5 months ago, the ATV and SxS courses felt completely different b/c they were ran in the opposite direction and more than a mile of new trails were added. The incredible weather resulted in more racers for this event as compared to last month’s turnout. Including minis, TX4 had 39 ATVs and 19 UTVs competing at this event. Below is my race write-up. Enjoy!
Cedar Creek, TX… it’s a small town approximately 30 miles southeast of Austin. This property has lots of mesquite trees, cactus, grassy fields, and dry creeks.
The weather gods were smiling down on us as rain fell on the property just a few days prior to this fun-filled event and daily temps ranged from mid-70s in the daytime to low-50s at night. The result was heavenly racing conditions, meaning traction was ideal and both dust and heat exhaustion were eliminated. As a side note, it is well-known that old dogs are more energetic and playful when cooler weather arrives and the same can be said for old cross-country racers like myself. In fact, I felt so good after my Saturday morning ATV race that I raced again in the afternoon (more on that later). Yee haw!
Except for the tight wooded sections, the ATV and SxS courses were similar. The ATV course had 4.7 miles of twisty wooded trails, zig-zag runs through open areas, and a handful of dry creek crossings. The track flowed well except for the super tight stuff that caused racers to slow down or else risk tire or tie rod damage. The tight woods, small jumps, cactus, holes, deep sandy ruts, stumps, and other hazards kept racers on their toes at all times. The SxS course included 4.3 miles of the same obstacles, but had its own tight wooded section.
On Saturday morning, ATV racers met up with Zach R. (a vintage ATV racer) for a quick tech inspection and then headed to the starting line for practice at 10:15 a.m.
As racers slowly zig-zagged our way around the ATV track for the first practice lap, one thing that struck me was how much longer and how different this course felt compared to the last time we raced here in May. I also noticed a few small areas with standing water and sloppy mud, which meant tear-offs would be a good idea (at least for the first few laps). The last thing I noticed was how tight the new wooded sections were. In one place just past the zig-zag turns in a small, square pasture, the trail made a 90-degree right turn at the end of a short straight section surrounded by several small trees. The utility quad in front of me couldn’t get around this turn without backing up once, and I had the same experience. Uh oh! Backing up during an adrenaline-fueled race is not ideal, so I would have to figure out that corner and soon.
MORNING ATV START:
In the 11:30 am race, the 40+ Amateur class had 4 competitors, the Utility Amateur class had 5 racers, the Open C class and ATV vintage class each had a half-dozen competitors, and the trikes had the biggest class with 7 racers.
When it came time for the start of the Utility Amateur class, I lined up in the middle with 2 quads on my left and 2 on my right. The first right-hand turn was approximately 60 feet ahead of us.
When Cory W. waived the green flag, I quickly shot off the line and grabbed the holeshot. Woo hoo! The rest of the pack were hot on my heals.
MORNING ATV LAPS 1-5:
After turn one, the track wound back and forth through a bumpy section located next to the parking lot area. About ¼ mile down the trail, it made a hard left turn around a small tree and then dropped down into a shallow area filled with sloppy mud. After a few zig-zag turns around large trees, the course made a left and crossed a deep, dry creek crossing. I still held the lead at this point, but knew that Sean B. and John G. were close behind and itching for a chance to pass me.
Soon, I caught up to some of the slower racers in the trike class. The first trike didn’t seem to notice my presence and no amount of yelling or revving my motor made a difference. At this point, I had most of the utility amateur class on my rear bumper and we were all eager to get around this guy. Finally, I found a wide enough area to make a safe pass on his left and then headed towards the next right-hand turn around a small tree. Just as I reached the outside turn around that tree, John G. passed me on the inside of that tree. That was a smart move on his part, and I wish I had taken that line.
Now in 2nd position, I reminded myself it’s a 60-minute race and there’s no reason to panic on the first lap. A few hundred yards down the trail, we entered an open section that runs back and forth between large pecan trees. At this point, I was caught behind another slow trike and again he didn’t seem to mind the entire utility amateur class on his rear bumper. I finally found a wide enough spot to safely pass him and moved to my right to set up for the pass. Suddenly, Sean B. moved to the left and quickly passed me and the trike on that side. I tried to move forward on the right, but noticed a small tree ahead that blocked my path. So I had to drop back behind the trike. Ugh!
After the next left-hand turn, I was able to get around the trike. However, Sean had already grabbed a big lead over me and was already in the next section of woods. Grrr.
After 5 laps of hard racing, I ended up finishing in 3rd. Congrats to John G. and Sean B. for finishing 1st and 2nd, respectively. Both were running 12-minute lap times on average, which was 90 seconds faster than my pace, so my hat goes off to them.
AFTERNOON ATV START:
Thanks to cool and dry weather, I felt great after the first race. So I decided to sign up for the Utility Expert class starting at 1pm. I’ve always wanted to do the “Matt Horton” special (racing both ATV races on Saturday like Matt always does), but I never had the energy to try it before. Now was the perfect time to give it a try.
I also wanted to compete in the Utility Expert class with my old racing buddy, Chris R. I think the last time we raced together was around 2014 in the TORN series. I could be wrong, but I probably raced with Chris a decade earlier in the old ATVCCS series. I’ve always looked up to him as one of the faster utility class racers with a ton of experience (including GNCC races) under his belt. So my goal was to follow Chris in this race and maybe pick up a few pointers. He also happens to race a Renegade 1000r quite similar to mine (which I’ve dubbed the “Couch Rocket”!)
When it came time for the start of our afternoon race, Chris and I lined up together with 2 fast racers in the 40+ Expert class. At this point, Matt, Chris, and I had all competed in the earlier race and only Cory had fresh legs. Funny enough, Matt generously loaned one of his quads to Cory so that his competitor could compete in this race. Only Matt would do such a kind and stupid thing! LOL
When the flag came up, I was on the far left side of the starting line and got off to a slow start. Cory won the holeshot, followed closely by Matt, then Chris, and then me in last position.
In addition to these above 2 classes, the afternoon ATV race also saw a handful of competitors in the Open B and Pro class.
AFTERNOON ATV LAPS 1-5:
After a few turns next to the parking lot area, the course ran straight over a whooped out, sandy section. I watched Chris run to the left side of the trail and quickly pass Matt. Chris nailed the throttle and skimmed over the tops of each bump like a pro! It was impressive to watch. Soon thereafter, Chris passed Cory and was leading the pack as we made our way around the track.
After a quarter mile or so, I found myself all alone as the 3 guys who started with me quickly checked out. Suddenly, I saw Cory ahead in the woods. He was stopped on the track and Matt was sitting next to him. Cory’s quad had stalled and Matt was helping him get it re-started. I passed both and proceeded to chase Chris, who was long gone at that point.
A few laps later, two of the faster racers from the Open B class (Jared H. and Dayton P.) nearly caught up to me in the small, square pasture area with zig-zag turns. I kept an eye on them and planned to pull over as soon as they got close to my rear bumper. That finally happened in the super tight woods just after the pasture. I pulled to the left about 10 yards ahead of the tight turn that sometimes caused me to backup. Then I watched in amazement as the two sport quads took a different line than what I had been using. They both pushed past a few small limbs sticking out next to a small tree and proceeded down a clear path with a smooth, easy right turn at the end instead of the line on the left that I had used during the entire morning race and half of this race (the same one that caused me to sometimes backup). Doh! This was a good reminder to always look out for alternate lines that may be quicker/easier.
At the end of lap 4, one of the TX4 staffers said that he saw Chris R. pull off the trail just past the scoring schute and I still might have a chance to win if I keep going. That lit a fire in me, and I put the hammer down for the last lap.
Later, I found out that Chris was exhausted after racing earlier (where he won the trike class) and pulled over to catch his breath. Once he had his helmet off, he decided he had enough fun for the day. Despite running 2 minutes slower than Chris during this race, I managed to grab the win b/c I ran 5 total laps (one more than Chris). As I’ve said many times before, it is better to be lucky than good! LOL
A new food vendor called Turkey Leg Nation catered this event, and the husband/wife team were a BIG HIT with racers and spectators alike. I loved their brisket sandwich and sausage wrap too. Many others raved about their Brisket Mac N Cheese dish. Good stuff! Luckily, they are serving food again at the next round, so don’t miss out if you plan to attend the November race.
Around 6:30pm, Terry (the TX4 Promoter and Pro SxS racer) slowly led a dozen side-by-sides and ATVs around the UTV track for a poker run. Some kids were dressed in their Halloween costumes and candy was passed around. There were lots of laughs and cold refreshments enjoyed by all as we stopped at different points along the SxS course to draw cards and chat. For a while, I thought I might have the winning hand as I picked up 3 spades in a row before eventually ending up with 4 spades and 1 club. Gee whiz! In the end, Jared H. won the $150 pot and the rest went to the series. I found out later that Jared kept his entry cash and donated the rest to the series. How cool is that? Anyway, the poker run was great fun, and I look forward to the next poker run in November.
At 10 am, the UTVs enjoyed a slow parade lap led by Terry D. Afterwards, I went back to the truck to top off my side-by-side’s fuel tank, clean its air filter, and check tire pressure. After killing time by chatting with fellow SxS racers Phil and Nick (who were parked next to me), I suited up and headed to the starting line.
At 12:30 p.m., Cory W. (a TX4 official and 40+ Expert ATV racer) turned on the microphone and gathered the UTV racers for a short rider’s meeting near the starting line.
Then Cory lined up the one Pro UTV racer (Terry D.) on the front row, the 3 Turbo SxS racers on the second row, and the remaining 7 racers in the naturally aspirated class into 2 separate rows.
After Terry took off, I pulled “Big Blue” (my trusty 2018 Polaris RZR Turbo XP) to the left side of the starting line. To my right were Phil W. and his co-pilot Nick S. (#922) plus John G. (#87). I said a quick prayer for the safety of all racers and then it was time to put on MY GAME FACE!
The flag went up and off we went. John and Phil got a faster jump off the line than me, and I found myself behind both as we made our way around turn one. John grabbed the holeshot and Phil/Nick were hot on his heals. I tried to keep up, but both UTVs checked out on me within a quarter mile or so.
SXS LAPS 1-7:
As the race continued, I held a consistent pace of around 9 minutes and 45 seconds per lap. Ahead, John and Phil were locked in a tight battle for first and second position. For the first 3 laps, both were running at a pace of around 9 minutes per lap and putting some good distance on me. Near the beginning of lap 4, I saw a UTV pulled off on the right side of the trail that kinda looked like John’s RZR Turbo, but I wasn’t quite sure. On the next lap, I slowed enough to confirm it was his Side-by-Side. I later found out that his tie rod failed causing his front two wheels to point towards each other. With him out, that meant I moved up to second position. Woo hoo! Now I had my sights set on Phil and Nick somewhere ahead of me.
Near the beginning of Lap 4, Sean B. and Chad W. (both from the Naturally-aspirated SxS class) caught up to me, so I pulled over and let both pass. I followed Chad for the rest of the lap and stayed right on his bumper. I found out later that he never saw me pull over and didn’t realize I was right behind him for most of that lap. Finally, as we came through the scoring schute, Chad noticed me and picked up the pace. From that point on, he picked up the pace and I was running my own race again.
Around Lap 5, Phil started feeling queasy and slowed down to my pace. At some point, things went downhill fast as his body said “NO THANKS!” to the Red Bull he consumed just before the race started. Poor Phil started puking and it filled up the front of his helmet and spilled onto the front of his fire-proof racing suit (let’s hope it’s stain-proof as well!).
Near the end of Lap 6 was interesting for me. As I ran through the last section of woods, I saw 3 white cows walking along the fence line straight for me! I followed the course as it ran towards the right and out into the last open section (near the entrance to the property). I still had one more lap and was a bit concerned for the safety of all racers, including myself. So I told Cory as I went through the scoring schute a minute or so later. He said they’ve been out the entire weekend and it’ll be okay. On my 7th and final lap, I was relieved to see that the cows were not along the fence-line where I saw them on the last lap. Then I made a hard right into the woods and suddenly saw one white cow munching on the leaves of a bush. DANG IT!!! I slammed on my brakes and steered to the right. The cow was instantly startled and walked right in front of me on the trail. After a few steps, he moved out of the way and I was able to continue. Had I not been paying attention, it would have meant hamburgers for dinner… and LOTS of hamburgers at that!
Despite getting sick near the end of the race, Phil finished all 7 laps and held onto the lead. Mucho congrats to Phil and Nick for taking the win! Later on the podium, Phil joked that he would like to NOT THANK Red Bull for the win.
Surprisingly, I reached the podium in all 3 of my races this weekend after finishing 1st in Utility Expert, 2nd in Turbo SxS, and 3rd in Utility Amateur. Win or lose, I had a blast racing with my TX4 brothers and sisters. With 4 races completed so far this year, the TX4 series feels more like a family than a group of individuals who happen to share a common passion for cross-country racing. I hope to see everyone again at the next round currently scheduled for November 19-20.
THANK YOU TX4:
As always, I want to say a BIG THANK YOU to Terry, Cory, and the entire TX4 staff for hosting another fantastic event! I hope you enjoyed my race write-up.