Race Recap from TX4 Round 6 at Let’s Ride Ranch
Written by Mike Kowis
The last round of the 2022 TX4 cross-country series was held on December 17 and 18th, and 60 off-road competitors (40 ATVs and 20 UTVs) plus countless spectators attended this fun-filled event. This event was particularly exciting for two reasons. For the ATV and SxS classes with a tight season points race, this event would determine who earns the 2022 Championship for their class. More important, this event wraps up the inaugural season of the TX4 cross-country series. This series will only get better in 2023 with the addition of more race weekends and properties. Below is my recap of Round 6.
Buckholts, TX… it’s a small town located 70 miles northeast of Austin. This unique property is an off-road park open to the public on weekends and has several small elevation changes, creek crossings, tight woods, and large pasture areas. The park is divided by a two-lane highway that runs through the middle, and the TX4 races were held on the north side only. On Sunday morning, I rode my quad under the highway via an access tunnel to explore the south side. That portion of the property is smaller, but has many trails running through the woods that were lots of fun. Cash (my son and co-pilot) and I hope to return someday just to ride this park for fun.
At race time, the weather was chilly, but nice; mid-50s and partly sunny. The track was mostly dry, except for a few muddy creek crossings here and there. Thankfully, the dust wasn’t bad.
The ATV and SxS courses had a similar layout except for a few tight wooded sections and each one measured 4.4 miles long according to my speedo. Overall, the track was fast and flowed well. But it could also be rough in some sections, especially the woods (which had plenty of tire hazards) and also in the open fields (which had plenty of zig-zag turns and crossed in and out of dry creeks in many places).
On Saturday morning, ATV racers met up with Zach R. (a TX4 staffer and fellow quad racer) for a quick tech inspection and then headed to the starting line for practice at 10:15 a.m.
When the first practice lap began, I joined the pack of eager quad racers and we slowly made our way past the first right hand turn that is marked with a small tree. Suddenly, a blue sport quad in front of me spun his rear tires around the turn, caught traction on his left rear tire, and rolled over. He immediately hopped up on his feet as if to say, “yeah, I meant to do that!” LOL He appeared uninjured and quickly climbed back on his quad to continue the practice lap. That was a good reminder to stay alert at all times. There’s a reason why we wear so much safety gear!
MORNING ATV START:
The morning race had competitors in the following classes; Open C, 40+ Amateur, Trikes, Utility Amateur, Vintage Quads, Blaster, and Women.
On this day, the Utility Amateur Class had 5 competitors. In addition to me, Sean B. showed up on his classic “Bomb-a-deer” 400 (which is so old it probably belongs in a museum). Also in attendance was Sean’s fearless brother Gene B. riding atop the lean, mean, fighting machine Kymco 500. John G. showed up with a different machine… this time, his mighty steed was a camouflaged 2016 Renegade 1000r with green accents. Chris C. joined the fun again with his CFMoto 400. You can’t miss his quad b/c his bright orange fenders stand out. Together, the five of us (mostly dressed in jeans and work boots) looked less like serious quad racers and more like the Village People (FOR THE YOUNG’UNS… that was a 70s band who dressed up in silly costumes). Regardless how we looked, we had one heck of a time!
When our class pulled up to the starting line, I lined up the Couch Rocket in the middle with John G. on my immediate right and Sean B. on my immediate left. The first right-hand turn was approximately 60 feet ahead.
As the flagman pointed to each rider, I nodded my head to indicate I was ready and then focused my attention on the green flag. As our class took off, I noticed John pulled a big wheelie and continued to ride it out. I let off the gas b/c you never know where someone might come down from a wheelie (it’s hard to steer with the front tires in the air). When John finally touched down on all 4 wheels, he was leading the pack and grabbed the holeshot. Hot on John’s heals were Gene, Sean, me, and finally Chris. Taking 4th position around turn number 1 was a lousy way to start, so I had my work cut out for me if I was going to get on the podium.
ATV LAPS 1-5:
After we raced along the course next to the creek, slid around the muddy turn near the end of the creek and entered the section that Terry called “golf course” area, I grabbed a handful of throttle and passed Sean just before the sweeping right-hand turn. A half-dozen turns later, we entered the 2nd pasture area where I passed Gene and grabbed 2nd position. Yee haw! Now I’m back in the hunt.
As I entered the next pasture area, I saw John up ahead and counted his lead at approximately 10 seconds. Then I kept my head down and pushed forward to see if I could catch him.
Half-way around the course, the track runs back and forth through a deep, dry creek crossing with cactus on both sides of the trail. Then it pops out near the backside of the property. Next, racers ran up a small hill, make a hard left turn and descend towards the fence line at the bottom. Just before reaching the barb’d wire fence, the track runs through a pile of ashes from an old burn pile (not to be mistaken for the ashes of my failed GNCC racing career!) and then continues past the entrance to the access tunnel I previously mentioned before finally reaching the last big pasture. Here, racers run parallel with the highway for a half-mile before turning into an open gate and heading to a small section of woods adjacent to the scoring schute/starting line area.
The second half of the race was mostly uneventful except for passing a few of the slower racers from other classes and getting lapped by faster racers in the Pro ATV and other classes. For the first 3 laps, John outpaced me each lap by 30 seconds to 1 minute before he finally slowed way down during his last 2 laps. John crossed the finish line just 20 seconds ahead of me. Doh!
As I pulled into the scoring schute at the end of lap 5, I was tired and relieved to see Chad waiving the checkered flag. Big Congrats to John for taking the win! I finished in 2nd place, Gene took third, followed by Chris and then Sean (who pulled out after 1 lap).
AFTERNOON ATV RACE:
The afternoon race had competitors in the following classes; Open B, 40+ Expert, Utility Expert, and ATV Pro.
I still had energy left after the morning race, so I decided to enter the afternoon race in the Utility Expert class. As usual, they let me line up on the starting line with the faster racers in the 40+ Expert class to make the start more interesting. On this day, there were 3 guys on the line next to me from that class (Cory W, Matt H, and Mike W). When the flag came up, I was last around the first turn and stayed in hot pursuit as long as I could. Despite my best efforts, they checked out on me within a half-mile or so.
Because I was the only competitor in the Utility Expert class, I only needed to complete 1 lap to get season points. However, I decided to run the full 70 minutes b/c I was having so much fun. Including practice laps and both races, I rode 50+ miles on my quad while surrounded by good friends and nice weather. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Around 5 pm, Terry (the TX4 Promoter and fellow UTV racer) slowly led a dozen or so side-by-sides and ATVs around the UTV track for a poker run. I always attend these events b/c it’s relaxing and a great way to socialize with other racers and their families. As a bonus, racers get a sneak peak of the UTV track (which usually varies slightly from the ATV track). Cash drove Big Blue during the poker run and I hopped into the co-pilot seat with a cold beverage or two. Even though Cash and I never end up with the winning hand, this event has become one of my favorite parts of the TX4 race weekend.
Afterwards, Cash and I returned to the truck to load up. Instead of primitive camping at the track like we usually do, we opted to grab a local hotel room about 10 minutes up the road. Turns out that was the right call b/c the temps dipped down to 29 degrees overnight and we found a layer of frost all over the truck in the morning. Brrr!
On Sunday morning at 10 am, the UTVs lined up at the starting line for the parade lap. Afterwards, Cash and I went back to the truck to top off the fuel and check tire pressure. Big Blue was wearing “new shoes” (Dirt Commander 2.0 tires) for this race after suffering a front blowout near the end of the last race. This race was my first opportunity to try out these tires and I was anxious to see if I liked them more than the original version. (more on this later)
When it was time to start the UTV races, the 4 Pro SxS racers lined up on the front row, the 5 Turbo SxS racers gathered on the second row, and the 7 Naturally-Aspirated SxS class made up the last 2 rows.
This UTV race was particularly exciting b/c both the Turbo and Naturally-Aspirated classes had a tight points race for the leader. In the Turbo SxS class, Phil W. and I were nearly tied in season points going into this race. That meant the 2022 Championship came down to this final race! Phil and his co-pilot/co-worker (Landon) worked feverishly over the last few days to put their RZR Turbo back together after hitting a tree at the last race. I was so glad he could make it to this event so I could see if I would be crowned season CHAMP or season CHUMP!
After the Pro class took off, I pulled Big Blue to the middle of the starting line. From left to right, the line-up was Phil W and co-pilot Landon, a TX4 newbie and past TORN Turbo SxS Champ named Justin B, myself and co-pilot Cash, Dwayne S., and John G. Then, Cash and I said a quick prayer for the safety of all racers and it was finally GO TIME!
Cory W. waived the green flag and off we went. John had a great start and quickly took the inside line to the first turn. John grabbed the holeshot followed closely by Justin B. Next, Phil and I (basically side by side) rounded the first turn with Phil just inches ahead of me. Finally, Dwayne came around turn number one in last position (which is exactly what he said he’d do b/c he knew Phil and I were in a big points race).
As we moved closer to the 2nd (left-hand) turn, Phil had the inside line. So I backed off and took my place immediately behind him. I wasn’t worried about starting off in 4th position b/c my only goal was to beat Phil and take home the season championship. About half-way through lap 1, we saw Justin B. pulled over to the side of the trail and that meant Phil and I moved up to 2nd and 3rd positions, respectively. Cash and I kept Phil’s car within eye-sight for the entire first lap, and it was an exciting way to start the race! As Big Blue rolled through the scoring schute at the end of lap 1, we were exactly 10 seconds behind Phil and Landon.
In the middle of Lap 2, disaster struck! Just past the first set of woods, the track runs along the tree line and then makes a hard right-hand turn down into a deep, dry creek crossing. As Big Blue hit the bottom of the crossing, I hear a loud bang and immediately thought, “Oh crapola!” I hoped nothing broke. I continued on and the car felt okay at first. But a half-mile down the track, I could tell that Big Blue didn’t handle turns as well as normal. My gut told me that I had a flat tire, but wasn’t sure which one.
Then I saw my old racing pal Collin H. parked off the side of the trail. I pulled up next to him and asked if I had a flat. Collin confirmed that my driver-side rear tire was toast. I immediately thought, “Well, there goes my season.” There was nothing left to do but slowly finish lap 2 and head back to the trailer with our tails between our legs.
Congrats to John G. for taking the win in the Turbo SxS class! Phil and Landon finished in 2nd and Dwayne S. took the final position on the podium. Justin and me got a DNF. Despite this disappointing finish, I ended up earning enough season points this year (including bonus points for perfect attendance) to win the 2022 Championship in the Turbo SxS class. Cash and I were totally pumped up when TX4 announced the season points totals a few days after Round 6.
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! Well, that about wraps up this recap as well as the 2022 season. Cash and I are already looking forward to more fun in 2023 with TX4 Round 1 currently scheduled for Jan. 21st and 22nd. Hope to see everyone there!