Endurocross a rush for firefighter

Trent Sandoval has been racing around this week like he’s rushing to a fire.

After all, that’s what he does as a captain in the Henderson Fire Department, where he’s been a firefighter for 14 of his 36 years.

His pace slowed recently while on paternity leave after his wife gave birth to their third child. But when not baby-sitting and changing diapers, Sandoval has spent his time preparing for what he hopes will be a long, hot Saturday in the air-conditioned Orleans Arena.

The 1991 Western High School graduate will leave his fire-retardant pants and jacket on the hook at Station No. 95 and make a Superman-like switch to colorful leather togs when he hops on his KTM dirt bike to compete in the American Motorcyclist Association Endurocross.

Sandoval recently switched to Endurocross from desert racing. Endurocross is a condensed version of desert racing, much like Supercross condenses longer, outdoor motocross into arena settings.

As a desert racer in the Best in the Desert series, Sandoval broke his pelvis and a hip socket in 2000; two years later, he severely injured a knee in another bout with the desert. He quit riding competitively after the 2002 crash, when he was the one being treated by EMTs instead of being the one coming to the rescue.

The fearless gene that enables Sandoval to start each work day with the possibility it will end with him being hailed a hero makes it difficult to downshift enough to have a more tranquil hobby.

“Most firefighters have that Type A, adrenaline-rush personality, and they are like that when they’re off duty, too,” he says. “I’m not looking for danger, but I’d rather do this than be in a chess club.”

And if I were stuck in a burning house, I wouldn’t want first responders to spend 15 minutes contemplating their next move.

Endurocross creates obstacles similar to those encountered in a desert race with a slow-motion, skills circuit that fits nicely into the Orleans building. Instead of averaging 50 mph for a 250-mile desert race, Sandoval says top speeds in Enduro are about 15 mph.

“But that doesn’t take away from the difficulty because it’s so technical,” he says.

Sandoval won’t have to contend with desert boulders buried like icebergs, gullies, cacti, wildlife or energy-sapping heat. That’s not to say Endurocross is like riding a mo-ped through an empty parking lot.

Among the challenges Sandoval will face on his 250cc modified bike are: circuit sections of craggy rocks; riding up utility poles laid horizontally, clearing caliche boulders before rumbling down more poles; a moat before racing over giant truck tires and a stretch of soft sand; and having to clear logs 2 feet in diameter.

It’s not a matter of if you’ll lay down your bike during an Enduro race, it’s when and how many times.

“That’s going to happen,” says Sandoval, who competes one level below the Pro division that features reigning series champ Ricky Dietrich and former Supercross star Damon Huffman. “The good thing about that for fans is there are many passes for the lead.”

A year ago at The Orleans, Sandoval finished second in the Veteran class.

He hopes to do well enough during morning and afternoon qualifying in the three events he has entered — Veteran, Open Amateur and Expert — to advance to the night’s featured races. Qualifying, free to the public, will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the featured races will begin at 7, with tickets priced at $47 and $37.

It’s only fitting for a person who risks his life in an action-primed job to be drawn to an action sport.

Jeff Wolf’s motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at jwolf@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0247. Visit Wolf’s motor sports blog at lvrj.com/blogs/heavypedal/ throughout the week.

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