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Stakes increase for Terrible’s Cup III

The first two runnings of the SCORE Las Vegas Terrible’s Cup used the comforts of Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s dirt track stadium to boost interest in desert racing.

The compact 1.5-mile course allowed nearly a full view of the circuit with creature comforts that don’t exist at much longer desert races held in Primm, Laughlin or, certainly, Mexico’s Baja California peninsula.

The Terrible’s Cup was a fun exhibition event for racers.

But drivers’ sweat and dirt won’t be hiding smiles when racing begins at 7 tonight, especially when the racers are lined up four wide awaiting the green-flag start for the first of two nights of hard-core racing.

This is for all the marbles. And rocks and dirt clumps.

For the first time, drivers in six classes of the Terrible’s Cup will compete for points that count toward season championships in their respective divisions of the SCORE Desert Racing Series.

Top drivers joked in the past about how much fun it was to bang into each other at the speedway. But the elite in each class won’t be laughing when fenders or wheels meet tonight and Saturday night.

“The course is very violent for the drivers,” said 27-year-old Las Vegan B.J. Baldwin, the SCORE Trophy Truck points leader and reigning season champion in the class. “I won the championship last year using my brain. Going the fastest you can isn’t always what you need to do.”

Several drivers were asked last month for suggestions on how the course could be improved. More turns were added to the infield, and entry into to the stadium from a makeshift backstretch outside the stadium was widened near the second turn of the half-mile oval.

The premier class is 800-horsepower Trophy Trucks, which can cost nearly $500,000 apiece. All racers rely on extreme suspensions to get power to the ground.

The most successful stadium racer in the field, Rob MacCachren of Las Vegas, said effective suspension is critical in a short-track, desert race.

He should know. MacCachren won Championship Off-Road Racing series championships in 1995, 2000 and 2001 after competing in the Mickey Thompson Stadium Series. He is co-driver with truck owner Mark Post in the No. 3 Riviera Motorsports Chevrolet.

MacCachren, who has won two 1-mile CORR events this year, said his concern tonight is how well the high-tech shock absorbers react.

“Our truck is not very adjustable for a short course like this,” MacCachren said. “There are very few changes we can make to our shocks.”

The MacCachren-Post team is three points behind Baldwin in the standings. Post is the “driver of record,” which means he receives the points. In traditional SCORE races, the driver of record must start or finish a race.

However, the points format for the Terrible’s Cup is unique.

Post must compete each night to be eligible for points. He plans to compete in a heat race each night. Those races will determine where MacCachren starts in Post’s truck for each night’s points-paying main event.

Post also never has competed in a stadium-style points race.

“Mark is not a fan of short-track racing, but I love it,” MacCachren said.

Sharing Post’s displeasure is Arizona veteran racer Larry Ragland, who drives the No. 12 Chevrolet with Brian Collins of Las Vegas.

“I don’t think there are enough rocks or washes out there,” Ragland said, adding he prefers long runs and higher speeds. “This is one race where I’d rather be a spectator.”

Cameron Steele, a part-time TV motor sports pit reporter, won last year’s SCORE Lite title in the Cup and will race in as many as three classes this weekend, including Trophy Trucks. Steele, the current Lite points leader, relishes the benefits of stadium racing.

“We get to smash and bang with all our friends,” he said. “And if we have a problem with our truck, we won’t have to jog out of the desert.”

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