What is the Nugget “250”
About an hour west of Las Vegas lies a town called Pahrump. It’s located in the middle of the Mojave Desert and surrounded by mountains. It may be small, but Pahrump is host to one of the biggest events in the world of off-road racing called The Nugget “250” presented by Polaris.
This race covers almost 250 miles of open desert in the Pahrump and Amargosa Valleys. The event coordinator, Best in the Desert Inc., was established to help promote off-road racing. It was founded by Casey Folks 1984 and their documented philosophy reads, “to provide top Quality, World Class Off-Road racing events, and more importantly to make those events exciting, spectacular, fun, different, well paying, and most of all, affordable.” Safety is also first and foremost in their minds.
When Casey Folks passed away, his children took over the ownership of the organization. Donald Jackson is now the Operations Manager with help from Liz Marshall who is responsible for qualifying the competitors.
There are eight off-road races per year and all take place in the Western USA in Nevada and Arizona. There are many types of vehicles taking part in various classes in the races. You’ll see cars, trucks, motorcycles, quads, and Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTVs) or side by sides.
2018 was the third year The Nugget hosted the race that was held in Pahrump. The first time they were sponsors was in 2016. Prior to that, Terrible’s was the main sponsor. The Pahrump race discontinued for a few years. They returned to town in 2016 and again in 2017 and 2018. When asked why they choose to race here, Liz said the availability of long distances in the desert was appealing. Most of the land belongs to the BLM (Bureau of Land Management).
There are 244 miles of open desert where they can design an out and back course allowing them to start and finish in town. Most of the other races are point to point. Spectators line Highway 160 and watch them leave via a police escort to head for the starting line in Johnnie, NV. Then fans can watch them again as they cross the finish line at the Nugget Casino. The racers love the town and the friendly, supportive people.
Off road racing has a strong history in Pahrump and is well supported by the residents. There are numerous OHV (off highway vehicle) trails around the valley and the area is considered one of the premium spots for 4-wheeling and other desert types of driving.
7 Tips for Attending the Nugget 250
First time attending a Best in the Desert Race? Here are 7 tips to help you maximize your viewing pleasure:
- Get up close and personal with the cars and drivers during the Tech and Contingency Inspection on Thursday held in the Nugget parking lot. Here the vehicles and drivers go through a series of tests for qualification purposes and regulation and safety checks. The public is welcome.
- Obtain one of the spectator maps which are available on the Best in the Desert Website (com). They can also be found at the Nugget Casino. These maps show you the best places to watch the race.
- Plan ahead. There are porta-potties at each viewing location but no other amenities available, so bring your own food and water. Remember you are in the desert so be sure to bring water.
- Choose where to view the race out on the course from the provided maps:- Want to watch the racers at high speeds? There are two designated spectator areas where you can watch the vehicles pass at high speeds.- The other seven viewing locations are pit stops. The racers will be coming in at slow speeds to take care of any vehicle needs. They can also change drivers during these stops.
- Familiarize yourself with the radio frequency being used for race communications via Rugged Relay frequency 152.960
- Review the time schedule so you won’t miss any important parts from the 7:15 AM departure of the police escort to the starting line in Johnnie’s to the finale when all the participants return to the Nugget finish line.
- Check out the Pahrump Nugget sponsored beer garden complete with BBQ, beer, and soft drinks.
There were over 140 vehicles entered in the 2018 race equipped with a driver and co-pilot. This resulted in 430 actual races among these participants. First, second, and third place prizes were awarded in each class. There is also an overall winner award given to the driver with the fastest time over the whole field.
The event is a race against time. Each driver takes off separately and the object is to turn in the fastest time by the end of the nearly 250 miles. It’s a tough race in Pahrump with lots of rocks and other obstacles along the way. According to Liz, most drivers know how to drive in this type of terrain, but that doesn’t mean they won’t run into trouble. The recent race saw participants experience anywhere from zero to six flat tires. There is a time limit when a driving team may have to throw in the towel without finishing due to trouble caused delays.
The season awards are based on a point system. Each race offers points for a win, place, or show. These points accumulate over the year. At the end of the season, an overall Champion is declared.
Speeds average about 60-80 mph while on the course, but they can reach speeds of up to 100 mph on the flat stretches. The race includes both men and women and people of all ages between 14 and 80. The prize money is dependent on how many participants there are. Contingency sponsors will sometimes award money or products. There are some sponsored drivers, but most are self-funded.
Pahrump Nugget has been the Title Sponsor for the last three races here in town. They provide all the technology needed to operate the race. They also house the 25-person crew during the event, host the drivers’ meeting and an after-race party at the Pahrump Nugget Sports Book Bar, and provide the beer garden. The check-in area is established in the Nugget parking lot as is the Tech and Contingency event and the finish line.
A Unique Event
The Pahrump Nugget 250 is a unique event. It can only take place when the Desert Tortoises are hibernating so as not to cause damage to their population. It’s a race with no grandstands but many opportunities to see the action along the course. It requires sturdy equipment, spare parts along the way, and knowledgeable and experienced drivers to navigate the difficult course. There are no groomed roads on this front.
This type of racing is growing in popularity and can only take place in specific conditions of land, weather, and availability. Pahrump has all three. It also has a supportive community. Attending and being a part of the race is worth adding to your bucket list.