Pahrump Correspondence – December 2017


The Pahrump Nugget 250 is not just a race

The Pahrump Nugget 250 truly ranks up there as one of the most unique things about Pahrump. People who settled in this town have a natural affinity for exploring the outdoors, being so close to nature and the desert. Off-roading is one of the ways the residents regularly blow off some steam,  and so it is only fitting to celebrate that with this race. Not many towns can say they have their own off-road race. 

Kids at J.G. Johnson Elementary School in Pahrump gather around a buggy class racer. Best in the Desert makes a big effort to bring off-road racing to the fans.

What makes it fun is the people who put it on. The Best in the Desert Racing Association makes the effort to bring the vehicles and the racing teams close to the people. They make trips to schools in Pahrump, and they provide ample opportunities for the fans to get up close to the vehicles.

The race is held on the first weekend of December and  is the last race for the Best in the Desert Racing Association, the organization that puts the one-day race on.  In 2017 it will be held on Dec. 2.

Each year, the race draws close to 160 cars, trucks and UTVs, and close to 3,000 crew and fans to the area. Add to that the thousands of Pahrump residents and you have one heck of a party in town.

The draw to the race is the speed and the machines that race through the desert. The type of person who loves looking at a machine with over 750 horsepower under the hood. The type of person that has the need for speed in the desert and loves putting the pedal to the metal in the middle of the desert and going in excess of 100 miles an hour. Or this person  just likes watching incredible machines going through the desert at top speed. Now you can go to Pahrump and see these machines up close.

The car/truck class is the biggest draw. This has the trick truck class and the buggy class vehicles in it.

A trick truck makes it to the firs pit, about 15 miles from the start line in Johnnie. The picturesque mountains of the Amargosa Valley can be seen in the background.

The Trick Truck class

The trick truck is the fastest machine built to travel in the desert and can reach speeds well over 100 miles an hour. The wheelbase is 125 inches, with a track width of 92 inches. The tires are 39 inch tires. The truck  has the capability of going over 15 feet in the air due to high tech shocks that have 26 inches of wheel travel in the front and 32 inches of travel in the rear.  It is featured in two of the longest off-road races in the world: The Best in the Desert General Tire Vegas to Reno Race in mid-August and the Score International Baja 1000, which finished on Nov. 18. The Baja race is close to 850 miles long. The Vegas to Reno Race is the longest race in Continental United States at about 650 miles, starting in Beatty and ending in Dayton, near Carson City.

The Buggy class

The buggy, according to those that drive it, is more maneuverable on the turns, but it can’t outrun the trick truck. It has a wheelbase of 125 inches, with a track width of 91 inches. The wheel travel is 22 inches front and rear. This vehicle is also widely used in the two lone races.

A buggy reaches a pit stop in Springdale, some 10 miles north of Beatty. The race loops around Beatty and then heads back to Pahrump, a total of about 255 miles.

The Pahrump 250 course

The race is a 255-mile loop and starts in Johnnie, which is seven miles out of Pahrump. The drivers parade from the Nugget to the start line Johnnie. From there the race heads through the Amargosa Valley, through Lathrop Wells, around the town of Beatty, and then back to Pahrump. The race gets to within a quarter mile of the infamous Yucca Mountain, where they dug a hole in the mountain to store nuclear waste. The finish is the Pahrump Nugget.

Best place to see the drivers and their machines

To see the machines, the best way to do that is to catch them at the technical inspection the day before the race. This is held at the Pahrump Nugget parking lot at 681 South Highway 160. Every race vehicle goes through this inspection, and they are standing in line for hours, all day long.

The drivers and crew members just love to talk about their vehicles and don’t mind if people come up to ask questions and even take a photo or two. Also, don’t be surprised if you come away with some free stuff, like  autographed pictures or racing swag. There are a lot of vendors there handing out free stuff.

These guys are great people and just love to talk about their passion.

The tech inspection for the Pahrump Nugget 250, held in the Nugget parking lot on the day before the race (Dec.1) , is a great opportunity to talk to drivers and take photos of cars – Buggy class racers shown here. (photo by Horace Langford Jr.)

Where to view the race

There are plenty of places to see the vehicles flying through the desert. For safety reasons, the Nevada Highway Patrol and Nye County Sheriff’s Office don’t want spectators to park off the highway.

The start line is a viewing area, and it is also the last pit stop before the end of the race. People in Pahrump like to go to the Nugget to watch the end of the race. There are also beer, food and other refreshments flowing during the race.

The party afterwards

The Pahrump Nugget and its 33,000 square feet of gambling space, three restaurants and 69 rooms is where the party will be. The Nugget will be providing food and drink all day of the race, with drink specials and a BBQ during the race.  The race finishes in the parking lot of the Nugget, which just adds to the party.

Hotel rooms and RV spots

Pahrump has over 400 hotel rooms, but for this event it sells out quick. The same with RV spots: even though there are over 1,300, they go quickly for events like this.

History of the race

The race came to Pahrump in the 1990s through then president and founder of the race, Casey Folks. Back then, there were only 7,000 people in the town, compared to the now roughly 40,000. Pahrump was a different place back then in the 1990s. There were only 7,000 people in the area in 1990, and so the off-road racing people had more space to maneuver in. The race took a nine year hiatus and came back in 2016, due to the efforts of Nye County and Casey Folks.

For more info on the race go to For the Pahrump Nugget, call 775-751-6500. The hotel is located at 681 S. Highway 160.

— Vernon Hee