Not one but two off-road races will be going ahead in Parker in early 2024, with all new organizers, after a competition for permits from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The races, which are organized by two different racing organizations, emerged out of the failure of the Best in the Desert Racing Association to secure a permit from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for the 2023 race. Best in the Desert had run the event since 2003.
The two permitted races will be run by the Martelli Brothers in January and Legacy Racing in February.
A BRIEF HISTORY
The legendary Parker 400 goes back to 1974, and the course ran on both the Arizona and California sides of the Colorado River. It was organized and promoted by Mickey Thompson’s SCORE organization (Short-Course Off-Road Enthusiasts). Thompson recruited Sal Fish, publisher of Hot Rod Magazine, to be president of SCORE the same year.
In the mid-80s, the course changed after the desert tortoise was added to the endangered species list by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which meant the race couldn’t run on the California side. To compensate, BLM allowed an expanded course on the Arizona side and organizers added a third lap in Arizona. The starting line was moved from Shea Road to BlueWater Marina.
After 24 years, in 1997, SCORE stopped running the Parker 400. After an effort by racers and the Parker community, Whiplash Motorsports, owned by Jay and Jackie McKinley, agreed to take on the race. In their first year, they added the ‘Gauntlet’, a series of jumps and turns, near the airport in Parker. They also changed the start line to California Avenue.
Then, in 2003, Casey Folks and his Best in the Desert Racing Association took the mantle with the title sponsorship coming from BlueWater Resort & Casino. With an emphasis on the spectator experience, the Best in the Desert race was a huge success, with high numbers of entrants and fans. Folks shook the hand of every driver at the start line himself, wishing them luck.
Folks died just a couple of weeks before the 2017 race of a stroke. His son Bryan continues to lead the organization, but last year it was announced that the 2023 event would be cancelled, after the organization failed to meet requirements for the event’s permit from BLM. In the wake of the news, some other promoters in the industry were rumored to be interested in running the Parker race, and applying for the race permits themselves.
ANNOUNCEMENTS THIS WEEK
On Friday, BLM announced that they are issuing two permits to two different promoters for 2024, one in January and the other in February.
The Martelli Brothers, best known for running Mad Media and the Mint 400 in Las Vegas, announced Friday that they are forming a new racing series which includes the Parker 400, the Mint 400 and the California 300 in Barstow. Their press release leaned heavily on the race’s historic pedigree.
“The Parker 400 is one of the oldest and most historic races in our sport and we’re excited to have that become part of our calendar as we take yet another massive step forward in our league’s development,” said Matt Martelli, Unlimited Off-Road Racing CEO and Co-Owner. “We’re preparing to take the same assets and marketing power that we have used to make the Mint 400 the biggest spectacle in the sport, and apply that to our entire league. Racers, partners and fans can expect us to deliver the best experience, media coverage and value in the industry as we continue to grow and expand our offering. That includes industry leading production from our team at Mad Media, live stream team and events group.”
The Martellis’ version of the Parker 400, set for January 2024 with an exact date to be announced soon, will feature multiple days of pre-running, three days of racing and a “fantastic fan experience”, according to their press release, “all in careful coordination with the town of Parker and La Paz County.”
“The Martelli Brothers recently met with Mayor Hartless, La Paz County Supervisors Plunkett and Minor, Police Chief Bailey, Public Works Director Ziegler, Clerk Putnam, as well as Chamber of Commerce Director Newton, to begin to map out the evolution of the celebrated race and events,” their release says.
Las Vegas based Legacy Racing Association was the other permit recipient for 2024, founded by Liz Marshall, Donald and Kristy Jackson. Legacy runs the Stateline Shootout, Baja Nevada and Desert Showdown races among others, mostly in the state of Nevada.
“Some time ago we were alerted that the Parker course was going to be available,” a press release from Legacy said Friday. “We wasted no time, and jumped at the opportunity to chat with the great members of that community. Parker holds a very special place not only in our hearts, but many of you as well. We have long awaited the chance to bring back the days of Parker racing that we all know and love. With only two permits made available, we knew the competition was going to be stiff. But competition is what we do best, so we worked our hardest to come out on top of the other organizations fighting for a spot. Our hard work paid off, because we just received official confirmation that one of the two permits was awarded to Legacy Racing. We are beyond excited!!!”
The Legacy race will be run on February 24th, 2024 and will feature cars, trucks and UTVs only.
Parker Mayor Randy Hartless said he’s excited about the developments.
“The Martelli Brothers seemed to be very well organized, professional and knowledgeable about off-road racing,” Hartless told Parker Live. “They have a vision that includes taking care of the desert before and after the race, and their security apparatus is top notch. I’m really pleased that this important economic driver to the town of Parker and the entire community has been resurrected. I look forward to working with the Martelli Brothers, the Colorado River Indian Tribes, and the Bureau of Land Management on the Parker 400!”
Melissa Newton at the Chamber of Commerce is also speaking positively about the races.
“The Parker Regional Chamber of Commerce & Tourism is excited to have off road racing return to La Paz County. We are avid supporters of off-road racing in the area and the economic impact that it has for our area is significant. We look forward to working with both promoters and are excited for 2024.”
Photos by Tuba Art Films for Legacy, the Martelli Brothers and Parker Live