Considering the wide range of activities pickup trucks are used for—towing, carrying motorcycles, hauling people—there’s no reason not to add ‘racing’ to the list. Why should sports car owners get all the fun in seeing their favorite brands duke it out on screen? And it’s not just professional factory teams out there, either. Some racing trucks come straight from someone’s shed. So, sit down to watch some truck racing, and enjoy the mayhem.
There’s no one truck racing series named ‘Trophy Truck’. They’re actually classifications applied to trucks designed for blitzing off-road races. With enormous suspension travel, roll cages, and tires the size of small children, these are some real monster trucks. Although dedicated off-road pickups have started coming directly from the factory, these are on a whole other level.
Their most famous venue is Baja. Every year the rocks and sand echo with revving engines and crunching shocks. In fact, multiple times per year: more than one race calls the Mexican peninsula home. Southern California Off-Road Enthusiasts International hosts the seminal Baja 1000, as well as the Baja 500 and San Felipe 250. NORRA (North American Off-Road Racing Association) runs the NORRA 500 and Mexico 1000.
Lesser known, but equally historic, is the Mint 400, run in the deserts surrounding Las Vegas. Starting in 2020, Baja-scarred Trophy Trucks will be allowed in (the Mint previously had their own version, the ‘Trick Trucks’).
The races attract people from all parts of motorsports and the automotive world. Even Formula One stars sometimes get in on the action. You should, too.
King of the Hammers
Picture a hill climb course held on the gnarliest rocks nature can dish out. String a couple of those together with sprint sections that resemble Mad Max: Fury Road much too closely. Oh, and your average competitor is driving something that makes a Trophy Truck look dainty. That’s King of the Hammers.
Held in the middle of California’s Mojave Desert, each racer gets fourteen hours to do three laps of the course. In addition to the nightmarish rock crawling and near-vertical ascents, there are fifteen checkpoints, and missing even one results in disqualification.
Rules? You need a low-range four-wheel-drive vehicle and enough food, water, and medical supplies to survive on your own for 24 hours. That’s it. Seriously. And although some manufacturers are starting to compete directly, many racers build and race their own home-made machines.
So, bring out your zombie apocalypse truck, and see if you have what it takes.
Stadium Super Trucks
Moving away from the desert truck racing scene, we come to Stadium Super Trucks. While they resemble Trophy Trucks superficially, under the skin things are a bit different. If Trophy Trucks are Formula One, SST is more NASCAR. But while mechanically simpler—600 hp Chevrolet V8s strapped to three-speed automatics—the Super Trucks still give great fun.
Mostly in the form of massive air.
Unlike Trophy Trucks and King of the Hammers, Stadium Super Trucks are significantly more accessible. The races were initially started by NASCAR and IndyCar driver Robby Gordon as IndyCar warm-up events. They still are, which makes attendance a two-for-one deal. But they also feature before NASCAR races, and have now gotten a dedicated series of their own. And the drivers come from both the off-road and on-road racing world. Sit back, and get ready to laugh.
NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Racing Series
Although the word ‘car’ is in the name, NASCAR has its own truck-specific series of races. The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series (NGOTS) runs on the same tracks as the stock cars, and at times pulls heavily from veteran stock car talent. Even many of the vehicle build specs are similar.
The races are also shorter than some of NASCAR’s other offerings, and the series is one of the few to race on actual dirt (at Eldora Speedway). NGOTS is also where Toyota got its foot in the NASCAR door. Although now a regular stock car competitor, Toyota’s first foray into the sport came with an NGOTS-spec Tundra in 2004. Plus, it’s hard to get more American than NASCAR and pickup trucks.