|Fritz Kroyer, right, won the first SNORE 250 in 1970. He is shown with his son, Kevin, at the Kroyer Racing Engines at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The first winner of the SNORE 250 may not be driving an off-road racing car anymore, but he is as entrenched in the sport as ever. With the 42nd annual event scheduled Oct. 21-22 in Ridgecrest, Calif., the memories of the old days still linger.
Fritz Kroyer won the 1970 SNORE 250 in southwest Las Vegas to kick off a storied career that also included winning back-to-back Mint 400 in the next two years at the Mint Gun Club in the northwest portion of Las Vegas Valley.
Now 68, the Danish-born Kroyer is a prototype fabricator for Kroyer Racing Engines on the grounds of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He stepped away from the sport of off-road racing in 1985 after competing in an event in Mohave, Calif.
“His talent is absolutely unbelievable,” said son Kevin, a partner with hotel-casino owner and former off-road competitor Michael Gaughan in Kroyer Racing Engines. “His original nickname from our Walker Evans days was ‘the original Bad Ass” because there is nothing he cannot do.
“He is at the gym every morning while I’m still sleeping.”
The elder Kroyer is at the gym every day by 4 in the morning. He can’t imagine starting his day any other way.
“I didn’t work out like this when I was racing,” he said. “I just feel better going to the gym and I can tell the difference when I don’t start my day out by going to the gym.”
The win in the first SNORE 250 was a story in itself for Kroyer, who rolled his unlimited single-seat custom made Funco on the first lap.
“We were running somewhere near what is now Spanish Trail,” Kroyer recalled with a huge smile. “It was a drag race start with two cars starting side-by-side. I had to make a hard right hand turn coming out of the gravel pit and landed on my wheels.
“I was so embarrassed because I rolled right in front of a bunch of fans. When I got to the pit, we replaced a couple of wheels. The only way I could redeem myself was by winning the race.”
Times have certainly changed as it relates to off-road racing.
“You could run anywhere in the desert in those days,” Kroyer recalled. “It’s not even wide-open racing in Mexico anymore.”
However, even during a struggling economy not to mention other issues that the sport now endures, competitors are keeping Kroyer Racing busy.
“Many people in off-road racing have successful businesses,” Fritz said. “In some cases, when business slows down, they simply look at the slowdown as a time to do more racing.”
The off-road business remains good to the Kroyer family especially considering its recent success with drivers like Trophy Truck drivers Rob MacCachren, BJ Baldwin and Bryce Menzies; all of whom have taken major victories.
Among Kroyer’s customers is SNORE Class 1 charger and Southern California resident Kyle Conlon, who is currently the Class 1 leader and second overall in the points behind Class 1-2 1600 veteran Kenny Freeman.
“The sport is very time-consuming and very expensive,” Kroyer said. “You don’t race out of your back yard anymore. There is a lot of dedication that goes into the sport now. Just going to the race is tough considering how much equipment you need to take with you. Then, you have a truck and tools and people to help. There are huge expenses anymore.
“When I worked for Roger Mears, we figured out one time that it cost $50,000 to go to Mexico—and that was 10 years ago. I think we’re going see more and more closed-course racing in the sport. It’s getting so tough now especially when you consider the insurance and the fees involved with the sport.”
Kroyer has great memories of SNORE even after all the years.
“SNORE has done a very good job,” he said. “They have been around for decades and that shows a definite will of the people who are involved. Just look at the Freeman family which sill has several family members who are active in the sport.”
“SNORE has provided a great outlet for so many people.”
KJ Howe, the former race director of the Mint 400, has vivid memories about Kroyer.
“I raced in the Mint in 1971 and 1972 and Fritz went by me so fast that I suddenly realized that I had better learn a little more about off-road racing because it sure was different from the sports car racing that I was used to,” said Howe, now 72. “Fritz had an unbelievable ability to read the terrain and find the proper line through the rough areas so that he could go faster than anyone else.
“Plus, he was able to keep a car together until the end. He knew how to finish and that is the name of the game in off-road racing. He once told me that you have to first finish before you can finish first” which was a term later uttered to me by Parnelli Jones.”
Howe said he became close friends with Kroyer, who prepared the Mint-sponsored unlimited two-seater from about 1975-1982.
“Fritz had a company named Race Prep in the San Fernando Valley,” said Howe. “He knew suspensions, transmissions, shock setup and he had an outstanding reputation for preparing an off-road racing car. He prepared cars for a lot of off-road racers and was really respected for his ability to build and maintain race cars.”
Howe said Kroyer once did the stunt driving for a movie and jumped over the Berlin Wall.
“He had to go to Germany and they made him jump over a wall that was supposed to be the Berlin Wall,” said Howe. “He did stunt driving as well as racing while also prepping cars. He raced stadium races and the long-distance races like Baja so that just goes to show how versatile he was.”
SNORE’s top entrants headed into the SNORE 250 include Kenny Freeman, 2,921; Kyle Conlon, 2,906; Blaine Conrad, 2,897; Kevin Ellis, 2,713; Cody Freeman, 2,651; Terry Householder, 2,622; Mike Boone, 2,616; Daniel Maurer, 2,612; and Cody Reid, 2,593. The club’s final race will be the Rage at the River in Laughlin, Dec. 10-11.
Further information regarding this year’s event can be found by visiting www.snoreracing.net.