By Mike Henle
A hard-charging Class 10 driver Fred Hatch is seen heading for the finish line in the June 9 running of the Knotty Pine 250. (Wild Field Photography)CALIENTE, Nev. — Fifty-five-year-old Fred Hatch and a tightly-knit group of family members have reason to celebrate after the team captured Class 10 and overall titles June 9 in the annual Knotty Pine 250.
A veteran of motorcycle desert racing, Hatch and his team of three pit crew members mounted a lean and mean monumental charge at this venue about 150 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
Hatch, an air conditioning contractor who owns Modern Air Conditioning in Palos Verdes, Calif., has enjoyed the transition to four wheels especially considering that one accident three years ago during a District 37 motorcycle race at Glenn Helen, Calif., left him with 14 broken ribs, a broken shoulder and a punctured lung resulting in two weeks in the intensive care unit of Loma Linda Hospital. “Over the years, I broke a total of 33 bones, and just told myself that once I recovered from the surgery, I was done.”
It was time for a change, according to Hatch.
“At that point, I knew that I simply couldn’t put my family through the agony any longer,” said Hatch. “I came to the reality that I could no longer compete in motorcycle desert racing. I had raced motorcycles for 40 years.”
adding that the race marked the first time he and his crew had visited Caliente. “Over the years, I broke a total of 33 ribs and I just told myself that once I recovered from the surgery, I was Knowing full-well that any kind of motorsports can easily become addictive, Hatch went to work looking for other forms of racing with fewer dangers and the idea of off-road racing led him to 30-year friend Randy Wilson, who owned a Class 10 car.
“Randy suggested that I buy his Class 10 car,” said Hatch, who is a father of five. “I bought it about two years ago and decided this year that I was going to compete in every SNORE race that I could.”
Needless to say, the decision to leave behind the two-wheelers in favor of the four-wheelers provided the perfect fit. Hatch roared into the SNORE series last year turning in excellent performances at the Rage at the River, Ridgecrest and the SNORE 250, where he missed an overall win by only 54 seconds.
“We had lots of dust all day long,” Hatch said of the Knotty Pine 250. “It was my first time in Caliente, which we found to be nothing but fun. We had an absolute blast.”
It was a flawless day for the team that finished seven minutes ahead of the second-place Class 10 entry thanks to a pit crew that included co-driver Alex Grabo; daughter Taylor (Alex’s wife); Jerry Grabow (Alex’s dad) and company employee Mike Mills. (Hatch’s wife, Julie, usually works in the pits, but missed the Caliente race).
Hatch is also racing a Ford Fiesta in a rally series this year. With Alex Grabo as the co-driver, they just recently won the open two-wheel class and placed sixth in the High Desert Rally in Ridgecrest, Calif.
“We actually apply a lot of our rally racing to off-road,” Hatch said. “In rally racing, you’re racing against the clock and you really understand half-second intervals. We drove the car around the course on the pre-run writing ‘pace notes” as we do in rally racing, taking notes for most corners.”
The formula worked well in Caliente especially with Alex Grabo serving as a co-driver.
“He literally called out every turn of the race for five hours,” Hatch explained. “I totally contribute our win to his talent and his ability to call out turns precisely. It’s a two-man show when you’re in our car.”
Proof in the pudding is that Hatch won the race without any setbacks.
“We didn’t have one stick of a problem,” Hatch said. “We didn’t have any flat tires and continued our excellent run with our Tri-Acre tires that we have had since the beginning of the year.”
Indeed, desert racing produces lifelong experiences.
“Our kids all grew up around the desert. The memories are invaluable,” Hatch said.
Other winners included Sean Gilbert (Class1); John Bowers (Trophy Truck); Justin “Bean” Smith (Class 5); Michael “Bud” Ward & Fernie Padilla (1-2 1600); Trevor Harvey (Class 6100); Rob Archibald (Class 12);Nicholas Turner (SxSPro-Turbo Unlimited); Broc Smith (SxSPro-Limited); Kevin McKeown (3000); John Slavic (Trophy Lite); Justin Park (Class 7100); Joshua Englestead (9); Maxwell Bender (Unlimited Sportsman); Heather Hermann (Limited Sportsman); Brett Michael (1450 Sportsman); Kevin Benali (Class 2000); Cory Vandermark (Stock Bug); Monte Tibbetts (Heavy Metal) and Rodney Topping (5-1600).
SNORE’s 2018 season continues with the annual KC HiLites Aug. 3-4 in Jean, Nev. The race has become renowned for its challenging course that is made tougher thanks to the fact that much of the event is run after the sun has gone down.
Further information regarding SNORE can be found by visiting www.snoreracing.net.