By Mike Henle

Rage at the River overall winner Harley Letner, left, is seen with Jimmy Hook, center, and Cody Jeffers.

LAUGHLIN, Nev. — There was a time here several years ago when employees of the gaming industry would shudder each December because business would decrease dramatically during the Christmas holidays.

However, thanks in part to some hearty souls who refused to give up when the gettin’ got tough, December is a very successful month in Las Vegas and Laughlin.

For the record, the National Finals Rodeo right-sided a miserable time of year in Las Vegas; and the Southern Nevada Off Road Enthusiasts turned around a similar challenge in Laughlin along the Colorado River about 100 miles south of Las Vegas.

In a sense, bucking broncos in Las Vegas and ground-pounding high-horsepower off-road cars once again spelled the difference between ho-hum times without a paycheck and happier families with Christmas celebrations in Laughlin.

To borrow an often-used statement, “activity breeds activity” and that’s again what happened in Laughlin where more than 400 off-road cars of various sizes and horsepower ratings rattled the earth and once again kept cash flow figures in the black.

Unlimited Truck competitor Steve Olliges finished third in the Rage at the River.

The annual visit to Laughlin Dec. 8-10 started off with qualifying and tech inspection on Friday before two days of solid competition over a 12-mile course west of the city dominated the valley. In typical fashion, the Rage at the River was highlighted by endless action that started early and went on until late in the day.

In a sport with wide-open endless challenges for every driver in every class, Rage at the River was all about survival on a course that went west to the mountains before circling back to the start-finish line. From atop the Riverside’s Hotel and Casino, it was evident that the event was well-worth the expenditure for everyone from competitors to the many people who traveled to Laughlin to watch the action.

The wind blew for most of the weekend, and most off-road racers appreciate the fact since it helps limit the dust that becomes so much of a part in every event of its kind. However, the course layout was unforgiving to some drivers including Class 1 competitor Adam Householder (he finished 16th in Class 1 after a wicked roll).

Indeed, the moon bumps bit a few drivers and so did blown engines which are known to blow up under the pressure of competitors with lead feet and an addiction to a sport that keeps on trucking no matter what the challenge.

Overall winner and Class 1 charger Harley Letner had no problems at all during the weekend and his victory was especially appropriate considering his excellent record in the sport. His co-drivers included Jimmy Hook and Beau Norton, who undoubtedly had a great time as Letner took them with him in a victorious effort.

“I had zero problems,” said Letner, a Corona, Calif., a 17-year competitor who also won the SNORE/MORE event in 2016. “Sunday was flawless, but the course was very challenging.”

The 33-year-old Letner, whose impressive record has seen him win the Mint 400, Parker 425 and the Pahrump Nugget 250, said “It was a very nasty race. The course was insane.

“It’s a real thrill to be able to beat the trucks.”

Letner’s victorious performance resulted in a three-minute class victory over prominent Las Vegas battler Pat Dean in a class that had 23 starters on the final day. By day’s end, six of the class starters ended up with DNF’s thereby illustrating that Letner was right-on in his description of the course.

Long-time competitor Kenny Freeman won the 1600 class.

“I really want to thank Cody Freeman and Bud Ward for helping me in the event,” said the 60-year-old Freeman. Bud ran with us because he was in a wreck on Saturday and couldn’t run his car Sunday.

Robby Hendrickson, 29, qualified first and finished third in 1600. A part-time construction worker from Southern California, he loved the course.

“It was definitely faster than we usually go,” he said. “It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it. This was the biggest field I have ever seen and there was a good amount of attrition. The Battle of Primm along with Caliente will be our next races.”

Veteran Ultimate Truck driver Steve Olliges, a prominent automobile executive with Team Ford in Las Vegas, finished third.

“The race was crazy, like always,” said Olliges. I was sad the first day because the day got black flagged,” he said. “But safety comes first. We started way back.”

Class winners also included

Official results are available at

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