One racer who influenced Sohren was Cave Creek resident Larry Ragland. Like Sohren, Ragland started desert racing with virtually nothing. But Ragland's waterbed business, Wood Stuff, took off and allowed him to pour more money into racing. He won the Baja 1000 five times during the '90s. Ragland, 66, is the second-winningest driver in the sport's history, behind New Zealand's Tony McCall.

"Ragland's a racing legend," Sohren says, "and a self-made millionaire."

Sohren sort of models himself after Ragland. He hopes his businesses, particularly Baja Racing Adventures, will profit enough for him to spend millions on his equipment, too.

Jesse James’ trophy truck, made by Phoenix-based Geiser Bros. Design & Development.
Jesse James’ trophy truck, made by Phoenix-based Geiser Bros. Design & Development.
NASCAR star Robby Gordon won the Baja 1000 last year.
Robby Gordon Motorsports
NASCAR star Robby Gordon won the Baja 1000 last year.
Valley race fans feed their need for speed at Sohren’s Speedway Raceway.
Valley race fans feed their need for speed at Sohren’s Speedway Raceway.

Details

Pete Sohren will compete in the San Felipe 250 race in Baja on March 12 through 14, to be webcast live on racing sites bajaracingsnews.com and rpmtvonline.com.

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For Sohren, the fact that he's been competitively racing trophy trucks "for the love of the sport and the glory" for three decades on a small budget is pretty amazing. "I had nothing. I built Speedway Raceway with nothing. I begged and borrowed money," he says. "My parents didn't have any money. They're not rich. I came from nowhere, helping other racers and riding three-wheelers, and now I'm at the pinnacle of my sport."

To offset expenses, Sohren and his chief mechanic, Eric Waite, do all the work on the truck themselves. His pit crew consists of about seven guys, mostly volunteers. "One advantage I have over the rich guys is they don't know how to fix anything," Sohren says. "First, you have to finish the race. The guys that win without any problems are probably 3 to 5 percent. Everybody else has to fix their problems."

Sponsors like Slime Schampa tire sealant help keep Sohren's costs down, while companies like Maxxis Tires, KC HiLites, and King Shocks help by providing valuable truck parts.

All told, Sohren's got about a $60,000 engine package in his truck and another 40 grand in parts. And he often finishes in the top five with guys who have millions invested in theirs. He may not have won a race yet, but he's done well with a big mouth and a skinny checkbook.

"Pete's out there racing, and he's doing it with half what these other guys are doing it with," Shaun Ochsner says. "That's why people respect him."


The weather at the Parker 425 sucks. Gray clouds hover overhead all day, pouring rain down on shivering fans under black trash bags and turning the race into a slush-fest.

Back at Pete Sohren's pit stop, his crew waits in raincoats with wrenches in hand. After starting third and moving into the lead after the first lap, Sohren got a flat tire and had to get down in the mud and change it himself. He's now running 40 minutes behind the leader as he nears the end of the second lap.

Eric Waite looks up at the hazy sky. His glasses are covered with drops of rain. Suddenly, his headphones crackle and Sohren's voice comes booming through. "I think a bead-lock ring broke off at the end of the second lap," he says, swearing.

Thirty minutes later, Sohren's truck appears through the mist and grumbles to a stop in front of the pit crew. They swarm around it, a frantic mélange of gray coats hurriedly changing tires, oil, and radiator fluid.

Sohren gets out and removes his helmet, yelling over the rumble of the engine. "One of the fan blades broke off and poked a hole in the radiator," he tells Waite. "I stopped and fixed it myself, but it's still losing pressure."

Waite hands a plastic jug of water to two crew members and jumps in the bed of the truck. "Somebody check the temperature!" he screams at them, red-faced.

The truck's still running hot and with only one lap left in the race, Sohren hands his keys over to one of his co-drivers, Jason McNeal. McNeal shoves his helmet on his head, gets in, and roars off.

Sohren doesn't say much. He looks bummed, but calmly explains to his 11-year-old son, Van, that he's going to call Mommy and they're going to watch the end of the race. Hopefully, McNeal can finish.

But of the 289 vehicles that started the Parker 425, only 89 cross the finish line. Mechanical problems are common in this sport, but this race hasn't been typical. Everybody's wiping out or breaking down, including Sohren's number two Slime truck.

While Jason McNeal's driving the final lap, clouds of smoke begin pouring from under the hood. The truck coughs to a halt. It won't restart.

No need to rush now. The truck will be towed back to Phoenix, tires caked in three inches of mud and yellow body splattered with streaks of brown, for extensive repairs. Again.

While Sohren stands over his hood cursing the steaming chrome, the number 97 truck, driven by BJ Baldwin, crosses the finish line first.

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4 comments
Tim
Tim

Pete and his crew are some of the best people i have ever had the pleasure of meeting. and off-road racing has alotted me a wonderful hobby and exciting times to share with my family and friends. congrats on the article Pete see you out in the desert

Richard Cranium
Richard Cranium

Good article! A few error's but any press is good press for Off-Road Racing. Just so you know Mike Overcast is no friend of Off-Road Racing..

JGunn
JGunn

Pete won the Henderson 400 in 2005, i navigated that race so I know. Search that race and you will see!

 
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