By Mike Henle
LAUGHLIN, Nev. -- At the age of 31, Laughlin, Nev. native Matt Laughlin is having the time of his life. Now assistant general manager of the Riverside Resort Hotel and Casino along the Colorado River about 100 miles south of Las Vegas, he’s preparing to run a new 6100 truck in the annual McKenzie’s Rage at the River scheduled Thursday through Sunday.
Presented by the Southern Nevada Off Road Enthusiasts (SNORE), the event will be run over a course that covers approximately 12 miles long in the Laughlin Events Center. With a tight layout surrounded by the mountains and the backdrop of the hotel-casinos at water’s edge, the atmosphere that includes red-hot machinery and the Colorado River is breath-taking.
Laughlin, whose 85-year-old grandfather, Don, has become renowned for spotting the city from an airplane in 1964 before taking it to what it is today, is ready to go in a very impressive-looking truck.
“We originally had a Class 12 car that we converted to a 10 car,” said Matt, who earned a degree in finance from UNLV in 2007. “Then, my parents’ house burned down in May of 2013 and the fire pretty much took everything we had including the race car, our pre-runner, the tools and the rest.
“We didn’t go racing for a while. I had wanted to go back to Class 10. I had been racing for three years, so we took some time off.”
Laughlin is ready now, especially for a race that traditionally draws a huge field of trucks that work fit perfectly in the terrain not far from the Riverside. The Class 61 truck is sleek-looking and besides, it’ll run about 100 miles an hour in the open desert.
If there is such a thing as meditating while powering through the desert, Laughlin has found it in the Class 6100 truck.
Illustrating the truck’s strength is the fact that Laughlin picked up a second place in another race in Laughlin and also earned a fourth place in the Vegas to Reno race.
“It’s more of a hobby for us,” he said. “When we’re done racing, we all go back to our regular jobs.”
“The 6100 truck is unique, to say the least. It definitely gets looks when flying through the desert.”
“A 6100 is like a spec trophy truck with a sealed LS3,” Laughlin said. Everything else is Unlimited and it has 37-inch tires.”
After the housefire, Laughlin is back to having fun.
“The off-road racing is a lot of fun,” Laughlin added. “And besides, it keeps us all out of trouble.”
Especially considering his current executive role with the Riverside, Laughlin is always looking for ways to promote the town his grandfather made great.
“Off-road racing is good for Laughlin,” he said. “The venue is perfect and it attracts awesome people from several states every December.”
Laughlin could have run in another race in Pahrump a week earlier, but chose to stay closer to home.
“It was a no-brainer,” he said. “This one is right in our own backyard.”
SNORE, which has been bringing its show to Laughlin since 2009, has a strong field of more than 300 entries for Rage at the River.
The McKenzie’s Rage at the River schedule is packed with activity all four days.
Friday’s festivities will be highlighted by qualifying from 9:30-11:30 a.m. with tech inspection set from 1:45-7:45 p.m. at the Tropicana Hotel.
Heat races kick off the action early Saturday and Sunday mornings.
The awards ceremony is set for Sunday beginning at 7:30 p.m. at Harrah’s.