RENO, Nev. – Colby Copeland pulled off a three-peat during the opening night of the inaugural High Desert Hustle, winning the Open 500, Non-Winged 500, and Caged Clone outlaw kart features on a temporary dirt track inside the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center.
From Roseville, Calif., Copeland overcame contact in a fierce battle for second in the Open 500 main, then made a power move around the top for the lead.
“It really says a lot about the team I got behind me here. To run with these guys and beat this competition in one class, your stuff just has to be on point. To do it in three is pretty incredible,” Copeland said. “These guys work super hard and it showed tonight. It’s how we wanted to start the weekend but it’s all about Saturday and getting the big money on Saturday.”
The opening night of the High Desert Hustle featured 290 outlaw kart racers from across the country.
Thursday’s action started the run to the Saturday features, where the richest paydays in outlaw kart history will be awarded, including $10,000 to win in the 500 division.
The top-five finishers of each feature locked in for Saturday’s action.
Split qualifying in the Open 500s saw Wednesday practice leader Tanner Holmes of Jacksonville, Ore., and Preston Carr of Cottonwood, Calif., top time trials. Heat races fed the field into qualifiers, where Casey McClain, Aiden Larimer, Colby Copeland, Carr, and Casey Schmitz snared checkered flags.
The alphabet soup among the 107 Open 500s in action saw Carson Sousa charging from the F-Main through the B-Main. Sousa completed the cycle and made the preliminary A-Feature.
Casey McClain of Palo Cedro, Calif., led the 30-lap feature early with Aiden Larimer and Copeland in pursuit. Copeland and Larimer collided on the backstretch later on, while battling for second position.
The ensuing melee sent Jennifer Osborne into a flip, but she was able to keep racing.
Larimer kept the pressure up on McClain until Preston Carr and James Edens crashed in turn three. Larimer barreled into them, surrendering second place in the proces.
Copeland was the next driver to turn his attention towards McClain for the top spot. Copeland worked to the outside and swooped past him on the front stretch to lead lap 26.
A caution flew a lap later to set up a three-lap shootout. Copeland ultimately prevailed, followed by McClain, Holmes, Jesse Colwell, and Schmitz as the locked-in drivers for Saturday’s feature.
“If you had to pick out of the opens a guy you want to race clean side-by-side with, Casey is one of them,” Copeland said. “He got loose off the bottom, so I saw an opportunity there.”
Oregon’s Steven Snawder topped qualifying for the non-winged class and led the way before spinning out of the lead. Jayce Hudson took over with Carr and Copeland ready to pounce.
Carr dove inside of Hudson in turn one in a slidejob for the lead. Copeland crossed them over to lead lap 11, never relinquishing the top spot after that over Carr, Hudson, Luke Hayes, and Camryn Varrichio.
Copeland then proceeded to dominate the Cage Cloned feature. John Tevis, Elijah Jones, Justin Reinolds, and Frank Benuzzi rounded out the top-five.
250cc Fast-Time qualifier Braxton Foster followed up with a main event win in their 20-lap feature. A serious looking flip slowed the action on lap six in turn four but all drivers involved were uninjured.
Racin Gramps, Landon Henry, Logan Pike, and Parker Mockridge also locked into Saturday’s action with their top-five finishes.
Jaxon Fuchs looked poised to win the 20-lap Box Stock feature, as he led the field through lapped traffic with a commanding advantage. That was nullified on lap 17, when Gianni Tolson went airborne and collected Fuchs in turn two.
Bryce Nelson of Merced grabbed the lead for the final three-lap run to the finish. He held court, topping Ayden James Saiz, Knox Reeves, Sawyer Vanpool, and Blake Rollag.
Bentley Nelson led the first 14 laps of the Beginner Box Stock feature before colliding with a spinning slower car, handing the lead to Miles Boertje.
Boertje stumbled in turn four with four to go, allowing Nelson to reassume the lead. Nelson faced heavy pressure from Logan Barnes of Oroville, Calif., and Tyce Domingos. Barnes steered to the outside on the white flag lap and executed a thrilling win.
Nelson finished a close second ahead of Boertje, Domingos, and Zane Ritcheson.