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September 22, 2014

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Family duo finds success off road

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Sean Ammerman

Henderson off road driver C.J. Hutchins poses with his race car and trophy for winning the Southern Nevada Off Road Enthusiasts class 10 series for 2008. Hutchins won the class 10 and overall points championship with his father and co-driver Mark Hutchins.

One of the biggest keys to success in off-road racing is avoiding the myriad disasters on the course to finish the race.

That is something Henderson drivers C.J. Hutchins and his father, Mark Hutchins, did better than most racing teams last year in the Southern Nevada Off Road Enthusiasts series.

The pair, who have raced as a team for five years, not only know how to drive fast but when to drive fast.

“In these desert races it’s all about getting the car to the finish line,” C.J. Hutchins said. “Sometimes driving slower is faster.”

The duo got their car to the finish line faster than any other local teams last year in the six-race series. They beat out nearly 300 other drivers in 2008 to capture their first overall points championship, which was awarded to the top team of the series’ 20 divisions.

They also won the class 10 division and took second in the five-race Southern California Off Road Enthusiasts class 10 division.

“The list of names who have won the championship is pretty cool,” C.J. Hutchins said. “It’s pretty awesome to put our names up there with all these other guys.”

Mark Hutchins, 53, won an earlier Nevada championship in 2000, when he competed alone but said winning a championship with his son was more meaningful.

C.J. Hutchins, 24, learned as a passenger and navigator with his father during those days. Now, as co-drivers, the pair switch off to drive half of every race.

For winning the points championship last year, they were awarded a new chassis, which was used to build a car for first-time driver Kelly Suiter, daughter of Mark Hutchins.

“It’s always been about family,” Mark Hutchins said. “It’s awesome competing with C.J. I have really gotten to see him develop as a driver.”

Mark and C.J. Hutchins hit a hot streak at the end of the 2007 season, when they won their first class 10 title, and continued it throughout 2008.

They won their first two races of the year — the Battle at Primm on Feb. 17 and the Mint 400 on March 29 — and had a strong lead in the standings for most of the season.

However, the gap narrowed by the season’s final race, the Kartek Western Desert Championship on Nov. 15.

They started the 250-mile Kartek race strong, but a breakdown midway through slowed them down.

They regrouped to take third place and clinch the overall points championship by a narrow 100 points. The series based its points system on the number of drivers who compete in a race. They earned 605 points in the Kartek race.

“We persevered though it all,” Mark Hutchins said. “We were surprised we did that well, but everyone else broke down, too. You just can’t quit when you’re out there.”

The duo looks to continue their momentum — they have won a remarkable nine of their last 13 races — in the 2009 season, which begins with the Battle at Primm on Feb. 13.

Sean Ammerman can be reached at 990-2661 or [email protected].

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