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Yoder takes roads less travelled

Auburn racer competing in front of thousands at the country?s most highly regarded ultra 4 race
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Kevin Yoder built his giant, four-wheel drive machine to tackle just about any terrain, and do it faster than just about any other vehicle on the planet. He?s in Crandon, Wisc. this weekend to find out just how well he stacks up. Football has the Super Bowl, baseball has the World Series and ultra 4 racing has the Brush Run. ?It?s the granddaddy of short course racing,? Yoder said. ?You don?t just get to race there. There are million-dollar teams going and there?s a waiting list. There are 30,000 people there. It?s kind of like the Daytona 500 for NASCAR.? Yoder will race his custom-built 650-horsepower vehicle around a dirt track that includes huge jumps and 90 mph turns. It?s the latest challenge for the Del Oro High graduate who has taken on rock-crawling competitions, desert races and even the famed Pike?s Peak race in his amazing rig. But competing in the Brush Run is a dream come true. ?I?ve never been there before, but it?s always been on my bucket list,? said Yoder, who left for Wisconsin from Auburn on Tuesday. ?I?ve almost flown back before just to watch. I never fathomed I would be coming here to race.? Yoder earned an invitation to the prestigious race by racking up a number of impressive showings in the last several years. He was the Northern California Rock Racing Series champion in 2009 and 2010. He finished seventh in the Pike?s Peak open division last year. Yoder grew up riding in the family Jeep. His racing career began when he was just a sophomore in high school. His current ride makes even a souped-up Jeep look like a Matchbox version. In the open desert, Yoder?s red vehicle can hit speeds up to 120 mph. The chro-moly chassis was built by hand. The engine runs on standard unleaded fuel, which helps keep the costs of racing down. ?It?s purpose-built for racing,? Yoder said. ?It has desert-racing specs. It has a hopped-up engine like what would come in a late model Corvette. It?s more capable of four-wheeling than any car ever built.? A project coordinator for Union Pacific in Roseville, Yoder?s weekends are mostly dedicated to racing. He?s developed a reputation for being a skilled driver, no matter where he?s competing. ?He?s just got a lot of experience,? said John Dickinson, who has worked on Yoder?s pit crew. ?He?s been in the rock crawling industry for as long as I?ve known him and he?s able to work on the car himself.? Yoder said he?s been recognized on the street for his racing prowess. Off-road racing legend Rod Hall once gave him a tip of the cap. ?One of the best parts of the sport is meeting your heroes and them telling you you?re fast,? Yoder said. Pit Bull Tires is one of his main sponsors, but Yoder has carved out much of his success through his own hard work. He said driving the vehicle can be taxing, especially in longer races. ?You need to be able to know when to go fast and when to lift and brake,? Yoder said. ?You?re constantly adjusting, reading the terrain. You always have to leave yourself an out. It?s very intense.?