EVENT: Returning desert racing to Oregon 

By Juli Moore/

While people think of all of Oregon’s off-roading as mountainous and forested, that isn’t necessarily the case. Eastern Oregon is very much a desert with wide vistas and long straights.


Fifteen years ago a commitment was made to bring desert racing back to Millican OHV, a high-desert riding area east of Bend, ,Oregon. In October 2020 that promise came to life when Joe Merrill’s dream came true as the pits filled up for the first-ever King of the Kastle 100-mile UTV desert race. After having to reschedule the race from May 2020 to late October due to statewide COVID-19 restrictions, this dream finally took place, and two successful races have been completed.

There were plenty of rocks that damaged or even destroyed tires, but much of the course was soft sand or silt.


The late October inaugural event had a weather report calling for temperature highs in the teens and snowfall. No one knew what to expect. Friday afternoon 60 racers and sweep trucks gathered for a parade lap to see the extent of the 20-mile loop. From rocks and dust to thin trails, sharp curves and long stretches, the track had a little of everything.

Sunday morning’s race started off with 2 inches of fresh snow, a frigid windchill and 13 degrees. With 30 racers entered in the Sportsman class and 30 racers fighting for $9000 in the Pro classes, the excitement was abuzz through the pits. The Pro race was the definition of brutal. Cold persisted all day, and the rocks were hidden under a blanket of snow. It was a true test of driver skill just to finish the race. At the end, all were smiles and talking of future races at King of the Kastle.

Carl Parkhill and his Yamaha were top three at both races in the 1000cc Non-Turbo class.


Early summer 2021 was the second King of the Kastle race. This was a spectacular one-day event with over $11,000 in prize money. The Sportsman and Dune/Rec cars were scheduled to run first thing in the morning. This was a staggered start, with each car leaving exactly one minute after the other. The Pro cars were scheduled for the afternoon races. Racers prepared for their five, 20-mile laps, setting up their pits with tools and spare tires. Everyone knew tires could be the key to victory with some rocky sections between the long straights of sand and silt.

Even the cold, snowy race had its share of soft dirt, sand, silt and dust. It was important not to slam obstacles in the dust.


The 40-car field was off and running. The pits were a flurry of changing tires and topping off fuel, with almost every team needing at least one tire and wheel at some point. Several teams needed a lot more wheels and tires than ever expected. Many were on the hunt for anyone with a spare setup. It’s always great watching competitors help each other out on race day with tools and parts.

We can’t imagine that a car with a front end this bent was much fun to drive. It reportedly continued to race this way to the finish.


Bringing off-road racing back to Oregon’s high desert was a success, and we look forward to future race seasons. A tentative race is scheduled for October 23, 2021. More information can be found on their website at or Facebook at “King of the Kastle SxS Desert Racing.”

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The King of the Kastle did have tree sections on each lap, but they are not the towering pines we associate with Oregon landscape.



Sportsman 1000 Turbo

1. Dennis Collins 

2. Jake Woodriff

3. Hailey Waunch

Sportsman 1000

1. Jared Bryant

2. Johnathan McGillivary

3. Carl Parkhill


1. Chris Corbin

2. Jahil Vejar

3. Jamie Vejar


1000 Turbo

1. Chris Corbin

2. Josh Grasseth

3. Trevor Leighton

Pro-Production 1000

1. Jon Molotte

2. Rob Mckenny

3. Ken Keegal



Sportsman 1000 Turbo

1. Lynn Ver Steeg

2. Grant Hoskin

3. Aaron Gabriel

Sportsman 1000

1. Carl Parkhill

2. Cameron Condray

3. Tony Rich


1. Ryan Barber

2. Logan Ward


1000 Turbo 

1. Dennis Collins

2. Chris Cobin

3. Josh Grasseth

Pro-Production 1000

1. Jonathan McGillivray

2. Rob McKenney

3. Jamie Vejar

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