For 39 years, off road racing in the Parker area has been one of the premier events in the sport. The event itself has endured name changes, changes in length, changes in promoters and sponsors, a course change due to an endangered species, dust storms and even snow. The race is now the BlueWater resort & Casino / Best in the Desert Parker 425 and is as big as ever drawing some top names in the sport. With its history, its obvious this is a race where anything can and will happen.
The official history of off road racing in the area dates back to 1971. However, these were not the first races here. In 1911, one of Parker's leading pioneers, Joe Bush staged a race from Parker to Wenden to promote his Ferry Service across the Colorado River. Bush won the race, primarily because he was the only one with a car.
In 1916, a cross-country road race from Los Angeles to the Arizona State Fair included a stopover in Parker. Joe Bush accompanied the group as far as Wendon and was ahead of the field after approximately 80 miles.
In 1971, the official history began with the start of the Dam 500. It was created by the Parker Dam Chamber of Commerce and the National Off-road racing Association, had 100 entries and covered 500 miles in Arizona and California. the 1972 race had 37 vehicle enter but 16 finished within the 24 hour time. the following year 83 vehicles entered.
1974 saw a name change to the PArker 400 and a new promoter Short Course Off-Road Enthusiasts International (SCORE). The layout of the course consisted of a 120 mile loop in Arizona and a 129 mile loop in California. The driver made two laps in Arizona and only one in California. The race also ran through the area used by Gen. George S. Patton for training war games in World War II. that year 227 entries competed. Over the next decade the number of entries grew as did the crowds watching the event. By 1977, the race had 404 entrants and attracting crowds of between 70,000 and 75,000.
1985 the drivers who were prepared to handle dust, wind and the rugged terrain got a surprise. the race happened to coincide with a once in a life time event in the parker area ... it snowed. the cold weather and the fine, white powdery snow took its toll on the drivers. of the 368 entrants only 153 finished the race. SCORE and the Las Vegas Desert Racing Association joined forces bringing Natiuonal recognition to the event.
In 1989, the Bureau of Land Management was forced to end the California lap after the Fish & Wildlife Service placed the Desert Tortoise on the endangered species list. To compensate, the BLM allowed an additional 30 miles to the Arizona course and the third lap was added. 1990 was the first race to take place completely in Arizona. the 1991-1993 took their toll with many entrants declining to participate due to economic tough times. In 1995, SCORE decided to drop the ATV's and Motorcycles from the competition for their safety running with the other vehicles. SCORE had run the Parker 400 for 24 years but by the mid 1990's change was in the wind. by 1997 SCORE announced the revamped desert championship series and that the Parker 400 was being suspended from their series.
Parker residents and the business community were not about to give up. with a tenacious effort of the Parker Tourism Committee and Whiplash Motorsports agreed to take on Parker 400. Changes included "the Gauntlet", a collection of jumps, dips and sharp curves set up near Avi Suquilla Airport in full view of spectators, starting the race on California Ave in front of the Chamber Office and placing contingency row on Arizona Ave right in the middle of Downtown Parker.
In 2003, a new organizer and promoter took over the reigns Best in the Desert Racing Association with major sponsorship from the BlueWater Resort & Casino. Changes over the following years have resulted in the race as we know it today.