Good dirty fun

For Chinle’s mud race, a quarter-century has just slipped by

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi’ Bureau

CHINLE, Aug. 28, 2014

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(Times photo – Ravonelle Yazzie)

Jackson Ben of Chinle competes in this year’s 25th annual Chinle Mud Race during the 29th annual Central Navajo Fair on Aug. 23.

One thing we have in abundance in Chinle is mud. World-class hashtl’ish.

We spend 363 days a year trying to avoid it, and two days reveling in it.

This year marked the 29th Annual Central Navajo Fair, and the 25th Annual Chinle Mud Race, meaning there’s been a mud race almost as long as there’s been a fair.

It’s on its second generation of organizers: Donovan Lee recently took over from his father, Phillip Ben.

And if you haven’t been to a mud race since 1989, you might be surprised. Things have changed.

“It started out on the Navajo Nation because of the dirt roads,” explained Kenneth Maryboy, who was taking time out from his busy presidential campaign schedule Friday and Saturday to M.C. the mud race, as he has every year since a lot of these guys can remember.

Almost as soon as Navajos started getting cars, they started competing to see who was the best mud driver. It was very informal back then, recalled Maryboy a bit wistfully.

“Now there’s an organization with rules and everything,” he said.

Yep, this definitely is not your daddy’s mud race. Although your daddy may still be competing.

“It’s a lifetime sport,” noted Maryboy, and sure enough there were several father-son entries this year.

But no longer do you rev your old pickup truck through a mud puddle, splattering a laughing audience with turd-brown hashtl’ish. These days, it takes a specialized vehicle to compete.

Racers can spend $50,000 on them. They have 3,000-horsepower engines, ultra-light frames, and tires like paddlewheels. They run on methanol or nitrous oxide — cool, clean-burning fuels that, when the carburation is adjusted exactly right, allow the vehicles to accelerate to over 100 mph by the end of the 125-foot mud track. (And if it’s wrong, cause the machine to humiliatingly stall out in the middle of the mud puddle.)

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