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If your not on the edge, you're taking up space

If your not on the edge, you're taking up space

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We wish to thank Katch Environmental for sponsoring Team Pantera Racing in this year's Sandhills Open Road Challenge and Silver State Classic Challenge.  This marks their fourth year of sponsorship.

Farewell to Friends, 2011 SSCC PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Saturday, 24 September 2011 14:47

The email was simple enough, and short. A fatality had occured at the 2011 Silver State Classic Challenge.  Later, after a media blackout was lifted, we learned 53-year-old driver Rick DeKneef of California and his 41-year-old navigator, Merle Hill of Ely, Nevada were killed when their race prepared 1994 Camaro left the road after suffering a tire failure.

1992 was the last time the course claimed a fatality. For the racers, friends and family, it's never an easy thing to take. Even so, the best families and friends pick themselves up to remember those who passed. Team Pantera Racing remembers them as well.



Merle on left with back to camera, Rick on right with back to camera
TPR president Dennis (Mad Dog) Antenucci holding hood

Rick and Merle were no strangers to Open Road Racing. They were well known in the ORR community. For 2011, they planned on competing in the Unlimited Division with a 1994 Camaro, fully race prepared. Unlimited literally means no speed limit. It's generally been considered Highway 318 can barely sustain a 200 MPH limit with the right car. For many years, folks have been chasing the last speed record slightly in excess of 200. We don't know for certain if Rick and Merle were going for the record, but when you enter Unlimited, it's always in the back of your mind. That's why you prepare the car for just about anything.

Silver State Classic takes safety of the drivers and cars very seriously. In Unlimited, the rules are very strict, with requirements for fire-protected full race suits and underwear, roll cages, fire supression systems, harnesses, arm restraints, HANS, and more. The final item that in all cases is the most important, are the tires. Nearly every off-road excursion in the Nevada Open Road or Silver State Classic Challenge has been due to a tire failure.  This is why their Tire Tech people take tires so seriously.

Though tire failures can never be predicted, tire tech at Silver State has stringent rules all cars must meet. It is with great confidence we know the tires on this Camaro were in good shape; they never would have passed otherwise. Unfortunately, as unpredicted things tend to do, it was a tire failure that caused the Camaro to leave the highway at a speed estimated to be 200 MPH.

Reports from the family indicate Merle and Rick died from traumatic impact injuries from the car tumbling through the desert, and not from the resulting fire. Being not easy to hear about death in any form, some comfort was taken they didn't die in the fire. That evening, at the Banquet and award ceremonies, there was a moment of silence held for the friends who started, but never finished.

TPR president Dennis Antenucci had these words to say:

...I can't help but think they were doing what they loved and they knew the risks... pushing the safety envelope to the very edge. ...both these guys will be missed. I spent half of Thursday and Friday with Rick in the parking lot his Camaro and my Pantera side by side.....yea the hard part is seeing someone go you will miss and know he will be missed more by his family.

TPR Veteran John Bentley later added:

You do your homework, you prepare your car, install all the safety equipment you can afford, and work up in the speed classes until you've had enough. But at the end of the day, we all know something can happen and we end up upside-down in the dessert. There is no way to eliminate risk. In time we will deal with this loss and get back in the drivers seat.

Family and friends will both miss these two veterans of Open Road Racing, and those friends will keep coming back.  Daunted for only a little while, as the grief sinks in, passes and the memories turn to all the good times, Rick and Merle's fellow racers know they'd want them to go on.  The memorial was held today at Kerman High School in Kerman, California.

Rick, Merle,
We'll all miss you terribly.  And to show our support, Team Pantera Racing plans to come back in 2012, bringing memories of you with us.

Rick is survived by his wife Kelly, son Ridge (who has raced with his dad many times) and daughter Kasey.

Merle is survived by his mother Bunny Hill, and his children Tyler and MacKenzie.

To make contributrions to the family, please contact Gail Waldman by going to the Silver State Classic internet site.


ABC television has a story from the family members that is worth watching. View it here:



Last Updated on Monday, 26 September 2011 11:07
2011 SORC PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Monday, 05 September 2011 12:49

The 2011 Sandhills Open Road Challenge is in the books.  Last years runners Bob "Rowdy" Radefeld and Bud "7-Banger" Hower worked valiantly to get their cars to the race.  Unfortunatley neither of them ran.  Even so, they had convinced another Pantera team to come out.  Mark Skwarek and Jim Wallace.

Bud's new engine wasn't performing quite to his expectations, so rather than chance a blown engine on the way there or on course, Bud decided against running and instead became support for those who did.  Bob took his Pantera there, but at the last minute (or actually the day before), his ignition went south for the summer.  Not being able to repair it in time, Team Pantera Racing was down two Panteras.  At least a third was still in the running.

Mark Skwarek, in his nicely prepared orange and black pantera took on the event and finished 9th in the 110 mph class at +43.496 seconds.  Another good time had in Arnold Nebraska by both Mark and his navigator, Jim Wallace.

A big Thank You from Team Pantera Racing for upholding the team spirit, competing well and having a good time.


That's a Wrap! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 05 June 2011 06:23

Wrapped Pantera

What do you do when you can't wait for the latest round of paint?  Or the paint vendor is backed up and can't get to you for a few months?

You WRAP IT instead!

Team Pantera Racing President Dennis "Mad Dawg" Antenucci recently had a local vendor create a vinyl "wrap" for his Pantera.   The process was painstaking up front, having the guy come out and take measurements on the car.  Then it was a matter of choosing the artwork and text and where to place it all.  Dennis chose to keep everything simple, mainly to keep the car one color.  He also added some information on past Open Road Racers who are no longer with us; a kind of tribute to those who have gone before.

For more photos, please visit the photo album.


Last Updated on Sunday, 05 June 2011 06:32
2011 NORC Pre-Race Update PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 04 May 2011 18:41

Dennis "Mad Dawg" Antenucci is temporarily back from his desert hijinks and will be running the 2011 Nevada Open Road Challenge in his race prepared street legal DeTomaso Pantera.  He's recently finished up all the prep and tech work, made some local runs to make sure the cobwebs are blown out and is ready to roll.  Although he's not revealed his final speed class, he once again reminded the Pantera world of his long standy $5,000 challenge, with a friendly tuant to our Texas brethren:

Any street licensed Pantera that shows up at the 2011 Nevada Open Road Challenge, Races, -and- obtains a higher average speed than Mad Dawg, will receive as their reward, all expenses paid up to $5,000.  If the driver and Pantera are from Texas, the payout may go as high as $10,000.

To date, none has taken on this challenge.  Will this be the year?

The last thing the Dawg is waiting for, is the new car "wrap" that will be applied to the Pantera this year.  Dennis has decided to forgo paint for now and substitute a full body wrap with tributes to past TPR veterans and those who have died doing what they love.  It should be quite the head-turner, not that the Pantera isn't anyway.

A second Pantera is currently scheduled to make an appearance at this year's NORC as well.  John "JB" Bentley has been preparing his Pantera, truck and trailer for the past few years and is now planning to accompany the TPR President to the event.  John will be running a new rebuilt engine.  In addition he added some NACA ducts and is looking to take on the 135 MPH class.  Like all good Team Pantera Racing members, John has thought ahead and installed Z-rated tires all around.  No worries in tech for him.


The Nevada Open Road Challenge begins next week and will encompass a parade, car show, lots of great getogethers, the race on Sunday the 15th and the awards banquet to follow.  Keep your eyes peeled to this space for more information after the race.

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