Lake Elsinore’s Weston Hughes drives a 1985 Jeep Grand Cherokee on the Perris half-mile dirt oval. Valley News/Doug Allen photo.

Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, Lake Elsinore driver Weston Hughes won the Demo Cross main event on the first night of the 2020 Perris Auto Speedway season Saturday, March 7.

“I couldn’t be happier with how the car handled and performed,” Hughes said.

Hughes drives a 1985 Jeep Grand Cherokee on the Perris half-mile dirt oval.

Lake Elsinore driver Weston Hughes won the Demo Cross main event on the first night of the 2020 Perris Auto Speedway season. Valley News/Doug Allen photo.

“Two days before the race we had to put a transmission in the car,” Hughes said. “The old one broke, actually snapped in half.”

The short interval between the installation of the new transmission and the season’s first race wasn’t due to procrastination. “I actually had a transmission for it. It turned out to be the wrong one,” Hughes said.

Hughes learned of a correct transmission which was available in Los Angeles. “I went to L.A. and picked up the transmission,” he said.

“We got it put together. Our first test drive was Saturday morning before the race,” Hughes said. “We drove it about 200 yards.”

That test indicated that the transmission was working. Hughes and his crew took the car to the track but did not have practice laps, so the car first utilized the Perris oval during the six-lap heat race.

“I did okay,” Hughes said of the heat race.

“The car was handling really poorly in the heat race,” Hughes said. “In the Demo Cross heat race I actually had some issues, some steering issues and other things.”

Going forward was not an issue. “It took off real fast,” Hughes said.

Hughes noticed that the Jeep was wobbling during the heat race. “When we got back to the pits I had a couple of people help me try to figure it out,” he said.

The welding of a broken steering column component eliminated that problem for the 20-lap main event.

Lake Elsinore’s Weston Hughes drives a 1985 Jeep Grand Cherokee on the Perris half-mile dirt oval. Valley News/Doug Allen photo.

Hughes began the feature on the outside of the seventh row. “I just overall had a real clean race and was able to get through the gaps and work my way to the front,” he said.

The track’s Demo Cross rules allow – if not outright encourage – contact with other vehicles as long as no driver’s safety is jeopardized. A red flag may be thrown to stop the race if a safety issue exists, but no yellow flag cautions are thrown in the event a car spins or is disabled and remains on the track while not endangering the driver’s safety.

“It was a little bit of a messy race,” Hughes said.The actual finishing positions are determined after scorers calculate which cars lost a lap. The scoreboard which notes the leaders after each lap is not bound by such accuracy.

“They didn’t give me first place until I had put a lap on everyone,” Hughes said. “I took the lead, I think, probably about lap four and they didn’t give me credit until probably about lap 12.”

A combination of passing forward-moving drivers and avoiding sideways and disabled cars brought Hughes to the front of what began as a 25-car field. “I even had to give my friend Kyle a couple of little bumps to get him out of my way,” he said.

Tustin driver Kyle Cox finished second in the Demo Cross main event. Cox also won the Trailer Figure 8 race and was second in the regular Figure 8 main event. “We’re friends, but I’ll still hit him to get him out of my way if I have to,” Hughes said.

Homeland driver Garrett McCourt took third place.

Weston Hughes of Lake Elsinore with father, Tod, and mother, Tracy. Valley News/Doug Allen photo

The Jeep didn’t totally avoid damage. “I ended up losing both my left tires,” Hughes said. “I think I lost one about lap 14 and then the other one about lap 18.”

Hughes was still able to win the main event. “The Jeep did really well,” he said.

The main event win was the third for Hughes in his Demo Cross career. “I hope to have more of those this year,” he said.

Unless weather or quarantine intervenes the next Demo Cross race will be April 4.

“The car needs minimal repair for next race,” Hughes said.

Renee George is Hughes’ crew chief and was in the pits March 7, and Brooklyn McAlexander was also in the pits assisting Hughes. Matt Robison and Will Jeffers helped with the transmission but were unable to attend the race. Aaron Pack split time between working on Hughes’ car and working on his own Demo Cross vehicle and his father’s and on his father’s and stepmother’s Mini Stocks vehicles.

Aaron Pack finished 11th in the Demo Cross main event while Joseph Pack was given 17th place. “Aaron’s dad is the only one who got a good hit on me in Demo Cross,” Hughes said.

Hughes father, Tod, will drive a limited schedule this year and was in the pits advising his son for the March 7 competition. Hughes’ mother, Tracy, filmed the race.

Hughes picked up Recon Tattoo and Shave Shop, which is located in Fallbrook, as a sponsor for the 2020 season. Inland Empire 4×4 Recovery returns as a sponsor.

“I’m just super grateful for my sponsors and all the help that I got,” Hughes said.

Hughes graduated from Fallbrook High School in 2006 and moved from Fallbrook to Wildomar seven years ago. He began his Demo Cross and Perris Auto Speedway racing career in 2015. His first Demo Cross main event win occurred on June 26, 2018, and he also won the Demo Cross feature on July 4, 2019. Hughes has raced in his current car since 2018.

Joe Naiman can be reached via email at JNaiman@ReederMedia.com.