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An outgrowth of the post-World War II popularity of motorcycle trail racing, off-road racing involves contestants racing from checkpoint to checkpoint along improvised routes. Off-road motorsports involve specially adapted vehicles (such as cars, trucks, motorcycles, and buggies) competing in off-road settings (e.g., snow, dirt, mud, etc.). This type of motor racing takes place on unmarked, generally barren terrain. Off-road races are usually divided into stock and custom divisions based on the vehicle type—motorcycle, car, off-road racing trucks, and all-terrain vehicle (ATV). Annual winners in each class are usually determined by the number of points accumulated in various races on such circuits. Offroad racing is still predominantly a North American sport, but it has gained popularity in Japan and Australia.


Desert racing dates back to the early twentieth century. Ed Pearlman co-founded the National Off-Road Racing Association (NORRA) in 1967, which was one of the first racing sanctioning bodies in North America. The initial event was a race over the Mexican desert, originally from Ensenada to La Paz, and running through much of the length of Baja California. The race was formerly known as the Mexican 1000, but it was later renamed the Baja 1000. SCORE International has now sanctioned the race.


The majority of desert races are held on the government-owned recreational property, with tracks ranging from 25 to 1000 kilometres. Depending on the size of the engine or the suspension system setup, different classes of vehicles run a varying number of laps on these off-road racing tracks. The Best in the Desert series is Vegas to Reno (the longest off-road race in the US, with the 2009 Vegas to Reno race measuring 1000 miles). 


Short-course off-road racing takes place on less than five miles of long tracks(such as Crandon International Off-Road Raceway). The races include varying radii left and right curves, jumps, washboard runs, and gravel pits. Stadium racing, where off-road racing vehicles were used in a temporary off-road racetrack created within a stadium, was another style popularised by the Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group. Pace Motorsports hosted the US Off-Road Championship Series in the late 1990s, shown on TNN Motor Madness.


After competing essentially in stadiums and off-road courses during its initial season in 2013, Robby Gordon founded the Stadium Super Trucks. It is an extension of the Micky Thompson Entertainment Group; the series has shifted its focus to asphalt off-road racing tracks such as street circuits and road courses. 


Tough (or Tuff) Truck competition is a more straightforward, shorter track format popular at many local fairs. Individually timed runs are standard on these tracks, typically much shorter

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