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Scaroni's Excursion is one of a kind

July 28, 2001|By CHRIS GRANT, Sports Editor

To say something is unique is one thing, but to say it is one of a kind is putting it in a different category altogether.

So when local desert racer Steve Scaroni says the Ford Excursion his team has been racing since April is a one-of-a-kind vehicle, it makes one sit up and listen.

While Scaroni's Excursion obviously isn't the only one in existence, it is the only one racing in the Stock Full Sport Utility Vehicle Class. Most of his vehicle's competition comes from Ford Expeditions, Humvees and old-style, full-size Chevrolet Broncos.

While his team's ride might not be the most popular choice, Scaroni thinks it can be competitive.

"I thought it could be a competitive vehicle," he said. "We believed in the product already. We knew it would be unique but also very competitive.


"Ford called in January 2000 and we got it in September 2000. Once we got it, we started stripping it down, then we reassembled it. It was the fanciest Excursion they made, but anything extra that we didn't need we left out."

Stripping the vehicle meant taking out all superfluous items, but because of the class in which Scaroni races the Excursion, he could not make many other modifications to the vehicle. The only change the team could make was in the vehicle's shocks and springs.

"Everything is stock except the springs and shocks," Scaroni, a Heber area resident, said. "Fox Shocks has been very helpful. They gave us a heck of a shock to be able to handle that much weight."

Things have gone well for the Excursion. SMD (Steve, Matt and Dave) Motorsports, Scaroni's racing company, has entered it in five races since its debut in April. Two of the races have been Best in the Desert events, which are "official" races. The Excursion did not finish its first race and took third in its second Best in the Desert event.

"We wanted to put as many miles on it to expose the weak points," Scaroni said. "We've hit every race we can to expose the weak points and correct them."

Exposing the weak points is an important task not only for Scaroni the racer but Scaroni the Ford tester. He was given the Excursion by Ford to push it as hard as it could be pushed so any weaknesses in its design would be exposed.

"Ford uses this as a test bed," he said. "The engineers are looking for weak points and ways to make this better. After every race we send the transmission back to Detroit. The stuff they learn here will go into future products and they also develop retrofits from what they've learned from us."

Scaroni is not the only member of his family involved in desert racing. So many family members are involved that SMD Motorsports is best described as a "family" business.

"This is fun right now because this is truly a family sport," he said.

His son Matt and family friend Tom Watson Jr. are the actual race drivers of the Excursion and Scaroni is grooming his son David to one day move into the big truck. But it's not just the immediate family involved.

"We have a lot of friends who go with us," Scaroni added. "We try to make the races a lot of fun. It's not about me. No one person could do this. If it wasn't for the family and team support, we couldn't do this. There is no hero. The hero is the team and family."

Scaroni hopes to have the Excursion ready for the Nevada Best in the Desert races, which begins with the Vegas-to-Reno race Sept. 28.

"We need to be ready to go for the Nevada races," he said. "We're very focused on being successful in the Vegas-to-Reno race."

Before the 500-mile, 16-hour Vegas-to-Reno race, Scaroni and his crew will take the Excursion to Indianapolis in early August. It will be on display at the Power Stroke Diesel 200 Nastruck race, which will be one day before the Brickyard 400. The trip will give Ford engineers a chance to look at the vehicle and see how it is doing.

"International Engines wanted us to go back there and display the Excursion at the hospitality area because it is so unique," Scaroni said. "We're going to go out to an old airstrip and have everybody there for two days of intense testing with the whole technical team. We want to get the last few issues dialed in with everybody there."

After his trip to Indianapolis, Scaroni and his team will ready themselves for the Vegas-to-Reno race, the longest off-road race in the United States.

"We have a very high level of confidence in this vehicle," he added. "It is performing above what we initially thought we could accomplish.

"We feel we've done our testing and we're looking forward to the race. We feel we've put the miles in to know how fast we can push it. In the stock class, that's the trick. You have to know where the line is and how far you can push it."

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