It’s going to be hot in the Nevada desert.

But Randy Merritt plans on being hotter.

The off-road racing veteran from Parker, Ariz., has his sights set on getting back the Best In The Desert Racing Association 2009 season championship hunt at the TSCO Vegas to Reno The Long Way event, scheduled Aug. 19 through 23 in the rough, tough and unforgiving desert of western Nevada. The race, billed as the longest off-road race in the United States, will cover 996 miles and take three days to finish.

Merritt enters the race ranked No. 3 in Class 8100 for full stock pickup trucks. But he knows a win in this race in the Mongo Racing KC HiLites Ford F-150, coupled with some good luck, would vault him toward the top of the rankings and put him in position to win his second BITD driving title.

“We’re ready,” said an excited Merritt. “We’ve had about four months to prepare for this race, and we’re ready. There is no reason we can’t win it. If we don’t, it won’t be because we weren’t prepared.”

Make no doubt it, Merritt knows how to get to the finish line in this event. He knows how to win it, too, which he did in 2006 on the way to capturing his first driving championship.

“We’ve won it before, so yes, we know how to get the job done,” said Merritt. “But there is so much that plays into winning a race as challenging as this one. I mean, we’re ready, there’s no doubt about that. And even if we run flawlessly, from start to finish, there is no guarantee we’ll get the top spot on the podium. We’ve got to have a little luck on our side too.”

The race begins outside Beatty, Nev., on the morning of Aug. 20. Day 1 will cover 332 miles, with all entrants stopping for the night outside Tonopah. Day 2 begins on Aug. 21 outside Tonopah, and will cover 367 miles, with all entrants stopping overnight outside Hawthorne. And Day 3’s run to the finish line begins Aug. 22 outside Hawthorne, and will cover 297 miles.

The last time Merritt was behind the wheel in his big Ford F-150 was in the BITD Terribles 250 in Primm, Nev., where he picked up a third place finish in April.

Since then, he’s been to Hollywood and walked the red carpet at the Egyptian Theatre for the premiere of the off-road documentary “Born in Baja.” The documentary also aired on Speed TV for the teams accomplishments in the 2008 SCORE Baja 1000, where he drove the final leg in the new special project Ford Raptor, helping the team score a third place finish.

Oh yeah, he’s also been busy with his team preparing for the Vegas to Reno run.

“We’ve done a lot of testing, tried some new things, and gone over the truck with a fine tooth comb,” said Merritt.

Seriously, the veteran is looking forward to getting back in the seat and into winning form.

“It’s been a while,” he said with a laugh. “And we know we’re fully capable. It would sure be nice.”

It’s also nice to know that he’s picked up a new sponsor for this race, EBC Brakes.

“We’re both proud and fortunate to have them on board with us,” said Merritt.

Other sponsors for the Mongo Racing Ford F-150 are: Ford Trucks; KC HiLites; Goodyear; Royal Purple Synthetic Oil Products; Yukon Gear and Axle; Sway-A-Way, Ump, Camburg Engineering, Autometer, Bodyline and Mongomade Grafix.

Also, race fans can go to www.mongoracing.com on race day to see live satellite tracking and other Mongo Racing race information.

The TSCO Vegas to Reno “The Long Way” will also be televised Dec. 6 on Fox Sports.

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