Adam Gruender used to spend a lot time in the Imperial Sand Dunes.
While the dunes still beckon, his next trip this direction from his home in Mesa will take Gruender to Cocopah Speedway for the Lucas Oil Regional Arizona Short Course Championship Off-Road Series event on Saturday.
Gruender comes in as the series' two-time defending champion in the Unlimited UTV Division, and after having won the 2013 season opener at Firebird International Raceway in February, he's got his sights set on a third straight championship.
It's a dramatically different aspect of his life when one considers the only time he would travel this direction before now was to spend weekends at the sand dunes.
“I always went to the sand dunes with my girls, I had a sand rail,” said Gruender as he prepared for the trip to Cocopah Speedway. “I used to make five to six trips a year until I started racing.”
Coming to race at Cocopah Speedway has him excited now.
“Yea buddy!” said Gruender.
“I saw the track design, and I'm thinking Tony (Ballino) built it, and it looks pretty killer. It looks like you can get some good speed.
“It's going to come down to getting some torque out the corners, I guess.”
Gruender's race car is a highly modified Kawasaki Teryx, which features a full-race chassis and a new 1,000-cc motor.
It is quite a contrast from what Gruender used to race for 13 years in the International Jet Sports Boating Assocation.
“I raced professional watercraft all through college,” said Gruender, who is a graduate of Arizona State University.
His love affair with off-road racing was sparked by his trips to the sand dunes.
And a little bit out of fear. Not his, but his daughters.
Gruender said after owning a sand rail he purchased a high-performance Polaris Razor, brought it home, fired it up, “and my girls kind of got a little scared of it.”
And an off-road racer was born.