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Mind Over Matter

Staying Strong and Pushing Through


At more than 550 miles in a single day, Vegas to Reno is the longest point-to-point desert race in the United States. It’s a desert dirt chase of a lifetime, and a massive challenge for anyone driving it.

Imagine competing in this grueling race with fractured T5 to T7 vertebrae and being unable to walk or feel anything from the waist down.

Mission impossible? Not when your name is Chris Blais.

 

Crashing at the Peak of Success


In many ways, Chris Blais lives the life he would have lived had he never been injured. He runs the Blais Racing Services shop from his home in Apple Valley, CA, where he repairs motorcycles, Can-Am vehicles, engines, and just about anything that drives on two or four wheels.

It’s the life he’s always wanted — and why wouldn’t it be? He believes in one mantra: what’s the point of living if you’re not doing exactly what you want?

This explains why he didn’t let his 2008 accident define him. After crashing at the Vegas to Reno pre-race and coming out paralyzed, he refused to let his injury stop him from pursuing his dream. Because Chris sees his accident as something to overcome. “Make the change. Dreams and plans change. You should change too.”

He knows this more than most. Today, Chris still races. He just made the switch from motorcycles to side-by-sides.

When Simple Things Turn into a Project


Chris quickly found success when he started racing motorcycles in his late teens. But at the peak of his career and with a 2-year professional contract in hand, Chris crashed. His own fault, by his admission. Suddenly, Chris couldn’t do things on a whim anymore — so he learned not to.

The years since the accident have taught Chris the value of family and hard work. “We don’t realize how many people we affect in our daily lives,” he says. “I honestly believe that it’s made me a better person. I’m less selfish and I rely on others. I lead by example in the shop, I would never make you do anything that I would not do personally.”

But the gains were smaller at first. “Everything takes longer to do,” Chris says. “You have to motivate yourself to get out of bed.”

So, he did. He still loved racing and, because the races only account for a small part of racing, he poured his energy into the rest. Coaching off-road riders. Working on vehicles. “I enjoy the research and development,” Chris says, “as much as I do the racing.”

 

Back at it: Vegas to Reno


Then, Chris set his sights on his biggest challenge: the long journey to Vegas to Reno, the place where his life changed. He says that while everybody limits themselves, he’s proof that you can do anything you want. “I’ve made pretty good strides for where I’m at,” he explains.

Those strides have come on four-wheelers, with Chris starting slowly and progressing quickly. These days, he drives anywhere between 200 to 300 miles a week for practice. The key to getting back to Vegas to Reno, and to star in the 72 Hours Can-Am series, was pushing through and moving on. “Try to always improve, be a good person,” Chris says, “and push forward.”

Still, the road back was filled with roadblocks.

“It’s Easy to Slow Down and Just Finish.”


Chris first went back to Vegas to Reno in 2020, and he remembers driving past the place where his accident happened. He says that it was “special to make that hurdle happen” before his voice tails off.

Chris is a pioneer. He may not be the first to modify a side-by-side, but he is one of the first ones to race one. In a nice bit of irony, Chris races the exact same Can-Am Maverick X3 vehicle that anyone else could race: the car still has pedals, but Chris uses his arms to accelerate, brake, and steer.

Vegas to Reno rewards dedication, hard work and preparation — all things he knows about. He’s used to putting in upwards of two and a half months to prepare for the toughest races.

There’s a reason for that. “If you don’t want to be the best at what you do,” he asks, “then what’s the point?”

 

The Last 100 Miles Always Get You

There’s Always Something to Push Past


Today, Chris’s competitive juices are flowing. “I want to go win the races,” he says of his goal.

For that to happen, “all my stuff has to work and work right,” Chris says. “Everything has to be set up just right. But when it is, nothing hinders me from competing against others.”

The start to this year’s Vegas to Reno was promising for Chris and co-driver Jeremy Gray, but the latter half brought more than its fair share of challenges. “That’s pretty much the story of my life. There’s always something to push past,” he recalls of the race.

Quitting was not an option. “I’m going to go until the vehicle, or my body is going to tell me to stop,” he says.

Chris and Jeremy kept going and crossed the finish line in 13th place of their class. After what they’ve been through, just finishing was a win.

SEEN IN THIS EPISODE

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