Jeepspeed Racers Outrun The Flames At Crazy BITD Silver State 300
The Silver State 300 race course is filled with many challenges that Jeepspeed racers need to overcome. That’s typically not too much of an issue as they have to deal with uncertainty at every race in the General Tire Jeepspeed racing series presented by KMC wheels. There are miles of narrow trails on steep, tree-lined hillsides at the Silver State, fast, wide open fire roads, and plenty of deep silt beds that can swallow a vehicle whole. At this year’s event, there was also a raging wildfire that caused the Best In The Desert officials to make course changes on the fly. Not only did they change the start, but they had to stop the racers before the finish as the flames kept approaching. The fire affected getting support trucks in to collect competitors after the race, and it was too risky to allow them to head out into the typically challenging terrain while the fire was so unpredictable. Initially the finish was changed to pit 7, and then everyone was stopped at pit 6 in order to avoid the flames. Despite the shortened course, Jeepspeed racers still got all they bargained for, but in a condensed package. All the racers were relieved to be back in the dirt, battling it out for bragging rights, and the meaningful prize money, and contingency bonuses offered in the Jeepspeed series.
Jeepspeed has grown to include 4 different classes filled with super competitive vehicles. You can start out in a restricted class like 1700, one of the most popular, and then move up to something faster if you want. The class structure in the Jeepspeed series ensures that the trucks are equally matched in each class. The rules are basic, and easy to understand, and still allow enough leeway so that competitors can build their own trucks if they like. The camaraderie is also unmatched in offroad racing. Fellow competitors often pool their resources on longer races so that each pit location is equally manned. They help each other because Mother Nature makes it tough enough already. In limited classes, it’s a major victory just getting to the finish line; taking the win is icing on the cake.
One of those teams who tasted victory (their first), was the Jeepspeed Outlaws 3700 class winners Daryl Sigwing, Thomas Rainer, and Cousin Eric J Sigwing in their beefed up Jeep Wrangler. According to Daryl, they had an easy day of it, running up front all day. They did however put in a lot of testing before the race. That’s where they found their weaknesses, blowing the front differential during practice runs.
They corrected their issue and went on to have an easy day on the race course; as easy as it gets in the desert anyways. Robert Thomasson was 2nd, and Rob White finished 3rd.
“We came to the race with a plan to have some of my crew get some practice driving the Honcho in preparation for V2R and then the Baja 1000,” said Rob White. “Mike Shetler couldn’t make it due to COVID-19 in his senior housing community. I drove the start to pit 2. We started first but did not plan to compete for the win due to the several driver changes we planned, and the new drivers. I was surprised to come into pit 2 with the lead. 3707 passed us in the mountains but then we passed him back. It looked like he may have been over heating?
We did a driver change at pit 2. He got off course a bit at race mile 125, and did a slow roll on to the side. Fortunately they were ok, and luckily BITD officials happened to be coming by looking for someone else; they pulled him upright. The Holley EFI LS engine started right up, and they were able to continue. We did one more pit, and a driver change at pit 4. He drove it conservatively to the for a podium finish.”
In the Jeepspeed Trophy Class 4700 Open, Garett Allred had been on a tear, but his luck ran out. He got a DNF (did not finish). Instead it was the wily veteran Billy Bunch and his super talented protégé Jesse Archer with the win.
They were followed by Rob Seubert, and Andrew Hulse. “The Silver State 300 is still one of my favorite courses; it’s even more fun in a 4700 truck,” says Rob Seubert. “We started second off the line behind Allred, and as expected he shot out to a fast pace. At about 40 miles in or so, the car we reeled in was the 4793. It was clear he had some mechanical issues as we usually never catch him that easily. We assumed the lead in the class until a bit further when we suffered a right rear flat. Jesse went by us as we changed it. I didn’t have my usual co-driver Dustin Hoffman, and the tire change was a little slower without him. My brother in law Nick did a great job filling in, but he just isn’t as familiar with the truck, and procedure. Fifteen or twenty miles later it was Jesse pulled over with a flat. Now in the lead we charged to pit 4 for our planned fuel stop. Our sole pit guy, my 72 year old dad, rounded up some good help, and we took on about 50 gallons of fuel, replaced the flat tire in the rack with a fresh spare, and managed to get out of the pits still in first place. I was thinking we were looking pretty good since we didn’t plan to stop again, but one mile out of the pit at race mile 151, I ran out of talent, and rolled the truck in a right hand corner. It went all the way around and landed on the wheels. The dust was still settling, and we were taking inventory of ourselves when the truck behind us hit us. We landed in a very bad blind spot. We also landed right on top of a huge berm, and were high centered. We called BITD, but they didn’t have anyone close. We put out our triangles, activated our transponder of course, and started digging. We took turns digging and flagging on-coming vehicles, three of which still managed to run into the truck even with the transponder, safety triangle, and a human flagger. We stepped out of the way every time a vehicle came through so we didn’t end up in the way. We finally dug it out, and I was able to drive to the other side off the course, and out of harm’s way. After loading all our recovery gear, and strapping back in, BITD recovery showed up; just in time, lol. Jesse of course had passed us, and it was the last time we would see them. Rolling it over takes some serious wind out of the sails, especially when followed by an exhausting dig-out, so we put it in cruise mode for the most part, and headed for the finish. The crash managed to damage every piece of fiberglass on the truck, and two light bars, but the chassis and everything other than the cosmetics didn’t seem to take any damage. Given our day, we feel lucky to come away with another second place, and what looks like the points lead.”
Wayne Guidinger filled us in on the day 3rd place number 4733 had. “It was an interesting race to say the least, with the fire changing the race course, finishing at pit 6 and seeing a crashed helicopter next to the course. Off the line with Mike Driving and Somer co-dogging they headed off 3rd into the dust and there was lots of it. It was a tight race all the way to race mile 30 when the tranny temp went from 230 to pegged. It was a hot day, and seemed impossible that it got that hot. After they pulled over and checked things out, they decided to let it cool down. After about an hour, it was still showing pegged. We thought our day was done; a major disappointment. After another 20 minutes of trying to find a way out back to the pits they decided to continue up course to pit 2. Once there we discovered it was a broken gauge. So now Andrew and Ben get in and race to pit 4 with zero issues. From Pit 4 Carl and I get in, and take it toward the finish. All was good till about a mile from the finish. The sun was low in the horizon and blinding which explains why I didn’t see whatever I hit that blew out the right front tire. As we were looking for a safe spot to pull off the course and change the tire, I saw a BITD trailer and figured I would stop there. Much to our surprise it was actually the scoring trailer at the finish, so we just went through with a flat to a 3rd place finish. All in all a good day, it was great to get back to racing. Thank you to BITD & their volunteers; we couldn’t do it without them, and to Jeepspeed for the program they put on”
Class 2700 had just a single competitor, but that doesn’t mean Skyler Gambrell, and Erik Steinholt didn’t have a challenge on their hands. They passed all the 3700 trucks to finish second overall Jeepspeed behind Billy Bunch. “Finally back to desert racing again,” said Skyler Gambrell. “We were excited to be back in the dirt in Gomer the Jeepspeed after a lengthy “timeout”. The Wrangler was in good shape after Laughlin, and just took minimal prep, but a whole lot of cleaning and scrubbing to get it clean from the mud fest! We went up with only me, and co-driver Erik Steinholt from Dynatrac. Luckily we got pit help from the Storm Dragon/Kammerlohr teams; thanks a million. I couldn’t have raced without the help! Race day started with a course change because of the wildfire. The first 20 or so miles would be off GPS, and thanks to a malfunctioning RacingTraX unit, we also had no tracking or push to pass alerts. Truly it was an old school start. It felt great to be winding the 3.6 liter Pentastar out to 6500rpm with the 6 spd manual rowing gears behind it! We caught the 3756 and tapped a couple times, but the spare tire was the bumper so they didn’t feel the first couple. The 3rd hit got their attention, and I was able to squeak by; enjoying clean air through pit 1. We headed off into the high altitude, and trees towards pit 2. We caught the 3707 who had pulled off, and then we were on the rear bumper of the 3708 who stopped behind a rolled over UTV (lots of them out there, stupid turtles). The Honcho took off again, and his LS power really dusted me out. We backed off to make it safe through the trees. About 5 miles out of pit 2, he overshot a turn, and I was able to sneak inside; he let me by. Once I had cleared the 3700’s, I settled in to a nice even pace and made it to Caliente where I took fuel. Between pit 3 and 4 I started having cooling fan issues and had to modulate the throttle. I was short shifting the Jeep to keep it from melting down. My pace seemed slow, but no other Jeeps made moves on me, so I settled in. After we cleared pit 5, and the last mountain range before pit 6, the silt beds were waiting in the valley below. We came into pit 6 and saw the timing trailer, and finish line set up. We had no idea the race had been cut short since I had no pit crew! We were a little bummed not to run the full mileage, but thankful to BITD for putting on the race and being able to continue on with the fires that threatened to cancel it completely.”
The Jeepspeed Challenge Class 1700 Stock was a typical battle from start to finish. These trucks are the most limited out of all the Jeepspeed classes so driving skill is in high demand. This class reminds many of us of how it used to be before all the modern technology came in. Built in garages, or back yards, these trucks are very basic, they have to run suspension systems that are over the counter; no custom parts. What they lack in technology, they make up in fun per mile. First time race winner Jeff Garzik, Ken Tichy, and his son Adam Tichy will attest to that. 2nd place was Tyler Stone. Mark Kammerlohr, Tim Martin, and Steve Palmieri all fell short.
Mark Kammerlohr shared his story. “It was great to get back in the Jeep, and drive one of my favorite courses,” said Mark. “We enlisted the help of Kyle Perusse from the 1741 team to help with some co-driver duties. Since Clayton had never seen the middle part of the course, we opted to have Kyle start and run to pit 3. While waiting on the start line, we stared at an ominous smoke, and dust filled sky anxiously ready to get racing again after all these months. We were fourth off the line, and had a good start settling into a comfortable pace. We passed several Trophylite buried up to their doors in the silt, and kept an eye on the dust cloud ahead. I pushed the jeep as hard as I could drive, but we started having some elevated Temps so I tried to back off a little. As we pulled into pit 1, I heard on the radio that the 1706 was just exiting the pit. I knew they were the 2nd place jeep so we were in good shape. Still seeing the dust ahead, I had it floored, not worrying about the temp as I wanted clean air. We hit 93 miles per hour before slowing to make the turn around the mountain, and then back up the graded road. Soon I could see the 1715 through the dust, and we made the move to pass, but I lost sight and got engulfed in a cloud of dust. I slowed, and regrouped trying to catch up again. Slowly I started to catch him. I tried to stay with him in the dust, but I blew a turn and ended up in the desert, straight into a Yucca tree. Kyle did his best to get us free from the tree. We had no damage other than the 15 minutes down time. Kyle was bushed from fighting the tree and the heat. Back on course we still had temp issues, but we drove fast where we could. In the mountains we came across a single seat 10 car that missed a corner and was in the trees along the ditch. We stopped to pull him out, and let the jeep cool down. Continuing through to pit 2 it was apparent Kyle needed a break. We got to pit 2, cooled the jeep back down, inspected everything, and changed co-drivers. With Clayton now in, we headed back out hoping to catch the others. The section right out of the pit 2 was silty followed by some rough 2 track and that heated the jeep back up quickly. We then started developing a fuel pressure issue just as we hit the graded road. For most of the 30 miles to pit 3 we had issues, and down time. After making it to pit 3 we decided to fold our tent and go support our Storm Dragon Racing partners. It was a disappointing end of our day, but so happy to see our buddies get the win. Jeepspeed racing is beyond description. It is competition, it is comradery, it is an experience that you want everyone to have, but cherish because only those that have experienced it know what it is all about. I want to thank the crew that helped out the 1785 team, the victorious 1706 team, also Mike Barnett, and Michelle Nelson for orchestrating Jeepspeed. Thank you to all the sponsors and congratulations to the other class winners.”
Thanks to General Tire, KMC Wheels, Rugged Radios, Jasper Engines & Transmissions, T&J Performance Center, NEO Synthetic Oil, Tuff Stuff 4×4, and Currie Enterprises, Jeepspeed racers enjoy strong support, and bonuses. Think you would like to give Jeepspeed racing a try? For information about the Jeepspeed racing series go to www.jeepspeed.com. There you will find additional info, deals on some attractively priced race Jeeps, Jeepspeed news, rules, forums, race results, videos and much more. Go to the Jeepspeed forum and you can read in-depth race reports from many of the Jeepspeed teams. You can even show up and learn what it takes by helping out in the pits.
Photography By: Harlen Foley & Bink Designs
The Jeepspeed series is a competitive, cost effective series that has pitted Jeep vehicles against each other on challenging desert courses since 2001. Unlike the more expensive spec racing classes, there is no obligation to purchase your race vehicle or parts from the series organizer. You build your own vehicle the way you like as long as it fits within the rules. Jeepspeed offers the most fun and closest racing in the desert today. Jeepspeed series is supported by General Tire, KMC Wheels, Currie Enterprises, Action Sports Canopies, Jasper Racing Engines, Rugged Radios, Tuff Stuff 4X4, Rock Krawler Suspension, King Shocks, and T&J Performance
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