Race four of the General Tire
Jeepspeed Series presented by KMC Wheels
and Premier Chrysler-Jeep
was the Best In The Desert
series, Vegas to Reno race. It’s always a huge challenge. The race mileage traversed through Northern Nevada is over 540. Rain squalls the week before the race made it rougher than ever but had no effect on the deep silt beds that trapped everyone at least once. The unlimited cars and trucks create big holes, ruts and deep powdery silt on the course. Jeepspeed racers start later in the day. With 33 inch tires and limited suspension travel, they run a course that is as bad as it gets. That’s why Jeepspeed racers have a special camaraderie unlike any other class of racing. Every team that shows up takes on the challenge willingly and should be commended. The competition was so tight during the race, that the top 4 cars through the first 4 pits had only a 40 second to 1 minute split leaving each pit.
General Tire Jeepspeed points leader, Garrett Allred was a casualty before the race even started. He withdrew his entry after breaking the front axle while testing. This was after he had changed the engine, shocks and transmission. Rick Randall took full advantage of Allred’s absence, taking his third straight victory in a row in the Jeepspeed Challenge Class. He made it the 4th win in a row for Rubicon Express suspensions. “First off, congratulations to the finishers,” said Randall, “It was a brutal course. We saw 1717 and 1721 sidelined early in the race and began closing on 1766’s dust. Just before pit 1, we got past them and hit the road crossing. We could see the top 3 guys’ right in front of us. We hung back to wait for a less dusty section to get around them. At about mile 45, I began feeling a bad vibration so we pulled over to check it out and try switching to 2wd. The vibration was still there but not as bad as we took it easy to pit 2. We found the driver’s front hub to be very loose; it was a bad wheel bearing. We changed it out and got back on the road realizing that we still had almost 500 miles to make up the lost time.”
Randall picked his way through several silt beds until he found one that could not be conquered. “We cleared pit 12 and just before pit 13 was another silt bed that I just couldn’t steer around,” said Randall, “We buried it pretty good. Kevin and I got out the jack, shovel, and MaxTrax and were free in about 15 minutes. About 10 miles from the finish, the engine died. After what seemed like an hour, we finally got it fired back up. The distributor hold down clamp had come loose and rotated out of time. We got it timed as close as we could and headed for the finish. We finished around 3:30am after being in the car for over 15 hours. It was a great day and we had a lot of fun. We were very lucky to have some good friends come help us out.”
Defending Jeepspeed Challenge Champion Rob Seubert finished second. He started third off the line and jumped straight into a battle with Tim Martin, 1772 and Mike Bragg, 1730. “Coming in to pit one, we were all three bumper to bumper in the same starting order,” said Seubert, “We were running pretty hot; around 240 degrees and we couldn’t push hard enough to get around 1730. It was early in the race, very dusty and with our temperature issues we had to settle for leading on corrected time. We followed the dust cloud behind 1730 for a good distance but were eventually caught by 1710 (Rick Randall) and 1766 (John McKeehan) who were running bumper to bumper. Still teetering on overheating and with bad dust conditions, we moved over to let 1710 and 1766 by. Not long after that, in a long silty section our temp rose to 250 so we pulled over to let it idle down. After some cool down time we continued on at a reduced pace to try and make forward progress yet not overheat again.”
“Just after pit 5, running 5th with the same 4 jeeps still in front of us, a rock took out our rear brake line. By the time we were about 20 miles out from pit 6 the brakes were useless. The brake line was damaged beyond repair and we didn’t have a spare so we sealed the rears off and left pit 6 with front brakes only. We passed the 1772, then 1766, then 1730 and thought 1710 too, all on the side of the course with issues. We thought we went by 1710 but it was another vehicle as the 1710 finished well in front of us. Thinking we had the lead though, we did our best to keep a solid pace. Well into the middle of the night, we found a nasty silt bed and buried it to the frame rails. We had a couple more close calls in the silt, but didn’t stick it. We rolled into the finish still thinking we were in first, so it was a little disappointing to learn 1710 was there an hour and 20 minutes in front of us, but we’re very pleased with a second. Congrats to Rick Randall and crew on three wins in a row! You guys are the team to beat this year!”
Third place finishers were the Father and Sons team of John, Kevin and Sean McKeehan with Travis Nunez in the number 1766. John started the race and had the lion share of trouble before handing the truck off to driver of record, son Kevin. “We are still learning how to do this truck racing,” said John McKeehan, “We raced bikes for years. This was our first podium. So far, our best finish in 3 races was a 7th place at the Mint. Right off the start we had a rock kick up and slice our fuel line. We fixed it and kept going, not knowing that it had pumped the tank dry; we ran out of gas on a dry lake bed. BITD gave us a splash so we could make it to the next pit. Our GPS went out so I got caught by surprise in a tight corner and tipped the truck over. When we climbed out, we cracked the steering column. It didn’t break all the way until Travis was driving. Baja Pits welded it up and it held to the finish.”
“It was scary driving with a busted column,” said Travis, “I would get into a corner and the u-joints in the steering would bind. We also lost 4 wheel drive for a bit, but we got it going again.” John and Travis spent time stuck in the silt. John was driving with his visor up when a wave of silt came over the hood and hit him square in the face. He flinched on the gas pedal and it was enough to get the mired. “Most of our team is young,” said John McKeehan, “They have so much energy, they keep me going. We are having such a blast. We are loving every minute of this.” Kevin McKeehan drove 300 miles, getting the privilege of crossing the finish line. “We raced for 21 hours and 9 minutes with 6 hours of downtime,” said Kevin, “Our team has figured out all the weak points and we’re starting to mesh. We have a killer crew, Killer drivers and Killer co-drivers too. We will be going balls to the wall at BlueWater!”
“We started 2nd behind 1730,” said Tim Martin #1772, “For the first several pits, we swapped positions with 1730 and 1724. Up to pit 3, things were working like clockwork. At pit 3, my son Tyler (14 years old) got in the jeep to co-drive for the first time. We took off and I coached him on what input I needed from him, this was his first race experience. We pulled into Pit 5 and handed the jeep to Joe Cammons and Shane Jordan. We were physically in 2nd place and things were looking good.”
Martin overcame a broken track bar, Wheel bearing failure and a Jeep that would not start. After hours of racing, his engine became too weak to continue. “We replaced a few things on the engine but it was still running rough,” said Martin, “After assessing the situation, I made the decision to pull the plug and call it a day. The jeep could hardly get out of its own way as I loaded it on the trailer. The competition in Jeepspeed is very strong right now. You have to show up with your "A" game for a podium finish. Congratulations to all the finishers and thanks to Jeepspeed for running such a great class.” Vegas to Reno was dominated by XJ Cherokee Jeeps; showing that the tried and true XJ’s can still beat the newer Grand Cherokees and TJ Wranglers.
The Jeepspeed Challenge points standings have now changed. With the no show of previous points leader Allred at Vegas to Reno, and Rick Randall's DNF at Parker, defending Champion Rob Seubert moves into first place with 416 points closely followed by Rick Randall at 404 points. The 2015 Championship is still wide open with 2 races to go and the best 5 results counting from a 6 race season.
Two racers took the start in the Jeepspeed Outlaws Class 3700/3750, the black Jeep Wrangler of veteran Billy Bunch and the big black Dodge 1500 pickup driven by Mike McCleod. McCleod had his son and daughter competing in another class so he was out for fun and also a providing a little sweep support incase his kids needed help. He stopped many times to pull other competitors, regardless of class, out of the silt and back on their wheels. Despite the burly Dodges 4 wheel drive, they spent some time stuck up to the frame rails in a silt bed.
“We hit a rock around pit 6 and put a hole in the rear housing,” said McCleod, “We didn't have crew there so we bummed around for a welder and made the repair. Between pit 7 and 8 the roof light bar mounting bracket broke and the light bar fell forward pointing into the cab. Boy, that helps with your night vision. We were still charging through pit 10 when the front bumper and push bar fell off, leaving us with only a jury rigged and badly aimed upper light bar. Not the best time to have no light, when you’re heading into a nasty silt section. Yes, we have four wheel drive, but that just means we get stuck in harder to get out of places. About an hour and a half after getting stuck in the silt, we had jacked up each wheel, filled in the holes and got going. There were numerous times I felt like pulling the plug but I don't know how many more of these I have in me, so we just kept going. It made us a little less tired to see the sun come up and it was a great feeling to finally get to the finish line, even though it was a different day. It was a great effort by a group of four old guys that just kept going.”
The competition seen in the Jeepspeed series would not be possible without the sponsors of the series that include General Tire, KMC Wheels; now the Official Wheel of Jeepspeed; taking over from their sister brand ATX. The Wheel Pros Group has sponsored Jeepspeed for more than 10 years now. Premier Chrysler Jeep is the Official Jeep Dealer and Presenting Sponsor of the Jeepspeed Desert Racing Series'. Currie Enterprises returns as the Official Axle of Jeepspeed. King shocks are the Official Shock of Jeepspeed. G2 is the Official Gear supplier of Jeepspeed. Rubicon Express is the Official Suspension of Jeepspeed. SmittyBilt is the Official Off Road Equipment supplier of Jeepspeed. PAC Springs is the Official Spring of Jeepspeed and KC HiLites is the Official Light of Jeepspeed.
Jeepspeed Official Suppliers continue to be a vital part of our teams’ success also and a huge asset to the Jeepspeed series. Approved supporters and product suppliers also include Rock Krawler Racing Developments, Synergy Mfg., Jaz Fuel Cells, Poly Performance and Howe Performance Steering.
The next race will be the Blue Water Challenge Oct 8-10 in Parker, Arizona. For the additional information about the Jeepspeed 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.
For 100 years General Tire has offered a complete quality line of ultra-high performance, passenger, light truck, off-road and commercial tires to meet all your needs. General Tire is a proud supporter of Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series, Best in the Desert Racing Series, Major League Fishing, Chili Bowl, Pro-Pulling, Late-Model Dirt Series, Drag Boat Series, World Cup of Softball, American Sprint Car Series,
Tour, Zero One Odyssey, and Spec Tire of Trophylite and JeepSpeed. Team GT supports off-road and short course teams including Mikey Childress, CJ Hutchins, Doug Fortin, Harley Letner, Jim Riley, Macrae Glass, Randy Merritt, Ray Griffith, Ryan Beat, Carl Renezeder, Robby Woods and Camburg Racing.