If the terrain at the Polaris RZR Mint 400 presented by General Tire
was not bad enough, conditions on race day would have racers driving blind on a course that was covered in thick, hanging dust. Those who drove smartly were rewarded in the end. Some suffered bad luck regardless of their strategy. The attrition rate was high. 18 Jeepspeed Challenge class 1700 trucks started, 12 finished. In Jeepspeed Cup, 6 trucks took the green flag, only 3 finished. The manufacturer’s breakdown is as follows, 15 Jeep Cherokees, 5 Jeep Wranglers, 2 Jeep Grand Cherokees, 1 Jeep Comanche and 1 Dodge Ram 1500. All 5 Wranglers in the field were participating in the new Jeepspeed Trophy series.
Jeepspeed Challenge winner Rick Randall was patient as he set out on the course. “We started 16th and took a conservative pace because of all the dust and eventually the blinding sun/dust combo,” said Randall, “I knew that a flat tire would ruin our chances for a class win. We caught up to Ben Thorvick but when we got close, the truck started revving up in gear; we thought that we had lost the tranny. As it turned out, the 4x4 shift lever pin had fallen out. The transmission was in neutral. My awesome co-driver had to lean over and hold the lever for 15 plus miles until we hit the 25mph zone.
We took our time the rest of the lap but just before Pit B the car wouldn’t steer straight and was a handful. We pulled in and my dad found that the track bar bushing was going out. We decided to keep going and try for the win. The steering got worse making us pretty nervous at high speed on the dry lake beds. We ran a very conservative pace until we heard that 1707 was bearing down on us. What joy we had when we saw that Red Bull banner and the finish line jump. I have to thank Tom Barnett for the tow to the podium.” Like a Hollywood movie, Randall’s Jeep Cherokee broke as it crossed the finish line. He took the victory and finished 4th place overall in the morning race. Jeepspeed Outlaws Cup winner Tom Barnett was kind enough to tow him from the infield up onto the podium.
The Mint 400 was round one of the KMC Jeepspeed Wrangler Trophy series so Perry Coan and Skyler Gambrell dusted off the Jeep Wrangler they call Jabroni and took a shot at the Mint. Their effort netted second place in Jeepspeed Challenge and maximum points towards the Wrangler Trophy series. “Perry Coan drove the first lap with veteran buggy racer and fellow golfing friend Brian Munson along as navigator,” said Gambrell, “While running a good pace through the tough morning sunrise and dust from follow racers, Perry and Brian suffered a flat tire just before spectator 1 area. After a swap of a tire, they were off to head to our only spare tire on course which was at pit B, another 55 miles away.
Having to drive at a very conservative pace through the treacherous rocky canyons, Perry drove smart knowing there was no safety of a spare tire on board.” Gambrell and co-driver Ryan Sonnaberg took over for lap two. “The car was working fantastic, even after 125 miles of brutal Nevada desert,” said Gambrell, “Feeling good that I was in a podium spot, I set out hoping to catch the 1716 and 1710 which had gapped the field a bit on lap one. I saw quite a few broken Jeeps along the trail but no sign of the two cars I really needed to pass. As we cleared rm100, I knew that catching the leaders was not going to happen. I thought I should drive smart and avoid a flat; no reason to throw away a podium finish. I found out that we had passed the 1716 but we couldn’t get the hard charging Randalls in the 1710. I am happy to have a solid 2nd and have a very clean race car to dust off for the Silver State 300.”
Third place in Jeepspeed Challenge went to the young rookie and current points leader Garrett Allred. Allred has a more aggressive driving style but credits both his Father Brad and crew chief Ken Stahlman for both guidance and excellent race preparation. “My Dad knows all the old school tricks, Ken knows new school,” says Allred, “I’m learning so much; I’m just trying to take it all in. We started 14th but started moving up through the pack right away. We passed two trucks hauling across the lake bed and then passed two more going through the whoops. We got held up behind some cars in the FOX proving grounds and Randall went by.
We passed two more trucks then we got a flat. My co-driver Connor Batham and I changed it in less than 5 minutes but 5 trucks went past while we worked. We got going again and passed them all back. We had fun passing so many trucks. We had no communications with our pit so we didn’t know where we were running. Skyler was on it when he went past us so we let him go. Being a rookie and having the points lead is great but we are just trying to finish. If we finish the race, regardless if we are on the podium or not, we will still have a smile on our faces.”
Defending Jeepspeed Challenge Champion Rob Seubert was hit with bad luck right from the start. “It was a rough one for us, we broke a rear driveline 300 yards off the start,” says Seubert, “We had to run back to the main Pitt for a spare. We got a ride for part of the way from the 1731 crew, thanks to them! Then we busted the pitman arm way out by race mile 94. That breakage took a loooong time to get the spare parts we needed. Cliff had to find all the parts and tools, drive to pit b and then scrape up another racer willing to haul the parts in to us. We also lost two of the three cooling fans so we were running super hot up some of the sand washes but, we finished.”
As stated before, Tom Barnett took the Jeepspeed Outlaws Cup victory in his 3750 class Ram 1500 pickup. Barnett’s truck exemplifies one of the biggest draws to the Jeepspeed series. Every competitor is free to build their own vehicle as long as it fits a few simple rules.
Strong support from sponsors and the ability to build your own vehicle makes it affordable, competitive and exciting. Even with race numbers and sponsor stickers, Tom Barnett’s truck looks stock; it’s street legal and still has a windshield. He towed Rick Randall up onto the podium and when they finished interviewing him Tom was waved through. The announcer thought he was part of the recovery crew. “This truck is basically a stock Ram with a bunch of bolt-on parts from Synergy, Deaver, Poly Performance and Currie Enterprises,” says Tom Barnett, “We watched all those Jeeps with their LS motors go by at the start and then we picked them off one by one. I think this race was more conducive to an experienced driver. There was thousands of dollars’ worth of race cars on the side of the course by mile 15. It hardly ever happens but we had an absolutely flawless day. It was a fun race; we only stopped for fuel.” 2nd in Jeepspeed Cup was Bob Mamer in his turbocharged Comanche pick-up followed by Billy Bunch who was on the gas after a first lap roll over.
Every Jeepspeed competitor benefits from special reduced entry fees and sponsor support from General Tire, KMC Wheels, Premier Chrysler Jeep, Currie Enterprises, King Shocks, G2 Axle & Gear, Rubicon Express, SmittyBilt, PAC Springs and KC HiLites. Jeepspeed Official Suppliers continue to be a vital part of our teams’ success also and are a huge asset to the Jeepspeed series. Approved supporters and product suppliers include Rock Krawler Racing Developments, Synergy Mfg., Jaz Fuel Cells, Poly Performance and Howe Performance Steering. 3 of the top 5 Jeepspeed Challenge trucks were running off the shelf Rubicon Express suspensions. Tom Barnett has a Synergy bolt-on suspension kit on his Ram 1500.
The points race after two events is very close in all Jeepspeed classes. In Jeepspeed Challenge Class 1700, Garett Allred leads with 212, followed by Mike Bragg with 202, Rob Seubert with 198, Dustin Hoffman with 194 and Dylan Cochran with 193. In Jeepspeed Outlaws Class 3700/3750, Billy Bunch leads with 186 followed by Tom Barnett with 184 and Bob Mamer with 182. Jeepspeed Wrangler Trophy standings have Skyler Gambrell leading with 110, followed by Billy Bunch with 95 and a tie between Brian Davidson, Matt Oakeson, and Dan Simonson, all with 30pts.
The Jeepspeed series heads to Eastern Nevada where they will have to keep their eyes on the course despite breathtaking scenery. The Silver State 300 will hold pre-race festivities in Las Vegas before heading 120 miles to the starting line. The Best In The Desert Silver State 300 is one of the most popular races of the year. It’s a point to point race consisting of a single 300 mile loop. The schedule is below.
Saturday & Sunday, April 18-19, 2015 - The great Pre-Run event. A two-day event that is as much, if not more fun than the race! You must be entered to attend.
Friday, May 1, 2015 - Registration, Technical Inspection & Contingency, Aliante Casino Hotel, N Las Vegas
Saturday, May 2, 2015 - Race Day, 120-mile transfer section to the start line. Yes, camping is allowed at the start and finish line. Camping also available in Alamo, NV.
Sunday, May 3, 2015 - Awards Presentation, Aliante Casino Hotel.
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.
Photography By: Bink Designs
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,
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