Strategies Put To Test At Thrilling Jeepspeed Season Ender
The final race of the 2014 Jeepspeed season posed a dilemma for nearly everyone in the race. Go all out for a win or try to be smart and protect your championship points. Both strategies played out during the Best In The Desert
Henderson 250. The course was very fast which made it tough for those who tried to maintain a conservative pace. Some, who desperately needed points, took their fate into their own hands and pushed hard for the win. The result was a thrilling race that had championship implications everywhere you looked.
The atmosphere was much more relaxed during contingency and technical inspection on Friday before the race. The Jeepspeed trailer was displayed along Water Street in downtown Henderson to give the fans and racers alike a glimpse of what the Jeepspeed series offers. The Jeepspeed series has strong sponsor support from General Tire, every Jeep in the field rolls on General Grabbers, ATX Wheels, Currie Enterprises, King Shocks, Howe Performance Steering and T&J Performance who have all been there since the very beginning. Baja Designs Lights, Rubicon Express Suspensions, Smittybilt Off Road products, G2 Gear & Axle and PAC Racing Springs also help to make the series successful.
When Dustin Hoffman wheeled his Jeep Cherokee through the line, Jeepspeed took the opportunity to award him with a Smittybilt winch that he was awarded for winning the Blue Water Challenge race in Parker, Arizona. The Smittybilt winch was just one of the many bonuses handed out during the Jeepspeed season.
There was another Jeepspeed prize winner at the Henderson race. A contest was held by 4Wheel Parts and General Tire that awarded an all-expense paid trip to Las Vegas to ride with Eric Heiden to the 4Wheel Parts employee who sold the most General Tires during the contest period. Chris Schafer of San Antonio, TX, was the lucky winner. Chris had no idea what was really in his future. He did not get a little joyride through the desert; he ran the first 80 mile lap of the race as Heiden’s co-driver.
Eric was in the championship mix, (he finished third in points), but he was not out for points in Henderson, he was driving all out for a win. After starting towards the rear, Eric and Chris charged through the pack to second place after lap one. Chris and Eric handed the truck over to driver Dylan Cochran and co-driver Mark Linder who took the 1717 Jeep Cherokee to the win. How many contest winners get to be part of a race winning effort? Congratulations to Chris Schafer for getting the job done during his first ride in a race truck and 4Wheel Parts and General Tire for giving him the opportunity. “We had a trouble free run despite running the truck very hard,” said Eric Heiden, “It was the last race, we had nothing to lose, I think we gave Chris a good time.”
Second place finisher in the General Tire Jeepspeed Challenge, Dustin Hoffman, had a good race going with Skyler Gambrell on lap one until a water pump failure caused Skyler to pull over. Like many of the battles on course, the two were separated by mere seconds until Skyler was sidelined.
Dustin soon made his way up to battle with the 1717 truck of Eric Heiden with Dylan Cochran behind the wheel. “My transmission was stuck in second gear,” says Hoffman, “I just kept it pinned. I could stay ahead in the rough but on the dry lakebed they came charging back. We caught them again in a rough section but in the end they took the win. Props to them, we had a great race with those guys.”
Third place on the podium went to second generation racer Mike Bragg driving his stars and stripes Jeep Cherokee and the fourth place finisher was Rob Seubert.
Rob was doing everything he could to get a finish. Fourth place gave him the General Tire Jeepspeed Challenge Championship. “It’s always hard not to push, but it was a long season to get to this point and we didn’t want a DNF, (did not finish), to end our storybook year,” said Rob, “We feel we had a lot of luck on our side to come away with 3 wins and a second on the way to the title. We pushed hard at the Mint 400 for the Oakley Bomb award; it looks great sitting on my shelf. The mint was rough on the truck and we didn’t get everything back to 100% for the silver state. We had a DNF after battling overheating, brake failure and a broken steering box. V2R was the roller coaster of the year race for us. Starting first, we came into pit one as the last moving car on the course with overheating issues. It’s a good thing V2R is such a long race; perseverance paid off and we came away with a win putting us at three for four on the year. Our second place at the BlueWater Challenge and fourth in Henderson gave us the title. Thanks to all our fellow 1700 class racers for a hard fought year and to Jeepspeed for developing such a great series.”
Pacing Rob Seubert on lap one was John Brannon. He had the same challenge trying to get to the finish to secure second place in the championship. “We were not looking for a win,” says John Brannon’s co-driver, Brendan King, “Our goal was the championship points. We were one minute behind third place when we stopped on lap one. We spent 15 minutes in the pit welding up a broken steering mount before getting back out. John had to put it in kill mode on lap two and finished 5th. We could not DNF. We have 12 straight races without a DNF; we raced smart all season to earn our second place in the championship.”
The Henderson 250 was the first outing for the new 3750 class prototype, Dodge Ram 1500. Classes 3700 and 3750 are now known as "Jeepspeed Outlaws" and include Dodge vehicles. The street legal Dodge built and driven by Tom Barnett at T&J Performance even has a heater and AC. It was running with the 3700 class leaders until ball joint failure caused them to park it. The General Tire Jeepspeed Cup race was won by Billy Bunch. Bunch is a no-nonsense kind of guy. With a possible championship on the line he decided to mix it up with Bob Mamer for the win. “I got the holeshot off the line because my motor is stronger,” said Billy, “Then Mamer caught me in the rough because he has more suspension travel. I clipped a rock in the dust and had to stop to change the wheel. My co-driver Tareck Karam then chased Mamer down and passed him. We lost the driveshaft ¼ mile from the finish but my 4x4 front axle pulled us the rest of the way; beating Mamer by 12 seconds.”
Rob White had a more conservative strategy. His plan all season was to run every race and make it to the finish for maximum points. He was leading the points but in order to take the title, he would have to finish the race. Rob drives an iconic Jeep J-10 truck that was raced by Roger Mears back in the 1970’s. It had several owners over the years and now has electronic fuel injection on the American Motors 401 cubic inch V8. Despite the modern touches, the truck was running rough before the race. “We scrambled to get the truck running right on Friday,” says Rob, “Our plan was to play it safe but only a few miles into the race we hit boulder that broke a wheel. We changed it and kept chugging along.” Rob was still racing when BITD diverted them to the finish line for safety reasons, (the Trick Trucks were on the course). His finish was official giving him the 2014 General Tire Jeepspeed Cup championship title that he worked towards all season.
“It’s pretty cool driving an iconic truck,” says Rob, “Having a championship in it is surreal. We knew if we went to every race and did well those points would add up in the end. I have to thank my crew for all their hard work.” The final results were Rob White taking the championship, Billy Bunch second in points and Bob Mamer third.
Despite the tough battles on the course, the Jeepspeed racers are always willing to help a fellow racer. Eric Heiden summed up for many saying, “It’s a very competitive field but everyone helps each other out, even in the heat of battle. If you need parts or help with your truck, there is always someone to pitch in and help out. It was disheartening for us to lose the championship this year but I’m happy for Rob Seubert and I feel it’s an honor to be in the top three in such a competitive field.”
Eric, Rob and all the others will get their honors at Awards Night at Moreno's Restaurant, in Orange, California on Jan 17th. The out of state champs will be flying in to join in the festivities. The party is being sponsored by Orange County's newest Jeep dealer, Premier Chrysler Jeep of Placentia. It will be a great time and a fitting end to another incredible season of General Tire Jeepspeed racing. Stay tuned for exciting new things coming to Jeepspeed in 2015!
Photography By: 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, ATX Wheels, RDM Offroad, Howe Performance, Currie Enterprises, King Shocks, TJ Performance Center, Allpar.com, Sunoco Race Fuels, Baja Designs, Rubicon Express, G2 Axle & Gear, Smittybilt & PAC Racing Springs.
About General Tire
For 99 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, American Sprint Car Series, FreestyleMx.com
Tour, Zero One Odyssey, and Spec Tire of Trophylite and JeepSpeed. Team GT supports off-road and short course teams including CJ Hutchins, Garrick Freitas, Harley Letner, Jerry Zaiden/Jason Campbell/Jerry Whelchel/ (Camburg), Jim Riley, Justin Lofton, Macrae Glass, Randy Merritt, Ray Griffith, Steve Alexander, Steve La Roza, Ryan Beat, Carl Renezeder, and Robby Woods.
About Continental AG
With provisional sales of around €33.3 billion in 2013, Continental is among the leading automotive suppliers worldwide. As a supplier of brake systems, systems and components for powertrains and chassis, instrumentation, infotainment solutions, vehicle electronics, tires, and technical elastomers, Continental contributes to enhanced driving safety and global climate protection. Continental is also an expert partner in networked automobile communication. Continental currently has more than 177,000 employees in 46 countries.