Those in attendance at the Best In The Desert series BlueWater Desert Challenge witnessed an intense two-day battle in the General Tire Jeepspeed series presented by KMC Wheels and Premier Automotive. Although the short course style event runs less mileage than a typical desert race, the sandy and rocky terrain around Parker, Arizona packs a real punch. Big holes and choppy bumps get worse as the laps add up. High temperatures and a total lack of wind added to the challenge as blinding dust obscured the course. Starting in the first heat race each morning, the thick dust and rising sun conspired to make vision ahead nearly impossible. Racers had to trust their navigator’s instructions and hurl themselves into the unknown.
The Jeepspeed series draws a very diverse mix of trucks to their races. No other spec class, racing series, allows you to design and build your own competition vehicle. Because of the well thought out rules, they are very different yet equally matched; no other race series comes close to Jeepspeed. Competitors also benefit from strong support from General Tire, KMC Wheels, Premier Chrysler & Jeep, KC Hilites, Currie Enterprises, King Shocks, Rugged Radios, Rubicon Express, G2 Axle & Gear, Smittybilt, Action Sports Canopies, Rock Krawler Racing Developments, Poly Performance, Synergy Manufacturingand Howe Performance.
Action Sports Canopies is on board as a sponsor for the rest of the 2016 season and also for 2017. Jeepspeed racers are using their canopies and flags to mark their pits as well as display their race trucks at other events while they promote the Jeepspeed series.
Randall, Grewell, Massey, and many others are racing on the Rubicon Express long arm suspension and G2 axle and gear products have been crucial in getting many to the finish line. Most Jeepspeed racers are using the Smittybilt sand ramps, grab handles and carry their recovery bags that hold tow straps, gloves , tire plug kits and much more. At Vegas to Reno, KC Hilites put up $500 bonuses for the winners. At BWDC, G2 Axle & Gear stepped up and put $500 into the hands of winners Rick Randall and Mike Bragg.
Trucks on the podium in Parker included Mike Bragg’s Dodge pick-up, Rick Randall’s Cherokee, Jeff and Perry Coan’s Jeep Wrangler, and Garret Allred’s Grand Cherokee. They might not agree on which type of vehicle to race but everyone who ran the new General Tire Grabber X3’s were totally impressed by their performance in the rocks and sand. Overall results were determined by the cumulative times from both days of racing. Mike Bragg came out on top both days in the Jeepspeed Outlaws class but the rest of the podium positions were different both days.
Running the fastest accumulated time and winning the Jeepspeed Challenge class was Rick Randall. “We love this race, said Randall, “We weren't sure if we would even make it until last Wednesday but we got lucky and everything went well on our first and final shakedown with the new engine. We didn't have enough time to do a full prep to our Jeep Cherokee after V2R so we took our chances. We had nothing to lose on Saturday and started on the back row in 5th. We used the our lights for the first few miles in the dark but the dust was terrible. We ended up just driving with the amber KC Hilites LED light bar. We ran pretty hard and got to the front on lap one. We were able to get past the 3700's and ran clean to the finish. On day 2, we took it a little easier and settled for 2nd place. We had no problems; we never got out of the truck. I was honored to have Jess Maney co-driving on day 2. He is an Army vet that has served 4 tours overseas and was awarded the Purple Heart. He was hit by an IED and suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury, (TBI). Jess and I plan on getting more wounded vets in the car next year; starting with Parker.”
Second overall was Jeepspeed Outlaws (3700) winner Mike Bragg. “Our race went as good as it can go,” said Bragg, “The first day we did not want to push too hard. We didn’t do our typical testing after Vegas to Reno; it’s harvest time so I’ve been very busy. We ran a strong pace but conservative. It was a lot rougher on day two but the truck worked great. We tried the new Grabber X3 tires from General Tire. They have great side bite. They are very predictable sliding through the corners and the forward bite was great in the sand. It was very dusty but my son Matt who was co-driving is very meticulous; he calls out everything. The dust was so thick, they could be two miles ahead of you and you were still in their dust. We were proud to run a big ribbon on the frontend for our friend Jason Cobb from KC Hilites who is fighting cancer. We sent him a photo; he liked it. We are right there in the points so we had to do well. Our Dodge truck has been flawless.”
Finishing next was 2nd place in Jeepspeed Challenge Skyler Gambrell. Gambrell was also on the new Grabber X3 tires and some shiny new KMC wheels. Gambrell got second place and wrapped up the KMC Wrangler Cup title in Jambroni, the Jeep Wrangler raced for years by Jeff and Perry Coan. Jeff Coan, a Jeepspeed Rookie of the Year winner, was sidelined by Lou Gehrig’s disease but Gambrell and Perry have racked up impressive results with the Jeep. They had a stiff battle all season with Billy Bunch’s LS motored Wrangler. “After showing Jabroni off at the Off Road Expo the week prior showcasing General Tire’s new Grabber X3's, PeeWee and I set out for Parker to have some fun and do our best to protect the points lead,” said Gambrell, “PeeWee, (Perry Coan) was driving Saturday and was being mindful to not make mistakes and keep the Wrangler clean. We let Allred go charging off the start and just tried to find a pace that would keep us competitive but out of the dust and potential mistakes. We finished a very dusty day in 2nd, 4 minutes and change out of the lead but right where we really needed to be. I drove on Sunday with PeeWee navigating. After pulling over for a faster sportsman buggy, Allred decided to make a rather aggressive move and damn near took us both out. I decided to back off a little more and just survive. We made it through the cobbled up course in 3rd for the day and 2nd for the weekend. A solid points day for us, and it secured the KMC Wrangler Cup title. The new General Tire Grabber X3's were great in the sand and as always the KMC XD122's made all the cool kids jealous! Thanks to all the companies that support Jeepspeed, it's a great series to run and I’m thankful for all the luck I have had this year!”
3rd place in Jeepspeed Cup was Garett Allred. “The BWDC was a rough and dusty course but we managed to get a 3rd on day one and a 1st on day 2,” said Allred, “On day 1 Connor and I started off the line first but ended up getting a flat in the dust. We got that changed but then had oil pressure bouncing between 25 and 50 psi. The crew saw an oil leak in the hot pits, so they added some and we kept going to a 3rd place finish. On day 2, Danny and I had a flawless day. Starting in the 3rd row, we were able to get around two fast competitors and bring home the win on Sunday!”
2nd overall in Jeepspeed Outlaws was Ian Massey. Massey epitomizes why the Jeepspeed series was created. His 6 cylinder Jeep Cherokee was the truck he drove in high school and then college. As the years went by, he slowly built it into a prerunner. After coming out to the races with Tom and Mike Barnett and Garrett Allred; he decided to race his own Jeep in the series. “We beat the Jeep up on Saturday and had a really good day,” said Massey, “It was a good thing because we had some issues on Sunday. We hosed the truck down, lubed the tie-rods and did a nut and bolt check Saturday night. On Sunday morning we discovered that we didn’t get the windshield clean. Heading into the dust and the sun coming up, we couldn’t see. My truck is a street legal prerunner that we are converting into a full blown race truck so it still has a windshield. Jeepspeed trucks are really cool. You can run fast and hard in them and there is nothing that is too hard to fix. We have a stock motor; everything in the drivetrain is basically stock. We had a good race going with Mike Shetler. I hope we can continue that at the Pahrump race.”
Mike Shetler finished second on Sunday. His combined time put him in 3rd place overall in Jeepspeed Outlaws. “It was a very fun weekend; our first time at BWDC,” said Shetler, “We had a new motor with only 20 minutes runtime on it. We developed a problem with our air intake so we pulled into the Jeepspeed pit. Mike Burnet knew just what to do, fabbed something up out of bailing wire, and we were right back racing. The first day we were cautious. On day 2, we ran a lot harder. There was no such thing as clean air out there but we managed to catch and pass Billy Bunch and then Ian Massey. On Saturday I had my usual co-driver Mark White. We had the intake problem so I could not open it up. Mark kept saying “go, go.” On Sunday, my Son Bob was co-driver. We had the engine running fine be he was saying the opposite. If those guys were switched, it would have matched the situation better.”
Congratulations to Skyler Gambrell, Jeff, and Perry Coan for taking the KMC Wrangler Cup trophy. The rest of the points titles will be decided at the final race of the season, the Pahrump Nugget “250” on December 1-4 in Pahrump, Nevada.
Photography By: Bink Designs