The Best in the Desert series Silver State 300 takes in some incredible country around Caliente, Nevada. Expansive valleys, many with dry lake beds, give way to mountain ranges with striking rock formations. The abundance of water in some areas, allows lush vegetation that is in stark contrast to the desert like conditions found in the low lying areas. The terrain creates many unique challenges that range from silt beds to pine tree forests. The mountains are tight and twisty while the valleys are fast and smooth. There are several water crossings thrown in just to add one more element to the challenge. It’s extremely demanding, and at the same time fun, and rewarding. The course created a unique situation where racers in every class in the General Tire Jeepspeed Series, presented by KMC Wheels were dicing in the lead pack; each trying just to make it to the finish.
The first Jeepspeed racer to emerge from the fray was the 4700 Jeepspeed Trophy of Billy Bunch/Jessie Archer. You would assume that their purpose built race truck would easily dispose of the more factory based trucks in 3700, 2700, and 1700, but they had some trouble on the trail. “The truck was a lot of fun through forest roads,” said Jesse Archer, “After we got through Caliente, we were on the class 4400 leader’s tail. I got impatient following them up the washes, and went for a pass. I got the pass, and tried to get away hard; it was not a good move. I took an inside line in a 90 degree corner that had a huge rock sitting there. That rock ended our streak of 14 races with no flats. We got passed by 6 cars while changing the tire. Off we went; charging hard to get back by everyone that just passed us. By Pit 4, we got the spots back, and started working through the pack again. The later this race goes, the harder it is to pass. As we went through the forest area, and started coming down the backside, we decided to give ourselves a pucker moment. Coming over a blind rise at 70 mph, we were going straight, but the track went left with a cliff. All I could do was to throw the truck sideways, smash the skinny pedal, and hold on. We hung the rear tires on Ryan’s side off the cliff as we did a rail slide on the side of the mountain. From there on out we took a more conservative pace as day turned to night. We still have some work to do on both the driver and truck, but we're getting there. It was a great weekend out there with Team Bunch. Thank you as always to Billy Bunch for this opportunity. Thank you to my Co Dog Ryan Moore. He made a lot of great calls this race. Thank you to my son Jared for fueling us up. Thanks to Craig Johnson, and Terri Croan for the help and support. Finally, Thank you to my wife for tolerating all the time and energy racing takes. Congratulations to all the other class winners.”
The next Jeepspeed racer to cross the line was Jeepspeed Outlaw class driver Robert Thomasson. Thomasson had a relatively uneventful race, but didn’t come through unscathed. “We started 2nd off the line and had the leader in our sites by pit 1,” says Rob. “They stopped to pit, so we took the lead. We really didn’t see anyone all day, and had no flats or other problems. We tangled with a driver in another class, and did some damage to our fiberglass up front. Right before pit 4 we were the first Jeepspeed on the road, but then Bunch passed us in the pits. We got out and were on his tail for a while. We brought it home clean from there. We really had our ducks in a row. It’s beautiful country; one of my favorite races. It’s not like your standard desert race.”
Jeepspeed Cup racer Skyler Gambrell was looking forward to opening up his new Jeep JK on the fast sections of the course. “After a solid debut at the Mint, and with some serious shock package changes, I was excited to finally be able to stretch the JK's legs,” says Gambrell. “My normal co-dog was down racing NORRA in Baja, so I got Ian Massey to come along and ride shotgun. Mike Shetler offered up pit support as well, so huge thanks go out to him and his crew. I couldn’t have done the race without them! I passed a few cars before pit 1, and settled in a fast pace through the trees headed to pit 2. We cleared the pits, and were a few mins away from 3707. Suebert was behind me by about 4 minutes or so. I had a nice time cushion so I kept pressing on to our first scheduled fuel stop at Caliente. Shetler's crew fueled me, and gave the car a quick once over before we took off. While pushing hard through the big sandy turns at race mile 110, I sanded a serpentine belt off the car. The belt shrapnel hurt the power steering pump seal, so I drove about 40 miles with no power steering. At pit 4 we had no spare parts, and the pit closing time was upon us, so we had to throw in the towel and accept the DNF. It was a strong showing for only the 2nd race on the truck. I’m looking forward to more improvements, and more speed out of the car!”
The Jeepspeed Challenge class had 6 competitors vying for the win. Defending champion Rob Seubert is just plain hard to beat, but the race course didn’t care. He came out on top, but it wasn’t easy. “The silver state 300 is my favorite race of the year, it's a great Jeepspeed course,” says Seubert. “I didn't have my normal co-pilot Dustin with me as he is in Alaska working the fishing season. Thanks to my brother-in-law Nick who stepped in for him. We drew the second starting position behind 1712. We closed the gap, but the dust was awful and we weren't close enough to push a pass. We had to follow for a ways. We were just not able to get any closer than about 100 yards. After a few miles, there was a breeze that allowed us to close the gap. Then the course made a turn and dust consumed us instantly. Going too fast, and not being able to see, we launched over the berm, and flew out into the bushes. It was a wild ride for about 50 yards, but I got it stopped without hitting anything. The landing from the jump was surprisingly soft.”
“With the GPS zoomed in, Nick got me back on course. It was still thick with dust, we could not see much at all. It put a good scare in me; nearly throwing our race away in the first miles. We eventually got around 1712. I was a little cautious given that the race was 300 miles long, we were sitting in first, and first place in points, but I thought we were holding a pace that wouldn't let anyone gain time on us. I was wrong though, Jimmy Perry caught us in the really cool tree section. He picked up the two minutes we had on him from the start, so I moved over and let him go. Admittedly, I was a little bummed to get caught, but knew it was a long race with some silt coming. Within a half mile of him going by, we caught him. His Left front wheel looked very unhappy, something was clearly broken. Somewhere around pit 4, we hit a cross ditch pretty hard, and the steering wheel was in a different position. It did it again just before pit 6 so we had our crew check things out while we fueled. They advised us that the pitman arm looked a little sloppy. The Jeep still felt plenty tight, but I took it even a bit more conservatively from there; particularly in the ditch spots. We made it to the finish without getting out of the car; it was a very good run for us. We hit 96 mph on the long gravel road. We had it to the floor the entire way trying to match the 100 mph mark we hit at the Mint, but we must have had a tail wind there.”
Second place in Jeepspeed Challenge was earned by Mike Bosley from Westminster, MD. Mike is a great addition to the Jeepspeed series and epitomizes the never give up attitude of his fellow competitors. He keeps his borrowed Jeep Cherokee in a storage garage outside Las Vegas. After every race he looks over the Jeep and makes a list of the parts he might need for the next race. He flies out a couple days before the race, preps his truck in a vacant lot, and heads to the course. Jeepspeed is perfect for Mike because he’s always been a Jeep Cherokee guy. “I bought my first Cherokee when I was 17 years old,” says Bosley. “I lifted it and loved to take it offroad. I got into rock crawling and first went to King of the Hammers in 2008. At one of the KOH races I saw a Jeepspeed on the lakebed and figured I could do this. There is nothing like desert racing in Maryland. We have a local off road series but there is no way you could hold a 300 mile race like the Silver State. I try not to be too hard on the Jeep. We started 5th and let 6th place go by; I knew it was going to be a long day. I was driving with my Son Jordan; Eric Stallknecht, and Austin Hernan were our other driving team. They would pit us when we were in the car, and then we would fuel them while they were driving. At pit 6 we beat them to the pits by a half hour. We don’t have very good radios so we only have a mile range or so. We helped pit Seubert while we waited for them. He was 45 minutes ahead of us so we knew it would be hard to catch them. Seubert is a machine and his Jeep is dialed in. We pulled in the reins a little and ran trouble free to the finish. Our goal was to finish, getting on the podium was a bonus. We have finished all our previous races and now we are on the podium. It makes us appreciate it so much more.”
Helmut Schwarz finished on the podium in 3rd, and Mark Kammerlohr was close behind in 4th. Jeff Garzik, and Jimmy Perry had problems and were unable to finish. Grassroots racers like Mike Bosley can go racing because Jeepspeed racers get the normal prize money offered, plus contingency awards. Tuff Stuff 4X4 gives offroad accessory products to the winners of each class at each race. NEO Synthetic Oil supplies a case of oil for a win with their decal in place, and Action Sports Canopies will gives a canopy for the overall Jeepspeed champions at the end of the season. The support for the Jeepspeed series by sponsors General Tire, KMC Wheels, Currie Enterprises, Action Sports Canopies, Southwest Boulder & Stone, GG Lighting, Jasper Racing Engines, NEO Synthetic Oil, Rugged Radios, Tuff Stuff 4X4, Rock Krawler Suspension, King Shocks, and T&J Performance helps to make the series very affordable, and contributes to the excellent quality and performance of the vehicles.
The Jeepspeed series has very simple rules that allow you to build your own vehicle if you choose, and has 4, progressively more modified classes available. Jeepspeed now has a class for any desert race vehicle that is recognizable as a Jeep or Dodge. Mike Bosley has shown that anyone can be competitive on a shoestring budget. When you want to go faster, it’s easy to make changes to your existing race truck and move up into faster classes as you go. Jeepspeed is the best series for the average racer as the costs are reasonable, the sponsor support is very strong, and the fun level is off the charts. 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 for sale, 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. The next race will be at the longest offroad race in the United States; Vegas to Reno (V2R), August 14-17 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Whether you show up as a competitor, or as a fan, you won’t want to miss it.