The first race of the season in the Yokohama Tire Jeepspeed race series, presented by KMC Wheels, revealed who was ready for battle, and who needed to step up their game. The competition was stiff, but the Parker, Arizona terrain proved to be even tougher. Some racers exhibited over exuberance that they paid for in broken parts, and down time doing repairs. Those who successfully emerged from the rubble unscathed, set the bar for the rest of the field. The Parker race course is notoriously challenging, but they all are; that’s what makes Jeepspeed racing so rewarding. Anyone who tastes victory has to earn it. Winners received the respect of their peers, and some great rewards. The top finishers in each of our 4 classes received a set of KMC Wheels, a Tuff Stuff 4X4 13,000 lb. winch, a Rugged Radios gift bag with handheld radios, plus the normal prize money payback. The estimated total value to each winner was approximately $2500 to $3,000. Not only did they put themselves at the top of the leader board, but they cashed in as well. Jeepspeed racing is challenging, fun, and rewarding, and it’s more affordable thanks to strong sponsor support from Yokohama Tire, KMC Wheels, Jasper Racing Engines, GG Lighting, Rugged Radios, EVO Mfg., King Shocks, T&J Performance, and Action Sports Canopies. Jeepspeed sponsors are just as committed to racing as our competitors.
In the Jeepspeed Challenge Class (1700), there was a lot of humility dished out by the desert. Seven Jeeps took the green flag, but only one survived to take the checkered flag. The Jeepspeed Challenge class is the most restrictive class. They are simple and reasonably priced to build. You can build one your way, but it has to run an off the shelf suspension kit. This keeps the playing field level, and makes for quite a challenge. Parts breakage is normal, and these racers are the most resourceful anywhere. They have been known to fix any problem encountered, but the one obstacle they face is time. Repairs cost time. They constantly have to find the balance between speed, and durability. It was clear that most chose speed at Parker.
The one racer who found the right balance was Steve Palmieri. Steve races intermittently, and has been refining his Jeep Cherokee for several seasons. He finished building it in 2013, then went out and broke it. He broke the suspension. Then he blew his engine. He lost the transmission which caused him to change from a manual to an automatic. All along the way he learned much about what it takes to survive. At Parker that knowledge was put to good use.
“It’s a little humbling to win the first race you finish,” said Palmieri. We have a little work to do after the race on our front differential, but the engine is strong, and everything looks good. We had no idea what our fuel mileage would be so we stopped for an extra splash of fuel, but that’s it. We tried to run as smooth and steady as possible.”
Steve was in a wash when he went past the Class 5 car of Pete Swift rolled over. He caught a glimpse of them holding up a tow strap so he whipped it around to go back and help. He pulled him over, and then went on his way. Steve was impressed when Swift called to thank him after the race. Maybe the good karma was what put Steve and his team over the top in Parker.
In Jeepspeed Cup Class (2700) Larry Trim was the sole competitor. He would only have to survive the course to get the win, but that proved to be difficult. The deep sand, and gravel in the dry washes were causing his water temperatures to skyrocket. “We stopped in pit 2 to figure out why the fan wasn’t working,” said Trim. “We didn’t have any pit guys there, but my friend Justin Lofton was there with his crew; they helped us out. We rewired the fan and took off, only to have the problem return. Eventually we took the fan off of an oil cooler in the back, and rigged it to work on the radiator. It was fine for a while, but as soon as we got back in a wash it was overheating again. We had to keep stopping to let it cool down. It was after dark when we made it to the podium, but we got the win. Our plans are to take the inline 6 out, and replace it with a V8. Our new Yokohama 35 inch tires are great. Once we get some more horsepower, the truck will be even faster.”
Jeepspeed Outlaws Class 3700 winner Jerry Simonson thought the course was fast, but rocky. He experienced a vibration in the front end, and eventually lost the front drive. (He was running 4 wheel drive). They maintained their pace; finishing the race in 2 wheel drive with no other problems. It’s good that his preparation for the next race will be easy, he’s splitting time between his car, and a brand new 2700 truck for his wife to compete in.
Second in 3700 were Harley Coffland, and his Brother Dennis. They were racing their Dad’s old Jeep Scrambler from the 1980’s. They dusted the car off, did a race prep on it, and headed to Parker. During the prep they took care to use vintage parts on the truck to keep it original. It still uses leaf springs in the front suspension. “We were first off the line in 3700, and tried to stay in front of everyone,” said Harley. “At race mile 18.5 I rolled the truck two and a half times. It was fine, and so were we, but it took 30 minutes to get going again. Now we were last on course, but we never gave up. Eventually we started catching other cars and trucks on the course so we knew we were going good. We stopped in the pits, and Rick Randall came over to help. He used to race against my Dad. Now he was making adjustments to our shocks that really helped. It was a difficult course, especially on leaf springs, but I can’t even say how ecstatic I am to have my Dad’s truck racing again after 37 years. It’s time to learn as much from him as possible. We are an old, but new team, and so happy to be with Jeepspeed.”
The Jeepspeed Trophy Class (4700) is the most modified class in Jeepspeed, and is turning into one of the most competitive. The rules are open when it comes to the Frame or Chassis, and can run any make of production or crate engines. They can run up to 37" tires, have a maximum of 18” wheel travel in front, and the rear suspension is open. Leave it to Jeepspeed racers to figure out how to save money racing an unlimited class. They are finding neglected former race trucks, updating them, and bringing them back into racing form. It’s very costly to build an unlimited vehicle from scratch, but you can get a great chassis for less when you buy used. There are many types of vehicles that can be used from classes like 6,7,8, pro truck, and others. Just mount a Jeep or Dodge body on it, and go racing.
The win in 4700 was earned by multi-time class 1700 champion Rob Suebert. He is also the defending 4700 class champion. He finished 2nd place 5 times last year to earn the championship. He was glad to be back at the top of the podium. “We started first by the draw, but had five other 4700 trucks trying to chase us down,” said Suebert. “A class 5 car got crossed up in front of us; blocking the course. There was a good go around path about 3 truck lengths behind us. Garett made great use of it and got around us. As we started to back up, the car got out of the way, so we went. As we passed, he reversed, and clipped the front tire. It didn't seem to hurt anything so we were off and running again. In the middle of the jeep trail we got caught by Jesse. We slid over, and let him by; hoping we would get an opportunity to re-claim the spot later.”
The running order stayed much the same until lap three. That’s when trouble struck for Leader Garett Allred, and 2nd place Jesse Archer. “Early on the third lap, we went by Garett off to the side; that put us back to second place,” Suebert continues. “We knew he would be running hard to catch us. Only a few miles later, we also passed Jesse; we were back in first. With about 100 miles to go, we put our heads down, and peddled as fast as we could, hoping to keep those two guys behind us. I figured they would probably get us on corrected time, but I really wanted to finish first physically. We cut a tire on the Jeep trail just prior to the finish. We were close enough to the finish to drive it in flat; not wanting to stop, and take the time to change it. At the finish we learned Garett, and Jesse had more issues than just tires. Both dropped out, giving us the easy win. It would have been good to know 100 miles prior, but we got good practice in running hard I guess. Thanks a ton to Tim Martin, and fellow 4700 competitor Jeff Harmonson and their crews for helping to pit us. We’re looking forward to Silver State!”
Finishing second was the team of Andrew Hulse, and his son Ben, Mike Kraft, and co-driver Jason Taverney, and Wayne Guidinger and co-driver Carl Thompson. You see, they all split time in the truck. Each pair of driver, and codriver did one lap of the race. They all belong to a group they call the Wolfpack. We talked to Wayne who said they were glad to finish 2nd, as they finished 3rd place all last year. “We almost have the suspension completely dialed in,” said Guidinger. “We had a clean race so we don’t have to spend time fixing a bunch of stuff. We can concentrate on getting stuff done. We have a brand new Dodge body on the way that has to be mounted to the chassis. We have a lot of new people that joined the Wolfpack. We have 20 new people able to help us, and others in the pits. Everyone got a chance to drive in Parker, so it was a great weekend for us. It’s great to start the year second in points.”
Third place in 4700 Jeff Harmonson had a rough start at his first Jeepspeed race in this truck, but ended up on the podium. “It was a little rough on us right out of the gate,” said Harmonson. “We took off before the GPS had a chance to boot up, and we went blind into the first turn. We went straight off into the rocks, blew both front tires, cracked a hub, and broke the steering. We had to stop three times during the race to weld on the truck. It was an interesting way to get introduced to off road racing; it was only the third race I’d been to in my life. I helped to pit a 6100 truck last year, and got hooked. I asked to buy the team’s old truck, and they sold it to me. We put it all together, and figured it out. We’ll keep doing this as long as the kids still want to do it, and the crew will work for pizza!”
Win or lose, everyone was put to the test, and had something to be proud of. Work is already underway for the next Jeepspeed race, the Silver State 300 on April 29th to May 2nd. The course is a favorite among drivers. Festivities take place in Las Vegas, and the course lies up around Alamo, Nevada. 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, Jeepspeed news, rules, race results, videos, and much more. On the Jeepspeed forum, you can read more in-depth race reports from many of the Jeepspeed teams. Go check it out. Photography By: Bink Designs