18 Jeeps and one Dodge had a single strategy at the Best in the Desert series Laughlin Desert Classic (LDC), race in Laughlin, Nevada; run flat out. Normally Jeepspeed offroad races require a measured application of the throttle in order to survive the terrain. If you run too fast, you take a chance of breaking your equipment. At the LDC, if you run too slowly, you’ll get lapped before the finish. It is one of the rare times when it all rides on the driver’s right foot. Class 3700 winner Eric Sigwing averaged 47 mph in his LS powered Wrangler, and 1700 winner Garret Allred averaged 45 mph in his 6 cyl, 4 liter Jeep Grand Cherokee.
The LDC’s heat race format had Jeepspeed competitors running 3 laps on a 16 mile course each day. The team with the lowest elapsed time after combining both days of racing would take the overall win in their class. It leaves no time whatsoever for flat tires, mechanical gremlins, or anything else for that matter. It’s the only race of the season where the gloves really come off, and continuous door to door battles rage the entire way. Many of the competitors thrive on it knowing that despite a little rubbing, it will still be all smiles and high 5’s at the finish line.
Class 1700 Jeepspeed Challenge winner Garett Allred loves this race for its tight battles. “On day one we started next to Mark Kammerlohr,” said Allred, “We got past him in the first turn and then we didn’t see anyone else. I tried to be fast and smooth.” Garett finished in position 2 behind Rob Seubert who was 13 seconds faster. That night Garett had an easy prep job. They replaced a single Johnny joint on one of the upper links.
On Sunday I was looking forward to starting side by side with (Rob) Seubert, and (Jimmy) Perry, Allred continued, “I knew it would be a great battle. We took the spare tire off, the jack, and the tool bag; trying to get an edge. We had no spares, and were hoping for the best. Half way through the first lap Seubert and I were door to door in a spot that we shouldn’t have, but we made the pass. We thought we could relax but on lap 3 we were right on Perry’s tail. We came around a corner and Perry was flying through the air sideways at 60 miles per hour! We overtook him to be first on the road. We had a great battle with those 2 drivers, and I’ve learned to never let off the gas against them.”
Second in class 1700 was Jimmy Perry. “We started in the rear and got off the line dead last on Saturday,” said Perry, “We settled in and started picking people off. We got some rain but the amount of mud we got on our visors was not worth keeping the dust down on the course. It turned into a good day for us; we finished 3rd in 1700, and 4th overall. That meant we would start up front with the fast guys on Sunday. We wanted the holeshot but our lane was muddy; we didn’t get it. We had to watch the race between Allred and Seubert up front. We saw a big rock in the course and Seubert pulled over so we assume he hit it. We could see the blue light of Allred so we honed in on it. We ran our fuel load so light that the truck started to stall out in sharp turns. We got around him and then stalled in a turn. I don’t know how he didn’t run into us. I have to change my attitude during these short races. I prefer the longer races and don’t usually get into the zone until mile 30 or so. We ran even lap times, so we were consistent.”
Rob Seubert finished 1st on Saturday, but his 4th place finish on Sunday dropped him to 3rd place overall for the weekend. “Garett has been tough to beat this year so we feel real good about taking the win on Saturday,” said Seubert, “We both had clean races and we came out on top. We pulled the 4wd off and ran in 2wd. I was hoping it would be earth-shattering better but it was only noticeably better. I did it in a way that we can go back to 4wd in about an hour’s work. On Sunday we hit a huge rock that peeled the rim back like a banana. You just rattle down through those bumps and I bounced over towards the side of the course. The sun was in our faces but I got a glimpse of it. At that speed I was just unable to avoid it. We’re still leading the points but there are 5 trucks that still have a chance to win the championship. That’s what makes Jeepspeed so much fun; the competition.”
Class 2700 Jeepspeed Cup winner Mike Shetler had a trouble-free race. He finished 1st on both days. The battle between him and heavy hitters Rick Randall, and Skyler Gambrell never materialized. “I guess the race was anti-climactic, but we did have a lot of fun,” said Shetler, “I had my Brother Dennis with me, and my Son Zack rode on Saturday; my childhood friend Jin Supsong rode on Sunday. It was his first time in a race truck. On Saturday Randall and Skyler took off ahead of us. We caught and passed Skyler when his engine shut off, and set off after Randall. We saw lights ahead and kept passing people but we didn’t see Randall until lap 3. That’s when we saw him getting winched up a cliff. We witnessed a great battle between Seubert and Allred. They went past us and we chased them as long as we could; watching them go door to door for miles. We started ahead of Randall on Sunday and never saw him. One thing different about this race is that we get to hang out Saturday night with everyone. It gave us a chance to get to know some of the other drivers and their crews. It was great talking to Clive; he’s quite a guy with an interesting background. It was a good time; they are all good people that we only get to see at the races.”
Second place in Jeepspeed Cup went to Wayne Guidinger. He makes no bones about being underpowered with his 4 cylinder engine. He even named his truck “El Tortuga” the turtle in Spanish. “Our goal was to keep the rubber down and get the finishing points,” said Guidinger, “Mike Shetler is leading the points but we still have a slim opportunity to win the championship. Last year the roles were reversed. We were sitting on top and Shetler was second, so we both know how it feels. I consider Mike the MacGyver of Jeepspeed. He figures a way out of everything. He’s a great competitor. We did our normal prep for this race but plan to install a Rubicon Express long arm suspension for Pahrump. We had a group of 20 out supporting us. Our sponsor Ken Tichy of Tustana Pool Supply drove with his Son Adam on day one and did a great job finishing 2nd. Ken has been a perfect fit on our team. Andrew Hulse and I drove on Sunday; he has been my co-driver all year. Sunday was a mud bog and we were having trouble getting up some hills, and the sun on the horizon was blinding us so we had to slow a little for safety, but I have no complaints. We were having a blast.”
Rick Randall had an uncharacteristic mechanical failure on Saturday that led to a DNF. He was going along the ridgeline when the bolts sheared off the spindle snout sending him and his co-driver Brent Bretz over the cliff. Thankfully they rolled against a boulder that stopped them from going all the way to the bottom. “We were six miles in and boom, straight off a cliff,” said Randall, “Brent was very calm during all this. He is part of our Vetdrenaline Racing program that puts vets into race cars for a therapeutic dose of adrenaline. We got Brent out and Dave from Motorsports Safety Solutions made it a priority to get us winched up and back to the pits so Brent could finish his ride on Sunday.” (Brent is an Army sniper who served in Iraq. He lost both legs and suffered several other injuries when an improvised explosive device blew up the vehicle he was in.) “Besides the broken fiberglass and crunched roof, the Jeep wasn’t that bad. I had to call in a favor from fellow Jeepspeed racer H-bomb (Ernesto Henriquez), who went to my house, grabbed the parts we needed, and drove them to Laughlin. On Sunday the truck was ready but Brent was feeling sick; it might have been the buffet Saturday night. Jess Maney, the founder of Vetdrenaline rode shotgun. Waiting to start the engine was running badly, but it turned out to be a loose plug wire. We took it easy and finished 2nd place, 3rd overall for the weekend.”
Class 3700 Jeepspeed Outlaws winner Eric Sigwing loves the heat race format at LDC. He has a racing background that includes NASCAR, and drag racing; he loves to go fast, and battle side by side. “We had a well prepped truck,” says Sigwing, “We finished 2nd last year so we looked at our notes, and it paid off. “3714 (Scott Dzierzanowski) got the holeshot over us on Saturday,” said Sigwing, “We chased him on his bumper until we got around him. We kept pushing and finished with a gap to second place that was over 7 minutes. Day 2 we battled every lap with Jesse Archer. They took the win over us by only 10 seconds. It’s a good thing we ran away with it on Saturday because Archer had it going on Sunday. I like the tight racing and wouldn’t mind 2 or 3 races like that during the year.”
Jesse Archer finished 2nd overall in Billy Bunch’s LS powered Wrangler. “Saturday we started on the 2nd row. Our plan was to be conservative and make sure we got through day one,” said Archer, “We got the hole shot, but running in 2wd it was slick, and hard to get the traction we wanted. I was running pretty easy until we got a hit from behind. Needless to say, we woke up and remembered its short course racing; time to go! On lap 2 my power steering went out; not fun on 37's. I tried to hold a 40-50 mph speed down the straights without tearing my arms off. We made it back to the hot pit, took on some power steering fluid, and back out we went. We got back up to pace and were coming back through the 1700 leaders. Same deal again though about mile 6, no power steering. Around mile 10 the 1700 leaders caught back up to us so we got out of their way and let them battle on. We made it back to the finish, unfortunately about 8 minutes down to Sigwing. On Sunday we started side by side with Sigwing. I knew he wanted his first win. At the start Sigwing gets a great hole shot, and He's gone. We were spinning in the slop. We chased him down where it starts to get rough, and get by him. For the next 2 1/2 laps his lights are in my mirror. We go back and forth. He gets to my bumper from main pit to the rough section. I pull ahead in the rough back to main. We pulled 95 mph down the pole lines into the doubles at race mile 12. It was quite a show of our 2wd vs the 4wd ending with us just 10 seconds apart. We both pushed really hard. The split on lap one was 15 Seconds. 25 seconds on lap 2, and we win day 2 by just 10 seconds. We were supposed to be points racing, but that goes out the door when the motors roar alive. That's as fun as it gets right there. Big Congratulations to Sigwing and his team on their first win.”
Jerry Simonson finished 3rd place in Jeepspeed Outlaws. He was driving a brand new Jeep that he just finished building. “The new truck was pretty good, but we had electrical issues on Saturday,” said Simonson, “We have been building it for over a year and finally had it finished enough to race it. We had a scare on Sunday when the engine started to die. We switched to the other fuel pump and it took off again. I think we need more horsepower. It’s running a 5.3 liter; we are looking for a 6 liter. We built this Jeep tough with a Dana 60 in front, a 14 bolt in the rear, a turbo 400 transmission, and an atlas transfer case. We put heavy duty parts in it and plan to race it all next season. I think we need better shocks on it. It’s pretty tight up front so I think a 3.0 internal bypass will fit. There’s no room for external bypass tubes. In the rear we have room for anything. We are excited about next year with the new truck. It was a fun race in Laughlin.”
Jeepspeed racers have many options if they decide to build their own Jeepspeed for competition. Only a few simple rules govern the three classes; one of the reasons why it’s so popular. In Laughlin there were 7 Jeep Wranglers (5 with LS v8’s), 8 Jeep Cherokees, 2 Grand Cherokees, 1 Jeep Comanche, and a Dodge 1500 pick-up. Each race has a $3000 dollar bonus; $1000.00 per class. For Laughlin, $500 per class was paid from Southwest Boulder & Stone, and Jeepspeed put up another $500 per class. Jeepspeed racers also get the normal prize money, plus contingency. 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 be giving away 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 is responsible for many of the team’s strong performances. The final race of the season will be in Pahrump, Nevada on November 29th through December 2nd. 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, 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