The first race of the General Tire Jeepspeed Series, presented by KMC Wheels, takes place at one of the toughest courses in the series. Parker, Arizona, is one of the most popular destinations for racers, and their fans. The scenery in Parker is spectacular, the terrain is challenging, and since everyone is starting with a clean slate, the competition is always fierce. All the meticulous work done while planning for the race, and the long hours spent in the garage, paid off with ear to ear grins on everyone’s faces. The field was loaded with many familiar faces, but new teams, and new trucks were also in the mix. Everyone was eager to put points on the board, and compete for the $1000 bonus that went to the winners of each class courtesy of Southwest Boulder & Stone.
Getting a fair amount of interest during contingency was the 4700 open, Jeepspeed Trophy of Billy Bunch. The truck has a tube chassis, big motor, and long travel suspension; all wrapped in a Dodge truck body. It had everyone doing double takes and asking questions. Those familiar with offroad racing history will remember the Pro truck class. Bunch’s truck was a former Pro truck, but with better suspension, and a bigger motor. There are many of these trucks collecting dust that can be had for a fraction of what it would take to build. Several teams are rumored to be out there searching right now; following Bunch’s lead. Leave it to the Jeepspeed series to create a class that is cost effective to compete in, even at the unlimited level.
“My crew chief Jesse (Archer) took the truck completely apart,” said Bunch, “We installed better brakes, and power steering. It already had Fox shocks and a detuned race motor to run on pump gas. On lap one, we rubbed up against an oil line, and had to stop to replace it. Everyone passed us while we were in the pits. On the next lap, we passed everyone back except one other truck to take the 4700 win and second place overall. Jesse did an amazing job on the truck, and behind the wheel. I’m so glad he is racing with me, and not against me.”
On the opposite end of the scale from Billy Bunch’s truck are the 1700 Jeepspeed Challenge trucks. The class is limited in the modifications you can make to your truck, which keeps the costs down. What is unlimited though, is the amount of fun they have, and fierce competition between the teams. It takes a lot of driving skill, and ingenuity in the pits to go fast in these trucks in such demanding conditions. That’s why the teams compete on the course, but also pitch in to help each other when the need arises. They develop a mutual respect for each other that is truly unique. Nine Jeepspeed Challenge trucks were all vying for the cash bonus, championship points, and bragging rights in Parker.
Finishing first was defending champion Rob Seubert. “The roughest course of the season, Parker is always a battle,” says Seubert, “We drew second starting position, which put us on the front row for the side by start; in the outside lane. We gave it all we could, but Jimmy Perry beat us to the merge. It’s a long race, so no problem; we just tucked in and followed him. We hadn’t had the opportunity for a good wheel to wheel battle with Jimmy yet. He held a good pace, but we hung on his tail and gave the pass button a push. He slid over and we slipped by before the big downhill just off the start.” Rob then put a gap on the rest of the field until they were only 35 miles from the finish. “Like a flip of the switch, we lost engine power,” Seubert continued, “A quick scan of the gauges showed the fuel pressure gauge looking like a windshield wiper. We either had a failure of our new fuel cell, and were out of gas, or the pump was dying. Luckily it was the pump. Dustin and I swapped the lines to the back-up pump and we were going again in about 10 minutes. That put a scare in us so we backed off just a bit and cruised to the finish from there. Although we didn’t see any other 1700 cars, we did hear updates from our crew, and the occasional radio chatter from Jimmy who is on the same channel.”
Unlike Rob Seubert who had a mostly trouble-free run, second place finisher Jimmy Perry had to overcome several mechanical issues on his way to the podium. He felt confident enough in his program this season to draw for a starting position instead of requesting to start in the rear. Not that it caused any pressure, but he drew the pole position next to the defending champ. His confidence was well founded as he got the holeshot. “Heading up the first straight, we felt something went wrong in the right front, and consequently had to back off a bit,” said Perry. “Seubert hit the pass button on the racing trax, so we let him go without a fight. We headed into Pit 2 so the team could take a look at the right front. There were no obvious issues so we motored on. For a long time we were exactly two miles behind Seubert. My XJ was still very fast on the smooth sections. Somewhere around race mile 110 I lost the brakes. It is the roughest area of the course, and a 4500lb. sled is very difficult to control with no brakes. The right front shock felt like it gave up, and with no brakes, we pogoed through 15 to 20 miles at a grannies pace. We had to get to the main pit without crashing into anything or rolling it.” They spent 35 minutes in the pits getting the brakes repaired, and replacing an o-ring in the front shock’s reservoir. As they were getting belted in, Chris Nissley went streaking by. “I didn’t know what to expect for a few miles on that shock, and I wasn't full of faith running one rear caliper either,” Perry says, “By race mile 7 on lap 2, we had the 1719 behind us, and were back in Second. The XJ was back. We tore through lap 2 like we were in a different car. When we checked in at the finish line, we got the info from BITD that we finished second, only 21 minutes behind Seubert.”
Nissley was running 3rd, but it was Scott Biehl who would eventually take the final podium spot. He battled an electrical gremlin that had the truck going into limp mode. He would pass a couple trucks, and then when he went into limp mode they would pass him back. “We passed the same trucks 4 or 5 times,” said Biehl. “They must have been annoyed with us. We eventually figured out that if we kept the rpm’s low, we could go for a while without going into limp mode. On lap one, we ran out of gas coming into the main pit area. It was in a spot that was probably the farthest away from our pits, but the crew got to us and filled us up; otherwise we had a clean day. We race to have fun. I’ve raced faster cars before, but when the costs go up, it gets serious, and the fun goes out of it. We figure we are either going to be drinking beers to celebrate or commiserate, but either way, we’ll be drinking beers afterwards. It’s usually a boy’s weekend, but we had the whole family out here in Parker. We were sponsored by Hanger 24, so the whole team went there for dinner after the race.
My 9 year old loves coming to the races, and we let him drive the truck on and off the trailer. I am hoping that we can get him and his friends racing the truck someday, so we plan to keep it a long time.” Chris Nissley finished 4th, and Michael Bosley was 5th.
In the 2700 Jeepspeed cup, Skyler Gambrell ran unopposed, and it was a good thing. “It had been a mad thrash since the Pahrump race trying to finish up the JK Wrangler project and unfortunately I ran short on time,” said Gambrell. With no time to test, I borrowed the "Lost" Jeepspeed from Clive that is for sale, and tried to earn some points. I knew the 1700 cars were going to be in a dog fight off the start, so I decided to pull over right off the start, and let the whole field go by. After the last of the sportsman cars went by, we headed out to enjoy an easy lap around the familiar Parker race course. We stopped to check on every car that was pulled over with issues, and came across a class 10 buggy on its side. We took our time and helped the team get back on all fours. At about race mile 24, the steering shaft came disconnected from the steering box, and we ghosted off the race course; luckily we were going slowly. My co-driver Matt Vogler rigged up a solid fix that MacGyver himself would be jealous of, and we were off again. We finally made our way to the crew of the 3707 car at pit 2 for a little splash of fuel, thanks again Thomasson team! From Graham Wells on, we had a dust free, and somewhat lonely cruise towards Riverside drive, and the finish line. We tucked in behind the lead Jeepspeed of 4747 Bunch racing, and got the checkers for the grand prix finish.”
In the 3700 Jeepspeed Outlaws class, it was a game of attrition. Six trucks took the green flag, but Brian Davidson, Jerry Simonson, Will Heaton, and Dan Simonson all succumbed to the tough conditions. That left Scott Dzierzanowski, and Robert Thomasson to duke it out. Dzierzanowski is part of the Pacific North West contingent that made up 75% of the Class 3700 entries; all with V8 powered Wranglers. Thomasson is from the high desert in Southern California. In the end, Dzierzanowski carried the torch for his fellow Washington State racers; taking the win.
“My Dad started the race and had a nice lead until the 3rd corner where he got it up on 2 wheels; dropping him to second,” says Dzierzanowski. “He followed the other Jeepspeeds who were all tangled up in a huge battle. He ended up ahead of everyone, and kept a nice lead at the end of the first lap. I took over the wheel on lap 2, and after a few miles the front pinion nut came loose. We just dropped the front drive shaft and ran the rest of the race in 2 wheel drive. We had a great race with no flat tires, or other problems. My co-driver Dan Rheaune does a fantastic job keeping me under control and on course. It’s amazing how important he is. We have a strong team. That makes it go so much easier.”
“We took a rear start, got the hole shot, and were running real strong,” says second place Robert Thomasson, “By mile 20 we were first 3700 car on the road. All of a sudden we were having engine problems. A wire that went to the crank trigger fell onto the exhaust header. It was on and off again until we made it back to the main pit. Nick Beall from Jeeptricks diagnosed the problem and got it fixed. On the second lap, it ran really strong, and we made up a lot of lost time. We ended up only 20 minutes behind first place. This was the first race driving my own Jeep. I’ve raced with my Dad Steve before. He was part of the first class of Jeepspeed racers, and built several of the first Jeeps back in 2009. I like the Jeepspeed series because the competition is so tight. It’s a driver’s series. The prize money allows you to get something back at the end of the day. We also have great support from our sponsors General Tire, KMC Wheels, King Shocks, Don-A-Vee Motorsports, Jeepspeed, and Jeeptricks.”
In addition to the Southwest Boulder & Stone bonus money, Jeepspeed racers also 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 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 helps to make the series very affordable, and contributes to the excellent quality and performance of the vehicles. We have seen the average speeds steadily increase in the series. 1700 class winner Rob Seubert ran a 43 mph fast lap. Rob Thomasson’s fast lap was 51 mph, and Jesse Archer ran a 56 mph fast lap in the V8 Dodge.
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. It’s even possible 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 legendary Mint 400 March 6-10 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Whether you show up as a competitor, or as a fan, you won’t want to miss it.
Photography By: Bink Designs