Las Vegas, NV
Jeepspeed racers came together for another test of wills at the longest off road race in the United States; Best In The Desert’s Vegas to Reno. The course is a brutal 514 miles long and covers all types of punishing terrain as well as drastic elevation changes that further test their mettle. The punishing heat, and deep silt in the valleys are countered by the thin air, and tight rocky trails found high up in the mountains. The course got the best of some, while others were able to make repairs, and soldier on to the end. Anyone who merely gets to the finish line at Vegas to Reno has something to be proud of. A podium finish is icing on the cake. Thankfully nobody had to deal with icing when a fierce monsoon battered a section of the course. The warm temperatures kept the precipitation to water droplets only. Sometimes those heavy downpours turn to hail in the higher altitudes. There were a few cases of the dreaded vapor lock. That’s when the fuel in the lines gets so hot that it boils. The trapped air bubbles cause the engine to quit, and can sometimes prevent it from re-starting. Other issues most of the competitors had to deal with were getting stuck in the silt beds, and rocks killing wheels and tires. The tires take an incredible amount of abuse from all the rocks which are so ruthless that they destroy the aluminum wheel as well. Some tires take the punishment, but lose inflation because the wheel they are mounted on gets bent so severely. The desert is an unforgiving place.
Just ask the top 2 competitors in the 1700 Jeepspeed Challenge Class. Larry Trim, and Bryan Reagan battled for 18 hours until they both crossed the finish line. To demonstrate the comradery, and sportsmanship in the Jeepspeed series, both teams stopped to pull the other out of the silt at one point during the race. For 2nd place Bryan Reagan, it meant he would almost certainly give up the win, and he did. Helping each other the way they do in the Jeepspeed series is almost unheard of in other classes. Larry Trim was brand new to Jeepspeed when he took the green flag for Vegas to Reno. He found 2 Jeeps stuck before pit one, and drove right past them; unaware of the unwritten traditions in the series. After his co-driver John Koeth got in the truck, he found Bryan Reagan stuck on the course, and pulled him out. (Shannon Switzer rides with John, Keith Blatt rides with Larry). When the tables were turned, and Larry was stuck in the silt, Bryan had little choice other than to return the good deed.
“I had no idea these guys did that,” said Larry Trim. “In the trophy truck class, they don’t stop for anyone. I started the race, and right off the start the truck was overheating. We stopped to remove the hood but the water temperature was still over 250. Eventually we routed the overflow hose up in the air so we could see if it was puking water out, and ignored the gauge. I turned the truck over to John, and he apparently had some problems because when they got to the pits they had replaced a belt, and changed a tire. Going up into a mountain pass we got vapor lock and the truck stalled. Eventually we were able to get the air out and restart the truck. We had more overheating issues but stopped and put all the water we had in the radiator, and got going again. Coming into pit 11 I think it was, we came into a silty corner that was very powdery in the ruts, but the center was hard. The front end dug in, and we were stuck. We could see, and talk to our pit crew, but there were no BITD recovery guys around so we started digging. We almost had it dug out when Bryan came along. We had a good lead over him before we got stuck so he knew we were faster. Even though he knew we would probably catch and pass him before the finish, he still stopped to help. If it’s any consolation to his team, a Best in the Desert recovery driver showed up right after that so we probably would have been out in only a few more minutes anyways. He didn’t know that at the time though. We stopped in the pit, looked it over and then took off after them. We caught up to him, and after a while we were able to make the pass for the win. I had bought the Jeep for the historical value of it; I didn’t have any plans to race it right away, but my Trophy Truck wasn’t ready so we entered the Jeep in Jeepspeed. We all had a lot of fun, and are looking to do some more races in the truck. We are going to change the look with Trailready graphics. There is a reason why it has won so many races; it’s fast!”
2nd place finisher Bryan Reagan is like many Jeepspeed racers; his team is made up of family, and friends, and he prepares his truck in his garage. “We started full time prep on the truck on Memorial Day weekend,” said Bryan. “We took a weekend off for my son’s high school graduation, but other than that we were basically every day after work, and on the weekends. We made sure it was prepped, and that our spare parts, and everything else was ready; it paid off for us. We have a lot of friends, and family down in Vegas. They all showed up, and were on their A game; helping us out to keep the truck going. We ran into a few mechanical issues, but they just kept us going. Man, it’s insane; an insane amount of help, and dedication from all of our friends, and crew. It's cool seeing everybody come together. For some it was their first time coming out to a race; they definitely had a good time. It’s so good to finish on the podium. My sister sent me a picture of one of our pit stops, and I mean we got the hood up; two to three guys in the engine bay doing something; two guys putting fuel in; two or three guys back by the rear tires looking at something. Everybody was involved, and it was just awesome to see, and be a part of. I keep telling all these younger guys; my son, and other kids that this is a team sport. You can't do it without the team, and sure is for us. After pit four, or somewhere between four, and five we experienced some charging system issues. We didn't have everything to fix it at five, so they radioed ahead to six; that’s where our main pit stuff was in that trailer. Me, and my son ran with no lights from five to six, and our guys just wouldn't stop. They checked the voltage regulator, the wiring, and then ended up changing the alternator which fixed it. My hat's off to the crew for not giving up, and keeping us going. We plan on coming back and trying to win it next year. We did it two years ago and got third place; this year we got second; so we're so close we can taste first place. We definitely want to keep coming back to Vegas to Reno in the Jeepspeed.” An interesting side note is that Bryan’s Uncle got him into racing back in the 1990’s. His Uncle is Eric Heiden who is one of the many drivers who raced in the Curt LeDuc built Jeep that Larry Trim now owns.
The 1706 Jeepspeed of Jeff Garzik could not finish. Jeff was not able to make it out from Georgia so he left the race in the capable hands of teammate Ken Tichy. “We started the race with great expectations, said Ken Tichey. “The 1706 car was completely prepped with shock upgrade, and tune, a fuel rail upgrade, new tires, and even a new full size shovel mounted to the roof. Car owner Jeffrey Garzik was not able to make the run from Georgia so he entrusted us to run his car in the quest for the 1700 championship. We had a great crew assembled, and solid race plan on paper. We were looking for a podium finish, but the desert had another plan. Adam, and I left the staging area second off the line. It was very hot, but our hopes were high. Not long after the start the water temp was approaching 250 so we drove through the silt using the temp gauge rather than the cars ability. All was good until we had pit one in sight. We made the right turn only to find a silt bed with 40” tire grooves, and we were buried. To Adam’s credit, he got us unstuck while the 4 wheel drive car in front of us was still struggling to get free. We proceeded to the pit where I got us stuck again. Fortunately BITD recovery came to the rescue and pulled us out. Adam and I thought maybe we had a hole in the muffler; no big deal. Then came a flat rear tire, and a broken rear rim. No big deal, just a tire change right? The desert had another plan; the jack didn’t work!!! Thanks to the 1717 guys who stopped and lent us their jack. Another stop found the header pipe flange bolts were gone. After a bailing wire fix, we were rolling again. At the top of the mountain we started having vapor lock issues, and it stalled on a blind downhill corner. Adam popped the hood and bled the fuel rail. Now we had 50 lbs. fuel pressure. We were ready to roll, but the starter would not work. After some awesome radio instruction from Tom Barnett, we got refired and off to pit three. After almost 5 hours in the truck, we decided to make a driver, and codog change. Repairs were made and Tom Barnett was now driving, and Ian Massey was in the right seat. At mile 125, Tom radioed in that they rolled onto the side, and needed recovery. Everyone was ok, but the truck was done and so was our day. Thank you to Jeff Garzik for giving us the opportunity to run his car, and to all our pit support, John, Mike, Mark, Charlie, Jim, and Danny! In the Jeepspeed Outlaws 3700 Modified Class Rob White ran unopposed except for the greatest opponent out there; the desert. “It was good to finish,” says Rob. “This was our third attempt at Vegas to Reno, and our first finish. We felt like the truck was ready. We were ready. We started off obviously in a lot of dust. We had just passed pit 1, and the tranny just went out; no forward gears, but we had reverse. We were trying to figure it out on the phone with our pits. We tried different things, but it just wasn't working. Fortunately, the Best in the Desert guys came pretty quickly and got us towed back to pit 1. We could see it from where we were, but it was a ways back. We figured it out to just unhook the electronics which gave us second gear for the rest of the race. It was low enough, and high enough so that we could go from 0 to 50. Towards the end of the race it was running hot but never caused a real problem. At pit 4 we did a driver change. My friend Alan Kaiser got in and drove to pit 7. At about mile 255, the front wheel came off, and it damaged the hub. They were able to limp it back into pit 7 and we luckily had a spare hub to use. Somewhere out there we also lost the rear sway bar. The truck was leaning a lot the rest of the race. At pit 7 Mike Shetler got in, and drove to pit 10 where I got back in. We noticed the engine belt was starting to fray so we had to repair that, then we had a flat just about 3 miles from the finish. It's pretty nasty, and rocky at that last final bit before the finish. With no sway bar, I was coming around a left hand turn and couldn’t see with all the body roll. Bam, I went right into a big boulder. It didn’t give at all, the tire did. It feels great to finish, and it was due to a great team. We had some great mechanics with us. It made the difference figuring out those issues we had. My mechanic Cole Chrisman, Alan Kaiser and Mike Shetler’s team all made it happen."
At the tip of the spear was the Jeepspeed Trophy 4700 Open Class. Battling for the win was two of the winningest teams in Jeepspeed; Rob Suebert, and Jesse Archer driving for the Billy Bunch team. They both finished all 514 miles in just over 11 hours. Both teams had problems, but the Bunch team had less to take the win by 16 minutes. “This was the dustiest, and siltiest Vegas to Reno for us since 2016,” said Jesse Archer. “We ran pretty hard passing a few 5 cars, and 10 cars on the course to Pit 3. We then settled in, and were running with great track position coming in towards Pit 5. I decided to hit the only huge rock on a lakebed doing 95 miles per hour plus. We lost 5-6 positions but stayed in front of Rob. We were running great again, and our amazing team pulls off flawless, fast pit stops all day long. As we're about 90 miles out from the finish, boom; another rear tire. We were on the section of course around 425 that is all soft, one groove, telephone pole road that you cannot stop in. I kept it held wide open and we were able to keep enough speed to keep on top of the silt. We came around a corner and into a cluster of 2 stuck 6100's side by side in the groove, and a 1 car off on the bank. With one wheel drive, we tried climbing the bank next to the 1 car and ended up against 6100's. BITD Recovery did an outstanding job getting us all unstuck. With the wheel changed, and back on course there was still no Rob. We were outta there and on to the Finish. This was our 5th year and 5th finish so the win felt really special. Thank you, to Billy Bunch for the Dream, to Our Bunch Team, my kids who fuel the truck, Jeepspeed, and General Tire for the win.”
“After our roll at the Silver state, I decided to put in for a rear start for V2R,” says Rob Suebert. I've never done it before, but I wanted to make sure I didn't push too hard. After three other entrants dropped out - there was only Jesse and I left, so it turned out to be a moot point anyhow. Our first split update from our chase crew had us 20 minutes down on Jesse. At Pit 2 we took on fuel. We fueled again at six and ten. No real drama just clicking off miles; 113 mph for a stretch, then a fair amount of 100+ in several spots. Night finally settled in and with it came a flat rear tire. As I was getting the tire, Dustin was jacking the rear end up. He got one pump on the jack, and pump number two snapped it in half. A broken jack is not good. It had the rear diff supported with that one pump though, so we busted the shovel out, and dug a hole under the offending tire. That's the hard way to change a tire by the way, but we got it done. We were hoping to catch our crew at 12 or 13 and get another Jack, but they didn't make it. We gingerly rolled to the finish with no jack, but no other issues. Fairly clean run all in all, Truck was sputtering for the last couple hundred miles with a very plugged air filter, but was still moving down the course good enough to not bother with it. We finished just under 16 minutes behind Jesse at around 11:20. Way earlier than we've ever seen Dayton in the past. Congrats to Jesse on the win. Up until our jack broke, we were trying to fight through the dust and chase him down, just couldn't get it done. Congrats to the finishers for the 1700 class guys (And 3700 Rob White) - that first part of the course must have been extremely difficult in the 1700 trucks.”
Vegas to Reno really left a mark on all the teams, but thanks to General Tire, KMC Wheels, Currie Enterprises, Action Sports Canopies, Jasper Racing Engines, Rugged Radios, Tuff Stuff 4X4, GG Lighting, King Shocks, and T&J Performance, Jeepspeed racers enjoy strong support, and bonuses. 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. You can even show up and learn what it takes by helping out in the pits. Photography By: Bink Designs