Jeepspeed Racers Bring It At Laughlin Desert Classic
October 10-13, 2019 was an incredible race by one of the longest-running spec classes in desert races. Here’s a report from our friends at Jeepspeed.
Offroad races are scored on elapsed time. The cars start at different intervals, so it’s the driver with the fastest time that wins. In a typical desert race, you only get one chance to run your best time. At the Best In The Desert Laughlin Desert Classic, Jeepspeed racers ran 3 short laps on Saturday (4700 ran 4 on both days), then 3 more on Sunday.
The overnight break in the action gives teams a chance to make adjustments, repairs, and take advantage of the knowledge gained on day one. At the LDC, elapsed time determines your final placement. Finishing first on day one is great, but it’s your total time for both days that is more important. It’s typical in a long race for drivers to save the car, so they run only as hard as they need to.
Because the lowest combined time from both days determines the winner, it forces everyone to run as fast as possible, no matter what position they occupy.
In the 1700 Jeepspeed Challenge race, it was no surprise that Rob Seubert, and co-driver Dustin Hoffman finished first on Saturday. They had won every race this season going into the LDC. “We got off to a great start Saturday, pulling the hole shot, and leading all three laps for the first-day win,” said Seubert. “We put some time on the field through lap one, but had a little scare on lap two that slowed us down just a bit; 1770 made up some time on us.
This was probably a good thing, as it showed us we weren’t just going to run away with it. We needed to keep a fast pace going as everyone was charging. Our issue was the dash/gauges switch unknowingly got bumped to the off position. The sun and dust were so bad I couldn’t see the dash, but Dustin said we had no oil pressure. Everything seemed fine, but of course I backed down to check things out. We went a couple of miles sweating bullets, and listening for any signs of motor issues until the course swung around so that the sun was out of our faces. I saw the tachometer was sitting stationary, realizing it was just a switch that turned off all the gauges. Back on the gas, we regained some of our lead on the third lap.”
“Luckily the jeep was solid after Saturday’s run, and all we did was add a half cup of power steering fluid to top it off. Lap one went by with no issues, but the split time coming by the hot pit was concerning. 1714 Biehl was right on our tail.
We nearly made the second lap keeping him behind us, but he got around us on the power line road near the end of the lap. My hats off to him for working through the dust and making a beautiful pass. We were hindered by the dust in front of us and somehow he drove through that combined with our dust and got around us. We pushed hard to stay close knowing we had a few minutes cushion from Saturdays times and could still win the overall if we just hung on to his dust cloud.
That strategy was looking good until mid-lap when Heaton caught us in his 3700 truck. He had some sort of issue to end up behind us, a flat I think, so we had to let him go around. Having to back off from his dust, 1714 was getting away. We had a bit of a panic period there, but coming into the infield toward the finish we could see 1714 was less than a minute in front of us and we would take the win for the weekend.” Seubert wrapped up another championship in Laughlin.
On day 2 they got a little surprise from Scott Biehl. Biehl finished back in 4th place on Saturday but put the hammer down on Sunday to take the win. “On day one, we had a TPS sensor that went bad. Every time we let off the throttle, the engine would shut off,” said Biehl. “We fixed it Saturday night, and Travis Fletcher would be driving on Sunday; he’s faster than I am.
We had to play catch-up all weekend. Besides the sensor issue, the Jeep ran great all weekend. I like the longer races better, but short races are fun. We broke a motor mount on Saturday and everyone broke out welders and pitched in to help us fix it that night. I can’t wait until next year.” Travis’ fast time on Sunday shot the team up to second place overall behind Seubert. Joel Miner was third.
“I’m always excited to run Laughlin, I love the short lap format,” said 2700 Jeepspeed Cup winner Skyler Gambrell. “It makes for intense, and fun racing! “Gomer” got some serious axle upgrades since Silver State, and was excited to have some strong parts from Dynatrac under the Jeep.
I had Dynatrac engineer Erik Steinholt along as my co-driver for this race. No better way to prove the concept of new parts than to be along for the ride! Staged up Saturday morning and we took the green flag beside Tyler Stone in the “Lost” XJ and a class 1100 buggy. I pulled a bit of a holeshot against the XJ, and set off into the abyss! At about RM3 the Jeep just shut down; complete dead stick. I was shocked and took a few seconds to kick the car into neutral, cycle the ignition, and re-fire the truck. Stone passed me and ran a hard pace.
The two of us ran hard across Needles Hwy, and into the Proving Grounds. We caught the backpack of 3700 cars and fought through the dust. Finally at about RM 10, I passed Stone again, got some clean air, and tried to make time on the field. Laps two and three were moderately uneventful except for the car shutting off 10+ times. It felt like I lost a couple of minutes monkeying with the ignition cycling, but we finished the day strong; ahead of the lead 1700s by a couple of minutes.”
“Sunday was exciting,” Gambrell continued. We staged according to finish times from the day prior so I staged with Sigwing and Heaton. Knowing I would be out horse-powered, I took advantage of the clean air in front of me and tried to run hard. The dust seemed worse on Sunday at the top end of the course. I feel like I lost time picking through it. I made some passes and got past some broken cars on the course. I came into the finish, but in the last big turn, I clobbered a rock and flattened a tire.
Then the car died, and wouldn’t re-fire for at least 15 seconds. I thought I was going to DNF 1000 feet from the actual finish line! It finally refired, and we crossed on a flat, 1st Jeepspeed physically but 3rd on time for the day. We managed to win 2700 by a good margin, and I believe it’s the first time a 2700 car has beaten a 1700 car on time for the race overall. It felt good to run Gomer hard, but know there are more gremlins to chase, and some suspension upgrades to handle.
Thanks to Dynatrac for the support, and to Steinholt for riding shotgun, it was a fun weekend.” Gambrell took the championship, Tyler Stone finished 2nd to Gambrell both days to finish 2nd overall in Laughlin.
In Jeepspeed Outlaws Class 3700, Will Heaton came out on top. Heaton is still learning the ropes in offroad racing so the victory (his first), was an affirmation that all the hard work is paying off. “We just tried to keep it together on day one,” said Heaton. “It was so dusty I could not see my hood. We’ve learned that bad things happen when you go off the course and can’t see. We finished 3rd and decided for day two that we would just have to go for it.
We learned the course enough to see a few spots were you could pass. The bugs are worked out of the truck, and I am feeling much more comfortable. Our strategy is simple; don’t do stupid stuff. On day two we were leading the way when we got a flat. We changed it and got back to picking guys off.” Heaton is a busy businessman and father. His kids come first so he races the events that fall when they are in school. As soon as they are old enough, they’ll be out there too, according to Will.
Jerry Simonson finished 2nd, Kevin Parker was 3rd. Proving how fickle Laughlin can be, Robert Thomasson took a convincing win on Saturday but sheared the drive pin in his distributor on Sunday causing a DNF (did not finish). He was able to wrap up the 3700 championships. “We lost the battle, but won the war,” says Thomasson.
“It was discouraging to have a 40-second lead going into Sunday and then watch the field drive away. We tried everything to troubleshoot the problem, but we eventually melted the starter. Our entire team is so excited about winning the Championship in our rookie season.” That’s one of the best things Jeepspeed has to offer. Regardless of where you are in racing, Jeepspeed has a class for you that will be fun and rewarding.
Veteran Billy Bunch, and his protégé’ Jesse Archer helped to pioneer the 4700 Jeepspeed Trophy Class this season. They ran unopposed for the most part this season while other teams built their trucks (except for the greatest competitor, the desert). At Laughlin, those other teams showed up to put them to the test.
They were joined by three teams that are all incredibly tough, and experienced racers; Garret Allred, Rob Seubert in his new Dodge, and Jeepspeed veteran Eric Helgeson. Jessie Archer drove the familiar black Dodge both days and welcomed the stiff competition. Seubert had a DNF on Saturday which dropped him to 4th place overall. Helgeson finished 3rd overall, and Allred was 2nd on both days to take 2nd overall.
Archer took another win and wrapped up the 4700 Championship for the team. “To take the win, and the championship against Seubert, Allred, and Helgeson was beyond words,” said Archer. “I am so lucky to have the mentor of all mentors; Billy Bunch. I never knew I could drive this fast until I rode with Billy; I’m still growing every race. We spend time away from friends and family to race, so we like to make it worth it. I knew those guys would be fast, so we ran as hard as we could to get the overall win. Next year is going to be a blast. They will get their trucks dialed in and have no shortage of talent.”
2020 will be Jeepspeed’s 20th season. We are the longest-running spec class in U.S. desert racing. Racing in the Jeepspeed series is challenging and rewarding. Designed to be an affordable racing series, Jeepspeed racers benefit from strong sponsor support. In addition to the Jeepspeed bonus money at every race, Jeepspeed racers also get the normal prize money offered by Best in the Desert, plus contingency awards.
Tuff Stuff 4X4 gives offroad accessory products to the winners of each class at each race. 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.
Another reason Jeepspeed is so popular is the very simple rules that allow you to build your own vehicle if you choose. Jeepspeed 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.
Jeepspeed racers 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 Jeepspeed series is a competitive, cost-effective series that has pitted Jeep vehicles against each other on challenging desert courses since 2001. Unlike the more expensive spec racing classes, there is no obligation to purchase your race vehicle or parts from the series organizer. You build your own vehicle the way you like as long as it fits within the rules. Jeepspeed offers the most fun and closest racing in the desert today. Jeepspeed series is supported by General Tire, KMC Wheels, Currie Enterprises, Action Sports Canopies, Jasper Racing Engines, Rugged Radios, Tuff Stuff 4X4, Rock Krawler Suspension, King Shocks, and T&J Performance
Visit // www.jeepspeed.com
About General Tire
For over 100 years General Tire has offered a complete quality line of ultra-high performance, passenger, light truck, off-road and commercial tires to meet all your needs. General Tire is a proud supporter of ARCA; Best in the Desert Racing Series; Major League Fishing; Fishing League Worldwide; King of the Cage; Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, Late Model Dirt Series, Pro Pulling League, Modified Series, Drag Boat Racing Series and ASCS Sprint Car Dirt Series; Expedition Overland; FreestyleMx.com Tour; Zero One Odyssey; and Spec Tire of JeepSpeed. Team GT supports athletes: CJ Hutchins, Jim Beaver, Jeff Proctor, Chase Motorsports, Camburg Racing, Stan Shelton, Ryan Beat, Skeet Reese, Edwin Evers, Mark Rose, Ott DeFoe, Andy Montgomery, James Watson, Alton Jones Jr., John Crews, Britt Myers and Bill McDonald.
Visit // www.generaltire.com
About KMC Wheels
KMC is redefining performance on and off the asphalt with innovation, style, and a relentless pursuit to confront possibility. We are for the rule-breaking, game-changing individuals who defy conventional thinking in motorsports and use machines to pull off the impossible.
Visit // www.kmcwheels.com