4WP NITTO TIRE NATIONALS- Oct 22, 2020
We arrived the Thursday before the race and set up camp, and went out for a pre-run. Since my co driver, Larry Smith, would not arrive until that night, Jaimie Johnson agreed to go out with me. I was surprised how different the desert loop (loop A) was from years past- a lot of new trails cut through very thick brush. Much more technical, but still fun. Continuing to the rock/mud/hill loop (loop B) we made good progress until we got to the last mud pit, where we got high centered and couldn’t get through after many attempts. We were finally able to get through after backing up and trying another line. This severely bent our rear cross member, and pushed our output yolk up into the body, creating a lot of noise as we made our way back to camp. About ½ mile from camp, smoke poured out of the engine, we stopped and found a power steering hose had gotten a leak and was spraying the engine. As we began discussing how to get back, our friend Jeremy Jones (Doc Jones) came around the corner, and agreed to give us a tow back to camp.
We got back safe and get a replacement hose from SDHQ which we used to repair the steering. We then worked on getting the crossmember straightened out. This took until the evening, but eventually we used our motor home jack to act as a press and straighten out the crossmember and the skid plate supports.
Friday morning we finished up the car, and then tried to pre-run with my co-driver, but we were too late by 10 minutes.
After the driver’s meeting, we walked the qualifying course with John Dicus and my co-driver, which was very helpful. Time came for us to qualify, and we were first off the line for our class. We were very aggressive and the car did great. It was by far the most enjoyable qualifying I have done. We could have shaved some time off if we could of pre-run, but it was a very respectable run and good enough to start in 2nd position. We missed the pole by 7 seconds, and to do that the pole winner nearly crashed several times.
Saturday morning came and it was time to start the race. We were leaving second in our class, and we were ready to race. We started the race and went at a fast pace, but did not over drive the car. We had a very clean run going, and caught up to the lead car in our class (Josh Atteberry Kracker Fab) about ½ way through loop A. I decided to just stay behind, they were at a very comfortable pace for us. We then caught up the last car in the 4500 class, Dawson Allington. After a few miles, Jon Shaeffer caught up to us, and we let him pass. Jon had come up from starting 5th, and was really over driving his car. We finished up loop A, and both Jon Shaeffer and Josh Atteberry had to pit, but we had no issues and continued on the course.
We quickly caught up to Dawson and he pulled over and let us pass (he did not pull over for Atteberry or Shaeffer earlier). We were going great, enjoying the course and the car, when it suddenly stopped and we could smell gear oil. We were on a very tight part of the course, and we had a car behind us push us off enough to allow cars to pass. We got out and discovered our rear axle housing had broken in half, and broke our lower link joint, which ended our race.
Our team made it out to us, and brought some supplies. It was very difficult to try to repair the car while on the course. We eventually got it to a point that we could back out of the course. Once we got off the course, the welds broke on the housing and we had to repair it again to get it back to camp. We finally got back to camp about 7:30, which was just in time for the ceremony for the National Championship, where we were presented the 3rd place trophy.
We have our new rear axle ordered- it will be a Ruff Stuff 9” housing, a Strange Engineering third member with a spool, and the ends will be classic chevy spindles and hubs.
We have also been completely rebuilding our cross members and skid plate supports, hopefully they will be strong enough not to bend under the weight of the car.
After the race I carefully inspected our tires and did not find a single cut or gouge, while Jon Shaeffer had 3 flat tires.