Las Vegas, NV – The General Tire ATX Wheels Jeepspeed series is known for tight, competitive racing. The odds of winning back to back races are long. Racers Rob Seubert and Brandon Berge didn’t play the odds, they went out and beat them along with 15 other Jeepspeed teams who gave their all to win the General Tire Mint 400 presented by Polaris. The racers would line up side by side on race day before doing two laps of the 90 plus mile course. A lack of precipitation had left the course very dry, loose and rocky. The Jeepspeeds would start in the darkness and race into the rising sun. The dust was thick and without clear vision the rocks could not be avoided. It would be a long day filled with many parts failures and tire changes.
Everyone knew what they were up against as they lined up to race. Stu Miller #1776, just one of the 17 starters, said it was scarier than his bomb disposal job in Afghanistan! Stu had a great day behind the wheel of his Jeepspeed finishing in fifth place in his first ever race after serving our country in Afghanistan. If the traffic, dust and rocks were not enough of a challenge, everyone was charging to get their hands on the Oakley Bomb award for fastest 1700 lap.
Rick Randall won the Jeepspeed Grand Lap from Parker presented by General Tire and would have loved to get the Oakley Bomb award but chose to run a conservative pace instead. Despite the caution, he had two flats on lap one and broke his track bar on lap two. The bar was welded in the pits and re-attached but it failed again taking him out of the race.
Skyler Gambrell had more than his share of challenges at the Mint. He started way in the back due to a dnf at Parker. His first lap was filled with dust, rocks and a course littered with broken cars. He came out aggressive making it to the front but flattened two tires before mile 40. Without spares on the course, he had to get back to the main pit for fresh rubber. He entered a section of the course filled with huge holes hitting one so hard both feet slipped off the pedals trapping his right foot under the gas pedal. As his Jeep bounced violently, he frantically pulled on his leg to free his right foot breaking the gas pedal. When he stopped to rig up a fix, he was passed by two competitors. He made it to main pit, filled his tire rack with fresh Generals and headed out for lap two.
The sun was now out and the dust had thinned somewhat making it easier to avoid the rocks. As he finally settled into a good pace an upper link bolt broke sending him off into the desert. He thought he was done but co-driver Matt Vogler was not ready to call it quits. They had some spare bolts and worked out a repair that they thought might make it. Back on course, the repair was working and with nothing to lose they went all out. “It was intense,” says Skyler, “We were up and down all day. When the arm broke I thought we were done. Matt kept my mental game strong all day; he deserves a lot of credit. We put our heads down on the last lap and started passing everyone. Those last 45 miles till the finish we were going as fast as we could.” Skyler and Matt went from last place to finish third.
Second place Dustin Hoffman had much better luck but was not left unscathed. He started third and managed to get out front halfway through the first lap. “We came into a sharp 90 degree turn and there was a UTV on its lid blocking the course,” Says Dustin, “The passenger was crawling out, it’s a good thing I saw him. As I backed up, I ran into Seubert who caught up to me. We both took off around the wreck but he came out ahead.” The two would spend the rest of the race in a battle for the lead. “We were close on the first lap but had to back it down when our shocks started to get too hot on lap two. It was a real good race for our team; the carnage on the course was everywhere.”
Jeepspeed Challenge racer Rob Seubert beat the odds on race day and hit the jackpot too winning the Oakley Bomb award as well. Back to back race wins are not easy; Rob new it would be tough when he lined up at the start next to veteran racer Eric Heiden in the #1717.
“It looked like we were going to have ‘one of those days’ when we lined up to start,” says Rob, “A broken down UTV and a rolled 3700 were in our lane. To top it off, the GPS died in the first turn, and 1717 beat us to the merge.” When he got to the quarry section he put a move on Heiden; passing him on the outside of a turn. There were a line of UTV’s as far as he could see but he started picking them off one by one. Just as they were about to break free, they smacked a rock in the dust and killed a tire. Co-driver Andy Bowman made a lightning fast stop but Hoffman and Gambrell managed to get by. They caught Hoffman just as he was backing up to avoid the rolled UTV and beat him to the punch and then closed on Gambrell and passed him too.
“Once we got around Gambrell we were back in the lead all the way to the main pit,” says Rob, “We took on fuel and changed the right rear tire. Vest racing (#46 trick truck) did a great job pitting us, I think they had the tire changed plus a new spare on board in the same time it took to top off the tank. Out of the main pit we held the lead. After pit A our crew advised us we had a 5 minute lead on second place. Two minutes later we knocked off the left front tire. It was back to the tire drill, but this time we got back on course with no one getting by. We cruised to the finish from there. It was definitely a great day for the 1724!”
The Jeepspeed Cup winner Brandon Berge had an amazing come from behind victory. Just off the line he rolled in the first corner. He and Joe Reyes were left dangling from their seat belts until Best in the Desert officials rolled them back over; by then, the entire field had gone past. “BITD got us back on our wheels and the motor fired right up,” said Brandon, “We were in full catch up mode; started passing UTVs and 1700 jeeps left and right. The dust mixed with sun was crazy.” While passing another Jeepspeed they went into some rocks and banged up the front axle. They had some cracks and the housing was bent. They made repairs at pit A and decided to run a conservative pace to salvage a finish. They stopped at each pit along the way for further repairs but they refused to give up.
They passed 3772 that had torn a wheel right off and rolled over. When they pulled into the main pit on lap two they saw race leader Rob White pulling out; it was on! They made a quick stop with help from Mike and Tom from T&J Performance then set out to chase the leader down. We caught and passed the 3798 jeep just after the spectator 2 section and started pulling away. “We stopped again at pit A for some more welding a tire change, gas up and some more gear oil,” says Brandon, “We had one last stop at pit B for gear oil and then it was smooth sailing all the way to the win at the 2014 Mint 400. From last to first; it was a great feeling, the entire crew did such a great job to keep us going!” Rob White went on to finish second place driving the ex- Roger Mears Jeep Honcho.
Thanks to General Tire. ATX Wheels Currie Enterprises, King Shocks, Howe Performance, T&J Performance, Baja Designs, Rubicon Express Suspensions, Smittybilt Off Road products, G2 Axle & Gear, Oakley and PAC Racing Springs , Jeepspeed racers had an intensely fierce battle at the Mint 400. No other spec class allows you to design and build your own vehicle for desert competition. If you would like to find out how to compete in the Jeepspeed 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. The series next heads to Northern Nevada at the BITD Canidae Tap It Silverstate 300 May 2-4.
Jeepspeed Challenge Results
1. 1724 Rob Seubert
2. 1731 Dustin Hoffman
3. 1707 Skyler Gambrell
4. 1717 Eric Heiden
5. 1776 Stuart Miller
6. 1738 Travis Ronne
7. 1784 Josh Mackaman
Jeepspeed Cup Results
1. 3777 Brandon Berge
2. 3798 Rob White
Photography By: Bink Designs