A few weeks before I headed out to KOH, I called Jon and asked him to borrow 4688 so that I had something to drive around and use for display at the Warn booth. Jon's reply, “Sure, I just don’t know if it’ll start. I haven't touched it since Oklahoma." Well, she fired right up, and onto the trailer, she went.
After a few days on the lake bed and everyone kept asking why the ol' 4688 was there and if it was racing. I asked myself, why is it not racing? I knew she had one more race in her, something we'd been saying for the last seven races. I tried to convince Jon to fly in and race her one last time, but his answer was still no. Then, after talking to the Warn teammates Brad and Justin
Brad and Justin got all their gear at Hammertown and were somewhat ready to race with a non-prepped old and tired jeep.
We then stopped by the BFG Garage, where Micah found us some fresh 35s KM3. We then headed over to the BFG Pits, where my friend, Cole, swapped the tires and gave the ol' girl a quick overlook, fixing and tightening some minor issues. Ava Wolf did some fast-weld reinforcements. The night before the race, the guys at Rock Krawler and Stacked Offroad racing, Matt and Big John Slykhuis, also jumped in to give the jeep a nut and bolt check while I was at the booth. Thank you, guys!
The plan was to go on a Sunday cruise, a long and expensive day of wheeling. Since we didn't qualify, we were at the very back of the starting grid.
Brad was in the right seat for the desert loop. He got 5 minutes to get used to the GPS and the car. I advised Brad to stay calm, not race anybody, and slow down to save the jeep. Surprisingly, we did! We passed some cars with good line choices and stayed below our typical race pace. We were not worried about our position; we just wanted to be steady, keep moving forward, and not make mistakes.
The rock loop started with Justin in the right seat. He only got 2 minutes to get used to the GPS and car! The rocks are where the ol' 4688 showed what she is capable of.
We got stuck in the outer limits in a huge parking lot of race cars. Justin being the Factor55 recovery guru he is, jumped out and started winching cars left and right. He finally got the bottleneck moving, and we were able to continue. We passed some more cars that were lost on the course and/or broken. Then we continued our slow and steady pace through the rocks, laughing and telling stories about our kids while trying not to make mistakes. We stopped at RP2 for a check-up and fuel, and that is when they informed us that we were in physical 5th! Hell yea!
By the end of the last rock trail, we see John in the 4th position starting the dry lake bed. We knew we had him with the corrected time, so we decided to take it easy on the remaining 10 miles of the race. When we were just a couple of miles from the finish line, right before Turkey Claw, we felt the front passenger tire not wanting to stick to the plan of moving forward. The wheel hub was more than gone. We tried many options, including sending it with a locked tire but had no luck. We were so close, yet so far.
In the end, it was an amazing day of racing. We got a lot more than we should have. A couple of co-workers attempted one of the hardest races at the last minute with an old and tired jeep; that had almost no race prep.
Brad and Justin kicked butt out there, and I think they are hooked for life now.
When Justin was asked to describe racing EMC, a man of many words and great stories, he replied, "It's really hard..."
Words by Sergio Pinillos