The day before the race is always festive, especially when you get over 100 race cars, some 140 motorcycles and all the crew to support an effort in one spot. The day before race weather was beautiful, about 70 and sunny. This led the to false...
The day before the race is always festive, especially when you get over 100 race cars, some 140 motorcycles and all the crew to support an effort in one spot. The day before race weather was beautiful, about 70 and sunny. This led the to false hope of fun for the race day. When the team got up that morning to find their race faces, the weather had turned on them for the worse. Cold with rain and snow in the higher ground, which Greg Foutz (driver) and Steve Wheeler (co driver) had to race through set the tone of the morning. The first car/truck was to leave the start line at about 9:00 that morning. Due to the starting order, the class of stock full size production trucks would not leave the line until nearly 9:45. Foutz Motorsports was scheduled to start from the 2nd position behind another older Ford of Randy Merritt, then followed by the Hummer of Chad Hall. The class had 10 trucks all together to battle for the lead for the day. As the start grew near, the class was called to the staging area and they began a line out of the impounded vehicle area. Casey Folks always greets everyone at the start line with a smile, handshake, and promise of a great race. Today they found him bundled up in rain gear and still happy to see them (Foutz thought?).
With The first truck underway Foutz and Wheeler did their ritual high five and chatted about a "smart" race in an attempt to keep their adrenaline from taking over their brains. With the show of the green start light, Foutz and Wheeler left the line and headed out the dirt road behind the Terrible Herbst Casino. Within a couple of miles they started to catch the first truck and they headed into a wash right behind them. With the lead in sight and while gaining, the first flat tire of the day found them. It was on the front passenger side. Foutz and Wheeler hopped out and changed the tire as quickly as possible. A huge surprise for once, neither of them saw a rock or anything that would have popped the tire, but the tire sure was flat. This happened to be the first time the team had run the new bigger 37" tires on the truck. The jump from the older 35" tires proved to be good overall, but they seem to be easier to flatten. By the time they had the wheel changed and jumped back into the truck, the entire class had passed them by and were moving on into the race without them. By the time they both had their belts all back on and ready to go the rain had started coming down much faster.
Foutz and Wheeler's Ford F-250 HD in air. Photo: FMI
In leaving the pit, Foutz and Wheeler radioed for the split time to see how far back they were. The team radioed back that they were over 35 minutes down from the leaders and about 20 minutes down from the next vehicle. They started to pick up the pace and try to get back in the game. It seemed to be working by the time they hit the 2nd pit, Foutz and Wheeler were only 5 minutes back from the next truck in class and only about 30 minutes off the leaders. By the 3rd pit they were running strong and had passed 2 trucks, one on the run, and one pulled over retired with a broken rear end, not to mention the Hummer crew was in the 3rd pit with the welders running and throwing elbows. Still running clean and fast, they got almost all the way to pit 4 when they found another truck being towed by a friend out of gas.
Now the Foutz Motorsports team was in 3rd place and running strong hoping for some luck to find them. They continued to run the truck at a much faster pace than they should have and waiting for the other trucks to find trouble from the speed. In the midst of all the excitement, Foutz and Wheeler flattened another tire just before pit 5. A large rock jumped out in front of the drivers side rear tire from nowhere. They looked for the artesian who may have thrown it into the wheel and then they just decided to change it and go on. Now they found out that with the 37" tires it was very hard to change a rear flat. The jack that they have used for the last couple of years lacks the extra 2 inches they needed to change the bigger tires, so they used a block of wood under the jack to help. The wood, rain, and rocks make for a very un-friendly combination in a hurry. Anyway they had to jack the truck up three times to get the job done. Foutz and Wheeler had lost over 10 minutes this time and were discouraged. The idea was to just run faster and try to catch the others since they still had approximately 80 miles to go, and felt they could do it.
They started across the desert in a rough area with 2-foot deep whoops, some bigger, some lots bigger, and some a bit smaller. They knew they had to keep the pace up to get anywhere or settle for 3rd place; obviously they weren't going to settle. So, for the first time, they ran these whoops on top! Foutz and Wheeler found that they could go 2nd gear on the floor through them as long as they kept up the speed, the F-250 HD would bounce over the tops of the whoops and float. Normally they would back down and roll through them only averaging maybe, if they were lucky, like 40 MPH. By running this hard, they were averaging like 75MPH. Neither of them could believe the truck would do it and keep together. So they ran the whole section like this for over 30 miles. When they came into the next pit, Foutz asked the crew with some arrogance "where are we on time now?" The team broke it to him that they were still 30 minutes back from the leader and 15 minutes from 2nd place.
Foutz and Wheeler only had about 40 miles to go and little chance of catching the other two trucks unless they had a problem. They then learned that 2nd place had come in with some damage on the front end of his truck. Foutz learned that he had bent the front I-Beam and the driver's side wheel had about 30 degrees of camber. Smelled like blood to them, so Foutz and Wheeler blasted out of that area and flattened another tire on the way to the last pit. This time they were so close to the crew that they drove in on the flat and destroyed the wheel. The guys changed the wheel and sent them on the way to the finish line. As they came to the last road crossing, they found a couple of guys walking down the race course with a back pack. It turns out it was a friend of theirs, Andrew Whey. Whey waived them down and threw the backpack in on Wheeler's lap and said to dump it off at the car down the road. So they figured the car was just at the end of the straightaway, yea right. They ended up carrying the bag for three or four miles before they found the compadre and dumped off the goodies.
The Foutz Motorsports team later found out that the bag had two batteries in it to get the buggy to the finish line. Once they dropped off the bag and with nothing else to do, they blazed to the finish line to get our 3rd place. A solid finish from a bad start, but not good enough.
Overall the team had minimal problems and ran a very fast pace averaging 38.5 MPH even with the problems. The winner averaged 41 MPH; more than 5 MPH faster than last years race. During the event, they did have an intermittent 3rd gear missing. Several times Foutz shifted the selector into 3rd but the Trans stayed in 2nd. Later in the race, it found 3rd again and worked like normal. They also had the new 5.43 gear set and rear end housing in the truck for the first time and found it to be a good combination with the 37" tires. They only wanted more horsepower a few times during the day, but the racecourse was very rough. Foutz thinks more horsepower would have made for better times overall but Foutz Motorsports was happy with the results of what they had and have made plans to correct the eccentric popping out so that they will not have that problem again.