BITD: Team Hummer Parker 425 race summary

The Parker 425: A Long Day's Journey into Night Parker, AZ - Feb. 8, 2004: The small town of Parker, Arizona is situated on the edge of the Colorado River which also serves as a boundary between California on the West and Arizona to the East....

The Parker 425: A Long Day's Journey into Night

Parker, AZ - Feb. 8, 2004: The small town of Parker, Arizona is situated on the edge of the Colorado River which also serves as a boundary between California on the West and Arizona to the East. The deserts around Parker are rugged, vast and unforgiving. Until the early 90's this race was split into two sections, with half the race contested on the California side and the final half in Arizona, east of Parker, which is where the entire event takes place today. Before environmental concerns shut down the California `loop' to off-road racing, it was generally considered to be the `toughest' part of the race. But even without the California loop, Best in the Desert's "Parker `425' has earned the reputation of being the toughest race in desert racing and the 2004 event delivered on this promise and proved to be the ultimate "High Energy Field Test" for Team HUMMER.

Thursday afternoon, prior to the race, BitD held time trials for those who wanted to improve their starting position. Normally, starting positions are determined by a lottery system, but at the `Parker 425' and the `Vegas to Reno', BitD sets up a five mile track in the desert where unlimited trucks and buggies can compete for the top 20 starting positions and the production classes can race for the opportunity to improve their class starting position. Chad Hall, in the #8106 H1 Pickup blew a left front shock hose during the Class 8100 time trials and had to settle for a fourth place starting position. Josh Hall won the Class 4100 time trials at the wheel of the #4106 H2 so his position at the head of the Full-Stock SUV class was assured for Saturday's race.

Both Team HUMMER entries left the starting line in downtown Parker shortly before 8:30 AM and for a time were doing well. Chad stopped briefly in the Midway pit, about 44 miles into the race, leading his class by a few seconds. Everything was working well enough but he wanted to increase the pressure a bit in his front shocks which is a matter of a quick adjustment and he was gone in 60 seconds. The Midway pit is a double pit and is designated Pit #2 on the outbound leg of the course and Pit #4 on the inbound leg, 108 miles into the race when the two sections of the course almost converge. Shortly after the #8106 H1 left the Midway pit, we received word that the H2 had suffered a front differential failure at race mile 24 and was forced to continue on in 2WD. By the time Josh was 40 miles into the race he called to report that the rear differential had also experienced a catastrophic failure and he was parked, hoping to flag down another race vehicle to get a tow into the pit.

At race mile 108, Chad returned to the Midway pit with no brakes and both front shocks had failed as a result of too much pressure, blowing off the left, front shock hose. Steve Bailey and John Klatte were in charge of the Midway pit and started working on the truck right away. Soon they were joined by the H1 chase crew followed closely by the H2 crew, who proceeded to dismantle Rod Hall's H2 to remove the front and rear differentials they would need for the SUV when it got to the pit. Before long every member of Team HUMMER was at Midway and hard at work on both trucks, including team owner, Rod Hall. Shortly, the H2 was towed into the pit by the #8105 H1 HUMMER Pickup owned by our old friends, Eric and Terry Henn. The fact is that you never like having your truck towed into the pit during a race, but if it has to happen, it's good to see it towed by another HUMMER if only to deny bragging rights to the competition.

While we had a crew stripping down an H2 chase vehicle for it's differentials, the rest of the team started to work on the H1 and H2 Race vehicles. The H1 had to have both shocks re- moved and the alternator replaced, which was damaged due to the oil spray from the burst shock hose. At the time, Chad thought that the shock adjustments he made earlier, raised the pressure beyond the limits of the shock reservoirs. The brake failure turned out to be a damaged brake line. A new brake line was installed, new alternator installed and both shocks rebuilt and welded. After spending over an hour getting the H1 back in the race, the # 8106 was no longer in contention for the lead and set out to beat the desert and drive for a finish.

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew were working underneath the chase and race trucks, exchanging good parts for bad as soon as they were removed. Apparently Josh had been well out in front and moving at a high rate of speed over some "whoop de doos" (common on desert trails and defined as rolling bumps anywhere from five to ten feet apart and one to three feet high) when he launched the truck and landed with both wheels striking the lip of the next bump. The force of the 3 1/2 ton H2 meeting head-on with the lip of the dirt mound at an estimated 60 or 70 M.P.H. was just too much energy for the front differential to absorb so it blew the pinion carrier away from the ring carrier redesigning a normally functional one piece unit into a nonfunctional two piece unit. Ouch!! After assessing the damage it became apparent that they would have to continue the race in 2WD but within 20 miles, the rear differential followed suit and failed when the shaft on the spider gear broke. While there will be many opinions on what caused the Damage to Front Differential Housing on the H2 rear differential to fail; here's mine: Since the transmission was in high-lock at the moment of impact, the resulting energy from the shock was not entirely absorbed by the damage to the front differential. Rather, the rest of the shock wave was transmitted through the locked driveline to the rear pinion shaft which was finally absorbed by the spider gear assembly. This created a stress fracture in the shaft, causing it's failure just 20 miles up the road.

After several hours of downtime, the H2 finally pulled back onto the race course to the cheers of onlookers and crew members, alike. The H2 managed to go another twenty miles before first gear in the transmission went away. Shortly after that second was gone and finally all forward gears were non-op. Realizing that this was too big a problem to overcome and not wishing to sit in the desert until 9:00 PM before help would be allowed to enter the course, Josh threw it in reverse, the only functional gear, and backed down a dirt road to the highway. After another 12 miles took them to a coffee shop in Windham, Az, Josh and co-driver Sam Cothrun had coffee and donuts until the chase crew arrived. During the reverse drive down the highway, a local Sheriff pulled along side and asked if they were alright. "Fine" said Josh. The Sheriff replied, "OK, then; have a good race" and went on about his business.

With the H2 out of the race, the entire Team HUMMER crew turned their attention toward the task of getting the #8106 Hall/Stoskoph H1 Pickup to the finish line by the cutoff time of 12:00 midnight. The second time into midway, at race mile 180, Chad again pitted with shock problems. Again the crew met the challenge and had him back on the road within 1/2 hour. It was getting late and Chad needed a trouble-free race from this point on if he was to going to complete the race with a finish within the allotted time limit. At Pit #3, in Graham Well, it was discovered that both rear Central Tire Inflation lines had gotten loose, shredding the inboard CV boots on the rear half-shafts. To take the time necessary to make repairs would have surely cost Team HUMMER the finish so Chad decided to press on regardless. To think that an H1 could travel 160 miles at race speeds without any CV boots to retain the grease for the CV joints was absurd, so we weren't overly optimistic about our chances at this point.

Nonetheless, Chad took it another lap and the CV's seemed to be holding up. By the time he passed through Graham Well on the final lap, with only 60 miles to go, the H1 had lost the front shocks again. This time, Chad simply put up with it and piloted the big pickup to the finish where he took the Checkered Flag, at 10:59 PM, 6th in class.

After the finish everyone retired to the hotel to discuss what changes need to be made to both trucks prior to our next race and to determine how best to get Rod's no wheel-drive H2 chase truck back to Reno.

The next race for Team HUMMER is the Terrible's Town 250, April 23-25, in Pahrump, Nevada.

- grt -

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Series Offroad
Drivers Rod Hall