BITD: Terrible's Town: Team Hummer race notes

Team Hummer® finishes second and third at `Terrible's Town 250' Pahrump, NV - April 28, 2003: The `Terrible's Town 250', the second event on Best in the Desert Racing Association's 2003 racing schedule, was contested on Saturday, April 26 in...

Team Hummer® finishes second and third at `Terrible's Town 250'

Pahrump, NV - April 28, 2003: The `Terrible's Town 250', the second event on Best in the Desert Racing Association's 2003 racing schedule, was contested on Saturday, April 26 in the thriving community of Pahrump, Nevada, sixty miles West of Las Vegas. For Rod and Josh Hall, in the #4101 Team HUMMER SUV, this event was an opportunity to evaluate the level of performance we could expect from their truck, since the big SUV rolled after only 40 miles at the `Parker 425'. Because of the damage sustained from that incident, the truck had to be driven below it's capabilities the remaining distance to take a second place finish.

For the team of Chad Hall/Cort Stoskoph in the #8102 HUMMER Pick-up, this was an opportunity to once again, chal- lenge Greg Foutz, in the #8103 Ford V-10 Pick-up who took the lead at Parker after Chad lost both rear half-shafts. In retrospect we found that the new, heavier springs we had installed after last season had increased the angle of the axles, causing the CV (Constant Velocity Joint) boots to rub on themselves and gradu- ally melt holes in the boot covering the joints. This allowed the grease to escape and after 320 miles of racing the CV Joints failed from the extreme heat caused by the loss of lubricant. In spite of the problem, we managed a second place finish.

The Team HUMMER #8102 Full-Stock Pick-up went off the line shortly before 10:00 AM on Saturday morning with Chad Hall behind the wheel and Cort Stoskoph in the second seat. The pick-up was running well and at pit #1 the trucks came through about as they began, with Randy Merritt in front, followed by Foutz and Chad, all within one minute of each other. About ten minutes later, Rod came through in the #4101 SUV under similar circumstances, closely following the #4102 Ford Bronco of John Sunderland and Marc Stein's #4103 Expedition.

After 51 miles, as they passed through Pit #2, at the Southern end of the Armargosa Valley, Chad's #8102 Team HUMMER Pick-up had Chad gets ready to pass a slower truck taken the lead by about a minute over Randy Merritt in the #8104 Ford F-150 and Foutz had fallen off the pace by 7 minutes while he replaced a flat tire. Rod came by about 15 minutes later in the SUV class and was running a virtual dead heat with Stein in the Expedition. All of these trucks were running flawlessly and were locked in a virtual drag race at a pace that, sooner or later, was bound to take it's toll on some, if not all, of the entries. Foutz had already had a flat trying to stay on the pace and in the SUV class, John Sunderland's F-150 Ford Bronco had simply disappeared in the rockbed outside of Johnnie Mine (Pit #1) forcing him to retire from the race.

As the race headed toward Pit #4 (Black Cone) Chad and Merritt were running neck and neck in the Pick-up class and Foutz was gradually making up the time he lost on the flat. As they passed the 100 mile mark, Chad had increased his lead over Merritt to two minutes but Foutz was now only four minutes back. Meanwhile Rod was on Stein's bumper with his foot in the throttle when the # 4103 Exhibition caught a rock and was sidelined with a flat tire, giving the #4101 HUMMER SUV the lead. Hall had barely enough time to savor the moment when he picked up a flat of his own and by the time he got it replaced, Stein was back in the race just a few seconds back. They both pulled into Pit #4 at race-mile 106 together and took on fuel. Josh took over as driver of the SUV with Thad Stump in the second seat but Stein got out of the pit with a 30 second lead since he didn't have a scheduled driver's change.

As the 8100 Pick-up class came into Pit #6, it was difficult to tell who was in the lead. Off-Road races are started rally style, with one minute between each entry. In this case Meritt started first, Foutz third and Hall fourth. Chad's HUMMER was the first into Pit #6 and stopped to take on fuel. Foutz was right behind him and also took on fuel and it was a stress filled moment to see who could dump their fuel and get out first. Our guys were fast and Chad got out just barely in front with crew member Dana Morris literally running alongside the accelerating truck in an effort to finish tightening the fuel cap. Merritt was still in the physical lead, having passed while Foutz and Hall were fueling. But on corrected time, Chad held the lead by one minute over Foutz and had just over two minutes on Merritt with 110 miles left in the race.

Once Josh got behind the wheel of the #4101 HUMMER at Pit #4, he immediately started closing the gap between the two SUV's and by Pit #6 had passed Stein and was leading the race by over 4 minutes. At Omni Station (Pit #7) the lead had increased to 25 minutes so Josh decided to relax a bit and save the truck for the final 80 miles to the finish. At race-mile 185, about 25 miles to Pit #8, the exhaust manifold broke leaving the SUV with no turbo-boost. To further complicate matters, the break occurred in a location which allowed carbon monoxide to leak into the cab making it potentially hazardous to drive. After removing the front windshield and jury-rigging a patch on the crack, they were able to proceed at a mere 15 mph to Pit #8 where they hoped to make more effective repairs.Unfortunately the damage was situated in a location that made any meaningful repair impossible and Josh was forced to nurse the #4101 SUV home for a Third place finish.

Chad was running in the lead, ahead of Foutz in the #8103 Ford F-250 and Merritt seemed to be falling somewhat off the pace, although he was still in sight. For Hall and Foutz this was a bumper to bumper race as they blasted through Pit #7, at race mile 165, and turned south for the final 90 mile dash to the finish. Ford and HUMMER engineering learned a lot about the parts on these trucks on this day. Testing is important and we all do as much testing prior to the race as time and budgets permit. But there is simply no test like being in a race, locked in a dual with another competitor that won't go away and pushing the truck beyond any limits that you ever tested for. This is where the rubber meets the road, as they say, and there are only two choices in the adrenaline soaked minds of the drivers as they push ever faster across the desert floor: Win or break!

At race mile 190 the course turns into a giant silt bed as you head south toward Pit #8 and the Armargosa Valley. Silt beds are terrible sections at any time but after they have been crossed by over 100 cars and trucks at speed, they take on the all the characteristics of a five-foot deep layer of talcum powder covering a base of bedrock. The course goes on like this for about 40 miles and is only broken up by pockets of stranded and broken vehicles along the way. Hall and Foutz passed through Pit # 8 without slowing but the #8104 Ford driven by Randy Merritt was completely gone now, having fallen victim to the pace and the siltbed. Somewhere along the road to Pit #9, at Johnnie, Foutz suffered a flat tire and suddenly Chad was all alone just 50 miles from the finish. Five miles before Pit #9, the #8102 HUMMER Pick-up broke a driver's side rear upper control arm, slowing his progress to a crawl. He radioed ahead and the crew led by Brad Falin, Rob Henderson, Dana Morris and Carl Geifing were ready as he drove in. Whatever he had hit flattened the tire and broke the upper control arm and, as he pitted for repair, Foutz caught him and passed to take over the lead for the first time.

The crew was inspired and made the necessary repairs in about 10 minutes causing several crew members from other teams to come over and comment on the crews performance. Foutz knew Hall would be com- ing and didn't back off a bit and as Chad pulled out he was 35 miles away from the finish and 9 minutes down to Foutz in the #8103 Ford V-10. At the finish line Chad had made up all but 3 minutes to Foutz and had to settle for second place. At the finish, both agreed that it was a Hell of a race!

The next race for Team HUMMER is the TSCO/Best in the Desert `Vegas to Reno' Race, June 26-29 in Las Vegas.

- grt -

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Series Offroad
Drivers Greg Foutz