BITD: Tonopah 300 Foutz Motorsports race report

Foutz Motorsports: "Our Tonopah adventure" We began our trip with the normal all night drive to Primm, Nevada for a quick shake down. We left Phoenix about 10:00 pm on Wednesday evening before the race. Primm greeted us about the same time the...

Foutz Motorsports: "Our Tonopah adventure"

We began our trip with the normal all night drive to Primm, Nevada for a quick shake down. We left Phoenix about 10:00 pm on Wednesday evening before the race. Primm greeted us about the same time the sun did that morning. The hotel welcomed us with a room since it wasn't super busy at 5:00 am. We elected to sleep until 10:00 and then got out to the Ford F-250 HD for the shake down and tune session.

The truck had been completely gone over and several "enhancements" had been performed since our last event in Pahrump. The Terrible (and I mean Terrible) Town 250 race left us with a 3rd place and a bad taste in the mouth. We had encountered several flat tires and problems with the jack complicated the problem. Not to mention the mysterious popping out of the ecentric we experienced at mile 10 in Pahrump. That was corrected once and for all with a bolt through tab welded to each side.

In preparation for this race we added several other new components to the truck including live air tanks to power an impact gun for the lug nuts, and a new air jack to lift the truck. We estimated with this gear we could cut out about four to five minutes of tire change time in the field per flat tire. In addition we mounted a second spare tire in the bed of the F-250, and convinced BF Goodrich we needed the next level of tire. They call them "Project tires" which means to all of us they are nearly un-obtainable. The new tires carry a much heavier sidewall and will handle the abuse of an unlimited trophy truck.

While all of these things are positive changes, we added about 240 pounds to the rear of the truck getting it all done. The rear spring rates were increased about 5% on the compression side of things to offset the weight changes. We knew the rear shocks would have to be adjusted to work around all of the changes and had planned a couple of hours of tune time.

We unloaded and warmed the F-250 up, charged the shocks with nitrogen, and checked all of the fluid levels one last time. The transmission seems to drink about two quarts on an initial fill after it has been run and sits, so we added some to the trans and brought it back to full. The truck was running great and this would be the third race on the new V-10.

On the first warm up run, we went across the dry lakebed for speed test. When the truck reached 85MPH, we felt a short vibration in the driveline and determined that we needed to change it. We made three passes on our 14-mile course and adjusted the rear shocks several times. The entire test only took two hours and we had the truck ready to rock and roll.

We loaded up and headed toward Las Vegas for the balance of the 5-hour drive to Tonopah. About 10 miles out of Vegas we had a near disaster with a trailer tire. I was driving the F250 crew cab towing the race truck on the trailer down a double lane freeway. All of the traffic was running about 65MPH. All of the sudden the trailer began to swap, and it just kept getting worse. The end of the trailer was swinging from one side of the white lines all the way to the other white line. I thought we had lost it and even told everyone in the truck with me to make sure they were buckled up and I didn't think we were getting out of this one. Then about one second later the tire on the trailer finally blew out all the way and the trailer came in behind me again and we pulled to the side of the road to change the tire.

I made a call to my buddy Steve Olliges to see if he had any tires for the trailer at his new Team Ford dealership. He encouraged us to come on by for a tour and he would get me a couple of tires. We arrived and were greeted like kings and queens. Steve's place is amazing. I m sure it is the cleanest dealership I have ever seen. Every detail was perfect throughout the entire establishment. While they were mounting the tires Steve had his detail crew wash the race truck for us and get it cleaned up to go in to the contingency row in Tonopah.

Arriving in Tonopah, we learned that the hotel botched our reservations. We had 10 rooms reserved and they showed that we called at some point (they couldn't say at what point) and canceled the reservation. Thus, they gave the rooms to others. The manager was kind enough to find four rooms for us to sleep in. Needless to say, I was quite upset.

We were scheduled to start second out of nine trucks in the class that day. The Hummer of Eric Henn started in front of us and Al Hogan in a F-150 was directly behind us. Manny Esquerra and Jeremy Spirikoff in their Fords were a couple of trucks back. We were to leave the line at about 9:10 that morning. The course had six pit areas set up across the 300 miles for service and support. Pit one was about 40 miles into the race from the start line. Due to the speed of our class lately, the Best in the Desert staff had moved our class up in the starting order. Our class would start directly behind the Class 7 unlimited trucks (7200) for the first time. In most cases we pass most of them anyway throughout the race.

By mile six, the Hummer was pulling off to let us go by in a wash and we were now in the lead and had clean air to run in. Steve Wheeler and I had decided to set the pace for the race early and try to build up a nice cushion. We ran hard early and built up about a 15-minute lead before pit one. This way none of the other trucks in our class (8100) would know we were running that fast until they all got within radio range of this pit. As it turned out our plan was working great by pit two we had no problems at all and the truck was working great. We found ourselves with nearly a 20-minute lead at our pit stop and the order of vehicles behind us was starting to settle into what would be the race of the day.

The crew notified us that the Hummers were both having huge problems and at least one of them would not finish. Chad Hall who finished 2nd last year behind us was loosing an engine in his Hummer but looked like they could finish. By now we were starting to show some abnormal temperature in the trans fluid. The temp was staying at about 250 degrees and not going below no matter what we did. In many cases it would spike up to about 270 to 275 in load conditions then after it would cool back down to 250 or 255 and stabilize again. This would be the order for the day - up and down but would always stabilize.

We planned to stop at Pit three, which would be 140 miles for our one fuel stop at the BF Goodrich pit. To our surprise when we were about 10 miles out, BF Goodrich came over our radio and asked our location. We advised where we were and what we would need. Apparently they had received word that we were leading class and running very high in the overall scheme. We got there and stopped, they began to dump the 45 gallons in the truck. A good friend of ours, Armando Guzman from Rob Reinertsons's team was there and helping. During the stop he came to my window and told me to slow down. According to his numbers we were running such a pace that we were ahead of the leading Pro Truck by 3 minutes on time at this pit.

We learned later that we were about 45 minutes ahead of second place in our class now. When we left the pit, we backed the pace down about one-percent and began the trek to the finish line. At Pit four, our crew waived us by and they stayed behind to gather times for us just in case we had slowed too much. They radioed that Spirikoff was flying through and was about 30 minutes back, but was not being very smart about the abuse he was giving his truck. They also alerted us that Manny Esquerra had loaded the truck on the trailer and they were done for the race due to broken rear end and axels - again! We continued on at the same pace and had no problems.

We were passing the Class 7 trucks and had passed all of them but one when we came across the "switchbacks" at mile about 210. They were very tight and we were forced to make three-point turns or more to get down the mountain without problems. Many vehicles were stopped at the top and they would not be able to make it down the mountain with the problems they were having.

When we reached Pit five, the race was about over and our crew let us know that Spirikoff did just as we thought - he had bent the front end up and broken an axel. This behavior was typical of his previous races in the same position. This leads me to believe his truck has a weakness in the front suspension. It is obvious that the Drivers side I-Beam bends when he is forced to abuse the truck. Al Hogan driving a 2000 Ford F150 had moved into second place and was secured in that position all the way to the finish line. We arrived at the finish line just a minute or so behind the Class 7 truck of Craig Turner but beat even his race on time. This gave us the class win by almost an hour and we placed 9th overall in the cars and trucks. We were less than 30 minutes off of the overall winner in an unlimited buggy, and only 24 minutes off winning the unlimited full size truck class too.

I was very happy with the results of the race, and flabbergasted at the performance of the Ford F-250 Super Duty truck. I still can't believe we were able to maintain that type of pace for 300 miles and the truck still looks perfect. We have yet to find any signs of damaged parts anywhere on the truck. The rear end and differential has been perfect since we have been receiving the help from George Koral at Visteon. Our transmission team did a great job and we had all four gears for the entire day (even though we never got into 4th gear due to lack of horsepower or lower rear end gears). The new V-10 ran great but started to feel limp toward the end of the run. We have conversed with Ford's Jeff Lyjak and will perform the standard leak down and compression tests on the engine before we prepare for the next event. I don't think the engine has been damaged for any reason, and want to check the output from the fuel system also. We had our first perfect race and intend on having more.

Thank you all again for your support and help in our program.

-Greg Foutz

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About this article
Series Offroad
Drivers Greg Foutz , Steve Wheeler