Offroad racing is notorious for rivalries between drivers and brands. In the General Tire Jeepspeed desert race series presented by KMC Wheels, Jeep Wrangler racers earned some bragging rights as they dominated the Cherokees, Grand Cherokees, and even the Dodge trucks at the longest offroad race in the US; Best In The Desert’s Vegas to Reno. At 539 miles, just finishing the course is a challenge. The terrain changes from pine tree forests in the mountains, to dry lake beds in the valley floors. Silt, rocks, even ancient lava flows cover the ground. With no wind to speak of, the dust was thick, and relentless. Your co-driver better be sharp because the dust was hiding trees, sharp rocks, and deep ruts everywhere. Go off course and you will shred your tires, rip your suspension off or end up on your lid.
During the night, the battle for the 3700 class raged on with Heaton and Bunch swapping the lead several times. At each pit stop, flat tire or stop for field repairs, the running order swapped places. 3739 Will Heaton was in his first race ever and driving the entire way himself. His learning curve was steep and he found out what lies just off the course in the bushes; bad news. He hit dirt and rocks that exploded into the sky. He was lucky just to receive a flat tire. Later in the race, his luck was not as fortuitous. He hit a boulder laying in the course that ripped the shock right out of the lower a-arm.
Sitting in the pits, Heaton mustered up the courage to go ask the Veteran Bunch for advice. Bunch has seen it all and knows every trick in the book. In fact, he had handed his truck off to Jesse Archer to take it to the finish, and was still there to see what the gap was when Heaton left the pits. Bunch told the rookie he had two choices. He could slap his truck together and drive like hell to try and beat him. He would probably break again and spend the night in his truck in the middle of the desert. His other choice was to spend some time on repairs, and baby his truck in to get a finish. Heaton asked, “Well what would you do?” Bunch said he would slap his truck together, race like hell, and probably spend the night in the desert; but that’s Billy Bunch. After hours of racing, Bunch took the win, Kammerlohr finished next, winning his class, and Heaton nursed his wounded truck to the finish; earning a podium finish his first time out.