2011 Torchmate Stampede
Story by Charlene Bower
Photos by Charlene Bower, Josh England, and Ben Bower


The day after the race my text, messages and email load up with the typical "how was the race" question... My response came easy for the 2011 Torchmate Stampede Race:  Typical Ultra4 event, good friends, lots of fun parties, great pictures, rumor has it was the hardest course yet, racers with hearts of gold. What more is there to say?

The Torchmate Stampede race in Reno, NV, was hosted on the same property as last years race, but with a different start and finish location.  Lets set the scene.  Rolling soft brown hills with Nevada desert shrub bushes scattered about with an unusual tree here or there.  Silver and green canyons lined with sharp rocks, some a solid silver and others black sharp volcanic rock.  Creatures of the desert were scarce this weekend, but wild horses and bulls were seen with the occasional rattle snake and don't forget all the sunbathing lizards. The 128 mile, two lap course was epic. Boasted as the hardest Ultra4 race yet by promoter Dave Cole, even tougher than the King of the Hammers.

Friday started the official dirt flinging action. Qualifying for starting position brought all the top name racers into one place including a few of the Kings; Monster Energy's Shannon Campbell, ASR Racing's Jason Scherer and ATX/Healy Racing Loren Healy.  Title Sponsor Torchmate Racing had two cars entered, JT Taylor and Jesse Haines.  Debuting new unproven cars as seen on Pirate4x4 Forum build threads included PSC Motorsports / ASR Racing Jason Scherer's car and Trick Toys Rick "Easy Rick" Mooneyham.  There were also a lot of new racer's names on the list that have had a goal to race the King of the Hammers and saw the Stampede race as their way in.

Qualifying just under 40 cars took a little over 3 hours on a course that was seen by the spectator and pit area.  Reigning KOH champ Shannon Campbell pushed his IFS single seater to the top of the list qualifying first with a time of 3:08:09 while a flat right rear tire and wheel was coming off!  JT Taylor would start 2nd, Jason Scherer 3rd, Big Ugly Kevin Sacalas in 4th and On Track Racing Dean Bulloch rounding out the top five.

The teams left the mile long pit row to head back to the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, NV, where they hosted the tech and contingency spectator area.  A line of semis including BFGoodrich Tires, 4 Wheel Parts and Goodyear Tires helped form the outside loop.  BlueRibbon Coalition, RaceCatheter.com and RuffStuff Specialties helped form the inside loop. The drivers paraded one-by-one and eventually lined up to talk to George Antill and Jessi Combs.


The 8:00AM staging put all the same racers back into a line of 46 cars with Shannon Campbell at the helm.  The green flag dropped at 9:00AM, and Campbell lead the race for several miles before taking a turn into the pits due to unknown engine/electrical issues which would haunt him the entire race. With Campbell out of the way, Torchmate Racing's JT Taylor enjoyed fresh air and would maintain the lead for the entire race.  Jason Scherer was on his tail for the first half of the race, but then had phantom electrical problems that took them out 17 miles into the second lap.  Second place would go to Erik Miller and third would go to Randy Slawson.  There wasn't a rig out there that had a fail proof weekend.  It was pure endurance for the machine and the mechanic!

Some of the all-nighters were not only due to the sparkly casino lights of Reno, others were greasy and cold.  #4461 Ben Napier blew an engine in during prerunning and spent all night Thursday changing it.  Parts and pieces of the new engine that weren't needed were sold off to #4435 Kevin Sacalas to fix his problems. #99 BJ Imlach could hardly keep the rig running during qualifying so their crew invested over $900 in fuel pump and electrical trouble shooting with no better results when taking Saturday's green flag. JT Stephens in #4454 changed the front ARB on Friday night and went straight to the start line on Saturday, no pillows involved.

# 5252 Bill Baird was one of the first to DNF the race with a blown motor at RM4, but enjoyed his day spectating.  #4441 Daren Henke lost a transmission and was able to limp it to the remote pit. Kevin Sacalas #4435 lost a front unit bearing at RM33, and Curtis Warner was nice enough to take the parts out to him, although Sacalas would continue to fight other problems and ultimately joined the DNF list.  #4410 Curtis Warner fought overheating issues, rolled a few times, and lost brakes among other issues.

Matt Messer #17 was the only rig left in the canyons for a Sunday recovery when he blew his engine after bypassing his power steering.  Messer and his co-driver caught a ride back to the pits from #4473 Brent Goegebueur who had his front carrier bearing mount break off at RM40.  Kevin Yoder #4434 annihilated two of his four shocks and commented that Tom Wayes offers no calming support from the passenger seat!  Tracy Jordan #112 rolled every which way, had a fire, had power steering fluid shooting everywhere after getting run over, but made it back to main pit with a smile.

Randy Slawson and the Bomber

Even the leaders didn't have an issue free day.  JT Taylor #13 had a plug wire that burned, they changed it, and immediately lost another one.  Randy Slawson #4448 stopped multiple times to put his serpentine belt back on.  Dean Bulloch #4411 broke the front end and had to stop 3 times to get it welded. 

#5AZ Shannon Campbell fought what he thought were fuel problems but turned out to be more electrical problems than anything.  While he was stopped waiting for parts, Campbell helped winch people up a pretty difficult waterfall.  #1911 Aaron Beckstead ended up with a broken front axle in the same place later in the day and also helped winch other competitors.  #966 Jason Blanton finished just after time but was given the Sportsman Award and a merit spot at the 2012 King of the Hammers for pulling Shannon Campbell four miles back into the main pit when he lost power for a second time.

There are so many stories!  Don Gilman, the person that has worked to have the Stampede race in Reno since its inception congratulated Dean Bulloch, "It's awesome that he had no problems at the race.  I am glad that Dean finished he is my favorite guy."  Dean responded with "Brutal course, Nice job Guy!"  The Ice Man called it.

Saturday night was a party of huge proportions.  Having Bill Kunz and JT Taylor at the awards ceremony representing Torchmate and the winning car was a great home town victory.  There were five birthdays among our Ultra4 family.  I think there were more casualties from Saturday night than over the brutality of the 128 mile course. Actually, I'm sure of it!