Now, this might not seem like news to most people, (that a Jeep racing team is adding Four Wheel Drive), but we went about it backwards from what most people would do. We started the team with a 2WD Jeep (gasp!) and now, after three years, we are adding a 4WD Cherokee to the stable. It all started last year when sometimes Petty Cash driver and full-time race promoter Dave Cole announced a new racing class at his rapidly growing Griffin King of the Hammers Ultra4 race series (KOH for short). It was to be an alternative to the now mega buck Unlimited Ultra4 KOH race that takes place on the trails of Johnson Valley, California every February.
KOH wasn’t a new concept to us, as most of the team has been attending in one capacity or another, including racing in the event. In 2008 Petty Cash Racing member Richard “Goatman” Gauthier drove his trail-rig turned race-Cherokee to an astonishing 7th overall in the punishing 100+ mile endurance rock/desert race. Team NAXJA returned in ’09 and finished the grueling event, but lower in the standings than hoped. It was clear that the state of the art had left Richard’s NAXJA sponsored Cherokee “Truggy” outclassed. The next two races, Richard was the Crew Chief and back-up driver for the team that would finish as high as second overall.
But with this new class, the Smittybilt “Everyman Challenge”, there was a chance for the old players from Team NAXJA to field a far less modified, more recognizable Cherokee and go racing again. Over a few adult beverages, a plot was hatched: What if we could combine elements from the road racing team with the people who were instrumental in Team NAXJA’s success and join forces? Thus was born the idea for the Team NAXJA/Petty Cash Racing #4643 Ultra4 racer. The conversation between team principle Cal Tuttle and Russ Pottenger of Bishop-Buell Racing Engines went something like this:
“Hey Russ, can we race that old Cherokee you have laying around in King of the Hammers?”
“Haha, sure Cal, but only if you let me build a monster stroker straight-six for it!”
“Sounds good! I bet I can even con my buddy James Provencer into pouring every drop of blood, sweat and tears he has into it too!”
A month later, this shell was sitting at Richard’s shop, G&G Offroad in Bakersfield, Ca:
After several months of thrashing by a huge crew of volunteers, a massive pile of sponsored parts, and several maxed out credit cards, it looks looks like this, almost ready for the big race. We take to the desert and rock trails of Johnson Valley on February 5th:
As the project gets more and more complete and time allows, we’ll be updating that forum as well as our Facebook Page, which you should all be fans of by now. Stop by and wish us luck!