Project Widebody XJ- Part 1

At our last event at Reno-Fernley Raceway, we were informed by John Pagel of Evil Genius Racing (and the Chief Tech guy for LeMons) that our wheels and tires stuck out too far from our fenders. I could see what he meant, the Jeep did sort have a 1920s roller skate stance, and I recognize that if somebody was dumb enough to run into us and lock tires, it could end badly. John told us that we could race at Reno, but we’d have to address it before our next race. One option would be to get different offset wheels, but we had JUST gotten this new set of 17″ Racelines to fit our Falkens. We discussed running big offroad fender flares, but that would have looked quite out of place with our 26″ tall tires. So here’s how we built a Widebody XJ:

First step was to pull the curtain back and see what we were dealing with. The Jeep being of unibody construction, our options were limited; the most attractive option was simply to bump out the stock fenders by three inches on both sides. We retained the stock mounting points so that the entire fender could be removed should we need to replace them down the road.


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Project Widebody XJ- Part 2

At our last event at Reno-Fernley Raceway, we were informed by John Pagel of Evil Genius Racing (and the Chief Tech guy for LeMons) that our wheels and tires stuck out too far from our fenders. I could see what he meant, the Jeep did sort have a 1920s roller skate stance, and I recognize that if somebody was dumb enough to run into us and lock tires, it could end badly. John told us that we could race at Reno, but we’d have to address it before our next race. One option would be to get different offset wheels, but we had JUST gotten this new set of 17″ Racelines to fit our Falkens. We discussed running big offroad fender flares, but that would have looked quite out of place with our 26″ tall tires. Here’s what we ended up with:


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Reno 24 Hours Race Report, part 2-

In the first installment of this story you read that yes, somehow the team was able to get the car out on course for the start of the race, and to everybody’s surprise everything felt good. As previously mentioned, the car was performing quite well. Due to the LeMons standard “get everybody out on track then wave the flag” start procedure, we technically started in 47th position. With the Jeep’s new found handling abilities, I was able to slice my way through the field with alarming pace. At lap #10, we were in 29th overall…that’s 18 spots in 10 laps. Apparently the Jeep squeezed a can of Popeye spinach on lap four because I was able to get by 13 cars on that one lap alone.

I was having so much fun, I totally forgot it was a 24 hour endurance race. When I got the call from Rich McCoy (our dedicated talking-to-the -racecar-guy and general jack of all trades) that it was time to come in to swap drivers I was momentarily baffled…other drivers? When we pitted on lap 38, the Cherokee was in an amazing 8th place overall. Even though I was pouting over having to give up such a fun ride, I turned the car over to Dave Cole and gave the Cherokee a pat on the roof; good girl.

Dave went out and immediately showed that his experience in desert racing and rock sports also translated well to road racing. This was only his second time in the XJ (at the Sears Point race in March the motor let go early so his experience with the car was minimal) but his lap times certainly didn’t reflect it. He was only a couple seconds off the blistering pace I set, and that was probably because, unlike me, he was trying to save some for later…a much smarter approach. Unfortunately, yellow flags aren’t something one typically deals with in the desert, and because Dave slipped up a couple times and passed other cars under yellow flag conditions, the team spent some time in the penalty box. No worries, at this point our high-tech sophistication, preparation and pit strategy will make up for it:


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Goin’ for Broken, Reno 24 Hour Race Report, part 1-

The team had not originally intended to run this event. Sears Pointless was scheduled to be in late March this year and, as the name implies, was at Sears Point…quite possibly our favorite track. With our tight budget, doing both races just wasn’t in the cards. But then we heard an announcement that made us shuffle our priorities, sell vital parts of anatomy and visit every pay day loan store within a 200 mile radius: Reno was going to be a 24 hour endurance event, a full honest to goodness 24 hours straight through. We simply had to do it.

The Jeep has always been a reliable and steadfast racing companion, shrugging off the exertions of endurance racing that plague so many other teams’ fancy furrin’ cars, but this was to be a true challenge. The standard LeMons schedule has the racing beginning around 9 a.m. Saturday and ending around 5 p.m. that same day, then starting up again the next day for a similar blast of racing. At the time you’re actually racing the standard schedule, finishing the first day feels like a herculean accomplishment, and if the car is independently locomotive at the finish, you can scarcely believe it. Could we really do 24 hours straight through? We decided to find out.

Additionally, we wanted to bring some fun with us to the event…after all, that is the whole point. To this end we concocted a, um “beverage” called P8. This stands for Petty’s Purportedly Potable, Potentially Putrid, Probably Poisonous Punch, aka Petty Punch. We started by stopping at The Liquor Expo in Northern California and buying some of their finest vodka. We were assured by the owner of the establishment that “Royal Gate Vodka” was on par with Grey Goose and Chopin, and all for $8.99 for a half gallon! Clearly we needed to add some Petty Blue to our cocktail to really “make it ours,” and what says high class better than blue gummy sharks:

We also wanted to add blue raspberry Jolly Ranchers to round out the flavor and give it some depth, so I bought a decent sized package in Liquor Expo and tore it open in the parking lot. In the entire package of Jolly Ranchers, easily 40 pieces of hard candy there were only TWO blue ones. C’mon…really? How is that mathematically possible? So come watermelon and grape ones got thrown in the stew for good measure.


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Spilling the beans; why the Jeep was so darn quick-

Before the race the team addressed three specific areas; brakes, tires and shocks. In all three cases we were lucky that the industry leaders in each fields also made products for the off-road industry, therefore allowing us to use our contacts in those departments to get our collective feet in the door. For brakes, we turned to Vanco Power Brake Supply, a company famous for making Jeeps stop. Our friends at Savvy Offroad had just started offering the kit with Black Magic pads and were nice enough to toss a set our way. And boy did they work. Without a doubt, we had one of the best braking cars on track…considering that we’re in a Jeep, that’s an impressive statement.

New big-boy calipers hiding behind our Raceline wheels.

We’d been running the same no-name brand mono-tube shocks that came with the Jeep for the previous 4 races, and while they technically “worked”, we knew there was a lot we could do to make the Jeep behave a little better. Luckily, our friends at Bilstein just had a set of very used up shocks off of a Ford Econoline E-250 come back for warranty work and adapted them for our use. The Jeep handled quick transitions from left to right much better than before, felt far more predictable in hard corners and didn’t squirm as much under hard braking. Simply amazing how a set of (even totally beat up) good shocks can transform a car.

You can even see the yellow of the Bilstein shock as she heels over in the night.

Perhaps the most startling change was in tires. The Jeep has been running on some pretty good rubber, and we were plenty happy with what we had, but when the option to get on the Falken race program came up we couldn’t say no. It’s no secret that most of the fast teams run Falken Azenis RT-615Ks, but we weren’t sure if the Jeep would be happy with so much grip, and how much faster the super sticky Falkens would wear. We went in guardedly optimistic, and left ready to get “Azenis” tattooed on our bodies. The switch to the Falkens also necessitated a bump up in wheel size to 17s, and again long time sponsor Raceline Wheels came through like magicians building and shipping a custom set of 17×8 to us in 4 days.

In the first corner of a race track I’d never seen, let alone driven, I knew immediately that these were something special. After the first two hours (during which time I took it from 32nd to 13th overall, and 1st in Class) I knew I was in love. We had so much grip it was hard to wrap our heads around. Further, when coupled with the new Vanco/Savvy/Black Magic brakes we could brake later than almost any other car out there. We could wait until the very last second to even start slowing, often passing 3-4 cars in the braking zone.

When I got out of the car after my first stint I honestly expected to see the front tires down to the wear bars; I was having so much fun passing people I forgot this was a 24 hour endurance race and was pushing really, really hard. To my shock, they looked nearly new. How was this possible? Even more amazing, on a track that’s notorious for chewing through tires, we only had to swap out the fronts at about 2 AM, and we finished the race on the same rear tires we started on. Even in the rain, they were incredible, allowing us to make up a bunch of lost time and take home the top prize, the Index of Effluence.

Huge thanks to all our sponsors from everybody at Petty Cash Racing, we couldn’t do it without you!

Make sure to stop by our Facebook page and root us on during the rest of the season at: Facebook.com/TeamPettyCash

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Jeep wins highest award in 24 Hours of LeMons!

That’s right, our beloved SuperCherokeeBird took the highest honors in 24 Hours of LeMons racing, the Index of Effluence. This is an award for showing up with the vehicle that has the least right to be anywhere near a race track (let alone on it) and doing so much better than expectations that people are left scratching their heads and muttering to themselves. And that’s exactly what we did.

Despite being out of the running for about two hours due to a pretty gnarly mechanical breakage (the rear axle decided that it didn’t want to be attached to the left side leaf spring anymore…at 85 mph) and a couple trips to the Penalty Box because of passing under yellow flags, we still pulled of a 14th place finish. This put the team second in our class, and had the race been just a little longer, we could have reeled them in too. Additionally, we were just one position from taking the “Least Horrible Yank Tank” award (highest finishing American car).

Of course, what made the weekend so awesome (besides the amazing caliber of racing, fun race track, great friends, and a race car that was unbelievably quick, reliable and rewarding to drive) was winning the top prize…which came with a check for $1501.00, a dollar more than 1st place gets. This is just to remind everybody who the real winner is: Petty Cash Racing!

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