When Yoder arrived at the lake bed on Sunday, five full days before the race, he realized just how big King of Hammers was going to be for 2010. The amount of people already on the lakebed and the endless trail of lights coming in on the dirt road between the paved highway and Means Dry lake was already rivaling the 2009 crowd.
Yoder had made a few changes from last years car: new gears, new engine and the new “FAST RED” paint scheme. He climbed in the buggy on Monday and headed for the open desert to try and shake out any last gremlins before the race. Pre running went well, but a couple of ideas went through Yoder’s head searching for more speed. The engine was a brand new LS3 Stroker from Turnkey Engine Supply. A phone call to Turnkey for a different reason revealed that Yoder needed to take the Buggy to Turnkey Engine Supply for the final tuning…yes, right then! Yoder borrowed a truck, loaded the buggy and headed for Oceanside, CA. After arriving at the Turnkey Engines facility three and a half hours later, the buggy was unloaded and
driven straight to the chassis dyno. “I couldn’t believe how awesome the folks at Turnkey took care of me. It was great to watch and learn how these high tech engines get tuned. What was even better were the numbers the LS3 stroker kicked out on the Dyno,” commented Yoder. With the new engine making all kinds of power, the buggy was loaded back up and he drove back to the lake bed. “One long day, but worth every minute,” Yoder claimed.
Tuesday and Wednesday were filled with checking out all the cool rigs on the lake bed and more pre running in the desert on dirt bikes. Yoder and members of his team rode about 60 miles the first part of the day and everything went fine until the 2nd trip out when Yoder ripped a hole in the front tire on his dirt bike about 30 miles from camp. Of course sunlight was burning so Yoder just took off for camp and hoped for the best. Both the bike and Yoder got back just as the sun went down.
It was now time to take the green flag for the 2010 Griffin King of the Hammers. Race day proved to be exciting even before the race started! A team member helped Yoder jockey his buggy into the starting grid for staging. So Yoder with his fire suit and helmet on, R-3 and neck collar in place climbed in the buggy to get belted in. “Now we are ready to race,” he thinks! Months of prep, countless hours and money spent to get to this point, just to fire up the buggy, pull it forward into starting position and the brake pedal goes metal to metal with the floor. Less then 4 minutes before he takes the start of the biggest, baddest off road race to date he is faced with knowing one of his brake pedals has no pressure at all! After I’m sure a bunch of choice words that his Copilot Joel had to endure, Yoder radios his team and states they will need brake work when they come back in to pit. So Yoder takes off from starting line on the 135 mile adventure with front brakes only!
Starting 51st out of 100 racers, Yoder held his own running a pace that was limited by how much the front brakes could take. At RM 35 Yoder came in for his first pit with only 11 cars ahead of him. The pit time was extended some due to having to change out a brake master cylinder. The unfortunate part was 4 miles after the pit the brakes were gone again. They raced on and just went for it.
The Calrocs pits proved to be extended also as more time was given to the brakes as Yoder wanted to be able to run full speed and show what the car could do. However, the time was wasted as the brakes lasted just 4 miles again. Yoder and his copilot Joel Swanson got into a better groove knowing they would not have good brakes for the rest of the race and just had to suck it up and deal with it.
The brake issue continued to plague the team. It showed its ugly head one more time and this time proved to be the most costly. While attempting Sledge Hammer, which was the toughest spot out of the whole race for most teams, Yoder climbed the ledge with the front tires then decided to burn the rear axle to the left so they could get a straight pull with the winch. But when Yoder kicked out the front axle for the rear burn, he forgot about the rear brakes and the buggy went into a slide that he couldn’t stop. Gravity won, like it always does, and it pulled Yoder off the ledge and on his side with more skid plate showing than roof. Yoder knew that Bob Roggy, who he had just nerfed a few times in the previous mile, was coming in for a pay back. Roggy attempted to use the underside of Yoder’s buggy as a stepping stone to get up the ledge. Which might have worked if Roggy’s buggy hadn’t stalled. Now Roggy’s buggy was stuck with a tire wedged into Yoder’s suspension links. Eventually, Roggy and Yoder’s buggies were separated, and then Yoder’s rig was righted. Bob Roggy had to winch up the edge just to have his buggy stall again with the winch not being able to pull him up or down. After a few minutes Yoder came up from behind and gave a good shove to aid Roggy’s rig up the ledge. With that shove Yoder took out Roggy’s transmission cooler, but Roggy made sure he got far enough ahead so Yoder could get around him. Yoder then winched up the ledge drove around the dead rig. Yes, it caused a lot of crowd pleasing cheers and some great pictures that have shown up on the internet and in the magazines!
Once they pulled out of Sledge Hammer they only had one more trail and 15 miles of desert to go to the finish. Yoder and Joel made sure the rest of the trip was smooth as the two crossed the line in 13th position.
After over 8 hours in the buggy Yoder was thankful that his Pit Bull Tires held up again, No flats and no brakes is just how he rolls….