Junkyard Challenge Episode 5: Just Send It!

William Shakespeare once said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” In this year’s K&N Junkyard Challenge, we saw all three kinds during the competitions!

Every team had seven days to complete their builds. They fought against the outdoors, budget constraints, and even each other. In the end, one team and one truck would walk away with the grand prize of $10,000. That, and the pride of having come out on top.

Time to kick the tires and light some fires!

But before that happened, the teams had to get through all four of our challenges – barrel race, short-course race, Tug O’ War, and jump contest. From this gauntlet, only the best could survive; or could they? Read on to find out how it all went down.

Following Up

No time like the present – RSO was in a mad dash to fix the truck before competition day.

As you may recall from Episode 4, all four teams got their trucks finished on time and out on the course. The prerunning session would give teams a taste of what to expect for the short-course race. It also brought problems to the surface, especially in the case of RSO.

By the time the sun set, the black Dodge wasn’t doing too hot. Or rather, it was doing too hot, as evidenced by the steam billowing from the grille. Upon opening the hood, it was discovered that the radiator hose was pinched under a shock tower brace. Taking it over a small jump probably did the trick.

Although it was technically incomplete by the finish of build week, Horsepower Wars officials wanted to keep everyone in the running. RSO was given an hour and a half to fix the truck, and then put it into the competition. Damage Inc and RaceAnything showed generosity and fellowship by helping RSO make the repairs. Before anyone knew it, the time was up, and the truck was ready to roll.

Challenge #1: Barrel Race

The first challenge was the barrel race, with each team getting two attempts. On paper, it seemed easy enough: Guide around cones and markers, stay on track, and keep the speed up as high as possible. The course was about an eighth of a mile total, but the sharp turns and narrow path could make it easy to slip up if the drivers weren’t careful.

The objective of this challenge was to test the truck’s turning ability, as well as the driver’s reaction time. By nature, trucks have pretty lousy turn radii. Everyone (except for RaceAnything and its Howe steering quickener) would have a hard time making the hairpin turns on the course.

The first run of the day was Trevor in RaceAnything's GMC. The truck did well, taking first place with 3 points, but unfortunately it took a hit to the transfer case adapter.

Trevor from RaceAnything drove the white GMC first. He went hammer-down, but suffered a mishap on the run. Closer inspection revealed it had broken the transfer case adapter. “It snapped in half, in between the transmission and the transfer case,” said Orie. “We need a new adapter. Trevor is out getting one at a junkyard. Hopefully, he can make it back in time.”

Other mishaps happened. On NexGen’s truck (driven by Don), “the rearend is swinging back more than we planned,” said Chris. “It hit the fuel pump and pinched the brake line, so we’re making a new brake line and relocating the fuel pump.” RSO’s truck couldn’t get into first gear, for unknown reasons, but the team was going to remove the throttle body for inspection, as well as add preload to the front coilovers. Lastly, Damage Inc’s F-250 was still firing on all cylinders and running well.

Tyler drove the Damage Inc F-250 into second place, adding 2 points to the team's scoreboard.

When all was said and done, the results were as follows (winner in bold, runner-up in italics):

  • Damage Inc: 42.53 (1st attempt); 42.56 (2nd attempt); 2 points
  • RSO: 52.46 (1st attempt); 50.46 (2nd attempt)
  • RaceAnything: 40.72 (1st attempt); no 2nd attempt due to damage; 3 points
  • NexGen: 1:14.10 (1st attempt); 46.99 (2nd attempt)

The victory for RaceAnything set the bar for the day. As the winners, they got 3 points toward the overall score. The runners-up, Damage Inc, received 2 points. Now, it was on to one of the main events: short-course!

More barrel race highlights – Mike's driving causes the taillight to go flying off the black Dodge. Don makes solid passes in the NexGen F-150, despite a little damage to the fuel pump and brake lines.

Challenge #2: Short-Course Race

After a quick repair session, all four teams and trucks lined up for the short-course race. Coming off of a sweet victory from the previous competition, all eyes were on Jeff and the white GMC. However, the rules for this race forced the victor of the barrel race to start in the back of the short-course race, and vice versa. Though the penalty assessed to NexGen based on their truck selection (see Episode 1) put them at the back and bumped RaceAnything up one spot. This made it so that the starting formation was RSO (Tyler), Damage Inc (Rylee), RaceAnything (Jeff), and NexGen (Dez), in that order.

The race was eight laps, with a mandatory caution after the fourth lap. Drivers could make light contact, but anything determined as heavy contact – ramming, intentionally shoving off the track, etc. – would be disqualified. The winner would get 3 points, while the runner-up would get 2, and whoever was in first place by the end of the fourth lap would get 1.

And they're off!

The K&N Tundra took the drivers around for a tense pace lap. Starting at the tabletop on the straightaway, the green flag waved, and the trucks took off. Tyler had the advantage in the two-wheel-drive Dodge, but how long could he hold onto it?

Rylee pulls ahead of Jeff in the first lap.

About one second, actually. Coming into the first turn, Jeff and Rylee were going at it. Rylee pulled ahead coming into the third turn, but Jeff was hot on his tail. The grizzled veteran rock racer versus the master fabricator, GMC versus Ford, NorCal versus SoCal – the significance of this rivalry was too enthralling to take our eyes away. Meanwhile, Tyler resigned himself to fourth place until the mandatory caution came. Dez did his best to keep up.

The battle continued, as each lap saw Jeff creep up little by little. Rylee did his best to keep feeding dust to Jeff, but Jeff was having none of it. And then, on lap four, just as the caution was about to drop, it happened.

Rylee holds onto his lead, but Jeff is hot on his tail!

Jeff made a bold move coming into the final turn before the finish line. He saw his opening, and hammered the throttle, going outside Rylee. Just like that, Rylee was now in second place as the yellow and checkered flags flew. Jeff took first place going into the mandatory caution lap, snagging Team RaceAnything 1 point on the scoreboard.

All four trucks parked to the side as the teams came in to cheer on their drivers. Jeff’s truck was missing the piece of tire the team had jammed in to cushion the previously-broken transfer case adapter, and Dez’s F-150 was drizzling coolant all over the ground. Fixes were forbidden until the race was over, though, so the drivers would have to play the hands they were dealt.

Just out of reach – Rylee almost came in first place by the end of the fourth lap, but Jeff overtook him coming into the final turn. Jeff took first place before the mandatory caution, awarding him 1 point.

Jeff gives us a thumbs-up while waiting for the K&N pace truck.

Drivers welcomed the brief break, drinking water and getting feedback from their teammates. Jeff was in good spirits, but potentially all it would take is a hard landing to knock out his drivetrain.

Once the caution lap was over, Jeff mashed the throttle once again. He pulled away, leaving Rylee and Dez to duke it out for second place. Coming out of turn one, however, Rylee found himself up on a berm and slinging dirt into the air. His truck clipped Dez’s on a bad line. He quickly shifted between forward and reverse until finally free, and cut the course to get back on track.

Rylee and Dez make contact on lap five, leaving Rylee spinning his tires on a berm. He forces the truck off and cuts the course to get back into the race. This would cost him dearly.

Lap six came and went, with Jeff in the lead, Dez in second, Tyler in third, and Rylee in fourth. Officials gave Rylee the hand signal indicating he had to pull in for his penalty (due to cutting the course). He acknowledged and kept going until lap seven, when he pulled off the course and waited 30 seconds.

Jeff was doing rings around the other racers by this point. His lead was secure, especially since Dez’s F-150 was now pluming white smoke from the radiator. Tyler’s truck suffered a flat somewhere along the way. Rylee was let back on to the track, a lap down and essentially out of the race. But nobody could predict what happened next.

Rylee pulls the F-250 in for his 30-second penalty as a result of cutting the course. Meanwhile, Dez's F-150 leaks coolant (note the white smoke) and Tyler's 1500 nurses a flat tire.

Damage Inc's F-150 rolls to a stop after a violent crash.

On the second turn, Rylee’s truck caught a bad line. Pitching sideways, the truck flipped once, then twice, and came to a stop on all fours. The yellow flag went out. Officials, teammates, and camera crew sprinted to the F-250.

The best possible outcome of a crash – the driver is fine and talking, and the truck, although mangled, still drives!

Thankfully, Riley was okay. Paramedics instructed him to sit down as they performed first aid. Rylee was at a loss for words, his face covered in dirt and his spirit all but broken. Near him, the F-250 sat dripping coolant on the ground. The man was silent, but it was obvious that he was in turmoil.

After pulling the truck off of the course – amazingly, it still ran and drove – officials called the race. Jeff took first place, receiving three points, while Dez and Team NexGen received two points.

A kind gesture – RaceAnything donates a spare radiator to keep Damage Inc’s truck in the competition.

Back at the work areas, the teams took the rest of the day to lick their wounds and get ready for the last two competitions. RaceAnything graciously donated a brand new PRW radiator (a leftover part that they didn’t wind up using) to Damage Inc. Tyler and Sandy did the honors of bending the front end back into shape, as well as installing the new radiator. The truck, amazingly, held together and started working again.

Who says you can't install a new radiator in a totaled truck?

After the race was over, we tallied up the points (winner in bold, runner-up in italics):

  • Damage Inc: DNF; 2 points overall
  • RSO: 3rd place; 0 points overall
  • RaceAnything: 1st place at fourth lap, 1 point; 1st place overall, 3 points; 7 points overall
  • NexGen: 2nd place, 2 points; 2 points overall

Challenge #3: Tug O’ War

“Two trucks enter, one truck leaves” – that’s Tug O’ War in a nutshell. Okay, it’s not that dramatic, but the mortal struggle of watching two trucks yank against each other is awesome, and was a perfect fit for Junkyard Challenge.

Using a 30-foot tow strap, a flag, and a cone, trucks hitched together at the rear and let ‘er rip. If officials saw movement to either side of the cone, no matter how small, that truck won. Each attempt would run 10-15 seconds, and it was left to the ref’s discretion on when to call off the pull, in case one truck started dragging the other too far.

The trucks dig in – literally. Still, Jack takes the flag over the cone to his side, winning the first pull.

First up was RaceAnything against Damage Inc. RaceAnything was in a prime position to win the competition here; all Jack had to do was win two pulls, and the victory was secure. LS vs. Big-Block, Ford vs. GM, the points leader versus the runner-up – the rivalry was tense, as tight as the tow strap just as the referee gave the signal.

And that’s when we all started laughing. As soon as the vehicles hit the gas, the tires began to sink into the dirt. Rather than screeching and smoking, all we got were rooster tails and two stuck trucks. However, Jack managed to pull Matt past the cone, nudging RaceAnything closer to the victory.

With a second successful pull, Jack secures the overall win for RaceAnything. Meanwhile, Dez recovers the ripped-off hitch point for the NexGen truck and ponders continuing in the competition.

The rest of the pulls followed similar fates, all of them creating divots in the dirt as we shifted the staging area around. However, Jack managed to secure the winning pull when he went up against NexGen. He made his win extra-official, dragging the truck well past the line and eventually ripping the hitch point off of the truck! It was showboating, but officials ruled it admissible and let Jack revel in his victory.

“I am so happy with everything that’s gone down,” he said. “I could barely hear the ‘go’ siren, so as soon as I felt them pulling me, I said, ‘Well, I’m pulling them!’ The engine hit the rev limiter, so I shifted to second gear. Hit the limiter again, then I shifted to third gear. I felt the other guy let off, so I downshifted to second and sent it. It all worked out.”

Here were the results of all six pulls:

  • RaceAnything vs. Damage Inc: RaceAnything (1 pt.)
  • RSO vs. NexGen: NexGen (1 pt.)
  • RaceAnything vs. NexGen: RaceAnything (1 pt.; RaceAnything wins overall!)
  • RSO vs. Damage Inc: Damage Inc (1 pt.)
  • RSO vs. RaceAnything: RaceAnything (1 pt.)
  • NexGen vs. Damage Inc: BYE for Damage Inc (1 pt.; NexGen’s hitch point got ripped off in its pull against RaceAnything)

This put the official scoreboard as follows (winner in bold, runner-up in italics):

  • Damage Inc: 2 points for 2 successful pulls; 4 points overall
  • RSO: 0 points for 0 successful pulls; 0 points total
  • RaceAnything: 3 points for 3 successful pulls; 10 points overall and WINNER of K&N Junkyard Challenge
  • NexGen: 1 points for 1 successful pull; 1 point overall

Despite herculean efforts, RSO's two-wheel-drive Dodge Ram failed all of its pulls.

Challenge #4: Jump Contest

The time had come for the last competition of the 2019 Junkyard Challenge. This was the big finish, the showstopper – the jump contest!

TCB track technicians crafted a ramp out from a section of the short-course track, leaving over 250 feet of landing strip in front of it to catch the lofty pickups. Even though RaceAnything had already won the overall competition, all of the teams banded together to send off the K&N Junkyard Challenge in a glorious finale. And what better way to do it than to send the champion first?

Orie slips the surly bonds of earth in the white GMC. The truck may be wrecked, but that's only temporary. RaceAnything plans to fix it up and keep using it in NorCal events.

Orie donned his race suit and helmet before stepping into the white GMC. We were certain that with their win firmly secured, Orie would take it easy on this last challenge. Boy, were we wrong!

Embracing the “full send” atmosphere of the K&N Junkyard Challenge, Orie left it all on the field. He traveled 120 feet and smashed into the ground. Springs, bolts, and fluids went everywhere. Once again, the driver was dazed, but unhurt. “We broke the truck a little,” he joked. “I was just planning on jumping it as far as it could go. The NOS system definitely paid for itself in that regard!” Truly a fitting end for the K&N Junkyard Challenge champions. The team swore to fix it up after the competition and keep it around for a long time.

Sandy lives up to his nickname – Sendy – and launches the Damage Inc F-250. He walked away fine thanks to the safety harness and cage on the truck.

Following the example set by Orie, Sandy of Damage Inc went for broke on the F-250 during his second jump attempt (his first attempt measured 72 feet). The truck landed in a spectacular smash and left us all in awe. The official distance was 96 feet, an honorable mention to Orie’s record-setting jump. “I went full send,” he said. “I hurt myself a little bit. My back hurts from when I flew forward against the seatbelt. But I’m all good!”

The man was up and walking after catching his breath, and against all odds, the F-250 still started up and put power to the ground. However, the beams and steering weren’t up to the task. The truck required a backhoe to pick it up and move it around, eventually coming to rest near the ramp.

Billy puts a point on the scoreboard for RSO. Hallelujah!

For their part, RSO and NexGen still made jump attempts. Billy drove the RSO truck 61 and 65 feet, respectively. Chris drove the NexGen truck 51 feet and 66 feet, respectively. The combined totals for both put RSO ahead, and the team was awarded one point (finally!) for good faith attempts.

This put the final scoreboard as follows (winner in bold, runner-up in italics):

  • RaceAnything: 3 points for longest jump; 13 points overall
  • Damage Inc: 2 points for runner-up jump; 6 points overall
  • NexGen: 1 point for good-faith attempts; 4 points overall
  • RSO: 1 point for good-faith attempts; 1 point overall

And that was it! Chad gathered the teams around to share the breakdown of points, and crowned RaceAnything the official winner. So it went that the Northern California team, the team that everyone thought was out of their element, came down to Southern California and schooled everyone.

It was a testament to the team’s planning, hard work, and trust in their truck. It called to mind one of the first things that Trevor said on the first day of the build challenge: “We’re going to build what we know.” So it seemed that Jeff and the guys knew they were going to win, and built a winner as a result.

Before and after – RaceAnything's 2004 GMC 2500HD was a born winner.

The 2019 Junkyard Challenge is presented by K&N Filters but also made possible by some of the leading companies in our industry, including Summit RacingCOMP CamsTCIToyo Tires, MAHLE MotorsportsDyna-BattWeld RacingCorsa PerformanceFragolaHolleyDiabloSport, NOSE3 Spark PlugsTotal SealMoser EngineeringBMR SuspensionMiller ElectricAerospace ComponentsVictor ReinzMorosoUS GearHawk PerformanceLucas OilPRW IndustriesWeld RacingVP RacingNOSProCharger, and ARP.

About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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