Following a successful 2014 King of The Hammers debut, Lasernut Racing decided to race two cars for 2015! This year Cody’s dad Jim Waggoner was also going to race! Prepping one car in a tough task in itself, but preparing two cars takes a lot of organization and knowledge! So, the team spent the last year painstakingly preparing for what KOH 2015 was surely going to dish out, pure punishment! After finishing 19th last year Lasernut president Cody Waggoner set very specific goals for himself in order to have a chance at an even better finish in 2015! These goals included picking up his average speed throughout the race by 20%. Another goal Cody set for himself, and his team, was to finish top 10 for this year’s race. Knowing one of the best ways to up your average speed was to put in the time shock tuning, Cody and his team did just that. They spent a ton of hours on the dry lakebed of Johnson Valley shock testing and tuning the car in the months leading up to the big race! Most of the family weekends were spent at the Lasernut Compound in order to get as much practice in as possible! Knowing that every little change to the car will affect the shocks and how they handle the brutal terrain that the Hammer’s trails are notorious for! One of the biggest adjustments came after the team made the switch to a bigger 40 gallon fuel cell. This move played a critical part in pit strategy as well. With more fuel on board the team knew they would be able to bypass certain pit stops and make up time on the teams that weren’t able to carry 40 gallons in their race cars. In the weeks leading up to the race both cars were completely torn down and everything was rebuilt, outside of the motors. Everything else was replaced or maintained at that time.
As pre-race preparations were well under way the Waggoner family was blindsided by an obstacle no one saw coming. Jim Waggoner was diagnosed with a foot infection and had to be admitted to the hospital for a week with an IV, two months prior to the event. When Jim was released from the hospital his infected foot was swollen up to almost twice the size of his healthy foot! Still questioning whether his problem was getting better, Jim went to see a different doctor and was told he needed to stay off his feet for a week. But, the foot wasn’t getting any better after giving it some time and Jim literally had a hole in his foot at this point. So, he went to see yet another doctor. To Jim’s amazement this doctor informed him that his toe was not no longer attached to his foot. They immediately scheduled Jim for surgery to take the bad bone out only 2 weeks before the race. After the surgery the doctors pumped Jim full of fluids to help fight off the infection, and he remained on fluids right up until race day! A true testament to Jim’s determination to compete this year!
The Lasernut Racing team loaded up all the race gear and headed to their compound in Johnson Valley about a week before the race. When they arrived the dry lake wasn’t exactly “dry” because of a rain storm in the area. The lake bed was covered in a layer of mud, with standing water in some spots! The mud had potential to be a huge game changer for every team competing in this year’s race! After setting up camp the next few days were spent pre running the course as much as possible. Friday, Saturday and Sunday were spent scouring the race course for potential hazards that could end the team’s chances at a finish. Of course the team found a little time to play as Jim Waggoner drove his brand new 4 seater side by side down the Crowbar trail and manage to tear the body panels off one side and bend an A-arm in the process! Monday was consumed by more pre running and prep for the Backdoor Challenge in which the Lasernut sponsored car of Bryan Maloney was competing in. Unfortunately, Bryan was feeling under the weather all week and was not his usual self. But, he pushed through and competed anyway, finishing with a decent overall time. Tuesday morning brought, you guessed it, even more pre running in the morning and prep for Jim Waggoner’s qualifying run. Jim was 14th off the start and drove smart for his qualifying session which netted him 79th place out of 130, with a stitched up ailing foot! Wednesday came around and it was Cody’s turn to qualify. Cody managed a smooth run which put him in 59th position overall, so both members of the father-son team were now in the main event on Friday! Thursday brought the Everyman Challenge Race with the Lasernut Racing sponsored car of Brandon Heyes. Brandon ran a strong consistent pace throughout the day and pulled off a 4th place position overall in his class! An awesome accomplishment!
Friday, the big race! Anticipation was high for the start of the race! The 50 team members and pit crew were more then ready for the event to start. Cody was suited up and in the car by 6am. After a two hour wait in line to leave the start gate it was game on! Cody left the start line at 8:14am. The start of the first lap brought jitters and the team was passed by a few cars in the opening desert section. With 40 gallons of fuel on-board the team bypassed the first pit stop. Once settled into race pace the team encountered their first real rock trail which was Crowbar, and the anxious feelings dissipated! Cody managed to get past a handful of cars in the first few rock sections and slowly started making up ground on the leaders. The second time Cody and co-driver Stuart Crawford came back to Pit 1 they topped off the tank and headed back out. This allowed them to skip the main pit area and head straight to Backdoor as it was clear of all traffic to start lap two.
Once at Backdoor Cody and Stuart made 3 hard attempts and could not crest the top. So, out came the winch! After winching to the top, Cody was passed by his dad Jim who decided to wait and hit that obstacle on his last lap. After Stuart climb back in the car it was time to head out into the open desert for some high speed running. When the team approached Pit 2A, they elected to keep going and head to Fisher Mountain. After clearing Fisher, they headed down through Sledehammer to Jackhammer and were met by a traffic jam of buggies trying to get through! After waiting in line a bit with no progress Cody knew he had to get around in order to maintain his pace. Stuart jumped out of the car and helped guide Cody who was carefully picked his way through, around and even over cars in front to find clear trail again. At this point the traffic jam had turned into a chaotic mess of winch cables and falling boulders! The team knew they had to clear the jam in order to consistently make progress. They decided Cody should keep going and Stuart would follow on foot after winching over the last section. By the time Stuart caught Cody at the top, he was completely gassed and wondered if he could continue on. But, after a short break to catch his breath he was back and ready to move on! Next it was on to Wrecking Ball and they were able to walk right through without winching. At this point the team were slowly picking off other cars as their pace quickened. They skipped Pit 2 and headed back into the desert where they caught Jim and passed him back up. From there they took on fuel at Pit 1. After clearing Crowbar again they made another pit stop and it was on to the final lap of the day!
The third lap brought an unusual task for the team. They were asked to pick-up a 12″x12″ box of parts during their stop at the main pit, and deliver it to a team that were broke down out on the race course. Being good sportsman, Cody and Stuart agreed to deliver the package to the team in need. As they approached the designated mile marker for the stranded team Stuart asked Cody if he was going to stop and physically hand the package to the driver. Cody replied no, we will just slow way down and you can toss it out the window on the way by. So, Stuart set the package on the dash as they approached the unfortunate team. When Cody got on the brakes to slow down near the team, the package slid off the dash over the nose of the car and they proceeded to run over the special delivery! Package terminated! Doh! Our sincerest apologies go out to the team we were trying to help, it wasn’t intentional! Back on pace again the team pointed the car towards Outer Limits, where they managed to get around famed rock bouncer Tim Cameron on their way through. On highway 19 and 20 they methodically passed a a handful of IFS cars in their native territory. At this point in the race the team heard through radio communications that only 4 people had crossed the line so far! So, with their game faces on, they set out for a strong finish! Nearing the end of the last lap the sun had set and the lights were on, which added a whole new dynamic. Anyone that has been in the desert at night knows how easy it is to lose your way once the sun goes down! At this point in the race it was time to do Jackhammer again, but the traffic jam they encountered earlier in the day was still there. So, race organizers redirected the leaders around and the team was allowed to bypass that section. Now it was off to Wrecking Ball again and the team ran it cleanly for the second time. Now on to the home stretch the team could taste the finish line! When the dust settled at the end of the day Cody and Stuart pulled off 7th place overall! Jim Waggoner and his son Bryan Waggoner came across the finish line in 15th place a short while later! Unfortunately Bryan Maloney’s day was cut short by gearbox failure, which left him with no reverse.
What a week! From pouring rain and a mud filled dry lake on arrival, to perfect weather on race day with virtually zero dust all week! A last minute surgery putting the team in doubts! Endless preparations and planning! A team made up of family and friends that came together to compete in one of the most difficult races on the planet! To some much needed comic relief in the form of rearranged body work on a new razor and a package that was sent via “special delivery”! To a great day of racing where neither Jim or Cody had to get out of the car all day, no flat tires, no mechanical issues and most of all………….no injuries!
Special thanks go out to our family and friends for all their support over the last year, we couldn’t have done this without you! A huge thanks to Mike Bishop for putting together an incredible team and pit crew everyone executed their jobs perfectly! Thanks to Brad Benson for putting together all the logistics for the entire week! Thanks to Gerald Lee, John Rocha and John Currie for all their help along the way as well! We are also thankful Jim Waggoner was able to comeback from his surgery and not only compete, but finish in the top 15! Stay tuned for our video blog documenting our week on the lakebed!