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Story and photos by
Joshua Lowenstein

National Rockcrawling Championships
Las Cruces, NM

Bob Hazel - Our HeroAll I can say is "It's about time that some one put on an event like this!" The visionary ramrod named Bob Hazel said, "Let's see who has the best machine, and who really knows how to drive it." He asked a local Las Cruces jeeper, Homer Van Zant, to coordinate the event, using the top quality services and input of the 4x4 clubs in the area. The Championship was born.

Randy Ellis, Shannon Cambell, Ned Bacon, Rod Pepper, Heath Biggs, Sonny Honagar, Joel Randall, John/Frank Currie, Dan Mick, Ken Francisco, Steve "Jeepman" Jones and Mike Palmer were some of the 52 top drivers/ spotters that signed up for this challenge. Can you say "BIG DOGS "?!

Trails used for this event were Broad Canyon, Tabasco Twister and for the finals, Patzcuarro's Revenge. If you have ever run these trails before you might say "Those ain't that hard." That's fine. Until you see where Bob Hazel's teams placed the gates/ flags for the vehicles to pass through. For 2 weeks before the event, Bob and the local gonzo jeepers set the gates, 7 stages per trail, in the wackiest lines and obstacles, most had ever seen.

The scoring worked like this; each of the 7 sections had a specified time to complete- between 2 and 7 minutes. Everyone started with zero points and 10 points max per stage. A stop for more than 3 seconds added a point, a reversal added 3 points, knocking over a gate 10 points, going over the allotted time allowance 10 points, winching 1 point (it counted as a stop). Rollovers counted as a stop. The least points compiled over the three days of competition established the winner. Some took the 10 point max and bypassed the obstacles on some of the stages to avoid certain damage.

Mike on his sideThe real wheelers however, played hard - 5 landed on their sides 3 on their lids, (Randy Ellis did his obligatory roll over for his fans) Just kidding, Randy Ellis plays hard, and his rig is built for it. Too many broken axles to name, folded tie rods, shattered steering knuckles and so on... Body Damage? Who's counting anyway!!!

Denverite Mike Palmer who drives a 1951 OD M38 summed up the three days competition quite succinctly. " Broke 3 axles, rolled 3 times ... Go Dale Earnhardt"

The cut of for the final was 81 points. Since the points from the first two days were carried over to the final, the #1 Rookie team from Nebraska had a 13 point lead, which made for some heated battles to overtake the Rookie's strong hold.

The teamwork was top notch. Spotters with loops of winch cable and tree savers over their shoulders ran furiously for the biggest rock or tree they could find and drivers jumped across hoods to engage the winch, all with seconds to spare. The line speed of the winches proved to be the difference between a 1 point run and a 10.

JimmyThe best run of the final goes to Jimmy Lanery from Moab UT, who made it up the last waterfall before the cable got tight and made it through where everyone else winched. Go Jimmy!

Three days of Smashing, Bashing and Trashing in the Las Cruces hills. An event to savor and happy that in all that carnage no one was hurt. Bob Hazel is already making plans for next years championship, the possible sites include Farmington, Black Hills and California. Plans to change the rules to make winching a higher point penalty and backing up less points, are also in works.

Click on the Thumbnails for bigger versions.


Hats off to the winners:

  1. The Rookie team from Nebraska: CJ-7 with Currie axles & suspension.
  2. John & Frank Currie from California: the new Red TJ
  3. Jimmy Lanery & Jeff Beach from Moab, Utah: CJ-7
  4. Joel Randle from Nebraska: CJ-5
  5. Rich Hudson/Jeepman Jones from Nebraska/South Dakota: CJ-7

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