Las Vegas, NV – Stephen Cox and co-driver Lee Creiglow overcame flat tires and radio problems to cross the finish line in 9th place during last weekend’s Best in the Desert Henderson Fabtech Desert Classic.
The Sopwith Motorsports/Sigal Racing/Mobile Radio Communications Jeep Cherokee started first among the JeepSpeed 1700 class and ran in the top six until radio problems sidelined the team at mile marker 30 on the first lap.
“Everything was fine for a while and then I couldn’t hear Lee (co-driver) any more,” said Stephen Cox, the host and executive producer of the Best in the Desert television series. “So we pulled over and Lee checked the radio system but couldn’t fix it. I really needed to talk to him because we were the underdogs and he was walking me through the race… this was my first desert race and now our radios were completely dead. So then we tried to work out whatever hand signals we could on the fly. It was a pretty crude way to communicate but we had no choice and we couldn’t lose any more time on the course.”
The team made an unscheduled pit stop at the end of the first 48-mile lap and established some makeshift radio communication with their pits, but the driver and co-driver still had no ability to talk to each other. The team also lost another 15 minutes during the stop.
One lap and one flat tire later, the Sopwith Jeep began running out of fuel just two miles short of pit road. Cox said “Yeah, that was our scheduled stop. We knew we were coming in after the second lap for fuel, but it was close. The engine started sputtering in the infield and Lee told me to take it easy. I had to nurse it into the pits at half throttle. Fortunately we had made a really good second lap so it didn’t hurt us too badly. The second lap was our quick lap of the day and I’m really happy with a top ten finish.”
After falling back as far as 14th, Cox and Creiglow worked their way back up to 9th position when the checkered flag fell after nearly 150 miles.
The Henderson event ends the racing season for Sopwith Motorsports, and Cox is expected to return to Best in the Desert racing next year with offers in the Trick Truck and Baja ProTruck classes. Stephen will also return to his specialty next season – asphalt road course racing – when Sopwith again competes in the Championship Motorsports Association road racing series.