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Gwinnett-based desert racing team chronicles adventurous race

Members of Gwinnett-based Peak Empire Racing are shown after completing the Reno to Vegas race in the desert.

Members of Gwinnett-based Peak Empire Racing are shown after completing the Reno to Vegas race in the desert.

RENO, Nevada — Gwinnett's own desert-racing team, Peak Empire Racing, finished its grueling trek across the hot Nevada desert last week. Although not unexpected, temperatures were over 100 degrees, including 114 at the starting line, according to team owner and co-driver Ted Holt. The team left the hotel early Friday morning and did not stop until they arrived Saturday morning in Reno as one of only seven JeepSpeed cars that finished the race out of the total of 20 in the class.

Holt chronicled the adventure for the Daily Post. The following is Holt's take on the event:

The first Jeepspeed guys left the line around 11 a.m. My co-driver and navigator Gary Cann and myself left at approximately 11:30 a.m. With the dust in our face, we headed into what can only be a certain adventure.

The first 100 miles of this race includes a 22-mile silt bed that takes out 30 percent of all racers due to the heat. It is absolutely brutal. If you don't know what silt is, it's a bottomless pit of a talcum powder-like substance. You have the car floored and move very slowly as you battle high engine and transmission temperatures. Once through the silt bed, we encountered our first problem (besides the heat) — a fuel delivery problem. The racecar shut off, leaving us stranded on the side of a cliff trying to fix it. After an hour, we finally got it going. After changing many parts, we headed back on course and tried to make up time.

When we came into Pit 3, our pit crew found a broken bolt in our Trac-bar. This fix included a two-hour down time and the weld/fab up of a new Trac-bar bracket. After the fix, we headed back into the desert with only 15 minutes before we timed out, so we needed to make up time and do it fast. And we did. We averaged close to 50 miles an hour for the next 200 miles, getting back up close to where the teams, the ones that were left anyway, were on the course.

At race mile 309, Cann and I got out of the racecar and our fresh driver/co driver team of Jimmy Penner and John Coleman team got in. It was dark. It was Friday night around 11:30. Jimmy and John clicked off miles and were making ground on the third place JeepSpeed car when they were gobbled up by a massive Silt bed/hill climb just before pit 14 and race mile 375. They were stuck in the silt for over an hour. After digging out, they continued further and passed pit 15, the last pit, close on the heels of the third-place team, which also had a problem. The chase crew, which now included myself, took off for the finish line to see if our can (the car) could get on the podium at third place.

At the finish line, we found out the second, third, and fourth place teams, us included, were all fighting for position. A lat transmission cooler problem took our car down for another 30 minutes with only 17 miles to go to the finish. After the fix, the Peak Empire Racing team got up and going and blasted to the finish line. We finished fourth. A great finish for Team Peak Empire Racing. It was an epic battle for the guys in the car, and a huge battle for our chase/pit crew. They navigated 600 miles of empty desert to make sure the drivers, co-drivers and race car had fuel, food and water when we needed it. They were also there if we needed the car worked on. The 2012 Vegas to Reno Race was a great adventure for the Peak Empire Racing Team.

It definitely sounds like a spectacular adventure and maybe even more than that. Not many can say they competed in the Desert Race, and among the racers, few can say they crossed this year’s finish line, but Ted Holt, Gary Cann, Jimmy Penner, John Coleman, and the support/chase team of Tim Holt, Wesley Switzer, Karl Knowlton, and Yves Braun can.

Make sure to tune in to NBC Sports Network's highlight show of the Reno to Vegas race desert racing coverage on Oct. 28 at 6 p.m. and November 1 at 5 p.m. to see for yourself just how intense desert racing really is.