RC4WD x RUSTY NAIL RACING #4619 @ KING OF THE HAMMERS
We are extremely excited to announce the sponsorship of Rusty Nail Racing and the legendary Justin Reece! A long-time rock crawling enthusiast that has been hitting the rocks in Toyota rigs for literally decades. Justin was invited early on to help out with a small gathering of some close friends that just wanted to go out and have some friendly competition on the rocks out in the Johnson Valley of Southern California. What started out as just a weekend of fun has been transformed into the fastest growing racing event on the planet. Today known as King of the Hammers or KOH is an absolute sight to see.
Why this partnership is so special, is that Justin is a hardcore Toyota Fan (you know like everyone here at RC4WD). Mr. Reece has stuck to his guns as a grassroots racer and has been a tinkerer of anything with a motor as long as he can remember. Rusty Nails weapon of choice is the classic Toyota SR5 also known as the Hilux outside of the US. Their tiny titan also known as number 4619 is running in the 4600 EMC class a.k.a. Every Man Challenge at King of the Hammers. This class restricts its competitors to make the least number of modifications from the factory configuration. So, what does that actually mean for a race like KOH? It means that there are no over the top engines or insane suspension systems that do all the work for you. Driver, Co-Driver and Vehicle have to work as a single unit, always in tune with each other. Sure, the modifications to 4619 are there but each one has to be methodically considered and chosen for its ability to complete its task.
A few years back Justin decided his Brother Cameron, also a long-time gear head, was the absolute best fit to be his Co-Pilot. With his brother at his side and the rest of the amazing crew that make up Rusty Nails Racing there is truly little that stands in their way to victory. Making not only the podium 6 of the last 7 years but winning the 4600 class in 2019 as well as repeating that incredible task this year for the 2021 season. The 2019 win marked the first year a Toyota had won the class and proved to the world not only what the truck was capable of but how talented the Reece brothers really are. What Rusty Nails Racing embodies is a love for all things off-road with a nod to the rocks and that’s exactly what RC4WD represents to the RC world. We got a chance to catch up with Team RNR as soon as they were able to catch their breath after their thrilling Victory!
Let’s see what they had to say:
RC4WD: How did we get into RC?
RNR: We (Justin & Cameron) have always been into RC starting with RadioShack buggies all the way back in the 90’s. The RC Crawling bug didn’t bite until a few years ago. For us driving an RC car is as close as you can get to actually being in the full size race truck. Sometimes RC is better than real racing… One thing we like is if you break an axle it could cost as little as $15 to get you back up and running. The scale and realism of RC cars these days is so close to the real thing! The tires, wheels, gearing, suspension, and shock tuning work in the exact same way as a real truck. When the stresses of racing set in it gives us great relief to hit the rocks and compete in small groups to see who built the best car… Just like King of the Hammers!
RC4WD: Tell us about the race!
RNR: First step is always going through Tech and Contingency the day before the race. The adrenalin really starts building at this point because you know in 18 hours, you’ll be racing against 31 other teams that believe they have built the best car. The night before the race we have the last Pit Crew meeting led by our Crew Chief Brittain McNiel. We go over everything done in the months leading up to this day and make a solid plan as to who will be doing when at what times during the entire race. This year felt the most organized we have ever been with every single person ready to execute their specific task. Napping more than sleeping the night before you end up looking at the clock dozens of times waiting for 5:30am to arrive. This year we start 24th out of 31 reminding us there is much work to do. Justin put the hammer down and did an amazing job the first 80 miles of desert passing 17 rigs leaving 5 to go coming into Main Pit. With 4619 full of fuel and the team doing work to make sure that every single nut and bolt that could possibly cause a problem is checked and rechecked we knew we were in a good place to head for the rocks!
RC4WD: Heading to the Rocks… That’s what Justin and Rusty Nails is known for, how did that feel?
RNR: We knew we were in great position going into the rocks because this is where Justin as a driver and the truck were built for. As soon as we hit Spooners Rock Trail I (Cameron) had to get out to help a fellow 4600 car become unstuck just to clear a path so we could move forward. At that point we decided Cameron would stay out of the truck to give Justin the guidance he needed to guide the trusty Toyota through the challenging rocks ahead. With just a touch of momentum we headed to the Outer Limits Trail where we hit our first bottle neck. Blocking the Main path was a broken down 4800 class rig. In 4th place and out of the truck doing everything possible to help any team that needed it. “Moments like this are what I love about Ultra4 racing!” Drivers/Teams from all classes helping one another to accomplish the same goal. Times like this are hard to describe but to sum it up it’s “Sensory Overload”. Imagine 8 purpose built rigs stacked on top of each other struggling to clear the rocks. Engines revving and shifters being slammed to help the tires claw away at the rocks, shredding themselves just to find the tiniest amount of grip. Justin’s voice is the only thing that brings my focus back with his wisdom and experience echoing in every word. Pushing through all obstacles including not only the tough terrain but broken down machines that lost to the rocks.
Moving past this section with extra battle scars of honor on 4619 is testament to the commitment of every person on team RNR. With Justin piloting and all the hard work leading up to this day the mighty mini is once again able to show its true purpose. Fighting our way past the top competitors we finally caught up with the truck in the number one spot. Between us and the number one spot stood a Jeep and all that nature had to offer in a section dubbed “Wrecking Ball”. As the Jeep struggled to find its footing the only fair thing to do would be to get out and help. It may sound strange helping the opposing team toss rocks under their rig to get them back in the running. But that’s exactly what makes KOH so special. You come here to see if you have what it takes not just for you but for the guy next to you. There is a camaraderie here that won’t be found at any other racing event. Where there is a code of honor amongst all teams and classes. Passing through Bender Alley it was a Driver and Co Driver showdown. Bender Alley finally offered up the smallest opportunity to pass. To say it was tight is an understatement with 4619 leaving some trace DNA on the Jeep as we scuffed on by. We were now in first place! With the pedal down we fought to keep the shiny side up through "Jack North", "Jack Hammer", "Mailbox", "Hwy 20", "Hwy 19", "Sunbonnet Pass" and "Hell's Gate". At this point with all the tough rock sections behind us we radioed ahead and let the crew know that the Truck feels good and we are going for it! That meant no extra pit … No Fuel Check or anything else for that matter. With that decision made it was literally win it all or maybe none at all. Dropping into Emerson lakebed with the sun going down it was time to fire up the light bar. Even with the extra lumens, big obstacles were still hard to see. Both of us were exhausted after battling for hours running with pure adrenalin. With 25 miles of desert to "HeartBreak Hill" we let the team know we were “almost to Hammertown and the Finish!” Coming back over the radio loud and clear was "We are here waiting for you!"
In the final stretch so many thoughts start racing…… “Do we have enough fuel” …. “What if something breaks with just feet to go”???! We were absolutely silent, neither of us willing to say a thing…. “Don’t JINX IT!” Passing the Ford arch make a right then a small jump…. Last but certainly not least a sharp left to take the checkered flag!! Only then in the absolute final moment is when we both realized we had actually done it. We just won King of the Hammers Stock Class for the 2nd time. KOH is such a grueling experience on man and machine that RNR and 4619 was the only stock class vehicle to finish the race in the 10 hour allowed time limit. Our Rusty Nail Racing team were all at the finish line awaiting us to be on the main stage in front of the JumboTron where they interviewed us and our experience. Our team was going nuts!! I could hear the excitement yelling from their voices on how proud they were that all their hard work paid. This team made it possible for a leaf sprung, 35" tire, solid axle Toyota to conquer the king. We really owe it to them and all their hard work and support. There is no success for 4619 without the dedication of the entire Rusty Nails Racing Family. It felt so good to be onstage with my brother claiming the 1st place trophy!
RC4WD: Wow that sounds like one heck of a day! Congratulations!
RC4WD: Can you tell us a little bit more about Rusty Nail Racing Team?
RNR: We are just a small race team that averages about 40-50 volunteers that join us in Johnson Valley for anywhere from 3 to14 days. There is always something to do on the rig or setting from pre run, pre checks, scheduling, camp prep and the most important part…. To have a good time!
Justin has been racing KOH officially since 2009. Along the way this team has been recognized for several accomplishments, to name a few: First Toyota to win EMC class, First full framed chassis to finish, First leaf sprung vehicle to finish, and last but certainly not Winning the 4600/EMC in a Toyota Truck!! The team was truly fortunate to have been featured on a KOH documentary titled "Battle of the Badlands" now available on amazon.
On the wish list for team RNR is to race our SR5 in the NORRA 1000! We may venture into uncharted waters for the team and eventually try our luck in 4800 class at KOH. If or when that day comes it will be very emotional moving on from 4619. For now, the truck is back in Ridgway, Colorado in the shop awaiting teardown. Then the crew will meticulously inspect, replace, service and adjust every nut and bolt for its next adventure. Coming up in April on the 2nd and 3rd in Moab Utah!
Since day one! Lots of items found on the Rusty Nails #4619 can be found right here in the existing catalogue of over-the-top scale options already available… From RC4WD…. Who’s up for a tribute build? We hope you have enjoyed hearing about our great new partner in the full scale world. We are excited to work closely with RNR and see what future projects and items we can create! GodSpeed and Good Fortune to everyone at Rusty Nails and we can’t wait to see what comes next!