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Off-Road Race Chase Jeep JK

A Reformed SEMA JK Built for Chasing Race Trucks

Trenton McGeeWriterTrenton McGeePhotographer

Unless you’ve been living in a bubble, you’ve probably heard of the SEMA Show. It’s the largest automotive aftermarket trade show in the world, and it takes place in Las Vegas every November. It’s no secret that the vast majority of the display vehicles in the show are simply visual; most of them are built to showcase products and more than a few don’t even run. Jeeps always have a strong presence at the show, and the JK is no exception, but sadly, a large percentage of the SEMA Jeeps are lightbar-clad trailer queens that will never see a dirt road, let alone ever get put in low-range. Though our featured Jeep may have started life as a SEMA vehicle, this particular Wrangler has shed it show duties and regularly gets used in the dirt.

Mark “Sarge” Schleipfer was the brains behind this creation, and his buddy and racing partner, Todd Douglas, was largely responsible for making it a reality. Sarge is a marketing guru at mobile audio giant MTX Audio, while Todd owns Phoenix-area shop Desert West Outdoors. Both Sarge and Todd campaign Sarge’s Class 7SX race truck in a few different off-road racing series’, so when Sarge’s day job wanted to build a Jeep for the 2015 SEMA Show, he decided to kill two birds with one stone and build a JK that would both showcase MTX’s audio products and serve as a prerunner/chase vehicle for the race truck. The result is this ’15 Unlimited that received a lot of attention in the MTX booth at the show this past year, but it serves its present purpose as a prerunner and race support vehicle even better.

Though uncommon in the desert-racing world, in many ways a four-door Jeep is a great choice for a racing support vehicle. There’s plenty of room for crew members and an adequate amount of space for gear if you pack carefully. The coil-spring suspension can be built to soak up rough terrain while prerunning, and it’s nimble enough to get to remote areas should a recovery be needed.

Buff Build

A prerunner/chase rig has different needs from a traditional trail vehicle, and Sarge focused on enhancing the Jeep’s utility in a race support role. Navigation is handled by an iPad mini on a Ram mount, while a powerful Rugged Radio system complete with headsets enables the crew to keep in close contact with the race truck. Good suspension is a critical part of prerunning, and Sarge reports that the Rock Krawler suspension and shocks do very well on high-speed dirt roads, while the PRP seats help keep occupants comfortable. There’s lots of recovery equipment on board, including two Hi-Lift jacks, because breaking stuff is just part of racing. Though most prerunners are a little rough around the edges, the Jeep’s past as a SEMA Show vehicle means there are a lot of show-quality finishing touches to the build, from the interior and exterior components hydro-dipped in a carbon fiber finish to the serious MTX sound system that keeps the support crew jamming during those long nights in the pits.

Good, Bad, And What It’s For

Though it may not have all the gadgets needed for hardcore trail work, this Jeep wasn’t intended to be a hardcore crawler. Instead, it’s a useful alternative to a bulky pickup truck with a service bed and a chase rack or a full-blown prerunner that’s just one step away from a racecar.

Why I Wrote This Feature

We love unique and unusual Jeep builds, and this one is right up there on the chart. Sarge’s ’15 Jeep JK Wrangler has proven to be handy as both a prerunner and a chase truck. Judging by the build quality and the performance we saw first-hand during our day in the desert with the rig, we’re willing to bet the Jeep will fulfill its intended purpose for years to come.

Hard Facts

Vehicle: ’15 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Engine: 3.6L V-6 Pentastar
Transmission: Auto
Transfer Case: Stock
Front Axle: Dana 30
Rear Axle: Dana 44
Suspension: Rock Krawler 3 1/2-inch Flex System
Wheels: 17x9 Black Rhino Tanay wheels
Tires: 35x12.50-R17 Kanati Trail Hogs