Jeep® Life

Road Warriors

By: David Hakim

During One Lap of America, my co-driver, David Carr, and I met many cool people participating in this week-long, 4,000-mile adventure where competitors travel through seven states, racing at numerous events on eight race tracks. Testing your driving skills and car’s ability to handle these events is part of the allure of One Lap of America. There’s also the camaraderie among the 77 teams in the numerous competition classes. Everyone helps with driving and tuning tips to keep their fellow One Lappers in the groove and out of trouble. One Lap is a very grassroots event, and along the way, we made many new friends who all share the same passion.

At this year’s One Lap, David and I competed in a specially modified Dodge Durango Pursuit Concept in the Truck/SUV class. Many entrants are wheeling exotic supercars, performance sedans and lighter, more nimble performance sports cars that are better suited to the high-speed corners and twisty curves of race tracks, road courses and autocross trails than a 5,500-pound SUV. And in 2018, we were the only competitors in the Truck/SUV category. But this year, we had competition and that was Eric Rorapaugh and Steve Baxter in their SRT® Hellcat-powered 2018 Jeep® Grand Cherokee Trackhawk®. We had a chance to talk to Eric between stops and find out more about what made him and Steve come out and compete in the One Lap.

“In 2018, I first met you (David Carr and David Hakim) on the One Lap when you were running the Durango. Through the exposure of what the Durango did during the 2018 race and my great conversations with both of you, I bought a Jeep® Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. I like FCA US’s strategy, the Trackhawk, and what it was all about. After the 2018 One Lap was over, I started looking at the Trackhawk seriously as my choice for the 2019 One Lap of America race. With that, I traded in my 2017 Audi RS7 for a 2018 Jeep® Trackhawk. The Trackhawk delivers all of the luxury of the Audi, with more performance! Plus, I put snow tires on the Trackhawk in the winter and can go anywhere I want, with more ground clearance,” said Eric.

Despite not finishing higher overall, both Eric and Steve had a blast in their Jeep® Grand Cherokee Trackhawk during One Lap. There’s no big prize money or massive trophies to be won. It’s all about having fun and racing at some famous (and infamous) race tracks and road courses around the country. For many gearheads, it’s like a high-octane bucket list.

“Even though we finished third in class and 41st overall for the 2019 One Lap of America, I had a great experience at this year’s event. I loved roaring down the front straight of Brainerd International Raceway at over 148 mph, realizing how settled the Trackhawk was at that speed, taking 5th place overall in the bracket drag race competition all while having the most comfortable ride yet for a One Lap, and being able to pack a YETI cooler in the back,” smiled Eric.

In addition to enjoying fast cars, iconic race courses and the lure of the open road, Eric and Steve also love coming out to be with people who share their passion and are willing to help any way they can.

“The camaraderie between the teams that included you two in the Durango SRT Pursuit Concept and the Hot Rod Magazine/House of Muscle [Dodge] Challenger SRT [Hellcat] Redeye driven by John McGann and Mike Musto is awesome. In any endeavor, the people are what truly make the difference, and the commitment, passion and energy that came from our working and racing together was priceless. It made me a true believer in the FCA US and Mopar® brands,” exclaimed Eric.

jeep vehicle parked in the woods

Eric’s passion for the Jeep® Brand goes beyond his supercharged Jeep® Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. Eric’s love affair with Jeep® 4x4s goes back well over two decades to the 1981 Jeep® CJ-7 with the original drivetrain he owned for 22 years. Eric also recently purchased a 2019 Jeep® JL Rubicon Unlimited that he’s customized by adding 35-inch tires and aftermarket lights.

jeep vehicle parked in the the woods in snow

“In August, I’m taking the family in my Rubicon to the 2019 Jeep® Jamboree Rubicon Trail event in Lake Tahoe. I’m also planning some mods this summer for the Trackhawk that will include adding headers and cat-back exhaust. I’ll also be bringing the Trackhawk down to race at Watkins Glen. I am planning on bringing the Trackhawk back to compete in the 2020 One Lap of America, so look out,” grinned Eric.

Eric’s love for Jeep® SUVs takes him to extreme opposites – from a slow crawl along the trails tucked away deep in a forest in his CJ-7 to a wide-open blast down the straightaways and sweeping corners of a race track behind the wheel of his Trackhawk.

two jeep vehicles parked next to each other outside

“It’s a Jeep® Brand thing and I know you understand,” laughs Eric.

Story and photos by David Hakim


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