Last year, I wrote about just how fun it is to compete in a HooptieX off-road time trial in a total junker. It’s only gotten more fun since then ,and there’s more air time, stunts and cool cars than you can wrap your mind around. I volunteered at the HooptieX event in Byron, Illinois over the weekend, and my heart is still fluttering over it.
Another year of off-roading shenanigans is coming to an end. I didn’t get in nearly as many events as I wanted, but I’m making the best of what time is left. Over the weekend, the HooptieX Racing Series returned to Illinois and my Gambler 500 friends and teammates used it as a fall meetup. My future wife and I piled some gear into our $900 minivan and set off for a high octane weekend. This HooptieX took place at the Byron Motorsports Park, a racing facility in Byron, Illinois that has the Byron Generating Station as a backdrop.
For a quick review, HooptieX originally started as a spinoff of the Gambler 500. But instead of picking up trash while making a $500 beater survive 500 miles off-road, HooptieX is about doing time trials in those same crapcans. HooptieX is truly accessible racing as you just need a car with a roof, a fire extinguisher and a helmet. That’s it.
You’ll see just about everything run at HooptieX from pickups with rod knocks to rally-prepped side-by-sides.
While there is timing and scoring, many people run whatever they brought just for the fun and giggles. Last year, I ran an old Toyota Camry on street tires covered in graffiti and jumped it so many times that it lost its bumper and blew its power steering.
For me, this HooptieX event was initially about the camping, where I got to see some faces that I haven’t seen often during the pandemic. The Dodge Caravan proved super useful here, as its quick-release second row seat was perfect for chilling out next to a campfire.
I also got to see some hilarious trackside fixes, too. A friend rolled their Suzuki Grand Vitara, causing a small puncture in their radiator. The fix? A lot of mud.
It worked for a minute.
The second day started with this epic 1969 Chevrolet C-60 rolling up at daybreak.
This crew came in from six hours away in Missouri. The truck has its original engine, but rolls on a front and rear end taken from a 2000s TopKick.
What it hauled is just as awesome, a lifted Ford Crown Victoria with an LS swap making about 450 HP.
Rain was in the forecast, so I teamed up with a friend to volunteer as a track worker so these guys could get in as many laps before the course would close down. My job was to make sure everyone cleared my area of track or stop them if the track ahead is blocked.
Volunteering is almost as fun as racing in the time trial is because you’re right in the center of the action. Check out this Audi A5 ripping about the track with its 3.2 V6 singing.
As the owner told me, this car started out as a total loss. Everything was trashed, including the electrical system. He and wife rebuilt the car just enough to run and drive; now it’s reborn as a race car that the two compete with.
Here’s that LS-swapped Crown Victoria. Amusingly, it has the turn radius of a container ship, so the driver turned with throttle. It was one of the slower cars, but it sure put up a good show:
The day was also full of side-by-sides.
If you think side-by-side drivers have no fear on the trails, you should see them on the track. These guys sent these machines so hard that they were often on two wheels, sometimes rolling over.
Watching from inside the track, you get to see the quirks of each car and its driver, and you feel almost personally invested in seeing everyone get the best possible time.
HooptieX’s accessibility means that a lot of these people are racing for the very first time, and you get to see them evolve from being freaked out of their mind to pretending to be Travis Pastrana in no time.
If you’ve never been racing and are looking to get into racing, give HooptieX a try. It’s cheap fun, and you get to see some awesome rides, too. My van will take part in HooptieX later this month in Southern Indiana. Hopefully it survives better than its Camry predecessor.