From Outside The Box To The Top Of The Box
Photos by: Brandon Bunch
For the last few years, desert racing has appeared like an assembly line of cookie-cutter racecars to some degree. By no means should this statement be taken with a negative connotation. Both Polaris and Can-Am platforms have been proven winners over and over again. When you find that winning combination, why change or reinvent the wheel? For most, racing derives from a hobby and instead of going through the heartache of attempting something new just to claim uniqueness, most would rather build what is proven to have the best shot of being competitive from the hit of the throttle.
After spending a massive amount of time behind the wheel shock testing in those cookie-cutter cars, 24 year old Carson Wernimont had a great sense for what the winning combination felt like. Never taking the green flag in an off-road race, he, along with his father, Russ Wernimont, decided it was time for Carson to try his hand at it. Afterall, Russ Wernimont Designs (RWD) is one of the legendary shops for shock tuning and shock prep. Russ, who had been involved with some game changing and legendary builds like the Simon and Simon Rough Riders Trophy Truck, knew what it took to engineer and build a winning machine. When looking for the platform for their new race car, the two were open minded and looked at what chassis had the best suspension geometry, and could survive the beating of a desert racing season. While most overlooked the Kawasaki KRX as a viable and winning platform based on its power to weight ratio, Carson and Russ along with incredible insight from racing extraordinaire Reid Nordin, saw something different.
The stout chassis design, paired with the reliability of a Kawasaki engine and transmission, would lend for an ideal foundation for their vision. Rolling the new KRX into RWD near the beginning of September 2020, the team recognized their outside the box choice showed immediate signs of potential. As they cycled the suspension, they found the wheel travel and geometries were even better than they originally anticipated. Like most racers, Carson and Russ had their hands full with work during the day leaving the KRX for after hours and weekends. Armed with cardboard, sharpies and scissors, they designed the complete car without the help of fancy engineers or readily-available technology. Carson calls their style of design work “eyeball engineering”. Other than the stock frame rail and suspension tabs, everything else was designed and hand built by RWD.
With the stock KRX being somewhat heavy for a N/A car, Carson and Russ shaved as much off as they could while retaining the durability of the stock unit. This now nimble tank could withstand the beating of the desert while making life a little easier on the drivetrain. January 2021 quickly arrived and the KRX was taking shape nicely. The first test session didn’t go picture perfect so it was back to the drawing board to make some small yet significant changes. It was nice to hear Carson be open about some of the new car blues, most will say the car is perfect out of the box and to those that know racing, that is rarely true. After the tweaks, the car performed noticeably better. Carson was also finding comfort rapidly, in fact very rapidly. With ample seat time testing RWD shock packages, he had the speed and capability to be a front runner, as long as his car would hold up to the abuse, “the only loose nut on this car is the one behind the wheel,” Carson exclaimed. Reid Nordin would have to muster up the courage to ride with him in testing and would be his navigator at the Best In The Desert Parker “250”. During testing Reid was constantly telling him to slow down, but Carson knew the car would hold up to as much skinny pedal as he could deliver. They would once-over the car one final time with just a few more small changes and load it in the trailer for its debut.
Carson’s first race would show all their time and effort would pay off, as well as their faith in the KRX platform. Running in the naturally aspirated pro class put the newcomer against some stiff competition like Kaden and Corbin Wells, Maddie Wedeking, Max Gordon, and plenty of others. Carson was hopeful but still crossing his fingers for a solid finish. As the race settled into its pace, Carson was knocking off consistent, fast lap times and the car was finding its rhythm on a course notorious for chaos and mayhem. Sitting in 11th place overall, it was hard to tell where he finished in his class, but when the dust settled, Carson, the KRX and the whole RWD team would be victorious in their first attempt racing. With a talented field of vet drivers, they would walk away with 1st in the UTV Pro N/A class. This was a huge accomplishment for everyone involved. Everything they did was now proven to be a winning combination. The idea of racing has gone from a one-race idea to a pursuit for a BITD championship. There’s no doubt we will see this amazing KRX on the starting at the UTV Legends Championship race later this month, and watch Carson push the car just as hard and make sure everyone knows what it looks like to do something just a little bit different.