By Jeffrey Ross, for Fiat-Chrysler Authority
For all practical purposes, there is no reason why Daytona International Speedway would be an ideal place to hold a Jeep event, but nevertheless, Jeep Beach proves that this renown super-speedway can be just as fun crawling over rocks and dirt as it at 200 miles per hour. Now in its 14th year, Jeep Beach has grown to become the largest Jeep-only event in the Southeast, and it has done so with its family-friendly atmosphere, exciting events and, of course, the sanded-up infield of Daytona Speedway.
Hosted by the Mid Florida Jeep Club, the 2016 Jeep Beach was a five-day event with festivities geared toward Jeepers of all varieties and skill levels. There’s a myriad of events such as meet-and-greets, scavenger hunts and various get-togethers that all helped to build the Jeep community while raising a lot of money for great Daytona-area charities. Though of course, the best part of Jeep Beach is the off-roading. New for 2016, Jeep Beach has added trail rides held at the Florida Cracker Ranch, but the zenith of this event is the two days of action held at Daytona Speedway. This includes exciting obstacle courses, more than $125,000 in raffle prizes and plenty of vendors.
Whereas most Jeep events, such as the Easter Jeep Safari, challenge the strength and endurance of both Jeep and driver, Jeep Beach is more laid back to ensure maximum enjoyment. There are three obstacle courses at the track and even the “Extreme” course is probably only a 4/10ths trail in real life, but that just means that fewer rigs – and egos – get damaged, allowing more people can get a shot at the courses.
Of course this tends to bring in some first-timers, and I met quite a few people who were new to the Jeep life, enjoying their first experience of taking their Jeep off-road… I even taught one woman how to engage the lockers on her brand-new Rubicon. Whether they were rookies or veteran off-roaders, almost everyone left the course with a huge smile on their face.
I’ve been around Jeeps and off-roading my whole life, but this was an eye-opening experience to the testament of the JK Wrangler. This was because I was able to drive a 2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Hard Rock the 300-mile round trip to Daytona for Jeep Beach. Running road tire pressure, I spent as much time as possible on the obstacle courses and the Rubicon barely broke a sweat, but I’ll touch more on this experience in an upcoming review.
Finally, Jeep Beach officially concluded with another attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the longest parade of Jeeps. In 2015, Jeep Beach set the record at 1,846, but that was soon obliterated by the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival setting the bar at 2,420. After Jeeps from title sponsors BF Goodrich and Rugged Ridge, I got to join the Easter Jeep Safari concepts in the Jeep-owned 01/50 Red Rock Rubicon. After we circled the track and tucked the concept vehicles away for shipping, there were still Jeeps lined up everywhere around the track. In all, the parade lasted more than two hours, but alas the record was not broken. Only 2,008 Jeeps participated in the attempt.
Despite not setting the record, the 2016 Jeep Beach still went off without a hitch. The weather was absolutely perfect, the Jeeps were amazing and the all-volunteer effort is expected to have raised more than $250,000 for charities. So, to all Jeep owners reading this, if you’re looking for a great way to spend a week with a few thousand friends, be sure to check out Jeep Beach.