Chad Ragland | Race In Peace……
by Joey “Joey D” DiGiovanni – Photos via UTVUnderground.com / Mad Media
It has been a week since Chad W. Ragland’s passing. It has taken this many days for me to collect my thoughts and to find the strength to put this tribute together. And as I comb through the years of memories, sourcing all the awesome images for my story, I can’t help but want to reach for the phone and text or call my friend to laugh or reminisce. Unfortunately its not that simple anymore. So instead, I will speak to him through these words and will share with all of you the Chad Ragland I knew.
Chad Ragland was born on November 27th, 1970. The son of an off-road racing legend, Chad grew up idolizing his father and would later leave his own mark as a driving talent. Racing and driving anything with an engine was certainly Chad’s passion, I learned that from the day I met him. But once I got to know him I realized there was much more to who Chad was as man, a friend, a son, father, husband, business owner, and person in general. He was special, a true gentleman and as fun a guy you could ever be around. He was a gift from heaven.
I first met Chad on a shoot with Mad Media at Glen Helen Raceway sometime back in 2011. It was the first time I had ever attended a Mad Media shoot. I was simply the new guy with some cool golf carts that would lend some assistance for this commercial they were all working on together called “Carl Goes To Work”. For this shoot, Chad was a stand in driver for Carl Renezeder in a simulation where Carl took a new Ford Raptor off-road to get to work. I was so thrilled to be on a shoot with this talented group and as a lifelong off-road fanatic you better believe I was pretty stoked to be able to hang out with Chad Ragland. The details I remember from this shoot are pretty funny… well, not funny for everyone. Matt Martelli had borrowed this brand new Ford Raptor from Kelli Willmore and knowing Matt he probably told her something along the lines of “we will just be cruising”. Anyone who knows Matt knows there will be no cruising and anyone who knows Chad knows that whatever he is thrown the keys too will likely get pushed to its limits. It didn’t take more than a few big off-camber leaps at speed before the exhaust was flopping around like wet noodle. Chad and I crawled beneath this borrowed unit, had a laugh when we saw what was busted and went to work using some tie wire I had stashed in my truck. We patched her up. A bent frame later and Kelli got her truck back… Sorry Kelli…
That shoot led to a pretty special friendship between Chad and I. We had connected thanks to Martelli on numerous other jobs over those early years which usually involved me and my UTVs being used as camera cars to chase Chad around while he flogged other peoples equipment. Seeing his driving talents on display, and being able to watch him work was pretty inspiring. Chad was pro at what he did, but he was so casual in how he did it. He always had the sense of a guy who was just “winging it”, and it was cool.
I can’t remember when or how the conversation of him actually coming along with me on a trip in UTVs happened, but it would finally all come together in 2013. I had covered the Rally On The Rocks event in Moab, UT a few times and was looking for a way to mix it up. I proposed the idea to Mad Media and Polaris about brining along Chad Ragland, putting him in a RZR for the first time in Moab, and letting him tell the story of the event through his own eyes. He was a legit off-road racer in the Trophy Truck ranks just coming off his years as driver for the top notch T-Force & Baldwin Motorsports programs. I thought it would be cool for the off-road world to hear it from one of the respected top drivers about how cool UTVs were. They agreed and so did he, so off to Moab we went, piled in a truck together from So Cal to the slick rocks of Moab. 15 gas stations and $200 in road snacks later and we had arrived.
My plan worked to perfection that trip and Chad was awesome on camera just as I knew he would be. He fell in love not only with Moab but with the Polaris RZR platform. He went on and on during the trip about how cool it would be if we did this to them or did that and why do people do this when they could do that!? His wheels were turning and it soon became the catalyst to creating CageWRX. It wasn’t more than a few days later before Chad and Larry were over looking at my RZRs and shopping around for ideas and seeing how things were being done in the industry. I lined up a couple of deals through Polaris and before I knew it Chad & Larry were owners of their very own RZRs. I like to think that I was the reason Chad STEPPED UP from TT’s to UTVs… lol It was a really special time as I think back on it.
We had many discussions during this period, weekly and sometimes daily about the industry. He couldn’t get enough of the sport and its potential, and he was driving me crazy with all the technical questions and industry questions. He and his soon to be business partner Danny Gormican soon started talking and Chad contacted Matt and I about also being partners in this new roll cage company he wanted to start. He wanted to professionally build Weld-It-Yourself roll cages for Polaris RZRs and I thought he was nuts. I told him I was not interested in a cage-in-a-box business and that I thought it was a terrible idea. People don’t want to weld their own cages I tried to explain. I didn’t care how advanced the techniques were, it wasn’t going to work. He respectfully accepted my decline to his offer.
He and Danny would then go on to revolutionize the industry, change the way cages were built and sold and show me how little I actually knew about my own sport. He proved me wrong, BIG TIME, and I couldn’t have been more happy for him. I am so proud of what Chad, Danny and the CageWRX staff have gone on to do. Its a thriving business, and Chad was so proud of his products. Up until the day he passed he was thinking of new products and couldn’t wait to get back into the shop with his team and get to work. His work will live on forever with CageWRX and there will never be a time that I see one of their products and not think of him.
One day in late 2014 I was driving somewhere in my truck and my wheels began to turn. I had this brilliant idea that I wanted to go racing. I knew I didn’t have the time to go at it alone, nor did I want to do it alone. It took me all of about five seconds to decide I wanted to go racing with Chad & Larry Ragland. I knew that if I told Polaris that I could get Larry Ragland out of racing retirement to go racing in a RZR that they would be all about it, and they were. I called Chad and asked him if he wanted to go racing? He said NO. I wasn’t going to accept no, so I began to tell him all the stuff I would do to make it easy for him and explained all of my glorious plans that I had dreamed up between the moment the idea had popped in my head and the five seconds it took to call him. These were big and well thought out plans! Him being as crazy and as passionate as I was agreed and soon we were on our way to building a RZR race car. Well, Steve Smith was on his way to building a RZR race car, along with Danny, Larry, Chad, Reid Nordin and a few others. But it didn’t take long for us to assemble a small team and get that turd out into the desert.
We didn’t have the best luck racing that RZR, but we had fun. I’ll tell you, nothing will ever top the feeling of climbing into a race car that Chad had just climbed out of while Lightning Larry Ragland stabbed fuel and gassed us up! I mean, it doesn’t get any more cool than that for a fat guy from Escondido, CA who was simply known for his online banter and finger pointing while ranting about golf carts on camera! For that particular race I felt like one of the legends I was surrounded by, I was smack dab in the middle of a BITD race with the Ragland’s!! Check that baby off the bucket list!
Of course the racing itself was cool and all, but for me it was just about being able to race with Chad, Larry, Reid, and Steve, even if I only was able to do it one time, that was ok. It was about being a part of a team and wanting to win and fix stuff and figure things out and living out my own dream that to these guys was just something they did and had done for a really long time. I’m pretty sure Chad asked himself more than once “what the heck was I thinking” when agreeing to do this with me, but I like to think he really enjoyed being back out there racing with his Dad and friends. Matter of fact, I know he did.
There are so many stories running through my mind, like the time we forced him to do consumer ride-alongs in Oregon at Dune Fest. Like most drivers, he hated riding in the right seat. But he obliged and got in the passenger seat with beginner drivers in some high powered RZRs. He did ok for about two drivers, then one of them took them both for a ride down a dune rolling the machine over. Chad was done… lol.. He wanted no more of riding with people and he had us all convinced he had a severe concussion. That severe concussion lasted for about 10 minutes. He was back in the driver seat racing RJ Anderson and I through the dunes. Needless to say we never got him back in the passenger seat for anything after that and I am not sure I ever saw him ride with anyone ever again.
Chad would go on to doing many more trips with UTVUnderground and myself over the years. We hosted King Of The Hammers together which was super fun and something I will never forget, especially as we are smack dab in the middle of KOH week right now. Chad raced the UTVUnderground Polaris RZR at the Terracross Racing Series all over the United States and would prove that it was possible to roll over, flip and break everything on a Polaris RZR. We worked on numerous builds together and Chad participated in some great builds for others including Charity builds for Warfighter Made, the Diesel Brothers, Dax Shepard and most recently Jessy Nelson to name a few. I had no idea that our chance meeting in 2011 would reshape his career, and bring along a great friendship that would create so many wonderful memories that I will forever cherish.
Emily Miller told me something the other day that rang so true about Chad. He lived more inside of a minute then many people do in a lifetime. I am sure he had his days of relaxing and not doing anything, but I never saw that. When he called he was on, when we went somewhere together he was on, and when I was trying to relax, you better believe he was on! His wheels turned non stop and he loved life to the fullest. I remember how proud he was to become a father, something I related too as a father myself. Nothing is better than becoming a dad. I figured he would settle in, take some time to just be a dad and he did. But I can remember when Sawyer was an infant and Chad had him in his car seat sitting next to his RZR during one of our photo shoots. I knew right then that his boys were going into the family business…. lol I should also mention that this photo shoot was in a brewery, lol, Chad loved craft beer!
The week prior to Chad’s passing, I was working on the last build that we would ever do together. I had contacted Chad a few weeks back telling him of another glorious build I was going to do and how I really wanted to run a CageWRX cage for it. He lined it out as he always did. I had just got it back from powdercoat and I was installing the 1000th rivet to hold the springs into the dzues tabs. I remembered back to the first cage he and I had put together and we talked about the importance of a pneumatic rivet gun because my hands were killing me snapping off those damn rivets. At this point my hand crank Harbor Freight rivet gun was giving me fits and thats when I felt God tell me that I needed to call Chad and bust his balls a little bit.
I was so stoked he answered my call and I began to tell him how sore my hands and arms were from snapping off the millionth rivet on his damn cage. He told me “oh Joey, please tell me how bad your hands hurt!” I fired back, “hey bro, don’t mock my pain alright”. See, I knew he was hurting way more than I was, but I also knew how much he enjoyed just having “normal” conversation. We spent the next hour talking about everything under the sun. Our build, the industry, racing, weather, family…. we simply had a normal Joey & Chad conversation. We said our goodbyes and I told him I would talk to him later that week. That was the last time I would ever speak to my friend. And while it hurts that I didn’t get to tell him how much I loved him, respected him and appreciated him, I felt ok that we ended our last conversation with just a normal “talk to you later”. In my heart, and in his, we knew where we stood as friends.
Chad Ragland would cross the finish line of life on January 24th, 2018 surrounded by his loving family. He is survived by his wife Lauren, his two beautiful sons, a legendary father and two very loving moms. He is also survived by an army of friends & family, and a sport and industry that he left his mark on. Chad Ragland will not be remember just for the things he did, but by the way that he did them. He loved the color orange, he rocked messy hair like only a rockstar could pull off, he drove like a maniac, and loved life harder than anyone I have ever known. Chad Ragland came to this earth a gift from Heaven, and on January 24th, God decided it was time to bring that gift back home.
This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Psalm 91: 2-4
That was the verse Chad texted to our friend Reid. Chad was right with God, he believed in His protection and because of that, we should all rest easy knowing that our friend will forever be watching over and waiting for us to join him…
Until we meet again, Godspeed Chad Ragland………
Services & Donations
For those who knew Chad, a service will be held on Tuesday February 6th, 2018 at 11:00am at the Grand Tradition in Fallbrook, CA –
220 Grand Tradition Way
Fallbrook, CA 92028 –
RSVP: Kelly Brogger – [email protected]
The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to:
With two little boys it is important that we all contribute to Chad’s memory in a way that they can grow up and know how great of a person Chad was. The family will be building out a Memory Book, full of stories, photos, and information that will document Chad’s amazing and fruitful life. The family would love for everyone who has something special to share to email their stories, photos, videos to [email protected]. It will mean so much to Lauren and the boys to have these memories!
Enjoy other UTVUnderground stories & Videos involving Chad….