What was your favorite race?
Brandon – For me, I have to say it was the 50th Baja 1000 was my favorite race for sure. It’s the Baja races. They’re exciting still, we haven’t been doing it for long enough to know any of the course or anything that they’ve thrown at us. We’re learning it as time goes on. The races are challenging. The competition is challenging. The pit strategy is super important..
Brandon – Yeah, absolutely. It’s just, it adds a whole different element of racing that we weren’t used to when we are racing in the states. So the Baja 1000, obviously is the iconic race, people that don’t know anything about desert racing, know about the Baja 1000, and that’s why. It’s because it is just that, it’s the most challenging desert race out there.
So for me, the best race that we’ve ever done, the most flawless race, hands down 50th Baja 1000. Which makes it that much more special. It was an anniversary run. It was a point to point run. We had a flawless day doing it. We had a great team behind us, but nonetheless, everyone did exactly what they’re supposed to do with it. It panned out. It worked out.
Same goes for you Bill, Baja?
Bill – Yeah pretty much. I mean without a doubt that has been the most significant race that we’ve ever raced. Without a doubt. There was another point to point Baja race, maybe it was in 2014 or 2015. It was a point to point Baja 1000 and it was a long Baja 1000. It was 1200 and some odd miles. Our philosophy going into the race was, hey, we’re going to race our own race, we’re not going to worry about what everybody else is doing and we are just going to get down to La Paz and if we do everything we’re supposed to do, we’ll be on the podium. And it was a good philosophy. Well, we weren’t 50 miles into the race and we suddenly found ourselves in a 1200 mile drag race with Johnny Angal, who’s one of our racing rivals and we literally raced foot to the wood, flat out for 1200 miles and swapped the lead countless times. Rebuilt our car on the course. He rebuilt his car on the course. We actually tangled wheels and crashed and rolled the car with him.
Brandon – While trying to pass him.
Bill – Yeah, trying to pass him, and after 1200 and however many miles, we ended up within three minutes of each other at the finish and we were second. But that was a pretty memorable race as well. That was a pretty exciting race.
Bill – I’ve got say some of the most exciting races are the Baja races. Vegas to Reno is always a great event. One year Casey folks put together what he called Vegas to Reno the long way. It was a three day staged event. So you actually started and finished three days in a row, and then you bivouac at night and they would give you an hour to work on your car. That was also a super exciting race.
You know, being, you know, having to restart the race every day and you start in your finishing position and then if you take more than your allotted hour, that time played against you the next day. That was logistically, probably one of the most difficult races we ever did. That’s exciting for me cause I get to handle most of the logistics.
Brandon – That was pretty early on in our careers too. I think that was 2009 that they did that. I mean we were pretty new in the game too and we had just a couple of seasons under our belt. I have a hard time counting our first season cause we didn’t fare very well. So really only a couple of seasons under our belt and it’s like, oh, get thrown this big deal. At that point we weren’t racing in Baja or anything like that. In Vegas to Reno, we’d done well in that race. We won that race, but it’s the same thing. It went down to us and that Arctic cat. There were three days of racing. It was thousand miles. It was minutes apart is it was just minutes apart in the end.
Bill – Right to the end, yeah, right to the end. But yeah, that was one of the more exciting races, typically the longer races are super exciting. A lot lot happens in those long races.
Brandon – There’s a lot of stuff that you got to think about and if you’re not in the right place at the right time you can mess everyone up.
Bill – I think we won that race. I think we’ve won Vegas to Reno five times.
Brandon – There’s a special spot, I think in our team and our team’s heart. That is Vegas to Reno. It’s a good race.
Bill – It’s fun. It’s always a fun one. Lots of pits. Again, lots of, lots of logistics, lots of strategy and that’s important. It’s way more than than just show up the starting line and just go and hammer down. Desert racing is not drag racing by any stretch of the imagination. There’s a lot of planning that goes in leading up to the race. There’s a lot of strategy that goes into the race.
Brandon – Lot of patience.
Bill – You can find yourself, well this year is a perfect example. At the 1000 we started second but 15 miles in, we had a major mechanical and by the time we were fixed we were the last car on course and battled our way back to 11 place.
Brandon – Four or five, 11th’s [places] last year.
Bill – Yeah. So that was the patience part of it. You know, you have, you have to keep digging. Even if you’re behind, you have to keep digging because everybody out there is facing the same terrain and all the same challenges. If you do a few things better, you can be back in the race before you know it. We try to do that well.
Speaking of which, I’ve only gotten to chase a race with you guys, as far as being embedded in a team. Does that happen a lot, where there’s a major mechanical failure, is it common for a race team to be prepared and ready to fix something like that? Or are some teams just throwing in the towel and going home?
Bill – Every team is a little different. Some teams are not prepared to make a repair like that. I mean there might be, but there’s a lot of the teams down there that wouldn’t have been prepared to make that repair period and it would cost them the race.
Brandon – Whether they don’t have the parts, or they don’t have to people. Have the knowledge to fix it, the communication, that kind of stuff happens. If their trucks were in different spots, for example, at 15 miles, you don’t expect your car to break down. If your truck is there early and you don’t have sat phones, you don’t have communication, you don’t have anything to be able to get in contact with those guys. They’re broke with a mechanical failure, with no communications, with any of your team for however long. And they miss that pit closing time or that checkpoint closing time, or by the time they get it fixed, they’ll miss it.
Bill – It’s game over.
Brandon – So we actually got pretty lucky in the fact that we had a truck in the right place at the right time and was able to get a truck to an access point, close enough to get it fixed. We could get it fixed at that point. Sometimes it’s a game of luck, but being prepared and trying to think of all worst case scenarios is really your safest bet.
What’s your biggest takeaway since you started racing?
Bill – Keep your sponsors happy, ha ha.
Brandon – I think the community of racers are awesome and to not burn any of those bridges, I think is huge, huge aspect of it. You may have a name or a, you know, an image that goes along with you, but we try to respect all the racers. It doesn’t matter if they’re a competitor or a different brand. It doesn’t, we try and treat all of them the same and I think that’s, that’s something that I, I like about that UTV community that I don’t necessarily know happens in any other form of racing. That’s something that we as a team try and pride ourselves in is that if someone comes in our pit and they’re a UTV racer or any racer for that matter and they need something and we can help with, and that is a resource that we can help them with, we will do that.
Bill – Perfect example of that is the year before Matt Parks began racing for our team. He raced his own car against us against us in the same class. Matt Parks came into our pit, at, I want to say it was either Vegas to Reno or Silver state. I don’t remember which one it was. His pit crew was AWOL, they were nowhere to be found and he was out of gas and I fueled his car and he beat us. He won the championship that year. It was only because that happened and had I not fueled that car for him. He would have had to sit there and wait for either somebody else to fuel him or his team show up and he would not have beaten us at that race and we would have won the championship. So that’s how, that’s how close it can be. I mean, and I would do it for him again, I’d like to think that because of that, I think Karma would say that people would do it for us too.
Did you guys know Matt Parks before that?
Bill – We knew him through Polaris, he worked at Polaris and stuff, so yeah. We knew who he was.
Brandon – We battled with him a lot. He was a good racer.
Bill – Yeah, Matt Parks is fast.
Brandon – Yeah. Just one of those things. It’s like you go to the start line and you’re thinking about, okay, who, who are the guys that I really need to pay attention to? Matt was always on that list, constantly. That’s like, Matt is going to be someone to contend with this race, period. End The story. At all races. He was one of the guys that you paid attention to and so we knew of it. We battled with them and, we had got to know him actually pretty well. And you know, again, there’s a lot of people in the class now, but it’s a pretty small family. Everyone knows everyone.
Bill – So yeah, that whole thing that kind of came down to, if you can’t beat them, then just then just take him onto your team, adopt him, appropriate him as a resource.The Bi product is that we are now great friends. The camaraderie in the UTV community is good, it really is. We’ve got a lot of good friends that are even with competing brands, we have a great time racing with them. Murray’s that race for Can-Am I mean, God, those guys are like I think some of our better racing friends, I know that they’d do anything to help us and vice versa.
Bill – I think as far a takeaway, in the beginning I don’t think we had any idea this would turn into a career for Brandon, and a lucrative business that would turn in this direction, and we’re thankful. We’re thankful for all the sponsors that have helped us along the way. That means a lot to us, we couldn’t have done it without a lot of them. Obviously without Polaris for sure.
Who are the sponsors for this year?
Brandon – Pretty much the same as last year, we did add a few. But we’ve got these companies on board with us.
- Polaris Industries
- BFGoodrich Tires
- KC Lights
- OMF Performance
- Walker Evans Racing
- CR Designs
- Factory UTV
- Hostyle Racing
- Pro Eagle
- Mountain States Contracting
- Cognito Motorsport
- PRP Seats
- Rugged Race Radios
- Monster Seal
Bill – Another cool thing, Brandon was announced as an official member of the BFG Performance team, which is pretty huge. He now shares the likes of people like Rob MacCachren, Charlene Bower, Sarah Price, JT Holmes..
Brandon -There’s a long list, probably like 20 people or so. Basically it’s an active racer or someone who represents and endorses the BFG products that we use.
Bill – It’s their Brand Ambassadors basically, and if you pull up BFG Performance Team, you’ll see a big picture of Brandon’s mug on there.
One last question, the Jagged X edition Polaris RZR. What was the deal with that? I’ve always seen pictures of that car, but I never knew the backstory behind it.
Brandon – So it was a limited edition, like an LE model of the RZR 900 and came out with 900 H.O. That was a huge aspect of that. It had a high output motor, four seat in a two seat conversion, but it was literally our name licensed. So we had a lot of influence in the design of it but Polaris put it together. So basically they had a Polaris built vehicle where we were the influence on it.
Bill – We inspired it.
Brandon – We said we wanted a four seat vehicle with more storage, basically a four seat RZR or a two seat RZR with more storage. So we went with the four seat route, eliminated the back seats, did some storage boxes in there, a little bit sleeker of a cage, full doors, better seats, basically that we would do to our personal cars. To make them a trail outfitted car. You know, whatever it might be.
Bill – An aftermarket equipped car basically from the factory.
Brandon – That’s what they came up with.
Bill – 1,500 of those units were made, it was just like a licensing thing. Kind of like they did Robby Gordon edition? They did the Jagged X edition.
Brandon – They do that with a handful of people. They had a Walker Evans edition, they still do the HiLifter edition. It’s a Polaris vehicle, but it’s influenced by aftermarket partners.
Bill – It seems like everyone who got their hands on one, still loves them. It was a 900 with an H.O. motor, I think something like 11 more horsepower, but for whatever reason to this day everyone who has their hands on one, still loves them.
We’ve been covering Jagged X through the large majority of our history, here’s a trip down memory lane of all the pictures we got of the team.