MY FINAL STORY
by: Joey D. // UTVUnderground.com

I never thought I would actually be working to write a story like this. I can honestly say, once UTVUnderground.com took off I always thought this would be the last thing I would ever do. But here I am, 10 years later, sitting down and writing my last story as the Founder, Co-Owner & CEO of UTVUnderground.com.

Standing in front of the launch of the UTVUnderground Garage with 4 Wheel Parts at the 2016 Sand Sports Super Show. This was a major accomplishment for UTVUnderground.

UTVUnderground started as a hobby, it was never supposed to be a business for me. It was just a way to share my stories and photos with the community on my own site so that I could serve some advertising and receive free parts in trade to help build my Rhino. I had a “real job” back then, and while I was pretty good at it, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to be doing as an active twenty-something. UTVUG was an amazing distraction and gave me something of my own to do in my free time. What resulted was a passion and desire I had never felt before in my young professional life.

The Storm Trooper (left) and Black Mamba (right) shot by Vincent Knakal. Two of the most iconic Polaris RZR builds that helped establish us as custom car builders and leaders of the industry. Black Mamba was our first SDR build.

Building a business from nothing brings a level of fulfillment and pride that few ever get the chance to experience. The only thing I can compare it to is raising a child or falling in love. UTVUnderground became and always has been more than just a job or career, it was a labor of love, something I dedicated my life too and sacrificed not only my financial well being to create, but also precious time with my wife and children that I will never get back. It’s easy to think that the best part for me as a business owner was when UTVUnderground finally found success, and that was great too. But in retrospect, the best part was those early years of building it.

On the set of RJ Anderson’s VISIONS Snow Blind video. RJ and I always had fun, even when we were stressed. I will always remember the times we had during these game changing projects.

While the early years of business are always the hardest financially, there is something about having your back against the wall and having nothing to lose that ignites a fire within that no one can stop. It didn’t matter how many days I had to travel or how many nights I would have to work until sunrise. It didn’t matter that I could barely pay the bills or couldn’t afford to buy my family or self certain things. The only thing that mattered was my work and the only thing on my mind was making sure everyone knew who UTVUnderground was. That feeling I came to realize was the entrepreneurial spirit you hear people talk about so often. It was a special feeling and it was a special time even if I was broke.

Standing at the start line of the 2018 BITD Parker 250 just before my two boys would race. It was a great day being able to share in this with my family including my father and brother.

Off-road was always something that my closest friends and I loved to do and I can say with all honesty that had UTVUG never become what it is today, I would still be loading up my toys and taking my family to the desert any chance I could. It’s who we are, not just what we do. I am just a regular off-road enthusiast and I think that’s why UTVUG became so successful. It wasn’t forced, it was just a group of like minded people who shared a passion and had an outlet to share in it with the rest of a larger community. What was and still is special to me was that I was able to make the sport I love my career. That was actually something a lot of people warned me against back then. They said to never make your hobby your job or you will lose your love for it. And while that has never happened, when you go from just being a fan of the sport to someone who works in it, you do start to look at it differently. I can tell you, as it pertains to racing, it’s much better just being a fan and a participant than it is a promoter. But if you always remain true to what the sport means to you, and you work to always remain true to the sport, I believe its easy to keep your passion alive. I love building up the sport and the people around me, its the best part of the job for me.

From the time we put on our first race in 2010, the UTV World Championship was a dream. Launching the UTV World Championship in 2015 was a dream come true, and it has been an honor to be able to push the event to the level its at alongside Matt & Josh.

Through my career I was able to travel all over this country and world to share in this passion. I came to realize that off-road was more than just driving a vehicle on dirt & rocks, it was also a way to bond with people that come from all different walks of life and cultures. I have been fortunate to meet some of the most amazing individuals, see some of the most beautiful landscapes, and experience things that many people will go their whole lives wishing they could do for themselves. When I think back on these experiences I realize that God has blessed me more than I ever feel I deserve. I will always be grateful for these experiences and relationships and I often reflect on all of the memories I have forged.

This is a moment that will forever put a smile on my face. Both my boys completing their 3rd UTV World Championship!

Had you told me back in 2008 that UTVUG would become what it is today I wouldn’t have believed you. Some people say they knew UTVUG would reach this level, and I’ve called bullshit on those people many times. I don’t think anyone could predict that our UTV forum would evolve into the 10 year old brand it’s become today. It took the help of many people along the way, including my partners Matt & Josh Martelli of Mad Media, to bring UTVUG to where it is. It also took the support of enthusiasts and racers who supported the site and the work coming out of it. Ultimately, your success is dependent not just upon the work you create, but the people who you create it for. I was blessed with being a part of an industry that returned so much of the love I put out. I didn’t build this site or brand, the members, racers, and community did.

Spending time in the desert with my family and friends like the Baptist’s is something I did before, during and will do long after UTVUnderground!

When I reflect back and think of the things I am most proud of in my career I think it comes back to being able to forge relationships with so many great people and for helping people along on their own journeys. I have found that the things that bring me the most reward are usually the things I do that have no monetary reward. The money is never what drove me in my career. Of course I wanted to make money and take care of my family, but doing things that helped or influenced someone else’s life or career always outweigh a check. Bringing a new sponsor to a racer or supporting a charity always felt so much more rewarding to me and its those things and careers that I have been able to be a part of that I will remember the most. UTVUnderground put me in a position to give back in so many ways and I tried to do that as often as possible during my time here. My two best memories is the Make-A-Wish project that RJ Anderson and I did for Blake Level, and the very first Warfighter Made trip that we did. Those two events filled me with so much pride that if nothing else good came out of my ten years, those two events made it all worth it. Luckily I could go on for days about the other great stories and events I was able to be a part of as well.

Easily one of the greatest things I have ever been a part of was fulfilling the wish of Blake Level with RJ Anderson. When Make-A-Wish reached out, I was honored. What resulted was a weekend of fun and a lifetime of memories and friendship. Here is my son’s Enzo (left), Cristian AKA Baby C (middle), and Blake Level (right)

Watching the sport progress over the past 10 years has been such a cool experience. The vehicles have transformed tremendously and so has the industry itself. It’s amazing to see how many companies are in this sport now making parts, accessories and building these vehicles up in ways we only dreamed of back in 2005-06 when our Rhino’s were the hot ticket. Now, anywhere you go in the world you can see UTVs being used and built. I am excited to see where it goes in another 10 years. While I do feel the industry may have leveled off a bit, and the glory years of massive progression are probably behind us, I do feel like there is still a long way to go.

Nothing tops the feeling of helping a team and group of friends finish a race. I am honored to have been able to race with, chase, and support teams in more races then I can ever remember. This was at the finish line of the Baja 500 in 2017 with Scanlon Motorsports Group.

When it comes to racing I think everyone knows my passion there. UTVUnderground’s foundation was built around UTV racing & the racers, and its where we built our name and brand. Up until we came around no one had the commitment to supporting UTV racing like we did on such a big and consistent basis. I am proud of what UTVUG has done for the racing community. I have personally witnessed amateurs turn into professionals and I am even more honored to have been part of so many great careers. I have to thank each and every single one of you who has ever ran a UTVUnderground logo on your car, shirt or hat, or thanked us on a podium. It never has and never will go unnoticed by me and I am forever indebted to you because I fully believe UTVUnderground would not be what it is today if it wasn’t for UTV racing. I always tried to include that in every racing story I wrote, a simple thank you, because your representation and support never went unnoticed, even if our photographers or myself didn’t capture an image of you. I will admit, I won’t miss the “why didn’t you post a photo of me?” comments.

I have watched RJ grow from a boy with talent to a man who is ranked amongst the best in the sport. We share a special bond, and anytime he wins it feels as though I too win.

The support from the UTV community over the years is what kept me pushing. But the people I surrounded myself with over the years also played some of the biggest roles in giving me the tools, motivation, support, and skill to take UTVUnderground where it is today. My wife and kids were always my inspiration and ultimately are why I do what I do as a person. They pushed me to work harder and always encouraged me and supported me. My family was there through the hardest of times and celebrated with me during the highlights. They are the sole reason why I will never not find success, because I can’t afford to let them down. Their unrelenting support inspired me more than words could ever describe and I love them all for that. My memories reflected below in photos shows just how many great times I had with my wife and children during these years. This career gave me the ability to include my family in a way that most people would dream of. If nothing else, UTVUnderground made me a better father, maybe not always a better husband as my wife will attest too, but I know even she would admit that we have lived a very good life during this time.

Being a part of the Diesel Brothers television show was and still is such an honor. Having my sons open one of their most popular episodes of all-time as little Diesel Dave & little Heavy D was something none of us will ever forget!

Close friends like Rusty Baptist who never looked at what I could do for them, but rather how they could be a part of where UTVUnderground was going also kept me fueled up. Rusty and I have been friends for the majority of our lives, and while I would lose friends during these years, he was one that always stood by me through the good and bad and was always willing to be a part of anything and everything he could. Next to him stands an army of other friends that also supported the cause through the bulk of the years. I hope you know that I love you all, and I mean that.

I cut my teeth as a media professional at the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series starting in the inaugural 2009 season. This photo was taken at Lucas Oil in Arizona during the 2013 season. The Mad Media crew always worked their tails off and knew how to have fun! So did Jason Zindroski (top) who has contributed some of the best images our site has ever shared.

Of course officially partnering with Mad Media in 2013 was a major turning point as the Martelli Brothers infused new skills, ideas and abilities into our brand helping it go to the next level. Josh & Matt gave me an education on how to push the limits and know my own worth. They never failed to support me through the bad times and they were always there to celebrate alongside me during the good times. They call me the third Martelli brother, and while I will be moving on in my career, I will always remember the amazing things we did together.

It was hard to be race promotor, industry representative, brand ambassador, AND race dad during events, but I somehow found a way to pull it off. My kids are taught to strive for the win, but to also respect the process and celebrate the finish regardless!

The Martelli’s will be responsible for taking UTVUnderground into its next chapter and I have full confidence that they will not just work on UTVUnderground but rather continue on with my mission to always keep the sport and its interests at heart. As partners they have been loyal, reliable and supportive. I am forever indebted to their efforts as my partners and friends. My wish is to see UTVUnderground go to yet another level in my absence as the companies success will always be my own. Despite my moving on, I will forever be tied to the brand as the founder, and because of that I wish nothing but the highest of success for everyone involved in this next chapter.

UTVUnderground for me was a family business. I made the commitment years ago to include my kids as much and as often as I could. This was a photo that was part of the launch of the then brand new Polaris ACE 150. Polaris sent us the very first unit to build up for Enzo to race. RJ and I put together a pretty rad machine that Enzo still has fun with.

I always thought I would retire as the Owner and CEO of UTVUnderground.com but rarely did I ever truly think about my own future in detail. When you are filled with the level of drive and commitment that I have been blessed with, you only think about the present and what you can do to win today. But as I approach 40 years of age, I have been forced to think more about my future and how that looks for me as my kids get older. I haven’t set too many goals in my life, I just always knew I wanted to succeed at something, but now it’s time I begin to really set forth on building for my own next chapter. I feel I have reached a point where I have done everything, or most everything, that I have wanted to do as the soul of UTVUnderground and I am ready for new challenges and ready to apply my skills in new ways.

I have not only made some great friends in my years, I have unfortunatley also had to say good bye to some. Losing Rick “Wally World” Wallace to cancer was a painful experience. But knowing him and spending times like this around a camp fire was such a blessing. This was during our first Warfighter Made trip to Mammoth where we took combat wounded veterans on an all-expenses paid trip as part of Warfighter’s recreational therapy. Polaris supported the project and Wally was our special trail boss!

As of September 4th, 2018, I will become a Director within the Transamerican Auto Parts (TAP) corporation which is owned by Polaris Industries and owns such brands as 4 Wheel Parts, Pro-Comp, Smitty-Built, Poison Spyder, Rubicon Express, and more. I will transition from the face of UTVUnderground to becoming a face for these brands, expanding upon my skills in media and the things I do behind the scenes currently with partnerships, racing, sponsorships, and content creation. What’s exciting is I get to actually take the skills I have learned over the course of 10 years at UTVUnderground and step into a role that will allow me to help take what is the largest corporation in off-road to its own next level. The opportunity presented to me is one that allows myself to fully and securely shape my future as a father and husband, and yet still challenge me in a way that I get to once again be part of something special and exciting while further shaping my career as a professional. It’s an exciting new chapter of my life, and I am thrilled that I still get to remain within the sport and industry that I have such a strong passion for. I am equally as thrilled that I have built a strong enough reputation and skill set that a company like TAP would seek someone like me out. If you knew me in school, you would be just as shocked as I am right now!

Robert Blanton of Warfighter Made has taught me more than even he will ever know. Its been an honor to watch his organization grow like it has. This photo was taken years ago during our second recreational therapy trip where we went to Moab.

The UTV industry and off-road as whole has been good to me. The things I have been able to be a part of and do are too numerous to ever expand upon and the people I have shared these memories and times with are just as expansive. I would love to list out each and every person or company who has played a role in my life over the past 10 years but I am sure by now, if you are still reading this, you already know who you are. So with this final story I just want to give one last big THANK YOU. I truly have loved every single minute being the owner and founder of UTVUnderground and I will never forget all of the love this sport and industry has given me.

THIS ISN’T GOODBYE, IT’S JUST A SEE YA LATER….

With Respect,

Joey D.

A fitting photo for a goodbye, here I am watching the sun go down during an amazing trip to Dubai. While I may be closing out one chapter, another one is already being started. I can’t wait to see what I fill the pages with over the next 10 years. Thank you all for supporting me on this journey, I mean it when I say I love you….

P.S. You can always reach me via email at joeydigiovanni23@gmail.com & follow me on Instagram @JoeyD23


These 200 images are only a sliver of the memories I have earned over the 10 years of UTVUnderground. I look back and realize, I have lived a lifetime in this short amount of time. I will forever cherish these memories and friendships and I thank all of you who have been a part of my life during this time. Thank you to the many photographers and contributors who helped tell my story all these years… 

5 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for sharing Joey. Great story! TAP made a smart decision bringing you onboard full-time. With Polaris’s credibility, conviction, and investment in Off Road, you guys are going to take the UTV industry to another level AGAIN. It’s time to buy more PII stock…

  2. I feel sad like a part of the OG UTVUnderground is gone. But what a great opportunity for you! Thanks again for all you did for me. One of my best and longest standing sponsors came from you and I will never forget that. Being in the Mint movie 2 years in a row and all the other exposure you gave me was priceless. Can’t wait to see what you do next! See you out there somewhere! ❤

  3. Joey, Thank you for all you’ve done. I have always enjoyed your ambassadorship to the UTV world. I was part of the team that won the Baja 500 with the first RZR and a third at the Baja 1000 in 2008. Then helped Matt Parks in 2011. You were always fair with all the brands. I love how the racers bounced ideas to push the sport to new levels.
    I wish you nothing but the best in your future endeavor. I know we’ll still see you around. Vio condios for now.

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