Ivan Stewart in todays SD Union

DougM

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Back on the Off-road

Ivan Stewart is driving hard to make his ProTruck series a success


Bill Center
STAFF WRITER

May 29, 2003


Ivan Stewart knows exactly what would push his ProTruck off-road series over the top.

A name driver ... such as himself.

And there lies the rub.

"I know the leap we could make if I drove," Stewart said yesterday as he prepared to head south to watch 10 of his trucks race in Saturday's 30th anniversary SCORE Tecate Baja 500.

"But I couldn't live with the conflict of driving in the series and setting the rules."

Stewart's involvement in the "Ivan Stewart ProTruck Series" goes far beyond simply setting the rules that make his brainchild a strictly controlled, one-design class.

ProTruck is Stewart's child, born eight years ago of the famed driver's belief that off-road racing had too many divisions and needed a NASCAR-style class that would be easily identifiable by the sport's fans.

"A spectator should be able to identify the vehicle as a Ford, Dodge, Chevy or Toyota," he says.

Of course, to reach his goal, he needed to add another class to the mix. ProTruck was born with common frames and suspensions. Only the skin and V-8 engines bear the name of the make – Dodge, Ford, Chevrolet, GMC and now Toyota.

Yes, the same Toyota factory that Stewart made famous during his storied driving career that ended when he claimed his 11th overall win and 17th class title in the 2000 Baja 500.

Stewart and Toyota recently extended their promotional partnership another three years. By the time that agreement ends, Stewart will have been the factory's driver/spokesman for more than a quarter of a century.

"I would never have dreamed my career would have lasted this long," said Stewart, the former fence company foreman who turns 58 on June 4.

Stewart would probably still be racing in the desert if Toyota still entered its dominant single-seat truck in SCORE's featured TrophyTruck division.

But like all the factories that jumped into off-road racing in the 1970s and 1980s, Toyota withdrew.

"I can say I don't miss driving because the opportunity I had as a factory driver is pretty much gone," said Stewart. "I don't see those days returning soon."

Although the field for the Baja 500 is the biggest since 1988, the salad days have not returned to desert racing. But Stewart has a vision.

Since he launched ProTruck, he has built 40 of the one-design vehicles in his East County shop. He has also created opportunities for the class in terms of television (a regular series on the Outdoor Life Network), races and prize money.

However, Stewart says the series needs to expand. And he believes the potential is unlimited.

"We need more races, more trucks and more prize money," he says.

The series also needs to develop some drivers with name recognition to make it a more attractive show for television. And who is the No. 1 recognized off-roader in the land? Ivan Stewart ... perhaps the only driver who can't run in the Ivan Stewart ProTruck Series.

"I'd love to have Robby Gordon or Jimmie Johnson drive a ProTruck in the Baja 1000," said Stewart. "But entering a level-field series like this is tough on the driver with a name. He's putting his name on the line when all the equipment is level."

The trucks themselves are making news.

The series has staged races in Guam and Stewart is negotiating for future races in Saipan and in Baja California at La Paz. Stewart has also had preliminary talks with California Speedway and Sears Point Raceway for events styled after the popular SCORE Off-Road World Championship events at Riverside International Raceway in the 1980s.

A ProTruck has finished seventh in the Paris-Dakar rally. Stewart has given thought to himself driving in the Paris-Dakar, or following the lead of Mark Miller and Ryan Arciero and racing a higher-powered ProTruck in SCORE's unlimited TrophyTruck class.

"We are moving forward," said Ivan, "but a name driver would help."

He has two in the Baja 500 who are identifiable at least in the off-road community. One is named Stewart – his son, Brian, a former Chevy factory driver who is now a stunt driver in movies and commercials. Brian will be co-driving with Larry Ragland.
 

Tony_Barraza

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Doug-

Thanks for posting that.
 

gary

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a short course event at Fontana or maybe even Irwindale would probably have an awesome turn out of spectators..like the old MTEG races...maybe even Rialto, with the addition of grandstands...
 

slowguy

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"...name driver..."

Larry Ragland is entered in the Protruck class for the 500. Is that enoughj Name Brand for Ivan?
 

JrSyko

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I think he is thinking more of one that transcends motorsports. Larry Ragland, while famous amongst an expanded dirt crowd, is not the "name driver" he is searching for. Those would be the Robby Gordon's, Dale Jr's. and Jimmie Johnson's etc.
 

Kritter

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Pay the "name" drivers to race if he wants more publicity. I would like to see some F1 , Rally , and Neckcar racers (JR and Jeff G would be great) out there racing. Jimmie J, RG, etc...they are cool to see but they were bread on dez racing so it would not be as great to see them race and probably win as it would be the big dogs of the previously mentioned sports get there ass whooped. I dont know of anybody who would pass up an all expense paid 2 week trip to Mexico with extra spending money, a real nice prerunner to get familiar with the course and the handling, and a full prepped and supported race truck!!

Come on Ivan it's only money...put up the funds so we can see the best drivers in the world get beat at a real mans form of racing! Not only would it do wonders for Protruck...it would bring a lot of lost attention back to desert racing.
 

GFC

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i second that idea kritter! telivise it on a basic cable channel so just about everyone would have a chance to see it
 

Dillon

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I suggest you post a small portion of the article then a link to where you found it. You never know about someone coming across this site and calling foul to admin here since posting a whole article is against copyright laws. I wouldn't mention it if I hadn't seen it happen...

Otherwise, interesting read, would like to see Schumacher in the cockpit of a ProTruck
 

JeffS

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How about some of the Rally drivers... might be scary to see what Burns or McRae could do in a Protruck.
 

SDranger

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You mean this one?





they have the old school one with the 3 steering wheels at a sandwitch place by my house, and me and my friends are addicted to it!
 

JeffS

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LOL ... . I can still hear the finish line sound.... BWAAAAAA

& the MUSIC && dm dm dm da dm da dn da dn dn dn &&

 

martininsocal

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I hear you Kritter, I would like to see some of the dirt trackers now racing cup step back onto the dirt. Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon(even though I don't like him), Sterling Marlin, etc... You may be surprised how they do. As for international drivers, I think some of the pro rally guys would step right in and be fast, period. I think that after 30 minutes in the vehicle, they would be flying! They literally drive the rally cars just like TT's exceptthe roads are smoother, Speed doesn't scare those gays at all, so the speed will bethere right away, just learning the different attitude of the Protrucks handling would be the initial slow down, then I think it would be on. How about Rhys Millen? He would have a great mentor to coach him...
 

Dillon

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Yeah, well those guys aren't super cocky like Schumacher...I read an interview of Schumacher where he kinda trashed on rally drivers saying its just easy "just gotta whip the car around, how hard is that?" or something along those lines.
 

martininsocal

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Dillon - I hear ya! But you have to admit, if someone was paying you 25 million a year to drive their cars, would you have attitude? Does Shaq or Kobe or now LeBraun James have attitude? I guess that is something we don't really see in our sport. We certainly have superstarts(to us) but they are still down home approachable people who haven't forgotten their roots or why they are superstars. It takes fans to be a star! Schumaker may be one of the best drivers in the world, but when he is not winning races, he will be gone(except maybe in Spain where he will probably try to be like David Hasselhoff and start a singing career or something!), he won't be like Jackie Stewart or Jim Arute, folks who endeared themselves to fans and made an after racing career oppurtunity possible.
 

Dillon

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Oh I have no illusions why hes like that, he has alot of room to be cocky because he is such a great driver, but oh well, fame and perfection (perceived at least) brings that kind of thing I guess.
 
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