Chasing Down Brian Deegan – race-deZert.com

Chasing Down Brian Deegan

Congratulations, hell of a championship. It’s not getting easier, the field is stacked and you stepped into the deep end in Pro-2’s so, a lot of respect for that.

Thanks.

You’ve crushed both classes this year. What do you think your secret is?

I think I have done well because I’ve run them as two programs.  I have separate guys that run my Pro-Lite and other guys who run my Pro-2. They run as two separate programs but under my tent. They’re both a rear wheel drive traction, so they’re similar to drive. The Pro-Lite has helped me do better in the Pro-2. That’s why I’ve always kind of stuck with it, plus I had the support to do two classes.

That leads me into my next question. It’s a lot of work to run one class. Do you think it helps your program that are running two classes?

I’ve said the benefits are paid because I have just more seat time. I’m constantly driving. I always had the theory that I’d come out of Pro-Lite and either be super excited because I won, or really pissed off because I didn’t. Either way it was really motivating for Pro-2. You see sometimes on the first lap I check out like by five seconds or whatever within the first three or four laps in Pro-2 because I’m just so warmed up and ready to run. You know? I know the track. I know the pace. I know where the holes are, where to go, where the dirt is at, where it’s not, but it just really helps in certain aspects.

It hurts when it’s super hot. The days it’s over 100 degrees and running back and forth to get in the trucks, and you don’t have time to eat right, drink right, physically wears you down more. There’s a lot of thought process that goes down with two trucks as far as what lines to take.  Is the truck set-up?  I spend a lot of time just setting up the truck especially in Pro-Lite. You know?

Yes, ProLite is a little unforgiving.

Yeah.

It’s funny because I’ve known you for a long time and it’s been cool to watch the evolution of you as a person and now you have your daughter, and your son, and they’re kind of now being involved in what you do for a career, so they’ve been both racing. Do you plan on having them race with you on your team?

I’ve never really thought about it too far out in the future of what the plan is with the kids when they are 18.  Besides I’m just going to keep focusing on helping them to do as good as they can and if that day comes where they want to race pro or whatever they want to do, I’ll support it. I just said for me to take some time to just put 100% into it into whatever it is. If it’s the mini-bike racing, well, we’re constantly developing the best stuff into the fastest bikes and the best practice tracks, and just trying to see how good we can get the kids at their sports.

It’s the same thing with my daughter. She plays on club volleyball. She’s on the elite team and we practice every night. In everything we do we just go full on about it. I’d be happy to see my kids go to college. It would be nice to see her try to be a doctor, pursue something like that too. You know?

Also jumping over to GRC, you’ve been racing GRC. How is GRC compared to short course races? Are there similarities and what are the differences?

I think there are similarities.  GRC is a sprint.  It’s fast rate and it’s a lot about car set-up. I like when the tracks are dirt then there’s a lot of similarities, but the races that have gone to pavement really throws me out of my element. I still seem to do okay, but I’m starting to put a little more time into pavement driving such as like going to schools and just trying to learn how to drive pavement better. But in the short course racing, you’re doing starts, you’re doing car set-ups. It actually has a lot of crossover as far as just the passing, setting up, passing, and the aggressive driving, and all that transfers back and forth.

So we talked before about Baja, I know a trophy truck isn’t necessarily a money-making thing, but are you interested in desert racing if the right opportunity was there?

Yeah, I always said.  I told Rockstar, if the time ever comes to … That I would be able to get the support to go race Baja or something like that, that would be awesome. I’d love to try it. But I don’t foresee me taking on that sport due to my kids racing and business, and all the other things that I have going.

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If you could race heads up against any off-road racer, who would it be and why?

Ivan Stewart or Mickey Thompson would be cool, just some legend. You know? But one thing I’d always like to do is to be able to walk away from the sport or whenever my days done… When I’m getting older and leave a mark like those guys have done. I think it’s cool to have created a mark like they have. They have legendary names, and it’s their name. That would be cool.

It’s my goal. It’s what I want to be. I want to be a name in off-road where people are like, “That dude did a lot for the sport, had a huge impact on it, and continued to put out products that are just like Walker Evans is still doing and Mickey Thompson is still doing. Those guys really helped build and innovate the sport.

You’re not just some freestyle motocross guy who jumped in a truck anymore. You’ve won multiple championships and multiple classes and really, especially this year, you laid down some dominant performances consistently. What advice would you give to up and coming off-road racers?

I think it’s just investing in the right people, having to surround yourself with the right people and good people that know what they’re doing. In off-road you always just do the extra effort or do whatever you can. Do it right the first time. You know? That’s kind of what I’ve learned in off-road, just got to have the best guys and really study what’s been done. Why are people winning? Why have people won? I study that. That’s what I want. That’s what I learned.

Sure. No, it’s great advice.  Between GRC and short course racing, what’s your favorite?

I would say short-course is my favorite because of the jumps.  The tracks are dirt and the roots.  I just dig it. You know? There’s no roost in GRC. You’re in a car with a windshield and guys wear white race suits and are like real GQ. You know? I like being at the dirt track and it’s like motocross. You know? That’s what I enjoy. I just like the big jumps.

Tell us about your program and who’s really critical in running your program?

I took baby steps. You know? When I first started I invested my own money. Rockstar helped me out.  They took a chance on me. I invested in my own truck, and started with a real cheap set-up.  I had a Pro-Lite truck and trailer and just barely could afford to make it my first year.

I just had to build it and prove it. I’ve been working my ass off.  I showed people I could win and started getting more support, did all the merching, went to all the signings, did all the promotion and was able to build my team. I built a team and great shop at my house. I was able to set-up my program and now I have one of the nicest teams at the track.

It was all just from starting from ground level. I got key guys on my team like Tanner Stevens and Jeff Frana, who run my Pro-2 program. Those are my key guys who really help my team be so strong. I have racers services, Paul Michelle and Kenny are the guys who help on my Pro-Lite but Keith Stamper is the best Pro-Lite guy probably ever. I have so many “A” players on my team it’s gnarly, like they all could be crew chiefs with the other teams. You know?

The way I describe my team to people it’s like, you walk down the pit, you see a team with their one “A” player or crew chief that just knows how to do everything. Those are all my guys. I have six of those guys under my tent and they’re all gnarly. It’s not cheap, but it wins races and championships bottom line.

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That leads me into my next question and specifically with Stamper. How much is equipment a factor in racing? Tell us about who built your vehicles?

Equipment.  It’s like I would say it’s way, way more important to get equipment than where I came from in moto. You know? Moto is a lot more physical, the rider is 80%. In off-road I think it’s probably like 30, 40% driver and the rest is the equipment and the truck. You won’t win if you have a bad truck.  You’re not winning in it so important to have good equipment. A lot of people have the money but they don’t know how to set it up, so you have that scenario too.

We have the guys who can set it up and we’ve been able to have the nice equipment. I still do bounce around. You can’t outspend me by far. You know?

But we are able to set-up our trucks better. We have just better ways of fixing and preparing our trucks and that’s what it comes down to. It’s just the experience in the guys I’ve hired and it’s not by chance. I didn’t get lucky. I studied it. I studied. I said, “Who is the best crew chief and who has the best truck?” Those are the guys I went after and some of the guys we had to wait a season or two to get them over to your team. I have a pretty damn long list of resumes of mechanics who tried to get on our team. I’m pretty straight up. Pay the guys when it’s time to get paid. I pay good bonuses. It’s when I win everyone is doing good. Everything we do is based upon winning on our team. It’s heavy incentivized to win. That’s the way I like it.

Who built your trucks originally?

Jeff and Tanner built my Pro-2 and the Pro-Lite were built by Keith a long time ago.

For the future you and I talked, I don’t know, a year ago. What are your plans for the future of off-road racing?

It’s a sport. I wish it was growing faster. I think it is getting better but I wish it was cheaper so more drivers could come in fill the slots up. I think it’s just getting more and more expensive which kind of sucks because it’s hurting the turn-out. There needs to be more trucks.

I’ve had meetings with the league and meetings with whoever matters. I said, “Hey, what do we got to do to make this work more affordable?” We can outspend the competition and we can beat everyone, but that’s not the game. The game should be 20 guys on the same playing field so we can all battle and have good qualifying. I want to beat the best.

You look at short-course you’re like, I’m the best Pro-2 driver in the nation.  So what does that really mean? Does it mean you’re the best of 40 guys? You know? Not like motocross or supercross where if you’re the best, the champion, thousands of people are trying to be that guy. You know?

You got to put it into perspective and go, “How much is it really worth money wise for this event?” I just think the sport needs to come together and put more limits on how much it costs, so we can get more people in the sport. I just would like to keep growing because I want to be around. I want to be part of it. But at what point does some sponsor go, “Oh, I think it’s not growing. We’re walking away.”

There are a lot of theories on how to make the sport grow and I am down to do the work. I want to see it work. I want to be here for the long haul. I enjoy it, like something I can do for a long time because you’re in a race car. It’s not like moto where you’re going to have time limit.

You probably have the biggest fan base in short course and some large sponsors. Do you feel a lot of pressure to win? Is that put on you by the sponsors or is that more of yourself?

I think it’s just like the Villopoto theory. You know? There’s one result that people expect out of you. That’s kind of a curse you put on yourself and you win a bunch it’s like, “Oh, man!” Just like it was a bummer the other when I got like second or third. The pit was all down. You know?

It’s kind of funny that that’s how high our standard is now. But yeah, I feel there’s a lot of pressure for me to win from everything, from the sponsors, to myself and from the fans, for sure. I feel it, for sure. It’s been good since Bryce has come over and he’s upped the game and has helped me move forward, I think. Rob MacCachren is always innovating, so I’m getting better and better every time, and Carl, I just like to see some more players in the game.

Have there been any moments, like when you’re doing this that were pretty scary, like bad crashes or pucker moments where you’re like, “Well, what am I doing?”

Yeah, maybe when I caught on fire in Vegas a year ago, like fire going through the truck. That kind of scared me to go, “Whoa! I could get jacked up pretty quick.”  I’ve been pretty fortunate not to have the big, big flip crashes and I don’t think that’s coincidental. I think it’s just the way I back off the gas instead of jumping into certain situations that aren’t good. I’ve raced Pro-lite five years in Pro-Lite, six years in championships and I flipped once, maybe twice, but I think just the way I’ve driven. Yeah, I think I’ve had a few of those moments.  No, I don’t think I’ve ever been like, “Man, this is too crazy.”

I raced Pro-4 the other day and there were some moments there where guys were landing on me or jumping into each other, just doing some really like foolish stuff that didn’t make sense at al.  It was kind of like, “Wow! Is this how it’s going to be in this class?” I just don’t like when people push me off the base of the jump when I’m up and like getting ready to take off and they clip you, spin you out of control. But I’ve had some of that in Pro-2, the last race, but those are the only moments that were scary.

I’ve seen Pro-Lites flip, trucks flip, and even catch on fire when they flip back over because of the carburetion. There’s some stuff there that I’m like, “Man, they need to make this safer.”  I think we need to go to fuel injection, implement some more safety in the trucks, for sure.

Are you going to move into Pro-4? Is that part of your plan?

I want to. I think racing a Pro-4 is going to help me as a driver. I think it’ll help me become a way better rally driver because it’s all-wheel drive. It’s the same style. When I got into Scott Douglas’ Pro-4 for the first time I’m like, “Damn! This feels just like my rally car.” The way it turns. The way you follow the front wheels.

Yeah, I’d like to.  Going back to the theory though of what’s realistic because my Pro-2 program is a seven-figure program. You know? Or add another one of those and at what point does the money get to be so much that it costs losing money and that’s where I don’t want to get. I had to pull money out of my savings many times and I don’t want to do that.

I feel like I’m at the point where I shouldn’t have to be digging into my savings. I found that’s the way it’s going to be in Pro-4 because if it’s just that expensive to win, then I won’t do it. I’ll just race Pro-2 because Pro-2 is getting more and more expensive too. Yeah, I would like to and I’m still working on that.

I know you are into MMA, and as long I’ve known you, you’ve been into fitness in general. How much do you think that being in shape helps your driving?

I think it helps a lot. I think the generation of guys being out of shape, older, like drinking, partying, and going racing are getting few and far between. I think that more guys are eating right, training, and being in good shape are going to win races. It’s not as demanding as a dirt bike, but it sure does matter when you’re racing all day in a hundred and some degrees and you have to make quick decisions. You can tell the guys who are in shape and that have done it right. There are all these pieces. You know? They don’t have consistency,  up and down the race like, oh, that guys is on today, off the next day. They’re always there and that’s what I want to be, consistent.  You can build on that.

I think that’s something that is with everything in life. You need someone that’s in decent shape and is motivated, like athletic person. That’s the type of person you want to do business with. You’re like, “All right. This dude’s not a slouch.” You’re not going to be late. You know?

Are there any other forms of racing that you want to try? What are they and why?

I did want to try NASCAR just because of the crowd and I felt like that would be making to the top in racing in America, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Other than that, no, I think I’m where I want to be racing rally and racing trucks. There isn’t too much more that I’m like, “Man, I want to go try that.”  Maybe some road race stuff would be cool. But feels pretty good where I’m at.

In your career and in your life, who do you think has been your biggest influence, your biggest motivation?

I have to say, first would be my dad who has like pretty much taught me how to work hard and be a business guy, and go and do things the right way to be successful. When I moved out and moved on, that was what was instilled in me.  Then I had certain guys I looked up to in motocross like Jeff Ward and Ricky Johnson. Then I got married and had kids. My kids are the next motivation factor for me. Now that they’re getting older it’s really important that I’m motivated by showing them or giving examples of how you’re supposed to be in life.

Back to racing for a second, every year that you’ve been racing now the field has gotten deeper and deeper. This year in Pro-2, it’s a pretty stacked field and you not only were dominant, but you won a championship. What does that feel like? Do you feel validated? Again, it’s like the year the freestyle motocross guy showed up. I remember telling you like, “Hey dude, this isn’t a picnic. You’re going to have to figure out a lot of shit.”

Yeah, I feel like this one meant a lot. I’ve been in off-road since 2009 and we won the championship, I think, every year. It was six years and we had six championships and I don’t think there are many guys who can say that.  I’ve been in Pro-2 four years and I’ve won three of the four years and I should have won it last year, but things just didn’t happen. It’s a huge accomplishment, you know how it keeps getting harder to beat the field and especially Rob MacCachren.  Not many people can do that. It’s bad ass! We were all stoked and that’s our goal.

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There is a saying and I think it goes both ways both in short-course and desert, but “The race doesn’t necessarily matter as long as you beat Rob MacCachren.”

Yeah, I could hear that. I remember saying as a typical theme of “how do you make a million dollars in off-road?” That’s a typical one. I’m like, “you start with two,” and I’m like, “Shit! I’m still trying to figure out how to end with one.” I’m not ending with nothing. I like to spend it all. You know? It’s expensive.

I put every dollar I make in the back in the program. I don’t try to make money racing. I try to pay for my racing through … I try to cover my racing through my sponsors. A lot of times sponsors don’t understand that. They’re like, “Man, you really need a half a million from me or you need just a couple hundred grand?” I’m like, “Yeah, that’s like three motors, dude.” That’s like you don’t understand these levels. It’s so gnarly and so expensive.

But I make my money through products. I go out and try to build cool products and that’s where I make my living. Products and selling clothing, selling tires, wheels, all the cool things that I like to make for the fans and for the people buying it. Then I put it back in the sport. You know? I try to put it in sponsored teams. I sponsor supercross teams, sponsor other drivers. I’m just getting rolling. You know?

I always say, “support the sport.” When you’re going to go buy a Maxxis tire for example, where is that money going to? Who are you supporting? When you buy that tire you’re pumped on that brand for whatever reason, where does that money go?  Hopefully to an athlete who put’s it back into off-road.

Think about it. When you buy products that have a name on them like Robby Woods, or whoever it is putting out those products, it’s going to athletes that are spending the money back in off-road.

That’s why I feel like the message that I want to get across people, it’s supporting the athlete’s sport.

Support off-road!

Yeah, and I think guys are putting it back in. I understand those companies are too. They’re sponsoring, putting back into the sport, for sure.

Who do you feel is your biggest competition that is out there on the track?

I think the guys that push us to be better or Bryce and Rob, Carl.  Those are the guys in short-course. In Rally, Block and Tanner, those are the guys. Scott Speed on pavement is fast. Nelson Piquet is fast too. Those are the dudes who push me in that sport. The guys who can beat you at any moment, those are the dudes who make you try harder.

It was interesting this weekend to see. I had no idea that Tanner was going to come out and do some laps, but that was just interesting to watch.

Yeah, he’s one of the best drivers in the world, but it goes to show you how hard the short-course is.

Did you ever think when you were coming up, especially in those years where freestyle motocross was starting to blow up, that you would evolve into owning a multi-truck race team?

No. When I came to California I thought I was going to be a Supercross factory rider. Then that didn’t work, so I quickly made the move to freestyle motocross. I’ve always tried to make the most of everything. Once I realized freestyle was tapering off and I couldn’t continue the curve of tricks and how dangerous it was, and all the injuries I had … It’s like, “All right. Well, what’s next?” I moved it pretty quick. Rockstar supported me to try a truck. I took it serious, I put a lot of work into it and surrounded myself with good people. The next thing you know we’re one of the top teams.

I think we’re halfway there. I think I have so many more visions of what I want to do. I don’t want to sound cocky or nothing, but I want to make a huge impact in this sport. I want to be known as the one who has won the most, the biggest names, and sell the coolest products. Like how Walker Evans has his products and his name. He’s around. His name and his product is going to go on forever. Mickey Thompson could go on forever, that’s where I want to be. That’s my goal, that’s my vision. I think what we have is good and I’m always thinking of how to bring more fans to the track, how to have better TV shows, be more entertaining. I think that’s what’s going to help grow the whole sport.

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Do you have anybody else that you’d like to thank or give props or respect to?

I’d say I don’t want to like be the driver that’s like, “Oh, yeah, I’d like to thank my sponsors.” But in the end if Rockstar didn’t back me, they would have been like, “He’s just a freestyle guy,” then this career is over and clip me or let me go, or just not help me. I wouldn’t be able to do what I did, so definitely Rockstar is the one that stood behind me and I got to meet some really cool people.

The guys at Mickey Thompson, I wish I would have met them from day one because they’re so cool to me. We’re like good friends. We talk on a friend level and they’re just there to support me. I think you’re going to see a lot of big names coming out from us and they’re on the same wavelength. We got to put out a signature tire. Think about that. There’s not a lot of people who have signature tires. It’s doing really well and I’m going to keep growing that. I have a whole line of rims coming out through Mickey Thompson, Off-road Wheels, Street Wheels, all that, so that’s all going to grow. Mickey Thompson is getting behind my vision of how many new products and cool projects I want to do.

I’m going to keep doing video parts. I have a bunch of ideas of just doing cool Internet projects because I think that’s where it’s at. I think for the little amount of time I have, I like to be still doing stunts. I like doing crazy stuff and I have some crazy ideas and I’m going to invest the money in some ideas, and just do different stuff that should help the sport of off-road.

Ford’s been behind me which has been crazy thing that I never thought would happen, that I’d have the president of Ford hang out at my house. You know?

Actually, it’s really funny because one of the other things I’ve been working on is an article on that truck that Chris Ross did with you.

Yeah, we’re releasing a new Ford F-150 at SEMA 2015, aluminum body F-150, all signature Deegan products on it and I will be in the Ford booth. It will be one of the primary featured trucks. A.D.D. helped me build it. Chris Ross was behind the scenes making it happen. It’s just crazy. A signature truck?

I was eating dinner with the president of Ford and the president of Ford Racing the other day. I’m like, “This is freaking nuts.” I freaking was just a stupid dirt biker from Nebraska. You know? Now, we’re going to the top level of American racing and companies, and business. I think this has to do with just making those good connections with the right people and trying to be a good person with the business guys.

With the short course being strong, I was able to bring in FRAM. I was at SEMA and we talked to one of the top guys, the president of FRAM to come in my rally car for a ride. Took him for a ride and he was hooked. You know? The next thing you know FRAM is involved in so much of the racing now, like I had a part of that. You know? They have been another great partner. All these big corporate partners, it’s crazy because I have never had that. You know? I always wanted that.

Those are kind of the key players that today, that really helped me. DVS has helped me. All those people backed me with signature products.

It’s pretty rad to think about, all the way from dirt bikes to the fact that now we’re all selling trucks and especially you! I said this to the FORD guys a few years ago when we were first getting work with them. It’s like, “You want a guy to sell the Raptor?” Deegan’s your poster boy. It’s awesome to see!

I’m really stoked for you and a lot of respect because you’re backing up your mouth with the proof. Do you know what I mean? It’s like, I out of anybody know how difficult it is to go win in short-course and there’s a myriad of guys who are champions in desert who would never even dream of messing with it because they know that it’s a different level of intensity of racing. Again, congratulations on your sixth championship!

Yeah, and then the ones we did lose they were by a few points.  At Pro-Lite, I ended up losing it this year by a few points and we had twice as many wins as anyone else in the class. We are the dominant truck. I don’t think the facts or the points stress that enough. Who has ever done that? Who has ever won two classes consistently at the same time? I podiumed Friday, Pro-2, Pro-4, and ProLite in one day. That’s never been done? Not in Lucas!

A lot went down. We podiumed every single round in Pro-2. I parked it the last round to where my truck actually freaking broke, but we already had won the championship. We didn’t need to race the last one. That’s how big of a lead we had. That’s unheard of, the little things that people don’t really realize. I think I’ve already won over 50 races in short-course. That is a lot of battles.

It’s rad, a really rad thing! I’m stoked for you. You know? I’m glad you’re involved with the sport and it’s fun to watch. It makes it more exciting.

Also at the end too, I put my thanks to Chappy who is always at the race and always helps me. A guy from Racers for Christ, too. That’s one dude that’s always been there to help me. Like I said, “I ain’t perfect and nowhere near it,” but that dude has helped me out a lot.

Support off-road and Brian Deegan! Find out more about his signature products here:

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2 Comments

  1. Great interview – and I have to say I have gained a lot of respect over the past few years for Brian after having him and his family in this sport. He is smart, and a business man, but he is SO committed to everything he does…..it’s great having him in the series!

  2. Great interview! as my brother and I are building a 1600 car from ground up, I appreciate all the great answers and insight Brian showed. Look forward to being part of such a great series and being around great people!!

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