Trophy Truck racers are often referred as “Country clubbers” as it is the most expensive way to haul your ass across the desert. Typically drivers of these machines are stereotyped to have “bought” their way in to the top tier of the sport without working their way up through the limited classes. Whether or not this stereotype is true can be traced through each driver’s race record although sometimes you can see it plain as day. Despite its price, trophy truck racing is arguably the most impressive and exciting form of motorsport there is, at least in our eyes.
But the question still is: if that limited guy, that working class guy, had a chance, what could he do?
Starting the super competitive ranks of 1600 and stepping up into Class 12, Class 10, Class 1 and finally in Trophy Truck, Steven Eugenio proved that if given the chance that a working class dude can make it happen.
RDC: Tell us a little about your background. You’re not really new to off-road racing are you?
Eugenio: I grew up around this. My Dad and my uncles all raced 5 open cars back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, I was pretty small back then but we were a desert family. We spent a lot of time out there going to local FUD races but we always raced something even before I got into cars. When I was a kid it was BMX. Later when I was old enough to buy my own dirt bike, I started racing motorcycles around 18.
RDC: So the career started on two wheels?
Eugenio: My best friend Nico and I had been talking about starting racing and he passed away shortly after that in an accident out in Glamis. That was what got me motivated to go out and do it; it was fulfilling that dream of ours. About 6 to 9 months after that happened, I went up to Star West and raced in the beginner class but I was so bad I got lapped. I thought I’d never get out of that class and never go anywhere with it. But I worked super hard at it, and a year later I was racing Supercross professionally.
RDC: That’s a big transition in a very short time.
Eugenio: Ya I practiced hard. I had a full time job, worked 10hrs a day and four days a week. I’d drive 2 1/2 hrs one way up to Star West, ride for 2 or 3 hours and drive home, and then do it all again. On the weekends, if I wasn’t working, I was up at the track either practicing or racing all weekend. I did it a lot and wasn’t scared to put myself in there with the faster guys and tried to keep the pace while learning the speed and how they were doing it. I think that played a big part in becoming faster quicker, but it was a lot of hard work.
RDC: How long did you race Supercross and Motocross?
Eugenio: I raced full time for 4 yrs until I broke my back in Dallas stadium and that pretty much ended my career. I tried to make a come back about 9 months later and ended up hurting my back again, and at that point, I just said that’s it. Motocross wasn’t worth never walking again.
RDC: From there what happened?
Eugenio: I just worked. I stopped racing and started my own business. My dad had bought a single seat Lothringer 1600 car and I started running that with him. My first race was on New Year’s Day 2006 in the Bud Light Dash, Plaster City. It was a huge shoot out race with about 40 cars in that class. We went out and we won. It was really cool and it just took off from there.
Eugenio: We did. We had well over 20 wins in that car and I drove with a few other fast guys like Adam Pfankuch and Kyle Conlon and we won a bunch in their cars. Driving just kinda came natural. I think my time on the bike really gave me an edge on reading terrain. My set up on the cars also mimicked the bike to work well in the rough. It just seemed to click.
RDC: So from there you worked your way up through the classes?
Eugenio: So it started when my father-in-law Fidel Galindo was with me at the Mint 400 and I was suppose to drive with Kyle Conlon, but I never got in because we had mechanical issues. It was his first race and on the way home we were talking and he asked if he bought a car, would I drive it. I said absolutely, and he pretty much gave me the option of anything from a Class 1 on down, and I chose to get into a Class 12 car.
I always wanted to drive a 12 car and didn’t feel like I was 100% ready for an unlimited car. I also didn’t want Fidel to jump in too deep right off the bat. So we ended up in a 12 car and teamed with Adam Pfankuch and we had really success in that car. Our first race at the Baja 500, we came away with a dominating win in the class and finished something like 10th overall. We pretty much won in every race we entered. The following year, we got a Class 1 car about three weeks before the Baja 500, and we won there as well.
RDC: Those were all single seat cars that you drove before right?
Eugenio: Ya all the cars we had before were single seat cars. Trophy Truck was only the second off-road race I had ever driven with a navigator.
RDC: Do you prefer single seat cars or two seat?
Eugenio: I thought I did. That is until I started working with Steve Covey; he’s my navigator now and he is a real professional at his job in the right seat. We have a great system together and it would be hard to run the pace we do without the notes Steve gives me. It gives me a comfort level and confidence to run hard and I don’t have to change my own tires now (he laughed).
RDC: So a common stereotype is that all Trophy Truck racers are just country clubbers and just get to play with race cars whenever they want. What do you do for a living?
Eugenio: I’m a high voltage lineman. I play with electricity all day while hanging from a power pole. I wasn’t born into money. I didn’t come from anything. I have a day job like everyone else. I’m just lucky enough to get to drive a Trophy Truck 6 times a year, and I make a normal salary just like anyone else.
RDC: So no extended prerunning before the race?
Eugenio: Usually, I prerun one time before the race and when we test it’s usually a 30 miles shake down just before the race. So the majority of seat time I get is in the actual race. I don’t get a whole lot of time off work. Linemen are pretty high in demand since everyone likes to have their power on.
RDC: Tell us how important family is in all of this.
Eugenio: Family comes first, always. This is a family team, and it’s supported by our family business. But most of all, my wife and kids support me to take the time off and be away at these races. They often don’t get to go with us unless its a race in the States. It all starts and ends with the family. My wife is a wonderful woman in letting me chase my dreams. She’s amazing, and I’m very blessed.
RDC: We heard fitness plays a large role in both your racing and day to day life. Tell us about that.
Eugenio: Growing up, I was always very active. When I started racing motocross, it was a really big thing. But when I got hurt and retired, things went south. I was just working a ton and not really taking care of myself. I was always on the run, not eating healthy and it was easy to do that, easy to fall into that hole. But I woke up one day at the age of 30 and said, ‘This isn’t me. This isn’t my life, and I need to get back on track and take control of my life. When I was out of shape, work just became harder and harder. So on my 30th birthday, I made a promise to myself to make a change and make my life better. So I discovered Crossfit, and they promised me if I did everything they said I’d hit my goal in six months. I thought that was impossible, but I went for it and hit my goal of loosing 50lbs in less than six months and I’ve been training ever since. I believe being fit helps with endurance and concentration, not only in racing, but in every day life. Also that extra weight beats you up when you’re racing; it fatigues you. It all counts; its up to me to be physically prepped, just as we prep our race truck for a win.
RDC: What were your expectations going into your first full season in Trophy Truck?
Eugenio: We didn’t know where we stood going into the year. We got one race under our belts last year and that went pretty well right out of the gate. Our plan was to run all the races, be consistent and win a Championship. Obviously we hit our goal; it was exactly what we wanted to do. In all of these years of racing, we knew a championship didn’t mean wining races. It meant being consistent and finishing every race. We executed that as planned. We took our budget and tried not to blow that out of proportion with all the extras you see and put all that in the truck. We made sure that truck was 100% ready to go every race, and it was. Steve Covey and ID Designs gave us a remarkable truck to race. We were strong all year, and we proved we can run with the best of them. So next year, we’ll defend our championship and go for another, but we’ll be pushing for more wins for sure.
RDC: So in 2014: Overall points Champion, Trophy Truck points Champion, Milestone Award. Living the dream or what?
Eugenio: It is! It is a dream come true. I never thought I’d ever move beyond 1600 cars. To go through the ranks and into Trophy Truck and win a Trophy Truck championship, I definitely crossed off a few on my bucket list. I never thought it was possible to drive a Trophy Truck let alone get one, race one, win a race in one and win a championship. We had an amazing year! It all came from team effort, being smart, being consistent, and making the right decisions at the right time. But we’re definitely on cloud 9 for sure!
RDC: Plans for 2015?
Eugenio: We have a lot of new stuff going on next year. We have our good friend Armin Schwarz coming partnering with us and sharing the driving duties, and we’re super excited about that. Armin brings a lot of experience as someone who’s raced at a professional level for most of his life. We might be doing some stuff with him in Europe as well. We also have some new sponsors coming on board, and you’ll be see them represented on the truck. We also plan to race the entire SCORE schedule and possibly the Mint 400. We definitely plan on winning a few more races, and overall we’re striving for another championship. We learned a lot over this last year and were fortunate enough to team with Vildosola Racing this last Baja 1000 and see how a professional off-road team operates. We know what we need to do team-wise to step up the game, and I know what I gotta do driving. As always, we’re going to come hard.
Eugenio: I really want to thank everyone who made this all possible. None of this would’ve happened without Fidel Galindo, our sponsors, our team, anyone who ever lifted a finger for us or made any effort for this team, my family, my friends, our fans, Mexico for letting us race through their beautiful country, and SCORE for putting on great races. I would not be in this position without the generosity of a lot of people. Thank you!