Once upon a time, there was a tattooed outlaw who made his way in the world creating great iron steeds with his bare hands. He was known throughout the land for these two-wheeled sculptures and earned fame and fortune on television. But he had a secret passion, a hidden pastime: the outlaw craved speed.
Trading two wheels for four, the man raced in the desert and raced on off-road dirt tracks against the best drivers the sport had to offer. The outlaw found a tattooed nitro racer who shared his taste for speed and his desire to compete grew until, one day, his two worlds combined, and for a moment, the planets aligned.
The outlaw is Jesse James and the planets are aligning in Sturgis, SD, Aug. 5-6 when TORC: The Off-Road Championship Presented by AMSOIL is racing at The Legendary Buffalo Chip during the 74th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. This year, James is racing a PRO 2WD, 900-horsepower truck capable of reaching 100 mph on a short-course track against the best off-road racers in the world.
James has been coming to Bike Week nearly every year since 1986, when he went to his first event at the age of 16. He will now be there in the capacity of a racer, his wife, NHRA Funny Car driver Alexis DeJoria, alongside. Given the nature of his company and brand, West Coast Choppers, it’s safe to assume he has a pretty fair knowledge of the goings on at this infamous event nestled in the Black Hills.
“I’ve done everything there is to do in that town,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve just wreaked holy hell on everyone.”
The wreaking of holy hell will be tempered by another group of outlaws, these making their bones in the grind of a season-long, 14-round race schedule and not about to let an interloper steal their thunder. Or their shot at a title. CJ Greaves, the current PRO 2 points leader who has worn the black hat with black flags this season is looking forward to seeing what James can bring to the table.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Greaves said. “He’s driven a lot of stuff in his life so it’ll be awesome to see what he’s made of in a TORC truck.”
For his part, James understands his role in Sturgis is two-fold: one as a racer with the responsibilities of a racer and the other as an ambassador of the TORC Series, working with them to promote the race, the first of what is planned to be a new tradition at The Chip during the Rally. TORC has done all the right things, he said.
“I feel like I have a pretty good pulse on (Sturgis) and no one’s ever done anything like that. Everybody’s like, come in and ‘How are we going to make money off the bikers? All these guys with expendable income buying Harleys and they have money, how are we going to take their money?’
“They’ve never thought of it like TORC, where it’s ‘How are we going to entertain these dudes?’ Short-course off-road racing is entertainment. You get a lot for your money for buying your ticket and going to see that.”
It’s a new town for TORC, new surroundings and a new crowd.
Competition, beware the outlaw.
Photography by Vincent Knakal of Mad Media