Conversations with Big Rich

Rufus Racings Chip MacLaughlin on Laughter, Living, and Loss

October 20, 2022 Guest Chip MacLaughlin Season 3 Episode 133
Conversations with Big Rich
Rufus Racings Chip MacLaughlin on Laughter, Living, and Loss
Show Notes Transcript

Humor is how you get through the tough stuff.  Chip MacLaughlin of Rufus Racing shares memories of early KOH, racing with friends, making memories, and Zandy Willems. This is life and how we live it. Thanks, Chip for a beautiful reminder.

6:25 – we built a lot of fences, dug a lot of holes

9:44 – I got pulled out by four train cars

17:25 – oh, by the way, it has to float 

21:33 – I sold the buggy, then you called and said I had a spot at Hammers

26:06 – the Crawling Chaos guys out of Central Texas were my first race friends

37:38 – don’t be afraid to ask somebody questions

46:17 – we were meant to be together

49:08 – almost all males get prostate cancer, the majority die before they know

55:36 – we did it with humor, and I think we helped some other people

57:13 – the whole point of the team was, let’s go make some memories and find friends

1:08:08 – my last words to Zandy while I was standing in the spotter stand at Crandon…

We want to thank our sponsors Maxxis Tires and 4Low Magazine. 

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[00:00:06.370] - Big Rich Klein

Welcome to conversations with Big Rich. This is an interview style podcast. Those interviews are all involved in the offroad industry. Being involved, like all of my guests are, is a lifestyle, not just a job. I talked to competitive teams, racers, rock crawlers, business owners, employees, media and private park owners, men and women who have found their way into this exciting and addictive lifestyle. We discuss their personal history, struggles, successes and reboots. We dive into what drives them to stay active and offroad. We all hope to shed some light on how to find a path into this world we live and love and call offroad.


[00:00:53.790] - 

Whether you're crawling the red rocks of Moab or hauling your toys to the trail, Maxxis has the tires you can trust for performance and durability. Four wheels or two? Maxxis tires are the choice of champions because they know that whether for work or play, for fun or competition, Maxxis tires deliver. Choose Maxxis Tread victoriously.


[00:01:20.290] - 

Have you seen 4low magazine yet? 4low Magazine is a high quality, well written, four wheel drive focused magazine for the enthusiast market. If you still love the idea of a printed magazine, something to save and read at any time, 4Low is the magazine for you. 4Low cannot be found in stores, but you can have it delivered to your home or place of business. Visit to order your subscription today.


[00:01:47.230] - Big Rich Klein

On today's episode of Conversations with Big Rich, we have Chip McLaughlin. Chip has been a friend for a long time. I met him in the Pringle Fab days while we were doing things in Texas. But he is also the president of Eco Earthworks, which is a construction company. He's an expert grom pilot. He is a koh and was a dirt riot racer. He in fact how I met Zandy Willems and then graduate or went to school at Texas A and M and the University of New Orleans. We'll get into all that here shortly. But hey, Chip, thank you for coming on board and spending some time this morning.


[00:02:30.680] - Chip MacLaughlin

Thank you, Big Rich. It's good to talk to you. Been friends for a long time. You opened up and I'm sitting here thinking I think that was back around 2010 is when we first met.


[00:02:42.370] - Big Rich Klein

Might have been even earlier than that, but absolutely by then. I think we first met, it was before I did the visit to Rednecks with paychecks, but I don't remember the exact date that we met.


[00:03:04.210] - Chip MacLaughlin

Yeah, that would have been around twelve. But you were doing events down in Spring, Texas too, correct?


[00:03:11.020] - Big Rich Klein

Spring, Texas we did in 2007.


[00:03:21.600] - Chip MacLaughlin

Wyatt Pemberton and Matt Enochs and all.


[00:03:23.800] - Big Rich Klein

Those guys, those crazy days in Texas right after a hurricane, which is luckily we're not having any of those right now in Texas.


[00:03:33.200] - Chip MacLaughlin

Right, exactly.


[00:03:34.670] - Big Rich Klein

So let's start right off, chip, where were you born and raised?


[00:03:39.890] - Chip MacLaughlin

I was born in Houston, Texas, and then moved to Dallas in second grade. My dad owned the company and transferred up to Dallas. So I finished high school in Plano, Texas, which is in North Dallas, and grew up with a brother and two sisters. My youngest sisters adopted, graduated, and ended up in New Orleans for ten years. Well, let me rephrase that before that. Ended up in Galveston. Galveston for two years with plans to go to the main campus at Texas A and M and then ended up in New Orleans and finishing university in New Orleans with mechanical engineering.


[00:04:19.690] - Big Rich Klein

Excellent. And going to school in that Dallas Plano area. What was that like? Was it far enough back that it was still kind of rural up in Plano and not just suburbia.


[00:04:35.310] - Chip MacLaughlin

I lived right there in Plano Frisco area, which people are familiar with. North Dallas, that is just huge. Now, that's where the Dallas Stars have their Dallas Cowboys have the Star where they practice, and it's just huge. But when I lived there as a kid, it was a lot of cornfields and rural areas, and our family still has we bought it in 1980. We have a ranch up about an hour and a half out of Dallas, so I grew up in Plano during the week, and then on Friday at school, we'd go to the ranch. So that's where I learned a lot of the how to ride motorcycles, four wheelers, break stuff, fix it. So I had the best of both World City during the week and country and weekends.


[00:05:19.150] - Big Rich Klein

And were you on the school side of it? Did you play any sports or anything like that?


[00:05:28.930] - Chip MacLaughlin

I didn't do any school related sports when I was in high school. I took auto paint and body because I just like doing things with my hands. I like building things. But I started racing motorcycles when I was 14. I did hare scrambles and enduros


[00:05:44.620] - Chip MacLaughlin

okay. And did all that all the way through high school. And then when I left for college, I stopped, and when I graduated, I went and bought another motorcycle, started it again, but I was getting older and found that trees hurt a lot worse when you're older, longer to heal.


[00:06:01.180] - Big Rich Klein

Yes. Don't I know that?


[00:06:03.600] - Chip MacLaughlin

Yes. It's kind of evolved from there, but I didn't do any really school related sports, but during high school, not a road, motorcycles.


[00:06:13.530] - Big Rich Klein

Okay. And the ranch that you guys have or had, was that a working ranch or more of a get out and enjoy it?


[00:06:25.810] - Chip MacLaughlin

It was both. We ran cattle on it. So we first started, we just like commercial cattle and then went to Beef Masters to raise big bulls. And so me and a couple of buddies and my brother, we built a lot of fences, dig a lot of holes, pipe fences, barbwire, dropped a lot of hay, bills on the highway, all the fun stuff that teenagers will do on a ranch. But yeah, it was working ranch, and I'd spend the summers up there with one of my buddies, and that's what we did all summer. We'd get up at six morning, work till it got too hot, go home, take a nap, and then get up again and work until 09:00 or so at night. And for a high school kid, I think I was making six $7 an hour, working 50 hours or so a week. And we thought we were rich back then.


[00:07:14.670] - Big Rich Klein

Absolutely. And so what was the first car you ever drove?


[00:07:20.950] - Chip MacLaughlin

I started driving when I was nine, and it was a 1977 Dodge Tradesman Maxivan.


[00:07:32.450] - Big Rich Klein



[00:07:34.430] - Chip MacLaughlin

Dad got it. It had only two front seats in it. The thing was long, and he raced motorcycles, so he put four captain chairs in it, and then the back had bench seats, and he put a motorcycle in the middle of it, and we'd go to his races and we would sleep in that. But yeah, that's the first one I remember driving. I know. I hit a tree and blew out the window one time, and that wasn't a big one, but that was the first car I remember driving.


[00:07:59.270] - Big Rich Klein

Okay, and what was your first four wheel drive vehicle?


[00:08:05.870] - Chip MacLaughlin

It was a 1985 Chevy, half ton long bed. I actually saw the license plate yesterday. I had Wild four X four, wld four X four was my license plate that I saved my money and got as a personalized plate. But that was my first full wheel drive, and I thought it was cool because I had twelve KC lights on it.


[00:08:27.030] - Big Rich Klein

And was it a chrome light bar on the back? Sport bar?


[00:08:31.310] - Chip MacLaughlin

Oh, of course, the double bar, Fall guy look. And I thought that was the coolest truck ever. I wish I still had it, actually.


[00:08:40.590] - Big Rich Klein

There are vehicles that all of us have gone through that we wish we still had.


[00:08:45.210] - Chip MacLaughlin

Yeah, that started my full wheel drive deal. The funny thing is, when we were growing up in the Ranch, dad never would buy four wheel drives because he said we would go further before we got stuck, which was true. So we always had two wheel drives, and I treated some of those like they were four wheel drives.


[00:09:02.970] - Big Rich Klein

Right. I've always professed, never use your tools until you absolutely have to. So, like, with a four wheel drive vehicle, I taught my grandson how to drive our Jeep, and the first thing he do when he gets into it is put it in four wheel drive. And I said, no, you drive it in two wheel drive. And then when you get stuck, you put it into four wheel drive. Then when you get stuck in four wheel drive, you turn on one locker, and then you turn on the next locker, and then if you're still stuck, you get out and use the winch.


[00:09:44.010] - Chip MacLaughlin

Yes, if you had a winch. I don't think I had my first winch until I think I had 97 Jeep TJ. That was the first one I ever put a Winch on. But back when I was wheeling as a kid, I got a Toyota full by pickup truck after that, and I got stuck so bad out in Grand Prairie, it's called 360. And I was driving down the side of a railroad tracks and ended up getting stuck. And I got pulled out by four train cars. They unhooked all the cars and left the engines, and they pulled me out. Got a big ticket for it. But that's my best story yet.


[00:10:24.450] - Big Rich Klein

So you got pulled out by a train?


[00:10:27.870] - Chip MacLaughlin

I did.


[00:10:30.210] - Big Rich Klein

That is a good story.


[00:10:32.010] - Chip MacLaughlin

Yeah, it cost a lot of money. The commissioner showed up. He was not happy. The police thought it was funny until he showed up. But that's my best stuck story.


[00:10:45.430] - Big Rich Klein

How old were you?


[00:10:46.940] - Chip MacLaughlin

2020 years. All right.


[00:10:52.370] - Big Rich Klein

In those, say, the school years, what were you like as a student? Were you good, bad, indifferent?


[00:11:00.590] - Chip MacLaughlin

I got an engineering degree, and it wasn't because I say I'm smart. I have a lot of common sense stuff. I also broke a lot of stuff, but I don't test well. So I struggled with the math. And it was one of those goals that I made when I remember back to elementary school, that I wanted to be a mechanical engineer. My dad was, my uncle was, my grandfather was. That was where my interest always was. I was always taking things apart. I struggled with the classroom setting, and I even remember being in college taking tests and guys would make up formulas to figure out the answer to questions. And so I was a CB student. I did what I could to get by and ended up with a degree. And I told myself when I finished, I was never going to go be an engineer. I wanted to do it so I can give you sales or whatever I wanted to do. But I had an engineering background so people would believe me more, and when.


[00:12:02.320] - Big Rich Klein

I'm done and so when you finally got your degree, what did you start doing right away?


[00:12:12.090] - Chip MacLaughlin

Well, I told myself I wouldn't go be an engineer. And the first job I got was an engineer. It was for exxon in Chaumette, Louisiana. And I was building the pipelines through the plant. And it was asphalt. I think the project I had, we were moving asphalt, hot asphalt. And I was more intrigued that I could make a two foot diameter pipe that was roughly 4000ft grow, 6ft if you just did it straight in the way that it would expand. And so my job was to figure out how to make that pipeline run. And it had all the stress relief in it where it wouldn't bust the pipe. But I got bored real quickly sitting behind a computer looking at AutoCAD and all this trust analysis software. So that lasted about a year. And I got out and went and did sales. So that's what I started. I was only an engineer for about a year.


[00:13:06.390] - Big Rich Klein

All right, and what was the next step? You said you started doing sales. What field was that in?


[00:13:16.430] - Chip MacLaughlin

I started with conveyors for about a year and a half, and then market kind of took a turn, and so I left there and got into electrical. And so for 20 years, I did electrical sales for Siemens toshiba Rockwell Automation. So, like, switch gear, motor control centers, variable frequency drives, transformers, all the stuff you see in all the refineries. So I've been pretty much all the different paper plants, chemical plants from Baton Rouge, New Orleans, all the way to Houston, even down to the Mexico border. I go in and work on these plants and sell equipment and back to about 20, 18, 19, actually. When I met Zandi, I was getting burnt out and needed a change, and that's how I got wrapped up with eco Earthworks. And I've been doing that since 19, I think, now.


[00:14:17.910] - Big Rich Klein

And that is you guys do a lot of earth moving projects?


[00:14:23.330] - Chip MacLaughlin

Yeah. Zandi owns Rufus racing. He has a company called ecostaff, where we have anywhere from 500, 800 electricians through Texas on temporary assignment. They were the staffing company, and Zandi started Earthworks to go dig trenches for the electrical company. Like, some of his biggest customers, they complained about not have a good contractor. So Zandy's like, I'll start one, and I'll help you out. That's how earth works. Started. And so we'll go and do all the electrical trench work for, like, we've done it for HEB, hospitals, schools, and now we're starting to do utilities. We'll go and do the grading. Then we'll go put in the sewer, water, drainage, storm. We'll do all of it. So anything involved in moving dirt, and I find a way to make some money. That's what we're doing.


[00:15:22.510] - Big Rich Klein

Cool. And that TJ that you said you had, did you buy it with the stock factory wheels on it, or what was the process you went through on that vehicle?


[00:15:37.150] - Chip MacLaughlin

So I guess I got to back up a little bit how I got into that part. Okay. Motorcycles until I guess it was about 28 after I got out of school. And I kept hurting myself. And I remember I was racing in I think it was Alabama, and I hit a tree and stretched my ACL on my shoulder, which I didn't even know I had an ACL on my shoulder. And I borrowed my mom's Corvette and went and did this thing called Autocross. I've never heard of it, saw it, and I had her car, and I went and raced it, and I'm like, wow, this is pretty cool. I pull up to a race, pull out a lawn chair race, and then drive home, and I'm not hurt. So that started this road racing type career I had where I went through a bunch of different cars corvette, a Viper, Lotus. A lot of people like to go on vacations or buy stuff for the house. I was buying cars. Then I found this jeep. I came across this 97 Jeep TJ that was on thirty one S. And I was like, I got to go do it.


[00:16:42.170] - Chip MacLaughlin

And I put big tires on it, like thirty three S, and put a Ford 8.8 in it with a limited slip. And I thought I could go anywhere with it, and went and did a Jeep, Jamboree  And I just kept I built it up, sell it, and then keep going, and then ended up being where it turned into that I call it Ultra Four Car. Back in the day, the one I started doing dirt riding. So that actually started as a TJ. It was a different team, but it started as a TJ. And I kept cutting the Jeep parts off and put more tubes on.


[00:17:16.240] - Big Rich Klein

Right. And did you learn to weld like in high school programs, or did you learn working on the ranch?


[00:17:25.390] - Chip MacLaughlin

So I learned to stick weld on the ranch because we were taking drill stem, and that's how we made pins and everything. So I stick weld at all until high school. And then that's when I learned to make weld body panels and stuff like that. And then my senior design project in college was to make a they called it Mini Baja. They gave you a 5 HP bricks and stratton motor and with some safety things. And oh, by the way, it had to float.


[00:17:59.050] - Big Rich Klein

It had to float.


[00:18:00.550] - Chip MacLaughlin

It had to float. We had to cross the lake in it, okay? And so we had to learn how to make it propel itself in the water and then go racing through the woods and jumps. So our bright idea was to make it out of 60, 61 aluminum tubing. So that's when I taught myself how to take weld. And it was 50 people that did it. We ended up eight. And the only reason we ended up eight is because one of the other guys hit a tree and broke one of the hubs we made. So I had to re weld it and took off again. But that's when I learned to take weld and say, I'm a great welder. If you go talk to diamond or any of the guys in shop, they make fun of my welding. But I don't weld every day like they do.


[00:18:44.680] - Big Rich Klein

Right. I don't weld at all.


[00:18:48.070] - Chip MacLaughlin

They do better than I do. I'll weld if I need to.


[00:18:51.620] - Big Rich Klein

Yeah. First thing, when I lived in Cedar City, back in the tried to weld together a bumper. And the first time I went to use that bumper, hooking a chain to it, or strap to pull a friend's Super Duty out of the mud. And this was on a Mitsubishi or a little Dodge D 50, right. I tugged a little bit, wasn't going to move so I backed up, got a good run at it, thinking I'm going to jerk him out. And at about the quarter mile mark, I'm like, Man, I don't even feel him back there. And I look, and my bumper is sitting on the ground with a strap straight to it, and he's just dying laughing in this vehicle. I just pulled it right off of the frame.


[00:19:37.930] - Chip MacLaughlin

Yeah, I've had some of those.


[00:19:39.540] - Big Rich Klein

Welds, too, look more like a birdcage than it did a bumper. At that point, I realized, let people do what they do best, right?


[00:19:50.980] - Chip MacLaughlin



[00:19:52.750] - Big Rich Klein

So then when you're doing all the stuff to the TJ, you started competing in it as well.


[00:20:01.450] - Chip MacLaughlin

Yeah. So the first one I did, it was back when Mo Rock started, and they came down there to Spring. I came out and watched European, I think it's when you all did the gunite and stuff down there, spring Creek.


[00:20:14.930] - Big Rich Klein



[00:20:15.710] - Chip MacLaughlin

And I kind of started monkeying with a Jeep in. I bought a wrecked one. It was a 99 TJ, and I just kind of started adding on to it. And that's when Wyatt was running a triple nickel buggy, and I remember him coming around the corner, and it was just flat. I remember going, how the heck is he doing that? And that's when I learned what oris were. And this is when I started the Pringle Fab days. And I became a dealer for ori back in those days and started building on this DJ, got it up and then went out, did the Mo Rock for a while, and then that turned into going and doing, like, halftime shows at the asterdom well, reliant, whatever you want to call it for the monster trucks. And then that's where I started. I met the Gill Straps, Clay and Shelby. I think Shelby was 14 when I first met her, wheeling, and we go around racing, and I think they're the ones that told me about Dirt Riot. And so we started coming, doing the Dirt Riot and met Darrel Gray and Shawn Inman and Carl and Mike and all those guys.


[00:21:33.190] - Chip MacLaughlin

We just enjoyed it. And so that TJ, I flipped it over. I made it real nice, did the nice paint on it, then I flipped it over. And so we started cutting stuff off of it. And then Clay Gilstrap sold me a Jimmy's four x four chassis. So I took everything off that TJ and made that I called it Cheeto because it went with Pringles, I guess. And my goal was to go race King of the Hammers. And that was right about the time I was moving from Houston to Dallas. And I didn't make the I think I came out to your Dirt Riot, was it at Bridgeport? And I think it was the last time you raced at Bridgeport. And it was a big finals, and I went out there and I blew the radiator hose off and got a flat and didn't make the cut to get a Hammer spot. So that would have been 13. So I sold the buggy and then you call me in January right up like a week after I sell the buggy and go, I got a spot for you, king of Hammers. Remember that?


[00:22:44.660] - Big Rich Klein

Yes, I do remember that.


[00:22:46.890] - Chip MacLaughlin

Yeah. So I borrowed a buggy from Mike Odom and we ran a wide open design buggy called the Hustler and that was in Caleb 14 and I was the driver of record, although I never drove. And we blew the transmission up aftershock and then I was hooked on King of Hammers. Well, I went to king of hammers the first time in 2011 as a volunteer and then raised it in 14, missed 15 and I've been back to everyone since.


[00:23:19.890] - Big Rich Klein

Nice. I do remember giving you that call we had Dave given us, I don't know, I think it was like five spots and I wasn't going to just leave it to the top five if they already had a spot. So we started working down and you weren't too far out of there to be able to get that spot. So that was good.


[00:23:52.520] - Chip MacLaughlin

As on it, he had already done Hammers in eleven. I think he raced it then and I think only one or two people passed on it to get to me, if I remember correctly.


[00:24:03.610] - Big Rich Klein

Yes, that's correct.


[00:24:05.000] - Chip MacLaughlin

And that was a wild time. That was still back in the days when you can just I think that was the first year they actually made the parking grid in pits because I know in eleven you just pulled up and I woke up that morning and everybody's lined up in front of the trailer and we were basically on the starting line for the 2011 race. Things have changed since.


[00:24:28.310] - Big Rich Klein

Yes, they have. Dave has done a good job of building that thing up to what it is.


[00:24:35.650] - Chip MacLaughlin

Yeah, he's got a crazy mind and he's got good people around them that make this crazy ideas work. The interesting part about that, ever since I started racing back when your days, I've always had Brad Christensen sitting next to me.


[00:24:50.660] - Big Rich Klein



[00:24:51.850] - Chip MacLaughlin

And today he is still sitting next to me. So we're both growing old and together quickly in these race cars. We would bet each other back in your races. In the Mo rock days, whoever the loser was got their hood painted by the winner. And I remember he had to run one of yours races and it says I lost a piglet or I lost the Pringle and I did it some like barn red color on his TJ and then he snuck into my house and taped off my hood and made it purple and green. Neon purple and green and it says I lost a piglet and you have to run that hood the next race. Well, my race was at Reliant stadium in front of like 70,000 people in the Monster Truck Show. We went back and forth, but he always seemed to get the better bets.


[00:25:48.670] - Big Rich Klein

That's awesome. So let's talk about those friendships that you built in Wheeling. You said that's where out there you ran into Wyatt and some of those other guys. Who are some of the others?


[00:26:06.670] - Chip MacLaughlin

Well, back in those days, I did a lot of wheel end up in Clayton when I was living in Houston, and a lot of those guys didn't race, but they taught me a lot of things. But Wyatt, this is the funny thing about Wyatt. I saw him at that race. He and I talked a lot over the years. He lived in South Houston, I lived in north Houston, and then I opened that shop, pringle fab aside, basically a side business so I could get cheaper parts and pay for the parts to build a race car. But I never met Wyatt until King of the Hammers, personally, until I think it was 18 or 19. So I stayed for ten years. He and I were good friends. I'd been to his house because I sold him a bunch of tubing. But he and I had never met. But I had a lot of people I didn't really know, per se, but the crawling chaos guy out of Central Texas, those were my first race friends, I guess I could say. Shaun mike Stewart AK Wally. I guess he's up in the Northeast now, longer.


[00:27:12.330] - Big Rich Klein

Hans Karl.


[00:27:13.670] - Chip MacLaughlin

Yes, that was my first, I guess, race family, and then kind of took a break from it and went Wheeling. And Brad and I would go up Thanksgiving, New Year's. We had our Wheeling buddies, and there would be always other people. I actually met Zandi, I think, back in 2015, but I didn't really get introduced to him. And he actually thought Brad and I were assholes, pardon the French, but that's what he would tell you if he was here. We just wheeled. We didn't really go talk to anybody. We saved ourselves and had fun, drink and carried on, and if you're broke or whatever, come help you fix it up, get unstuck and wander off through the woods again. About that time I started racing with Doug Jackson.


[00:28:02.990] - Big Rich Klein



[00:28:03.970] - Chip MacLaughlin

And that was, I think the first race was in 17 because his buddy Chris was racing with them at Nationals, and that's when he had just bought the car from Trent Trumbot, the 30 at six car, which we still have that car, but they crashed real bad at Nationals, and Chris broke like three, four ribs. I'm getting out. And so I raised my hand and got in the car with Doug Jackson and raced with him for two or three years until he decided he didn't want to do anymore, I guess I was 18 and met a lot of people, friends from there. Alex Whacker. He lives down the street from me. Chris Summers, BJ. Allen, the Gill Straps, back then, we had a huge I called Teddy Texas crew, and we go beyond and just go have fun. I still see those guys today.


[00:29:06.170] - Big Rich Klein

Yeah, that's a good group of people.


[00:29:09.170] - Chip MacLaughlin

They're crazy.


[00:29:10.790] - Big Rich Klein

Yes. Saturday nights after a dirt riot race.


[00:29:15.830] - Chip MacLaughlin

Oh, God, yes.


[00:29:17.250] - Big Rich Klein

There were some pretty good parties going on.


[00:29:20.630] - Chip MacLaughlin

It's funny because I go back and look at some of that, and I didn't realize some of the names that came to some of those that are even still around today. Andrew McLaughlin was there. Shannon Campbell. Levi. It's kind of wild on how things started there and where they've evolved to today. Derek west and even back in those days, we always help each other. That's the cool thing I think I like about what we do now is none of us ever want to win in the pitch. We always want to win on the track. And even back in the dirt riot days, when we were using junkyard parts or whatever, if we had it, it was somebody else's that they needed it. And that's how I met a lot of those people, because I broke a lot of stuff.


[00:30:10.810] - Big Rich Klein

The whole thing behind dirt riot was to try to build a family, but also to teach the drivers and teams how to finish races. They weren't necessarily never had anything that was as long as an ultra four or king of the hammer race. But I would try to throw in enough difficult stuff that you had to pound through to where you would still have that experience. It just wouldn't be all flat dirt track.


[00:30:45.130] - Chip MacLaughlin

Oh, yeah.


[00:30:46.140] - Big Rich Klein

The thing is that being that the shorter races, you're around the pits more, your team is around the pits more, and that way you have a better chance of meeting other competitors and teams, so that when you went to Koh, you didn't feel like you were by yourself, because that could be daunting.


[00:31:12.530] - Chip MacLaughlin

I cringe it sometimes. I hear these guys, the king of the hammers is their first race ever. And you've never been to king of hammers. Just going in the gate can be overwhelming. Just with all the people. And then you pull into Hammer town and you're like, what do you mean? This wasn't here two months ago? There wasn't anything here. And then you have all the different vendors and manufacturers, and then you start seeing all these people that you see in magazines and billboards. I remember asking for directions from this older dude one day at hammers when we were there in 2011, I was trying to find after shock, and he was really nice. He pointed it out, and we wandered off, and I forget who was in the car with you, but they're like, you know who that was? Now he looks kind of familiar. It was Rod Hall and famous desert racer. And everybody's just nice. But if you first time being there, it can be overwhelming. So it's nice to. Go help out the other racers. And that's actually where Rufus Racing came from. Don't mean to jump ahead at all, but one of our things as a team is we always want to go help other people.


[00:32:24.640] - Chip MacLaughlin

And even like, next year, I think it's pretty cool with this. The rookie class first, it was going to be one, and I think there's like 50 of them. So we are trying to help the rookie class so they're not overwhelmed and they know that they've got somebody that has been around the block a few times, has messed up a whole bunch, and hopefully we can help them not make the same mistakes we made. It be more successful.


[00:32:48.880] - Big Rich Klein

Right? And that's one of the reasons that myself and Shelley got involved, especially during Dirt Riot years when we first started it with Dave, at first we started it because XRA stopped. We knew there were all those cars out there. I didn't want to do the XRA style real short because all I ever heard was guys saying, I'm driving 24 hours to get there and back, and I get to race for 128 minutes or 1 minute, 28 is my race time. And so I thought, okay, let's do it longer, let's do this a different style. And so we started doing that, and then we had the discussions with Dave. Dave asked us, we said, let's work together on this. I never wanted to do the full Koh style. I just wanted to do what we did at Dirt Riot. And at first he didn't understand that. He thought we wanted to be direct competition. And it was like, no, we want the guys that are just starting. We want to be your feeder league. Maybe that's the best way of putting it. So Shelley started working registration, and then Dave had me out after the shit show at Chocolate Thunder that year.


[00:34:15.950] - Big Rich Klein

He said, hey, I need somebody to run Chocolate Thunder and deal with BLM and deal with the crowd and deal with the drivers and the media. And he goes, Would you do that? And I said, absolutely. So I did that for a number of years. But the nice thing was that it helped our drivers when they showed up to see familiar faces.


[00:34:35.310] - Chip MacLaughlin

Right. Well, you're going to be out there with them, I guess. We're qualifying on Chocolate Thunder, which is going to be interesting here in 23 Kw. 23, going back to the Roots, where we're going back rock Racing instead of qualifying on a short course with a couple of rocks in it, right?


[00:34:50.380] - Big Rich Klein

No, I'm not going to be there. Things have changed for us because of health issues with my parents. So we're spending more time in Northern California than we would normally do. And it's all about how many people are out there in the craziness. While that's kind of fun, I don't even like big cities anymore.


[00:35:19.490] - Chip MacLaughlin

I'm right there if I have to.


[00:35:21.060] - Big Rich Klein

Drive through a big city. It's in the middle of the night when nobody is around. If I can time it that way. And I hate driving at night anymore, but it's just gotten too big and too impersonal. I loved it when I would go to the campfire and there would be 1000 people there and I knew them.


[00:35:43.090] - Chip MacLaughlin



[00:35:44.710] - Big Rich Klein

It's a lot different now. Last time I was there at 09:00 at night, there was like 150 people and I didn't know a soul.


[00:35:54.920] - Chip MacLaughlin

Right. Well, now it's gotten so competitive with all the different classes. If you're a racer, you're typically not at the pitch, the fire anyway. You're probably fixing your stuff, you're going to sleep to get up the next morning to either race or go pre run.


[00:36:07.580] - Big Rich Klein



[00:36:08.490] - Chip MacLaughlin

So it's mostly the pit guys or the spectators. Normally a lot of them are out there. That's one thing I noticed this past year when I was there, I'd go walking, I wouldn't really know anybody, but it was the vendors that had packed up, close down their shop and wanted to relax. And it wasn't a whole lot of racers.


[00:36:30.690] - Big Rich Klein

Now, to see my friends, I had to go from pit to pit to pit and you'd hopefully that somebody would be there. It's like going to SEMA and trying to find the right person at the right time.


[00:36:46.530] - Chip MacLaughlin



[00:36:47.250] - Big Rich Klein

You have to make 15 trips to a booth just to find the person that you need to talk to.


[00:36:56.150] - Chip MacLaughlin

You can call them out there either. The phone doesn't work.


[00:36:58.360] - Big Rich Klein

Correct. Yes. So, yeah, we have people out there covering it for the magazine, but we haven't been out there the last couple of years. The last time we were out there, we stayed at Lasertown Cody Wagner's place. And that was quite a relief because you didn't have to fight the crowds. You could just drive back and forth and skip all the madness of the Thunder dome out there.


[00:37:23.090] - Chip MacLaughlin

Right, exactly.


[00:37:24.270] - Big Rich Klein

But it is an experience that I think any offroad or anybody that's interested in, especially any kind of offroad racing, needs to get out there and see it at least once. It really is a crazy event.


[00:37:38.690] - Chip MacLaughlin

The other thing I would tell people is don't be afraid to go up and ask somebody questions. It doesn't matter if it's a past king like Loren or Shannon or Blyler or any of those guys. Any of those guys will give you the shirt off the back or give you advice on tire pressures or shock settings or hey, this might be a better line. And a lot of people, even me, I'm not one of the big names of Ultra Four, but when I get out there, the races, I get in a race mode. And so I'm trying to focus on the race or whatever, and I tend to put blinders on. And I don't mean that to do it rudely, but I noticed other guys do it too. We're just focusing on what's ahead of us, but don't take that as we think we're better than anybody else. We're out there to work. We're out there to try to win, but we'll always if you come up and ask us a question or just want to come talk or come into the pitch, we'll gladly accept you and we'll take those blinders off. Also realize that we probably won't remember everybody's name, so always go and tell you, hey Chip, I'm Steve.


[00:38:56.250] - Chip MacLaughlin

I don't know if you remember me from wherever. We talked to a lot of people, and part of that could be very intimidating for a first person. But if they know going in that everybody there is pretty much the same, they have the same mentality. That's why we're there. Feel free to speak up or ask a question or take a picture or hey, can I look at your car? That's one thing I try to encourage. Even people that have been out there for a number of years, they still don't do it. If somebody is broke, we're trying to change an engine or transmission or something like that, that might not be the best time, or it might be a great time because we might need somebody's help because we're tired and a fresh set of eyes sometimes helps. And that's how a lot of times the guys within roof is racing. That's how a lot of them have come into our team. They just came and asked questions. We got one guy named we call Mittens. His name is Ryan, he works at Lockheed. And he sent us a message on Instagram one day and said, hey, I like this thing.


[00:40:04.720] - Chip MacLaughlin

King of hammers and ultra four. I don't know anything about it. And Zandi answered, come out with a shop. Well, now he's a part of our race team. He does all of our communications, same thing. We had a firefighter, Johnny, he just joined your team a few months ago. And he was one of those that I walked by him and not recognize him and didn't have any clue that I had met him before, but I had my blinders on because I was at a race. And now he's part of our team. He's a full time firefighter, but when he works two days and all four days and so when he's off, he comes and works at the shop. And I know there's 100 more stories like that. So the point of that is go talk to people. Go ask them questions. If you don't know, don't be afraid to ask those questions.


[00:40:52.720] - Big Rich Klein

Right. Because all of us in this industry have been down that path.


[00:40:58.970] - Chip MacLaughlin

Some of us still are.


[00:41:00.160] - Big Rich Klein

Yeah. Unless you're like Robbie Gordon. You started with nothing and you built it up. I can remember some of those teams that are out there racing and being at the very top of their game. When they first got involved, they came out there like a deer in the headlights. They had no idea what was going on or how to do things or what was the protocol, that kind of stuff.


[00:41:35.610] - Chip MacLaughlin

Yeah. Or how to find the track. I remember one of the first races, I came up on Tom Ways, and I passed them, and I was like, Star Trek. I'm like, okay, I'm passing Tom ways. Something's wrong. And Brad is like, dude, don't worry about him. Just keep going. I go, but he killed a bear with his bare hands. I'm not but you kind of got to get over that. And he's just like us. He'll come and ask I've run a number of times since, and he's just an average dude like the rest of us. He just killed a bear. He didn't really kill a bear. But that's the myth. Right, but that's the way I mean, I've gone into Shannon Campbell's things 100 times just to ask questions or Brian Crawf or the Gomez. Those are some of the nicest guys you could ever meet. They'll give you anything, and you might not get walking in there and see Marcus or JP or something like that, but they got a huge crew, and those guys are really helpful, too. And that's why I was just saying, speak up. We all learned something somehow, and that's how this sport evolves.


[00:42:45.090] - Big Rich Klein

Yeah, the Gomez is an interesting story. We got to meet those guys the first time through Bob Rogue. They were going to do their first race, and it was down in Albuquerque or just outside of Albuquerque, and I forget what they call it. It was like the Outlaw 250 or something like that. And Bob and them were like, well, hey, come on out, and you can help in the pits or something. So we just kept track of the lapse that they were on and where they were positioned, that kind of stuff, and the way the race course was set up. And people could go through the pit or not go through the pit, it was really hard to keep track of who was going where. But we did that. And then this last race that they did at Prairie City, since we were here in California, we went down there, and I went into the pit because I wanted to get the three of the brothers together and do a podcast with all three of them at once. And one of the Navy's for them was like, are you kidding, Rich? They don't even have time to do their own meetings for the company together.


[00:44:00.470] - Big Rich Klein

They do it via phone because they each run different parts of the business, and they're just constantly busy. So just finding those guys is difficult. But they're great guys.


[00:44:11.520] - Chip MacLaughlin

I started laughing. You said I was trying to get all three of them together. I was like, the only time you're going to see all three of them together is that they're in spooners or out of limits, and one of them is torn a corner off of their car.


[00:44:20.580] - Big Rich Klein



[00:44:22.530] - Chip MacLaughlin

See all three of those together?


[00:44:23.950] - Big Rich Klein

Or they're in their pits and they're getting ready to qualify. That's it exactly.


[00:44:28.650] - Chip MacLaughlin

I actually don't know. I know I've seen them together in driver's meetings, but that's about it. Yeah, but that's the same with any team. And I know I kind of repeat myself with this, but we're a small family. There's a lot of people out there, but there's a newer generation coming, and we want to talk to those newer guys, because I know I'm not going to be able to be in the car forever. And we want to go help the newer generation and make this thing bigger and bigger and faster and safer. So I encourage it. If you ever see one of our guys walking around with a Rufus racing shirt, just say hi to them. Go play some games on it. But, hey, we met somewhere, and see how long they go with the lie. It would be fun.


[00:45:18.030] - Big Rich Klein

So let's talk more personally now about Chip and you're married.


[00:45:25.890] - Chip MacLaughlin



[00:45:26.480] - Big Rich Klein

And why don't you talk about that?


[00:45:29.730] - Chip MacLaughlin

So I've been married, my wonderful wife Edie, just over five years now. We've been together for ten years. We got engaged back in 14, I think, is when it was. And then Edie was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to go through a lot of chemo and radiation. She lost her hair. She was a very sexy bald chick. I wouldn't let her wear a wig. But she didn't want to get married without hair. So we waited a number of years and her hair came back and we got married. And three months after we got married, I found out I had cancer. I had prostate cancer. And that was five years ago last week, actually.


[00:46:16.610] - Big Rich Klein



[00:46:17.610] - Chip MacLaughlin

So we were meant to be together. She's got two children. I've got two children. Youngest is 17. The two boys are 28. And she moved up here to Dallas with me right before I moved from Houston to Dallas, and we've been together ever since. So she works in the title business sometimes. Supports this crazy habit I have called racing because she enjoys it, and she's like, but one of these days you got to get a real job, because I run a construction company for Zand, and that was part of the deal when we started roofless racing. Actually, it's only supposed to be a temporary deal, and here we are four years later, but the kids come out every once I'll see one of the girls. We got Alex, Grayson, Preston and Ryan. And no grandchildren yet. I have a feeling that's going to change soon. There you go. The 21 year old Grayson just moved back. So it's kind of interesting because we're empty nesters. So we have Grayson and we have eighties, ten raccoons and possums that come up on the back porch every day.


[00:47:32.290] - Big Rich Klein



[00:47:33.270] - Chip MacLaughlin

That's our other deal. Yeah.


[00:47:38.190] - Big Rich Klein

Do you mind talking about the prostate cancer? I think that's something that is something that men, including myself, kind of ignore the possibility.


[00:47:51.290] - Chip MacLaughlin

Yeah. And I have absolutely no problem talking to anybody that has come down with prostate cancer. So the guidelines they say right now is, go get checked at 50. Well, I got diagnosed at 44, and I was the youngest one my doctor had ever diagnosed. I had zero symptoms. I take the Add medicine, and so I get my blood work done every six months. And he was watching my PSA levels, and we watched it for a year, and it kept going up. So a normal person has, like, a point for PSA level. Mine was like a five not even a .5, but a five point something. So we went and did a biopsy, which is not a pleasant thing. If anybody wants to know that process, I'll tell them off. Not publicly, but they should be able to call you back in a week and tell you that you don't have cancer. Well, that was five years ago last week. And then that's when the hurricane started coming in. And I used to co drive with Doug Jackson. And Doug and I got on the phone, and I was racing with him, and we said, what can we do to go help with the hurricane?


[00:49:08.510] - Chip MacLaughlin

This is when it hits Houston. So I think that was Ike or, I don't know, the last big one that hit Houston. Okay. Consequently, that's also the same week that Operation Air Drop started. So the reason I'm telling all this I was about to get my truck to head to Houston with supplies. The doctor called me and said, hey, you need to come in. I go, well, there's a hurricane. I'm going down to help, because now you ready to come in, and you have cancer. And that was a scary phone call. And so it turns out I had stage two prostate cancer. No symptoms at all. Did not know it. And three weeks later, I had my prostate removed. It's not the end of the world. Things I've learned since then is almost all males get prostate cancer. A majority die before they know they have prostate cancer. And I think they're changing their guidelines to look for things earlier. Pay attention to the PSA levels. When you get your blood checked, have them do a full panel on it. If it wouldn't have been for that doctor, just my general doctor noticed my PSA level was high, I wouldn't have made 50.


[00:50:20.770] - Chip MacLaughlin

I turned 50 last week, and it was a very aggressive stage two. I say I'm the lucky one, so pay attention to those. Edie made me go because of her cancer battle. She had stage three, almost four, and she's free and clear seven years, and now I'm free and clear five years. And it's not the end of the world. It's not the best sentence. If anybody gets it, feel free to reach out with me privately because I learned a lot of things that doctors wouldn't tell me. The side effects, but they're all manageable. Actually, I had my prostate removed. Three weeks later, I'm at Reno and Nationals doing pits for Doug Jackson. And that's when Zandy came out and was introduced to Ultra Four. So I couldn't lift anything for a while, but it's not the end of the world. Go get checked.


[00:51:24.640] - Big Rich Klein

Good. Glad to hear that. And yet, you know what? I should I haven't been checked in in years.


[00:51:32.950] - Chip MacLaughlin

And it's easy just to I know people think, okay, prostate cancer or whatever. A lot of us are type A personality. We're tough, we don't like to go to the doctor. They think that, go get the prostate check. We're going to have to go drop the drawers and have another male most of the time, or female stick something in the rear end they don't want to have in the rearing. You don't have to do that. Just go get a blood candle. Look at the PSA level as you get older. Yes, you're going to have to go do the uncomfortable things. But it's either that or you have less of a time on the surf if you do find it. And I had a four hour surgery. I didn't go through chemo or radiation because chemo doesn't kill prostate cancer. You have to do radiation. That means they have to go in and put radiation pills in your prostate. And they're like, well, you're young enough, we have robots. A robot went and took my prostate out for about 4 hours. I had to have stayed in the hospital for a week. And then I walked around with my pea bag and a Crown bag because I didn't like the strap on thing under my legs.


[00:52:48.290] - Chip MacLaughlin

Everybody thought I was an alcoholic injecting crown right into my body. Actually, my P bag had it for two weeks. And then I had to slowly rebuild my muscles. And I'd say about 60 days afterwards, I was pretty much back to normal.


[00:53:04.810] - Big Rich Klein



[00:53:06.190] - Chip MacLaughlin

So that's an easy I look at Ed's fight. She fought for two years, like 30 something rounds of chemo, and she had to go through 30 days of radiation. And I know a bit, she looks at me like, how the hell did you get lucky and get Reyear cancer in 4 hours? And I had to fight for two years. It's a different cancer. She made it too. It's not the end of the world for her either. We both have side effects and it can play mind tricks, but it's better than being dead.


[00:53:43.390] - Big Rich Klein

True. Very true. So, yeah, chemo, my mom had breast cancer and she used to be a radiation oncologist therapist, whatever, using the high energy machines to treat cancer patients. And so she knew what she was getting into when she got it, but the chemo, man, they poisoned the hell out of your body to kill it if chemo can work on your cancer. And it was brutal on her, especially because of her age.


[00:54:19.190] - Chip MacLaughlin

Yeah, I can always talk about she's 25 every day, but she was in her mid 40s when she got diagnosed, and she just found a lump on the side of her breast and they went in and it was about the size, I think, of not quite a baseball between a ping pong ball and a baseball is the size of the team where they removed. But she got lucky they didn't find it when they did. Hers was very aggressive, too.


[00:54:53.100] - Big Rich Klein



[00:54:56.170] - Chip MacLaughlin

It's a fight. We did it with humor. When she got her tumor, I looked at her and we're talking about it afterwards. I go, hey, Google the most popular ex boyfriend's name. She goes, what do you mean? I go, well, just type that into Google and see what it is. She goes, to Nick. I go, okay, we need to break up with Nick. So we told my mom. He made us saying ethnic. And I told my mom, why are you calling it ethnic? Like, no, mom, not like a race. F Nick. And that's how we got through it. And she broke up with Nick.


[00:55:34.990] - Big Rich Klein

That's awesome.


[00:55:36.910] - Chip MacLaughlin

We did it with humor, and I think we helped some other people. And then when I got cancer, we did it with humor as well. I told everybody I was going to have a squirt gun tied up to my bag, so don't make me matter. I'll squirt them. Doug Jackson was there the day videoed me live on Facebook as I was coming through out of my surgery, and we did with laughter. It helped deal with the pain and depression, and it got us through it.


[00:56:12.670] - Big Rich Klein

So what is next for Chip?


[00:56:17.290] - Chip MacLaughlin

Well, it's undecided and, you know, three weeks ago we lost my friend Zandy, so I didn't realize how integrated our lives were. He owns my company, he owns the race cars. He was one of my best friends, and we're going to try to continue as best we can.


[00:57:01.550] - Big Rich Klein

That'll be difficult because Zandy, who had such a great personality and kind of larger than life and he just attracted people.


[00:57:13.910] - Chip MacLaughlin

Yeah, he approached me back in 18. He came to Reno to it. I called him like, hey, dude, I got a real come up here and watch this Nationals. I'm up here. I was recovering from cancer and my surgery, and he came up and flew up, watched Doug Jackson and all those guys raised met Gil Strap, which there's a whole lot of good stories with that, and came home in October, I think, of 18. He ended up buying what we now call donkey from Doug Jackson and started this team called Rufus Racing. And the whole point of the team was, let's go make some memories and find friends. Just do it until it's not fun. And the original agreement was I was going to drive Donkey, teach them how to rate, which I'm not sure exactly how I got that job, very thankful, but there's way better qualified people to do it. And so Brad and I raced Donkey, King of Hammers in 19 and came in 15. And he was a wreck. Dropping radio. Where are they? Make sure they get finished. And the deal was he was going to get in a co driver's seat, race with me a little bit and then get in the driver's seat, and either I would be a co driver or go do whatever I wanted to do.


[00:58:47.130] - Chip MacLaughlin

And we finished 15, the 19 King of Hammers. And he goes, you and Brad are a good team. Let's keep going. And we had diamond. He's still actually working for us. He's our lead mechanic. He's known Jamie since he was 17 and Diamonds 35 now. Let's keep going. And we went to Aope in April of that year and Brad couldn't go. So Zandy got in the car to co drive with me, and we finished that rate six or 7th, whatever. Two weeks later, he shows up with Nightmare, which is Keenan Leatherwood's old car. I'm like, what happened to you? Get in this car. And me teacher is now we're going to raise both of them now, okay? Then a month later, we end up with two more Razors because we were going to pre run King of the Hammers, and that turned into full blown Razors races, which we raced them for three years. And December of 19, we're getting everything ready to go to King of the Hammers. And then he buys what we call Irene, which was Alex Whacker's old car. And for a while I'm like, dude, are you trying to get, like, the Tribe 16 collector set?


[01:00:07.770] - Chip MacLaughlin

Otherwise you don't have to buy every car that comes up for sale. But he had the means to do it and he enjoyed it. And we became a family and we would challenge each other. He always said it's always about making memories. And for the three years that I've been racing with them, I can only think of one race specific memory, and it's when he and I ended up at the podium at the 91 rate race in February. But every other memory that comes to mind at first with the off track antics of getting to the race or getting home or getting a raiser stuck out in the water in San Felipe when we were racing down there and just bringing the family, bringing our friends, and then gaining new friends. Rufus racing isn't just Zany and I. We brought in, I don't know if you ever met Pip Justice. He's from Australia. They called a dumpster camping in 18 at Hammers. They all met by a fire. Well, he's going to come race Donkey at nationals this year and a King of the Hammers. He's coming all the way back from Australia now that they can do it.


[01:01:24.400] - Chip MacLaughlin

But same thing with like Tim Hooper with Fuel Works and the Wicks Brothers up in Reno. We just grew this big family. We camp together, we have a lot of fun together, we go on vacations together. And recently we started doing the same thing with Ryan Rockhold out of Colorado and it makes it interesting on trying to organize when we go to races. Oddly, when Zandi got killed a couple of weeks ago, it was in a race car up in Crandon and he and I were the only one there with Rufus racing. We had Ryan Rockhold on, one of his buddies and a few other racers, but we didn't have our crew. And yesterday I'm sitting here getting ready to plan for nationals and we got almost 40 people going and that's all the family and friends that we gained along the way. So that's what we're going to try to continue and we're going to raise nationals. I'm going to raise under his Andy's number, the 24th because he's sitting in 6th place overall. I've been out of the race because I've had mechanical problems this year, but Dick is going to race under my number and then we're going to King of the Hammers.


[01:02:41.710] - Chip MacLaughlin

And what we do after that, it's unclear. When somebody dies, there's a lot of things that have to happen in the background, especially when you have your hands. As many things as Andy did with different companies and projects, you got to let the lawyers sort things out and everything kind of freezes. But I know we are going to carry on his name and tradition for forever. And I don't know what it looks like, okay, but there's still a lot of us every day. It's an up and down. We're going to do the best we can, keep the companies going. We're not selling anything, race bars or anything like that. We just got to play it day by day. And our sponsors are stepping up. Maxis, Chris Shaw. Maxis is an amazing guy. His first thing was like, okay, what do we need to keep this going? Because it was funded by Eco staff and Zandi, and we still have Eco staff, but we don't have Zandy. And so there's a lot of people trying to step up to continue this train. We started excellent.


[01:03:59.410] - Big Rich Klein

I remember there in Sturges, our race, when we first met Zandy, you brought him up there and you guys had your groms and you were going to be heading into town and just not on Harleys but on grom. So it was awesome. One of Shelley's things is always to ask new drivers, how did you get involved? And he had mentioned that he was rock crawling and that you got him involved in the racing, but it was his accountant or lawyer or maybe the combination of the two. If they're not. The same, but said, hey, you need to go out and spend some money, so find something you really like to do and go spend some money. Go have some fun.


[01:04:50.970] - Chip MacLaughlin



[01:04:52.970] - Big Rich Klein

And that's awesome because he brought a lot of people into it as well.


[01:04:59.510] - Chip MacLaughlin

So the back story on that, and that's a true story, but he started helping teams down at the Bahamas. Mike Hill is out of Arkansas. He helped Josh Birchy for a little while with the recent fair tracks, so he was helping sponsor these things, and the county started looking at what he was spinning. He goes, Dude, I didn't mean to go do that. If you're going to do that, you might as well go race yourself. And so Rufus Racing was born, and that's when he bought the first car. When we came up to Sturgis, we only took his car because I wanted to help him learn, and I think that was his second race. The first race was at Crossbar, and he raced with Doug Jackson was his co driver, and he got a top ten, which I was like, dude, now we're really screwed. Your first race in Ultra four, you get a top ten. But it's exactly what it was. You're either going to pay taxes on this or you can go do something with it and everything. He kind of took it to the extreme. I mean, we've got three race cars, 4400 cars.


[01:06:16.790] - Chip MacLaughlin

We got these two turbo cars. We have a pro art. We were supposed to turn into a Buy 1000 car for November, and he did it his way. It was a lot of fun, and he even had more enjoyment bringing the people that normally couldn't do this with them. Honestly, I wouldn't have been able to do what I've done the past three years without him, not even remotely close. I might have been able to race side by side once, but that's what it's about, right? But the ground thing, that was the first time Andrew had ever been on a grom, and I think we had four of them up there and ride around and surges on groms. Everybody's looking at us like we're crazy. Like, oh, no, we're not bikers. We're race car drivers. We're racing with buffalo chips.


[01:07:09.610] - Big Rich Klein

Yeah, that was a fun time there in Sturges.


[01:07:16.410] - Chip MacLaughlin

It was. And we've been back every time since we raced there four times now, and we were there this past event, and now we all have Harleys because of that. Andy got one, Brad got one. I did. And that was our thing. So we go to the races and go ride bikes, and that was part of the deal, how I started running Earthworks when we first started racing, I'm like, dude, I don't have enough time, vacation time to do all the stuff you want to do because I got to handle you're not running Earthworks. I'm like, I'm doing what? He goes, yeah, go find a way to make some money so we can keep doing this. So I went from doing sales to running a dirt construction company. And here we are three years later, still going strong.


[01:08:04.930] - Big Rich Klein

That's an awesome story.


[01:08:08.530] - Chip MacLaughlin

We probably have a thousand more. You can even go ask for a diamond. And Brad, Peanut and all of them, they'd love to tell stories and prank the other one. And Zandy was the same way. My last words to him while I was standing up in the spotter stand at Crandon was, hey, dude, you're sitting in fifth place in nationals. There's a lot of people carrying the cars up. Just go out and have some fun. And I say, by the way, it sucks being in the spotter saying, I'd rather be down there with you. And he goes, well, cracked on the radio. And he's laughing. I can tell he's laughing. He goes, well, if you weren't so slow, you could hurt your ass up down here and get in a race suit and you can go pretend to be me. And so I replied back to him, I was like, no, you finished races. I haven't been. So I have some fun. And the last thing I said to him, and he crashed, made a very small mistake and checked up for a jump about 70 miles an hour and endowed and went for a barrel roll.


[01:09:11.560] - Chip MacLaughlin

And one thing I've been trying to tell people about this sport, there's a few things. One thing I know is every time I strap into a car, it could be my last. And I'm okay with that because it's what I love. But Zandy's accident wouldn't anybody's fault besides themselves. It wasn't the chassis builder. It wasn't the mechanic diamond. When things like this happen, we're like, oh, my God, what happened? Well, he hit the ground so hard, basically the roof collapsed and it broke his neck. And we didn't break it. Wasn't a bad design. There's been a number of go through the car to look at it. We haven't put it out publicly because I don't really think it needs to be. But I brought people in from the outside going, okay, what can we learn from this? How do we prevent this in the future? And we haven't got a real clear answer because Dandy's card on those from the A to B pillar was two inch chromole sleeved with inch and three quarter chromole. The jaws of bike couldn't even get the cage cut to get them out. And it was just one of those freak accidents.


[01:10:35.210] - Chip MacLaughlin

And he had all the right gear, he had the right car, and he just made a small mistake with catastrophic consequences. And that's something we have to live with. Doing this type of sport, it is dangerous. It's also dangerous get in your car, driving down the highway or getting up and walking across the wet floor into the bathroom. You never know when it's going to be a time and it wasn't anybody's fault, not the track's fault. I don't want anybody to feel blamed, and some people are. So that's why I'm stressing that.


[01:11:11.790] - Big Rich Klein

Right understood. When something like that happens, everybody involved looks at it and wonders if it was something they may have done. And that can be really tough on those that are involved. Always having that question and it's that way in any situation. And I think people just need to understand that things just sometimes go sideways and something happens and it's not anybody's fault. It's just circumstances.


[01:11:51.190] - Chip MacLaughlin

Maybe that's the age where we are with lawyers and lawsuits and things like that. There's no lawsuits being filed with any of this. We're not blaming anybody. Ryan Donaldson, who was with Tribe, built a lot of that car. He works for me now with Earthworks. And that's one of the things I didn't you know, that long drive home from Grande, when I got home, that's one of the things I didn't think about. I was thinking about ange that's Andy's wife, his kids, our team, our company, the family that we just if you take what we've done with the race team, it's the same thing within the companies. I had dim on my mind and I got home and I realized that I hadn't really thought about Adam, a tribe, or Ryan who works for me. And so I got Ryan to come with me and we went and looked at the car and I showed him and it's not been claimed or anything. And he understood he was okay. It's not something I did because he rolled a lot of that car. And the same thing with diamond. If things are going to go bad, they're going to go bad.


[01:13:05.650] - Chip MacLaughlin

And you can't control the consequences no matter what you do.


[01:13:09.210] - Big Rich Klein

True. And the reminder to everyone is to live every moment to the fullest.


[01:13:17.850] - Chip MacLaughlin

Oh, vandy 100% did that and he and I off to talk. He's 55 and I just turned 50. Like we're not going to be able to do this much longer. And you see the younger crew coming through like Paul Wolf and I say Levi Shirley. I would say he's a young one. He's been around for a long time, but he started really young and those guys bodies heal a lot quicker. And we were taking advantage of all we could and then we're trying to find out a way to keep it going but maybe help other people. And we don't race as much as Rufus racing. I think one of the we're going to keep on the tradition of making memories, but we might go and help other teams, maybe give them some tires or some wheels or just help get them over that craft to become great. And I think that's where we're headed. The companies are going to keep going and just live like he's still here and try to represent what he taught us.


[01:14:32.310] - Big Rich Klein

And I think that's a real good segue. So, Chip, thank you so much for coming on board and spending some time. I still want to get the Zoom call recording with everybody. We'll figure that out here in a couple of weeks. But thank you for your friendship over the years, and thank you for sharing your life and everything that was involved in that.


[01:14:59.010] - Chip MacLaughlin

Well, I appreciate you. You've given me a platform to help spread the word about us and me and enjoy that. Still around after 15 years of knowing each other and still doing what you do. So I love you and Shelley to death. And back in the days when I was watching Josh grow up with you, it's been a long time ago. I still talk to him, too. Good. It's all a big family. Very true. Everybody reaching out in the past few weeks. The other part of this is when you go through something like this, it's okay to talk. And some of my guys won't even talk. So I appreciate you bringing me on so I could talk for them.


[01:15:45.870] - Big Rich Klein

My pleasure. All right, Chip, you take care and have a great day, and we'll talk again here shortly.


[01:15:52.590] - Chip MacLaughlin

Thanks, sir.


[01:15:53.720] - Big Rich Klein

Okay, bye bye bye. Well, that's another episode of Conversations with Big Rich. I'd like to thank you all for listening. If you could do us a favor and leave us a review on any podcast service that you happen to be listening on or send us an email or text message or Facebook message. And let me know any ideas that you have or if there's anybody that you have that you think would be a great guest. Please forward the contact information to me so that we can try to get them on. And always remember, live life to the fullest. Enjoying life is a must. Follow your dreams and live life with all the gusto you can. Thank you.