First-generation car guy Bryant Blakemore talks off-road racing in Texas and Mexico. He and Big Rich go in-depth on what happens when dust and brains combine. A great conversation about TDRA and TORRA mixed in with some charity work; check out https://www.torraracing.com/charity/ for some good works heading into the new year.
9:08 – I know enough Spanish to get into trouble, but not out of trouble
15:52 – I’ve taken every math class you can take, but I’ve taken every math class three times
20:52 – Lubbock is a secret hot-rod town; the car culture here is awesome
25:37 – the very top of my bucket list was to race Baja in my own truck
33:03 – when I had the opportunity to get my feet wet, I jumped in head first
41:02 – Sierra Blanca is the Ensenada of Texas
55:08 – spend a little time at some smaller local races to get your bearings
1:16:01 – I think we have four flat tires
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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 talk to competitive teams, racers, rock crawlers, business owners and 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.
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[00:01:47.480] - Big Rich Klein
On today's episode of conversations with big Rich, we have Bryant Blakemore. Bryant's Facebook profile states that he is a first generation hot rodder, offroad racer, designer, builder, promoter and driver. I first heard about Bryant with the racing series that he was putting on in Texas, but we'll get into all of that. And Bryant, thanks for coming on board and being part of our podcast.```
[00:02:18.490] - Bryant Blakemore
Yeah. Thanks, Rich. I appreciate the invite to be a part of this, and I'm happy to be here.
[00:02:23.770] - Big Rich Klein
Well, let's jump right in. You're a Texas boy through and through. So tell us where you were born and raised.
[00:02:31.700] - Bryant Blakemore
Sure. I was born and raised down in the Rio Grande Valley. I was born in Brownsville, and I grew up in a small town called Los Fresnos, which is about 10 miles or so from South Padre Island and about 10 miles or so from the Mexican border with Matamoros and spent all my time through high school down there. And then after that, I kind of moved around. I ended back in Texas a few times, spent a little time in Wyoming and things like that. But, yeah, I grew up down in deep, deep South Texas.
[00:03:05.780] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. Yes, that's I like that area down there. I've actually been through that town. We went down to South Padre Island a couple of times.
[00:03:15.080] - Bryant Blakemore
[00:03:15.720] - Big Rich Klein
The last two years I've been wintering up in port Aransas, so we like road trips, so we're always driving around.
[00:03:28.120] - Bryant Blakemore
Hopefully you didn't get any speeding tickets there in Los Fresnos. That's kind of what they're known for.
[00:03:32.920] - Big Rich Klein
No, I'm very careful with the speed limits. Just about everywhere I go, unless I'm unless I know the area real well. Like, I know I can I know I can hustle along the roads in Texas pretty good up in the hill country, right? Not so much down there, especially on the weekends, definitely. So let's talk about those early years. That's a diverse cultural area, for sure.
[00:04:07.620] - Bryant Blakemore
Absolutely. Yeah. Growing up down in that area, I had a lot of influence from Mexican culture being that close to the border and we would go across frequently and eat or hang out or go to the markets down there and whatnot. So I am really thankful that I grew up in a very culturally diverse area and that led me to have an interest in traveling and seeing other places and not being afraid of going places and being out of my comfort zone. As a kid, there was a father son group out of Brownsville that every Labor Day weekend would travel down to upper Central Mexico. We would travel about 8 hours from the border south and go camping for an extended weekend. That area through there, we were in China, Leonardo, Monte, morelos down in there. We traveled to an area called Thomasopo, which is known for its waterfalls. And so we had a lot of opportunity as kids growing up to be immersed in alternative cultures that were not American cultures and not our own cultures. And I think for myself and my sister as well, I think that really broadened our view on the world and made us more comfortable with, like I said before, doing uncomfortable things.
[00:05:40.270] - Bryant Blakemore
And that being comfortable with Mexico in that kind of way really was a benefit to me. Years, decades later, when I started going to Baja, I felt at home in Baja because it reminded me of my childhood growing up and spending time in Mexico and in South Texas and things like that. So I'm really thankful for growing up in that area. I'm not sure I'll ever move back there, but it's a great place to be from is what I like to tell people.
[00:06:10.320] - Big Rich Klein
Right. The history down in there with the Mexican culture but also with the American Texas. I've read a lot of the history books and stuff about that area and the coming of Texas and all that. And it's really interesting to read about all that and everything that the Texans went through to make that area, what they did. The part about Baja, I get that my only experience in Mexico is truly with Baja. I've done a little bit just south of Arizona, but never anywhere else except for like, Puerto Vallarta, the resort areas. But I love Baja, I love the people, I love the culture. It's kind of the Wild West. We have the terrain in the Southwest, but we don't have that kind of diversity that's down there. And what I mean, diversity is the coastals to the mountains to all of that mixed up like Baja does in less than a day. You can be east and west coasts and that's kind of cool.
[00:07:39.660] - Bryant Blakemore
Oh, yeah. Baja is fascinating in that way. Going north to south, you get such changes in geology and flora and fauna and everything all the way down. And then east to west, you get changes. And it's got almost every type of ecosystem all in this one peninsula. And those of us that frequent Baja get to see that and experience it. And it's extremely unique and amazing to go see. And I encourage everyone to go to Baja at least once. Unfortunately, mainland Mexico nowadays is a little more dangerous to go exploring and do the things that most of the crowds that we run in do in Mexico. It's not quite the same place it was when I grew up. And I'm sad about that because there are a lot of places in Mexico that I would like to share with people, but it's not worth the risk to go. But fortunately, we still have Baja and it's got so much culture and history all in its own. Right. It's an amazing place.
[00:08:48.010] - Big Rich Klein
Right. And so when you guys would go down there when you were a young kid, you and your sister and your dad, I guess you ended up being able to speak Spanish pretty well.
[00:09:08.740] - Bryant Blakemore
I tell people I know enough Spanish to get in trouble, but not out of trouble. I wouldn't say I'm fluent or bilingual, but I know enough that I can get by and take care of my business. Most of that is due to just being out of practice. I don't practice my Spanish on a regular basis. When I'm in places where that's the prevalent language. I attempt to do all of my communicating in that way. And so I've never gotten to a point where I couldn't figure out what I needed to do or how to communicate what was trying to happen. I wish I was more fluent and truly bilingual that I could switch a conversation midway and not have to slow down. But I'm not quite there. I've been out of it being daily spoken. I've been out of Spanish speaking areas for a little while now. So not as prevalent anymore as it was when I was a kid.
[00:10:07.000] - Big Rich Klein
Well, the one thing I noticed is that you can at least say the names properly with that rolling of the letters and stuff. I can't even pronounce words in English correctly. So I get down south of the border and I'm like, it's pretty sad, but I try my limited high school Spanish.
[00:10:33.840] - Bryant Blakemore
Absolutely. Yeah, I took a couple of years of Spanish when I was in college. I went to the University of Wyoming. And the first day or two of class, when everyone's reading through the books, of course, I don't feel like I am fluent in Spanish just because of how I grew up in knowing what that means. But taking that Spanish class in college in Wyoming, first of all, moving to Wyoming was a culture shock for me. I'd never in my life and then taking Spanish there, the teachers looked at me after I read the sentences out of the book, and she's like, you know how to speak Spanish, don't you? And I'm like, well, I mean, kind of, but whatever.
[00:11:18.320] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, because you were probably enunciating the words correctly.
[00:11:23.520] - Bryant Blakemore
It was definitely the way that I was speaking. It was coming out a lot more of a fluid speaker than some of those other poor farm kids in that class.
[00:11:39.220] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, there's a big difference, those parts of the country. So let's talk about those early years. What were you like as a student down there? Did you participate in sports and all that kind of stuff? Or was there a bigger influence in certain sports because of the culture down there?
[00:12:04.300] - Bryant Blakemore
So junior high and middle school and all my early education, I went to a private school in Brownsville from kindergarten to 6th grade, and I was not built for sports. I was short and asthmatic and I had problematic knees and things like that. So I tried my best, but it was never something that I was very good at. When I played soccer, I played goalie because I didn't have to move very far. I was also deathly allergic to everything, so it kind of limited some of my abilities in that way. Junior high, I was home schooled 7th and 8th grade. My mom wasn't really impressed with the school system at the time in my area, which is funny because she eventually moved to teaching in that school system in the grades in which I was home schooled. So hopefully she's making a difference of her own, right? And then in high school, like I said, I lived in a town called Los Fresnos, and then I went to high school in a town called Mercedes, and it was about 60 miles away. And there they had a magnet school whose focus was science and engineering, and that's where I went to high school, so we didn't have any sports.
[00:13:34.040] - Bryant Blakemore
To kind of shed some light on how nerdy I am, I lettered in robotics, and I was the only person to do that at my high school. I got out of the sports stuff. I was in Boy Scouts. I made it from Tiger Cubs all the way to Eagle, so I was still active, things of that nature. I did four H and FFA and raised livestock that way and all those things. But through high school, not a lot of sports for me. I spent my time doing science and engineering type stuff, which is kind of how my brain functions in that kind of way.
[00:14:12.920] - Big Rich Klein
Awesome. Cool. So then after high school, what was your course set what was your mind at?
[00:14:23.430] - Bryant Blakemore
So after high school I immediately moved 2000 miles away. I moved to Laramie, Wyoming to attend the University of Wyoming.
[00:14:31.410] - Big Rich Klein
Because of the engineering school?
[00:14:33.420] - Bryant Blakemore
Because of the engineering school. I started studying mechanical engineering there. They have a fantastic program and it was the only college I applied to. I had a pair of teachers, a married couple that were teachers in my high school that were from that area and very familiar with that school. And they told me about it and suggested I look into it. And all that being the only four year university at that level in the state of Wyoming, they got all the funding for those types of programs and whatnot the student to teacher ratio was very low and tuition out of state for me was basically the same as going to Texas A and M in state. If I had stayed in Texas but it would have been a much larger school and just a completely different kind of environment. So I moved up to Wyoming right after high school and went and did that program or started that program, didn't graduate. I spent four and a half years I spent about three years up there and then I came back to Texas and went to Texas State for about a year. I struggled a lot with the math.
[00:15:52.260] - Bryant Blakemore
I've taken every math class you can take, but I've taken every math class three times. So I struggled a bit with getting the math done. And frankly, I was running out of money the last couple of years of college I was paying for out of pocket and things of that nature and it was just getting really expensive to do. So came back to Texas for about a year and a half, went to Texas State and San Marcus for a little while and then went back to Wyoming to try something a little different and see if I could approach an engineering degree in a little different mindset. And through that year, towards the end of that year is when I got a job offer to start working in the oil field and they offered to pay me a healthy amount of money to come work and have not necessarily an engineering position but something similar to that way of thinking in the field. And I've been doing that for the last 15 years.
[00:16:55.420] - Big Rich Klein
And is that how you ended up in the Lubbock area or did you work the cause? That's more permian basin. Right, right.
[00:17:02.750] - Bryant Blakemore
So I went from Wyoming to Midland and I moved to Midland and started working in the oil field down there. They actually flew me down from Denver and back in one day just for a job interview. I felt like that was a pretty positive thing for them to put the money up for. At the time, I was working on a ranch outside of Laramie. I've spent some time on a few ranches in new Mexico and ran some horses in Texas and whatnot. So my initial background as far as work went was out of a saddle and doing cowboy type work that I really enjoyed, but it doesn't pay well. Then I got this offer. My uncle got me connected with this company in Midland and suggested I call them and send them my resume. They liked what they saw, I guess, and flew me down for an interview, offered me a job. I moved down there at the end of the summer after filling my contract with the ranch in Wyoming. I lived in Midland for about seven years or so, maybe five years, and had a small short stint, about six months to a year in San Antonio, still doing oil field type work.
[00:18:19.850] - Bryant Blakemore
And then when I finally got talked back into coming back to working the West Texas region of the patch, I told the company that was hiring me, I said, I am not moving back to Midland. I'll come work in West Texas, but I'm not moving to Midland. I don't want to live there anymore. That's how I ended up in Lubbock. And I've been here for about seven years.
[00:18:39.520] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. And I've driven through that area quite a bit, coming from places that we've lived in, our events and stuff, and getting down to Port A and to Mason and stuff. But it's pretty flat.
[00:19:02.340] - Bryant Blakemore
[00:19:03.700] - Big Rich Klein
And I don't know if I could live there, to be completely honest. I love Texas, the hill country I love because we're on the ocean and the bay there down in Port arrangements, but, man, I don't know if I could live that like that.
[00:19:27.980] - Bryant Blakemore
Yeah, it's definitely unique. So I've countered that with a couple of different things. One being I bought a house. There's a lake out here in Lubbock that is in a canyon, and so it's got some terrain. And so I bought a house out there, and I live at that lake. And they actually also have an OHV park there as well. So there's offroading literally in my backyard. I've got access to that. I've got access to the water. It's a constant level lake, so it never goes dry and it's big enough to put a wakeboard boat on. Or it's got a slow side that I paddleboard on and do a little wind surfing on when it's not too windy, since I'm a novice at that. So I've kind of countered that. But my mindset was I wanted to be close enough to work, that it wasn't an ordeal to get to work because usually I'm away from the house two weeks at a time, and then I'm home for two weeks. Well, in that two weeks of time, I'm only about an hour and a half or 2 hours from where I'm actually working. If I need to come back home and spend a couple of wrenches on the racetrack or if there's other things going on in town where I need to run home when I'm off duty, I can make that trip.
[00:20:52.020] - Bryant Blakemore
It's also close enough to the desert that it's not a big ordeal to get out to far West Texas and where I was putting on my off road races in Hudspith County. It's about a five hour drive, four and a half five hour drive, and from there and then it's not too bad to get on the interstate and head west and go to Nevada or California or even down to Baja and whatnot. So I felt it was a fair location where there were some interesting things here. It is pretty flat, and it's definitely not the same as living in the Hill Country or being near Austin or Dallas or any of the really big towns, but I've grown to like it. They've got everything I need here. And Lubbock is a secret hot rod town. There's probably 30 shops around here that build hot rods and custom cars. And so the car culture here is awesome. I like it for that as well, even though it's not very well known. Looking at it, you don't see it. But once you spend time here, just in the small industrial complex where my shop is located, there's probably five or seven custom car shops here, not to mention another five, seven or ten collectors that have awesome car collections stashed away in their metal buildings right around where my shop is.
[00:22:23.620] - Bryant Blakemore
So it's really unique in that aspect and I enjoy it. Well, I stay here forever, I'm not sure, but for now it works and it fills a lot of the spaces that I need it filled for where I'm living now.
[00:22:38.060] - Big Rich Klein
Okay, let's talk about offroad. How did you get involved with offroad?
[00:22:44.850] - Bryant Blakemore
Sure. Okay. So that's an interesting story. I, being in South Texas, was not near any type of offroading except for like, we had mud races where you'd see guys with nitro, meth powered, big block mud cars that are on paddle tires and things like that. They do side by side, two up drag racing in the mud. I never really participated in that. When I was in high school, I'd go and drive through mud puddles and try to get my truck stuck every now and then. But I learned quickly that playing in the mud is not that much fun because of everything that comes after that parts, and it's hard on equipment and everything. And I did not grow up in an automotive household. That's why, like you mentioned in the introduction, my little tagline is that I'm a first generation of all of these things. I spent my time, especially in high school when I had my first vehicle. I spent my time at night outside working on it so I could drive it to school the next day. And I didn't grow up in a mechanic shop or any of that stuff. So I'm mostly self taught in almost everything that I know, it's just from, hey, that can't be too difficult.
[00:24:08.710] - Bryant Blakemore
Let's buy a manual. Back in those days that there wasn't a whole lot of information on the internet for, like YouTube is now. So I would buy a Haynes manual and it's just nuts and bolts. So take the nuts and bolts off and put the nuts and bolts back on and see if it works and things like that. So I didn't have a lot of influence that way. However, my entire life has been an obsession with cars and four wheel vehicles. I'm not really big into bikes. I'm not really big into boats or airplanes. I like cars. Cars and trucks, man. That's what it's been my whole life. And my parents knew that everything I had was car themed in some way. And I had binders full of drawings of cars that I did when I was a kid. They obviously are not very high quality or anything, but that's all I thought about and all I was interested in. So they had a family friend in Brownsville, a guy that was from Mexico, and they knew that he had been involved in some motorsports type stuff. So one day when I was about seven years old, we went over to his house and he sat me down on the couch and was showing me some photographs in a photo album, which for some of the younger listeners, it wasn't on Facebook, it was actual printed photos.
[00:25:37.520] - Bryant Blakemore
He was flipping through this book and he was showing me Formula One in Mexico City and NASCAR in Mexico, and Porsche Club racing in Mexico. And he actually gave me some. Souvenirs from those things. I've got a Mexico Grand Prix license plate hanging on the wall of my shop that he gave me. Well, towards the back of that album, the pictures started getting dustier and dusty. And I don't mean that they were old and collecting dust. I mean that the footage was dusty, and that piqued my interest. What is this? And it was old square body Chevy and old class eleven Volkswagen Beetles. And he said that's baja and that was the first time that I had ever heard about or learned or been any kind of influenced by Baja. I didn't even know what it was. And those pictures stayed ingrained in the back of my brain forever. And that's the turning point in my life that made me put at the very top of my bucket list to race in Baja in my own truck. That became my life's goal. Do that, didn't know how, wasn't sure how it was going to work, but it was constantly there in the back of my brain saying, hey, you need to go to Baja.
[00:27:01.970] - Bryant Blakemore
Don't forget about Baja. And then finally I started seeing some races on NBC or Wide World of Sports on TV and things like that. And it would come on every now and then. We didn't have cable. We just had the basic channels, most of which were in Spanish. But every now and then we'd catch a glimpse of something. And all through my years, I kind of just kept it on the back burner. And every now and then we'd research something and say, oh, man, that looks cool. I like to do this, I like to do that. That's where it started. I was sitting on sitting on his couch, and him showing me that book of pictures and seeing Baja for the first time, that really changed my life.
[00:27:43.160] - Big Rich Klein
So then you get through high school, you go to college, you come back to Texas, and then that's when you started getting dust in your veins.
[00:27:56.060] - Bryant Blakemore
Yes. So I moved back to Texas, start working. I bought some T shirts that had some long travel trucks on them. One was from a company called 41 30 Clothing. I don't even know if they're still around anymore. And I kept looking into building long travel trucks and things of that nature and seeing how that would work. And my skill set was not real high, and I didn't have my own shop at that time. And it was expensive. It was just outrageously expensive. And I was just new to this industry, and so that being the oil field, and I was constantly afraid of being laid off. So I tried not to dump a whole bunch of money into stuff that I didn't know anything about. Well, I got an opportunity, and I can't remember exactly how the opportunity came about, but I met a guy in Midland that raced a Class Seven truck, Roger Lawler. He invited him out to an off road park down in that area in Stanton, Texas, outback Adventure Park, to come see his truck and maybe take a ride in it and whatnot. And so I did that, and it was incredible.
[00:29:09.700] - Bryant Blakemore
And being involved in that, a couple of months prior to that, I flew out to Vegas for my birthday. I went out there by myself, and there was an off road race going on in Prim. I don't remember what race it was. I can't remember, but I said, okay, it's my birthday. I'm going to do this for myself. So I went to Vegas. I did the whole Vegas thing. I rented a 1952 Jaguar and drove that for a week and drove it all the way out to Prim to this desert race and got to be in close proximity with trophy trucks and all that kind of stuff. And it was as exciting as I had always imagined it would be. And that told me, Keep going, because this is what you think it is, and you should be a part of this. Met with Roger, went out and tested his truck, and he invited me to help him be part of his pit crew at some local Texas races, which up until that point, I didn't know were a thing I didn't know that we had desert racing in Texas. And not only did we have it in Texas, but we were racing outside of Odessa.
[00:30:20.380] - Bryant Blakemore
So right. Literally in the backyard in that area, 20 minutes, 2030 minutes from the house. So went out there and did that. This is amazing. That was roughly 2014, 2015 or so. And that year, Roger asked me if he saw my enthusiasm when I was helping him pitt. I helped him pitt at the TDRA races there in Odessa and at the Texana Ranch in Blackwell. And he saw my enthusiasm and came to me and said, hey, I want to start my own Desert Racing Association. Do you want to be a part of that? And I mean, he didn't even have to ask. It was immediately, yes, let's do that. Now, my automotive and performance experience before this point had been in the diesel world. I'd spent about ten years doing diesel performance stuff, tuning a couple of trucks, building a couple of things, and putting on events. One of the most notable things that I did was, in 2012, I brought a seven second, fourcylinder turbo diesel, tube chassis, carbon fiber body truck to the United States to race at the National Hot Rod Diesel Association World Finals all the way from Thailand. And I found these guys on the Internet.
[00:31:51.920] - Bryant Blakemore
I saw a picture. I started pursuing that picture and eventually got in contact with the team, fortunately with someone that spoke English because I don't speak Thai. And these guys put together this tube chassis and flew it to the US. And raced it in His, Texas, and clicked off seven second quarter mile passes in a truck that had never been to the States and for a team that had never been to the United States before. And so I've been involved in some pretty wild undertakings, mostly just out on my own accord. And whenever I tell people my ideas, most people are like, that'll never happen, you're crazy. And that just pushes me to make sure that it gets completed in some way or another. So when Roger brought me the idea of starting an association, I was absolutely in for that. So 2015, we formed the Tejas Off Road Racing Association 2015. I also called a couple of my buddies up and I said, hey, do you guys want to go race in Baja? And I knew they had the means both time and financially and the interest, and they said, yes. And I said, okay.
[00:33:03.950] - Bryant Blakemore
So I sold a 1000 HP truck, street truck that I owned, and I took a big chunk of that money, and we went and bought our Dodge, our class eight Dodge that we raised in Baja and everywhere else. We bought that in 2015 as well. And we actually drove all the way to Canada to get it and import it and all that. So, like I said, off road racing was in my brain. The whole time, and this was what I wanted to be involved in for life. And when I had the opportunity to get my feet wet, I jumped in head first, and I just went straight in. And I've been in ever since, and I don't have many complaints about it.
[00:33:50.990] - Big Rich Klein
Good well, I have a question. Why Canada? For the truck.
[00:33:55.840] - Bryant Blakemore
Good that's a good question. So when we started our search to find our truck that we wanted to race, we had a few criteria. None of us had a whole lot of experience in this sport. None of us had actually ever done it. I had the most experience by just helping a pit crew and going to one or two races. But outside of that, we knew we wanted a truck that was already legal to race. And we were initially shooting for score, so we wanted a score legal truck, one that had history. We wanted a V eight, of course, because who doesn't want a V eight, right? And we wanted a pickup truck because we're from Texas and we drive pickup trucks. So those were our requirements. And then we put a budget on it of approximately $20 to $25,000. And I posted on Race Desert, hey, this is what we're looking for. We've got cash. We're ready to go. Most people are like, oh, you'll never find that. You'll never find that. My response to them was, you really don't know me very well. I have a lot of patience when it comes to shopping for the right deal.
[00:35:11.160] - Bryant Blakemore
I can wait. We just started summing through the ads, and I was actually coming back from Sierra Blanca, where we were scouting one of our race courses for Torah. I was with Roger. We were coming back late at night, and one of my partners in the race program, Jared, sent me an ad on Race Desert. And he said, Man, I think you would have said something if you had already seen this. And I said, what is it? I looked at it and it was our truck. It was a three quarter ton, four wheel drive Dodge Ram crew cab. It was like an three or an four. And it had Baja 1000 experience. It had raced the score 1004 times, I think. And I said, man, that's perfect, because all three of my or all two of my partners in the race program as well as myself, all had experience with third gen Dodges. They were familiar to us. This one was a Hemi, and we were diesel guys. But I felt like that was probably a good compromise. Less weight, no forced induction, fewer things to go wrong with it. So that was good on all accounts.
[00:36:24.920] - Bryant Blakemore
And I read through the ad, I said, man, this thing looks awesome. And it's already scored tagged. I think this is right. They were asking 25 grand for it. And I thought, well, that's the edge of our price limit. But let's just see what's going on. And then I read in the ad that was twenty five K Canadian dollars, right?
[00:36:45.130] - Big Rich Klein
So it puts it well within the budget.
[00:36:47.870] - Bryant Blakemore
Oh, yeah, that's 19 five at that time. And I couldn't find the guy's phone number fast enough. I called him immediately. I called Richard up there in Canada, and going to Canada didn't scare me. I like an adventure, and I especially like an adventure for the right deal. And this was looking like it was the right deal. So I called Richard and I said, hey, you've got this truck for sale. I'm interested in it. Can you tell me about it? What's the deal? He gave me the rundown, told me about his team's experience in Baja and everything that they've done and that they were just kind of growing out of it, moving on to different things. And I said, I get it, no big deal. I said, I want the truck. But I've imported race cars into the United States before. It's going to take me a couple of months to do the paperwork. Do I need to send you a deposit? What do we need to do so you don't sell this truck before I'm ready to actually come up and get it? And he asked me, he said, well, what are you going to do with that truck?
[00:37:48.660] - Bryant Blakemore
And I said, well, my team and I are going to go race in Baja. We're going to go race the $1,000. And he said, no, it's yours. No deposit. Tell me when you want it and it'll be here. I said, that's incredible. It took me three months to get all the paperwork settled. We drove up there in November, right around Thanksgiving, and it was below zero. And I test drove this thing in that guy's neighborhood with snow and ice on the ground, and all I had on was a helmet and a car heart jacket. And it was, up until that point, the best day of my life. And then we bought it. I talked him down a little bit on the price, so I got an even better deal on it. He threw in some extra radios and other equipment that he had and we bought ourselves a race truck. Let's go racing, boys.
[00:38:44.540] - Big Rich Klein
Did you take a trailer with you?
[00:38:46.940] - Bryant Blakemore
We did, yes. We took a trailer, had a Gooseneck trailer that we drove up there. And despite Canada being absolutely frozen, the worst weather we had on the whole trip was about 90 miles from Lubbock, outside of Amarillo, where the roads were completely iced over. And we ended up driving home in four low the whole way. It was awful.
[00:39:12.820] - Big Rich Klein
I've been through that area of my semi truck in snowstorms. Not fun.
[00:39:17.780] - Bryant Blakemore
No, it gets pretty sketchy. And we were trying to take back roads and whatnot it was, you know, one, one o'clock to three o'clock in the morning, and it was, man, the last the last 100 miles of our trip, we went all the way to Canada and back with no problem. And the last 100 miles of the trip were the roughest part of the whole journey.
[00:39:41.280] - Big Rich Klein
That's awesome. And what part of Canada did you purchase it in?
[00:39:46.320] - Bryant Blakemore
We were in Calgary.
[00:39:47.580] - Big Rich Klein
[00:39:47.910] - Bryant Blakemore
We bought that truck out of Calgary, and those guys had raced it, and every time they raced it, they hold it back and forth every time. And I thought it was funny. Before we even get to Baja, we've already done 1500 miles with this truck just to get it home, and then another 15 to 2000 miles to get it to Baja before we even think about getting the tires in the dirt and actually start racing. There's a lot of miles involved in that thing before we even started racing it.
[00:40:21.840] - Big Rich Klein
Right. And what year did you purchase that truck? You said 15.
[00:40:30.420] - Bryant Blakemore
Yes. The same year we started Torah. The race association was the same year I bought the truck. I dove in head first.
[00:40:39.570] - Big Rich Klein
Man, that's jumping in with both feet.
[00:40:43.540] - Bryant Blakemore
[00:40:44.630] - Big Rich Klein
So then you guys started Torah, you went to get ready to go racing. Let's talk a bit about Torah, and then we'll get into the race program and carry that on through that first year. How many races did you put on with Torah?
[00:41:02.840] - Bryant Blakemore
We put on four races. We founded Torah in 2015, and we started putting on our events in 2016. Our very first race was a 400 miles race on a 100 miles loop out of Sierra Blanca, Texas. It's right on Interstate Ten, about 88 miles to the east of El Paso. And it is incredible. I call Sierra Blanca, and I hope that we can continue this growth. But Sierra Blanca is the ensenada of Texas, in my opinion. You could come out there on non race weekends and you'd see kids riding their bikes around town with race team shirts on before we went there. Nothing like this had ever been done in that area. It was all completely new. And the race course that we had developed, our big loop ran from town underneath the interstate south towards the Mexican border, so that at points of the race course, the only thing in your windshield was Mexico, and it was mountainous Mexico off in the distance. And then you would make a turn up at Indian Hot Springs Ranch, and you would turn and run up the Mexican border right along the Rio Grande for about ten or 15 miles.
[00:42:33.100] - Bryant Blakemore
Then you would jump in a sandy river bottom for about 33 miles, cross back underneath I Ten, and then you would pick up old El Paso Highway, which is an abandoned stretch of road that's all degraded and chopped up now, and that would be a triple digit run back into town and then make your loop. Then we had a couple of jumps set up in the middle of town in their floodway right in front of the city park. And all of our events were kind of centered around some sort of community event, a festival of some kind or something like that. So we had multiple things going on at a time, not just individual races, but yeah, we put on four races in our first year in 2016. And it was great. It was it was amazing. It was the coolest thing I'd ever done up until that point in my life.
[00:43:26.360] - Big Rich Klein
Right. And so was that private property. I know Texas is like 98% private property. You were running on different ranches.
[00:43:35.560] - Bryant Blakemore
So we ran on county property. We utilize some of the county roads that are out there and some of it was graded and pretty fair surface, but quite a bit of it gets washed out and rutted and boulders moved around and so some of it turns into some pretty Gnarly terrain. So we ran on county property on the county roads, and then we also utilize land that was owned by the state itself through the General Land Office. The General Land office owns about 13 million acres of Texas. And most of it is in areas that are not useful for a lot of things and pretty uninhabited. And that land gets leased back by Texans or other people for ranching and hunting and oil and gas and things of that nature. So we utilize some of that land. And we had a good relationship with the Glo at that time and most of the river bottom. And that property was officially Glo land. Of course, the person that was leasing it was in on it as well. And we were fully insured and all of the things that you have to be to do this as legitimately as possible and all that.
[00:45:00.420] - Bryant Blakemore
But a lot of the land where we were off of County Road was Glo property is the person that actually owned it. Now it was being leased out by other people and we had everybody on board at the time for it. That's kind of how we had most of those properties structured. We did race on some other properties. We put on a race down in Laredo, Texas. Down in South Texas there was a private ranch. And of course, seeking out new private properties is always at the forefront of my mind when it comes to the association. But you're right, that's one of the unique things about Texas. And it's good and bad.
[00:45:41.520] - Big Rich Klein
[00:45:46.500] - Bryant Blakemore
It's bad because most of Texas is privately owned, which means you have to find out who owns it and have different types of conversations with them. It's good because we don't have federal influence on our land use and we don't have a whole lot of state influence on our land use. And if there is a private owner to a priest of property, texas is very good about taking care of the liability for their landowners. What I mean by that is that in Texas now, this is not straightforward legal advice, but in layman's terms, in Texas, if you, as the landowner invite people onto your property for an event, and those people are stupid and do stupid things and get hurt, well, that's their fault for being stupid, not your fault for allowing that activity.
[00:46:40.600] - Big Rich Klein
Right. You don't take automatic liability.
[00:46:43.300] - Bryant Blakemore
Exactly. Now, states like New Mexico, it is the complete opposite of that for any private land that you can find, which is hard to find in New Mexico to begin with. But their liability is the complete opposite. It's the landowner's responsibility to make sure the stupid people don't get involved and do stupid things.
[00:47:03.500] - Big Rich Klein
Right. I like the Texas law. I learned about that in the early two thousands when I put my first rock crawl on down in Mason.
[00:47:13.780] - Bryant Blakemore
Yes, those few things are very attractive to me for Texas becoming the next frontier of off road racing. And not just by putting on races, but I mean by that all of the ancillary things that are involved in outdoor recreation as a whole. Texas has an opportunity here to become the next home for all of this because of how difficult things are becoming out west and whatnot. And it's going to be different. And it requires an immense amount of education for landowners and for participants and things of that nature. There's a lot to happen, but that's kind of what I've structured Torah to be doing now, is to be building things in a way that we are setting up a foundation for the entire outdoor recreational industry to find a home in Texas.
[00:48:15.460] - Big Rich Klein
Sweet. Now, that Sierra Blanca area. I know that Ultra Four went and raised in that area. Was that very similar to the same race track?
[00:48:29.160] - Bryant Blakemore
Yeah, that was almost 100% my race course.
[00:48:34.390] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. The drivers really enjoyed that area.
[00:48:40.860] - Bryant Blakemore
Absolutely. Yeah. It's incredible. It had very similar fuel to being in Baja more than anywhere else I've seen in the United States. When it comes to being able to rate the color of the dirt and the way that it changed to different colors, the types of plants that you saw, the views out of your windshield, some of the animals being able to be involved right in the middle of town, in a small community, all of those things played together. And actually being within a stone's throw of Mexico, all of those things together created a magic that is not found, at least that I have not found in offroad racing anywhere else in the United States. And it's an extremely special place. They added a couple of little different segments for the Ultra Four events in order to cater more to those types of vehicles. Like, there were some waterfall crawls and some big bouldering areas and things like that. But for the most part, that was my 9700 miles loop that we had been racing on for a couple of years.
[00:49:55.860] - Big Rich Klein
Awesome. So then tell us about your race program, and I know that you have a charity or a foundation that you're working toward. Talk about all that.
[00:50:13.980] - Bryant Blakemore
Sure. Okay. So, like I said, 2015, we bought the truck. 2016, we started racing. And I had in mind that we needed to learn before we just jumped straight in and went to Baja. None of us had any experience doing this, and we didn't have experience with each other in this type of a situation. The three of us were friends, but we weren't in a lot of high stress, expensive, time consuming things together, so we needed to make sure that we learned all of that. So what I proposed to the team and what we ended up doing was racing in 2016, just in Texas, and we raced two series in Texas. I also felt it important to prove that a private tier team could afford to race two full series in Texas. And that meant that we raced the TDRA, which I participated in driving the race truck, and that my team, without me, raced in my series Torah. And we did eight races that year. We raced every single event in Texas, and I stepped out from the team when they raced Torah because of conflict of interest and because there's no way that I could do a good job putting on an event if I'm inside a race car racing the event.
[00:51:50.920] - Bryant Blakemore
That's not fair to all the participants and to the event as a whole. So I stepped back from that and I gave the reins to the team and I said, you all make it happen, and I'm busy. Of course, if you have race logistics problems during the race, I'll be there to help. But outside of that, you guys have to figure out pitch strategy and all of that kind of stuff without me. And they did, and they did great. My team ended up taking first in points championship in Torah, and we took second in points in TDRA. Our first year, we had one DNF, and that was the only DNF for basically the life of the truck as we've had it up until this currently. And so we had a very strong finishing rate, and we finished first or second in our class almost every race. That's where we learned about how to pit and what to prep and how to prepare. Our very first race, we took a gamble on some ujoints in the front stub shafts of the front axle, and we did not replace them. And it bit us. They broke and it ended our race.
[00:53:14.470] - Bryant Blakemore
It damaged some ball joint pieces and whatnot at our very first race. So we said, okay, now we know we need to pay a little more attention to some of these other pieces and make sure that they are in good condition and change the driving habits of the vehicle. We don't want to be racing in four wheel drive if we don't need it. And we definitely don't want to be jumping the truck and landing under throttle because it's basically a stock three quarter ton Dodge with some good shocks on it. There's really everything on the truck for the most part is off the shelf. As far as the suspension goes, there's nothing super fancy about it and it weighs £9000. So we have to be considerate in the way that we drive the truck. And the team strategy is that our most important goal is to get to the checkered flag. It doesn't matter what place we finish, none of that matters. The most important goal is that if we start a race, we finish a race. That's the number one priority and the chips will fall where they may after that, mainly due to just the attrition of the sport.
[00:54:28.550] - Bryant Blakemore
If we can keep our truck running and going, it will do better than most because it will survive. And that's how we built our mindset, especially with our plans to go to Baja and try to race 1000 miles. We needed to make sure that the vehicle was being dealt with in a manner in which it would get to the finish line. Number one priority. Nothing else matters except getting to the end of the race on time. That's it.
[00:54:59.410] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. There's a lot of teams that are out there that are super fast, but they're the first one to the wreck, right?
[00:55:08.200] - Bryant Blakemore
Yeah. And there's a lot of people that are new to the sport and they get wide eyed about it and they think, okay, I need this horsepower and I need this wheel travel and I need this and I need that and I'm going to go spend all this money. But they don't have any foundation of a good pit strategy, of how to chase, of proper prep techniques, of what spares to carry, of being able to manage the vehicle in different types of terrain and to keep the vehicle alive. And so I recommend whenever I see new people coming into the sport and they're like, I'm going to go race the Baja 1000 and we're just going to jump in and do it, I say, okay, but if you want to do it successfully. Spend a little time at some smaller local races first and get your bearings there and learn about everything that you can about how the vehicle works and how your team works together. I don't discredit people that want to go race the Score 1000 as their very first and only desert race. That is an awesome thing to do. But if you really want to do it successfully, I feel like you can do that and then your first time at Score can be a finish and not a what the hell happened when we blew the car apart at race mile 100 and it's in 65 pieces now.
[00:56:36.580] - Bryant Blakemore
So that was the strategy that I put together with my team and that we have kept with ever since. And even when I bought my teammates out and started racing all on my own, I keep the same thing. I'm not an ultra competitive person. If I get past let them pass because they're going to make a mistake, and I'm going to keep at a pace at which I'm comfortable. I don't suffer from the red mist. It doesn't end on me. When someone tries to get around me, let them go. My truck is slow and heavy, but it'll get there, and that's the most important thing for me.
[00:57:13.760] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, I think too many people watch Robbie Gordon videos, right, and they all think, okay, I got to race at full throttle.
[00:57:23.680] - Bryant Blakemore
Absolutely. And it's taken. Robbie has years and years and years of experience racing, and he understands his vehicle. And a lot of the racing that he's doing now seems to be kind of like product testing type things. And so he's pushing his vehicles in a very different manner than people that are just coming into the sport and being introduced to it. That's always my recommendation, is raise some local stuff first, get a feel for it, understand your vehicle, find the weak links in the vehicle, in yourself and in your team, and then take on Baja, and you will be successful. Rather than spending all of that money to go there and fail immediately right out of the gate, because it's a whole other animal to participate in that type of an event. You can do it successfully, and no one will count you any different in that. It wasn't your first try.
[00:58:26.600] - Big Rich Klein
That's what we tried to do with Dirt Riot when we started doing the Dirt Riot racing besides just the rock crawls. And it was that entry level. Get your feet wet, learn how to race, learn what it takes, learn your crew, learn your car. And that's why we never ran courses. I think our longest course was, like, nine and a half miles, right? And that was on 240 acres or something. So, I mean, it was a big double horseshoe. Horseshoe inside of itself, basically, is how the track was laid out so the teams could watch their car for a lot of the way the spectators could watch. But it was in a small area, and we got nine and a half miles out of it. But it was the varied terrain that we tried to throw at people. You know, it was so that they could go eventually to Koh, king of the house, and be successful, because we saw so many people spend all that money to go to Koh, and then if they made it two or 20 miles and they'd spent $25,000 to go race yeah, absolutely. It was really depressing for them.
[00:59:43.280] - Bryant Blakemore
Absolutely. Yeah. And a lot of people can end up throwing in the towel at that point.
[00:59:49.700] - Big Rich Klein
[00:59:52.800] - Bryant Blakemore
I don't feel like they need to I feel like off road racing has an opportunity for everyone. If you see it once and you have any interest in motorsport, don't ever try it, because you'll give up all your other hobbies to do that. There's opportunity for everyone. But if you dump all of this money and all of this time and effort into it without proper preparation at the beginning, and then you come away with a broken car that costs half to twice as much what you spent to get there to fix that's major discouragement, it doesn't have to be that way. And no one will think lesser of you if you go to Baja as your second or third or fourth or fifth or in our case, Baja was our 9th race after having our truck. No one is going to think any lesser of you because of the challenge that it is. In fact, you will impress more people to go having being prepared and make it all the way then you will. Just throwing all this energy at it and only making it 20 miles. Well, at least you tried. That's not really the way that offroaders kind of think the trying is good, but the getting to the end is the real win is getting all the way to the end.
[01:01:22.400] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, I can remember I've told this story before. We were at Mike's Sky Ranch pre running the 1000. I was with Pistol Pete's team, and there was some guys there from Canada that were racing quads, and they were convinced it was their first race. And these guys were convinced that of course they were going to win their class and that they were so prepared and all this kind of stuff. And BJ Baldwin was there, and we were talking about I was talking to these guys and they were so convinced. And I said, the thing you have to remember when it comes to race day is when you see all the lights come up behind you, which you will, and it looks like there's six trains on your ass. I said, Pull over and let them all go by. Don't try to stay out in front of the trophy trucks. And these guys were like, oh, the trophy trucks will never catch us. And that caught BJ's awareness. And he was like I asked him, I said, how fast did you come in on the road? And they were talking about how fast they were driving.
[01:02:42.500] - Big Rich Klein
And I looked at BJ and I said, So how fast did you come in on the road in your pre runner? And he goes, oh, about twice that. And they were like, there's no way. So BJ took a couple of them for a ride because they had that three seater pre runner. So he took a couple of them for a ride and they went back up over the hill toward Valet, and then came back. And when the guys got there, they were like, Holy shit. And they were amazed. And he goes, this truck is only, like, 75% of what my race truck is.
[01:03:17.960] - Bryant Blakemore
[01:03:18.660] - Big Rich Klein
And you know, that that then gave them, you know, that fear that they needed to have, that when those light, when those lights caught you in the middle of the night, that it was time when you saw that city pull up behind you, it was time to get out of the way.
[01:03:36.600] - Bryant Blakemore
Right? Right. Like I said, I don't discourage anybody from getting into off road racing however they want to, but I really try to push preparation in, starting with one smaller event to get your bearings, to really understand how this thing works. Because once you're out there, especially in Mexico, one of the unique things about off road racing is that it is literally life or death when you're out there. It could be days or weeks. If you have a come off before anyone finds you or knows that you're missing even, it could be a while being as prepared as possible, and I guess a lot of this is my inner Eagle Scout talking. Be prepared.
[01:04:31.200] - Big Rich Klein
[01:04:31.500] - Bryant Blakemore
But as prepared as possible before you hit the ground out there is just critical in what it can do for your overall performance once you're there to keep your mind at ease, that you're not worried about things as they come up, because you've already thought of that. You've already considered that that's really important and something that I try to help guys out that are wanting to get started in the sport. And like I said, I had no experience in this when I started, and I'm not a professional at any means now, but I've been doing this and been completely involved in the sport for the last seven years. I mean, aside from work, it is the only thing that I do. Seeing new people come in is exciting, but I try to impart what things I've learned along the way. And the biggest one, like I said, is just slow down, take your time, be prepared, try some local stuff first before you start trying to take that big bite at the end there, and you'll have a much more successful time of it.
[01:05:39.190] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, I agree. And I think that what I always recommend people do is at least get to an off road race, a big one, whether that's like a best in the desert or the score races down in Mexico or whatever, and try to find somebody that's racing that you can go down and pit with.
[01:06:03.640] - Bryant Blakemore
Absolutely. Almost all the teams need help in some way, especially if you're willing to volunteer your time and your energy to get there. If you can afford it, tell the team, hey, I'll pay my way. I'm there. Just tell me what you need from me and I'll be there. It's unlikely that you won't find anybody to help with that type of mindset.
[01:06:31.000] - Big Rich Klein
Correct. And that then. If you're looking to buy a car or to build a car or whatever to go race, get that volunteer experience under your belt first so that you know what you're biting into for sure, and then figure out what class you want to enter in. And that's going to have a lot to do with your pocketbook, your checking account, how big of a loan you can take against your house, that kind of thing, because it is life changing. And once you make that commitment, you got to realize that no matter what you buy, the likelihood of getting the money back out of it, you're going to have to look at at least 50% loss.
[01:07:22.400] - Bryant Blakemore
[01:07:23.730] - Big Rich Klein
So you have to be ready for it. Just don't spend it thinking, no, this is what I want to go do, and do it. At least that's my opinion on how people should get started. If they want to jump in with both feet, great. It just doesn't seem to work real well for a lot of people.
[01:07:40.840] - Bryant Blakemore
Yeah. It's definitely a challenge for people with no experience in it to go, especially when they want to go. And their first race is the score, $1,000. That's an overwhelming event as it is for even seasoned professionals. And to make that your goal, to be your very first time ever doing anything, that's a lofty goal, and I applaud people that can do it. But if you want to guarantee your success that you'll make it to the end, then there's a couple of different ways to go about that. I feel right.
[01:08:25.780] - Big Rich Klein
Everybody sees those trophy trucks and goes, I don't want to drive one of those. And that's a lofty goal. But the guys that are racing in that class, the majority of them are going down there with 40 guys.
[01:08:40.060] - Bryant Blakemore
[01:08:41.140] - Big Rich Klein
Huge crew. And it was like when I was helping with Pete, if we had ten guys down there, man, we were doing great. And trying to run with those big boys with those big budgets was difficult.
[01:08:58.800] - Bryant Blakemore
It's a lot, for sure.
[01:09:03.060] - Big Rich Klein
So let's talk about how you're doing this.
[01:09:07.140] - Bryant Blakemore
Sure. Just real quick to get us from the end of 16 till now. In 2016, I went to Baja for my first time ever. A guy found me on the Internet, which is kind of a weird thing to say, I guess, but he somehow learned about me and invited me to go chase for him for the Nora Mexican 1000. And I said, absolutely yes. What I need to do and he said, Just get to San Diego, I'll cover the rest. I said done. Bought my plane ticket immediately. And that was an awesome experience. I loved the Nora race. The truck only made it 40 miles outside of Ensenada before it was hydrology, and we packed it up and left it in Ensenada. But we continued down the rest of the peninsula with all the other race teams and I got to help out with other teams and see different things. When I came back from that trip, I told my team, the Nora 1000 is what we're going to race. That's going to be our race in Mexico. I think it is the best way to see Baja and be involved in racing and enjoy it.
[01:10:14.700] - Big Rich Klein
Right. That's a stage race where multiple days, two to 300 miles a day, five days of racing.
[01:10:23.220] - Bryant Blakemore
The shortest day is like 175, and the longest day is like 420. So it's it's a lot of racing. We covered 1300 miles in the in the race truck by the time we were done. But we got to enjoy Baja as a whole. And it doesn't come with the same stresses as the Score 1000.
[01:10:43.940] - Big Rich Klein
I've been up for, like, 48 hours straight during the Score 1000.
[01:10:51.700] - Bryant Blakemore
It's very taxing. The way that it's been described to me, that I use it to describe to other people, is that the Score 1000 is equivalent to being barely an amateur boxer, stepping in the ring with a pro boxer and getting the crap kicked out of you for 48 hours and then going home. And then the Nora 1000 is rough housing with your buddies in the parking lot, and then going into the bar and having a good time.
[01:11:24.960] - Big Rich Klein
Much more enjoyable.
[01:11:26.880] - Bryant Blakemore
Much more enjoyable. 17. We prepped our truck after I did a victory roll in. It had destroyed the entire body. So we had to put a new body on the truck and fixed a couple of things there. And then we prepped it. And in April of 2017, my team went down to Baja and we raced the Nora Mexican 1000. And we finished 7th in our class, and I think somewhere in the 30s overall, but I'm not sure that that's right. I don't remember what our overall standing was, but we made it every single mile, 1300 miles in the race truck. And that crossed off the very top of my bucket list race. My own truck in Baja done. And that was incredible to be able to do that. And then I said, okay, well, now what? And so we continued 2018. We raced the MIT 400 and we took fourth in our class on two broken leaf springs. We broke both rear leaf springs, but still managed to finish in that race. At the end of 2018, my team had kind of moved on to different things. They had other things that they were kind of more interested in.
[01:12:56.530] - Bryant Blakemore
And so I bought them out of the race program, bought my two partners out in the race program, and I also bought my partner in Torah Out and acquired Torah 100% on my own. That was financially very expensive.
[01:13:16.560] - Big Rich Klein
I can imagine.
[01:13:18.500] - Bryant Blakemore
Now I'm the sole provider for both the association and the race team, and I have little to no monetary sponsors for any of it. I'm partnered with a lot of great people for product, but not for the finances. And I'm super thankful for the product because it helps get the truck running. But there is an immense amount of cost that happens on the other side of all that. And so I've acquired that on my own, which means that I only get to race my truck right now about once a year. 2019 didn't race. 2020 didn't race, couldn't afford it. Had the truck. It just sat. It sat for three years. And then I raced it at the 2021 Mint 400, which was in December, because of all the COVID stuff. It was a thrash to get the truck ready. And like I said, it had been sitting for three years. I had made a few pretty significant changes to it in my prep time. And we pulled it onto the trailer and actually up to the start line with a large percentage of seafoam fuel and jettor cleaner still in it because it was not running on all cylinders.
[01:14:37.430] - Bryant Blakemore
When we started the race, we did that. My pit crew was amazing. I had been part of a Facebook group called Dodge Trucks Extreme, which is a bunch of Dodge and Mopart guys that really enjoy the desert. We've got long travel, three quarter and one ton trucks. We do a lot of stuff out in the desert and all that with thorough suspension trucks and some Carly suspension stuff and whatnot. So all of those guys got excited about me racing a Dodge, and they pitched in to be my pit crew. So whenever I roll into an event, it is only mopar. There is nothing else allowed in my pits except for mopar vehicles. And it looks amazing when all of us roll down the highway together and pull into the pits together, and we've got all these trucks with big reservoir shocks sticking out of them and fiberglass and all that. And we're racing a three quarter ton Dodge with big shocks and fiberglass and everything. It's quite a sight to see, and I enjoyed immensely. So those guys helped me out in December, and we made it a lap and a third. And I raced class eight at this race, and we raced on Saturday with the Unlimited.
[01:16:01.280] - Bryant Blakemore
So I was behind all the trophy trucks, and I was ahead of the class ten cars for about the first 30 miles. And then they all caught me and went around my truck again. Like I said, I was still burning out cylinders to keep them clean for the first half of the first lap. On the second lap, we came around, made it about 30 miles, and I said to my co driver, I said, man, I'm going to tell you something that sounds really odd, but I think we have four flat tires right now because it's just dragging dirt and everything up. And I said, I know that sounds impossible, but I think that's the situation. I'm going to pull over and get out. Tell me what you see. He gets out and he's like, man, all the tires are good. And then he walked around to the front of the truck and he said, hey, turn the steering wheel. So I shook the wheel back and forth and it opened up the front differential and there was just a sheet of diff fluid pouring out onto the ground. And we had split the front differential open because the ruts had gotten so deep that my truck solid axle on 37.
[01:17:17.280] - Bryant Blakemore
I was dragging the front axle through everything hard enough and hitting a hard pack in that center raise that it would slow the truck down like 2 miles an hour every time we'd hit something. And it was just too much for the truck. And we looked back down the course and you could see where the front div had dug in and the rear diff had dug in and was leaving lines down the race course from all it was just too much for the truck. And a lot of that M 400 course is difficult to move off of the course because there's giant rocks on the sides of it. That course, I had forgotten what it was like having raced it three years earlier, but that course can get brutal, especially when you're chasing down 1200 wheel drive trophy trucks on you're just in an old farm truck trying to get out there and pasture and feed some cows. So that ended our race there and that started this process of rebuild that I'm doing now, and that started everything that we're working on right now. We didn't get to race in 2022, wasn't able to get the truck put back together in time.
[01:18:38.540] - Bryant Blakemore
When I came back from the Mint, I made a deal with a local dealership and they partnered with me to upgrade to a 6.4 liter V eight, a brand new 392 cubic inch scat pack hemi that we've got in the truck. We also put my truck as it sat with the old 57 on the Dyno and found out that I raced the Mint with 145 wheels. So that explains a lot of the drivability issues I was having. We're putting in a brand new motor. We're putting in a brand new eight speed automatic. I've re geared the truck. I've got 40 inch tires. I got a spool in the back. I have a different style front truss on a fresh front axle so that it shouldn't bulldoze the dirt so hard. It should allow some of it to kind of flow through and break it up a little better as we pass through. So it's going to be a whole another animal by the time we get out there in March. In doing that last year, or this year rather, I wanted to pair my race program with some philanthropy work. I wanted to use this as an opportunity to help some community.
[01:20:09.800] - Bryant Blakemore
And I really wasn't sure what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. That way. I like to show the sport to new people, and so oftentimes my navigators are first time racers or people that have some sort of social media influence or whatever so that they can tell the story and I can provide an opportunity for storytelling about what we're doing and how we're doing it and their experiences in it. At the mint last year, I had a podcast host from the truck show podcast, j tillis. He was one of my co drivers in the truck and got to experience it. He had never done anything like that before, and so that was me providing that opportunity. My truck is not extremely difficult to drive, and I'm not trying to brag or anything about it, but I can drive it by myself. I don't particularly need a co driver who is super intense because I don't go that fast, and it's not that much of a challenge to drive my vehicle, and I'm not ultra competitive, so if I have a map and know where the course is, I can get through it.
[01:21:29.220] - Bryant Blakemore
It's not a big deal. So that allows me to put people in and teach them navigating things while we're racing and give them that experience. So I wanted to do that, and then I wanted to use that also for, like I mentioned before, some kind of charity work. Initially, my thoughts were to try to get and this is still a goal of mine, but to try to get mike row from dirty jobs in my truck because I feel like my race program, everyone that's involved in my team, my truck itself represents blue collar industry, and off road racing as a whole is built upon blue collar dollars. Even the big race teams, the high dollar teams, their money is made in construction or in concrete or in whatever. It's all blue collar trade stuff for the most part, and so there's a connection there. And I wanted to raise money for his foundation, micro works, so maybe word will get around at some point, and I can make that happen. But that was my initial thought, was to kind of add some sort of charity to my race, and I wanted it to be blue color in nature.
[01:22:46.560] - Bryant Blakemore
Well, halfway through this past year, I had some things going on in my personal life where I ended up seeking some professional guidance, and I learned that I'm autistic. And so that was an interesting revelation, and it was an enormous relief to me because I could go back and explain most of my life the way I grew up and all of my experiences and the way that I had viewed them and experienced them. Knowing that my brain operates differently than other people's brains explained everything, and it was an immediate relief to me. I akin it to if you untie a really tight knot in a rope you get that slack in the rope and it feels pretty good. Or if you put a key in a really nice lock and you unlock it and it just pops open and all that tension is gone. That's what happened in my brain when I learned that, hey, this is you. And so that changed my mind quickly to wanting to try to support that community that I found myself to be a part of. And I did some research and was trying to find out what was going on.
[01:24:25.660] - Bryant Blakemore
And see, I noticed that diagnosing adults with autism late in life, like myself, I'm 36. That's not a very common thing and there's not a lot of information about it and it's hard to find resources for that. Fortunately, living here in Lubbock, I first started off by finding a really good guy that I can go talk to a counselor and whatnot, and he's excellent and focuses on this type of thing and that's been a big help. And then I found the Burkhart Center here attached to Texas Tech, and they are an autism center for research and education. And they have this program called the Transition Academy where they take students in ages 18 to 30, roughly of all varying degrees along the spectrum, and they help them learn independent living skills. They have a mock apartment in their building that they teach everyone how to cook for yourself and how to maintain the apartment and all that kind of stuff. They also do internships with local businesses and job placement to help put these people that go through the program into meaningful and satisfying jobs. And that spoke to me. I looked back at my career in the oil field and took note that the way my brain operates is probably helpful for a lot of blue collar type work because it's process oriented, it's very logic based, analytical types of things.
[01:26:18.850] - Bryant Blakemore
There's not a lot of emotion involved in it, you know, not a lot of drama and office chip chat and things like that. Don't really I'm not interested in a lot of that. I have a high drive to be punctual at work and make sure that I'm doing a good job and do the job the right way every time and learning from the Burkhart Center that those are very common traits among people with autism. I thought, okay, well, let's help this. Let's do this, because I want people to learn about me being autistic, having known me previously, and say, oh wow, I didn't think about that in that kind of way and look at my employment history and being able to keep a very good job while being autistic. So hopefully that will help other employers realize that, well, maybe this is not something we should be afraid of. If someone comes around this way and they happen to be a little bit different, it just all clicked and fell into place right there. Between learning that I was and finding the Burkhart Center and the people at the Berkhart being so excited that somebody like me was wanting to help and be of service.
[01:27:51.440] - Bryant Blakemore
And it just like I said, it just all fell into place so easily that everything told me, this is you're doing the right thing and you're in the right spot, and this is where you need to be. And so we developed the Takwatchi Motorsports Vocational Skills Fund and all of the money that's being donated to that is going directly to the Burkhart Center for use in the Transition Academy and to help raise awareness for that and to help fund that program for those job placements and things of that nature. So I'm really excited about that and I've set up some unique ways that people can participate in that. The plan is I've got it on the website and I think I sent you a link to that. And you can either donate directly to the Burkhart Center a one time fee or you can pledge a dollar amount from one penny to however many dollars you want per mile that we complete of the Mint 400. And I think that's exciting because it does a couple of things. It raises money for the burkhart. It brings awareness to not only what they are doing there, but also to desert racing as a sport and what we do in that sport.
[01:29:25.010] - Bryant Blakemore
And it allows the people that pledge to follow along the live feed and the live tracking and interact with the team on social media as we are building up to the race and while we are at the race. So there's interaction involved there and I think that will be a lot of fun too, so that they feel like the people that donate feel like they are a part of the team, which they are. So I'm super stoked to have that opportunity and to be able to do that. I've got a booth space reserved during taking contingency at the Mint. I'll have the truck there and people can come by and sign up for the pledge drive and all that. I'm planning on trying to get on the local news and all that stuff to kind of bring awareness to it. And we've got some potential to raise a whole lot of money for this program through these communities. And like I said, I'm just really excited about it, and I can't think of anything better to do with my racing that will be of service to another community than what we're doing with this. I'm really excited about it.
[01:30:37.860] - Big Rich Klein
That's awesome. And what's the website address?
[01:30:42.340] - Bryant Blakemore
Toratoracing. Comcharity. There's a link at the top of the page if you just go to Toraacing.com but you can go direct to the fund page at toracing. Comcharity.
[01:31:02.200] - Big Rich Klein
Excellent. And you're going to race the Mint this year, any other races you're going to try this upcoming year, any other races you're going to try to do.
[01:31:14.300] - Bryant Blakemore
So I have been invited to go back to the Nora 1000 and help host their live show. I'm pretty excited about that. I've been to every Nora since 2016. I got addicted and I go every year in different capacities. This year I'm going to be hopefully helping host the the live program. And then I am working with a team from the Netherlands who also raced a three quarter ton, four door, four wheel drive Dodge truck and they are wanting to come back or bring the truck back and race the score 1000. So that's on the books as well, to help that team get their truck ready and all their logistics and bring their whole program over from the Netherlands to go race the Score 1000. That's in preliminary works right now to do that. So it's a full year. In addition to that, Torah may be making a comeback. I'm talking to a few new landowners currently and we're working on some ideas to try to bring some of how I view desert racing should be in Texas and the surrounding areas. So I'm pretty excited about that as well. 2023 is looking like it's going to be a pretty full year for desert racing.
[01:32:40.450] - Big Rich Klein
Good. Well, keep me apprised of any race schedule that you do. Absolutely. We've got the magazine that we talked about. We put in schedules. I think in the January issue is when we try to do that, but we can pop it in any time. It's a nice thing about owning your own magazine. You can put it in a day before it goes to print.
[01:33:04.400] - Bryant Blakemore
[01:33:06.480] - Big Rich Klein
Keep me aware of that. And then I'm really happy to hear about the community, especially the autism community, that you're helping with your race program. And I hope that people check out the website and try to get involved with the charity and that's just going to bring more awareness not only to off road racing in general, but to your team as well, and also to autism.
[01:33:37.340] - Bryant Blakemore
Right. I think it's a benefit all the way around and I think a lot of these things are able to coexist. I find myself in a very unique position to be able to help. And I'm extremely grateful for that because I've been provided a lot of opportunity over the last well, I mean, my whole life, I've had interesting opportunities. Arise, and I try not to turn any of them down. But in offroad racing, which is my life's passion, the things that have come up in a short amount of time and the relationships I've been able to build and develop and the things I've been able to do and participate in are unbelievable. And sometimes I even have to pinch myself and say, man, this is crazy, all this stuff. When you were a seven year old kid 30 years ago, this was just a dream and now you're living it and you get to go and do these things and be a part of this. I love it. I love it. I'm so happy and thankful for all of this, and I really enjoy being able to share it with other people, and that's just so cool.
[01:34:57.940] - Big Rich Klein
Well, excellent. Well, Brian, I want to say thank you for spending the time today and talking with us, and I can't wait until we air this podcast. I think everybody's going to get a lot out of it.
[01:35:12.120] - Bryant Blakemore
Good. I'm excited for it. Rich, I really appreciate the opportunity to talk with you about it. It means a lot to me to be able to tell people what we're doing because it gets other people involved and motivates them to be a part of it again. That's the biggest driver for me is being of service to others and being able to do that through the race program and talk about it with people like you and share it with your audience. Man, that's so cool. It's awesome.
[01:35:40.710] - Big Rich Klein
Right? So if anybody out there is listening to this, make sure that you check out the website. If you're interested in volunteering or helping with the Race program, feel free to get hold of Bryant, and hopefully we can make this work easier for you.
[01:36:01.160] - Bryant Blakemore
Absolutely. Thank you so much. I appreciate the time.
[01:36:03.740] - Big Rich Klein
All right, thank you. And look forward to seeing what you're going to do in 2023.
[01:36:09.500] - Bryant Blakemore
Yes, sir. I'm sure I'll be posting plenty about it.
[01:36:13.070] - Big Rich Klein
All right, awesome. Thank you.
[01:36:15.180] - Bryant Blakemore
[01:36:15.770] - Big Rich Klein
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 a 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 truly 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.