ORMHOF Class of 2007 inductee Frank “Scoop” Vessels was inducted into multiple Halls of Fame in his short lifetime. Taken in a plane crash in 2010; Scoop took the Off-Road world by storm until his return to Quarter Horse life in 1993, where he was born and bred. Join his wife, Bonnie, and Big Rich for a listen in on the impact of Scoop’s life. We are happy to be joined by family members to be able to offer interviews with inductees' families when the inductee is no longer with us. This is our history; legends live at ORMHOF.org. Be sure to tune in on your favorite podcast app.
6:06 – That kid’s got a head like a scoop shovel!
9:29 – he passed being jockey-size when he was 12 years old
16:32 – that’s what got him into desert was his dad getting him off the streets
19:15 – the pride of knowing he had done it on his own
22:58– slower is smoother, which protects the car
33:26 – in order to succeed, you couldn’t have a hiccup and forget a tree or a cactus or a rock
46:23 – you couldn’t tell Mike (Mike’s Sky Ranch) no, if he wanted to show you a secondary route, he was going to show you
51:53 – they’d flown into weather, he iced up, lost a wing, and it spiraled down on a cattle ranch
Special thanks to ORMHOF.org for support and sponsorship of this podcast.
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Welcome to Conversations with Big Rich. This is an interview style podcast. These interviewed 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 past, present, and future legends, as well as business owners, employees, media, and land use warriors, men and women who have found their way into this exciting and addictive lifestyle we call offroad. We discuss their personal history, struggles, successes, and reboots. We dive into what drives them to stay active in offroad. We all hope to shed some light on how to find a path into this world that we live and love and call offroad.
This episode of Conversations with Big Rich is brought to you by the Offroad Motorsports Hall of Fame. The mission of the Hall of Fame is to educate and inspire present and future generations of the offroad community by celebrating the achievements of those who came before. We invite you to help fulfill the mission of the Offroad Motorsports Hall of Fame. Join, partner, or donate today. Legends live at Ormhoff. Org.
[00:01:15.670] - Big Rich Klein
On today's episode of Conversations with Big Rich, we will be talking about Frank Scoop Vessels. Our guest is Bonnie Vessels. She will be talking to us and letting us know all about Scoop, their life and his life, and how Frank was able to impact the world of offroad and NASCAR. Frank was a 2007 inductee into the Offroad Motorsports Hall of Fame. I'd like to thank Bonnie Vessels for coming on and talking about Frank. Bonnie, thank you so much for being here.
[00:01:47.960] - Bonnie Vessels
Thanks, Rich. I'm nervous and I hope you guide me along.
[00:01:52.120] - Big Rich Klein
No worries. I'm an old pro at doing this, but luckily we edit. As we go through this, if there's any spots in there, we'll clean them up and don't worry about it. Just relax and consider us like sitting around a campfire.
[00:02:11.540] - Bonnie Vessels
[00:02:12.930] - Big Rich Klein
Let's start off right away with where was Frank born and raised?
[00:02:18.170] - Bonnie Vessels
He was born in Long Beach, California. He was born at the time his grandparents were building and developing and ultimately opening up Los Alamedas Race Course for quarter horses.
[00:02:33.010] - Big Rich Klein
Wow, that's amazing. So he was in the horse racing world at a young age?
[00:02:40.020] - Bonnie Vessels
[00:02:41.450] - Big Rich Klein
Did he work the racetrack and the horses at an early age like that?
[00:02:48.980] - Bonnie Vessels
Well, he was just raised in the day to day of it. He'd be on the backside with the trainers and the jockeys and the horses. And then he'd be up in the grandstands with his parents or grandparents at night. So he got to meet both sides of the horse world.
[00:03:07.290] - Big Rich Klein
So racing was in his blood with any racing. The concept of going fast in the competition. So that's probably what was a big drive for him.
[00:03:21.040] - Bonnie Vessels
Yeah. And his dad always told him, You're not going to be able to get away from the horse racing because it's bred into your genes. That was literally the case.
[00:03:33.880] - Big Rich Klein
I can imagine that. And I would imagine he went through College or in school also dealing with animal husbandry or things like that. It was W as that a case?
[00:03:47.150] - Bonnie Vessels
No, he went to a junior college and he took a business course. And I don't know that he actually even finished it. He was more involved with the surfing while he was going to school.
[00:04:06.470] - Big Rich Klein
More involved with the surfing? Yes, sir. Okay. So horses and surfing. That's Southern California right there. He was born in 1952. Correct. In those early 60s in that area, that 50s and 60s was pretty rural still. La really saw growth impact in the 60s of growth. But are you from that area as well?
[00:04:38.610] - Bonnie Vessels
No, I was from North San Diego County, but scoop would always talk about Mr. Disney was building Disneyland at the same time his grandfather was building Los Alamedas. They lived there on Ketelha. He said, during that time frame, if someone drove down the road at night, it woke you up.
[00:04:59.830] - Big Rich Klein
Oh, wow. Okay. So it wasn't as impacted as it is now, of course?
[00:05:06.740] - Bonnie Vessels
[00:05:08.670] - Big Rich Klein
Do you know when he got interested in... We'll jump ahead a little bit here, into the off road motor sports?
[00:05:19.120] - Bonnie Vessels
It was when he'd gotten a speeding ticket. His officer that pulled him over, congratulations him and told him he'd given his grandfather, his grandmother, his mother, and his dad a ticket. Now, scoop was getting a ticket, and that was how it all started.
[00:05:41.390] - Big Rich Klein
That's awesome when the police officer can go back that far with the family. That's some insight. When he was young and working around the stables and everything, that's where he got his nickname Scoop, is that correct?
[00:06:03.130] - Bonnie Vessels
Yes and no.
[00:06:04.610] - Big Rich Klein
[00:06:06.310] - Bonnie Vessels
He always told everybody, and I'm sure he's yelling at me right now, but he always told everybody it was his first job at the racetrack. In reality, his mother had a horse fall on him. She'd suffered eight miscarriages, carried him to term. She couldn't birth him, so they took him by C section. When he was born, his granddad came in and says, Oh, my God. That kid's got a head like a scoop shovel. And it stuck.
[00:06:38.530] - Big Rich Klein
And that stuck. Okay. That's actually a better story.
[00:06:43.920] - Bonnie Vessels
I think so.
[00:06:45.100] - Big Rich Klein
I think so. But I can understand why the scoop shovel in the paddocks sounded more realistic or family orientated, I guess. What was scoop like around friends and even in people that he just met?
[00:07:08.060] - Bonnie Vessels
He was one of those guys that could make friends with anybody. And he was as good of friends with the guys on the backside of the racetrack as he was with the guys up in the suites and everything. And one of the things that struck me from his memorial was that people just over and over and over comment on the fact that everybody was his friend. It was that easy for him.
[00:07:39.460] - Big Rich Klein
You can't teach that. That's a personal skill that just develops and is probably one of the best traits for business, whether he ever finished business classes or not and spent more time surfing. That right there helps somebody get ahead. As scoop was able to do. It's amazing reading his history and the different websites that have listed his history and the history, how broad it is from the horse racing to the offroad racing to helping develop the NASCAR truck series and just the different people that he dealt with. It's absolutely amazing. Let's talk about some of those experiences, if you would, about the getting into... Let's start with the horse racing and how that helped, what he did to help develop that along or how he got involved in it.
[00:08:43.580] - Bonnie Vessels
Deeper. He just simply lived it day in and day out. And he watched and he grew up with it. And there was a lot of comparisons with the trainers and the jockeys and race car owners and drivers. And he was someone that was able to share those experiences crosswise with the sport or the game he was playing at the time. They all interacted.
[00:09:16.550] - Big Rich Klein
That makes a lot of sense. Did he ever ride himself in any races that you know of, or was it more on the other side of it?
[00:09:29.960] - Bonnie Vessels
He showed horses. The one and only time, I think he told me, well, he used to say that he passed being jockey size when he was 12 years old because of his size. But one year when the track was running to hold the horses, the horses I'm losing my train thought, the horses go behind a buggy. His buddy set him up and put him in a cart behind a horse at close proximity that had a case of diarrhea.
[00:10:02.910] - Big Rich Klein
[00:10:04.530] - Bonnie Vessels
As far as I know, that's the one and only time he raced around La Salle, except for being in a race car.
[00:10:11.650] - Big Rich Klein
So his grandfather, not only thought he had the head of a shovel, scoop shovel, but he actually was seeing the future.
[00:10:25.270] - Bonnie Vessels
Yeah, it was harness racing. I'm sorry, I was looking for harness racing.
[00:10:31.520] - Big Rich Klein
That's incredible. That's not a position I'd want to be in.
[00:10:35.630] - Bonnie Vessels
No, he was only in it once. I'm sure that those guys that thought it was a good prank got paid back pretty well.
[00:10:42.150] - Big Rich Klein
I would imagine. Let's talk a little bit about pranks. I would imagine that somebody like that, and being around all the people that he was, there was probably some pranks going on. Do you know of any?
[00:10:58.690] - Bonnie Vessels
Wow. Probably too many to share. He and Bob Gordon were really keen on pranking people. Dennis Moore was a guy that did the racetrack surface management. And Dennis and Scoop and Bob used to get in a lot of trouble for the pranks they'd pull. But they did the typical stuff like hot wiring a seat so that somebody jump in their truck and turn it on to go somewhere and shock them and different things like that. He did something one time on one of his offroad deals where they stopped. I don't know if it was Gayle Pike or somebody else, but he snuck some clam or crab meat or something into a carburetor and then let them go pre run. And when they finished that day, they got to sit around, try to figure out what the smell was. So there was just all sorts of different little games going on all the time.
[00:12:03.970] - Big Rich Klein
I'm sure glad none of that happens anymore. Yeah. Racers will be racers.
[00:12:12.310] - Big Rich Klein
Let's talk about when his mother, I guess it was, that sold the Los Alamedos, and then they moved the operations.
[00:12:25.450] - Bonnie Vessels
[00:12:26.030] - Big Rich Klein
Then he took over the running of those new operations. Is that correct?
[00:12:31.640] - Bonnie Vessels
[00:12:33.370] - Big Rich Klein
What was the name of that operation and what... Is it still producing horses now?
[00:12:41.000] - Bonnie Vessels
Well, they went down in the mid '80s and they purchased San Louis Ray Downs Thoroughbred Training Center and along with that San Luis Ray Downs Golf Course. And then while he was rebuilding the golf course, which had been closed for some years due to flooding and stuff, he found a piece of property that eventually became the stallion farm. And it was roughly 2,000 acres. And it was an old cattle operation. And I met him when he was starting to lay out and create that farm. And it was all done on the back of placemats from either a bar or a restaurant. And I watched him design it, and it was in his mind. He designed it in his mind, and I was lucky enough to meet him during that time frame and watch him build his dream.
[00:13:41.140] - Big Rich Klein
That's amazing. And how did you meet him?
[00:13:45.180] - Bonnie Vessels
Met him at the 30th anniversary at the Bonsol Lions Club. My grandfather had been the first president there in Bonsol of the Lions Club. And I was single and my mom and I went to that event that night. This older guy kept coming around and asking me if I would dance with his boss. And after the third or fourth time, I said, Sir, if he wants to dance with me, he just needs to come over and ask me. And it never ended after that moment in time.
[00:14:19.350] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. So he actually came over and asked you to dance then? Yes. Excellent. And he was younger than the guy that was coming over and asking?
[00:14:32.710] - Bonnie Vessels
Yeah, the guy that was coming over and asking was the resort manager at the golf course.
[00:14:37.760] - Big Rich Klein
[00:14:39.320] - Bonnie Vessels
April of 1985.
[00:14:43.780] - Big Rich Klein
That's awesome. And watching him develop his dream like that, I would imagine there was always trials and tribulations and things to overcome. Were there some things that he might have overcome that helped him in the future with other things? Was he the guy that just took on the challenge and just went full at it?
[00:15:06.060] - Bonnie Vessels
I would say he had a plan in his mind, and he took it area by area. He would always take something away from another farm he'd been at. And he'd use those other examples to know, well, that works or this doesn't work. And he just built it as he was going along. And it was during the same time frame that Cal Wells was building that black Chevy. And scoop took the time off during those years to build the farm. He called it his sabbatical. And it was when he was reopening the golf course and building the farm. And then when the farm got done, the truck was done, and he switched back over to focusing on on offroad racing.
[00:16:01.400] - Big Rich Klein
So you guys met in '85, you said? Correct. Okay. And he was the winner of the 1977 Baha 1000. So he was racing before the transfer and then took time off. The sabbatical you're talking about was from racing? Correct. Okay. How did he get involved with that first Baha 1,000 and become a driver? Because it was his first race and he won it.
[00:16:32.380] - Bonnie Vessels
Well, I'm not sure the stats on that, but I do know that if we go back to that conversation about the speeding ticket and the family, that was when his father suggested he'd think about racing in the desert. His dad had ventured out a little bit in that yellow van that they had. Bill Stropp was part of the picture. That's what ultimately got him into the desert was his dad getting him off the streets.
[00:17:03.850] - Big Rich Klein
That makes sense. Harder to get tickets off road. Yeah. The first truck that he raced, by the way, was... Or that truck that he raced, that was a strop truck? That was the black Ford?
[00:17:21.910] - Bonnie Vessels
Well, the first thing he raced was a yellow Ford van.
[00:17:25.330] - Big Rich Klein
[00:17:27.110] - Bonnie Vessels
He said when that thing kicked up in the rear end, you'd be looking straight down the dirt.
[00:17:32.890] - Big Rich Klein
That'd be unnerving. I would think so. Yeah. You're sitting on top of the front wheels, basically.
[00:17:42.590] - Bonnie Vessels
[00:17:45.750] - Big Rich Klein
That's awesome. Any stories that he had from back then on those racing that, besides when it would kick up and looking straight down into the dirt?
[00:17:56.100] - Bonnie Vessels
Well, I've got old pictures. And one of the things that I enjoyed was that that thing was street legal. I don't know if it was the entire time or early or after, but the van had personalized plates on it for the Los Alamedas. And like I said, his dad started off in it. And I guess that's about all I know of that particular vehicle. It was just that he and his dad and Bill Strapp would share rides in it.
[00:18:30.330] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. And do you know what the progression was after the van?
[00:18:36.140] - Bonnie Vessels
It would have been one of the many black trucks. And again, it was probably a strapped truck. And I don't know. I can't think without looking back on my pages to see when that van was running, nor do I know when the first truck was created.
[00:18:55.330] - Big Rich Klein
Okay, fair enough. He was named rookie of the year in 1978, and that's the year I would imagine that was because of the '77 win.
[00:19:09.080] - Bonnie Vessels
[00:19:10.260] - Big Rich Klein
Would imagine that was something that he was pretty proud of.
[00:19:15.360] - Bonnie Vessels
The thing about offroad racing that was huge for Scoop was the fact that his family had an established business and career path for him. He got introduced into the world of off road. What he did and what he created and what he became in that was all of his own doing. He had a racetrack career to fall back on, but his love and life ended up being the offroad world. And so when he was inducted into the hall of fame, he was in several already at that point in time. And that was most emotional I ever saw him was him thinking he didn't quantify that honor and get the pride of knowing that it was something he created on his own for himself.
[00:20:15.740] - Big Rich Klein
I can imagine that that was pretty close to his heart that way, doing it on his own. I can understand that. And then being honored in the Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame and then questioning whether you really had the background to do that, to beat that. That's a question I think a lot of people have that have been in there, at least from the talking that I've had. What was that night like when he got inducted into Ormhoff? Where was that induction dinner at, that ceremony?
[00:21:00.750] - Bonnie Vessels
Probably at Michael's there at Southpoint.
[00:21:06.450] - Big Rich Klein
[00:21:06.990] - Bonnie Vessels
Was a guy that wasn't afraid to show his emotions. We had a little game where when our son was playing baseball, he was a pitcher. And if he choked up, we'd tell him to breathe. And so later in life, when scoop would get choked up and emotional about something, we would use that word to break the moment's emotions so he could speak. And it was just a really proud night for him and something that I'll always be grateful that he was alive for.
[00:21:50.000] - Big Rich Klein
Before that point, of course, he had won the Was it three or four different titles at score. Is that correct?
[00:22:06.850] - Bonnie Vessels
Yeah, he'd won different class championships and, like you said, rookie of the year and different titles like that.
[00:22:16.580] - Big Rich Klein
You were around for that second phase of the off road racing, correct?
[00:22:22.950] - Bonnie Vessels
[00:22:23.870] - Big Rich Klein
And what was his favorite race that you recall?
[00:22:30.660] - Bonnie Vessels
I probably have to say it would be a split between Riverside Raceway and the Baja 1,000.
[00:22:40.600] - Big Rich Klein
That's quite a difference, but I can understand that.
[00:22:44.350] - Bonnie Vessels
[00:22:45.330] - Big Rich Klein
And what was his philosophy on off road racing, on how to, say, manage a car during a race?
[00:22:58.120] - Bonnie Vessels
His belief was multi level. But one example is he always said slower is smoother, which protects the car. He was a master at staying in touch with his sponsors. He loved going back. He felt it was critically important to go back to BF Goodrich or Chevrolet or Ford each year. All the different sponsors he had and to walk in and sit down at those guys desk. And he felt that paying attention to the sponsors was of utmost importance. He also felt like in order to thank those that were out there watching him, he needed to be as on hands friendly as he could so they would respect him as a driver. And he had an incredible gift for working through corporate ventures as well as just for the people themselves, and he loved it.
[00:24:05.160] - Big Rich Klein
That's incredible. That's the way it should be. Relationships between teams or drivers and their sponsors are what I like to call marketing partners. It's more of a partnership, or should be more of a partnership, than just a sponsorship. To me, sponsorship is somebody handing you what you need and then you're putting a sticker on and then going out and racing. That partnership is everybody working together like a family to bring everybody up in the family.
[00:24:44.400] - Bonnie Vessels
Such as developing the offroad TA tires with BF and all that history. I got to go with him after the sabbatical when the Cal Wells truck came out and watch him test those tires in the desert with the engineers, and they would just bring out different tires and have them run down a bad stretch like the rock garden on the race or wherever. He'd run it down there and come back and then tell the engineers exactly what he felt in the tire. It was really fun to watch and listen to, but he had a feel for the car that was second to none, and he could give them that input, and then they could correct or change the tires accordingly or the race car.
[00:25:39.360] - Big Rich Klein
That, too, is very important is being able to help with the development of parts like that. Just looking at my notes here, and I was mistaken earlier when I said he was 1978 scores rookie of the year, it was actually 1972. He was a sportsman score off road sportsman of the year in 1978.
[00:26:07.860] - Bonnie Vessels
I've got all those pictures and plaques everywhere. That van that I was talking about, the yellow Ford van was a 71 so that all fits.
[00:26:16.680] - Big Rich Klein
Okay, that makes sense. My notes say that it included 30 major race victories and four points championships. That's a pretty good record. It stands up to just about anybody.
[00:26:33.250] - Bonnie Vessels
Yeah. You think about what was available technology wise back in those years versus what's available now. It was a tough go, but that was his desire was to be the best that he could against all conditions. His guys gave him race cars that would do that, and sponsors did. The relationship with VF Goodrich was second to none.
[00:27:10.220] - Big Rich Klein
I think that's very important is being able to... And at that time, too, is the development of that technology without those earlier pioneers and being able to talk about what the vehicle is doing and then figuring out how to make it do its job better, we would still be all racing class 11s, I think.
[00:27:38.890] - Bonnie Vessels
I can tell you, on that Blazer, that wing on top wasn't there just to be pretty. And he showed me and told me how, going across Yellow Dry Lake and other places like that in Nevada, that the angle of that wing would determine whether or not that car was going to stay on the ground or if it was going to fly. And it was interesting getting to learn that it was actually a critical part of the makeup of that car instead of just being a BFG advertisement spot.
[00:28:17.240] - Big Rich Klein
Right. More sheet metal, more advertising.
[00:28:20.710] - Bonnie Vessels
[00:28:22.670] - Big Rich Klein
He was part of the American Thunder program.
[00:28:28.010] - Bonnie Vessels
[00:28:28.500] - Big Rich Klein
That was part of BFG's alliance with Chevrolet and Mobile oil and their race program. Do you recall that? I know that that happened a little earlier than '85. I don't know if that No.
[00:28:45.070] - Bonnie Vessels
That was later on. Okay. And Scoop had been running his own truck, the Cal Wells truck, and he put together that multi sponsor package. And he walked that into the John Nelson shop. And that was what created the sponsor package that became known as American Thunder.
[00:29:12.020] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. So John Nelson had his hands in the development of help with the race truck.
[00:29:18.360] - Bonnie Vessels
Yeah. John built and designed the race truck, maintained it, and did all that. But Scoop, I think, brought in probably the lion's share of sponsorship for that thing to work.
[00:29:31.020] - Big Rich Klein
That makes sense. How long did that relationship last?
[00:29:37.950] - Bonnie Vessels
I can't tell you. I'm not sure what it was. I know there was a lot of success in it, and we had a great team there as well. Pops, John Nelson's dad was an incredible engineer, and it was always fun to be able to ask him questions. Good would ask him something about what did this do and what did that do on the engineering of the truck? Pops could always explain it. It was always a learning curve about a lot of different things in life. When you'd ask that man about washboard roads and what caused them, and the fact that it was tires and different levels of inflation and different tire patterns and all that stuff. He was just a wealth of knowledge. And it was fun during those years, getting to see that part of it.
[00:30:39.860] - Big Rich Klein
Scoop was considered one of the pioneers, probably along with Bob Gordon and some of the other names that you've mentioned, did those guys all hang out together? Besides at the shops, you're talking about John Nelson and pops and with Bob Gordon and others. Was that just common place that those guys were together?
[00:31:01.220] - Bonnie Vessels
They would be together, I think for the most part, when they were testing or pre running and times like that. We lived close to Nelson's shop when we were up on the mountain above Tom Springs, and we would drive down the mountain to see that truck and find out what was going on with it quite frequently. I know that when scoop was still up with the shop team, that they were over there quite a bit. But otherwise, in the off times, you were only together when you were in a race or pre running.
[00:31:41.870] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. Who do you think was the biggest influence for scoop during those early race years? Was there somebody that he talked about that was more like a mentor?
[00:31:53.760] - Bonnie Vessels
I would put his dad first, then Bill Strop.
[00:31:57.700] - Big Rich Klein
Then Strop, makes sense. I'm okay. How long did he continue to race?
[00:32:04.100] - Bonnie Vessels
'til '92 or '93.
[00:32:06.200] - Big Rich Klein
'92 or '93. And do you know what... Well, I would imagine you know when he decided not to race anymore, what was the impetus for that?
[00:32:17.400] - Bonnie Vessels
Well, it was around the same time as when those four guys started the truck series with NASCAR. We just had our son, and he wanted to run that truck series. And in doing so, you couldn't spread yourself too thin and do things right. And he was always wanting to do it right. And so during that time frame, that's when we ran the truck series with NASCAR for a year. And then after that, his son, Cash, was old enough to be racing and starting out to race and everything. And so at that point in time, he decided it was time to cheer his kid on and help him develop his skills.
[00:33:11.950] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. And what was he like with his son doing that? I think he.
[00:33:23.840] - Bonnie Vessels
[00:33:24.470] - Big Rich Klein
He was bossy.
[00:33:26.760] - Bonnie Vessels
He believed, and we used to go down, and when there was Baha race, we would literally go down there for six weeks at a time and rerun. And I knew I was in trouble when we were stopped for the evening one time. And Bob and Scoop and whoever else, Dave Ashley, whoever else was around at the time, were talking about that rock outside of that tree on that turn. And I knew where they were talking about it. And so Snoop felt very strongly that in order to succeed, you couldn't have a hiccup and forget a tree or a cactus or a rock. And so he had this incredible way of going over and over and over and over the course. And he had a little recorder at the time that was probably two or three inches or whatever. And he would talk to himself that whole race course. And then we'd go back to the room at night and he'd lay there and he'd close his eyes and he'd play those recordings and he'd visualize it. And he did the same thing when he had an opportunity to race for Darren Brassfield's family that one time at Pikes Peak.
[00:34:42.260] - Bonnie Vessels
Except we were in that rent car and we had to wait for the mountain to open. And then he did that same thing to memorize that course and all the dangerous turns it had.
[00:34:54.540] - Big Rich Klein
I didn't realize that he had raced Pikes Peak. How did he do at that race?
[00:35:00.800] - Bonnie Vessels
He didn't win. He finished. I can't remember what position he did. And then going back to his son real quick. His son didn't think it was necessary as much to prerun. And Scoup got real frustrated over that because he knew that was a key ticket for him being successful and not having somebody else beat you to the finish line. But yeah, he ran Pikes Peak two or three times and Eagles Allen, Brassfield Family, BF. That was mid '90s, probably.
[00:35:45.960] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. And with NASCAR, he raced the truck series one year?
[00:35:52.720] - Bonnie Vessels
Yeah, did it one year. We were lucky enough to have a big plane we could fly our crew from and to each event. We focused on it and we had success because he won the first race with PJ Jones as our driver at Bakersfield. Then we'd go to all the events everywhere. It was really fun to get to see what the big guys did with the big cars. And after that first year's time, after we went in and it was four guys and me, we went in and they put together that prototype. And we went back there to meet Mr. France, and those guys put that truck outside of Daytona, and everybody had to walk past it to get into the racetrack that year. They went back there and Mr. France says, Well, it's a good idea, boys, but we're not really interested. Well, then the guys went out there and put on that series that first year. And Mr. France started changing his mind and started injecting the big name drivers in there. And this guy turned around one day and he says, You know what? He says, I think it's time we go back to horse racing.
[00:37:12.390] - Bonnie Vessels
We make a whole lot of money there compared to this. But we got to do it for a year.
[00:37:18.060] - Big Rich Klein
That's awesome. And what was that year like? Because that stuff is almost every weekend.
[00:37:25.120] - Bonnie Vessels
It was crazy busy. It was fun because we always followed NASCAR. It was fun to see in person those tracks, walk up that slope at Daytona was just mind boggling. And so we got to see all those particular places and do them all. And it was something that was taking too much time away from the horse industry side of our lives. Like I said, he did it for a year, and then he said, Well, we need to get back to what we do that makes money.
[00:38:08.330] - Big Rich Klein
That makes sense. That was those few business classes. Yeah. and then he went off road racing, which makes a lot of business sense.
[00:38:21.750] - Bonnie Vessels
I'll tell you that the highlight of that career was when he was racing for Nelson & Nelson. And we'd stepped away from the horse industry and all that. And he's devoted all that time to off road racing. And he was beyond proud of the fact that with his sponsorships that he'd nurtured through all the main sponsors, we lived on that money during that time frame. He had money to supplement the truck racing, but for our lives, our personal lives, it meant the world to him that he was able to pay for our lifestyle based on those sponsorship monies. Right, and.
[00:39:05.910] - Big Rich Klein
Not take it away from the horses.
[00:39:09.860] - Bonnie Vessels
[00:39:11.900] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, that's that independence again.
[00:39:14.460] - Bonnie Vessels
A lot of independence.
[00:39:19.050] - Big Rich Klein
And as a family man, what was he like?
[00:39:26.660] - Bonnie Vessels
He was a the best dad those kids could ever ask for. We had a blended mix of his, hers, and ours. His son grew up with his mother, and then I had a son. And then we had Colt together. When he was younger and had his son, he was so involved with what he was doing in life that he didn't spend that much time with his older son. And then when we had Colt, life had changed to the point where we spent a lot of focus on growing him up and doing everything. We homeschooled him and traveled the world with the American quarter horse during that time frame. And it was fun. And it was getting to do whatever blend of life we wanted to do with the racing, with the cars, and the horses and the horse business.
[00:40:38.020] - Big Rich Klein
That's awesome. And what was his relationship... And you can answer this honestly or any way you wish with cash being... I know that those blended families and being so busy when you're younger and have young kids, a young child that you get away from that. What was the relationship like up to the time when Frank passed? It was.
[00:41:08.030] - Bonnie Vessels
Really good. Cash had big desires to race, like his dad. Between you and I, Cash didn't have the sponsorship qualities that Scoop did. And as a result, it cost him. And yet, every race that Cash had, Scoop wanted to go to it. And he was there and he chased. And they actually ran one race together. And it was for somebody else on the car. And I can't remember who, but Scoop had done his due diligence. And we'd gone down there and pre run that race course over and over and over. It was down in Baha. And this car was New Age. It had a GPS unit in it. And Scoop had pre run and done his usual notes to himself and memorizing. And this kid that was co driving when scoop had his turn to drive, told him that this turn wasn't going to be for another two miles or so. And scoop says, no, it's coming up. It's past this next poll line post, telephone pole or whatever. And the kid says, No, it's down further. And so Scoop listened to the kid and the turn was where Scoop said it was. And they flew off and went into a tree and then he ended up burning up the tranny pretty much before he handed the car over to cash.
[00:42:46.090] - Bonnie Vessels
And there was frustration there on Scoot's part because there was a bunch of spectators across this wash up on a hill. And they just sat there and watched and clapped and cheered as he was stuck in this tree. And then when he finally got out of the tree and got back on the course and going, he went around that corner and shared a few rocks with him.
[00:43:11.100] - Big Rich Klein
Roosted them. I've been roosted before.
[00:43:20.100] - Bonnie Vessels
[00:43:21.690] - Big Rich Klein
Got roosted as part of a thing. We were working with Pistol Pete's crew and Fast Eddie is what he goes by, heard Ravi Gordon coming up, that you distinctly can tell the motors. And so as Ravi comes around the corner, we were on the inside of the corner. Fast Eddie decided he was going to show him the moon. And Ravi saw it, swung the car back around really quickly and was able to roost Eddie and us, my wife and I, and I, and our Jeep because we were parked behind where he was at. And it was absolutely the funniest thing that I'd ever seen, because Fast Eddie thought he was getting away with something, and it turned around on him. But it was pretty funny.
[00:44:16.190] - Bonnie Vessels
I remember those early years of going to the hall of fame deal and watching these guys nervously come up to scoop and remind him of a motorcycle on a certain turn or certain straight away or whatever, and how they remember him nudging him just off to the side. He didn't ever hurt anybody or do anything bad in that respect, but he did remind him that he was there and he was bigger than them.
[00:44:48.550] - Big Rich Klein
Right. That's important for those other classes to remember that go off before the trucks and stuff.
[00:44:59.880] - Bonnie Vessels
That was what I learned about how he would run up on them hard and then lock it up and it would spit the rocks forward.
[00:45:10.220] - Big Rich Klein
A warning. Yes.
[00:45:12.140] - Bonnie Vessels
Hey, I'm back here. Get out.
[00:45:14.080] - Big Rich Klein
Of the way. The freight train is coming. We met some people, some guys down from Canada, I think it was, that were racing quads, and they were talking about how they were... It was at Mike Sky Ranch, and they were talking about how they were going to be so fast. I said, Well, you guys take off just before... You're like the last class that goes out, Sportsman Quads, before the trophy trucks leave a few hours later. I said, The trophy trucks will catch you. T hese guys were convinced they were not going to be caught. I said, No, you're going to get caught. When you do, you need to get off the race course. When you see that city of lights come up behind you, because it's going to be night time or early morning, you need to move because these guys are in the hunt. They're the leaders of the pack. When you see these guys, you need to just get out of the way because a quad and a truck that weighs as much as a school bus is not... No comparison. Yeah, no comparison. I'll tell.
[00:46:23.840] - Bonnie Vessels
You something else that you just remind me because you said, Mike Sky Ranch. Mike's and Mike and scoop's father were good friends. We spent a lot of time up there with Mike, and we'd go down and we'd pre run with Mike. There was always some interesting routes that he'd show scoop. One of the fun things was to get done with the race and come back and sit down and say, Well, do you use any of them? Nope. He says it was just... But you couldn't tell Mike, No. If he wanted to show you a secondary route, he was going to show you. We got to spend many years down there with him, one on one. That was real special times.
[00:47:13.950] - Big Rich Klein
I can imagine. That's one of the things I wish I had more time to do is to spend time in Baha at such a special place.
[00:47:24.100] - Bonnie Vessels
Yeah. There was an ambulance from Los Alamedas down there for years in Santa Anna's that Steve's dad had donated. It was the only ambulance they had down in that area. But there was all sorts of little things around the peninsula that his dad or he had created. He always paid homage to him. He'd always go back and visit and check in on those people.
[00:47:53.950] - Big Rich Klein
That says a lot. That's great character. Those are the reasons that he's actually in the Hall of fame. You can have wins and you can be an innovator, but it's how you treat people. Well, and.
[00:48:10.000] - Bonnie Vessels
The giving back. That's always been a real strong part of our belief is what can you get back to the industry? Everybody can go out and win races, but it's the little things you can do to get back to the sport that are the world's biggest things. Can you tell you.
[00:48:29.850] - Big Rich Klein
Discuss the incident with Frank's passing, with Scoop's passing?
[00:48:38.480] - Bonnie Vessels
Yeah. He was an avid fisherman, we were. He had made a date to go up to Montana, Big Sky Country, and go fly fishing with a friend of his that was from the horse side of life. And he had been under the tutelage of Mike Venable on the airplane that we had. It was an Aero commander. Mike had been the guy that had taught him everything, and he wanted to get certified for when you wear a mask for IFR and instrument rating. And I was against it. I didn't want him to because I knew him well enough to know it would be me that would be the one keeping current with all the rules and regulations. And Mike was really adamant about how much better of a pilot it would make him. And I knew Scoop tool. I knew that he would learn it and he would use it. But I just wasn't comfortable with him converting over. And when he took off for that trip to Montana, he had started carrying a canister of oxygen, and he'd go up and above the VFR ratings where he could get above storms and stuff like that.
[00:50:28.720] - Bonnie Vessels
He had dized up that plane one other time, and I was with him and I was in ag. I knew it was cold outside, I knew it was raining. I said something and he looked at his temperature gage and he immediately dropped at 5,000 feet. I can tell you that if I would have been there that day, it wouldn't have happened just because I flew the plane when it was it was he and I because I was the autopilot and I could keep it on track, altitude, destination, all that stuff. I knew how to do it. And I had gotten him an iPad and I put some of the weather apps in there so he could keep on top of what the weather was doing, where he was going and everything. And I called him that morning and I told him that there was really bad weather between where he was at and where he was going. And he was already up in the air. And next thing I know, Mike Vindel called me and he says, Where's Scoop? And I said, He's gone fly fishing up in Montana. And Mike dropped the F bomb and he says, I'll call you back.
[00:51:53.320] - Bonnie Vessels
And that was when I knew. They'd flown into weather, he ice up, lost a wing, and it spiraled down on a cattle ranch. It ended up being friends of friends. He never had a chance. Once the wing snapped off, they were done. It all goes back to if I would have been supportive of him going with the instrument rating, we'd still be here. I don't know. I just know that he felt that he was invincible and that there's an old saying that said there's old and bold pilots, but there's no old, bold pilots. And he ended up being one.
[00:52:48.870] - Big Rich Klein
Right. Well, thank you for sharing that. I know that's got to be tough.
[00:52:55.370] - Bonnie Vessels
Yeah. Never goes away.
[00:52:59.500] - Big Rich Klein
Right. No, because he was taken way too soon. And what would you say would be his mantra if he had one in life? What was his driving force? What was a sentence that might encapsulate that? It's all about.
[00:53:27.970] - Bonnie Vessels
[00:53:31.310] - Big Rich Klein
[00:53:34.820] - Bonnie Vessels
[00:53:35.760] - Big Rich Klein
[00:53:36.580] - Bonnie Vessels
The epitome of that.
[00:53:38.780] - Big Rich Klein
Well, with that, Bonnie, I would like to say thank you so much for spending the time and talking about Frank and a little bit about your life with him as well and the family and the driving forces behind Frank's scooped vessels. I appreciate the time. Thank you. Thank you.
[00:54:03.630] - Bonnie Vessels
I appreciate you taking the time, Rich. And I.
[00:54:06.370] - Big Rich Klein
Hope at the Aramhoff celebration this year, if you're there, I'd like to meet you in person and say hello. Yes, sir.
[00:54:16.410] - Bonnie Vessels
That will happen. Excellent.
[00:54:18.560] - Big Rich Klein
You have a great day. Thanks, Rich. Okay, thank you. 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.