Conversations with Big Rich

BFG pits founder, Baja racer Bob Bower on Episode 55

April 22, 2021 Guest Bob Bower Season 2 Episode 55
Conversations with Big Rich
BFG pits founder, Baja racer Bob Bower on Episode 55
Show Notes Transcript

The author of the BFG pits program, co-driver extraordinaire, off-road legend Bob Bower shares insights into his early days. Bob is a practiced speaker, Rich and Bob had such a great interview, we split it into two episodes. This is part one.

5:13 – earliest memories were reading MotorTrend and a feature article on Bill Stroppe’s teams on the PanAmerican rally  

7:32 – learned to drive in a 5 mph old military jeep

10:58 – worked in a body shop and that immersed me in to being a car guy

16:56 – Tom Johnson’s Union Oil was a rite of passage in the neighborhood

19:05 – Religiously cleaned all the windows, front and back – but wait, that’s plexiglass on that Corvette

21:38 – cruising VanNuys Blvd in a Corvette

23:14 – I have an opinion

24:37 – I was getting trained as a speaker – and I didn’t know it yet 

26:28 – wouldn’t you like to hook up with the people who set the trends instead of follow them?

32:26 – I didn’t know squat about tires

36:19 – slow hands, slow feet – that’ how you pit

42:40 – recognizing what is at stake when I’m talking

48:58 – here’s why off-road racing is expensive

53:37 – See’s Candy marketing built the BFG pits

56:50 – my first co-driver gig – I had finally arrived

59:11 – made ESPN’s Crash of the Week with that one

1:03:25 – if you’re in the air, you can’t accelerate, you can’t stop and you can’t steer

1:06:01 – the key to winning a long-distance desert race is not going faster, but going a little less slow

1:08:47 – Retired from racing on my terms with a win at the 50th Annual Baja 1000

Join us next week for some more great insight with Bob Bower for part two of this interview. 

 

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

www.maxxis.com

www.4lowmagazine.com 

Be sure to listen on your favorite podcast app.

 

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/BigRich)



[00:00:01.050] 

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[00:01:20.740] - Big Rich Klein
Hello, everyone, thank you for listening to conversations with Big Rich. This week's episode is going to actually be split into the next two episodes this week and next. Had a conversation you'll hear with Bob Bower. It was a record interview length of time for us, almost three hours. So to make it easier to listen for everybody, we are cutting it into two parts. And you'll hear the first part right now.

[00:01:48.950] 
On today's episode of Conversations with Big Rich, we have none other than Mr. History himself in off road Bob Bower, he'll probably be embarrassed by that kind of an intro. But if anybody if anybody listening knows Bob Bower, you know what I mean? And for those that have never heard of Bob and have never talked to him, you are going to find out, sit back, enjoy this conversation, because Bob is an encyclopedia of great information. Bob, thank you for coming on board.

[00:02:22.900] - Bob Bower
Well, Rich, it's my pleasure. I'm not used to doing things like this, and so I'm really curious to see how we do and how the listeners like it. That's that's that's going to be it.

[00:02:33.020] - Big Rich Klein
OK, well, I'm positive that the listeners are going to like it. I've been really looking forward to getting you on the air here and discussing your history. So let's jump right in.

[00:02:45.160] 
Where did you grow up?

[00:02:49.420] - Bob Bower
Like I ever really did grow up and tell truth.

[00:02:54.440] 
You know, it's like somewhere outside the La Brea Tar Pits. I remember playing the saber tooth tigers as a child.

[00:03:01.960]
N
ow I'm a Southern California guy and specifically in the San Fernando Valley. And that became significant because the stuff we did then back in those days is sort of what got me a launch into a well in a car career.

[00:03:18.280] 
You know, I'm a car guy who got lucky and ended up having a career being a car guy. So shoot, the valley wasn't bad. That's where car things happened.

[00:03:30.290] - Big Rich Klein
Right, so growing up in the valley, it was nice that you're young enough that there were cars, some people would argue that, but the car, was it always four wheels or did you ever get involved with two wheels?

[00:03:43.670] - Bob Bower
You know, I somehow missed out on two wheels.

[00:03:46.020] 
I mean, I had a motorcycle and a little Honda and it was fun. But I think that the people around cars is what made me stick me in the cars, the machine. But the other people who appreciate the machine seem to be around cars more than bikes. Bikes was a solitary thing with cars just go to me. You know, it's not like you're that age, Rich that you have a plan in mind. You just go where it feels good and it felt good to be around cars.

[00:04:15.900] 
That was how it all got going.

[00:04:18.050] - Big Rich Klein
How did how did that interest in cars become a driving force or an influence in your life? Was your were your parents and into cars or was it just just something that one morning you woke up and. You know, I got to go out and work on the dad's car or something.

[00:04:35.720] - Bob Bower
Yeah, I know my my mom and dad, my whole family, we're not car people at all, you know? I mean, it's like, OK, it was a car you went to, went to places.

[00:04:44.690] 

My dad had an old car that I used to drive to the airport and back. It was an airline pilot so wanted to leave the car for four or five days. They still didn't want to take a good one there. So cars was not a big deal except for me. And I remember reading, not really reading as much as looking at the captions and the pictures in magazines like Motor Trend and Road and Track. And I think that was actually before there was any real offroad, four wheeling, you know, magazines out there.

 


[00:05:13.290] 

Give it a date. Let's see. That was probably in the in the late 50s, maybe this one. And remember, I had this memory Rich off of pawing through a magazine, looking at the pictures. I think it was motor trend. And the pictures were highlighting an article about the PanAmericana American Road races, which PanAmericana rally, I think is a road race. You talked about the Bill Stroppe teams. Right, and the Lincoln Mercury's and that they would able to go all throughout South America or not South America, but Mexico and in all those areas.

 


[00:05:51.470] 

And they would have these major rallies. And it was like, oh, wow, you know, it got me.

 


[00:05:58.610] 

And it never it never really left. And so, you know, I was always a guy who liked, like cars. I think one of the things is so stupid, but it's silly. I remember sitting in the backseat of my parent's car when they would be driving somewhere because they didn't have freeways back then. You know, you're going to go from the San Fernando Valley to Pasadena. You needed to pack a lunch.

 


[00:06:23.330] - Big Rich Klein

But I bet you do nowadays with freeways.

 


[00:06:26.930] - Bob Bower

Yeah. Yeah. Now you just have eight lanes of it, you can party together.

 


[00:06:32.790] 

But I remember looking out of the back window identifying cars back then, you could see the difference between a Lincoln and a Cadillac and a Chevy and a Plymouth.

 


[00:06:44.240] 

And so I just wandered off in my own little world, you know, looking at a car, there's a Chevy, there's a 50s.

 


[00:06:50.300] 

That's a fifty seven Chevy. That's a fifty six. Oh, look at that, Ford. Look at the fins, you know, and then I looked at the bumpers on the Pontiac's. Well, so I just became almost visceral for me. Rich, I just that's how I guess I became a car guy and and I didn't know it really at the time. The the stuff I was reading about Stroppe, those great PanAmerican road races was really the the kernal that had me become an off road guy.

 


[00:07:22.370] 

I had no idea how strong the urges were down the side until they got triggered one day something.

 


[00:07:29.480] - Big Rich Klein

So what was the first vehicle that you got to drive?

 


[00:07:32.870] - Bob Bower

It was I couldn't give you the model year, but it was an old military jeep. Oh, really? Yeah. Jeep was my first and it was a three speed. I was I think I was thirteen, probably about thirteen. My my godparents were lived up in Lake Arrowhead, which is above the mountains, in the mountains, above the L.A. area. And they lived there and they owned a little water company for this sky forest little community.

 


[00:08:08.340] 

Well, that's the water company had pumps located various spots in the mountain. And I learned to drive while checking on those pumps. You had to had to do the pump checks twice a day. And my godfather was the one driving the Jeep at some point he put me put me in the seat and said, here, here's how to do this. And so how how hard, how bad could you do it in a five mile an hour jeep on a Jeep trail?

 


[00:08:35.420] 

What the heck? So that's what got me started. That's the very first car I drove and I really liked it. Of course, sometime later in my life, I remember stealing my mom's car like every other kid and taking a joy ride at night and she didn't know I knew how to drive so I could not have been. The guilty party is probably my older sister.

 


[00:09:03.320] - Big Rich Klein

There's always that's great when you can deflect blame to somebody else.

 


[00:09:09.420] - Bob Bower

Yeah, well, I was the youngest and so I got really good at it. And I was ,that was the first drive that was it marked me.

 


[00:09:18.990] 

OK, what was your first car? Well, my first car was a 55. No, no, it was a car. It was a it was a 55 Chevy. And to talk I had. Oh yeah. Yeah, I was a tour. It was the Del Rey Nice, which was a two door with a post, but it was a light car, you know, it was, it was one of those they made salesmen's cars which were pretty much not much of a back seat, but a six cylinder, a thirty five, six.

 


[00:09:49.780] 

Two hundred thirty five cubic yards, six cylinder and with a three speed, and I really wanted this car and I'd wanted it for probably a year and a half, it was owned by a neighborhood guy. Another kid we were kids then, Herb Stein and Herb had this 55 Chevy. And man, you know, I just loved it. Somehow I found a way to earn three hundred and twenty dollars. And I went across the street to Herb's place and said, Herb, you know, I want to buy your car.

 


[00:10:24.260] 

Here's my money. And somehow we did it. And that became my project, you know, it it needed paint, so I don't remember the detail, how this all occurred. But I do remember I worked I went to work at a body shop as a painter's helper. Which means, you know, I breathe it. I inhaled it and I cleaned up after myself and and that that got me a paint job on and on the car.

 


[00:10:58.790] 

And it also taught me a lot about cars. I had no idea all this stuff happens. You know, cars work in a body shop and see how they're made because you put them back together. Right. And so it just further immersed me and car, car, car, car, guy, car guy, car guy. And my family was happy with me because they didn't understand cars, but they look at the little kid working. So that was a big deal.

 


[00:11:23.650] - Big Rich Klein

So through school, did you take any tech classes like auto shop or things like that? Were that were they offered?

 


[00:11:32.250] - Bob Bower

No, they they might have been offered, but I took printshop. Oh, it was it was an easy A to think about think about it. This is an easy A. We used the letter press printers, meaning that they came and they clamped it together and printed on whatever whatever you slid into the spot where the paper is supposed to be.

 


[00:11:53.790] 

Hope you got your hand out in time. And I that's where I went. I wasn't a car guy by practice then. I think it was it was kind of like, I don't know, like a little seed inside growing. So I did print shop and the car. Guys were all racers and they were. Greasers, do you remember that term Rich, greasers? Oh, yes, I forgot about that. My dad was one of those. Ah, well, you know, in high school, I never really had a specific crowd, my sister did and, you know, everybody had their little click, but I couldn't stand it.

 


[00:12:31.570] 

So I was like a little part of everybody's click at lunch time. You know, you go out in the quad and have lunch, but instead of sitting with your buddies or your friends, I was just like always walking around talking, hey, what's up?

 


[00:12:46.000] 

When you see I haven't talked to my blah, blah, blah, blah, kind of like today, I'm not sure.

 


[00:12:54.370] 

Maybe that was a habit that started longer ago. And I realized, oh, my goodness. So but I didn't get my car until after high school. I was not allowed. You know, my mom and dad said, you know, you're not allowed to have a car until after you get out of high school and whatever you want to buy. That's why it actually took me two years to cobble together a three hundred and twenty dollars, as I recall.

 


[00:13:20.930] 

So it's a big day, but it was after I graduated that car and that graduating and getting the car opened up my world. Truly. It's not like I left home, I came home at nights, that was it.

 


[00:13:39.420] - Big Rich Klein

The rest of the time, driving and exploring.

 


[00:13:42.600] - Bob Bower

Yeah, doing stuff, going places. No idea how, you know, the thought today of going to places I did. And a 55 Chevy with a six cylinder engine. It's a beautiful blue. By then I had a nice paint. It just it just didn't go very well. You know, we wouldn't do this today, which we'd want air conditioning. We'd want, you know, GPS and all the trappings we want downhill

 


[00:14:09.840] 

descent button on the dash.

 


[00:14:12.170] 

That's that's true. Yeah. That was fun. Yeah.

 


[00:14:19.440] - Big Rich Klein

My first car was a 54 Volkswagen Beetle. Oh, the old oval, when it was the first year from the oval window and then I was the. Third owner, my my dad's best friend. Who he went into the military with, bought a Volkswagen when they were stationed over in Germany, brought it back in like seven or 57, 58, and then he had it until I purchased it in 72. 73, 73, 73, maybe 74, because I bought it before I could actually drive, and again, it was one of those things I had to earn the money and I had 300 bucks and I wanted a Fiat. Because a friend of mine was looking at Fiats and I thought I'd be really cool, and then I saw the Datsun 510 and I wanted one of those really bad and couldn't find anything in the price range. And then.

 


[00:15:22.730] 

Ken Halfling was the guy's name, had that 54 bug, and he goes how much money you got. I said 300 bucks and he goes, I'll let this bug go for 300 bucks. And I looked at it and I was like, sold. So I had it for a year or two before I got my license and then just worked on it. And that's where I really learned, you know, I started taking auto shop to get to get all my English requirements out of the way.

 


[00:15:51.660] 

I took I did yearbook staff, so I cheated the system there like you were talking about print shop, easy A. Same thing here. Yeah, same thing with the yearbook staff. You know, you got to I got to write notes for all my friends to cut class and stuff. It was great. But that that bug was an important part of that because we could load everybody, you know, load a couple of friends into it and go surf or do whatever we wanted to do.

 


[00:16:16.290] 

Go play, go cruise, you know, just find trouble to get into. So, yeah, I understand the whole concept of once you got a set of wheels, the world became. It became bigger. Yet smaller.

 


[00:16:33.300] - Bob Bower

Yes, exactly right. But can you imagine how horribly your life would have gone had you got the Fiat?

 


[00:16:39.660] - Big Rich Klein

Oh, I know, I know I'd have been working on it every day because my buddy's one twenty four spider. He worked on it every day to fix it again.

 


[00:16:53.400] - Bob Bower

Yes, exactly.

 


[00:16:56.460] 

And well, you know, the car he got me out and around it but also forced me to to keep working because even though gas was twenty four, twenty seven cents a gallon and if you bought 8 gallon you got a free set of silverware or something. I needed gas, you know, and I grew up in a neighborhood where it was like everybody went down to good old Tom Johnson's Union Oil, Tom Johnson, 76, down there at Woodman and Ventura, been on the intersection since nineteen twenty six.

 


[00:17:32.260] 

It's like everybody in the neighborhood use that gas station. Right. And many of the young guys I was one of them ended up working at the gas station. That was like a like a rite of passage.

 


[00:17:45.460] 

You got to go through Tom Johnson's to get out to the real world, you know, and and that furthered my, you know, my dedication or infection. And I'm not sure which with the car, you know, now I could put that thing up in the air. Oh, I could get underneath and look at stuff, you know, and I wanted it to sound better.

 


[00:18:08.320] 

So rather than buy an exhaust system, I just pounded holes in the existing muffler.

 


[00:18:15.670] 

I didn't know diddly. I mean, I really didn't know diddly about cars until I went to that gas station,

 


[00:18:21.570] - Big Rich Klein

you know, and you realize that that was your first step into being a redneck.

 


[00:18:26.580] 

Punching holes in the muffler to make it sound louder.

 


[00:18:29.740] - Bob Bower

I like the idea, though. I'm proud of that.

 


[00:18:32.610] - Big Rich Klein

Yeah, it's better. It was better doing that than cutting it off.

 


[00:18:37.800] - Bob Bower

Yes, yes, yeah, and and but that gas station also caused cause change for me. You know, it's funny, you don't know the stuff that's happening until it's in the rearview mirror. Isn't that odd. True. But I remember this is the kind of gas station Rich that when when a customer comes in, we go out there and you you give them their full tank or two bucks, whatever it was.

 


[00:19:05.970] 

But it was religiously all the glass front and back windows. Check the oil, check the water, everybody, every car. So there was this one customer who came in. Oh, my goodness. I totally blanked on his last name now. But he had a nineteen sixty 6.0 Corvette, you know, the Corvettes were interesting then, but it was like I had never in my mind thought, Oh sure, I could do a Corvette. No, I had a 55 Chevy that I was punching holes in to make it look good, you know.

 


[00:19:39.280] 

And so he came in the first time I saw him, I went out there and washed his front windshield and I washed the back window with the, you know, the spritzer bottle in a paper towel. And he nearly jumped out of the car. All right, stop, stop, stop. What, what, what, what? Back window in that car was Plexiglas, and all I was doing was scratching it.

 


[00:20:01.250] 

He and I had a relationship at that point and fortunately for both of us, he was the adult and and realized, you know, this this kid just didn't know what I didn't know what was what. Next time he came in, he had a small bottle of this stuff called Mirror Glaze. He says, here, use this in this rag on my back window. And he left it with me. Nice. And I yeah.

 


[00:20:30.140] 

And I thought, wow, you know, so every time he came in, that back window got better and better and better. And I just loved his car. Well, and he knew it so pretty soon, you know, I mean, soon is a year later and he's still coming in and we're glad to see each other. Trouble is, he got sick. He died. Oh. The owner of that Corvette couldn't drive that Corvette anymore. His wife knew about how much I like the car, she came to the gas station and said, you know, you probably like to have this Corvette.

 


[00:21:03.880] 

And I said, well, yes, I would, but I. I don't have thousands of dollars. And she asked me, she says, well, how long would it take you to put together? Fifteen hundred. And I said, well, about 90 days, about three months, and I did, and I bought the car nice and it was, you know, I had no idea what I had just done. So, you know, because you're a Valley guy, you got yourself new to you Corvette.

 


[00:21:38.480] 

It was oh, I don't know it. Six, seven years old, eight years old. I can't remember the 60. You go to VanNuys Boulevard. That's where you go cruise and. Yeah, you bet, buddy. You got to got to show off. And so I did. And I saw this parking lot at an old dodge dealer that had gone out of business, but the parking lot was still there. It was like seven or eight Corvettes, all parked in this one lot.

 


[00:22:04.760] 

And it wasn't like they were for sale. It was people. It was their Corvettes, and so I drove in there and said, you know, basically Que Paso? what's this what's this all about? Oh, well, we're a club and it's called Corvettes. And and we meet down here any time. And this is our lot. Our lot. I said, yeah, yeah. We took it. Oh. Well, I got involved that Corvette club.

 


[00:22:31.090] 

And then one of my ugly sides sort of showed up at the club meetings, we had a meeting every Wednesday night and they had an event every every weekend, we'd go somewhere, do something. But during the meetings, I came to learn about myself, Rich, that I'm a guy who does not lack an opinion.

 


[00:22:55.780] 

And, you know, you've been around the block a while and you've been in clubs and organizations.

 


[00:23:00.970] 

What do they do to the guy who has the opinions typically make him the president?

 


[00:23:07.270] 

It's kind of what happens. Yeah, me too. That's why I'll never join another club.

 


[00:23:14.680] 

I know it's you know, it's like leaves a mark. It's so so because I have these opinions.

 


[00:23:22.210] 

I started doing the meetings every Wednesday night. Every Wednesday night. You brought the meeting to order and you did you did your meeting. And every Wednesday or every weekend we did a thing and there was another Wednesday night meeting. Well, that's the club. Corvettes Unlimited belonged to a larger body, a council of clubs. It's called the Western States Corvette Council.

 


[00:23:46.210] 

And they had membership rules and all that kind of stuff. And we were part of it and we paid our dues or whatever it was we did. And I got a notice from the council that at a council meeting that happened the week prior, they changed a membership and the council rules that caused our club to be tossed out. And I thought that was just wrong. I had an opinion. And so I tried to make a rule that we don't know about, and then 10 minutes later throw us out, you know, you've got to give us a chance.

 


[00:24:24.280] 

And they basically said, well, you don't like it, change it yourself, run for president.

 


[00:24:31.990] 

So challenge accepted. You got me going here, dude.

 


[00:24:37.120] 

You know, or whatever we called each other. And so I. I ran and then I ran the meetings every Wednesday night in the club and then once a month for the Western States Corvette Council, where all the delegates from all over the Western states come together for a big council meeting. And I would run that meeting. What I didn't know at the time, Rich, was I was getting trained as a speaker. Right. It just never occurred to me because I was busy doing other things.

 


[00:25:05.290] 

I had to speak to do it.

 


[00:25:06.580] 

So and that that led. To. me learning about B.F. Goodrich was starting to show up in the in the magazines with this fat, wide tire that no one had ever seen before, and I was always interested in that because we were auto-crossing at the time. And I wish I could remember the sources for all this information, which I remember reading something somewhere that the National Council of Corvette Clubs was getting all sorts of sponsorship and love from B.F. Goodrich company.

 


[00:25:43.700] 

But my council in the West, the 22 western States, we were being ignored.

 


[00:25:49.260] 

So I had an opinion and I finally did councils ran the country on the national east of the Rockies and we were west of the Rockies, but we had reciprocity when we had a convention. We would invite the officers of their organization to our convention if they could get themselves there. Everything was comped once they did, but they had to get themselves there. I went back to, I don't know, Wichita or Indianapolis. Indianapolis, the National Council of Corvette Clubs was having a convention in Indianapolis.

 


[00:26:28.980] 

And I was the Western states guy and I went back there being the honored guest and all that. Well, I found The BFG guy and I had an opinion there, too. I told him, I said, hey, listen, you know, you guys at BFG are throwing all your sponsorship money at the National Council of Corvette Clubs when they are following all the trends we set, they're following us. Wouldn't you like to hook up with the people who set the trends instead of follow them?

 


[00:27:02.100] 

That was my pitch. And that started a relationship between me and BFG that exists even through today. And I'm trying to think of the year. That was 1973 and and that being OK, and I've been part of the BFG family ever since, even though I haven't been an employee since mid 90s. And and so when they came out and said, well, what's your convention all about? And the guy that was running the show, remember him? He was an Ohio guy.

 


[00:27:41.110] 

They'd never been west of Denver in his life. And I realize that we're talking to real people here, not corporate. I don't know how do you see that without being negative, but sometimes corporate people have a job, they don't know anything about it. It's not visceral with them. There's no passion, there's no gut. It's just transactional. So this guy, Lance, I meet him in LAX and he gets off the airplane and his mouth is going like a little ducks butt, it's unbelievable.

 


[00:28:10.600] 

This is Bobby. You can't believe it. He says for the last forty minutes of that flight, we were over L.A. and we never changed directions.

 


[00:28:21.910] 

You've never seen a big city, I guess. And in 73, it's amazing he could see it through the smog. Isn't that a fact? Yeah, you're right.

 


[00:28:34.270] 

So I've got to say, I told him, hey, listen, you need to support our convention and here's what I here's my commitment to you, Gary was his name, Gary Pace. I said, Gary, I will guarantee you a buck-ten back in sales for every buck you spend on us. And I let that sit and that's how it started. And so BFG got we got hook up with Corvette people. I got hooked up with BFG and the world was all all wonderful.

 


[00:29:02.020] 

And then I got a phone call from BFG, this guy Gary somewhere, I think in 19, I want to say seventy five, seventy two, three, four, something to seventy two, three, four or five in that area because we had a relationship with him and we were already friends and we've been in business for each other for a while. And he says, hey, Bob, he says, you know, we really like, you know, the way you do your stuff, blah blah blah blah.

 


[00:29:30.410] 

Do you ever think about going to work for us? You know, we'd like to talk to you about maybe maybe taking a job. And of course, me, I'm a bachelor, Southern California having a good time chasing women and catching them with a Corvette.

 


[00:29:48.580] 

Yeah, well, of course, you know, I'm trolling all lines out.

 


[00:29:55.500] 

Oh, yeah. And it worked. So my took my first thought was, oh yeah, that's what I'm going to do. And I'm going to leave Southern California for Akron, Ohio. You know, guess again, I told Gary, guess again, well, he did guess again and I went to work for him. And relocated. Wow. And yeah, and I had a relationship, I was, you know, seeing one gal pretty hard and heavy and she really mattered to me.

 


[00:30:30.020] 

But I realized, you know, I can't take her. This is back in the 70s. You don't just hop on an airplane and take off and, you know. So I said I said I said, well, I said, I'm taking a job in Akron, Ohio, I'm going to leave town and I'm going to say goodbye to you. And I suggest, you know, I can't take you with me. You go out you go back to go back to the people in power and find yourself another guy.

 


[00:30:56.940] 

This one's going away. And a year later, we got engaged. Wow, great. Yeah, but she was in California, so we've rectified all that and we've been married now for this is our forty-fourth year, one of those.

 


[00:31:12.070] 

Well, congratulations on that. Yeah, I'm surprised myself. So, but but, you know, the tire job involve me doing more of the things that I realized had been trained to do. Didn't know it was speaking. I didn't they were they the company BFG was trying actually to experience experiment with me? I didn't know I was a lab rat until later. They had tried to get hooked up with with a club that was already part of their plan and what they were learning was that you can't take a tire engineer.

 


[00:31:48.590] 

Who has a shirt pocket full of appliances, send him to a Corvette club or a, you know, M.G. Club or a Porsche club and have him talk about tires and have people be interested in the reason why his kids are engineers or tend to be pretty structured dry, pretty fact based dry. Yeah, I mean, it isn't about emotion, but it's about other things. And that dog didn't hunt. It wasn't working. So they said, hey, hey, hey, why don't we hire one of those enthusiast guys and see if we can teach him tires.

 


[00:32:26.300] 

And, you know, I mean, if it doesn't work out and this is corporate America, you're done, you know, sorry it didn't work. Well, it's turned out it did work, they started teaching me tires and I started speaking to audiences, to classes, to seminars where one of my first first year of BFG held my first day as an employee. I landed in Fort Wayne, Indiana. There was a tire plant there. And I was supposed to teach a seminar and I didn't know squat about tires, I'll tell you, that was this was the most excruciating thing that I could imagine for those people in the audience.

 


[00:33:11.840] 

Those just ugly. Well, by and by, you know, I finally learned some stuff and got better. And that was a 10 city tour. We did we did three day seminars in 10 cities in two months or something, but that that became an annual deal. And so speaking again, started paying for me, you know, started taking off and OK, that's that's how it got going. And I think within the very first year, I think it was the first year BFG was introducing this all Terrain Radial tire.

 


[00:33:50.080] 

No one had ever built a big, like, truck sized, you know, radial tire. And always Bias's used, you know, the tires of the day, were Armstrong True tracks and Norsemens and Gateway and Sandblaster, those are all decent, good tires, but they were not radial. And BFG was the first company in the country in the world. Well, first in the country, US, to figure out how to build radials.

 


[00:34:20.140] 

And they were hot at it. So I was brought to the Mint four hundred and as a guy just to work contingency here, pass out stickers, do this, wear a jacket, stay sober. That was kind of like the marching orders, so I did.

 


[00:34:37.250] 

So, yeah, well well, in I tell you, a round off roaders.

 


[00:34:44.140] 

Yeah, I know you stand out pretty bad, but back in those days of the Mint 400 the Fremont Street was where they did their contingency, but it was absolutely a zoo at at the change of light when the sun set in and the moon rose, that's when these people, these things came out of the woodwork. And it was a show. So, you know, saying stay sober, probably don't swallow anything, don't inhale anything.

 


[00:35:15.940] 

It was the 70s. It was the 70s. And so I survived Contingency day. And then they said, OK, you're going to go out to with all these other guys to Ute Road for the Ute Indians are going to go out to the Ute road four miles. You can see a tractor trailer there. That's a pit. Get in it. That's your pit. You're going to volunteer to work in the pit.

 


[00:35:38.540] 

Well, I said OK, well, I don't know. Squat. Yeah, you have.

 


[00:35:43.700] 

Voluntold. and I was pretty willing because he was starting to remind me  of those Stroppe days in the Lincoln Mercury teams and how they pitted out in the middle of nowhere and, you know, fix cars, I know this is going to be interesting. And. The race starts, we're out in the pits, and I remember getting like a stern talking to. Pep talk, training, orientation, not sure what I would really label it from a fellow named Bobby Spears, who worked for Bill Stroppe.

 


[00:36:19.640] 

And he was telling me how to pit how to I remember to this day, Rich Bobby says, remember, slow hands, slow feet. He says you'll be faster. Don't rush, you know. Listen carefully. Move carefully. And then the first pitstop happened and I did my job. My job was to hand a wet rag and a bottle of water in the cockpit on the passenger side, John. And while I was doing it all, I could think I was just like holy cats, this is this is what I've been dreaming about all my life and now it's here.

 


[00:37:01.790] 

I want more of this. I want more of this. And that was the that was the lighting of the fire inside, and I and I kind of like quietly said to myself, I am never going to be far from off-road racing ever again. I will have to lie, cheat, steal, do whatever I have to do to get more involved. Which when you have a corporate job in Akron, Ohio. Presents a certain level of challenge.

 


[00:37:33.140] 

Somehow I pulled it off, you know, it was that that race, the Mint we finished that out and shortly thereafter in June was the Baja five hundred and it was more of the same, except I learned about Voluntold and volunteers. And this has happened to a thousand guys, Rich, and maybe it happened to you too. There I was. Now this is my second time working for a race. So therefore, whoever the powers that be were said on that one over there, he's experienced.

 


[00:38:03.710] 

You find a new guy to pass the wet rag. OK, what are we going to do with him, given the keys, that white pickup over there and send him down to help, El Jennero? Well, OK, so they hand me the keys to a pickup I've never seen. It's got a drum of fuel on the back, a spare tire and a BFG banner. And some string. And they said, here, take this pick up, go down to El Jennero Jerry McDonald in the Class eight, which is the McPhearson Chevy is going to drive by.

 


[00:38:38.500] 

 You are a contingency pit,   put the banner on a bush so we can see it, stand up so we can see you. And if he wants a tire he'll stop. Well, I had no idea where El Jennero was what the general least it was a spot on the road just north of the five you watch. Hey, Bob, just get yourself out of town. Can you do that? I didn't realize how hard that was.

 


[00:39:02.930] 

But I did, at it just you stop and ask people along the way, hey, where's El Jennero? And so I did I would stop about every 15 miles. I'd see some guys stop and say where's El Jennero, you know, keep on going. Keep on going. Well. I learned about being a volunteer. I got back, Gerry drove right by. He didn't want to the tire. He didn't want the fuel. He didn't look at me, frankly.

 


[00:39:29.880] 

So I said, well, okay, my job's done a load the tire back up and find my way back to Ensenada and then and my Baja 500 was over. I got dinner and had a beer. And that was that. I was happy I'd done something. The next off road race. They tell me, find someone to give these keys to for this pickup over there.

 


[00:39:55.390] 

Yeah, it's got some stuff in the back it needs to get over there. And I realized I've just been promoted again.

 


[00:40:05.220] 

And so it went I got myself involved and I and I loved it. Absolutely loved this bunch of years of just being a volunteer, a pit guy. And and it's amazing what you can learn when everybody's trying to teach you something. Yes. It's it's so it's so simple. I wonder how can people blow it. But, you know, if you just shut up and listen, people give you the answer to all the questions. True. And and that's what I did.

 


[00:40:40.780] 

So I ended up getting a lot of experiences that a lot of things around the offroad world. And, you know, BFG's presence then was not as large by any stretch as as it is today, you know, down there. Well, I think we had well, I think we only had two or three sponsored teams really in Macpherson's Edsels. Bob Gordon. And I'm wondering if there's any Rod Hall that was that was it, that was the whole BFG contingent.

 


[00:41:11.470] - Big Rich Klein

That's that's a pretty good list of names, though, for only being three or four.

 


[00:41:17.770] - Bob Bower

Yeah. Well, then they added, well, then Charlie Carroll was added and she had a driver that she hired named Ivan Stewart, who who used to be pretty good in buggies they say. Ivan, who?

 


[00:41:29.630] 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. The long tall guy. But then Charlotte was there and then Don Adams came in and, you know, again, bit by bit, the team started to, the group really started to just get a little higher in numbers. And and I was a happy camper, really. I got to go to races four or five times a year, got to learn more, do more, more. You know, eat more dust.

 


[00:41:56.620] 

Shoot. It was heaven. It was heaven and I just did my job and then in eighty two. No eighty-one. Christmas Eve day of 1981, I remember being called into the boss's office, my my primary responsibility that the company that then was to manage all of these seminar efforts if we're doing a 56 city tour and and it was my job to do all of that. Well, you you go on the road, you know, you just have to do a lot of stuff before you leave town.

 


[00:42:33.670] 

Don't take the keys out of your pocket till you're ready to be someplace.

 


[00:42:37.750] 

And and so that was my job.

 


[00:42:40.540] 

And I loved it. I absolutely loved it. I really did. Because people would respond and the classes and you knew. Well, for me, it was important to make a difference for somebody in those classes. And I remember this one guy I won't ever forget. It was named Jim Webb. He was he worked in our company tire store in Louisville, Kentucky, and he was a Kentuckian. No question, in the first year that Jim Webb came to our seminar, I remember him sitting in the back.

 


[00:43:15.620] 

He was wearing a dark blue uniform pants and a sort of a darker but not dark, totally blue shirt with his name on it on a little embroidered patch there. And it was a big splash, ATF down his shirt, kind of a mess, and he had he walk, he came to the seminar with a rag hanging out of the back of his pocket, just like he did at work all day. And he didn't say a word to anybody, it was we couldn't get this guy to talk, but he went to a seminar and left and we went around the cities.

 


[00:43:51.300] 

In the next year, he's back and now he's sitting halfway into the room, toward the front. He's got the same blue pants on. There's no note, no rag, and there's no it's stains. And now Jim shirt is white. Oh, well, you see, you've been moving on up in the third year. He comes just in the front row, he's wearing civvies, no uniform shirt, no nothing, and he's raising his hand to ask questions.

 


[00:44:26.800] 

Which is cool, and I'm one of the one of the coffee breaks, you know, it's always happens, the speaker, that you experience it, too, I'm sure, when you say, OK, it's break time, everybody will be back here in ten minutes, go potty, and come on back. That's when somebody in the crowd wants to talk to the instructor or the speaker. Because there's breaktime, so clearly you're not doing shit right now, you can talk to me.

 


[00:44:49.240] 

Meanwhile, your bladder is killing you.

 


[00:44:54.460] 

Well, Jim comes up these and in his Kentucky way. He says Bob. Yeah, what got you, Bob, I want to thank you for what you've done for me. He says coming to these classes has taught me more and it got me a better job. And now I'm doing better than my daddy ever did. I'll tell you, Rich, that struck home for me. That was I realized what was at stake when you were up there talking, what was at stake is what's happening between the ears of those people sitting down there.

 


[00:45:33.530] 

And you never know what's going on right now. But what you do know, it's it's important to be right and it's important to be good. And it's important to connect with those people because this is a big deal to them even more than you realize. And it's a bigger deal to you, too. So that's why I really loved that job, because I could see I could see I was making a difference. And that felt good. It was just maybe I'm selfish, but it felt good.

 


[00:46:01.530] 

So it's Christmas Eve day in nineteen eighty one, the boss has called me in the office and he says, Bob, he says, I want you to take over and run the off road race program. And I said, Gary, I don't want to do that. I said, I love what I'm doing. I'm learning something here. I'm doing something here. You know, I love this training thing. I don't want to be a. Your 40 year old race promoter is what I said to him.

 


[00:46:29.910] 

Sorry, Rich. That's all right. That's when I got started. Yeah, I know.

 


[00:46:34.830] 

And I got started, too. I had no idea. He finally said, well, you said you want to take this job. And he said, if you don't, he says, you're fired.

 


[00:46:47.610] 

Oh. Corporate America reared its ugly, ugly dealer. And so, of course, I took it. And I remember going to my wife and telling her, you know, next Christmas we're going to be back in L.A. with or without BG, because I was pretty upset about I didn't like being dictated to. I still don't like being dictated to, so I took the job and, you know, like anybody else picks up a new whatever. OK, so here we have this we have these five teams.

 


[00:47:22.870] 

OK, good. This January, I'm going to go out and meet with my teams, have dinner with each of them to interview them, talk to them, find out what's what. What do they need, what do they do? Why do you do this? That was the question I asked a lot of. Why do you do this? Because you're going to get some answers right throughout those dinners. It became obvious to me everybody wanted more money.

 


[00:47:48.270] 

She wanted more money. Well, one of the best kept secrets in the world at the time was BFG didn't have a shit of we didn't have much. Didn't have a lot of money, in fact, at the time, nobody knew this either. The company was in a hiring freeze. To preserve cash and all salaried employees took a five percent cut. Wow. But that wasn't for public knowledge.

 


[00:48:19.040] 

These people wanted more money, and I'm thinking if they only knew what I don't have, you know, so I'm not afraid to ask the question why I said I'm never asking it, Don. I think it's Don Adams. When I met with him, I said, why? Why do you want more money? I'm I'm saying, no, Don, just why do you need more money? Well, this is an expensive sport. Oh, yes, it is, I'd say that if somebody put a gun to your head to tell you you had to do this, let them cough up some money.

 


[00:48:58.960] 

And then he got down to it, he said, well, listen, here's why it's expensive, it isn't a race car, is that that can take care of itself, sponsor money, takes care of that. That's about what I got, he says. But he says the people are expensive. This is Bob. He says when we run about five hundred, he says, I have to bring three or four crews down, populate pit, bring equipment, put them up in motels, feed them.

 


[00:49:20.710] 

When we do the thousand, I've got to put together 10 crews and feed them and house them all that time for the Baja 1000. And he says that's what gets expensive. And that was a consistent story, rich, among almost everybody I spoke to. And so what I came what I gleaned from that was you're saying you want more money. But what you really want is less cost. And when I can say, yeah, yeah, I can I can change that.

 


[00:49:52.190] 

And so that's when it finally hit me, I can create an organization of pits for the bigger, you know, bigger picture team where we all help one another. And preserve costs. And so when I started pitching to the teams, I said, you know, here's here's your price of entry. If you will commit to me that you can bring your fifth wheel trailer or your box truck or your tractor trailer or whatever it is you've got as a pit.

 


[00:50:19.730] 

If you can commit that to me, give me two volunteers that I know I can count on and put in anywhere I want and buy me four dump cans one time. Well, pretty soon I had about 40 dump cans. And I had I had probably 25, 30 people per race, and I could I can fiddle with and so we set up the pits and kind of set a goal for the bigger team. And I actually have Bill Stroppes help on this, a lot of it with advice and sitting me down explaining how this works or what that does.

 


[00:50:55.970] 

Yeah, how it is rich. You get somebody out there with experience and they're willing to help. And that's what Stroppe did for Bower. Nice. So I said, well, I have a goal, and that was the Baja 1000 in '82, our goal is to have this thing fully functioning as a team because we have 1150 miles of desert pit for a lot of thirsty race cars. And I want it to work, and so everything we did all season leading up to that race was really rehearsal practice, ferreting out the glitches, you know, finding out what you don't know.

 


[00:51:33.640] 

By the time the thousand rolled around, it all worked, it all worked. We won. We got five, six wins at that Baja one thousand among our team and two championships locked in. So the teams liked it, and then when people would come to meet us for sponsorship because the pits seemed to really be working well for them, guys would call me and say, hey, listen, you know the same story, Richard, I'm sure you I love talking to you about this because I know, you know, they say, hey, listen, you you put your sticker on my truck and I will make you famous.

 


[00:52:17.980] 

And so they said, I want fifty thousand bucks, you know, and I want I want I want fifty thousand bucks and want 50 tires and 4 dozen T-shirts. So I would counter with them and I'd say, well, let's see, what, about four dozen t shirts, 10 tires? And pitting. Take your 50, it ain't gonna work, and they all said sold, and that's how we started the BFG pit organization. It was it was really to take advantage of the strength we had with and then to not have to deal with the problem we had, which was nobody had money, but we had we had the idea to work together to build a big and and that's really how BFG's pitting organization got started.

 


[00:53:07.710] 

I remember giving Frank DeAngelo was my tractor trailer driver. He wasn't an employee. He worked for an Industrial Personnel Corporation. I remember giving Frank the instructions to say, you know, any time you're driving that tractor trailer or to or from a pit, especially in Baja, someone stopped by the side of the road. You stop that tractor trailer and you give them whatever they need. If they need oil, give them oil. You know, you got fuel and then you give them that.

 


[00:53:37.270] 

Just just because I wanted I wanted to get as many exposures to the pitting ideas I could. I mean, I've been to a See's candy store, I know about that first piece of candy that they give to you.

 


[00:53:54.650] 

And so it was really see's candy marketing that built the BFG pits.

 


[00:53:58.430] 

I just gave away a little bit at a time to people to sample it. So if you running  Yokohama's or Goodyears or anything and you had a problem, you knew you could fly into a BFG pit, you could get welded, you could get, you know, electrified, you could do whatever. We would sit you down and feed you a hot soup or coffee or, you know, it was a haven in the middle of nowhere. And by the time people started experiencing it, they wanted to be part of it.

 


[00:54:26.660] 

We started selling tires. I'll be darned. And one thing led to another, and pretty soon everybody liked it. I was only on that job for a year because I meant what I said to my wife about, you know, next year we're going to be back in Los Angeles. And the real reason was because my mom was out here alone and no one no one was left. And so I had to take one of those, you know, left or right hand decision, what do I do?

 


[00:54:57.410] 

And so I said, you know, we're going back and my boy is going to grow up with a grandmother instead of here in Akron, Ohio, where he has neighbors. So we did. But I kept my hand hot in off-road racing. You know, while I ran the program in 82, I would not allow myself to get into any race car for any reason, especially because all the teams are saying, get get the guy in a race car, he'll hemorrhage money, you know.

 


[00:55:26.420] 

And I knew they were right.

 


[00:55:29.900] 

So I said, how are you? Oh, no, no, no. Don't give that back. Don't touch it.

 


[00:55:33.510] 

You know, step away from the race car because they didn't know that I had it. Nobody knew I had any racing experience. But all those years of chasing, you know, racetracks in the Corvettes all over the Western states, I mean, I've already I've already been racing. I already realized I'm an inmate now. You can't you can't stop.

 


[00:55:57.460] 

So so that wasn't my job anymore, but I was based in L.A., which made me closer to the off-road races, so when an off-road race happened, I just drove in and went on my own.

 


[00:56:10.480] 

Pretty soon, things started to happen, guys said, hey, why don't we put you in the truck for this has happened in Phoenix in fact, BIR Randall Racing Group out of Mesa, Arizona. Jeep People had a Jeep Honcho and Johnny Randall was was he was he was a horse. But he's fast and and nuts. So they they said, well, why don't we put Bob in with Johnny to give him a ride. He's been so nice to be here, you know.

 


[00:56:42.220] 

All give him a pat is really nice to us. Well, what they were really saying is they want to go out and scare the pants off of me.

 


[00:56:50.290] 

And nearly did. But not quite. And so they found out in that PIR race that actually this man over here seems to understand what's going on in the race car. He must have been in a race car before. And the next time they said, hey, you know, how about how about you ride with Johnny in the desert? They offered me a co- driver job. And Rich, I mean, I was like I finally arrived. You know, this thing I've dreamt about all my life.

 


[00:57:22.820] 

Now I can. Holy moly. So that's that's what got me into the race car, and then I started being a co-driver because it was really clear to me it I don't know what everybody else saw, but it's clear to me that done right, that right seat, you know, that right seat can win a couple of races a year for the left seat. You do it right. So true. Yeah. And and the right seat pays for nothing when it breaks.

 


[00:58:00.040] 

You know, it was fun. You break a sector shaft, you end up in a tree, hey just chop the tree down, we'll get the truck back.

 


[00:58:09.850] 

And and I didn't realize that dents kind of like when I'm with my speaking. I didn't know at the time that I was developing any kind of a valuable skill or otherwise. But I was. So I became known because Johnny Randall was kind of a terror on the track. I mean, he's he's he's probably got as much flying inverted time as Bob Hoover. But it led to one thing that he said, this guy seems to be cool, put him in with some volatile drivers or whatever.

 


[00:58:42.970] 

Yeah, that's a good word. That doesn't talk about sanity, does it? No, I'm not hurting anybody. That's good. And then they put me in with Ivan Stewart for in Charlotte's Class eight truck. And, you know, one thing led to another. And pretty soon I got a call. I started in the desert, racing in the cockpit in eighty three or four, eight, three or four Somewhere in there.

 


[00:59:11.320] 

And I had a series of rides and it was fun. I remember at the 83 or 84 Riverside Raceway. The world championships at Riverside, and I don't know if you have ever attended, but it was in those days it was, you know, a hundred thousand people. And I was riding with Johnny Randall in that race. Well, he and we had a wreck. We we were coming up on a lapper and it took us sideways in the air and was we meet we made ESPN's Crash of the Week on that one.

 


[00:59:47.990] 

And, you know, remember, I have in the sky, you know, it's just I thought, oh, crap, here we go. And I just remember hanging onto my belts, pressing on the floor to brace myself. And I kept my eyes wide open because, you know, Rich, I wasn't about to miss a crash like this.

 


[01:00:02.630] 

This is going to be good and land.

 


[01:00:09.920] 

That was something we got out. I remember my first sort of vision after Sky Dirt was then there was this long sky, dirt, bang .

 


[01:00:21.110] 

And Mickey Thompson in the in my passenger side window, we were on our on the skin of our top. We were on our lid tires in the sky. And I'm looking at Mickey Thompson. Hollered at me something he always had this little ball of spit on his lip that would fling off every now and when he did it came right in through the window net he was asking me if I'm OK.

 


[01:00:45.730] 

And meanwhile, my brain is saying, why is Mickey Thompson upside down?

 


[01:00:53.440] 

And then things started to clear up a little bit. It wasn't quite as foggy. Oh, man. And. So, I mean, we were wrecked, we didn't win, we were in first place at the moment, but it didn't last long and so I got out.

 


[01:01:08.340] 

We I mean, we got how we got back, you know how it is Richard HOLC back there and, you know, standing around the kids pointing, laughing at each other until. Well, you lived through that one, dude. But I had a second ride lined up with Chuck Johnson. Out of Rockford, Illinois, in his class 7S Ranger. So, I mean, as much as we just had a crash, I had to get my hat and go over and get into Chuck's truck and run his thing and the mini, the mini-metal challenge, we went to the.

 


[01:01:36.620] 

Heavy metal challenge to the mini-metal challenge, that's what it was, and so Chuck and I are racing, and I'm doing what I can to help win, and it turns out we did win. And so hell,  people started saying, hey, you know, when you put Bower in the car and the driver seemed to like it and that just cemented it even more. So we're five years later, I get a call from. I think it was Dan Newsome at BFG. Saying, you know, we I was talking to Jim Venable, he says, we think we'd like to put you in with Robbie.

 


[01:02:10.310] 

And I said, well, why? Because, I mean, I I knew Robbie pretty well. I mean, I, I know I had the opportunity to and I took it. I let him live when he was eight years old. He was outside, shooting bottle rockets in our hotel room at Papa Gios in Baja, the night before a Baja five hundred, and they never going off and they were flaming and scaring the crap out of me in those houses are probably tinderboxes anyway.

 


[01:02:40.100] 

So I went downstairs and shared a moment of fellowship with Robbie, and I kind of had him do a 180, which I think is important sometimes and pointed at the ocean. I said, Robbie, shoot him in the ocean. You will never miss. You win every shot.

 


[01:03:00.340] 

He did I didn't have to hurt him, but this is now eighty eight, nineteen eighty eight, and he wanted me to run the eighty nine season with Robbie and I asked him why and I said, well, Robbie's, he said we got to get the cheerleaders out of his truck.

 


[01:03:19.970] 

He's bringing bodies with them and they're all saying fly it Robbie, fly it!

 


[01:03:25.330] 

Well, I don't care how much you fly it,  you're in the air. You can't accelerate. True. You can't stop and you can't steer. Other than that, it gets smoove. I'll give it that, but you're not but you're not racing. You win races by keeping contact with the planet, you know? And so they said, well, we want you in there because he said those cheerleaders. And and I thought it's because I had you know, I had I had a sack, which I thought it was all of my courage and everything else.

 


[01:04:02.800] 

And then they hit me with crap and said, Oh, Bob, no, no, no, no. Bob, you're older.

 


[01:04:09.900] 

Stabilizing influence, and that's all there.

 


[01:04:14.350] 

No, I don't want to be older, but I but I took the ride and gets the prerunning with Robbie, we got to know each other inside the cockpit, which is, you know, it's nothing like in the pit, in the cockpit.

 


[01:04:29.670] 

Things do change. It's it's it's absolute. And you can't avoid it. Things aren't the same when you're in the race car with somebody.

 


[01:04:41.010] 

So I know they're all hollering at me. I'm every hearing on the radio we were in. Nevada, one of the races we are running pretty good at a good clip, and I think this is where Robby kind of bought into Bower finally, you know, committed himself to me, is the right guy. We're on the radio and we're booking along a guy named Dan Stutts who used to run the Ford program. And you might have met him in your travels.

 


[01:05:09.950] 

Stutt's is on the radio to us and say, Robby, Robby, slow down, slow down here. Your flogging the truck, you're going too hard. Your time-splits are too fast. And I heard that, Rob heard that, and I'm looking at the truck and I'm saying, Robbie, fuck him. I said, you're not on the bump stops. You're not playing. I can save that. You're having a good time. You. Excuse my language, ladies and gentlemen.

 


[01:05:35.010] 

But that was a quote. No, and that's what and that's where Robbie can go. And and you could see him, nod his head. And we went on about our race and we overall. But he wasn't beaten up the truck because the truck was pretty solid, because it was put together by Rus **, and that's that's a big difference, too. So that's where Rob and I kind of linked up in that year. That was kind of special.

 


[01:06:01.860] 

That was the first time everybody, anybody had ever won the Triple Crown, they called it. But she was first overall at about 500. First overall in Nevada, five hundred and first overall baja one thousand. Wow. And and and it was really. Because Robbie didn't then go faster when he went a little bit slower, just a touch. And we kind of figured together, I don't know if we talked about it, I know I have of drivers, I couldn't tell you for sure about Robbie, but in my mind, the key to winning a desert race, a long distance desert race, is not by going faster.

 


[01:06:48.650] 

You know, you don't go faster. You work your skills at going less slow. Right, Less slow, you know, you pick up a tenth of a second here, just like maybe maybe roll on throttle a little bit sooner or maybe run off throttle a little bit later, you know, and bit by bit, buddy, you're an hour ahead. And and that's what we did with Robbie. So it it worked and of course, once you once you've been Robbie Gordon's co-driver, at least it gave me fame I didn't deserve.

 


[01:07:25.730] 

Frankly, that's that's when other people started saying, hey. What are you doing for the 500, what are you doing for the Mint? Hey, hey, hey, what are you doing for the we'd like to have you in my why don't you come into my car for a ride with me? I bet I could learn a lot. Well, sure. Because I was a whore, really more like a slut and one thing led to another.

 


[01:07:55.150] 

And so I just I just love off road racing and like I said, rich from the very get going and I did OK. I was part of a lot of wins. And I like sort of my wife still asked me, are you serious? You know, because I, I took myself  out of the race car. I retired from the cockpit. On purpose and maybe selfishly don't know, but it was in the twenty seventeen Baja 1000, the  50th annual Baja one thousand.

 


[01:08:30.290] 

And then I was driving, I've been on the BFG factory team driving the BC cars for three years and I said, you know, Bower, if you could drive a perfectly good car across the finish line in La Paz.

 


[01:08:47.830] 

With a win at the 50th Annual Baja 1000, when you're 72 years old, that's badass enough to step away from the race car. Take your time to go out, and so I do. And I haven't gotten in a race car since, even though it's a drug, I tell you, Rich, it's a drug.

 


[01:09:09.740] 

Do you miss it? Oh, my goodness, yes.

 


[01:09:13.550] 

I mean, I really do. I, I lied I have sat in a race car since, but with no motor running. No, not a bit. You know, it just fits it just fits you know, I feel like. When you get in that cockpit, it was so serene, even even truly, even at 110 miles an hour with Robbie Gordon going through five foot whoops, there is a serenity in there and it just feels good to just sit in one, you know, looking at the gauges, I can smell the noise and hear and so.

 


[01:09:51.820] 

Yeah, I can. Exactly. So answer the questions, yeah Rich, I do miss it. But realistically, I have to be you know, I have to be realistic and I am. And there's a couple of things that come to mind. First of all, there's there's a lot of good people out there that deserve those rides to. And second, it doesn't really make sense to put a 70 plus year old man in the race car and expect to be competitive if you have to change a tire.

 


[01:10:22.540] 

Oh, yeah, I get it, you know. Yeah.

 


[01:10:26.350] 

And the whole idea of being able to do it on your own terms, you know, that was worth it. So, you know, I knew it was time to call it. Plus, I mean, I had an in cockpit career lasted. You're terrible at math. Eighty three thousand ninety three to 2003, thirty four years. OK, 33, 34, 34 years. But here's the deal. The most important reason I was smart to just call it realistically, I'd gone all those years, all those miles.

 


[01:11:03.340] 

And I'm not proud of it, but we have plenty of wrecks. I mean, I've flown inverted. And I never lost so much as a drop of blood, never broke a bone. I got one orthopedic massage after a Mint 400. I remember that that's a pretty good track record.

 


[01:11:23.950] 

Yeah, yeah. And so I'm not sure if I retired from the cockpit or I escaped from the cockpit. I don't know. I would love to get back in just for the feeling of it. But I'm I'm really actually more glad that I was able to just say, you know, Bob, you call your own shot. You picked yourself out when you wanted it. So much better than not getting a phone call in July that says, hey, what are you doing for the Baja 1000?

 


[01:11:52.250] 

And that's how you find out if you got it ride. Right. And if you don't get the call, you don't get the ride. So call it selfish. I wanted to do it on my own terms. I always wanted to get in the race car, whether it was as a navigator or driver during a race that. Well, was before the fiftieth, I'd planned on racing with a with a guy that was building an unlimited Jeep speed and I bought into the program, I was going to be one of four drivers.

 


[01:12:28.360] 

And then things went sideways, the car wasn't going to get done, and I decided at that point that when the fiftieth came around, I was going to try again and I got offered a seat and realized that I probably would. Hurt the team instead of help the team. I've done I've done a lot of high speed driving. In in the desert, while I'm setting up racecourses, not in race cars, full race cars, but probably a lot faster than street rigs need to be driven.

 


[01:13:05.470] 

I thought I could handle a car well enough. My problem was, is with contact lenses. By then, my shoulder and knee were bad. And, you know, I've I've been overweight for a long time, but I'm still healthy. It was just like, you know, if something happens, I have to drive at night, you know, contacts in I can't see without my contacts very well, especially at night. I would be in a lot of trouble and could hinder the team.

 


[01:13:35.890] 

So I decided not to. And that was a that was a hard choice to make because I wanted to be selfish and put myself in the seat. And I had the opportunity, but I just I just said, no, I'm not going to do it because I always wanted to drive that last leg in point to point race. And it was just it just did not make sense. To hinder a team effort, and so I pulled myself from that effort and let the guys that really needed to and deserve to to do it.

 


[01:14:14.420] 

What a courageous decision. That's that's hard. Harder still, I believe, given your line of work.

 


[01:14:22.850] 

Yeah. Because you had a lot of opportunity. Yeah.

 


[01:14:26.700] 

Yeah. Holy. That's just, you know. Oh, I almost hate it for you, Rich.

 


[01:14:35.990] 

But I've come to the realization I've helped teams. I feel that the experience that the experiences that I've had in Baja, helping teams that I truly helped, whether it was on the radio communications or my first time to Baja in 2003, I was on a BFG Pit crew with Jack Seibold and we were outside Catavina area. I think it was on the the road out to fish camp. And it was the year they they they filmed Dust to Glory and.

 


[01:15:09.170] 

Oh yeah, I got to run the fuel board first. I was on the radio and then Jack moved me onto the fuel and the, you know, writing you telling everybody who was going to be next and planning the fuel out as people were coming in. And because it just I just had a knack for knowing who was going to be next by listening to the radios properly. And, yeah, you know, I got that position and then.

 


[01:15:34.000] 

You know, that taught me a lot, went down and and helped drivers at the Mint and a bunch of races and then got hooked up with Pistol Pete and then with Schaefer and Lance Clifford and the pirate four by four days of running to the Jeep speeds and stuff like that. And I, I learned a lot, had a lot of a lot of good times with a lot of good people. And one of these days I will get back down to Baja and do some more.

 


[01:16:04.060] 

But I haven't been down back down to Baja since the fiftieth. And on a fiftieth I helped with contingency and that was our final tech. I got to be the gatekeeper, you know, only the car and two people from a team and with the car. And that was that was a fun day, though. And, you know, I just that's more my speed. I've realized, you know, and I just have to have to face the realization that I'm not going to be a racer, you know, I'm probably better suited to be on the other side in logistics or be that guy that helps.

 


[01:16:41.170] 

But that's OK. Oh, more than OK. You know, I look at it this way, is that for people who say, you know, this role feels right for me, I like it, and then they carry forth the same sort of execution or the job that makes it even better. And then after it was just another another guy.

 


[01:17:03.580] 

Yeah, I think the best compliment, best compliment I ever got was one of the drivers. You know, I always ended up being the radio communication guy for some reason. I don't know if it was because I, I had a good radio or I ask the right questions or took the information properly. But I had somebody tell me before the race, while we were doing our pit meeting before the race and down in Baja, and they said, OK, the only person I want talking to me on the radio is rich.

 


[01:17:33.330] 

Well, that means I had to shadow the car all the way, which was OK, because I enjoyed that more than sitting in one spot. But then it led into a whole bunch of realizations, first of all, I needed to know. What kind of condition the car was in, what kind of condition the people in the car were in, where our next pit was, you know what? They needed to be ready and you had to ask the questions.

 


[01:18:01.190] 

Quickly. And precisely to get the information as quickly and precisely as possible and not chit chit chat because the driver doesn't want to listen to chitchat, no, no, it's terrible because you'll hear half a syllable and you're wondering somebody.

 


[01:18:21.600] 

Are they trying to tell me something? Exactly. What do you do? You lift. Huh, you lift and listen to my shit on the radio. Yeah. So that's that's my thing, his one of these days, I'll go back down to hopefully help some teams haven't figured out who or when that'll happen, but it'll happen. Oh, yes, it will. Yes, it will. You know, you'll make it happen. Yeah, probably, all the way from all the way from Texas, all the way from Texas right now.

 


[01:18:55.100] 

Yeah. If you enjoy these podcasts, please give us a rating, share some feedback with us via Facebook or Instagram and share our link among your friends who might be like minded. Well, that brings this episode to an end. OK, you enjoyed it. We'll catch you next week with conversations with Big Rich. Thank you very much.