What does NASCAR, CART, IndyCar, Trans-Am, IMSA, IROC, Dakar Rally and Stadium Super Trucks have in common?
Robby Gordon has raced them all!
theCheckeredFlag.co.uk took chance to catch up with the son of legendary off-road racer “Baja Bob” Gordon recently to talk about the SPEED Energy Formula Off-Road Presented by Traxxas series which is fast gaining popularity.
We start this story three years ago when Gordon presented the series to the world. “I felt racing was getting boring” says Gordon who originally aimed the series at young athletes like Supercross riders.
He admits that the take up from the two-wheeled off-roaders hasn’t been great, “I thought we would have more that would transfer over already but we haven’t. I am surprised by that, because you look at a Supercross rider who as a fan base, and an audience built, and their motorcycle riding career is over by the time he is 30 years old.
“I felt that Stadium SUPER Trucks is a direct transition, and as we saw with Toby Price who finished third at Dakar last year, he jumped in the car and was competitive right away with no four-wheel racing experience.”
Motor sport these days can be very expensive and this was something that was clear in his mind when he set up the series.
“I look at Stadium SUPER Truck as a formula these guys can come play at without having to invest millions of dollars in the assets of transporters, haulers, shops, personnel, and racecars. By the time bought a car to go racing in the TORC or Lucas Series you could have raced four seasons of SST.”
With only two full seasons run, the series has already created a lot of hype and Gordon is happy with how things are panning out.
“I didn’t know what to think at the beginning. The series has changed direction from what my original plan was, but it has changed directions for the better. This is a model that works for us.
“Not only is it working for us, but also it is working for other promoters. That way we don’t have to be the only one’s out there promoting it. We have good relationships with a bunch of good promoters, and we are having a lot of fun with the series.”
The series has seen a good cross-section of drivers compete in its short lifespan including IndyCar driver Arie Luyendyk Jr., motocross rider Jeff Ward, Olympiac snowboarder Nick Baumgartner and a whole host more, we asked Robby who would be his top 5 drivers that aren’t currently competing in the series.
“Ideal top 5 is hard, there are so many talented racecar drivers around the world. One’s that we have had; Ricky Johnson has participated, we have had Jeff Ward participate, we have had Justin Lofton participate. We also had David Coulthard, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Kurt Busch has driven them this past year at the Race of Champions.
“There has just been a wide variety of driver’s, and hopefully as we grow we are going to see a different variety of drivers come in, but the cars are very hard to drive. If someone comes in, and thinks they are going to be easy they are going to have a rude awakening. These cars are gnarly little pieces of machinery that are very difficult to get a handle on.”
While there have been drivers that come and go, there has been one shining star in the shape of 17-year-old Sheldon Creed who pushed Gordon for the championship last year.
“Sheldon is an excellent racecar driver, and I would like to position Sheldon to be the next one to transfer out like myself or you look at guys that transferred out of the Mickey Thompson Series; Rick Mears, Jimmie Johnson, Robby Gordon, Casey Mears there have been four of us that transferred out of the Mickey Thompson series to top notch formula motorsports.
“As much as I would like to see Sheldon expand, and go stock car racing, I would like to see the series grow and be a legitimate threat in the motorsports industry in America and the world as well. So hopefully we don’t lose him but if we do it will be another young talented driver that has a ton of car control that has advanced from Off-Road racing.”
While rallycross and motocross have been firm favourites on the X Games line-up in recent years, 2014 saw SST head to Circuit of the Americas Austin Texas to make its debut and what a debut it made…
“Based off what I saw, I thought it was an overwhelming hit unbelievable amount of audience there the kids loved the trucks and the thunder of the V8 engine flying through the air.
“It’s pretty awesome to be able to participate at X Games, and then to bring all the cars to participate is a gnarly challenge, because we want to give everybody the best opportunity they can get to finish well.”
While the series is gaining popularity in the United States it has made its first move to the wider world with the recent opening rounds of the 2015 season alongside the Australian V8 Supercar Series.
“I would say after what we saw at our first race in Australia and although I hate to say we are going to have a schedule change; I see more opportunities that are going to be better events that what we currently have scheduled for 2015.
“I can see some schedule changes and good opportunities coming. The phone has rang off the hook for a lot of different regions, and what we have to do now is make sure we pick the opportunities to grow the sport. Long Beach was the start of it and you never know where SST is going to end up.”
With the Australian fans loving the series we asked Gordon where his top 5 non-US locations to take the series would be, “Australia was awesome! I am going to give Australia our best event so far to date.” he admits.
“I know you said non US, but Long Beach, California is in the heart of motorsports in America and in the aerospace industry, so Long Beach is a given for us.
“I believe Mexico will go crazy for Stadium SUPER Trucks and maybe give Australia a run for their money, because they are Baja racing fans are truly passionate about motorsports, and they don’t have much top-level motorsports come down there and race. So I think if we could do an SST event on the Baja peninsula or even in main land Mexico it will be off the hook.
“I believe we are set up for Dakar in South America. I can see with the following I have with the Dakar program an Argentina event that would give Australia and Mexico a run for their money because we have scene the following that we have been able to produce over there in the last 10 years and their fanatic about motorsports as well.
“I think we need to take a look at Dubai and Europe, Dubai is one that makes sense, and I think the UK makes sense. There is a bunch of good markets and lets not forget about Russia and other places that are passionate about motorsports as well.”
SST made an appearance in the recent Forza Horizon 2 DLC – Storm Island, we asked Gordon how important it was to see the series represented in racing games,
“I believe it brings us back to the youth demographic again and that’s one thing we have with our sponsor Traxxas. It brings us a very young demographic, and that’s what companies are interested in today.There interested in the age group of 18-30, and I believe SST knocks it right down the middle of that.”
As the rise of Stadium Super Trucks continues we asked Gordon one last question… Will SST be back at Race of Champions for 2015?
“I haven’t had any discussions with the Race of Champions yet, but I’m pretty confident that everyone who drove the trucks at Race of Champions was wow’d by them.”
“There were drivers who complained about them but the reason they complained is because these are the drivers who are use to driving perfect handling racecars, but that takes the driving ability out of everything.”
theCheckeredFlag.co.uk will be covering each race of the 2015 season along with interviews with participating drivers, keep a look out for more features coming soon, in the mean time, read the reports from the races so far…