Corona, CA (July 20, 2018) – One of short course off-road's top names today, RJ Anderson continues to lead the charging pack of young drivers who've risen successfully through the ranks of the sport. Proof that the ever-evolving "ladder system" that's grown in short course over the past decade really does work, Anderson climbed from the Junior 2 Karts and into the UTVs, then up to Super Lite, Pro Lite, Pro 2, and now to the top tier: Pro 4. Moreover, at just 25, Anderson is already his own team owner, and has been for five years now. Opting to deal with the additional stresses of finding sponsors and keeping them happy, overseeing the maintenance of his vehicles, and plotting out the team's logistics in return for greater control over his own destiny, the rapid growth of his RJ37 brand, as well as his current standing of first and second in the points in the series' top two classes, are ample proof that this young man is flying down the right track. This week, we sat down with Anderson, who scored some big wins in Reno last year, to pick his brain a bit, ahead of the series' return to Reno this coming weekend.
Q1: How did you get started in short course?
A1: I started racing go-karts on asphalt, and then got into a Trophy Kart back in the CORR days when I was 14 (2008). Back then, all the karts were the same; they were like Junior 2 Karts- there weren't even Mod Karts back then.
Q2: When did you first move into the Pro ranks?
A2: In 2011. We had built a Pro Lite, and we built it as a V8. Lucas hadn't adopted the V8s yet, so we raced it in TORC, and I was also racing UTVs, which are actually Pro, and Super Lites, in LOORRS. Midway through 2011, Lucas adopted the V8s, so I joined the series in Pro Lite, before going full-time in the class (in Lucas) in 2012.
Q3: When was your first Pro win?
A3: 2010 in a UTV, out at Surprise, AZ, and 2011 in a Pro Lite, out at Chicagoland.
Q4: What are some of your significant career achievements so far?
A4: I have six off-road championships and over 100 podiums, and that's just in the Pro stuff; that doesn't count karts or regional stuff.
Q5: How did last season go for you?
A5: It was good- it was my first season running both the Pro 2 and the Pro 4, so we were learning a lot, and it was cool to walk away with Rookie of the Year and third in points in Pro 4. I actually went into the last round with a chance at the championship! Now we had some issues and didn't make any ground there, but it was still cool. Pro 2 was a little bit of a disappointment because we went in ready to win the championship, but we had a lot of mechanical issues that gave us some DNFs, and we ended up fourth in points.
Q6: What does your race schedule look like for 2018?
A6: All the Lucas races in Pro 2 and Pro 4, plus a lot of UTV events like Camp RZR. I do a lot of events and video shoots for Polaris- I actually do more events than racing. This year we took a little break from the XP1K series (but it's not done yet!), and started a series called "Visions." They're similar in style to the XP1K videos, but just shorter, and in each one, we explore one of the four types of terrain you can race on, and collaborate with other talented professionals to make something really unique and cool. The first one is called "RJ Anderson's Visions: Snow Blind," and we team up with this amazing snowboarder named Torstein Horgmo.
Q7: What are your goals for 2018?
A7: I'd like to bring home another championship; my last one was in 2015, in the Pro Lite. We're really close now, sitting first in Pro 4 and second in Pro 2 in the points, and we're going in the right direction. If we could get both Pro 2 and Pro 4 in the same year, that would be the ultimate.
Q8: What are your longer term goals for your career?
A8: I wanna keep building on what I already have. I've only owned my team for five years, so I wanna keep growing it as a brand, and now having my brother onboard- it's great! Someday I would love to have a part-time drive in a Trophy Truck for the desert as well, and have some additional drivers here in short course, and just keep growing this RJ37 brand.
Q9: Do you hope to turn racing into a career?
A9: This already is RJ's career, so it seemed a little redundant to ask him this question.
Q10: Who do you look up to in this sport?
A10: Rob Mac is the most prominent person in the sport. He's been able to make a living when most other people can't, and he's just a good guy. He cares about the future of this sport, and not just himself. In the action sports world, I've always looked up to Travis Pastrana- he pushes action sports to the limit, and he's very good at always fulfilling sponsor commitments.
Q11: What have you sacrificed to get to where you are?
A11: I would say mostly being a kid. I got involved in this sport pretty young, doing it in the garage with my dad, who is a big part of Walker Evans Racing. I got a lot of connections from my dad, but I also had to learn how to grow up fast in order to make the money to get to all these races, so when my friends were going to the lake or just hanging out, I usually had to skip it. There are definitely days when being a team owner is stressful, but the bad days also make the good days even sweeter.
Q12: What's your favorite track?
A12: My first favorites would've been Surprise (AZ) and Elsinore (Lake Elsinore, CA), but since we don't have either of those anymore, I would have to say Reno, because it's so different from the other tracks we race in this series. I like the challenge of having to figure out how to go up and down those hills really fast; I just wish it had a little more technicality.
Q13: What's your favorite memory from racing?
A13: It's just all the time spent with my family; without racing, I wouldn't have that. We win together, we lose together, and we have fun together. I consider my guys to be some of the hardest working guys in the sport, but I try to keep it light and fun, because if you're not having fun, what's the point? There's a lot of other ways to make a lot more money in this sport…
Q14: Who's your best friend in the sport?
A14: Doug Mittag. We just went to the beach together this past weekend, and we grew up racing RZRs together. But most people in off-road have a shared passion and personality- you get along pretty well in off-road, and not all racing is like that.
Q15: Why do you like short course?
A15: I like it because it's a mix of several different things. I grew up riding motocross, even though I wasn't allowed to race, so I like this type of racing. Plus you can see it all, 100 percent- it's not like it's a desert race where it's just you and the guy sitting next to you, and you can come back and tell everyone a bunch of stuff that isn't true; in short course, everyone can see you. And there's action and adrenaline… even though it's only 15 miles, there are so many emotions, and you go up and down like a roller coaster- it's so unique. Also, the trucks themselves- their capabilities are incredible!
Q16: Why should fans root for you?
A16: A lot of my fan base sees all the stuff I do, the lifestyle I've been able to live, and they can relate because it's what they wanna do too, and because, even though they may not have a Pro 4, a lot of them do have RZRs, so they feel like they can relate.
Q17: What's your most embarrassing moment in racing?
A17: Probably the very first time that I brought my Pro Lite to Lucas, at Utah back in 2011. Back then, they used to give us one hot lap to warm up before the race, and the surface there is this really slick clay. I went into turn one way too hot, and there's a jump between turns on and two. I went way wide off the jump and hit the wall, and broke my right rear hub. My race was over before it even got started.
Q18: If you could race anything else in the world of motorsports, what would it be?
A18: A trophy truck- it's similar, but also so different, and I haven't done that yet. After that, I would have to say a Formula 1 car- it's just so foreign to everything we know in off-road.
Q19: What do you do to prepare yourself for competition?
A19: I used to ride a lot of motocross, but the older I get, the more I grow my team, the more I realize that I can't afford to get hurt. It would be so hard to tell my sponsors that I couldn't race because I had two broken arms. But I picked up mountain biking- it's still fun and it still kicks my ass.
Q20: Who would you say most helped shape you into the person you are today?
A20: My dad is definitely the person who let me be who I am; his hard work and sacrifices made this possible, and his mistakes are ones I didn't have to make.
About the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series:
The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series is the evolution of the long-standing support of short course racing by Forrest Lucas and Lucas Oil Products. Steeped in the midwest tradition of short course off-road racing infused with a west coast influence, Lucas Oil Off Road Racing brings intense four wheel door-to-door action to challenging, fan-friendly tracks. Our events can be seen on CBS, CBS Sports Network, MAVTV, and Live all season long on LucasOilRacing.TV. Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series: This is Short Course! For more information, please visit www.LucasOilOffRoad.com, and be sure to sign up for our newsletter in our Newsletter Signup section of the home page.
Written by Scott Neth for the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series