From Two Wheels to Four
Deegan had a different experience monetarily. Compared to his professional motocross background, he says off-road racing was a much greater expense.
But that wasn’t his main concern. For Deegan, a rider with 10 motocross X Games medals who recently turned 42, it was the safety aspect.
“I did X Games for about 10 years,” Deegan said. “I had a lot of injuries, a lot of broken bones, a lot of surgeries, and I just got tired of being hurt all the time. I wanted to get into something a little safer, into a roll cage.”
Deegan tried stock cars, hopping into super late models and attempting to climb the asphalt ranks well past 2010. But he didn’t get as far as he would have liked.
“I would have liked to have made it in stock cars, but it’s just such a huge budget and sponsor commitment,” Deegan explained. “I wanted to get into the (NASCAR) XFINITY Series, just to kind of say I made it to the top of racing in America, but I didn’t have the sponsor commitments at the time.”
Deegan grew up racing motocross and claims he missed racing after deciding he didn’t want to keep getting injured — hence the NASCAR attempts. He’d always been into lifted trucks and off-roading, so he went to check out some races in Southern California around 2008.
Deegan started in the CORR off-road racing series that year, moving to the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series in 2009 when it and TORC took over CORR’s dates after the series’ bankruptcy.
It didn’t take Deegan long to learn that he didn’t have a winning truck in 2008, and “kind of all of (his) budget” went to buying a new, better truck the next year.
“This truck showed up the first race in the Lucas Oil (Off Road Racing) Series in ’09, and it was Primm Valley,” Deegan said. “I’ll never forget, I had to learn how to shift the truck in the parking lot.
“I went out and ended up getting on the podium for the first time in the first round,” he added. “I think from that point, I was like, ‘All right, I’m going to really focus on winning.’”
Off-road racing proved to be a lot cheaper than his stock car endeavors and even his rallycross career. But having a good truck, Deegan says, is in no way cheap.
“The bottom line is that it’s as expensive as you want to make it,” he said. “If you want to win a championship, you’re going to spend a lot of money because you want to make sure everything’s prepped fresh every race; you have the best transmissions, motors and a lot of test time.
“The one thing I didn’t understand is in off-road racing, a lot of these people, all they did was race. Not a lot of testing and practice happened,” he noted. “We kind of took it the other way and started practicing and testing a lot, so we advanced pretty quickly. Motocross, we road every day, so I had a different mentality.”
There are other similarities to motocross, like suspension setups, missing the bumps on the track and maintaining momentum. The thing Deegan says he struggled with was finding grip.
Deegan believes the sport itself also faces struggles, like a tire monopoly that’s driving up the price to compete in the series in which he races and low purses at events. But of all of the roll-cage racing Deegan’s done, off-road seems to be the clear favorite.
“Off-road has been the most fun sport I’ve done, and I want to focus on that,” he said. “Rally was fun; it taught me a lot about precise driving, car setup and how to save your tires.
“But at the end of the day, off-road is just what I like to do.”
As for Luyendyk, he feels like he’s a better driver than he’s ever been — plus, “there are a lot of jumps and there’s more action” than he ever had in road racing.
“I just fell in love with it (immediately),” Luyendyk said. “It was something about flying through the air in a 3,000-pound truck.”