Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two-part story. Check back tomorrow for part two of our interview with Mark Richards.
Rocket Chassis is one of the most successful dirt late model car builders of all time.
With more than 5,000 cars built since the company was founded by Mark Richards and Steve Baker in 1991 and countless wins and championships among the accolades earned by competitors wheeling Rocket-branded equipment, it’s difficult to find a company that has been more successful on dirt during the last 20 years.
Much of that success has been achieved by Rocket1 Racing, the company’s house car, which has been driven by the likes of Davey Johnson, Tim Hitt, Josh Richards and Brandon Sheppard.
Mark Richards is the reason behind that success, and SPEED SPORT recently caught up with him to find out how he got involved in racing, where the idea to create Rocket Chassis came from and much more.
SPEED SPORT: Could you have gotten Rocket Chassis to where it is without your partner Steve Baker?
RICHARDS: No way. There’s no way this company would be where it is without Steve Baker, and if there was ever a perfect partnership, this is it because he runs the business part of it and I run the actual chassis part of it. Now, don’t get me wrong, he still works and he still puts cars together. But the design of the chassis and building the chassis part of it was my deal with our original employee, Scott Purkey.
Scott has been here since 1988. We got to where we had to showcase our product. So once we got the product built, we started a relationship with a local driver here, Tim Hitt, and I started taking him out to bigger races. He was a popular local driver around here and a really good driver. He didn’t have the money to race by himself and we didn’t have the money to own a team. So we kind of put our resources together and created a race team.
My agreement to do it was I’d work for nothing and we’d furnish the cars and he would furnish the engines and he would drive. Well, we did that from 1992 until 1999. We were together for seven years and Timmy’s business got to dragging and taking more of his time. I was at the point where I wanted to go bigger and race more across the country, more bigger races. Timmy went to a lot of big races. I think 1998 was our best year. He won the Hav-A-Tampa Shootout, he won the Pittsburgher. He won a bunch of races and got us on the map nationally.
We worked with some other drivers who were really beneficial to this company. Steve Francis, Dale McDowell, Rick Eckert, all those guys, played a big part in those days because we basically worked with them, shared a lot of ideas and got their input. At the time it helped us to grow and Steve (Baker) was back here running the company. So without Steve Baker, the question was, would you have done it without Steve Baker? There’s no way. There was nobody who is going to be at this level of success and be able to be at the race track and the business.
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