Off-Road Racer Podcast Episode 1: Casey Currie
The sport of off-road racing is full of incredible stories, wild characters, legends, and even villains. We cover it but there’s only so much we can put down in an article. Sometimes we have to dig a little deeper and that means sitting down with some of our industry’s most influential characters and hitting “record”. Welcome to the Off-Road Racer Podcast. Each month, we go beyond the dirt and into the homes, shops, and lives of the most interesting and game-changing icons of our sport. You’ll hear about their history, success, failure, and everything in-between, as we pull back the curtain and reveal the stories of their lives.
In January of 2020, Casey Currie became the first American ever to win in a four-wheel class championship at the world-famous Dakar rally, giving him the biggest win of his career. In this episode of Off-Road Racer we talk with Casey about winning Dakar, the lifestyle of being a third-generation off-roader, his race career, off-road as a business, balancing family life, and what he feels like he has yet to accomplish. I’m your host Matt Martelli, and this IS the Off-Road Racer Podcast powered by Monster Energy.
An excerpt on home life and winning The Dakar:
What was it like growing up in off-road culture?
For me, it’s just been my life. My Grandpa was an off-road racer and a car racer, my dad was an off-road racer, my uncles were competitive as well. It’s just the norm, that’s what we did. Our hobbies always included the desert, racing, and enjoying family. Growing up we live on the same streets as my Uncles and my grandparents, so we always had my cousins around. Everything revolved around our family business Currie Enterprises and the lifestyle we live while promoting our brand.
You are a businessman, a father of two kids, and a racer, is it hard to balance it all?
Up until Corona Virus hit I thought I had it all dialed in. I was racing 45 weekends out of the year. Having the lockdown and being at home showed a whole side of my wife and my kids that I was missing out on. I have fallen in love with everything that goes on at home. Coving has totally realigned my priorities. I would like to be home more, but to be on top and win you have to give it 110%, it’s hard. If I am going to do anything it has to be worth it financially. It’s all about my kids, there is a roof to put over their heads. I got a wife and kids I need to provide for. If I am going to commit to doing something it has to make sense financially.
Your wife Ali is a former Miss Mint 400 and has always been involved in support of your racing. She just got the chance to compete in the Rebel Rally right?
We had talked about how cool it would be for her to get to do the Rebelle Rally. She had never really driven anything off-road, but she loves going to the desert. This year the stars aligned and I gave the keys to one of my Jeeps and sent her to train with Emily Miller and all the other Women of Rebelle Rally. She did a 3-day driving school with them and absolutely fell in love with it. Then she left for the Rebelle Rally, slept in tents for nine nights. The experience was phenomenal. She got a true understanding of Jeeping and how empowering the women in off-road are. It made us closer than we ever have been.
What did it feel like to be the first American to win a four-wheel class in Dakar?
After winning Dakar I’ve learned that I am not addicted to victory. I am addicted to the journey. To have the best outcome is a part of the journey. Getting ready for Dakar I won the Abu Dhabi Challenge, The Inca Challenge, I have raced all over the world in preparation. I trained in the United States as well with guys like Ricky Brabec, and Andrew Short, and Jimmy Lewis. For Me, it’s about the journey, the process of what it takes to be a champion.
Did winning Dakar feel like a little redemption?
It’s so surreal. I don’t know if we will ever fully realize what we were able to accomplish. No American has ever won Dakar in over 40 years of racing. Top Elite American have tried, in all categories. You go into it feeling like you have everything it takes, but it just takes one bad day to end your race. Like they say “You’re going to win the rally on your worst day!” You really start understanding what that means when you get into that situation. It really didn’t hit me that we were going to win until we crossed the finish line. It was so nerve-racking. I have never felt that type of pressure. I have read everything and I never felt that type of pressure in my life like winning Dakar.
What was the day to day hour to hour process of racing Dakar like?
The first year I finished fourth. We were averaging 3-5th place finishes every day. It’s like racing the Baja 500 for 12 days straight. You’re driving from 5-7 am until 5-7 pm every day if you are racing at a good pace. If you are having a bad day you go into the night. When you are in the position to win the pressure starts building because the media starts asking questions in a way to get a reaction out of you. They want to see you get passionate about what you are doing. The problem is it gets into your head. Two days from the finish line I had a thirty-minute lead. Now the media starts asking you questions like you have already won. We have over 500 race miles to go and they are asking me what it’s like to win? Any driver would lose their mind! I don’t know how to explain it. We are still hundreds of miles away from the finish and we still have to go through terrain I know nothing about. Anything could happen. The car could beak. Nothing can prepare you for the mental challenge of Dakar.