Off-Road racing is a team sport and like other team sports, the leader is a critical role. Racing takes money and the majority of people who invest money in off-road racing never see a true financial return. But, just like NASCAR thirty years ago, the amount of teams with paid professional drivers is on the rise. Darren Rude, CEO of Nutrawise, with his wife Patty have created a three truck and one buggy off-road race team to promote the brand Youtheory and invest in their love for off-road racing.
What was your initial draw to off-road racing?
Patty and I were introduced to off-road in high school. She began working at FAT Performance at about 18 years old and she got to know off-road racing pretty well. For Darren it all started at the SCORE Anaheim Convention with Ivan Stewart telling him the best way to get started was to run a check point. He told me to get my car, drive to the SCORE meeting and become a checkpoint guy. I was only 15 but I knew I’d turn 16 by The Baja 1000, so I went to the meeting. My friend’s dad, who just happened to be Mr. Sticker, decided he was going to go with us. We signed up to run the checkpoint, and then from there we went out and started helping Roger Mears and Mr. Parker Pumper Stan Parnell. Shortly after that, Mitch Bock “Mr Sticker” bought the Rambler off of James Garner. He raced that car for a little bit, then sold that and raced a ’55 Chevy for a little bit.
We kept helping Roger Mears, learning everything we could. Patty had gotten to know Jerry Whelchel and the Letner family from her time at FAT Performance. In our mid ’20s we got busy growing our families, focusing on life and business and got out of off-road racing for a number of years.
Patty and I met through our two boys who were on the same baseball team. We got married a year later in our 30’s, blending our two families. In 2002, we ended up in Parker, AZ for the Parker 425. While we were at the finish line, we realized how many people we knew, it was like a reunion. It felt good reconnecting with old friends, we had forgotten how much we loved off-road racing. I am very lucky to have a wife who loves off-road, the desert, and the river, even more than diamonds!
We started to getting back into it, going to some short course racing with the kids, playing in the desert in our RZR’s and having fun out in Parker. We moved next door to “The Weatherman”, Bob Steinberger, in Parker, AZ and as we started to get to know him we realized we knew a lot of people he knew. I quickly learned I used to hang out with his son Scott in Baja when we were both teenagers. Bob is the off-road David Letterman, the stories he tells and way he talks about off-road racing would make anyone want to go to a race.
We got back into off-road racing by helping out with the Brenthel team because our kids went to school with Jonathan and Jordan. After doing that for a year we decided that we’d get a car. Jerry Whelchel, an old time family friend, helped us get our Camburg truck that he used to race. Shortly thereafter, we brought him on to join our team and mentor our boys. Jerry had promised us a number of years ago when the kids were in junior high school he’d teach them about off-road racing and show them how to drive and he fulfilled that promise.
Most recently, we brought on Harley Letner who Patty has known since he was born. Although our team is “new”, we’ve been around each other our whole lives. We’re excited about running the Best in The Desert Series with all the trucks and the buggy. We’ve had a lot of questions about us heading down south across the border, and we are planning on doing some SCORE races soon. We’re working on our logistics for the Baja 1000, and when we’re ready we’ll go from there.
Do you think part of that is where you grew up geographically?
Definitely. We grew up in Orange, CA and were always at Saddleback Raceway. We were always on motorcycles. At age 16 I started pre-running the Baja 1000 on a motorcycle. The next year, I pre-ran the Baja 500 and the Baja 1000 again with Roger Mears. I wouldn’t have had that chance if I didn’t show up at that SCORE convention when I was 15 years old.
What motivated you to get involved as a race team leader and why off-road racing?
We had always been involved in it, it was second nature to us. We knew how to do it helping so many teams along the years, we just never had our own team.
To begin, we just sponsored a truck at the Parker 425. At a meeting with Sprouts Farmers Market, Patty was explaining to them how we were launching our new Men’s line around off-road racing. They jumped right in and said, “We’ll sponsor your car.” Then we got into the Vitamin Shoppe and GNC and they said the same thing. “You guys are in racing? We want to get in racing. What do we have to do?”
From there, we ended up with Amazon.com and we got quite a few other retailers interested. Racing NASCAR is something else that our retailers enjoy being a part of. For us, racing is a powerful marketing tool that we can involve our retail accounts in a fantastic experience and partnership.
I know you sponsor a NASCAR team. Why do you spend marketing dollars there and how does it compare to off-road?
We’re a sponsor of an Xnfinity team. The reason why we’re putting our marketing dollars there is our retailers believe in the power of motorsports marketing. Vitamin Shoppe has put seven stores in different locations in the track parking lot of NASCAR. They’re going after that demographic.
We really feel like that’s one of our demographics for our supplements brand. We got into NASCAR because 100,000 fans show up to watch the races. We were never NASCAR fans, but we actually won tickets in a charity event that were donated by Roger Penske and Jimmie Johnson. We attended that race in Fontana and have been hooked since.
NASCAR has a broader base demographic making it almost worldwide. When we travel to Europe, Canada, all over, we meet people that watch NASCAR. In terms of off-road racing, there isn’t desert everywhere we go across the country. I wish we were racing on the East coast but we’re not, therefore we’re using NASCAR more on the east than we do on the west. We’ve got a lot more races on the east coast that we sponsor than we do on the west.
Why did you decide to hire a professional driver rather than just driving yourself?
First of all, we want to win, or at least be in the top 10. We’ve had some learning curves with our #37 Armada Trophy Truck, but after a year of racing it we feel like we’ve ironed out the issues and have it pretty dialed in. It’s light, very fast, and definitely a threat to the competition. We also purchased a Jimco Trophy Truck, the #55 (CincoCinco) for our son, Anthony Terzo to drive.
Tell us about your new team member?
Having Harley onboard is awesome! Besides being a great person, he has a great following on social media. He really is a great asset to us with our brand. We also brought his #1570 with us. If there’s seat time in one of the Trophy Trucks where the kids can’t drive because of their obligations as firefighters, then Harley will step in to drive. Harley and the Terzo brothers are a great draw to the younger demographic.
Tell us about the rest of your team?
Our two sons Anthony and Jeff Terzo started racing in our 6100 truck. Anthony is a full time Firefighter paramedic, while Jeff is a reserve Firefighter and in Paramedic School, and is still working at achieving a full time Firefighting job. Anthony is the driver of Cinco Cinco and Jeff is the driver of the #37 Trophy Truck. Andrew Whitehead is our daughter’s boyfriend, and he has been racing dirt bikes since he was young. He knows racing, specifically off-road. Andrew is also a full time Firefighter.. He’s been racing the #6183 and is going to stay the lone driver in that truck unless of course his fire job interferes. Andrew and Jeff work full time in the Race Shop prepping the trucks alongside Harley, Beau, Henry, and our crew chief, Chris Supino. They are all young and have a big passion for racing. Anthony, the older Terzo brother, earned the nickname of “Road Warrior” because of his aggressive driving style.
They grew up riding in the desert and they’re not new to the spot by any means. There’s a video that 239 films and John Tuba made of the jump at mm 4 in Parker where Jeff, “Terzinator” jumped further than almost everyone I think, it blew up on Instagram. And most recently, the road crossing video from Laughlin where Jeff took flight in the #37 truck that reached over 1 million views on the Race Dezert Facebook and countless reposts on Instagram.
Tell us about your company?
We own a nutritional supplement brand called Youtheory, so naturally our team is called Youtheory Racing. Youtheory is in 50,000 locations in the U.S. alone, as well as locations worldwide. We manufacture at our manufacturing facility in Tustin, CA that produces over 30,000 bottles a day. In June, we’ll move into a brand new facility in Irvine, about 10 miles away from where we’re at now so we can produce 90,000 bottles a day. We’re at capacity, and the company is already looking for another facility in the Midwest to be able to manufacture more bottles. It’s pretty exciting.
We also have a distribution warehouse and an office in London where we take care of Europe and the other side of the world. We just went to India and checked on some of our Turmeric fields there. Our collagen comes out of Brazil, Europe and the United States. We’re proud to say we sell more Collagen and Tumeric than anyone in the world. We stand behind and believe in what we put in our bottles only using the highest quality of ingredients.
Advertising used to be different for us, we used to focus on tags on TV, or in a print, but now it’s all about Social Media. Our Social Media pages, both our main brand and Racing have blown up, in a good way. The Nutrition industry was never getting into racing or any of the sports, and so we were the first nutrition company to jump into racing, off-road or NASCAR. We’re getting into a time where the mainstream is taking supplements and being health-conscious. It used to only be people that visited health food stores would take supplements. Our consumer has evolved so we are always evolving.
Talk a little bit about the team.
It’s funny how we’ve taken it from one car to four cars. The race team is running very well and smoothly and has become self-sustaining. As we keep on gaining retailers that want to be involved in off-road racing, we’ll continue to grow the team. Whether it’s one car racing or four cars racing, we’re really fortunate that we have a great crew of volunteers who are mostly firefighters, friends, and family.
It’s really great that our race team is able to have fun and still be a serious. It’s also great to have paramedics at every race. We always have at least a few paramedics, a handful of EMT’s and a couple nurses at each race which is great. I actually don’t have to run the racing at all. The racing is being run by the team. We have Chris Supino, our Crew Chief who gets it done both in the shop and on race day organizing the pits as providing good logistics for our team. Between him, Jeff, Andrew, and Harley, and our newest team members Beau Morton and Henry Bergdahl, they have it all covered. It’s great, they have every aspect of the team figured out so I can pretty much just go to the race and enjoy it.
Do you think that off-road racing brings your family together?
It’s really a great hobby as well. We’ve got trailers and motor homes and we love going to the desert and camping together in the infield or wherever we go. Having a campfire and sharing food is always fun and it builds the team. I love being able to sit around the campfire before and after the race and talk with everyone. We’ve been having a good time doing that. We’ve had some terrific experiences and great food. Andrew Whitehead’s family is all about a barbecue. His dad’s from England but he creates the best barbecue ever. We always look forward to the race night barbecue with him smoking pork. Off-road racing is a family sport for sure.
What’s your favorite memory in racing off-road?
I have probably a couple of them. One is … Baja. I want to return to Baja because I had amazing experiences there. The first time we ever broke down, we were with Roger Mears and the trailer hitch broke off. When you’re 15 years old and still in high school and that happens, you’re just shocked. You’re like, “Oh my gosh.” They just pulled the welder out and fixed it. Later that trip I remember celebrating Roger Mears’ win and he brought all this lobster to the table. I couldn’t wait to eat it. It was right after the race and I was so tired I passed out and landed on my plate. They all thought I was drunk but I wasn’t. I literally passed out from exhaustion.
Another funny memory was when I was driving our 6100 truck at our first Mint 400 and about a mile before the pit where I was hopping out and giving the wheel to my son, I rolled and while we were rolling I yelled at my son, “Your mother’s going to kill me!” We were able to get the truck flipped back over and finish that race.
What are your favorite events?
I think that our favorite event is The Mint 400. It’s a great place because you’re able to bring your family and can stay in hotels. It’s got so much going on, you’re going 90 miles an hour from the minute you arrive. From the parade, to the pit crew challenge, to the parade. We love Contingency at The Mint as well. We live part time in Parker so we love racing in Parker as well. We’ve got a few hundred people that come out to our pit and watch us race. It’s like our hometown race.
What do you like to do in your free time?
The Polaris dealer says we put more miles on our RZR’s than any family they know. We take our Polaris RZR’s out with the family whenever we can. We have four brand new Polaris’ that 928 Motorsport put together for us. We’re harder on them than any other family they know. We attack the desert in our RZR’s.
We’re a big boating family, so we live part time on the Colorado River, have several boats and spend time in Parker and Havasu on a houseboat. We enjoy the family time and are about to spend a month in Europe working and enjoying life. Our entire family’s on our way to Tuscany and we’re going to stay on a farm and enjoy a little time off for the month of April.
What do you think has been your biggest challenge being a team owner?
Winning races, finishing. It’s not as easy as I thought. One of our biggest challenges has been finding the right combinations, and knowing when to slow down in the dust.
You and I have always had these conversations about how much we love doing this, but you’re a family guy as well. Is it hard to work all week and then race all weekend?
I love doing it. I really feel like my business is a hobby, it always has been. I really enjoy running my business. I have a great team behind me that run all my manufacturing. I don’t have to ever go into manufacturing side and micromanage, they do it all for me it’s awesome. I’ve got a team of doctors that create products for me. I’m able to be able to step away from that and just oversee it. I do the same thing with our racing program. When we go out to a race, we really get to enjoy the race. We’re not working as hard. I love to put up the tent and get all ready and everything, but the team of 40 guys that we bring with us, they’re the ones doing most of the work for us. It’s all about having the right team in place, then it’s enjoyable whether it’s business or racing.
What do you think motivates you to do this?
Sometimes I wonder when we get to a race and we don’t qualify well, or have a truck that doesn’t finish. That’s frustrating but we are working on it. It’s the thrill of racing. It’s so addicting! I love watching my friends and family work together to fight for a win or even a finish. It’s empowering. You finish a race and you feel like you have accomplished something.
The great thing is my wife would rather buy a race car than jewelry. That’s pretty cool when you’ve got a wife that is more into racing than she is shopping. We’re a pretty good team. She loves going to the races, I love going to the races, and all our kids do. It’s a passion of the whole family. We really look on the calendar as soon as we leave a race for the next race. We can’t wait.
What’s in store for the future of Youtheory Racing and your future as well?
When it comes to NASCAR, we’re focused on taking Corey LaJoie to the next level to race the Sprint Cup. It looks like we’re on track for full season with Xfinity next year. From there, we’ll see how it goes but Youtheory will be his sponsor.
In off-road, we’re just going to get better and better with the trucks that we have. We put a lot into the Jimco after the Road Warrior crashed it at the Mint. We rebuilt the whole cab, rewired the whole car, installed a new dash and rebuilt the motor and the tranny. We’ve invested in that truck quite a bit, and feel it’s a great competitive package.
We also made some strength improvements to the Armada’s front end after some damage at the Mint. Other than losing belt, and a couple deserved flats in Laughlin, Jeff had a good first run in the Armada and will continue to get faster. Andrew Whitehead drove and our daughter Danielle Terzo who has been stepping up as navigator brought #6183 to a 4th place finish at the Mint. We were very proud of them, Danielle even had to get out and help change a flat while Patty and some of the girls watched from the helicopter, it was awesome. Plus, they just backed it up with another 4th place in Laughlin.
We are just going to focus on building on our success and we’re going to continue to get better and better. We want the best equipment. Right now, we’re shopping for a featherlite trailer and we’ll start pulling a tractor out to the races with a tent because with 4 cars, we’re loading down the trailers. We have too much and need something bigger.
What advice would you give to young people trying to break into the off-road business?
From the business side, you’re going to have to make sure that your social media skills are up to date and that you’ve got to have some sponsorships behind you because it’s going to be expensive and you’ve got to have a way to fund your racing. From the racing side, enlist experienced people and the best equipment possible. Shortcuts cost you races.
What do you think, in your opinion, do we need to do to grow off-road racing?
I think Martelli Brothers and Mad Media are doing a good job with the Mint. Now we need to work on raising the level of the other races. It just seems like most of the time when we’re talking about off-road racing, it’s just been poorly managed when it comes to the marketing side of it. I think that we’re struggling across the board with all racing right now for publicity, compared to the way it was 10 years ago, and nobody really has the answer why. I know NASCAR is still not pulling as many spectators as they were, but you’re still seeing 80,000 to 100,000 people show up for a race. Remember, that’s like going to a football game every week. We have to push to build off-road to that level.
It’s still not bad but you look at Indy cars and they’re having a huge issue. They only had, what, 22,000 people show up for Phoenix race? When you look at off-road racing, you’re looking at a bunch of teams with sponsors that are the parents or the guy driving the car, and they just have their name on the side of the car for their own publicity. They don’t have sponsors. We’re not looking like NASCAR in off-road racing. We’re looking like a mom and pop race team.
I think Steve Sourapas does a great job with putting on the brands he distributes. Coors and the Corona and everything. We have Monster, Red Bull and Rockstar, but we need more of that in off-road racing. If we want to be perceived as professional we have to look professional. At the same time, off-road racing is just a hard sport to spectate, but I think they’re doing a great job at the Mint 400 by making the multiple spectator areas. We had a great time in Laughlin, with Letner qualifying on the pole in his debut race with us, and Andrew and Danielle pulling out a solid 4th place. All the vehicles are getting prepped and ready, we’re looking forward to Vegas to Reno 2016.