Corona, CA (June 21, 2018) – Off-road racing is often family affair, and for Ramona, CA's Darren Hardesty Jr., the off-road family roots run deep. A third generation driver, Hardesty Jr. is following the footsteps of victory that were set out in front of him by his grandfather Earl and his father Darren Sr., both of whom found great successes in their own careers. The teenage phenom already has two national championships in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, presented by GEICO, and has a remarkably clear and thoughtful perspective for someone so young. We had the good fortune to chat with Darren on his way out to this weekend's races in Missouri, to talk about his journey in racing thus far, as well as where he hopes that journey may take him next.
Q1: How did you get started in short course?
A1: My father and grandfather were desert racers, and they are good friends with Tom Watson (father of another Pro Buggy frontrunner, Eliott Watson). He called my dad one day and said that his neighbor had a Junior 1 Kart for sale. We went down and picked it up, and put some hours into it, and took it out to the last race of the 2010 season.
Q2: When did you first move into the Pro ranks?
A2: Right after my second year in Mod Kart. I was a big kid, and too tall to fit in the kart anymore, so we picked up a Pro Buggy from Alumi Craft to run in the 2015 season.
Q3: When was your first Pro win?
A3: I think it was in Utah in 2015 (note: yes, it was Round 7 in Utah, 2015).
Q4: What are some of your significant career achievements so far?
A4: My significant achievements so far would be our 2016 and 2017 championships in Pro Buggy. Before that, I would've said our 2015 regional championship, and before that, getting Rookie of the Year in Mod Kart in 2011.
Q5: How did last season go for you?
A5: It went really well. We started down in the dumps with a disqualification for track width at the first weekend, and we snuck back up on those guys- I can't remember if we were tied or just a few points apart going into the last race, but we got the championship.
Q6: What does your race schedule look like for 2018?
A6: Probably just the Lucas Oil season, but nobody on our team really knows after that. We have a Pro Lite, but it's just a bare chassis, or maybe we might dabble in some desert racing- we'll just go where the wind blows us.
Q7: What are your goals for 2018?
A7: I wanna improve my driving any way I can. Also, to get as many wins and podiums as I can, and try to go for a championship three-peat. I watch videos of my races, and do everything I can to improve myself.
Q8: What are your longer term goals for your career?
A8: I would like to become a Rob MacCachren-like figure: start at the bottom, and work your way up with hard work.
Q9: Do you hope to turn racing into a career?
A9: I do. I know that it's gonna take a lot of hard work and a lot of late nights, but I'm a believer that if you work hard, you can achieve anything. I don't just wanna do construction and race; I wanna be a race like Rob Mac or Robby Gordon, where when people look at me, they say, "That's Darren Hardesty, he's a racer."
Q10: Who do you look up to in this sport?
A10: To be honest, I look up to someone like Ivan Stewart or my grandpa, because they were out there when the cars didn't ride good, working hard for it. I don't want anything handed to me; I want that sense of accomplishment.
Q11: What have you sacrificed to get to where you are?
A11: It doesn't take much to make me happy- just hanging out around town with my friends. But when you're racing, you don't get a lot of that. I don't know if I'd say it's a sacrifice, but I definitely don't get to do that as much. With racing, there's always something to do.
Q12: What's your favorite track?
A12: Coincidentally, Wheatland, because of the Talladega turn and the big tabletop. You've really gotta drive that track to make it fast; every twitch of the steering wheel is something different.
Q13: What's your favorite memory from racing?
A13: The feeling of euphoria after that first championship. I can remember my spotter (Matt Major) coming through my radio and saying, "By the way, you just won a championship." It was the best feeling!
Q14: Who's your best friend in the sport?
A14: Probably Eliott Watson. We've known each other since we (my family and I) got our first kart. We always race together, ride bikes to together, go to each other's houses- I can honestly say he's like a brother to me. I believe in a lot of friendships- it helps you get further in racing.
Q15: Why do you like short course?
A15: The jumps, the speed, and the sideways. I like just going fast in general.
Q16: Why should fans root for you?
A16: I mean, they can cheer for me if they want, but if they wanna see a show, they should probably start cheering for Hot Sauce… (Hardesty Jr.'s longtime nickname, for those who aren't in the know)
Q17: What's your most embarrassing moment in racing?
A17: I can't think of one, honestly.
Q18: If you could race anything else in the world of motorsports, what would it be?
A18: A trophy truck, for sure. Something about going 100+ mph over the desert- that's my dream right there.
Q19: What do you do to prepare yourself for competition?
A19: Really, all the practice for competition is on the track. Getting comfortable passing in certain places took a few crashes here, a few mistakes there.
Q20: Who would you say most helped shape you into the person you are today?
A20: My dad and mom. My dad has taught me everything I need to be a good person- to not be cocky, and to pay respect to people who deserve it.
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