The Pro 4 division has been LeDuc’s playground since the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series held its inaugural season in 2009. Over that span, he’s captured an astounding six championships, with his most recent triumph coming this past season during another dominant campaign. Despite a fierce and persistent challenge from both RJ Anderson, the 2018 Pro 4 Champion, and Doug Mittag, LeDuc never wavered and carried on to capture six wins in nine rounds of action. That was more than enough to complete his own championship six-pack, which also serves as a record number of titles for any single division in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series.
Despite all of his success and a reign dominance piloting four-wheel drive vehicles that now spans a decade, LeDuc is just as hungry as ever to take home more checkered flags and more titles. LeDuc closed out 2019 with a stellar performance in the Lucas Oil Challenge Cup, which signified career win number 99 and has put him on the precipice of a landmark achievement few thought could be possible. He has one of the most decorated legacies of any driver in the history of short course off road, and with win number 100 there for the taking, there are no signs that he’s prepared to slow down in any way.
You enjoyed quite a season. Outside of a couple hiccups you were the clear-cut driver to beat all season and collected six wins in nine races. How did the 2019 season go in your eyes?
It was good. We started out 2019 with a win, and one of the keys for us was to really come out swinging from the beginning of the season, and not have to play catch up at the end of the year, because we’ve had to do that before in the past. It’s a stressful nightmare, so coming out strong in the beginning is always hard to do, but it’s also our number one, main goal. In 2019 we nailed it, and it opened up the gamut to a successful year knowing we had the right stuff off the bat with our upgrades during the winter to make us fast. It’s just a good way to start it, and obviously the end result came out exactly like we had planned and hoped.
You’ve really focused on Pro 4 for the vast majority of your career. What makes that class so special to you?
I started in Pro Lite, and I was spotting and helping my dad in Pro 4. I told him we need to build him a better truck, but he was resistant to it, and I told him he was going to get his butt whooped. So, we finally threw down and he let me design it. We built this tiny, lightweight, and pretty odd-looking truck. It was cool, but he never tested it, and he never did enough research into why it didn’t work or do anything we wanted it to do. He was hardheaded to change his ways, and I saw an opportunity there. The next year he left to do the Paris-Dakar race in January, and I went and bought a trailer full of tubing. We ripped the rear end housing off his Pro 4 and by the time he came back I almost had a full chassis of a Pro 4. I didn’t have a sponsor, I didn’t okay it from him, so he came back and asked me what I did. I told him I built a Pro 4 and I’m going for it. He thought I was crazy. I had Rockstar Energy as a sponsor on my Pro Lite, and we talked to them. They saw that I was young, and that my dad was getting older, and told me they’d love to have me in Pro 4. It was a shot in the dark. It was either going to sit there, or they were going to come on board, and they chose to come on board. We went out racing and in my first year I won three races in Pro 4. As soon as I felt the power and the drivability of a Pro 4, it was eye opening and so attractive to get into. We won right away and have just continued to push the limits ever since.
This past season, both RJ Anderson and Doug Mittag gave you some serious challenges. Given all the success you’ve had it might seem hard to believe that you had to step up your game even more in 2019, but is that what they forced you to do in order to prevail with another title?
I’ve had some pros and cons with the classes. I’ve built the Steelo, won some races and two championships. It was awesome. Then I had an opportunity when the Mittags came to the track with their sponsor at the time and told me they wanted to buy my truck. I told him the number that it would take to drive it away, they agreed, and they bought it. I sold them a really, really good truck, and it scared me. I had already planned to build a new truck already, but it scared me to give somebody else the tools that I know I created to go fast. So, during that offseason I definitely was nervous. I feel like I could drive better than most of them, but you don’t know. That next season, Mittag was fast and had things dialed in. This new truck EVO I’ve been racing since 2018 and it’s fast. It’s evolved and we’ve changed a lot of things. Those other guys have the tools. RJ Anderson has a good truck and a good setup, and I know what Mittag has. I think we’re trying to beat something that is almost unbeatable, as far as the truck goes, and that’s something that’s tough to sit here in the shop and think of ways to beat it. But we did that with the truck we have now. A lot of it is prep. We’ve seen other guys go out there and run fast, but break. That’s a huge part of it, and we’re always looking at it. We either win or we’re broken. That’s honestly been my motto for the past five years. Push the limits of the truck. You give me a good truck and I’ll win with it. If we break, then we’re done. It’s gnarly. It’s a lot of pressure on myself, but I love that. It’s what I’m all about. Those guys were there, and it was tough, but we put together enough wins to capitalize on a championship again.
Obviously, your family is part of off road royalty. Your dad was a pioneer in both desert and short course off road, and now you and your brother are carrying on the LeDuc legacy in your own ways. What’s it been like to be a part of a family so driven by the sport, where each of you have left your own unique mark on the off road world?
It’s been good. We grew up around it, so it’s just been normal. I used to go to the races and my dad was a Trophy Truck driver, then he’d leave and go to Dakar. He did a lot of things back in the day to make a living. He was a Trophy Truck champion. He did it all. On the short course side of things, he was never dominant. He never won a championship. He won some races, but he was never the guy to be able to go to the track and know he was going to whoop everyone that weekend. So, for short course I saw an opportunity once I started racing Pro 4 that I could be that guy and represent our family in that way. Brother Todd had his share of success in short course, and he tried Pro 4, but he could never get that risk factor high enough. He was just the happy medium and I think that bit him a little bit with sponsors. He had to go elsewhere and make his mark, and now he’s doing Monster Jam and crushing it. Right now, what’s working for me is short course. It’s just been the road for our family, in racing. The fact that we’re making a living sitting in a race car, giving the gas, making money, and supporting our families, it’s just badass, for sure.
Now that you have a family of your own, do you hope that your son and/or daughter carry on the LeDuc legacy for a third generation?
I think so. It’s fun, but the sport has to be worth introducing. Right now, they play in the dirt, they have UTVs. They definitely are into it and know it exists, and they go to all the races, but it’s hard to say what they’ll do. I hope it works out. If they love it, that’s sick, if they don’t, it doesn’t matter to me. As long as they’re having fun. If they choose to go into the off road world, boy or girl, they’re going to have some big shoes to fill and big expectations. Hopefully that’s what they want to do and live up to that, if that’s what they want to do. I just hope they have fun. That’s what I push every day. Even me, I’m laughing half the time in these race cars because of the stuff we get away with driving them. It’s literally the most fun you can have in your life to drive these cars.
With the 2020 season on the horizon, what big things can we expect from Kyle LeDuc? What are your hopes and goals for this year’s Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series?
We want to race. We want to be competitive. We want to be fast. But I think for me and my team and my sponsors, we need to push the aspect of short course. We need to do more to showcase the racing, deliver content to the masses. Show what we do, and why it’s so cool to sit in the grandstands. I’ve been around it literally my entire life, and I run up into the grandstands because the Pro Lite races are about to start. We’re pointing, we’re screaming, and we need to showcase that more to the people that spend their money to come and watch us, and those who choose not to. Obviously, racing is important to pay my bills, winning the races, and getting the most TV time as possible. Those are all the biggest things for me. Everything is going to be different, better, new, fast, but none of that is irrelevant if we don’t push the fans and get them more interacted into what we do and get them into the grandstands.
Who would you like to thank for contributing to all of your success?
Obviously, you thank your team, your influencers, your wife, your kids. All of those are the people that literally make it happen. And there’s no way to do it without any of them. But there are those moments where it’s just myself and the race truck. I’ve been there when I have everything on the line, and it’s those moments in the car where you’re having the time of your life. You do something that blows your mind. Doing that stuff in the race car, pulling those things off and having that feeling of victory and pride, it transfers into the team, into the sponsors, and into the fans. I think stupid little moments inside of a race car really have massive implications on all that stuff. So, you really want to push and be grateful for all of your team, but at the same time, you need to deliver, and the pressure is on everybody. You want to thank all your talents and success, and at the same time, none of it is possible without sponsors, the team that lets you drive that truck out on the track, and your family for supporting you. It literally is a massive nutshell where nothing overrides and over strides anyone in the process.
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