Family Man, Jason Blanton on racing vs. rockcrawling; working the grind and working to win. Always great to see work ethic pay off, spend some time with Rich and Jason on this episode of Conversations with Big Rich. Good things come to those who work for them. Be sure to listen on your favorite podcast platform.
5:57 – Snowboarding was pretty big in my life
9:40– I never had a problem because I don’t think I got enough power
17:47 – I’m sure if my first car had been a car, I might have been into streetcars
22:12 – I started with nothing in a Honda
25:18 – If I go to a job and they have me bid against other people, I don’t even bid
30:35 – You guys got to move your camp, you’re on the start/finish line
37:35 – they wanted pictures all day long of dudes with beards
46:09 – it’s serious, we’re there to win and it’s a business
We want to thank our sponsors Maxxis Tires and 4Low Magazine.
Be sure to listen on your favorite podcast app.Support the show
[00:00:06.370] - Big Rich Klein
Welcome to conversations with Big Rich. This is an interview style podcast. Those interviews are all involved in the offroad industry. Being involved, like all of my guests are, is a lifestyle, not just a job. I talk to competitive teams, racers, rock crawlers, business owners, employees, media and private park owners, men and women who have found their way into this exciting and addictive lifestyle. We discuss their personal history, struggles, successes, and reboots. We dive into what drives them to stay active and offroad. We all hope to shed some light on how to find a path into this world we live and love and call offroad.
Whether you're crawling the red rocks of Moab or hauling your toys to the trail, Maxxis has the tires you can trust for performance and durability. Four wheels or two? Maxxis tires are the choice of champions because they know that whether for work or play, for fun or competition, Maxxis tires deliver. Choose Maxxis Tread victoriously.
Have you seen 4low magazine yet? 4low Magazine is a high quality, well written, four wheel drive focused magazine for the enthusiast market. If you still love the idea of a printed magazine, something to save and read at any time, 4Low is the magazine for you. 4Low cannot be found in stores, but you can have it delivered to your home or place of business. Visit 4Lowmagazine.com to order your subscription. Today
[00:01:47.050] - Big Rich Klein
on today's episode of conversations with big rich, we have Jason Blanton. Jason is an old time rock crawler with Calrocs, or WE Rock. I'm not sure where the transition came in, but with him. But we will talk to him about that and his ultra4 racing and his career as a contractor and his life growing up. So, Jason, thank you so much for coming on board and spending the time recording with us.
[00:02:13.870] - Jason Blanton
Thanks for having me.
[00:02:15.390] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. I'm going to let everybody know that Technical Difficulties has been the name of the game with this one, and it's all been on my side. But Jason has been very good about me calling him back ten to twelve times. So I think we finally got it worked out.
[00:02:31.750] - Jason Blanton
Let's hope so. That's good.
[00:02:33.290] - Big Rich Klein
Okay, so let's jump right in. And where were you born and raised?
[00:02:40.090] - Jason Blanton
I was born in Mesa, Arizona, and pretty much moved when I was a pretty young child up to Washington. So I've been living in Washington and Kirkland, Washington, for my whole life, pretty much.
[00:02:52.320] - Big Rich Klein
Okay, and what is the neighborhood like up there? Is it rural or suburban?
[00:02:57.730] - Jason Blanton
Very suburban. We live 4 miles from Seattle. There's asphalt everywhere and you're 40ft from your neighbors. It's not farmland by any means.
[00:03:09.370] - Big Rich Klein
And what took the family from Mesa to Kirkland?
[00:03:15.430] - Jason Blanton
My mom got a good job opportunity up here, so we moved up from Arizona and she works in the hospitality industry and moved up here to better things.
[00:03:27.370] - Big Rich Klein
Excellent. And it's a great area to grow up in. I've spent a lot of time on the western side of the mountains there and on the eastern side with the events out there. But good area to grow up in, would you agree?
[00:03:41.170] - Jason Blanton
Oh, yeah. I've been all over the place and all over the world. It's a great place to live. It's a very mild place. It's like not super hot in summer, not super cold in the winter, but you'll get all the seasons and trees everywhere and lots of mountains close by, so a lot of stuff to do.
[00:03:57.270] - Big Rich Klein
So what was it like growing up there in Kirkland? What were the family activities? What were your activities?
[00:04:05.110] - Jason Blanton
I did a lot of sports as a child, so I did a lot of sports road bikes and skateboard and snowboard. I didn't snowboard until I was a little bit older, like middle school, but pretty much grew up playing every sport there is old enough to say I didn't want to do it anymore.
[00:04:24.130] - Big Rich Klein
I was going to say what's your favorite and what was your favorite growing up sport to play?
[00:04:31.150] - Jason Blanton
I like baseball, so I played a lot of baseball, and soccer was mainly the biggest things that we played. But I was pretty good at baseball, and I had a lot of fun at baseball. My dad and I got a free pitching machine, so we built like a batting cage in our backyard. It was a good time. It was fun.
[00:04:52.490] - Big Rich Klein
Excellent. And do you still watch baseball? Is it still a fun sport for you?
[00:04:58.780] - Jason Blanton
No, I don't like to watch. It pretty boring. I'd rather watch soccer. Football or hockey or something, but not baseball.
[00:05:08.400] - Big Rich Klein
Baseball my problem with baseball, and even when I did play, there was so much time, like you were waiting for something to happen. I mean, if you're a pitcher and catcher, I caught, so at least I was in the action, you might say. But it just seemed like if you were an outfielder, you were waiting sometimes, like all day long for something to happen.
[00:05:37.130] - Jason Blanton
Oh, yeah, I agree. It's kind of like I played pitcher, and I was short stop, and then I played a little bit outfield. Outfield was just like just hanging out there, waiting for something to come your way. It was quite boring.
[00:05:49.430] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. And then you got into snowboarding, and how big was that in your life?
[00:05:57.570] - Jason Blanton
That was pretty big in my life. I played all sports really up until high school, and then I was getting pretty good at snowboarding at that time. This is back in the day when there wasn't a whole lot of snowboarding was new, so it was exciting and new to me. And I gave up all my other sports just to snowboard. So I pretty much just work as much as I could in high school, so I could snowboard in the winter as much as I wanted.
[00:06:25.470] - Big Rich Klein
And you said you worked in high school. What kind of jobs were you doing?
[00:06:30.330] - Jason Blanton
I worked my first job when I was 14. I carried plywood for a roofing company, so I helped stock roofs. And then when I was 16, I worked at a tire shop. So I worked at a Big O Tires, and I swapped tires and did oil changes for a couple of years. So that was my high school days. And then when I finished up high school, I was working at Off Road Shop.
[00:06:55.060] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. And what off road shop was that?
[00:06:59.430] - Jason Blanton
I think it was called Off Road Outlet.
[00:07:01.620] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. I was going to say a lot of them have come and gone.
[00:07:08.130] - Jason Blanton
[00:07:09.630] - Big Rich Klein
So then when you were school, was it easy? Was it hard? Did you just not care? What was your attitude towards school?
[00:07:23.490] - Jason Blanton
I was pretty good at school. My parents are really fresh as hard to be good in school. So I did really well in school up until high school. Then I kind of slacked off a little bit, but I still did pretty good. I think I had like a three or five when I graduated in high school. But before that, before I got the snowboarding in high school, I was like a four point student for my whole life.
[00:07:43.430] - Big Rich Klein
Okay, and while you were growing up, what was it that you wanted to do or become?
[00:07:50.910] - Jason Blanton
Man, when I was growing up, I wanted to ride dirt bikes and snowboard and do fun stuff. And it was one of of things, like, my parents wanted me to do sports. Right. So they weren't helping me out as much to do, like, snowboarding and riding motocross. I was lucky. When I was younger, one of my buddies, Sean Strauss, he had a dirt bike that he, like, totaled. And so it was my opportunity to get a dirt bike, so I got it off him for free. Things like broken half so you can have it. So I got that. My dad and I fixed it all back up and got it running. That was like my first turbike.
[00:08:33.570] - Big Rich Klein
And what was it?
[00:08:35.120] - Jason Blanton
It was a KX 125.
[00:08:37.030] - Big Rich Klein
Okay, cool. And were you in high school at that point or grade school?
[00:08:41.560] - Jason Blanton
I was in high school at that time. I got a dirt bike.
[00:08:45.930] - Big Rich Klein
What was the first car that you were able to drive?
[00:08:50.430] - Jason Blanton
My first car my parents actually gave me it was an 84 Bronco two who was baby blue and white.
[00:08:58.080] - Big Rich Klein
There you go. Styling.
[00:09:04.030] - Jason Blanton
And I got that thing they basically handed the keys over to me when I was 15, and they're like, all right, you can do whatever you want with it. So I bought, like, a James Duff lift at the time, so I put a James Duff lift on it. So when I was 16, it was already lifted and it was on like, 35 inch thorn birds. It was pretty ridiculous, especially where Thornbirds look cool. They look cool, but they were the worst tire all the time.
[00:09:35.710] - Big Rich Klein
Did you have any problems with, like, those huge tread blocks coming off?
[00:09:40.630] - Jason Blanton
I never had problems because I don't think I got enough power at the time. So it just had little crappy V Six in it? Yeah, I had that was when I was a sophomore, and then that only lasted about a year. I got bored with that. So then I took that. I met a guy that had totaled, like, a 74 Bronco. Then I bought the axles off him. So I had a 44, swapped it and 90 rear. And then I put coil springs all the way around and four linked it. And then I found a 302 carbureted and shoved that in there. This is all when I was in high school. Now. I had, like, a V eight truck on Boggers, so I switched from Thornburst to Boggers.
[00:10:23.030] - Big Rich Klein
Okay, that's a good choice.
[00:10:24.930] - Jason Blanton
Yeah. Most of the kids in my school drove, like, Hondas and BMWs and stuff, and I drove a Bronco Two with a V Eight and bars.
[00:10:34.390] - Big Rich Klein
And what color was that? Was that, bronco?
[00:10:37.510] - Jason Blanton
It was still baby blue and white and got to senior year. And then I got bored again, and I decided to cut the roof off. And then I took the back windows out, cut the roof off, and we caged it in high school. And then I spray painted all, like, gray, and I had black Scallop flames on it. It was pretty ridiculous at that time.
[00:11:02.870] - Big Rich Klein
In that car you drove back and forth to school?
[00:11:05.410] - Jason Blanton
Yeah, I drove it back and forth to school.
[00:11:07.670] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. How did your dates feel that I'm sure you dated back then, so how are your dates feeling about climbing into something like that?
[00:11:18.350] - Jason Blanton
I mean, they dealt with it, but like I said, where we live, it's just uncommon to see that kind of stuff. I had a couple of friends that were into offroading at the time, like, handful of buddies I'm still friends with now, but, yeah, it was odd. And people knew me because of my truck and all that kind of stuff.
[00:11:38.670] - Big Rich Klein
That's good. I borrowed a friend's Fiat 124 Spider. So it had the convertible and went on a date, and it was actually a blind date. Picked this girl up, and she had hair that went down past her waistline. And she looks at me and she goes, really? A convertible? And I said, yeah, it'll be great. She goes, do you see my hair? And I'm thinking, this date is not going to last very long. When she was not thrilled about getting into a sports car with a convertible that racing red and everything, it was like, Girl, this isn't going to work. I don't think this is going to work.
[00:12:27.550] - Jason Blanton
[00:12:30.590] - Big Rich Klein
And after about 10 miles of driving and her complaining the whole time, I turned around and took her home. So much for blind dates. She was hot, but not worth it. So you're married. Did you go to school with your wife or did you meet her later?
[00:12:54.490] - Jason Blanton
I met her later in life. Okay. Yeah, I pretty much went to school. I went to Central Washington University for a year, and then I got bored because I did all the electives. I want to do, like, machining stuff and all that, and I just work in my whole life, a whole lot of work. I met my wife, I don't know, I think it's been ten or eleven years ago now.
[00:13:22.150] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. When I first met you, you were hanging out with Keith and you guys came out to compete. And I don't remember Goldendale and I don't remember if it was Cal rocks back then or we rock.
[00:13:33.010] - Jason Blanton
I think it was WE Rock. I think it was 2007 or 2008. And Keith and I built a buggy in my parents garage, and that's the car that we competed. Keith was actually the driver right. And I was spotting for him. So that was our start of rock crawling.
[00:13:51.020] - Big Rich Klein
Okay, cool. And so, yeah, that was We Rock at that time. So leading up to that school, you were really interested in snowboarding, but that didn't continue on. Was there a reason for that?
[00:14:12.110] - Jason Blanton
I always snowboard a bunch, but it never came to where I got paid to snowboard. So it kind of fell back on just going back to work, you know?
[00:14:20.060] - Big Rich Klein
[00:14:21.590] - Jason Blanton
I worked at the Path, I taught snowboarding, and I did everything I could to just snow as much as possible. And that probably, like, really affected my school. We lived my school is 30 minutes from the mountains, so just do school as quick as I could and go snowboard. And then I'd work during the week, so I get snowboard on the weekends or vice versa.
[00:14:42.870] - Big Rich Klein
[00:14:44.570] - Jason Blanton
[00:14:45.400] - Big Rich Klein
Then as you were growing up, your dad had been a contractor, and then what else did he do?
[00:14:57.150] - Jason Blanton
My dad was a contractor until my sister and I started going to school. And then we couldn't afford, like, daycare at the time, so he actually quit doing construction. He also had a ton of back injuries, got bunch of back surgeries, and he started driving school bus, so that way he'd have the same hours that we did. So he'd be off when we got off and have the summer breaks off with us and all the breaks, he was there with us.
[00:15:25.590] - Big Rich Klein
[00:15:27.330] - Jason Blanton
[00:15:27.970] - Big Rich Klein
So what did you guys do for family wise vacations or for fun?
[00:15:35.370] - Jason Blanton
We did a lot of work. Once a year, we'd probably go to Hawaii once a year, and then we'd go on some random trips. At the time when we were younger, my parents had bought some property in the Hood Canal. So it's like right down on Saltwater, right on the beach. But the property was just covered in sage what is it called? Witches broom and BlackBerry bushes. So we pretty much go camping every weekend and work and cut down bushes to clear the property for years. So that was our form of work going and, like, whack down trees and bushes. And then it finally they sold that property. So we basically got it a long time. We were kids, and we worked on it every year until they could build a cabin there.
[00:16:22.970] - Big Rich Klein
Okay, so you were able to complete all the brush cutting.
[00:16:26.740] - Jason Blanton
Oh, yeah, that's good.
[00:16:31.870] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, we had the same thing. We had bought property. My parents had bought property up in placerville where I'm at right now. And the house there was the same thing. The whole back part of the property was in blackberries, and it seemed like every spring it was back up there to cut them all down again. And you can't kill those damn things, it seems like, right?
[00:17:01.570] - Jason Blanton
Yeah, you got to take them all the way down to their root ball to get them to stop growing. Right.
[00:17:06.140] - Big Rich Klein
And you can't use all the good chemicals because of the western states, they outlawed all the good chemicals that could actually kill that stuff.
[00:17:15.590] - Jason Blanton
I just remember doing, like, you would cut them all down and you get them dried out, and you just have a giant, like, burn pile, and we would just burn it, and we're hoping, like, scorching the earth would kill the roots.
[00:17:29.070] - Big Rich Klein
So how did you get everybody else in yours, your school and everything had cars? You were one of the few that probably had four wheel drive, and you started modifying it. What got you to want to do that?
[00:17:47.610] - Jason Blanton
I don't remember exactly what got me into it, but I know I'd always been playing around with a couple of my buddies, and they have we'd always be like, we'd want to go dirt biking, we want to do outdoor stuff. We'd go camping in the mountains and stuff like that. And got turned into when I got my first car, it was, okay, well, I already got this car. It's not a car. It's bronco too, so let's do something cool to it. So I did that, and I did some research and found all that stuff. That's probably what got me into operating. I'm sure if I would have gotten, like, a car when I was my first car, if it was something I could have souped up to be a streetcar, I might have been warned of streetcars, but I really fell in love with offroading when I was young and just going out in the woods and being gone and away from everything and playing with my buddies.
[00:18:37.170] - Big Rich Klein
Cool. And how did the whole thing work out with Keith that you guys ended up building a rig?
[00:18:45.270] - Jason Blanton
Keith actually his older brother Sean, and Sean and I hung out all the time because he worked at the snowball shop that I hung out all the time at, and he got into offering as well. And so we'd work on each other's cars in my parents garage. And Keith at the time was way into bikes. Like, he's super good at riding DMX bikes. He's still really good at riding bike, so he wasn't really into fabricating. He would just come over and hang out in the garage and sit and watch us wrench. And so I remember we were kids, and we would just be like, keith, just sit there and watch us out. We know you don't know anything. Just sit there. And it turned into him sitting there. And then all of a sudden, he got all into welding and took some welding classes, and now he's, like, way better fabricator than any of us. So that's probably how he got his start hanging out in our garage and watching us work and decided that he wanted to start wrenching, too. And that got him started into fabrication.
[00:19:46.870] - Big Rich Klein
Awesome. So let's talk about the progress from working jobs to becoming a contractor yourself. How did that process play out?
[00:19:59.590] - Jason Blanton
So I just work normal jobs. I was actually working at a boating store for a while when I was younger, too. And then when I was about 18 or 19, I started a demolition company, and we did ti stuff. So I would work at the marine store during the day, and then at night, we would go do commercial demo. So we'd go in there and rip all the carpets out and prep areas for reconstruction. And that was like I was making good money. And my first truck that I've ever owned was it was an old Kaiser that my uncle gave me, and that was my rock. And that's what I used to, like, throw demolition debris in. And it had, like, drum brakes that sucked in a horrible engine. It was a manual transmission and you know how to ragtop. It was an old army truck, and that's what we used to haul debris for a good year or so. And then I figured out that sucked driving army truck. So then I had to buy another truck. And the guy I was partners with at the time, he was going to school as well, and he got more stuff into school, so that demolition thing kind of faded away, and so I needed something else to do.
[00:21:22.350] - Jason Blanton
And I had grown up doing remodels for my parents. Like I said, we didn't do a whole lot of traveling and fun stuff. We worked on a lot of things. So my parents would buy rental properties, and I would go and help my dad remodel them all. So I knew how to do it all. I just never took the steps to do it on my own. And, yeah, after the demolition company dissolved, I just got a phone call one day from one of my mom's friends. It's like, hey, your mom said that you know how to work on houses. Can you come remodel my condo? And it started like that. I had the Kaiser sold that and then I was in a Honda. So I had like a Honda Accord at the beginning of my construction days when I actually started my construction company.
[00:22:08.950] - Big Rich Klein
And did you put a lumber rack on it?
[00:22:12.670] - Jason Blanton
No lumber rack. If I had to have like, bigger supplies taken, my dad was always cool and he's like, you can just take my truck. And he would let me borrow I think he had an old Chevy Duly at the time, and I would borrow that to deliver supplies. And my parents actually let me borrow their chop saw and table saw to start my business. And I bought them new ones when I could afford to get new tools for them and slowly worked up to where I am now. Started with nothing in a Honda.
[00:22:46.150] - Big Rich Klein
Excellent. And just following your social media, it looks like you're doing pretty well and I'm proud of that. That's good.
[00:22:53.820] - Jason Blanton
Yeah, we're busy. More busy than I want to be. A lot of times it's like the grass is always greener. I see other people like, man, they had more time off and I work a lot. So between working and racing and my family, I don't sit down much. If I sit down, I'm probably going to fall asleep, so I just keep going till it gets dark.
[00:23:17.990] - Big Rich Klein
You're still a young man, so use all those hours you can. Yeah. When you get my age, you start going, man, I wasted a lot of time.
[00:23:31.230] - Jason Blanton
I hope that when I get to your age, I'm like, let's go. We are. I'm like, ready to hang out and not work my butt off, but we'll see how that goes.
[00:23:37.880] - Big Rich Klein
There you go. That's the place I'm at right now. And it's nice.
[00:23:43.410] - Jason Blanton
[00:23:45.270] - Big Rich Klein
You have a few years to catch up, so yes. So then how did you come up with the name of your construction company?
[00:23:58.450] - Jason Blanton
When I started, I was young, I was like 19 or 20 years old, so I was way into drinking at the time, partying. So my favorite was Crown Royal. So that's why I started my business and it was Crown Construction. Because of that, I probably regret that now at this point. So I've been trying to do a couple, like, DBA changes in the past few years, just trying to be grown up again and have a better name. At this point, people really don't even I'm a referral based business, so I don't do any advertising or anything and I couldn't handle the load if I did, so people probably don't even know my company, really. They just have my phone number and they get it passed along by all clients. And all my business is just people calling me up and, hey, this person told me to work, you come do this. And we're slammed.
[00:24:47.750] - Big Rich Klein
Well, that's great because at that point when they're calling you and it's off of referrals they know pretty much what you're going to end up charging for what they do, because their friend, they go, oh, man, nice remodel. What'd that cost you? And then they ask, who did it, what's the name? And they get in touch with you. So they're going into it with the knowledge that what their bill could be.
[00:25:18.190] - Jason Blanton
Yeah, 100%. If I go to a job and they have me bid against other people, I typically, unless it's a big enough job, I don't even bid it. I was like, I'm just too busy to take on that work. So I don't typically bid against people, which is nice. I'm very lucky to not have to fight that hard for the projects. So it's definitely worked my butt off to get to this point, and I'm.
[00:25:42.170] - Big Rich Klein
Glad that I did well in your detail. Must be phenomenal if you're not having to bid out against people.
[00:25:50.710] - Jason Blanton
Yeah, I think the hardest part is that transition point. We're big enough now that clients like to hire me for me. Right. But I can't be on every job every day, so it's tough on some people because they're like, we want you here. And I'm like, Well, I have eight to twelve projects, so it's just impossible for me to be here every day. I'm always in contact with my project managers and my guys, so I know what's happening, but to have that face to face with clients, I think some people hire our company. For me, it's a difficult thing to figure out how to transition that portion of the company.
[00:26:32.700] - Big Rich Klein
I agree. That was a landscape contractor in the Eldorado County Placerville Sacramento area and the same thing. I mean, I rarely had to bid against anybody, but I had three crews at one time going, and I try to spend a little bit of time every day in the morning hours to get the cruise, making sure the crews were on point, but any more than three and I wouldn't have been able to do that.
[00:27:02.050] - Jason Blanton
Yeah, I spent a lot of time driving.
[00:27:04.750] - Big Rich Klein
[00:27:05.830] - Jason Blanton
I do as best as I can, and I'm like, I'm doing as best as I can with what I can, the amount of time that I have. So at some point it's like you just downsize and make it back how it used to be or try to build bigger. It's a hard decision to make.
[00:27:26.290] - Big Rich Klein
It is when you're at that point where that threshold where, okay, I'm maxed out with everything I'm doing now, do I want to keep it here, scale back and enjoy it a little bit more, or take the step and maybe bring in a partner and then expand even more? That's a tough choice.
[00:27:46.810] - Jason Blanton
Yeah, it is. It's a daily stressor that I think about because it's like, man, right now, like you're saying I'm maxed out, and being maxed out every day is tough. So it's one of those things. It's like, you either make the next step and you go up, or you pull back a little bit, and like you said, you can enjoy it more and do it. I enjoy my time off too. So when I worked my butt off to take the time off right, and.
[00:28:17.720] - Big Rich Klein
You'Re married now and have a couple of kids, correct?
[00:28:20.830] - Jason Blanton
Yeah, it's three kids. I have two younger girls that are 11/13, and then I have an older son that's 18.
[00:28:27.380] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. You guys do a lot of family activities?
[00:28:35.150] - Jason Blanton
We try to do as much as possible. I try to bring them to most of the races that I go to if they can make it with school and everything. And then on days that we aren't doing soccer, my two girls play a competitive club soccer. So it's a five day week thing, soaks up a ton of time. So we are either doing soccer and then on weekends that we have off that I'm not racing or doing an event, then we go backpacking. So we go backpacking or hiking and try to stay outdoors. We definitely aren't the kind of people that sit down and watch TV. We're, like, always doing something.
[00:29:12.770] - Big Rich Klein
That's awesome. That's great to hear. So let's talk about your racing program, what you've got going, and how long you've been doing it.
[00:29:22.730] - Jason Blanton
Yeah, well, see, I've been doing it personally driving since 2009 was when I did we rock. I built a car keith and I built a car that was I built a car bypass shocks and Fo as on it, and I was like, oh, we could use this for promoting classes. When we tried it in and I did mediocre, it wasn't like, a car that was necessarily built all the way for rock crawling, and I did a bunch of rock crawling in it. And then, let's see, masterpiece at the time was my sponsor, and they were like, you guys got to do this king of the hammers race. And this was way back in the day, and they're like, if you go, we'll pay your entry. The entry fee was, like, $350 in time. It was back 2010. Right, right. It was a way different thing than it is today. So we tried to go do it, and we went out there, and it was a wild experience. We had probably 15 guys, and we rented one cab over RV from some RV place, and we all slept in that RV. I think I had two guys sleeping underneath the camper.
[00:30:35.470] - Jason Blanton
There's, like, a storage convert big enough for an air mattress. We have people under there and showed up, and at the time, there wasn't, like, designated spots. We just camped in the little desert, and we camped, apparently, the day before the race. So you guys got to move your camp. You guys are on the start finish line. What are you talking about? We had no idea. We would have been camping, like, right on. The straight away from the start line that started our King of the Amber's Experience. I think we made it 40 miles and we overheated about ten times and sucked and realized that we needed to do major changes to the car to actually do good hammers. So that started my ultra four career back then.
[00:31:24.170] - Big Rich Klein
Let's talk about that progress from that first race to when you built a new car and what was the mind frame, the frame of mind going into that?
[00:31:37.850] - Jason Blanton
It's been a learning. When you start in a sport that's new, there isn't a whole lot of education you can get from too many other people because they're on the same boat. We're all kind of learning how to make this work. So we started with that Buggy and it had a five liter because I basically took my bronco two and I stripped all the parts of it and that's what I used to build the Buggy. So it was a very inexpensive buggy to build. I had the five meter for a while and it had a front mounted radiator that was way too small. So after the first King of Hammers we brought home and I was excited, I wanted to do well. This is like a new challenge for us and all my buddies, we wanted to kill it too. So we took the back buggy and we pulled the filer out and then we put a junkyard five three in it and put a rear mounted radiator in it, put all kinds of cooling on it because that's what we thought was the issue with the cooling. So we'd only made it that far, the hammers, and we realized that we just need cooling.
[00:32:43.100] - Jason Blanton
So we put the engine in, put a bunch of cooling in, and then the next year we went, I think we finished the Hammers that year. So the following year in 2011, I believe we finished in that car. And things at Hammers progressed quite quickly. I mean, it's still progressing. So we soon learned that car. I think I raised it one more year and I was doing back door going up and I snapped the front link off the front axle and that took us out. And then at that point we fix it like, all right, crap, let's throw this thing away, let's get a faster car because it only took like one or two years and everybody knows now, like, getting fast, right? So it turned really quick. Yeah. Then we drove that car for a little while and then decided to build a faster car. So I sold that car, went back east and the guy is still racing that car in like a Lion Mountain, I Believe series, right, okay, so he still races. That my first buggy. The first couple of years I started meeting people out there at the lake bed.
[00:33:58.200] - Jason Blanton
And one of my good buddies, Nick Nelson, him and I met down there actually at the Hammers and Lake bed, and we got to know each other and we're like, dude, do you need a faster car? Nick's like, why not build you a faster car? And so he was driving for Jimmy For at the time. So I got in touch with Randy and we talked about building a long travel straight axle car. So we built a rear engine, trailing and leading arm car, and I put an LSX 454 in it. So this is like going from a 53 to an LSX was like a huge jump. I mean, we're talking triple the horsepower from a junk air car, right? So it was awesome. And we built that car, I think in 2012 or 2013. And that year in 2013, we got second in the nation. So it was a fast reactor. We're doing really good. I drove for Falcon Tire at the time, and we literally lost first place that year at Nationals by two minutes. And we lost it, but we also blew seven tires. So we had a rough go to Nationals. Every time we come into main pit, I basically had, like, flat tires, like either one or two.
[00:35:24.660] - Jason Blanton
Wow, that's good. It was a rough race. It was a really rough race. I remember that race really well because it was a wild one. Every lap, just driving back on a flat because we didn't want to stop. We're just like, I'm not stopping. I'm just going to drive on the wheel all the way through. But yeah, that was the start of that. That was our next progression to race cars. So it was quite a jump car, was a lot faster. I believe in 2014, I got picked up by Nito Tire. So they saw us at Nationals just struggling. And I believe it was Mel Wade was talking to NATO at the time. Did you see that guy? He's super fast. You need to put him on the team because I think Mel was on NATO at that time, and that kind of got us the Nitto step in all my other buddies and Jamie's for referral NATO. So that was a good way for us to get in the program.
[00:36:26.370] - Big Rich Klein
And then you're still running. You have an Ifs car now, don't you?
[00:36:31.620] - Jason Blanton
I do, yeah. So I drove that straight axle car up until 2016, and then I sold it to the Chinese and I flew to China and I raced the King of China. So I raced in China that year. So a bunch of us went over there. I think Ranny Slossen was there, and Tom Waze was there. Nick Nelson came with us. Brian Ka prayer was there. I believe we all went over to China for the first time and raced over there in that car. And that's what got me that race. And selling my car is what got me the funds to build my Ifs car.
[00:37:15.850] - Big Rich Klein
[00:37:16.900] - Jason Blanton
Oh, no. It was a wild experience. China was crazy.
[00:37:24.110] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, I've heard some of the stories. Just the locals there were just absolutely amazed watching what you guys were doing.
[00:37:33.590] - Jason Blanton
Oh, it was amazing. The locals were blown away, not really by me, but all my buddies, because they were, like, white guys with huge beards, like, blew them away. They wanted pictures all day long of that of dudes with beards. It was so crazy. And they built this if you think of king of the hammers, but then you think of luxury. King of the hammers. They built, like, this giant I remember you go to, like, restaurants that had turf down. They had couches outside in the middle of desert and had all this stuff. It was wild. But then it was also tons of bugs, and it was gnarly and in nowhere. And the food was a little different for most people, so it was kind of getting used to your stomach. But it was a very cool experience. And, I mean, I don't regret going at all. I got to go to some crazy places over there. These wealthy people would have private wheeling mountains. They own, like, the whole mountain, and they built, like, a clubhouse. And we went to one, and they're like, yeah, you just go wheel wherever you want. We own this whole area.
[00:38:48.640] - Jason Blanton
So they shipped all the cars there. We got a wheel there. It was incredible. It was a super cool experience. One of the funniest things I remember is if you think of, like, harbor freight, when you go to china, it's like every store is an aisle of harbor freight. So there will be, like, the chainsaw aisle, and I'd be like, a store in china. And then you would go to, like, the zip tie store. They're all next to each other. We went to one store, and we need to cut some tires because it was super sandy and I was the only person to bring paddles. So that car, like, dominated on paddles, but they wanted everyone to keep up, so let's just cut tires. So we went to the chainsaw, harbor freight, and we go there with, like, a translator, find a chainsaw for, like, $50. And I think it was tom was asked the guy, how do you know if this thing works? And the guy just literally saying he was smoking a cigarette or something and just brings the thing outside and just starts the chainsaw in the street. Here you go. This is your chainsaw.
[00:39:57.830] - Jason Blanton
It works. And we use that thing to cut tires.
[00:40:02.150] - Big Rich Klein
That's amazing. So you guys are grooming and cutting tires with a chainsaw?
[00:40:06.750] - Jason Blanton
With a harbor freight chainsaw. We're out there.
[00:40:12.570] - Big Rich Klein
Oh, man, I would love to see videos of all that. That sounds pretty cool.
[00:40:17.450] - Jason Blanton
I think I probably have a video that somewhere spec somewhere in my phone. I probably got that. But it was wild. It was super cool. I don't think I would ever go back to that area of China, but it was a very cool experience. It's just a different it's not what you expect. We flew into, I think, Hong Kong or Shanghai or something first, and we got to stay there for a day. And that was like a big city and a little different. And then you go in the suburbs, and it was wild. It was just wild to see. It's a totally different it's not the US. At all, right? We are spoiled over here.
[00:40:57.570] - Big Rich Klein
So you came back out and rock crawled at We Rock this year.
[00:41:04.830] - Jason Blanton
[00:41:05.910] - Big Rich Klein
I really appreciated that. And it was good seeing you. Hadn't seen you in quite a while. What did you think of going slow again?
[00:41:15.630] - Jason Blanton
I really enjoy it. I have so much fun. I've never really had, like, a real rock crawler until this year. My buddy James Tracy builds a lot of portal cars that actually probably compete in We Rock. But I was like, dude, I just want a buggy that I can pre run the hammers in and I can go play in. And so he built me a four wheel steer buggy. We put, like, a 500 horse LS in it, and then I used some parks and race cars. It's got a Tier 400 in it in an atlas and spider tracks and 40 spline. I've had so much fun just going back to the roots of Whealand this last year. It's been incredible. And then going to we rock. It was fun to just get like I did okay, I think we got, like, fourth, but just to see how it's totally different form of offroading right, than Ultra Four. Like, you know, the race car, you're going up rocks, and it's a point shooting. It's like, I'm going to pick this line and I'm going to muscle my way through this line. That's how I'm going to get through it.
[00:42:22.640] - Jason Blanton
In a big ass race car on a crawler, it's like you're just finessing and working your way through, and then you throw freaking cones in there, and it's like, Jesus, this is crazy.
[00:42:33.870] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, you don't get to pick your own line.
[00:42:36.450] - Jason Blanton
Yeah, it's a totally different thing. And it was a lot of fun. It's challenging, and I had a great time. I've had a great time wheeling with it's wild how there's, like, a separation between rock crawlers and my race buddies, right? Like, I have, like, the family when you go racing. I know everybody, but I haven't hung out with rock brower people in a long time. And it's like, these are all people that I started when I was young wheeling with, and they still are out there wheeling, and they came out to the comp, and they're competing as well, and it's cool to see them again. I lost, like, a decade of seeing these guys, and now we're back at it, playing with each other in the rocks, right?
[00:43:17.680] - Big Rich Klein
And a lot of the guys like yourself that come back out and experience it again. Realize what guys have told me is that it's like, what I miss about the rock crawling while we're racing is that personal interaction all day long during the racing, you're constantly working on the car. Your sole focus is to get that thing on the racetrack and then maintenance and everything else you have to do beforehand and right after or during. And so it's a lot harder to socialize with a larger group. And with a rock crawling, it's so.
[00:44:01.600] - Jason Blanton
Much more laid back 100%. Like, I totally agree. That's a great analogy. When we're racing, it's me and my crew and we're just thrashing in the car and even The Hammers, you're there for two weeks of The Hammers, and I see the guys, my buddies and stuff. It's mainly in passing. We're, like, running around trying to find parts or trying to sign up or get everything ready for the race. That's when you see everybody, you stop and chat with them, but you don't really get to hang out and man wheeling, it's a totally different thing. Like, you're definitely, like, you do a course and you hang out and chatting with your buddies and you're not having to thrash as much. I mean, put pump gas in that thing and I grease the u joints and we're good to go. I'm not doing anything else beyond that exactly.
[00:44:49.470] - Big Rich Klein
For me, King of the Hammers, I think, and Dave has done a phenomenal job with that style of rock sports. I mean, he's built something that's just pretty insane and everybody is bought into the whole concept and everything, but with me, it's always been about the people. So when I go and hang out the last couple of years that I went to The Hammers, I'd go walk by the fire at night, and I knew nobody I knew was in their pits working or hanging out. If they weren't working, they were hanging out in the pits with their group, their team. And, you know, maybe there'd be a couple, you know, one or two other teams hanging out with them and stuff, but it just didn't seem like there was that much like what there is in rock crawling, where everybody's there all day long, you're together in the evenings, and it's just more social time, I guess, is what it is. And for me, without being part of one of the race teams or working for Dave, it just became too much of a hassle. It wasn't as fun, I guess.
[00:46:09.930] - Jason Blanton
Yeah, it's definitely different. In the earlier of Hammers, there was always people at the fire pit and you're always hanging out and partying together. And then it's turned into it's serious. I mean, we're there to win and it's a business. It's full on business. It's funny because back in the day, when we first started King of Hammers, we wrenched during the day, we party at night, and we go practice during the day, and we party again at night. And now it's, dude, I maybe have a beer a day and that's it. And I'm like to bed early. I'm up early, like wrenching and doing logistics and figuring everything out. It's a serious thing, and I get it. It's like we're all investing a ton of money and time to go race Hammers, so it's serious stuff. So when I get to go Rock Raw, for me, when I get to go Rock Crawl, I want to do well, but I want to also go hang out with my buddies and have a good time. So it's a little different. It's way more laid back. I do really enjoy that part of it.
[00:47:18.090] - Big Rich Klein
Cool. So then what are you looking at for the future as far as your program?
[00:47:30.630] - Jason Blanton
I am still going to race right now. We've got the car torn down, I lost an engine. I was out doing some film work with some rally cars. I lost my engine in the race car, so it's currently getting rebuilt. We'll still race as much as I can in Ultra Four, but I'm excited that I have this Rock Crawler now because now I can also do other events with it in the race car. I couldn't go to Easter Jeep because it's just you don't take the race car to Moab and drive Jeep trails. It just would piss it off. And I've done it, and it's not fun.
[00:48:11.560] - Big Rich Klein
[00:48:12.930] - Jason Blanton
But I can do more events now that I have a crawler, so I'll probably still be doing the same program I've been doing now, as much races as I can get to with the cars in decent shape. And then I'll do off road events in the crawler and try to do some content stuff. I do really enjoy going out with buddies and filming and doing content things. So that's definitely my path. I'm not full on race car driver. I love to race, and I want to do well, but also want to go to fun and film it.
[00:48:48.690] - Big Rich Klein
Good. Glad to hear that. And then, of course, family is still number one.
[00:48:56.210] - Jason Blanton
Family is number one. So if I get in the races, I can get in that fit in our schedule. But yeah, family comes first, so whatever we can do with the family, and that's what I try to kind of involve them in racing. Like my girls, I've taught them how to drive the crawlers. They start on the crawler, and they're out there when we have time to take them out, and they're learning how to wheel and stuff like that. So it's cool to try to get them a little bit into the sport. And when I get to go to races, I bring them and they can enjoy some sort of vacation unless it's in the middle of nowhere.
[00:49:31.830] - Big Rich Klein
Right. And how old are the girls again?
[00:49:35.910] - Jason Blanton
Eleven and 1311 and 13.
[00:49:38.670] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. They're of the age. You should get them into competitive crawling. Unless they're really into their doing club.
[00:49:46.990] - Jason Blanton
Soccer and stuff, they're doing the club soccer. The oldest we had side by side as well, and we were at Easter Jeep a couple years ago, and the oldest, we had like a near death experience with the two girls. They rolled off a cliff at 50 miles an hour and crushed the cage and they were all good. We took them to hospital and they were all good, but it scared the oldest one, like, pretty bad. She was really good at driving and that kind of took her back a couple of notches. So we're working on her, but the youngest one is into it, so she'll be out there playing with cars and we'll see if she gets into more competitive stuff.
[00:50:29.050] - Big Rich Klein
There you go. What I've noticed over the last couple of years is that we're getting the young ladies started in rock crawling and it's dads that have been around the scene forever and maybe they don't have sons to carry the torch, you might say. But the girls are enjoying it and doing quite well. I mean, we had this season in the sportsmen B class, we constantly had 1st, second and third were either husband and wife teams or father and daughter teams.
[00:51:12.570] - Jason Blanton
That's super cool. It's like definitely a dream of mine if they do enjoy it, so they like doing it and we'll see what comes out of it. I wanted to build on a little portal car so they could have something to play, so we have a seat for everybody in the family to go out and play.
[00:51:29.800] - Big Rich Klein
[00:51:30.930] - Jason Blanton
So we're working on that. And if they enjoy and they want to do it, I'll definitely take them around and they can do it. I'm not going to hold them back, that's for sure.
[00:51:40.330] - Big Rich Klein
Cool, that's good to hear. So I saw some pictures on social media. You guys on a boat? Do you own a boat or you guys just out with somebody else?
[00:51:53.610] - Jason Blanton
No, I don't own a boat. I wish I did, but we go on a friend's boat. Okay.
[00:52:01.410] - Big Rich Klein
That's a lot of toys if you're doing the racing boats and rock crawling.
[00:52:08.370] - Jason Blanton
Definitely. I would love to get a wakeboard boat because I used to wakeboard a ton and I used to surf a lot, but other stuff gets in the way, like time wise. But I was just talking to my wife about a little bit ago, I like, I want to get a week for both just so when my girls grow up and they go out on their friends boats. Because we live really close to a lake, so we're five minutes from the lake. You know, friends as they get older are going to have both and I just don't want to be that person that just, like, sits on a boat and doesn't want to get in the water and do stuff, I want them to know how to do it so they get on the boat and they can show everybody else up.
[00:52:45.810] - Big Rich Klein
There you go. That's good motivation. And that's a great way to get your significant other to buy into the concept.
[00:52:57.850] - Jason Blanton
Oh, she was all about it after I said that.
[00:53:00.470] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. Awesome. So it sounds like you got a pretty good life going on right now.
[00:53:09.730] - Jason Blanton
It's pretty good. It's busy. It's just a daily grind. That's the only thing we got to do fun things, but you got to earn it kind of thing. So our weekdays are full of work and soccer, and then we try to fill our weekends up, so hopefully we can keep going with it and just power through it and have as much fun as we can and travel as much as we can while we can and enjoy it. So I'm hoping that in five to ten years I can slow things down a little bit with the business and actually enjoy more than we already.
[00:53:45.610] - Big Rich Klein
Excellent. So I'm going to pitch to you the idea of getting involved with Ormhoff, the Offroad Motorsports Hall of Fame. This year, we finally have two rock crawlers. What I consider true rock crawlers in the hall of Fame up to this point. And that's Dean Bullock and Shannon Campbell. They both cut their teeth on in rock crawling. They raced, they did a bunch of other things, but their rock crawling was there. They were successful there first, you might say. This year we have a couple of guys being Brad Lovell, Lance Clifford, and then Randy Anderson, who was the spotter and builder for Walker Evans. Those guys are all going into being inducted into the hall of Fame, and I want to push everybody that's in the Rock Motorsports to get involved with Ormhoff. You can become a member for like $25 a year or something like that. But the only way we're going to get Rock Crawlers and Rock racers really into the hall is by getting more power in the hall, which means more people joining and being active in it. So I'm called to arms everybody that's listening to this. Join ormhoff get involved.
[00:55:24.430] - Big Rich Klein
Yes, get involved with land use issues as well, but get involved with the history of our sport, which is what this podcast is all about. But also that's what Ormhoff is all about is recognizing the heroes. And the heroes are not just racers, they're car owners, builders, designers, fab guys, business owners, advocates, promoters, that kind of thing. Everybody that's involved, volunteers. It's amazing the people that have been inducted into the hall, and now we're starting to finally get the rock crawling and Rock sports in there. I'd like to push you to think about that because eventually you could be one of those guys who gets conducted.
[00:56:19.330] - Jason Blanton
I definitely will. It's super cool to see it over the past few years and seeing guys I know get inducted, and it's super cool.
[00:56:28.150] - Big Rich Klein
Shelley and I have been going to the induction dinners for years, and it really is kind of cool to see Rock Sports being recognized along with the desert racing that's been around for over 50 years, and then along with the Rally drivers and everybody else that's involved motorcycle guys, that we're finally being accepted. So it's kind of cool.
[00:56:56.830] - Jason Blanton
That's super cool. I mean, it's pretty wild. It's wild to, like, grow up and race and do in Rock Crawl and know all these guys, too, and the people that are getting inducted in the hall fans like, man, I've known that guy for a really long time. It's cool to see them getting recognized.
[00:57:12.790] - Big Rich Klein
I agree. So is there anything that we haven't touched base on that you'd like to talk about or you want to share?
[00:57:21.910] - Jason Blanton
I don't know, man. I'm just racing and trying to have fun as much as I can. I don't know much beyond that. Hopefully I'm out there at Re rock some more.
[00:57:33.470] - Big Rich Klein
How about if somebody wants to get involved with, say, a team that's become a driver, competitor, or even just a part of a crew for an Ultra Four team, what would you suggest their.
[00:57:49.640] - Jason Blanton
Avenue be if you wanted to become a driver? I would definitely start out with a lower class. I would not these days. I wouldn't jump straight into classes, too. It's just insane. So it'd be good to get into one of the other classes. So there's a lot of cars out there for sale, and so buy some car that's already kind of ready to go, and you may have to deal with some of their grim lens, but you're not starting from scratch. At least you're just dealing with a few things, right? If you have a good group of buddies that's on to wrenching and wheeling and find that group of buddies and see if they can come out and race with us, and we're always looking for more racers. There's a lot of racers out there, the Hammers, but there's always room for more. I think getting on to a team to help, it's a little difficult depending on which series you're trying to be in, if you're trying to jump right in and, like, help with the unlimited guys, a lot of guys now have, like, teams, you know, it's like, legit, but you can definitely come and help out and see how it all works and talk to guys.
[00:59:01.050] - Jason Blanton
And if you haven't been to The Hammers before, it's like a bucket list thing to come check out and walk around and talk to people. I mean, it's an experience on its own, right?
[00:59:13.310] - Big Rich Klein
Don't go by what I said about, I don't have as much fun at The Hammers any longer because I'm jaded. I've been doing it for so many years. I started hanging out in The Hammers in 99. I think it was actually 98. And I'm over certain things as you get older. But again, I'm yelling at people to get off my lawn and out of the marina. I'm the wake police too, so that's what happens when you get older. You get less tolerant of things. But yes, the Hammers and King of the Hammers is a bucket list item. I think everybody that is a Wheeling fan of any type should be out there at least once in experiencing it.
[01:00:00.420] - Jason Blanton
Yeah, 100%. You could bring anything out there at that point, like the hammers. You could drive a car out there to the lake bed, but even if you have an overlander or whatever, just come out and experience at once. Like I always tell people, I've been meaning to come out. I've been meaning to come out. I'm like, Dude, you just got to come once. You got to come see it and just see how crazy it is. The craziest part is most people that haven't been there don't know where it came from. And we've been there so long, we've seen it grow, and now it's just insane. I'd probably don't even leave the pit at night ever anymore.
[01:00:40.910] - Big Rich Klein
It's like Mad Max.
[01:00:42.950] - Jason Blanton
[01:00:46.470] - Big Rich Klein
It really is. It's insane out there in the general population, especially close to the Hammer town, everybody's party and everybody's having a good time. It is a wild scene, that's for sure.
[01:01:07.590] - Jason Blanton
It's definitely wild. And if you haven't been like I would just say, like, just be smart because there's a lot of people out there. You don't know what other people are going to do or how much they've been drinking. And it's just kind of the thing where it's like camping a safe spot. It's like going to the dunes on a big weekend. You just got to be like safe and be smart about what you're doing and make sure you're well seen at night and just come out and enjoy it and don't make it dangerous.
[01:01:32.970] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. If you're walking around out in the Hammers area at night in dark clothing with no light on or no reflective light, it's not a smart move.
[01:01:45.550] - Jason Blanton
Definitely not a smart move. Not anymore. Anymore. There's way too many people out there.
[01:01:51.550] - Big Rich Klein
Well, Jason, I want to say thank you so much for the hassle that I put you through trying to get this recording equipment to work, whether it be phones or cords or my P four recorder anyway. But we got it worked out. We got an interview in and I want to say thank you so much.
[01:02:13.990] - Jason Blanton
Of course. I appreciate it. It was cool to see you at the last comp and just catch up, and I'm happy to jump on here anytime and talk.
[01:02:22.050] - Big Rich Klein
Excellent. Well, have a great day. Hopefully I get to see you pretty soon and it was a great talk. Thank you.
[01:02:30.900] - Jason Blanton
Yeah, thank you very much. You too.
[01:02:32.520] - Big Rich Klein
All right, take care.
[01:02:34.000] - Jason Blanton
[01:02:35.620] - Big Rich Klein
Well, that's another episode of Conversations with Big Rich. I'd. Like to thank you all for listening. If you could do us a favor and leave us a review on any podcast service that you happen to be listening on. Or send us an email or text message or Facebook message. And let me know any ideas that you have or if there's anybody that you have that you think would be a great guest. Please forward the contact information to me so that we can try to get them on. And always remember, live life to the fullest. Enjoying life is a must. Follow your dreams and live life with all the gusto you can. Thank you.