Conversations with Big Rich

BFG Performance and off-road guru Richard Winchester in Episode 47

February 25, 2021 Guest Richard Winchesteer Season 1 Episode 47
Conversations with Big Rich
BFG Performance and off-road guru Richard Winchester in Episode 47
Show Notes Transcript

BFGoodrich has had a remarkable program for years supporting racers, especially in Baja.  Listen in as Rich talks with Richard Winchester about all things BFG.  Richard was at the start of the program and gives some great insight into how they built up Baja and why. 

3:14 – Sliding into the cornfield 

5:38 – then Uncle Sam sent me an invite for a visit to Korea

8:13– don’t wake the sleeping giant

9:30 – this performance stuff is a fad

14:50 – got the first lifetime membership out of the Southern Four Wheel Drive Association

21:28 – the start of the BFG Baja pits program

31:32– the people I count on to run the pits include my wife and daughter

32:54 – when things don’t go right in Mexico 

35:09 – the developer of the rock crawling tire, Gary Interline

52:27 – we can’t have an influencer if they don’t know our products

1:01:31 – we were kind of just winging it

1:04:24 – Danny saved the party


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[00:01:20.160] - Big Rich Klein
On today's episode of Conversations with Big Rich, we have Richard Winchester. Many, especially if you're in the BFG program as a competitor or have been around BFG tires or ran them. You probably know Richard, he was with BFG for many years, has been retired and handed over the reins to others. But we're going to talk to Richard about his life in off road. So, Richard, thank you very much for coming on board with us and talking about your history.

[00:01:53.000] - Richard Winchester
OK, well, I don't know exactly where to start, but I'll just start back a long time ago, back when I was, I guess, a teenager wanting to drive and well prior to having a driver's license, put it that way.

[00:02:07.400] - Big Rich Klein
Well, first of all, where did you where did you grow up?

[00:02:11.390] - Richard Winchester
OK, I grew up in Monroe, North Carolina. All right. That's right outside of Charlotte.

[00:02:17.090] - Big Rich Klein
So the home of NASCAR. Got it. Hey. Yes. Yeah. I guess you could say that. Yeah. And when did you you got involved with auto automotive as an early age did back when you were going to school, did they have they had tech classes and stuff? So were you involved in automotive tech classes, like in high school or anything like that?

[00:02:45.320] - Richard Winchester
Actually, in high school, our high school did not have an automotive tech class, OK, so I was learning mine on the side, basically hanging around a local.

Not really. I don't guess you could call them hotrod or performance shops because they weren't really. In other words, it was a really a working garage. They had somebody in it that was a hot rod and did hot rod stuff in the evening, just stuff like that.

Very familiar with that. Yep. So that's where I learned and I guess it started out really that earlier age with model cars and that kind of got me hooked. Won a trophy one time with a model car that kind of hooked me even more. But as time went on, I just before I had my license, I bought my first car and it was a 56 Chevrolet six cylinder automatic. I didn't have my license, so I would beg. My mother I promised all sorts of stuff to get her to take me to my grandmother's house, where there was about a mile dirt road behind her house. And I would spend many, many hours, riding that Dirt Road between a cornfield and a tree line back and forth, I don't know, I guess you might say that's where I got started and dirt. But when I went to Fast Round the corner, one day, I slid out into the cornfield, realized that was fun.

Then then I my dad had a real serious discussion with me about how much of the cornfield field I destroyed.

But I don't know, I guess you could say that might be when I started learning about dirt. But later on, in fact, after I had my license, I had another fifty-six Chevrolet. This time it was a 301 with a Muncie 4 speed. And my first racing effort was in that car on a dirt drag strip, believe it or not. Wow. OK, where the usually the car with the most aggressive I mean, mud and snow tires was usually the winner, had a pretty good time with that, but trying to go to school, trying to work part time and all that.

So it was what it was I guess, you know, around the southeast it was definitely some dirt stuff going on. Most of it was dirt tracks to the drag strip or roundy-round. And I kind of I guess, you know, in into that stuff. But I guess I was in the street racing to which a lot of us did a little bit of street racing and won't get into that much other than I had a pretty bad ass SS 396, 65 Chevy Impala.

And it was pretty bad ass and there is a lot of us got that letter from Uncle Sam saying he wanted me to visit him. So I spent three years in the army. In my third year there was in Korea and in Korea on top of a mountain site with a bunch of guys and you kind of get bored. So we usually had to go to the bottom of the mountain site at least once to twice a day. So why not start timing ourselves, so I had the fastest time up the hill.

In a 5/4 military trucks. So so even an army that can keep me out of the dirt, I guess.

But did you get any cornfields in that? No, no cornfields there. But we did roll one over. I didn't know the guy rolled one over. We got it up right here to no one at the bottom, no one at base camp ever found out what happened. So that was good. And they anyone to get an army, of course, and my good story is I was going to school working and my dad came home from work one day and sat down at the kitchen table and told me, he said, OK, I'm tired of you majoring in party and it's time to do something, so he give me a card.

And it was a new Goodrich store was going to open up about 20 miles from us. And he said, go see this guy and he'll put you to work until Uncle Sam drafts your ass. And that's pretty much what happened. I went to work for Goodrich for one year, got drafted, did my three years, came back, went right back to work for the same guy. And for the next six or seven years, I kind of worked a retail Goodrich stores around Southeast along the line there know they came out with a radial , actually radial tire came out while I was in Korea and were in the army anyway, but.


Came back from Korea, went back to work from Goodrich, and I guess I've become the kind of like the performance go to Guy for the Goodrich stores in the Carolinas. I mean, prior to radial TA Goodrich, basically was just the family tire. They didn't have anything performance. In fact, that first year I worked for them, I kept thinking we should work for a tire company that was into motor sports. Well, by the time I got out of the service, I was working for a company that was in motor sports, but it was still small.



I mean, we used to joke about we have to be careful what we do and what we say because we might wake up the sleeping giant, which was Goodyear. But we kept we kept moving forward and. You know, again, sold a lot of tires all over the southeast and all over the country, really. But. The I guess being in the stores there. I was in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and me and a bunch of guys were we're members of the Van Club and we went out to the local drag strip to see if that was a good spot to have a van, a van meet.



And one of the guys in the club had just bought a four wheel drive blazer. I think it was a seventy two model and he bought it used and we said, hey, there's a big old field out there. Let's check it out. I guess that was probably really my really first time and doing something in a four wheel drive vehicle off road in the dirt and we had a ball found out that the seats and that thing and the seat belt ain't worth a crap.



But that kind of got me more into it. So then I started looking around for a four wheel drive, clubs and stuff in the Carolinas and Virginia and found some of those guys just started getting in with them and sell them tires and all that. So. Anyway, while it was a Winston-Salem North Carolina doing a lot of that stuff, I got a call from Bob Bower in the. Offered me the job of being the performance specialist, I guess you could call it for the Southeast, and I took it even though even though the zone manager for Goodrich came in and sat down at my desk and told me, he said, this performance stuff is a fad you may as well forget about it and learn more about heavy duty truck tires.



And I took the job anyway. And don't maybe just think the right way to say, but I'll say it anyway, because the truth is he's dead and I'm still in performance. So he was definitely wrong on that and as time went on, just work, so 13 Southern states for a few years, but actually three years met this beautiful young lady and she said she would not marry me as long as I was traveling. So I left my job.



I didn't leave Goodrich, but I changed positions so I could settle down in High Point, North Carolina. And during my year in High Point, I think we did three or four off road events, plus we went to Baja and my wife told me one day, she said, you may as well get your old job back because the settling down didn't work.


[00:11:15.080] - Big Rich Klein

But you already had the you already had the wedding ring on her, right? Yes.


[00:11:20.960] - Richard Winchester

It give her time to kind of get get in the hang of it too. And actually, you know, sometimes when you're struggling tire sales you don't have a whole lot of money to do extra things. So use some some airline points I had and we. Took our honeymoon in Baja because that way we could use airline points to get out there nice. And then I could use friends out there, their budgets to help me find a place to stay and help us move around and all that.



So that kind of got dirt in her blood. And she's been a regular Baja helper ever since. Excellent. But that was that was my it was thirty eight to get close to 40 years ago. Well, but dirt's in her blood just like it is mine. So thank goodness.


[00:12:13.060] - Big Rich Klein

So in those early days when you got with the racing program, what programs did you were you dealing with with Goodrich racing organizations? Well, I'll tell you what.


[00:12:26.560] - Richard Winchester

Most of the stuff I was doing in SE was small, OK? And I'm trying to think there was a group. And in Virginia, it might have been the maybe Virginia off road association or something to that effect. But there was a racetrack up there outside of Richmond, Virginia, and it was owned by a guy by the name of Moe Duncan, and he owned some land and he created a program there called Bodacious, and they ran two big events a year plus had little small events, but.



Bodacious was basically an off road park in the mountains of Virginia, not the bad man let me more in the Midlands, but it was hilly, but not bad. Huge mountains, but had a off-road course and a dirt drag strip, you know, for the four wheel drive vehicles. And we spent a lot of time there. I actually took the opportunity one time of taking Moe Duncan and a couple other Southern type four wheelers. And I took them up to Wisconsin to an event there and that got them pumped and helped them grow their business because there was much, much smaller track in where the Wisconsin guys were much more organized.



So I guess that's one of the things I'm kind of proud of, the fact that I was over the years to put things together. In other words, I've seen this guy over here and the guy over here, man, if I could get them talking, that would help both sides in this case and help both organizations, especially the one in the south. The Wisconsin story getting gaining some competition from south, east and south east learned how more professional they were in Wisconsin.



So that was some of it. And there was a group down in Louisiana basically it was Louisiana and Alabama, Mississippi. And I do not remember their names, but they were big into mud racing, not like they are today. But it was basically mud drag racing was what it was. Then as time went on, I wound up getting involved with some of the other clubs and the Southern Four Wheel Drive Association, which I'm still a member of today.



In fact, I think I was the first like I got the first lifetime membership out of them a number of years ago. But that's when I thought I was retiring to and I don't know, I was just changing position for a little while. And then I when I got dirt in my wife's blood, that got to be OK. I love I going out west and I love the off roading out there because there's so much more land to do it.



And so a lot of times I sit back and think, OK, I need to go, I want to go, but how can I get there? So we create programs which got pretty good at program for group, but I would create a program with our local Goodrich dealers so I could set up a sales contest so their employees could possibly earn a trip with me out West. Well, that way it was I was building I was doing business by giving them incentives to to sell more of our products.



And then I got to be the host of taking them to to Baja or to Crandon or wherever. And so started that off. And you got that worked really well. So I was doing three to four to five trips a year taking people and showing them other, you know, other types of racing that was out of their territory. Was it all dirt? Some of it had to be pavement, but when I started taking people to Baja, they would get hooked real quick.



In fact, I always looked at the Baja guys and think to myself, either I love it or hate it. If they hate it, they'll never talk about it again. If they love it, going be bugging me to go back.



So true. So true. And of course, over the years. You know, at first I really wasn't working a pit, I remember the first pit that I took my employee took people to we were right there at the goat trail. I remember being there and we had to we had a good pit. It was back in earlier days and what near as organized as it became. But still, it was a lot of fun. And the guys that went with me just loved it.



We got back and no one of them I've never seen again. The other one I still talk to on a regular basis.



And again, it just kind of grew from there to the point where I got people just begging to go. And then, of course, my job changed, I got they moved me. In other words, our group got out of sales in a lot of years. Our group was we were part of sales. And part of our job was to build sales. And we use these programs to do it. And then then it got to the point where now I'm not really sales anymore.



I'm definitely just promotions, event marketing, whatever you want to call it, which is fine. But we still need it to take people out showing what was going on, because that kept the business going, it kept people happy. And then, you know, a few years ago we were talking, in fact, a lot of a lot of the business I've done over the years has been in a vehicle. In other words, me and somebody.



We're riding from Atlanta to Georgia to Dallas or something. And we're going cross-country. And course, in most cases, it was somebody that I was trying to train. And so I would talk to people and tell them all about past and what we've done and how it went, and that would entice them to do more. So I know Carrie Woodruff call me one day after one of these trips and she said, OK, we're going to start taking some more people to Baja.



OK, so I started hosting three to four people, every five hundred, because that was an easier one to host people. And that went on for quite a few years. And I hate that it stopped, but it did stop. But I used to love taking them down and taking them to Hussongs and taking them out on the road, of course. And, you know, just enjoy. Right.



Experiences. Yeah.



And the other thing that I'm proud of and I still apologize to these guys on a regular basis is Jeff Cummings, he's got the Wide Open Baja program going and started taking dealers down. I'm not dealers, but enthusiasts down. I started bringing in some pavement people that were you know, you wouldn't think that a guy that builds Camaros, Firebirds and C-10 pickup trucks would be an off roader. But two of the best wide open guys we have now are from that area. Kyle Tucker and Brian Finch.



And they just they'll drop what you're doing to go to ball. And so it just kind of goes from there.



And they have really enjoyed it and ever figured I never could afford to race myself. But I could have thought through my job to be close to it and just made sure that that was happening. Right. And I was close to it and helping others get into it. We definitely had a ball with it, no doubt about it. Can't wait to go back to ball now. I'm retired and I've had a heart problem and leg I mean, a knee replaced.



I'm just hoping I'd still go back to getting ready anyway. Excellent.



Excellent. We we've not gone too far in a couple of well, the last time we've been down there, we were helping score. My wife helped with registration and then I was during final test at the fiftieth. Yeah. And that was that was quite an experience. And then I helped a team on the first day. Then came back, but it was it was it has always been a special place for me as well, my wife and I, we've been together since 2009 and my first real date with her was a trip to Baja, took her on the road out to Mike Sky Ranch and then over the mountain to El Coyote and then out to the Pacific Ocean just to see if she could hang with the off road.



And she did. She did great. She passed.






So the Bar Pits program you started working in, that was that when did that that pit program get started? Do you recall what the year that was where you guys were actually going down and doing pit support on a large effort? OK, that's I don't know that I can pin down the exact year, but. It would have been somewhere around 80 to eighty three, but you may or may not have heard how that program started and Bob Bauer could tell you the best, but basically Bob Bauer was our boss in Akron, Ohio, in.



He moved from that position to back out to California to run the off road program and for BFG. And when he did that and again, I don't know exactly how it came about, but he said, OK, we've got one truck. How do we do this pit thing? Do we do it like everybody else and try to run along with the top guys? You know, what do we do? And he came up with the idea of, OK, why don't we all come together and work together?



So it's good. This truck is parked it pit three, so and so will truck park one. And we have some nice tractor truck or some type of rig in every pit and we work together all this. So and again, he could give me more details on it. But even though some people didn't like the idea, it worked and it just grew from that point to the point where the beginning of, you know, prior to every race was there was a bit good rich coming together, so so to speak, where everybody came together.



If you wanted a spare tire at each pit, well, you better bring it to this big meeting because those pits will be your way. It just grew from there to what it is today and it continues to grow. And again, I'm out of it, but I try to keep up with it.



But my first trip to Baja was with this part of the PFG Pit program in 2003. I believe it was the year that they shot. They film Dust to Glory. Yes, I was with Jack Sipos crew out of Nevada. I was the race promoter for Vorra at the time. And I had I needed to learn more about off road racing because I had been a rock rolling promoter. But the two were you are vastly different. So we went down with Jack, my son and I, and we worked the pits out of on the road.



Outside of Cavenagh, but on the road toward fish camp, I think is where the pit was at, OK? It was it was quite an experience, a great one. Jack's character, too. Yes, he is. Yeah, I've run run many Caravanned s with Jack, and he is he is a character.



That program at that time was it was Frank D'Angelo that seemed to head all that up.



Yeah. I'm trying to think when Bauer got he got it started, then he came back into our group as one formost tar specialist or whatever they called us at time to perform as managers, I think it was. And but then about that time, Frank started taking that over, I think, and had run it right up until recently. And know Frank. Is that Frank? I guess probably been doing it longer than anybody. Everybody knows Frank and such a great guy.



I think he's kind of getting more into horses nowadays. But that's that's the other thing is horses. But he can still run. He can manage a whole Bahah deal. If you think about it, you know, like, wait, I'm trying to think the year two thousand Courcy with the Bahat, two thousand and the number of people, the number of teams, the amount of food. I don't know what it was. Feel sure somewhere in Frank's notes he's got all that.



But it was a major, major deal to run that course. He's got a lot of good people. But if you're running the pit for Frank D'Angelo, you don't make mistakes if he will do it. That's true. I'd heard that, yeah.



I mean, two thousand I worked. In fact, I guess I was the first pit that I actually worked as the pit boss. And the ones prior to that, I was just one of the BFG guys there working and not really a pit boss. I guess I've got a pit boss from year two thousand for all of the point to point races.



Nice. I like the point to point racism myself. Yeah, I do, too. In fact, that's the one where I've got a big crew that comes out with me from the East Coast, I got gas from. Indiana, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina got one guy to Florida, but and there always, always saying, OK, are we going to point? I need to know early, because I've got a special vacation besides Frank, who has now stepped down from Jackson, Dawson, BFG, it appears to be in really good hands under Nate Hunt.



From what I what I can tell Nate, Nate's a pretty solid dude.



Yeah. What are the best things about that was the plan. I think Jackson Motorsports had to plan a book night when he first came on with them. I'm not sure if they had that plan that day, but they started turning out to be pretty good. So they came up with the plan early on that Nate would was trying to take Frank's job. So I'm thinking that training went on for five or six years or more, so he was definitely very knowledgeable, very good at it.



So the transfer over there went real well. The other the other person is very involved with it. Jeff Cummings and Jeff and Frank were like, you know, help to help for many, many years. So I guess it really says, nice, take it over. Jeff Anite worked a lot together, but not near as many years as Frank and Jeff did. Right. I've gone down and I try to run with those guys as often as possible.



In other words, if I was going to run a pit point-to-point pit awarded to go for a run with them, because that got me tuned in to my pit and a pit north and south of me. Better, better than just going down there for a pit meeting, having people tell me about it. Yeah. So and I did that as often as I could and it worked out well for me.



Anyway, I, I agree. It's the pit strategy that you guys have to have. Setting it up for all the teams is pretty much the same as as a race team has to do with their pit strategies, whether they're part of the BFG program or not, you know, getting an idea of where to place people, what's coming, when to expect them, what's coming in next, that kind of thing. That first time I went down with Jack Siple, of course, it was Jeff Cummings that got me set up with that because he was my contact with Vorra and, you know, for BFG.



And so he was the first one I had met there. And then I was working part of the fueling and communication. Basically, radio communication is what they had me there. I noticed right away that the guy that was running the fuel board, I would tell him, OK, next car is going to be this. And the guy goes, no, that's impossible. It's going to be this car. And he didn't listen to anything I was saying.



And after. I don't know. Probably halfway through the the trophy trucks coming in, Jack came over and said, OK, Rich, I want you to tell the fuel guys exactly what cars coming because you've been dead on and this other guy got his has been wrong every time. But the difference was, is I was actually listening on to the radio, to all the radio traffic that this guy was just looking at who left the start line, you know, where.



And it's like, you know, there's a lot of space between Cavenagh and the start. Yes. So it was like, you know, hey, we need to we need to revamp what we're doing here, you know? And so after that, it ran a lot smoother. But when you got all your fuel cans filled and then expecting, you know, somebody to come in and then all of a sudden it's not that person, and then you've got to dump those cans and refill.



And there's some hot drivers at that point.



Oh, yes.



So knowing that and knowing what's coming is really good, whether it's, you know, whether it's what's on the course, what's ahead of you, all that kind of stuff.



Yeah. And once you figure out who is best at figuring that out, that's the people you want every year. Right. And I know I got to the point where, in fact, there's one guy, John Kongregate, John Conrad, J.B. out of Indiana. Every time I've worked here, he's been with every one up and he has always been my fav guy. Well, the other guy that's been to all the want of me is John Taylor out of Hickory, North Carolina.



And John is my fuel guy. And then since 2000, my wife has been in charge of the radio. Then I got my daughter in charge radio. Well, my yoga and my wife and my daughter. That's the three people involved. Yeah, you argue with them, they get it together. Exactly. And I'll just stand back and try to keep people from interfering with them because they doing it so well that we still have screw ups, but just don't screw ups and keep moving.



Yeah, but it's definitely about people. You know, once in a blue moon, you get somebody just doesn't work with the group, doesn't work good. But once you're there, what can you do other than just kind of deal with it and just put it back? You man, he's not going back with me next time, you know. Yeah, exactly. The most most of my people. In fact, I would say that if I got somebody new going with me, by the time we're setting the pit up, I know whether he's going to be invited back or not.



I can figure that out typically just on the drive. Yeah.






In fact, a lot of times my wife will tell me ahead of time women have a better intuition or can read people better than most of us men can.



Yes. And wives are not just cooking. No. One other thing that just over the years I've had to think about a lot was. Because I've seen this happen where I guess we're just in Mexico, and when something didn't go right, don't jump up and down and blame the Mexicans or blame the locals or whatever, it's not their fault. And I guess get the problem handled by being nice. And it might still be a problem when you leave.



But if you can get out with a nice nice, then you're out. Don't have to worry about it again. So but I've seen guys just pitch in and raise hell and have almost watered down and some of the pits and it's nothing more than OK if the Mexicans or locals are pissed at this next pit down. Well, guess who pissed him off?



Probably the ones in that pit, but I always try to get together with them and learn. In fact, we've been to San Inácio so many times. We've got our own locals there. When we get there, they come to see us and then we work together, the whole race. Yeah, they the locals really want to be involved, so many of them, yeah, that we've we've gotten a cup, we've become really good friends with a couple of guys.



And it's not a family that their dad is part of the the Hedo up and Ojos Negros and. Oh, yeah, these guys, they do water desalinization plants and stuff like that along the coastline for the farmers. Right. You talk about having resources, man. You know, if you get in with the right people in country, if you have a problem, you can get it solved really easy. Yes, if you have the right people with you, that's for sure.



Let's talk about Gary Interline. Most of us in Rock Crawling know him as the father of the the development of the crawler. Yep. Were you involved in any of that program or did you hear about it coming or also just show up?



Well, I think I put it like this. Over the years, Jeff Cummings and I have learned a lot about how to manage things like how to manage a budget and always looking for who's who's new in the organization that that can help us. Who an organization. Can we help to get things done our way. And Gary was one of those that you know well, especially in Goodrich, always changing engineers around, always moving people around. So we get a new engineer and it doesn't take us long to figure out, is this one?



Is this one? Does he get, you know, or is it just another engineer? And Gary was one of those that got it. So Jeff and I agree that a good one here. Let's just let's work with him and help him and he can help us. And I know well, we didn't have rock quality tire, if you remember Bob Hazal. Oh, yeah. I remember now remember working a lot with Bob Heysel. In fact, Bill got Bob and Gary working together and Gary started realizing and listening to Jeff and about what we knew, what we wanted.



And of course, he was not against going out and getting dirty and seeing what we really needed. What are the good stories I got on Gary? Well, it wasn't all about Gary. But anyway, we want to talk to some of the off road racers. He was one of the short course racers for a long time from Wisconsin. Good place, you can call his name blond hair anyway, so to him at one of the off road races and tell them I'm trying to tell them what we were doing in crawling, looking at his tires and asked no.



Different things that he said, you know what he said, usually when one of these races are over, I've got leftover tires that I have to look for, places to take you get rid of. And he said a lot of them are really in damn good shape. They might have two or three laps over and they have 10 or 12 laps. So I loaded up that little small trailer and I load that trailer and I drove it from North Carolina up to Wisconsin.



I loaded that trailer down with with quarters, basically, and the whole core program, they were all 17h and 17h oils and crawling was unheard of at that time, especially in the southeast where I got them back down and I got a hold of our oil and got me a bunch of 17h oil. We started playing around with them and Southwick's mainly was Seldin for oil drop association and stuff like people around there. And Bob Heysel call me one day, he said.



He said, you might be interested in going with me on this little trip up to Teleco, and I said, OK, what he said was a bunch of development engineers from from General Motors and they're coming down and they won't want us to rush in trailers and show them around. I said, OK, can I bring one of our engineers? And. Yeah. So I took area. And actually, Gary had a great idea. He went down to our proving grounds and borrowed their test truck, which happened to be a four wheel drive blazer so that he was going to bring the blazer up.



We got General Motors guys there and believe it or not, they brought down three blazer's with different modifications on them. They also brought two jeeps that they had modified, did not know this for a couple of years later, but that was the H2 engineering crew. OK, and again, back to Gary, though. Gary got there with a plan of getting close to these engineers and doing things with them. We had a bunch of those core tires up there and we were showing them how we were grouping them.



And I'll get back to Grubin in a minute. But everything was going along really good. We did a kind of an easy trail that day, but even on the easy trail, Gary broke the test truck that he wasn't really supposed to have up here to begin with. So for the next day, actually, next day and a half, I was working with the the GM guys and doing the trail stuff where Gary was underneath that blazer getting rear end fixed.



He was able to snag enough parts from different people in the area to get it fixed and get it going again. And Gary was actually, I guess, from that part, owned every time he got a chance to go to Teleca, he was there with us. And but that was in the early days. In fact, the thing I wanted Gary to see while we were up there was the group that I was doing and we were taking those core tires and regrow them or adding grooves to them and checking them out on a couple of different vehicles.



And Bob Heysel had his newly built Off-Road rig. I could not tell Bob and to put our tires on his newly built rig because he thought the bloggers were the only thing that was could do anything. So I found another guy from Indiana that Bob knew and a similar vehicle, and we put those core tires on it and they went up the hill, one of the hills, and took Bob three tries to get to the top. But you got.



Oh, what's up, first time? And that was kind of one of the things that Gary kind of looking and Gary is finding out, I mean, Gary was not the race engineer, you know. Right. So he started working with race engineers, needed to get more information on rubber compounding and this, that and the other. And then he went out and I can't tell you what all he did was that he started going out there and for long were doing surveys about, OK.



If you had a choice of attire that you had to groove or tired, it was a hearty groove, which would you rather have? We had more people say they wanted Ungrouped so they can of their own and we got to thinking, OK, and what it boils down to is Gary had enough money that he had borrowed from some other account because there was no off road, no budget. But anyway, somehow or other, he was able to get enough money for one vote, one meal for a cruller.



If we did one poll with a lot of trade on it, then we can grube different ways the way we want it. And that's how it got started. And we have been rocking and rolling and crawling ever since. The rubber compounds, of course, have changed over the years, went from that one crawler to four of different sizes and stuff that Gary was it was the guy that was able to go and find the budgets to do things kind of quietly and do it quietly.



And then it starts making a name for itself and it becomes one of the programs. And that's what it took. Would Goodrich to get some of the stuff going? There's a lot of times, you know, the the guys top that didn't understand performance. And so we had to almost trick them into seeing what we were doing, allowing us to do it. Bean counters. Oh, yes. And Lord, two companies full of money. But that's just part business.



So you got to deal with it. Right. And we're never going to do get rid of them. So how can we work with them and to get performance done? And I've seen a lot of engineers come and go. Our sales guys come and go with those that really got it. Most of them are still around doing something that has to do with performance here.



There, right. My experience with Tire's I worked for Sears Automotive for quite a few years as a salesman and then well as a tech and then a salesman and then Honda Center manager and I went through a lot of different tire programs. Learning about construction and why things were done the way they were so that I could teach our salesmen to be better tire sale sellers and. My first time meeting Gary was after working for Sears, I was up at the Vernal Utah ARCA event and I was sitting there watching one obstacle and there was some people in front of me and some people behind me.



We're all sitting on this rock watching and the lady goes, well, how come that car just climbed right up that and these other ones didn't? And so I told her, well, you know, in this situation, it's it's these tires, you know, she goes, well, what's the difference in the tires? And I was talking about it was the new BFG Crawler and. Yeah, about the compounds and how they worked in the construction.



And they were like, oh, OK, great. You know, these people. And they they turned around and walked off to go 4Low, you know, another obstacle and I hear the guy behind me go, somebody's behind me goes, so how do you know so much about tires? And I turned around. I told him my history and that was Gary. And it was it was kind of cool, you know, because he goes, yeah, I developed that tire and I'm like, really?



So we really you know, at that point, we we talked a lot and became, you know, became friends. I wouldn't say we're close friends or anything, but every time I see him, you know, we have great conversations and stuff. So it's just like with with Jeff. I feel Jeff's a good friend as well, even though I don't nearly as a promoter, I don't get to hang out with everybody as much as racers do or, you know, people that are, you know, in their programs and stuff.



So it's it's a shame because I really enjoy Jeff, Nate and Gary a lot. They're they're all three of those guys are really great guys. Frank is always been just so solid of a person, but he's always, you know, to me, he was always so businesslike. But he'll answer my phone calls and my texts without without hesitation. So, yeah, that's awesome. Well, I know in the early days when both of our performance team, that was one of the things that we realized real quick that, you know, those of us that understood it would help that grow where we had we've had some guys in our group that lasted a year, some it lasted less than that.



Those are the guys that would if so, I asked him a question they would first think is up that 4Low and one part of my job or not where jail on and real guys. It doesn't matter what part of our job or not, if it's about the company, about product, let's try to answer it or find an answer for it, because we don't know at all. But if we can point them to the right direction, it helps so much in the overall growth of the industry.



I guess you could say, yeah, I've been to I mean, 20 years now putting on events into Easter Safari. Since the mid 90s and a lot of shows and watched a lot of different tire people talk about their tires, and one of the things that I find is the misinformation that these guys truly believe. That what they're saying is is right, but. From my training, I'm looking at it going. That's not what I was trained by, you know, whether it was Yokohama or Parelli, you know, because I was based in the Bay Area, San Francisco Bay Area.



So I went up to what was then Sears Point a lot. And we would go out to the the IMSA races. And a lot of my background was more into sports car. And drag racing before I got into offroad, and so the tire manufacturers out there, I mean, we'd been to I'd been to Michigan, I'd been to BFG trainings, you know, Yokohama, Parelli, all the company, you know, pretty much all the companies would bring us in on these big training sessions and then listening to some of these guys that are selling off road tires, talk about why their tire is quieter.



And I'm like, hmm, that's not what makes a tire quieter, you know, and how, you know, the where is and all this kind of stuff. And I'm like and he says they're just blowing smoke. They have absolutely no idea. And yet they're, you know.



They might be higher ups in that company, you know, represents that at these off road events and part of these big programs, it's pretty crazy, but yeah, but what I learned from from BFG is the people that you had out at the shows with Sears, I mean, I did.



I sold a lot of TIAs in my life and we'd go out to like the good guy shows and we'd sell hundreds of thousands of dollars in tires at a weekend event or a three or four day event at a fairgrounds.



And then, you know, with like vouchers where the people would buy them, go to their store, pick them up and get them put on.



Yup, and it was because of the training that all the tire companies provided us is why we could easily do that, the right and then the right salesman or management there on the site. But the tire the tire business is kind of weird that way, where a lot of the manufacturers who they have selling. Or promoting their products really don't appear to know what they're doing, but I haven't found that with BFC, everybody that I've known, I've talked to at BFG has been just rock solid.



Yeah, the when I first got in the performance market, when Bob Bauer hired Jeff and basically he hired us a week apart, brought us into action and brought us in there. And of course, he hired us to go out and do the training seminars, seminars. So that's, I guess, doing seminars for so many years. You know, you learn this stuff and every year, in fact, we would rehearse with somebody, would write the program out, and we'd go rehearse and rehearse and rehearse.



We one of our rehearsals would always be in front of our engineers. And then the engineers say, well, what, you can't say it that way. And then we said, OK, how can we say? Because what we were trying to get from engineers is how can we say it in layman's terms? You know that our sales guy, for one, understand, I don't need that engineering tech talk. I need to understand it, but I need it in terms.



So we would try to put it in everyday terms and then they would help us. We had good engineers, too. That would help us through that. But year after year after year of that and that, I think Goodrich really got out all that pretty much started because prior to that time, our training was learning more about heavy duty truck tires, learning how to run a store and that type stuff. But the performance team and the seminars got all that stuff started, you know, and then we great.



Which had this to Vince, you remember, to vans. Yes. I mean, we started that gig and then all of a sudden one of our Goodrich people knew a general guy and told them too much and also in general had advance. And then Yokohama got vans. And of course, we finally outgrew the vans. But, you know, that program just continued to roll. And unfortunately, it's now like it's dead way down. Right now.



We've got it's just a different management. Now, I got a couple of guys and there's this not doing the training, but going to events. Tim Palmer and Tim and Jonathan Brockman out here with those two guys are doing what they can and they're getting support for laugh or think about, damn it, the budget that they've got. I used to fight for budget every damn day. It seems like they got more budget and higher ed. But then again, I know it's a different program with different bosses and stuff, but those guys are doing pretty good.



I still try to help them out, but I hope to go back to Baja this year and hope to be at Easter Safari. Already got money and then got my campsite at my lab. Got it preserved already. If we get to go, excellent.



Yeah. If we get to go the whole covered thing, hopefully that's behind us here shortly.



Yeah. So let's talk about the influencer program. OK, I know that and I know a lot of that has to do. You guys do special shows. And that shows, I would say it's outings for educational things for your your influencers, and then they go out into the market and the you know, they can talk about those tires for you at trail rides or events as well. When did all that get started, Lailah?



With the company up the West Coast? It was their idea. We we basically where we're having budget cuts and the market went back and it was two thousand, eight, nine years somewhere along in there. But the market was going to hell. So how can we continue to be involved? What can we do? And she came up with two great ideas. One of them was pushing the influencer program and the other one was Outstanding Trails program. But the influencer program basically was, you know, us mean.



I got two or three guys in my area that really I depend on to help me. I can't do 13 states easily or whatever it was, the three states or whatever. So I had certain guys that I could depend on. So I started working with them. Will, are our counterparts around the country, especially Jeff, again, was doing the same thing and get to the point where you got this little team? Well, that was I think at that time it was like, in fact, let me back step this a little bit and tell you when Bob Bauer first put the performance team together, there was.



Four of us out in the field, then I was southeast, then it grew, it grew to people because some of the territories were so big, just massive territory. We grew to six. Then all of a sudden our sales region started realizing how valuable we were. So every sales region wanted one of us. So it grew from six to 15. Well, then things were really rocking and rolling. Somewhere along the line there, one took over and then they had their very influence and it and it got cut back where there was actually a Michelin group and a good group.



Well, good research group continued to be very good performance type stuff for Michelin was had different ideas and that's OK. But our group wound up it, I think, back to six of us and we're rocking and rolling all over the country. But again, we wound up with our own little groups of who we can get to make things happen with what just got to the point where, all right, let's take this influence for kind of a loosely influenced group and let's grow it together for the whole country.



And that's kind of how it came together. I don't remember exactly who really did that pulled everybody together. But I remember the first meeting we had with them. We did it in a green Greensville headquarters. Budget was not very big. So some of the guys actually drove down from wherever they were. We flew a handful of them in. And our intent is let's take these influencers up, feel let's bring them into headquarters, let our upper management see and meet and understand these people, because upper management, quite often they have no clue who's out there in the field, who's the movers and shakers.



They just no money people. Right. You know, they don't really know that Kyle Tucker's and Lance slivers of the world, they don't know those guys. So that's when it started. And some years we've had next to no budget to do it with. Some years we've had good budget, but it made an impact. And that's why they're getting more budget. Now, the last two years, we've had some pretty nice trips for these guys and bring them together, update them on what's going on within the company for the people as well as the products.



Educating them on the products is really key, in my opinion, because we can't have an influencer. It doesn't know our products. It's just they've got to know exactly. And and it's worked out real well. It's kind of I know in the last couple of years since I retired, it has grown more. And I'm not going to say it's too big, but I think they're going to need to be careful to manage it because it can get too big.



And once it gets too big, then it's hard to manage unless you start segmenting it. And then if you segment it, it'd be really easy to say, OK, we got dirt over here. What about those are in the middle? That's what upper management doesn't think about, you know, and we're involved so many different things nowadays, but it's still important and just hope and pray that they continue to manage it and don't let it get too much.



No, he just can't make it too big. I know a lot of people want to be in it. I got it. Or five people on my list. I'd like to bring them in right now. And because they're doing almost the same job as those influencers, they just are not known as well. And but I know they've got to manage the numbers and I feel sorry for those that are managing the numbers. But because they're having to figure out how can we how can we add this guy?



How can we drop this other guy out? I'll probably be one of the ones who dropped out here pretty soon because I'm in a kind of a different category. They're not always the paid guy. For many years now, I'm the influencer, so I hope to stay on their program. But I got to feel and they need to because what is the amount of money that's involved with any of these influencers? You know, that that new kid is up and coming, probably have much more important than me.



Yeah, get right down to it. I'm just for it. Still do it the old way. A lot of times you always good way, but new ways are there coming, whether we like it or not. That's a. Very true, I'm so I lost 63 here, this in a couple of months and I feel like I've moved into an unbeknownst to myself, all of a sudden I've moved into this the old crowd, you know, the I don't know that I'm like not is in touch with especially all the the technology that's that's out there nowadays.



Yeah, in fact, I thought about this many years ago, you know, and this was, I must say, at least 20 years ago when computers and games and stuff were getting to go. And I thought, OK, so if they've got this game, it's all so technical that Kit and Rita go online, find a game creators owned vehicle, build his own vehicle, go to the racetrack and do everything he does. We don't need roads.



We don't need cars anymore.



Wrong, wrong. But I mean, if you think about what's going on now, I mean, some of these kids and again, I mean, they are having a ball. Yes. And I have tried to play those games and they just go rather dramatic.



Yeah, I agree. So let's talk about the other program that you mentioned was the Trails program. Oh, yeah, let's talk a little bit about that. Again, that was a program that was created because we had such a shortage and because of budget cuts and the market going to hell. But how can we continue to help some of these clubs out with what you're doing? So it became a pretty much organized program. You get right down to it.



Prior to that, I had little budgets that I would help Southern Foil drop out with certain ones of their events, like Dixie Run, which was a huge event. I had money every year set aside for that event or after those moneys in my budget started going away then. OK, well, let's take what's left of the national and make a national program out of it rather than so, rather than we have everybody in our group having a little bit let's put all these little bits together, create a national program.



And that's kind of the way it got started. Any time you start something there, you've got to have guidelines and in other words, prior to that, all the guidelines and this official program, we were pretty much winging it and we had a hip pocket. Here's where I think I got budget was here's a club that I think needs to be helped in. But once we got organized, then we need to get other people involved. Can't play favorites.



We got to get others involved helping us figure out who really deserves it and still had our favorites. But sometimes our favorites didn't get it right because we had to come up with rules and regulations to manage it. But the program was very, very successful. Quite frankly, I haven't kept up with it. I don't I'm assuming we're still promoting it. But you know what? I just understood. But it was great having you know, I'm going out to Colorado, remember the name of the club out there.



But I went out there to do a presentation or one year, and it's so nice to get in with these guys. You kind of sort of know them because you see them my way. I've seen them in one of the other events. And then you go to their is it's such a good a good thing for both sides, both our company as well as the club or the organized organization getting the award. But it's really been really, really good.



Good, yeah, I agree, it's a great program this last year, I've been kind of out of touch with that, but I'm hoping that it's still going on the Trails program. I believe it is. The last thing I wanted to talk about, OK, were where I met you. And we've talked a few times. I was out at Grandpa's garage during Easter Safari. Because you guys always did your your BFG party there at Denny's, we stay there or have been for a long time, and it was always very nice having these industry parties at Denny's because then we got to get included, even though we might not be an influencer or be running on those that specific brand of tires because of, you know, where our marketing partners were at.



So I just wanted to say thank you for the for the food and the beverage and the company out there at Easter Geep over the last 10 years, 11, 11, 12 years, I guess. Yeah, it's always it's always been a good time when you guys have your your shindig out there. Well, the when we first did that out there, you know, we didn't do it damage the first year was the first two years. I believe it's the first two years anyway, the first year we did it, we wound up.



I kept telling everybody said, look, we cannot compete with them, it won't work. And we pick we pick winners because we had competition with the what was it anyway? I can't remember all the names, but anyway, we had competition at night, but it was it from day and it was just another vendor. But we had one year, I guess it was the second year, which is a year Danny saved because where we were going to evidently that restaurant, bar and restaurant had an issue with the with the locals and they just kept her mouth shut to the last minute and a.



Hold their liquor license. About, what, four or five hours before we're going to have our event? Yes, I mean, food was already on the way and a whole bit. And Danny was down there and he said, look, here's what we can do. First thing you know, we're loading stuff in trucks and getting tables and getting bigger and then the Danish. And we've been there ever since on Wednesday night. Hopefully that will never change.



Hopefully. But but that was that being up there. Well, remember, first of all, what the Danish I was just up there as an employee of the company and playing a Jack Cafferty said on Tuesday night, I said something about where are you going to go and dance? OK, so wound up over there, member who was hosting a party that night. But I was going to I've been crashing that party ever since.



But Danny is such a guy and we just we communicate it once while they call me. Oh, about a month ago I guess was to check on me and everyone was. I'll check on him.



Yeah. I think during this covid thing, we stayed with them just after they'd opened up Moab. I've got a Ford Raptor and I parked it there for a couple of months while we were finishing up our event series. And then we came back and grabbed my wife and I were the only ones that had stayed at his house since this whole covid thing hit. Yeah, he's always been like a just a real solid individual that, you know, is like a grandpa to so many people.



Well, you know, he's got such a reputation and always and although this of thing is really bothering us now, early last year, although it was bad, now that he's still not thinking that because I have what I'm getting is my son, buddy of his from Georgia, went to Moab last year. I think it was in April. It might have been May. And when I heard about it, I just found the text and said, well, if you're going to give us the latest grudge and I didn't think about any more after that.



And then when he got back from the trip, he said, well, I went after that place. It closed up, locked up, solid. And I said, oh, shit, I guess it's because of the virus. And then I called to make sure that was all it was just what was I just closed down for the season, I guess, because the virus kept playing it safe. You play it safe, but. Yep. And again, I can't wait to go back this year.



We going to probably so Casper Casper right back out again and hopefully enjoy again. Well, that's awesome. I will see you there because they're allowing us into town, we will be there.



Yeah. So they don't allow us. We go into the camp. Can we at least stay in camp?



Yeah, exactly. Just to get out of this house. I know that feeling.



We're. Every year we pick a different place for our off season to travel to and just kind of hang out, and we're in the Gulf Shores area of Texas right now in Port Aransas outside of Corpus Christi. And so we came down here kind of chasing the 70 degree weather. And for the most part, it's been that it's been a few cold days and stuff, but. The one year we stayed at Danis for like 86 days during our off season.



And we we we had the back bedroom that he's got in there that at his place. And he was a great roommate because he was hardly ever home. And so it was like we had the whole house to ourselves almost, and it was it was a great place to winter that it's a lot slower paced when there's nobody in town because half the restaurants are three quarter of the restaurants are closed for remodeling, is what they say, deep cleaning. But I think actually they're all off, you know, in the warmer climates, getting out of the cold.



But it's more of a great place. And one time we looked at buying property there, but it's that skyrocketed there. So we're we're looking. Oh, yes, we're now. Well, where you're at right now, is it, believe it or not, is where we're planning on going last year and we were planning on leaving here in January and making our way to Texas.



It didn't work. Right. But then we started thinking, well, maybe we do that this year. Now it's still just well, up here. I've got got a daughter, just a nurse, and she's married to a cop. And so we put our RV and their backyard so that they could, you know, quarantine themselves there if necessary. Right. As it turned out, the cops quarantined himself three times while our nurse has not had to yet.



So our RV has been used as a quarantine place off and on. But we're still looking like, get out of here.



I completely understand. Well, Richard, I want to say thank you so much for spending some time with us and talking. I loved it. When we get to Moab, it will have to try to hook back up again this year and maybe do a follow up live and talk about that. We're talking about other things. So and if you're if you're looking for a place to come where coast of South Carolina is not bad, we almost did that this year.



And there's a couple that we winter with every year. We travel with during the holidays every other year. And we've been to like Costa Rica and Hawaii. And we were going to go to Mexico, had a chance to go to Costa Rica again this year and then but with all this covid and being worried about getting back and everything, we were looking at Florida or South Carolina and we ended up here instead, which was not a bad thing. But we will definitely look at it for the future because we like going different places and hanging out.



Yeah. Now you're Arby in it. Right now we're not. We're just driving. We have an adventure trailer with a rooftop tent on it and we talk, we tow that behind the raptor, but we're in a in an Airbnb that that we rented.



All right. Well, in fact, one thing I just I just popped in my mind. But John Elliott up in Hickory, they've got a program now. They had an adventure summit not long. We go up and you are. And we went up there and help registration for that one for that's the only event I've done lately but four months ago. But John earlier is really tuned in to those airplanes because, yeah, he's got a couple of them, but they can rattle off whether it was good.



But it is really a good way to go. Yep. All right, Richard. Well, thank you for for coming on and sharing your history with us. And I will let you know when we're going to air this again. Thank you so very much.



All right. Well, anytime anytime you need me, our. OK. All right. Thank you. Thank you.



Bye. If you enjoy these podcasts, please give us a rating, share some feedback with us via Facebook or Instagram and share our link among your friends who might be like minded. Well, that brings this episode to an end. OK, you enjoyed it. We'll catch you next week with conversations with Big Rich. Thank you very much.