That’s what off-road racer “Ballistic” BJ Baldwin experiences each time he suits up for a race or goes out for a practice run in one of his prerunner rigs. “I feel that off road racing is the best kept secret in motorsports,” he confesses. “I’ve been in different kinds of race cars, rally cars, drift cars, and even stock cars. Nothing is even close to being as cool as riding in a trophy truck. You don’t know how amazing it is until you’ve gone for a ride. It’s incredible how fast these vehicles can go even on the roughest terrain imaginable.”
I feel that off road racing is the best kept secret in motorsports.As a young kid, he started following several forms of racing, but took a particular interest with long distance off-road racing after watching the Baja 1000 on TV and then began following the off-road sport religiously. Looking up to legends in the sport like Ivan Stewart, Larry Ragland, Robby Gordon and Rob MacCachren, Baldwin first started out racing off-road buggies before making the jump to the premier Trophy Truck division—the most elite and fastest vehicles in off-road racing. But the transition wasn’t the easiest for the passionate off-roading competitor.
“The best way to describe it is like being a pro snowboarder and then trying to be a pro skier,” he describes. “It’s basically the same surface, but things are very different. It took some time for me to learn, but I had a great mentor help me through the transition, racing icon Larry Ragland. He taught me about maintaining speed through corners, car control and making the truck go faster without hurting it mechanically.” Thanks to Ragland’s help, Baldwin was able to win his first Championship and hasn’t looked back since, winning countless races throughout the duration of his career, not to mention numerous sponsors like Monster Energy and Toyo Tires.
He recently filmed a sick video where his Monster Energy trophy truck actually jumped a Nissan GT-R in the desert. The viral video showcases the massive truck tackling the difficult sands of the Mojave Desert at speeds over 140 mph before jumping the sports car. Capable of 850 bhp, the trophy truck was entirely designed on a computer before it was built.
“The good part about off-road racing is that everybody has a different theory about what’s going to work,” he says. “You get all types of different configurations with trophy trucks that have different suspensions, engine and transmission layouts, and even different drivetrains.” But Baldwin only spends minimal time in his precious trophy truck since it’s only together about 20 days out of the year since after each race it’s completely disassembled and inspected. It gets a rebuilt motor, rebuilt transmission, rebuilt shocks and has all the wiring and the suspension checked for cracks or faults. It’s then assembled from the ground up before every single race.
To practice his strategy come race day, Baldwin uses his prerunners, either a Chevy Silverado or ’79 Chevy Blazer, which are similar to a trophy truck but have a steel cab and amenities like air conditioning, working doors and windows, and a radio. “We basically take the vehicles out and go around the track a few times leading up to a race and input our course notes on the onboard computer, which are later downloaded to the onboard computer in the actual trophy truck,” he says. “This helps significantly in a desert race that is 500 or 1,000 miles when you never see the same turn twice. We only get one shot at executing every corner perfectly. Good notes also help us avoid danger.”
But when he’s not in his prerunners or trophy truck, Baldwin can be seen around Las Vegas, NV driving either his 2010 Dodge 3500 Crew Cab or cruising in his Nissan GT-R. “I call the Dodge my ‘Trophy Diesel’ because it really looks like a trophy truck and has the same livery as my race vehicle,” he says. “It has huge 39” Toyo tires on it, and a custom Carli suspension. It’s usually my main truck since it gets 25 mpg, which is really good considering the gas prices.”
While he may opt for his truck more than often, he still gives his Nissan GT-R equal love and admires the way it drives. “It’s as if it’s stapled to the ground. It handles like a real road race car, stops very quickly and it accelerates violently,” Baldwin admits. Adding that he’s a pretty aggressive driver overall a couple times a year he gets busted for it. “I can get away with it except for maybe twice a year,” he laughs. “Las Vegas is not nearly as saturated with traffic enforcement police officers as other cities. Having a few friends in law enforcement never hurts.”
And to pacify his innate race mentality, Baldwin invested in some performance modifications to get the GT-R up to par with a custom tune, custom exhaust, bigger fuel pump and high performance fuel injectors. “I love all cars but the cool thing about the GT-R is that with just a few modifications it and it can easily outperform other super cars that cost 5 times as much.” he boasts. “The performance of a slightly modified GT-R is much greater than that of a Lamborghini Aventador or any Ferrari.”
Baldwin also mentions that it’s a forgiving car that isn’t difficult to drive, even for novices. “I’ve had a Mustang with 1,000 hp and other fast cars that I wouldn’t let anybody drive because they’re difficult to maneuver and you really have to be a driver to be able to control it, especially aggressively. But with the GT-R, you can pretty much drive like a fool and you wouldn’t lose control because of its on-board computers and stability systems.” According to him the GT-R is very well engineered and it’s one of the fastest, best handling vehicles he’s driven. But in the end, nothing beats the adrenaline rush off-road racing, hours of precision driving on the roughest terrain as he racks up more championships.
TECH SPECS: Trophy Truck
Chassis: All tube chassis built from 2 inch 4130 chromoly.
Body: Lightweight Fiberglass Chevy Silverado
Engine: 458 inch Kroyer Racing small block engine
Transmission: Kroyer Powertrain Turbo 400
Curb Weight: 6,390 lbs.
Top speed: 145mph
Standing quarter mile: 12.1 seconds 104mph
Front Suspension: Independent A-arm type. 26 inches of travel.
Rear Suspension: 4 link Solid rear axle. 34 inches of travel.
Dampening: King Shocks 4.5 inch quadruple bypass