While bay area sports fans are rooting for their run of the mill teams to make it to the playoffs, one hometown team is out there working hard and quietly taking home championships. Voss Motorsports located in the foothills of Cupertino, California took down multiple races and racked up enough points during the 2013 season to take home a huge shiny trophy and the bragging rights as BEST IN THE DESERT in the Unlimited Trophy Truck class, which is the cream of the crop when it comes to off-road racing. I sat down with Jason just days before the 2014 Mint400, where he humbly obliged to an interview to give some of our followers some insight into the desert racing world...
AC: First off Jason, what is your full name, age and sponsors:
JV: My name is Jason Voss, I'm 27 years old, and my sponsors are Jimco Racing, BFG, King Shocks, KC Highlites, Ford, VP, MasterCraft, Monster Seal, Trail Ready Racing, and Stevens Creek Quarry.
AC: How long have you been racing desert trucks and how did you get into it?
2013 Mint400 ripping
JV: I started racing trucks in 2005 when I was a senior in HighSchool. The first race we did was out in Nevada, the Terrible's Town 250. We thought we were prepared but we knew nothing, haha. The race that really got me into it was was the Laughlin Desert Challenge sport race. We decided to just go spectate, but when we came back to Cupertino and we were hooked. We decided that we were going to start desert racing.
AC: So did you race anything before getting into truck racing?
JV: I grew up riding motorcycles and I raced local motocross in Norther California, district hare scrambles, etc. I went back east did and did few GMCC races, and did some works races. I was still racing dirt bikes the first couple of years we desert racing as well, so I had a bit of overlap there.
AC: How do you take that step, from Motorcycles to trucks?
JV: My Dad (Rich Voss) has always raced his whole life, sprint cars, dirt track, motorcycles, you name it. He says he got me into racing trucks because I was going to fast on the motorcycles - Truth comes out years later I guess... Anyways, he was doing some riding himself, down in Baja, and they were headed for Cabo during the Baja 1000 and he saw Ivan Stewart and Walker Evans come through Ojos Negros and he said it was the craziest thing he had ever seen. After checking it out further we just decided it was what we wanted to do and we made it happen. We looked into the classes and Ivan Stewart had a pro truck V8 class, which seemed like a good place to start as it was a spec. class (meaning that all the racers were required to meet certain vehicle specifications, such as motor size, vehicle length, chassis type, etc.)
Photo by Art Eugino - Getsomephoto.com
AC: So you and your dad were racing as a team?
JV: Yeah, we raced together all through the pro. We ended up getting 2 pro trucks and would race together. The longer races we were splitting the driving duties and even when we first started racing the trophy truck he was still getting some time behind the wheel.
AC: That's awesome, a real father son racing team.
JV: Yeah and the whole pit crew and everything, it's basically all family - Cousins, my parents and friends.
AC: That's killer - So how'd you make the step up to the big leagues? and can you tell us what is it really like to pilot one of these trophy trucks? I mean you are traveling at over 100mph through some of the roughest terrain I've ever seen. Can you tell us a bit what that is like?
JV: We got into the Trophy Truck class because a lot of people we were racing pro trucks with were getting into them. The first truck we got was a "prophy truck" which was just a converted pro truck, but that only lasted 2 races before we talked to Jimco and ordered our trophy truck. It's unreal to drive one. As soon as I got in the drivers seat I was like "DAMN, I'm cheating!" It's just insane, I still scare myself every time I go out. With what you are going over, and how fast you are going over it. You are going FAST, I don't really know how fast unless my co-driver tells me, because there's really not a chance to check. I think if I took an average person for a ride they wouldn't even believe it.
AC: Speaking of co-driver (James East) does he ever get any wheel time?
JV: Pre-running, yes, but not on the actual race. He does a great job as a co-driver, I think he's the best there is he's also the mechanic on all the trucks, so he knows the whole thing inside and out.
AC: That's right, I heard he can change a transmission out in less than 15 minutes, is that true?
JV: Yeah, qualifying last year we lost a transmission on a practice lap and he was able to swap it completely in about that time. It was pretty good.
AC: Wow. Okay, so you also work a normal job for the Stevens Creek Quarry. Take us through your work week there.
JV: The rock quarry is a family owned business, we've been around since 1936. I'm the 4th generation Voss to be working there and I'm operations manager there and my normal work week is Monday thru Saturday, 6am - 6pm.
AC: So you are putting in a lot of hours there?
JV: Yeah my dad and I put in a lot of time. It's a small company so we have to play a lot of roles. If we're not at the races, we are at work.
AC: How does the race schedule fit in with the work schedule and how do you make that work?
JV: We make it work (laughs) It's part of the reason we work so hard, so we have time to go racing. We're 8-10 hours away from the closest race, or even a test spot. It's hard because we have to go test the truck before we can race to make sure it is dialed in and there are constant tweaks that need to be made. We will go out some days, drive 8 hours do a test with King Shocks, do a shakedown and drive 8 hours back and just go right back to work.
A sleepy Sunday - Signing posters!
AC: Where do you even test?
JV: Either Barstow, CA or Jean, NV
AC: So nothing up here?
JV: No, nothing in Northern California, we have to take it and test in the actual conditions we are racing in.
AC: That's crazy being that far away all the time. I mean, 8 hours isn't THAT far, but it's far enough to almost have to dedicate a couple days to it to make it worth it.
JV: What we usually do is we will work a Tuesday for example, leave that night - wake up early Wednesday morning, test until the afternoon, pack up and and head back home. Maybe even catch the night-shift when we get back that night.
AC: Is that normal? Are your competitors out there working hard during the week and doing the weekend warrior thing for the races?
JV: I would say that 99% off everyone who races off-road has a day job, works on the truck on night, and heads to the races on the weekend. There only a couple of hired drivers out there right now.
AC: Speaking of a lot of hours, what's it like being in the race-truck for hours on end, sometimes 500+ miles, and for an entire day. Is it difficult to stay focused and to stay on it?
Jason at The Mint400 - GET LOOSE!
JV: For races like the Baja 1000 I was in the pro-truck for about 15 hours. It gets to be long, and if you are breaking down and having to work on the truck it's frustrating and cam be draining. But if you are racing, you're on pace and have a chance to win the adrenaline stays up and 10 hours in the truck doesn't seem so bad.
AC: But you're in the truck for 10+ hours, racing how do you eat or stay hydrated? What if you gotta take a piss?
JV: We have a pit for fuel and tires every 160 miles or so, you have a few seconds to eat if someone is nice enough to hand you a power-bar or something. We have a hydration system built into the truck, so that's not an issue and if you gotta piss - you piss. Most everyone wears catheters, other guys just piss themselves.
AC: I guess that's driver preference then.
JV: Yeah, Mexico is the best, because you just go to the bar afterwards, leave the catheter in and never have to go to the bathroom.
AC: I might have to get a catheter for every-day chilling... MOVING ON - So what's it like already being the young gun in the top class, and now being champion of that class?
JV: It's pretty unreal that we were able to come out of the series with the championship. We just went out with the goal to win races and it took us a few years to actually get to the championship. We were close to getting it a year ago, but lost by a single point to BJ Baldwin. It's also been a struggle to get the truck to last, but in 2013 BFG and King Shocks have helped us come a long way and it almost feels like a whole new truck.
To go out and win a championship is great, but there are guys who are steady and will place top 5 every race and win the championships. We set out to win races and if we get the championship as a result, that's just a bonus. I think the fact that we were able to go out last year and win races and take home the championship says a lot about our prep and the race team.
Hauling at The Mint400
AC: What's some advice for someone who's interested in off-road racing and someday wants to reach the Trophy Truck level?
JV: With racing I would say start out on a motorcycle. I think it's the best way to hone the perception needed to race. You need to be able to read the terrain and that takes years to learn. You have to be able to pick good lines instinctively, and that can only come with experience. A lot of the other guys that do really well come from a motorcycle background as well. Other than that, just get out to the desert or the dunes. If you're into it, start small, even if it's your daily driver. Just something to go have fun with. You will meet a lot of good people out there and more than likely run into some of the teams, network and offer to help.
AC: So volunteer to be a part of the pit-crew?
JV: Yeah, most everyone's crew is volunteer. Only once in a while will you see a full-time mechanic and often that mechanic is the driver, or the co-driver.
AC: That's crazy because you see something like NASCAR where these mechanics and teams are probably all on salary, and you guys are working with volunteers. People that are just dedicated to the off-road culture.
JV: Yeah, so like I said - if you are out there and know your mechanics, and have some racing in your blood you may just luck out. That or you can start building your own way up.
Limited edition Voss Motorsports #35 Jason Voss sunglasses available now
AC: So you've been to a solid amount of races by now, do you have any good wheel man stories?
JV: At the Baja 2013 Baja 500 we qualified 2nd, right behind Robby Gordon, which we were super excited about. Well, about a mile into the race the locals had flooded the wash with water and Robby had spun out and stalled, so we passed him and were sitting 1st place and we've never been in that position at the Baja500. Racing down in Mexico is frickin' gnarly. You come across everything, these aren't closed roads per say. They take actual roads and just turn them into a race course. There's no crowd control; Chickens, dogs, horses, donkeys, people - everywhere. Anyways there was an either-or-option (you can go one route or another) we marked stay to the left and when we committed to that turn and came around there was a group of locals set up, who didn't know the race had started. EZ-UP, BBQing, ice chest - right on the race course.
AC: Haha, They had no idea?
JV: They had no idea. They were right on the race course. There wasn't much we could do except check-up a bit and I saw the 4 of them bail out, so it was back on the gas. We went right through their ez-up, BBQ, everything (laughs) I felt bad, but they were actually probably excited.
AC: How much Carne Asada do you think got splattered on the front of the truck?
Hazzards of Baja
JV: Probably a good amount. but as far as racing and adventures go, Baja is where it's at. It's always exciting down there.
AC: What are some of your plans moving forward with racing?
JV: Just getting more involved with off-road racing. I would like add more races to the program, go to all the Mexico races and maybe even some shout-course racing.
AC: Any other goals lined up?
JV: We'd like to back up our BITD Championship this year. We got a good start by taking the Parker425 back-to-back, which was awesome because in 2013 we had some controversy our win there, but this year we were able to get that win without any issues. I'd like to win a Mint400 too.
AC: The Mint400 seems to hold the prestige, everyone wants that win. Even guys that don't normally race the BITD series come out and are gunning for that one.
JV: Yeah definitely. It's a big race and it's the win we are missing. I would like to get an overall win at a Baja race too.
AC: That sounds great, Jason. Sounds like you have some work cut out for you. Well, to wrap up this interview I have one more question; Since you are the #sleepychampion, Tempurpedic or SleepNumber? If sleepNumber, what's your number?
JV: I'm going with Tempurpedic. I don't know how to work the sleep number.
AC: Good choice. and there you have it folks, champions prefer Tempurpedic. Thanks for the interview Jason!
Tempuerpedic Sleep Division