He’s charismatic, competitive, and just happens to be the winningest driver in Ultra4 history. I recently had the chance to visit with two time King of the Hammers winner and 2014 Dirt Sports + Off-Road “Driver of the Year”, Loren Healy. He is an enigma to some: a focused fiery demon in the car and yet one of the most approachable, friendly drivers on the circuit today; the top driver in Ultra4 who still attends grass roots regional events and works on the pit crew for friends; he went from “Cinderella” to “King” in the space of one race. Loren is a competitive fire that burns bright in the world of off-road racing.
Based in Farmington, New Mexico, 34 year old Loren and wife Savanah are raising their three children not far from where Loren grew up. A well rounded athlete in both high school and college (where he had a full ride soccer scholarship), Loren left Farmington for a few years, eventually returning home and putting down roots of his own. His competitive athletic nature is part of the drive behind this unstoppable off-road force.
Speaking from his home after a long day at work, Loren and I covered a lot of ground (some serious, some silly… but all 100% vintage Loren.) Here is my conversation with Loren Healy: The Man, The Myth, and the Legend.
Ok. Before we get into the heavy stuff, I’m going to hit you with some rapid-fire questions; you know, “deep, important stuff” that people want to know, so be ready. Is that cool?
Sure. Fire away.
What was your first off-road vehicle?
A ‘76 International Scout… It was actually my first vehicle ever.
What’s your daily driver today?
A 2014 Chevy ¾ ton.
Will or Nicole?
So you kinda already answered this, but Ford, Chevy, or Dodge?
Star Wars or Star Trek?
Before my day, both of them… don’t really care, but probably “Star Track”, I guess.
Beatles or Stones?
Also before my day, but probably the Eagles. [TDG: The Eagles weren’t a choice, but this is The King. What are you going to do?]
Mustard or Catsup?
Mustard. [long pause] No. Lying to you. Catsup. Sorry.
Burgers or Dogs?
Records, CD’s, mp3’s, or streaming?
Probably CD’s, because I don’t do a lot of Internet music video stuff.
Coffee or Tea?
Both. I drink coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon.
Beach or Mountains?
Both as well.
[laughs] Yeah… you gotta pick one there. Are you a beach person or a mountain person?
I spend as much time in the summer as I can at the beach, so if I had to pick, I guess it would be the beach, but I do love mountains.
Football or baseball?
Hot or cold?
Halloween or Christmas?
The Godfather or Scarface?
Both before my day and haven’t seen either one… Scarface, though… I guess.
Netflix or Red Box?
Boxers or briefs?
Your house is on fire and you have time to grab three things (besides your family members and pets), what do you grab?
The racecar because it’s not insured. [laughs] It’s probably worth more than my house… and as many racecar parts as I can possibly get. Family pictures, heirlooms… stuff that I can’t replace. And… I don’t know, maybe a change of clothes?
What’s the best movie you’ve seen in the last year?
The *only* movie I’ve seen in the last year – Furious 7! That’s the only movie I’ve been to in the last year. I’m not a big movie watcher.
What’s your favorite movie of all time?
Probably “Gone in Sixty Seconds”.
Can it just be a country singer? Tim McGraw.
Hmm. I’m not a huge book reader… pretty much, I do like a lot of the James Patterson books, so probably anything by James Patterson.
Favorite adult beverage?
Crown and 7.
What do you wear under your fire suit?
My underwear. [chuckles]
If you weren’t doing what you are doing now, what would you be doing?
Probably a whole lot more family stuff. Coaching kids soccer, baseball, softball and volleyball teams and spending a whole lot more time rec wheeling and more outdoor stuff instead of in the garage working on racecars and traveling to races.
Do you get much time to do coaching now?
I don’t, because my work schedule and my racing schedule keep me from getting to coach, which is ok… my kids have awesome coaches, but it is something I wish I could do.
So who would you trade places with for one day if you could?
Anybody? Probably a pro athletes like Kobe Bryant or somebody.
You chose Netflix earlier, do you binge watch shows and if so, what’s the last thing you binge watched?
Sons of Anarchy was my last one I watched, through season six, I guess down to the last season.
So, I’m going to switch up to some of the more serious questions. Are you ready for serious stuff?
Why do you do it?
The love of competition. I mean, being an athlete my whole life and growing up just always competing in one way or another, this is my way to keep living the dream.
What are your 3 most memorable off-road or racing moments?
The first year I really competed, in 2010, I won KOH. That’s probably number 1 on the all time list, because, you know, I was just some random dude from nowhere who had no racing experience. I still can’t believe I won that race…
Number 2? Probably some of the memorable trail rides that we used to actually go on with all my buddies and friends. We used to go travel all over. We’d go down to Arizona for a week and hang out with all the BTG guys out there at Bumble Bee and I really miss that part of our jeep club. That was some of the most fun I ever had.
Probably number 3 would be this last season. Winning all the races that we did and winning three championships and getting Dirt Sports Driver of the Year and all that is just right there with winning KOH in 2010. Can’t really top that one, though.
If you owned a “rock bouncer”, what would you name your rock bouncer?
I have no idea. [laughing] I really have no idea on that. Let me think on that. I’ll have Savanah come up with a good name and I’ll text it to you.
So what drivers do you admire and why?
The ones that I really admire are guys like Robbie Gordon, Rob MacCachren, Shannon Campbell, and most all the Ultra4 drivers because they all kinda came from nothing and worked their asses off to get to somewhere. I’m crossing over into the desert world a little bit right now and seeing all these spoiled rich casino owner’s kids that have never worked a day in their lives… it drives me nuts.
What’s the most “game changing” innovation you’ve seen in the off-road industry?
Overall… since I’ve been a part of it… probably Shannon and his IFS car. What was it 2009 or 2010 when he first…? [pause] Everybody was telling him that IFS wouldn’t work and he just stuck with it and had that drive to prove everybody wrong.
Do you race to win, or race to finish?
Race to win! If you’re not racing to win, you’re not racing.
What’s your favorite part of an event?
Usually when it’s over. I love the adrenaline and competition and the highs that come with the race, but there is so much work and so much prep and so much effort that goes into it – and so much money – that the release of when everything is over and done and you can relax for 5 minutes… it’s pretty awesome.
Do you see yourself fully getting into any other styles of racing besides Ultra4?
I’m going for the desert right now. That’s my immediate future. I hope to win some desert races by the end of the season. It’s always been a boyhood dream of racing Baja and I just… of all the racing that I’ve done so far, I just have absolutely loved long distance desert stuff. We’ll see how that plays out. I can definitely see me getting into a Lucas Oil sectional course type truck at some point, depending upon budget and stuff. I mean, I’m up for racing anything that’s got a steering wheel on it. [laughs] We keep joking that there’s a local “roundy round” dirt course track here and you can buy a car for like, 10 grand and go race it on weekends, and we keep joking about doing that too, so who knows… I’m up for whatever.
How many hours do you have into an event before it even starts?
A big event, like KOH, it’s in the thousands of hours. The regional races through the season, I’d say 200 or 300 hours of prep and then drive time getting to and from. It’s definitely a full time job. I’m lucky I have a real job that let’s me have a second full time job.
When do you start planning for an event?
I usually take one event at a time. I’ve got everything planned out in my head for the whole season and we’ve got budgets set and schedules set and everything, but I usually try to take one at a time so I can put 100% full effort into that event. We’ve usually got a least a month of time to plan for that and make changes to race cars and setup and do stuff like that, so…
What’s the most important part of the race for you? What really rings your bell?
Definitely being side by side with actual competition of racing with somebody. If you’re out in front or you know there is nobody else up next to you it’s… [pause] well that’s kinda why I always want to go for just big races, because I want to race against the best. If I’m not there beating the best and racing against the best, I’m not feeling it’s worth my time and effort to put into it to race against just a few other races. I think it’s just the adrenaline rush of being side by side and back to the competition thing.
What keeps you motivated after all of your success?
It’s gotta be the “haters” [laughs], you know what I mean? People… I mean you still see people on the internet who pick all the other racers over me to win and I think that’s really what fuels me. I think it is. Its just the haters.
Where do you see the evolution of off-road racing taking us?
Nick Nelson and I are trying to take our evolution and what we’ve learned with Ultra4 into the desert world right now, to take 4-wheel drive to Trophy Truck and Class 1 cars. Those guys love to tell us how stupid we are and how it will never work… even some of my sponsors tell me that… that I’m “crazy” for building a 4-wheel driver vehicle. I’m hoping that we’re going to be able to put our notch on the belt with these 4-wheel drive vehicles in the next 12 months. I love being told I can’t do something.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully with my picture in the Off Road Hall of Fame somewhere. [laughs] You know, racing in all kinds of different organizations. I guess maybe Rob MacCachren would be the person, or even Robbie Gordon now… they get to go race Dakar and Baja and SCORE and Lucas Oil and they’ve got a whole crew of people that are paid employees, they work on race cars, and travel together. My whole group of friends and everybody that helps me prep the car and helps me race now, that’s our goal together is to grow to that level and make the car our life.
So who is your mentor or inspiration?
I always go back to Shannon [Campbell] on this. He’s one of my friends and I talk to him on a regular basis and you know we’re always talking about what we’re doing to our cars and how we’re going to make it faster and stuff like that. Probably back to Shannon on that question.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to do what you do, what would that be?
Run like hell. [laughs] I’m so deep into it now that there is no backing out. I don’t know… learn as much as you can. Never take anything for granted because every thing can change in a heartbeat. Physically being in shape is one of the most important parts. You have to have a little bit of raw talent coming out of the gate, of course, or else you’re never going to have a shot… and race car prep. Physically prepared, though. If your body’s not ready for it, you’ll never do it.
Last question: What is something that most people don’t know about you that they should?
I don’t know. [wry chuckle] My life’s been a pretty open book for the last year or so. I don’t know if I have a good answer to that. I’m fairly boring other than racecar and family.
A class act and fierce competitor, Loren Healy is poised for big things again this year. We wish him the best of luck. You can catch Loren next at the Ultra4 Stampede in Sacramento, California. Who knows, maybe you can convince him he should watch The Godfather at some point in his life.
~ The Dusty Gnome
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