Bradley Morris isn’t just making his mark in LOORRS short-course by being a young racer, but also with his speed and talent. During LOORRS’ stop at Glen Helen Raceway this season, he swept the weekend with two wins in Pro Lite and one in Pro Buggy. Author: Scott Neth Photos: Bink Designs
Just five years ago, young Bradley Morris was making his short-course off-road racing debut in the TrophyKart ranks of CORR. Now 16 and heading into his junior year of high school, Morris is rapidly becoming a name on the minds and lips of many people around the paddock. Morris hasn’t done it all by himself, though. As is almost invariably the case, it takes a team to get the most out of a talented driver, and Morris’ assault comes in the form of a three-pronged attack. The Romoland, California, resident is the one everyone sees, but two other key men lie behind the scenes: Morris’ father Billy, who built the team from the ground up, and their lead mechanic and spotter, Danny Ebberts. Together, the three have brought their team, BME Motorsports, right to the sharp end of the field in every class they’ve competed in, and from the looks of things, they’re only getting warmed up.
The Driver After getting his feet wet in both the Junior 1 and Modified Kart ranks in the 2008 season of the now-defunct CORR, Morris and his family came to the first season of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series (LOORRS) in 2009, with Bradley taking to the track in all three Kart classes (Junior 1 and 2, and Modified). That season, Morris scored his first short-course win, and it came in the Mods, the toughest of the three classes. In 2010, Morris dropped the two slower Kart classes and focused solely on the Modifieds, where he added two more wins to his tally. The following season, Morris got his first taste of racing with the big boys as he joined the Limited Buggy class, where he got another pair of victories. In 2012, Morris and his team really got busy, as Bradley was now racing in three classes once again. In addition to the Kart and the buggy, Morris had now taken a huge step up into the fearsome Pro Lite class. While several scary early season crashes had some people seriously questioning the kid’s ability to run one of these notoriously difficult-to-drive trucks, Morris kept his head down and stayed focused. “I’ve flipped and crashed a lot of stuff, and I haven’t ever really gotten scared,” Morris says. After getting some serious bad luck out of the way, Morris began to change the minds of any doubters, as he strung together four top-five finishes in five races, including a pair of podiums. Then came the night races at Glen Helen, where he bested the series’ most successful driver, Brian Deegan, to take back-to-back wins under the lights. Morris’ wins couldn’t be seen as flukes, either; he led every lap on both occasions, and set the fastest lap of the race in the second race. Moreover, flanking him on the podium both nights were Deegan and Casey Currie, two of the class’ top competitors. Morris rounded out the season with another podium, and wound up a staggering third place in the points in just his rookie season in the ultra-competitive and difficult class. Indeed, Morris was really making a name for himself at just 15 years of age. On top of his meteoric rise to prominence in Pro Lite, Morris was even more successful than ever in his other two classes. He took four wins and nine podiums in Limited Buggy, as well as four wins and seven podiums in Modified Kart, and was second and third in those two points races. Despite all of his success, Morris is still yet to score a championship, though, but that doesn’t exactly seem to be the first thing on his mind. “It (winning a championship) hasn’t really bothered me,” Morris says, “because all these years have been learning years. I’d be in one class, but then the next year I’d move up to another class, so I wouldn’t focus on one class, and it ended up where I’d never run one class as hard as I could to win a championship.” This year, Morris has moved up once again. With Limited Buggy relegated to the Regional series events in Lucas Oil, and with Morris now too old to run in the Kart ranks, he has added a Pro Buggy program to go along with his Pro Lite. Wasting no time, Morris ran just 18 laps in the ex-Cameron Steele Alumi Craft before heading to the season-opener at Firebird, where he went out and won his first Pro Buggy race!
Behind any young racer is a proud set of parents making things happen. In Bradley’s case they are the hard working duo of Billy and Sheila Morris who provide him with plenty of support and built the team from the ground up. Morris’ success is no accident. In addition to his racing, Morris spent five years in soccer and seven in baseball, before giving them both up in favor of his racing. These days, Morris shows focus and determination well beyond his years, and spends much of his free time doing what it takes to be the best he can be. “I do a lot of hand-eye coordination stuff,” Morris explains, “and I do strength training so I won’t get tired.” Morris also does a lot of cardiovascular work, including the much-dreaded VO2 max test, all in an effort to improve his recovery time. “He can’t even take his helmet off to run from one car to the other,” says Ebberts of his driver’s hectic schedule on race weekends. Morris takes his training inspiration from motocross riders, who he knows to be some of the fittest athletes in any sport, and Ebberts, an accomplished driver in his own right, knows that Morris is on the right track. “The training he’s doing is something I always wanted to do,” says Ebberts. “I think taking that training to the next level is a big deal that not too many other racecar drivers do.” Another element that plays in Morris’ favor is his varied history of classes. Having already competed in six different classes in just his first six seasons, Morris has had to learn to adapt quickly, and understand how to get the most out of a new ride right away. “If anyone asked me to drive a car, I could get in and figure it out,” notes a confident Morris. His ability to adapt should prove to be a valuable asset, as he plans to move up again soon. “I wanna move up to Pro 2,” says Morris. “That’s kinda where Danny and I both wanna race. Danny knows how to work on Pro 2s better than anything, so I wanna move up and race against Rob MacCachren and all those guys. I look up to Rob and wanna be like him because he’s good at everything he drives.” Beyond short-course, Morris also does a fair amount of Sprint car and midget racing, something he picked up from well-known driving instructor Cory Kruseman, all in an effort to hone his skills as a driver further. In the future, the young man says he’d like to do lots of crossover racing, including desert racing, and maybe even NASCAR and Indy. Whatever he chooses, Morris is quickly becoming a driver who can be a true force wherever he goes, something Ebberts knows only too well. “The sky’s the limit,” Ebberts says. “He’s got the right attitude and desire to do it, and the focus and determination. The older he gets, the more he tries at racing and thinks about it, so it’ll be interesting to see what he can do.”
Having a mentor for a young racer is absolutely critical and that role is filled perfectly by crew chief Danny Ebberts who not only oversees all mechanical preparations of Bradley’s Pro Lite and Pro Buggy, but provides him with guidance as well. Morris has a lot of help in his corner, but there is perhaps no greater assistance than that which he gets from his spotter and lead mechanic, Danny Ebberts. A winning circle track (2001 USAC Midget Champion) and desert racing (2006 Vegas to Reno winner in Class 1500) driver in his own right, Ebberts also brings a wealth of short-course mechanical experience to the table. Before he came to Morris’ BME Motorsports team, Ebberts was the lead mechanic and crew chief for Brian Deegan during the 2010 season. Many people might see it as a daunting prospect to come in and coach such a young driver, and initially, Ebberts was no different. “I was wondering how it was gonna be,” Ebberts recalls. “I didn’t think I was gonna get much communication back or input on the car. But right away in the Pro Lite, in a car he’d never driven before, I got twice the amount of input back that I had from older guys that I’d worked for, and he’s gotten even better since then on being able to feel things that I’d never think he’d be able to notice. A slight change, and he’ll come back and say exactly what I thought he should say. As a racecar driver, he’s super mature, so when he’s coming into a corner and I tell him to go high or low, he’ll do it right then, not on the next lap. He’ll do it as I say it. There’s not too many drivers that I’ve worked with who catch on that quick or who listen that quickly and openly.” With a driver he can really work with, Ebberts has found a good place to come to work every day, something he feels is very important. “I gotta make a living and feed my family,” Ebberts says, “but there’s other ways, other jobs I could get, so having a good team and a good driver was definitely something I was looking for. I don’t like just taking trucks apart and putting them back together, it’s trying to make them faster and better, and if you don’t have a driver who puts everything into it, you can’t really figure stuff out.” In less than two years, Ebberts’ and Morris’ relationship has really grown, and Ebberts’ place in the team has become one that is both professional and friendly. “When everyone else tries to quit, Danny’s the one who tells everyone to shut up and keep going,” Morris says. “Him knowing everything on the truck and then being able to tell me stuff as a driver, it helps so much.” And when asked how he feels about Danny outside the shop, Morris’ assessment was simple: “I consider Danny family.” The “beyond work” relationship Ebberts has with the team took on a whole new dimension last year. Ebberts’ horrific fire in the Baja 1000 was one of the most talked-about incidents of our sport in 2012, and it should’ve come as no surprise that Morris and his dad were right there to do whatever they could to help their friend in his time of need. After three weeks in the hospital and two surgeries, Danny spent two months regaining the use of his hands after suffering third degree burns to his face, left elbow, right heel, and hands, and all-the-while, Billy continued to pay him just to come to the shop and give orders, no questions asked. “It was definitely cool to have him there,” Ebberts says. “Billy was down helping pit at the race, and Billy and Bradley, along with my wife and my mom, were at the hospital when I got flown back, so it’s nice to work with people who aren’t just work friends but actual friends, who’ll be there for you in a bad situation.”
TrophyKart and then
transitioning to Limited Buggy has enabled Morris to quickly adapt to Pro Lite. The Man Making It happen Billy Morris, owner of a sand and decorative rock company, had no real background in racing when he was introduced to short-course off-road. “A guy who works for Nick Baldwin turned me onto a TrophyKart in 2008, and said it would be the easiest thing ever. Just put gas in it and go drive it,” Billy remembers. “He lied to me. That’s where it all started. To be honest with you, it started out as mine and my friends’ hobby to go racing at the track, and it kinda just grew from there. As he (Bradley) got better, it made it more worth it to try different things.” Young Morris did get better, and fast, as his dad recalls, saying that his son was “fast from the get-go” and that his development “never really slowed down.” As a result, Mr. Morris was indeed willing and able to try new things, and now with the help of his ace crew chief, the team is testing all sorts of ideas to help make their vehicles as fast as possible. Ebberts commends Billy on his willingness to experiment and not worry so much about the cost or whether or not anyone else has used what he wants to try, and Billy is glad to have someone with Ebberts’ knowledge from whom the team can pick up new ideas. “We bounce ideas off each other,” Billy says, “but we mostly come up with the same results. If we wanna try something, we’ll go try something; if we don’t, we don’t. But more than likely, if he’s got something he wants to try, we’ll do it. If it doesn’t work, we’ll change it. His role of running everything from the shop to the track is huge.” In Billy and his wife Sheila, along with his grandparents, Harley and Emma, Bradley Morris has a family behind him who have given him the resources to compete with the best equipment, as well as the uncompromising love and support that any young driver needs to be their best. Add in Danny Ebberts, and now the team’s potential for success grows many times over. On top of that, Bradley himself brings his raw skill, eagerness to learn, and dedication to be the best into the driver’s seat every time he hits the track. When you add it all up, it’s easy to see why Morris has found so much success at such a young age. “Rob Mac’s been racing a long time and started racing when he was 16, but he hadn’t won multiple Pro Buggy and Pro Lite races when he was 16,” Ebberts says, with a hint toward his driver’s future.
Racing runs in the Morris family with Bradley’s little brother Bryan following the path of his big brother and already mixing it up in the TrophyKart ranks. For Morris, things are a little more humble, and he says it’s nice just to start getting mentioned among the strong crop of up-and-coming drivers in his chosen sport. “It’s good to finally know that I’m getting more recognized,” Morris says, “because I always felt like I was the ‘bad child,’ I guess, like the guy who was in the shadows that no one pays attention to. During all the races, they wouldn’t show me as much, and I’d see all the other kids who are coming up getting congratulated and people saying stuff about them, but they weren’t really saying stuff about me.” If they hadn’t been saying things before, people are certainly taking notice now, and if his current trend continues, Bradley Morris is a driver with every chance of becoming a great champion in the years to come.