Author: Harry Wagner Photos: Jason Zindroski- Mad Media
In just 13 seasons of short-course racing Carl Renezeder managed to rack up 97 victories. Some quick math tells us that averages out to more than eight wins per season, so it wasn’t unreasonable for Carl’s long-time sponsors to fire up the marketing machine for his 100th victory at the beginning of the 2012 season. Then something strange happened. Our 2006 Dirt Sports Driver of the Year went winless through the first six races of the year, not picking up his 98th career victory until the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series (LOORRS) visited Miller Motorsports Park in June. “People got so focused on this one specific win,” Renezeder explained in a recent interview, “it seemed like it was overshadowing the previous eight championships, 97 victories, and multiple Cup wins. Some guys never win one race, much less 98.”
A native of Southern California, Renezeder enjoyed success in racing almost immediately from the start. He won the Baja 1000 in Class 1 way back in 1994 and was part of Rivera Racing’s Dream Team that won the Baja 1000 overall in 2007, even beating the two-wheeled competitors to La Paz. Despite his success in the desert, he made a conscious decision to leave Baja behind and focus exclusively on short-course racing. “I was first exposed to short-course racing on television and it appealed to me, so I went out to Crandon and Bark River to check it out in person,” Renezeder recalls. “This was back in the mid-’90s. It took about five years for me to get a competitive program with all of the right pieces in the right places.”
The fact that Renezeder took five years to put together a program not only suggests how seriously he takes racing, but also how selective he has been about his sponsors. “Lucas Oil has been with me since the beginning for all 100 wins; long before they had their own series. Team Associated, General Tires, the list goes on and on. I was on King Shocks back when Brett and Lance King were at Kuster. Nissan is back now thanks to Ron Stukenberg.”
Like many of his sponsors, Lucas Oil has been with Renezeder since the beginning of his short-course career.
Unmatched Work Ethic “I’ve known Carl for a long time and his work ethic is second-to-none. I know that every time he hits the race track, he leaves it all out there,” states Travis Roffler. The Director of Marketing for General Tire went on to explain that, “Carl is a fierce competitor who doesn’t stop at one win or a championship, he’s always striving to be better, he’s always looking for more. He’s exactly what the General Tire brand is all about. Carl is a leader on and off the track, and a true champion in every sense of the word. He’s a valued member of the Team GT family and, more importantly, I’m fortunate to call him a friend. I couldn’t be more proud of Carl’s 100th win, and everyone here at General Tire is looking forward to not only more wins with Carl, but more championships as well.”
Renezeder’s career began in Pro 2 back in 1999 in Championship Off-Road Racing (CORR), and he added a Pro 4 truck to his stable two seasons later. “I didn’t get these wins doing laps in my backyard; I jumped right into the deep end of the pool in Pro 2. Back then there weren’t the opportunities like kids have today in TrophyKarts.” During those early years there were limited short-course racing opportunities on the West Coast. Even though he was working out of Lake Forest, California, his team was making the long haul east to the backyard of guys like Scott Taylor and Jamie Flannery. “I still have my Trophy-Truck, but there are just too many variables in the desert. Dust, spectators… I have to hold back. By contrast in short-course racing I can go all out. And racing against guys like Flannery and Taylor, if you held back at all they would eat you alive.”
Carl’s 2012 season has been filled with challenges, but he finally broke the streak of bad luck at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
When Renezeder’s father-in-law, Jim Baldwin, purchased CORR in 2005, Baldwin moved the series to the West Coast. Carl’s dominance continued, with back-to-back Pro 2 championships in 2005 and 2006 and back-to-back Pro 4 championships in 2007 and 2008. While campaigning two trucks gives him twice as many opportunities for victory, he doesn’t see a clear advantage to it. “A lot of guys have tried to race in both Pro 2 and Pro 4 and been unsuccessful,” Renezeder observes. “You have to be hyper aware behind the wheel; they respond completely differently on the track.”
Like many professional drivers, Renezeder takes fitness very seriously, competing in triathlons and using a variety of methods to keep in peak physical condition.
Building Relationships Campaigning two trucks provides some economies of scale, but even if not double the cost of a single truck it is still an expensive undertaking. To make this work for the last decade, Renezeder owes a great deal of gratitude to his sponsors, to whom his loyalty is legendary. “The secret is building long-term relationships with your sponsors and being the biggest advocate for their products that you can. I didn’t win 100 races,” Renezeder emphasizes, “we won 100 races together.”
Renezeder’s first foray into off-road started in the
desert with highlights including a Class 1 victory in the 1994 SCORE Baja 1000.
More than just running stickers on the side of his truck, Renezeder has worked with his sponsors to gain a competitive advantage on the track and provide better products for the general public as well. “Carl Renezeder was our first major off-road sponsorship,” explains Tom Bogner, Lucas Oil Director of Motorsports. “We sure are proud to be part of his 100-plus wins using Lucas Oil. Carl has a very unique operation, as they do much development in house with differentials, transmissions and gearboxes. When Carl stands on his truck at the end of a race or in our television commercials talking about the products helping him with his success, every word is true. I am proud to say everything used to lube the trucks we produce in house. We could not have achieved this without all the on-track performance, which is the best R&D you could ask for. We look forward to many more years with Carl and his crew. They are like family and we are so proud of them all.”
consecutive Pro 2 title and a runner up in the Pro 4 championship led him to be named our 2006 Driver of the Year.
Nissan’s involvement with Team Renezeder dates back to 2005, when Carl and his team began development on a Pro 2 Nissan Titan for the CORR series. “Working with Carl is a sponsor’s dream,” according to Ron Stukenberg, Nissan’s Senior Manager of Motorsports Marketing and Operations for North America. “Nissan Motorsports had a key role in helping Carl win the CORR PRO 2 Championship in 2006 because Carl was always open to, and solicited, the technical advice and on-track support that we were able to provide. When the opportunity to team up again with Carl in 2012 became available we didn’t have to think twice. He is articulate, knows the sponsor’s product, and believes in it. Carl is always open to finding new ways to help promote and support the sponsor as was evidenced earlier this year when we asked Carl to be involved in the Nissan GT Academy driver training program. Carl went to England and worked with the race driver contestants in a segment on off-road driving techniques.”
Renezeder has always been about helping to develop sponsor’s products and played a key role in getting the Nissan Titan V8 engine competitive.
Monkey Off His Back All of that brings us up to this season and Carl’s unusually bad luck. Some racers are superstitious, but Renezeder shrugs this off. “Last season I was on the podium for 14 of 15 Pro 4 races. This year I’ve consistently qualified at the front of the pack. Nothing has changed; we have just had some bad breaks. I have had more mechanical flukes this season than the past five seasons put together. Like being at the starting line and the truck not wanting to fire. We had eight DNFs this year. A broken hub? Things like that just don’t happen to our team.”
Carl has always looked for anything that gives him an edge over his competition. His latest Pro 4 truck, built for the 2011 season, features an unique front differential along with being lighter for a racier feel. It also features a lot more adjustability in the suspension to allow for experimentation with different setups.
It doesn’t help that the reigning Pro 4 champ and the only man to win a Pro 2 and Pro 4 title in the same season has a bullseye on his back either. His battles and rivalries with Pro 2 driver Rob MacCachren and Pro 4 driver Kyle LeDuc have been well publicized all season long. “There have always been fast guys out there, people who have their equipment dialed. There is a lot more contact today though, and if someone gets overly aggressive it doesn’t matter if you are a better driver than them or have a faster truck, they can still end your day.”
While it may have taken awhile, Renezeder took
wins 100, 101 and 102 rather rapidly with a dominating performance in Las Vegas with three wins in the four races of the weekend.
While he dismisses superstition, an argument can be made that Carl has returned to his previous domination after getting the monkey off his back in Las Vegas. Once Carl crested the century mark he went on to win 101 and 102 in short order, triumphing in three of his four races for the weekend. He followed this up by winning the final Pro 4 race of the season at Firebird and coming second in Pro 2, which put him third in season points in Pro 4 behind the LeDuc brothers, and fourth in the talent-rich Pro 2 class.
Renezeder’s career has been full of intense battles on the race track and throughout whole seasons. In 2008, he sparred with Rick Huseman constantly and tied in points, but an edge in wins gave Renezeder the Pro 4 championship.
Dominant Once Again Peaking late in the season, Renezeder carried all of this momentum into the Lucas Oil Challenge Cup, where the Pro 2 and Pro 4 trucks face off in an all-out battle. Renezeder has plenty a history of success in Cup races, including the Chairman Cup, Nissan National Cup, Lucas Oil Cup, Borg Warner Cup, Governor’s Cup and Jason Baldwin Memorial Cup wins to his credit. With the pressure of his 100th win behind him, would Renezeder come out on top or be deterred by another of the mechanical gremlins that have defined his season? “Last year I honestly thought my Pro 2 was faster and I was doing great until I was spun by Adrian Cenni,” Renezeder reflects. This year he chose to run his Pro 4 truck and it proved to be the right choice. By the third lap he was at the front of the Pro 4 field and closing on the lead Pro 2 trucks, which get a half lap head start. At the mandatory caution he was in the overall lead, a position he retained for the remainder of the race to take home a $30,000 paycheck and become the first repeat Lucas Oil Challenge Cup winner. The win marks the end of a season that was full of challenges and setbacks. “Getting here wasn’t easy, but being a champion is about never giving up. If it was easy, everyone would have 100 wins.”
After reaching such an impressive milestone, what is next? “Well, I’ve got eight championships now, so I’d like to win two more to make it an even ten. And I just want to keep winning more races and enjoying the journey. The 101st win was just as satisfying as the 100th, and it leaves me hungry for the next win.”