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The Leducs: Back To Basics

How it all started for Curt, Todd, and Kyle Leduc

Matt EmeryPhotographerShaun OchsnerWriter

Chances are in the last few decades if you have attended or participated in an off-road racing event, the name “Leduc” was on the entry list. You may have even been lucky enough to run into one of them at some point and strike up a conversation. Maybe you have seen a truck with the Leduc name on the driver’s door. It’s possible you could have driven all the way out to a very small city in Riverside County called Cabazon way before the sun came up to look for or sell parts at the only off-road swap meet in the nation. Yes, we are talking about the “Leduc Swap Meet.”

Today, the Leduc footprint is mainly found in the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series. There are two separate setups, sometimes on opposite sides of the pits, one bearing the name Kyle Leduc decked out with Monster livery. At Todd Leduc’s pit, you will find Rockstar Energy livery. It’s a battle of competing energy drinks. Both sponsors like it that way. It helps create a growing “sibling rivalry.” Then there’s Curt Leduc, an off-road legend. One minute he’s over at his son Todd’s pit helping fix a problem, then a short time later Curt is over at Kyle’s pit enjoying a burger for lunch or playing with Kyle’s son, Reed. Curt puts in equal time with Todd’s son, Kruz, taking a moment to hang out with him in the grandstands during qualifying before heading up to the spotters stand to get on the radio with Todd.

The Off-Road Legend
Long before two semis, Rockstar and Monster Pro-4s, and grandchildren, there was Curt Leduc, with a young Kyle and Todd in tow. Crisscrossing the country in an old yellow van and a trailer attached to it with whatever race vehicle Curt was racing that weekend. As it pulled into the event, you knew the Leducs were in town. Curt got his start in motorsports at a very early age. His parents would bring him to the late-model races, and Curt began offering his help some of the racers. As Curt grew up, he would start delivering parts and product for companies. “I understand what companies need to get back from racers, being involved with motorsports,” Curt says. He would bring his sons to sponsorship meetings. Curt says, “They would hear what the companies wanted to hear and how we could accommodate them.” Curt also says an important part of sponsorship he has taught his sons is following through on the commitments and promises that are made whether it’s in the contract or not.

In the 1970s when off-road Jeeps became popular, Curt had a welder and tube bender. He would use these tools to make vehicles safer, allowing people to race them. “I grew [my business] from nothing into an empire.” Curt says he got into off-road racing instead of stock car racing because it’s a lot nicer crowd. “I didn’t go stock car racing. I learned very early on in stock car racing, if you are fast everybody wants to hit you with a jack handle! In off-road racing, if you are fast everybody wants to get to know you so they can find out your secrets!” Curt says. The first race vehicle Curt built for himself was a Jeep Commando that only cost $200. It was trial and error for Curt. He struggled with hillclimbs and sand drags. When it came to the obstacle courses and pitching it sideways into corners, Curt had found success. “I beat everybody within a hundred-mile radius of that track,” Curt says. Curt is a family guy. It’s always been that way for him. That’s why he started bringing his sons to the races. He thrives on the family atmosphere of off-road racing.

Running mainly short-course events, Curt was invited by Walker Evans to come to Baja. After Curt returned home to his shop, he wanted to win the Baja 1000. Curt set his mind to it, learned the terrain, and met the racers; soon after, he secured a win. In the early 2000s Curt was given an opportunity to race The Dakar Rally. It’s safe to say Curt is involved with all things off-road.

Curt always remembers his roots. He is always eager to give back. He says so many people have helped him over the years. Curt puts on two annual swap meets a year where people can buy and sell off-road parts. He also organizes a raffle that was recently held at Glen Helen. Many off-road companies and teams donated products that were auctioned off. The money was given to Chaplain Steve Hanson to cover travel expenses to get to racing events. Hanson volunteers his time at every racing event as the only off-road Chaplain representing nonprofit organization Racers For Christ.

These days Curt is officially retired from short-course racing. There was a retirement party held for him last year in Crandon with all the fanfare. The problem is you can’t keep Curt from getting behind the wheel or attending a racing event. Curt raced the TORC Series at Sturgis in a Pro-4. Curt says, “Retirement hasn’t worked out at all. I am busy racing [Vegas to Reno].” Curt is still very much involved in the races, helping Todd and Kyle, renting out his trucks to customers at the Lucas Oil Regional Series, and, of course, babysitting the grandkids at the races. Curt says, “I am going to work until the clock stops.”

The Seemingly Unstoppable Kyle Leduc
Kyle Leduc’s short-course season thus far has been extraordinary. Kyle has claimed the top spot on the podium at almost every single round. Round two at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Arizona, Kyle was taken out in a crash. Kyle now has over 50 short-course wins. A feat very few in the sport can achieve. Every streak does have to come to an end however. The gremlins caught up with Kyle at rounds 11 and 12 in Reno, Nevada. Mechanical problems both days prevented Kyle from getting on the podium. In 2012, Kyle won the Lucas Oil Off-Road Pro-4 championship. Last year, Kyle didn’t have quite the season he wanted. There were some broken parts and missed podiums. Currently, Carl Renezeder holds the Pro-4 Championship plate, and Kyle wants it back.

Kyle’s off-road racing career started in a 7s Ranger with his brother, Todd, and friend Billy Bunch. Kyle raced the Ranger at several SCORE International Off-Road Events. Kyle says, “I grew up going with my dad to races and working on cars. We didn’t just sit in the stands.” Curt had him putting on bedsides and washing the truck. Kyle looked up to his dad. He wanted to be the guy in the driver’s suit racing the truck. Kyle says he learned everything about working on the trucks at the same time his dad was training the crew chiefs that worked at the shop.

In the early days Kyle raced downhill mountain bikes, but Kyle wanted to race short-course off-road. His dad offered him a ride in a Pro-Lite. The problem was it was only a chassis and Kyle had to finish the truck to make it race ready. Kyle was able to scrape up money to race it. “It’s funny because [the Pro-Lite] still races today,” Kyle says. Over the years Kyle has developed his own style for a truck builds. While his dad still is set in his old ways, Kyle has fresh new ideas in developing a race truck. Kyle spent five years cutting his teeth in the Pro-Lite class before moving up to the faster more powerful Pro-4 class. “I had a lot of fun in Pro-lite, back when they were four-bangers and manual, and you had to hustle to drive them,” Kyle says. Kyle has had to do everything from work on the trucks, get the sponsorship, and develop himself as a driver. That’s the Leduc way. These days Kyle says it’s important to do things his way out of his own shop.

The Older Brother
Todd is the older brother in the Leduc family. Todd started driving off-road in the desert before he got his feet wet in short-course off-road racing.

When Todd was 18 he really wanted to race and Curt said to him, you need to build your own truck, work on it and find your own sponsors. Todd didn’t feel he was ready for all of that responsibility, so he started downhill mountain bike racing. Todd was looking for a sport that would allow him to travel the world. “It’s cheap and easy,” Todd says. The very accessible Southern California mountains made for a great training ground. Soon Todd found himself claiming two U.S. Pro National titles.

Younger brother Kyle had gotten out of mountain bikes and was already four years into short-course racing by the time Todd felt he was ready. Todd quit mountain biking, worked full time at the shop, and built a truck with his dad. Todd says he was thrown to the wolves! “We had no clue what we were doing; the truck wasn’t running right,” Todd says.

Todd had to figure out all the logistics and sponsorship money on his own. Todd says he learned a lot from that experience. He later built a second truck that worked 10 times better. It was then that Todd started winning races. “It definitely makes you appreciate what you do because you build something and you take all that time and energy, then to go out and make it successful, it’s a pretty cool feeling,” Todd says about building his own truck.

Not long ago Todd was offered the opportunity to race a Monster Truck. A friend introduced Todd to the right people. They gave Todd a test day and they were sold on his talents. Todd jumped right in and grabbed several wins. This year he claimed the Freestyle World Champion title.

While Todd currently races in the Pro-4 class, he wants back into Pro-2. He has his heart set on winning a short-course championship, much like his brother.

Still In The Desert
While the main focus of the Leduc family is short-course racing, they haven’t disappeared from the desert. Curt Leduc brought out the Trophy Truck to this year’s Best in the Desert Vegas to Reno race. Todd as well as Curt’s long-time friend John Gable piloted the truck. Vegas to Reno had a record number of over 270 entries. Many teams were unable to finish the race. Curt, Todd, and John finished the race 26th overall and 17th in the class.

Curt has also spent several years racing with the Vanderway team in the “Got Milk” Trophy Truck in Baja. The Leducs have raced everything from Class 8 to Class 7 to Trophy Trucks. Todd says one of his biggest accomplishments is getting seven championships in the Class 8 truck. “Out of all the off-road motorsports I do, desert racing is my favorite,” Todd says. Off-road racing runs through the veins of the Leduc family. “It’s such a cool feeling driving a trophy-truck for eight hours, coming over a rise and you think the race is lost, then there’s the First Place guy broke down changing a flat,” Todd says.

Curt may have retired, but the Leducs aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Kyle has a short-course championship to win back. There is a whole new generation of Leducs growing up around the pits. Todd’s son, Kruz, and Kyle’s son, Reed, are at every race. While they are only just over a year old, it won’t be long before both are in the pits, washing body panels, working on the trucks, and learning to build new trucks, just like Curt taught Todd and Kyle. The only difference is there won’t be a yellow Leduc van rolling into the races each weekend. When the kids become adults, they will have to get Class A licenses to drive their dad’s semis into the pits. As the trucks roll out the back doors, they will still bear that famous Leduc name that comes with much history, race wins, and so many championships.