RACER Magazine, Winter 2018-2019
RJ Anderson may be famous for his viral UTV videos, but racing drives him.
If you know who RJ Anderson is, you likely know of his viral videos for sponsor Polaris RZR … the crazy ones with the insane tricks such as grinding a UTV down a rail like a skateboard. That stuff’s very cool, but the freshly crowned Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Pro 4 champion is all about racing, too. It may earn him less notoriety, but it’s the most important thing.
“Racing is who I am and what got me to this point,” the Californian states. “I think it’s important I don’t ever detour away from that because at the end of the day, everyone’s going to try to start doing videos. I have seen it over the last five years – you can take an idea and people will try to compound off of it. It’s always the game of, ‘That was my idea.’ Race results are race results. You can have that no. 1 plate, that trophy and there is no one that can say it’s not yours.”
Racing is an absolute. There’s no arguing over who did it first or who did it better … if you’re not looking down at the other people on the podium, you weren’t the best that day. Anderson, though, has had plenty of opportunities to tower over his fellow racers from the top step. This year’s Pro 4 title – and he nearly got the Pro 2 title to go along with it thanks to three wins in that class – is his fourth in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series. His first came in Unlimited UTV in 2011. The next year he won the Pro Lite championship as a rookie. In 2014 he added Pro 2, and scored his second Pro Lite title in 2015, his last year in the class. In 2017 he brought Pro 4 into his repertoire, and won a race in his rookie season before claiming the title in only his second year in the class.
The impressive thing is for the last five years, he’s done it on his own. While he has driven for others, his last two championships have been won not only as driver, but as team owner. Now not only does he run two trucks for himself, he’s brought younger brother Ronnie on board to drive Pro Lite and is helping out some UTV racers as well. Did we mention he’s only 25? But having already been racing for more than a decade, he’s learned a lot of lessons along the way.
“Coming off Pro Lite championships, I thought Pro 2 was just a bigger Pro Lite, and man, was I mistaken,” Anderson says of his introduction to the big trucks. “These guys, not only are they the best of the best you’re racing against – guys like Rob MacCachren and Brian Deegan that have won multiple championships. Just figuring out the vehicles … I mean, it’s a fully different beast than a Pro Lite. It’s not at all the same as I thought it was going to be. Five years later I still have yet to get my first Pro 2 championship.”
Pro 4, with the added element of four-wheel drive and fewer rules restrictions, is a wilder beast still. But Anderson managed to beat one of the best short course racers the sport has seen in Kyle LeDuc in 2018. As always in racing, there’s some luck involved, and Anderson is quick to acknowledge when it fell his way.
“I had days where we literally broke on the last lap and I was able to limp to the finish. I had a flat tire and a yellow came out and I was able to change it and still win the race. Pro 4 is a gnarly class; there are so many moving parts and things break. The first year I was just trying to get on the podium as hard as I could. This year I was able to stay calm even when we were running second, third, fourth, and kind of let the trucks fall out in front of you or get a flat tire or run into each other. That’s what I was able to capitalize on this year,” he explains.
“The thing about Pro 4 is I honestly think it’s the ultimate off-road machine,” he continues. “It’s four-wheel drive, 900 horsepower … it’s insane, and you’re seeing in Trophy Trucks now that they are adapting to what we are learning in Pro 4. It’s the ultimate machine in driving and I just wish it would get more mainstream. It’s one of the most exciting shows on the planet and it’s a bummer to go out there and race against seven other guys. I think if we got more mainstream drivers and put them in a Pro 4, they would be like, ‘Holy cow! This is insane!’ It just wants to kill you the whole time, and the harder you can drive a Pro 4, the better it works.”
It sounds like Anderson, whose videos have helped sell quite a few Polaris RZRs, has given this some thought. He even acknowledges that a video with a Pro 4 doing some crazy things would certainly go viral. Unfortunately, there’s no one trying to sell Pro 4s the way Polaris is trying to sell RZRs, and the videos that Anderson has done with Mad Media and UTV Underground require a big budget and a lot of time.
Between the short course off-road racing and the UTV racing and promotional activities, time isn’t something Anderson has a lot of, but he’s OK with that.
“I am at a point in my life right now that clinching the Pro 4 championship was a big weight off my back. I have made it to the top and I have achieved that goal. I would still like to win a Pro 2 championship, but at the same time, right now I am just into doing rad stuff. I am lucky to have the sponsors behind me. I like going out and doing cool things and meeting people who tell me, “That was so cool when you did that jump!” I am traveling and gone all the time and I know there’s a point in my life where I’m not going to enjoy it this much; but right now I am still enjoying it. Racing is a blast, but I am having so much fun and doing all these things and being creative. And I am running my own team, answering only to myself,” he says.
The videos, the Pro 4 championship and the UTV World Championship are all things that Anderson has accomplished in recent years. He still has some racing mountains he’d like to conquer – racing Trophy Trucks in the desert, for one thing. But he’s young enough to have the time to climb those mountains, and smart enough to know that some of the rad stuff he’s doing goes a long way toward paying the racing bills. The key thing is he’s having fun doing all these things, so there’s no telling what surprises he’ll offer next.