Menzies in hot pursuit of his racing goals
At 26, Bryce Menzies already has an illustrious career behind him in the world of off-road racing. Last year, he was added to Travis Pastrana's Global Rallycross Championship team as driver of their second Dodge Dart. Though the racing results have not come quickly, this year Pastrana tipped Menzies as the No. 1 driver on the team.
Menzies is in 16th place with the final GRC race of the season looming in Las Vegas (7 p.m. ET Thursday on ESPN2). He has raced the entire GRC season -- including all four X Games RallyCross races -- while competing full time in the busy off-road truck circuit.
Ahead of the Vegas finale, Menzies took the time to talk about his 2013 season, meeting Pastrana and where he hopes to be racing in five years.
Menzies and Pastrana are sponsored by Red Bull. The energy drink company and GRC announced on Tuesday the beginning of a multi-year sponsorship deal.
XGames.com: Do you remember the first time you won a race?
Menzies: I remember the first time I ever won an off-road race. It was in Pomona, Calif. It was the second time I had ever driven an off-road car. We were just going out to have fun, and it was for the CORR back when there was a championship off-road series. My second race ever in a single buggy and I went out and won. I had no idea what I was doing, first time ever driving stick shift and stuff like that. I still remember that day pretty clearly.
Outside of off-road racing, you have been racing the Global Rallycross series as part of Travis Pastrana's team. How did you meet Travis?
I got a call, I think it was last year, from my Red Bull guy, Colby Rodriguez. He asked me if I wanted to race X Games in a rally car. I was like, "Are you kidding me? Is that even a question? Yeah -- I'll be there in a heartbeat!"
So it was a short notice; I think we had two weeks before the race even happened. They called me, and they were like, "We need you to come down to California to test the car."
We showed up to California Speedway and we were just hanging out in the middle of some of the guys, and Travis showed up and just introduced himself. As a kid, growing up, I watched him from when I was little, on dirt bikes and freestyle and all that stuff. So it was pretty crazy to have a guy that you have looked up to all your life in motorsports just standing there talking to you and you are going to race with him as a teammate. It was pretty awesome. I still remember that to this day. Pretty cool.
Now you are actually the main driver on his team. How did it feel when he said, "You're going to take this and run with it"?
We talked, and we have a lot of the same sponsors and partners with Red Bull and KMC Wheels and some other stuff. So he called me back and was like, "I want you to be the full-time driver for our team next year."
To have Travis Pastrana call you and ask you to drive for his team was pretty amazing. He said he had some NASCAR stuff that he had to do, so he wasn't going to be able to do the full season, so I would be the driver of record to do the full season and try to do well in these Dodge Darts.
What is it like to go from racing a Pro 2, two-wheel drive truck and literally the next day jump into a rally car and race?
It's still really hard to go from a short-course off-road truck that has 900 horsepower to two wheels and something where you have to manage the wheels and then you jump into a rally car that is all-wheel drive. You have to drive the rally cars as hard as you can to actually get them to work right, where with off-road it's kind of a finesse deal where you have to be real precise with your throttle control and driving.
I'm still trying to figure it out, and it still takes me quite a while when I get in the car. It takes me a couple of laps to figure out shifting points and braking and all that stuff.
Travis has talked about how the Dart being bigger than other GRC cars is a challenge. Do you feel like the car is getting better from race to race?
I feel like the car is definitely developing and getting better. I feel like we are at a little bit of a disadvantage with how long the car is. With these GRC tracks, they are real tight, 90-degree turns, so we have to drive the cars a lot different than all of our competitors.
We are making the cars work, but we are still not seeing the results that we want to. When we are testing, we feel really good, but when we show up to a race, we see where we are losing time. It's just a development deal. They are going to get better, and I have seen them get better throughout each race.
In the last race in Charlotte, you went into that first corner contacting with Travis and came out without a front wheel. How does the conversation in the pits go after something like that?
You know, we kind of come back and just talk a little bit. It was a crazy thing. It seems like every time we qualify we end up in the same heat. I don't know how it happens, but we always do. [Laughs.]
We took off the start line and we barely collided, and somehow it ripped my whole front right off. I came back to the pits and Travis was like, "I'm so sorry. I got pushed over."
It's racing, and we just want to make at least one of us get to the main if both of us can't. No matter what, we are both cheering for each other and try to get the other one up into the main and do what we need to do for our sponsors.
You watched a pretty dominant run this year from Toomas Heikkinen. What do you think it is that makes him so competitive and so fast?
It's crazy watching that kid drive. At the beginning of the year, I didn't see him being as dominant as he has been. Just watching him drive, he's real smooth, but he's also super aggressive.
There's times when if he needs to be aggressive, he is. He's not out there to make friends, and he will push you out of the way if he needs to. I think that's what you need to do in GRC. There's not much passing. It's really hard to pass, so you've kind of got to lean on people to get them out of the way.
You just won your third consecutive TORC championship, and you have four podiums in eight starts in the Lucas series this year. Where do you take your racing aspirations now, since you have been so dominant?
Our team is working really well together, and we have won quite a bit of championships. I think I have won six championships in the last seven or eight years, so we're doing pretty good. Where I see myself going is that I really want to get over to Dakar; that's one of the biggest off-road races in the world. I really want to win the Baja 1000 this year. But as I see myself now in the future, I really want to see myself over there racing for the U.S. and hopefully one day I can be the first U.S. guy to win overall in a vehicle. So that's kind of my goal for the next five years, to work on a plan, figure out how to get over to Dakar and try to do well over there.
What do you think it will take to win the 1000 as part of that stepping stone
I have raced the 1000 twice now. We have had really good shots at it. The Baja, it's kind of crazy. One little part could take you out of the race and it's a thousand miles.
I think our team is really well-prepared, and I think that's what you have to have to win the Baja 1000. We have won the 500 two times in a row, and we're looking for that 1000. It's haunting us a little bit, but I think with our team and the strategies we have put in place we have a really good shot this year. That's our main goal to end out this year is to win the Baja 1000, and I think it's real possible.
Now you have off-road and rally under your belt. Any aspirations to follow Travis and go into something like NASCAR?
I have always been into off-road, and I have tried to see where my path is to go down an asphalt road as far as NASCAR or anything like that. Right now I am mainly focused on off-road and trying to get to Dakar and do that.
Down the road, I would really like to try and at least attempt to see what I could do with some NASCAR cars, but right now I think it is five years down the road. If someone asked me, I would jump in in a heartbeat, but right now it's not in the picture yet.
You have this great Web series, "Driving Dirty" (see the above video). It seems like outside of racing you spend a lot of time hanging out with your friends, and a lot of your team members are your friends too. Is that really how it works?
Yeah, it's pretty cool. A lot of guys that work for me are also my friends. This year has been hectic crazy with three different series, but when I am not racing, I like to hang out with friends and just ride dirt bikes.
This weekend I am heading out to the sand dunes for my dad's birthday, and a bunch of friends are coming out. I like to stay busy, but I also like to do outdoor sports and kind of have fun with my friends. What you see on "Driving Dirty" is how it really is. If I'm not racing, I'm out with my friends, hanging out or goofing off. That's what's pretty cool about this series. It's true life that it's showing what I do outside of racing and also inside of racing.