Ivan Stewart, a legend in off-road racing, has made the nickname “Ironman” a reality. He has successfully accomplished the toughest obstacles in off-road racing, winning again and again. Stewart’s racing career began in 1973 at the ‘Ensenada 300’. He was scheduled to race in a Class 2 buggy with co-driver Bill Hrynko, but Hrynko suffered a broken leg prior to the event. Mechanic Earl Stah filled the seat next to him, and Stewart continued on to drive the entire race to victory. During the next ten years his winning streak continued to include 30 major race victories, four times ‘Driver of the Year’ and ‘Man of the Year’ in 1976, until he joined PPI Motorsports, Inc., Toyota’s factory-sponsored team, in 1983.
The combination of Stewart with Toyota was a perfect match, which resulted in instantaneous success in the desert and stadium acing. During his first two years behind the wheel of his Precision Preparation Inc. Motorsports (PPIM) – designed and built race truck, he earned six class victories, including two SCORE ‘World Championships’. For the next two years, he drove one of two Toyota truck entries in the mini and mid-size pickup class in both the SCORE and HDRA desert series. Stewart then became the only single-entry driver when Toyota moved to Class 1 in 1985. Stewart claimed Toyota’s first ‘Baja 1000’. That victory clinched his second SCORE Overall and Unlimited Class series championships, matching his 1990 record as the only driver in the series’ history to win both titles in the same year. The 1993 season was also significant as Team Toyota became the only manufacturer in history to sweep the “Crown Jewels” of desert racing, the ‘Nevada 500’, the ‘Baja 500’ and the ‘Baja 1000’, in the same season.
Stewart and several other talented Toyota teammates played an important role in Toyota’s dominance during the 12-year history of the Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group (MTEG) stadium series. Along with Stewart’s three driver’s championships, Toyota earned 11 manufacturer’s championships and 42 main event victories – nearly three times more than any other tuck team. Stewart holds the record for all-time MTEG wins with 17.
The 1998 season proved successful as Stewart won both the ‘Baja 500’ and ‘Baja 1000’. He earned his 17th ‘Baja 500’ win in 1999. Stewart has now accumulated 84 career victories and ten driver’s championships. The wins include 17 Baja 500s, eight Mint 400s, four Parker 400s, three Baja 1000s and four SCORE World Championships. Stewart’s driving talent is impeccable, but he will be the first to mention that it is the support of his friends and family that helps him get to the winner’s circle.
In addition to his on-track career, Stewart has taken to the role of series “founder” with his Protruck Racing Organization (PRO). A “spec” racing series with identical chassis, the popular Protrucks race as a special class at various events including Best in the Desert’s ‘Vegas to Reno’ race. To date Protruck has built 45 trucks during it’s ten year history.
Stewart is active in the community and serves as a role model for many children. He works with organizations including the Special Olympics and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The “Ironman” adopted a school for the deaf in Ensenada, Mexico where he visits and assists in fund raising efforts.
Stewart’s popularity with younger racing fans has created a market for his “Super Off- Road” video games. Starting out as an arcade game, “Super Off-Road” has been developed for the Nintendo and Sega platforms. In 1997, Midway Home Entertainment, Inc. released “Off-Road Challenge”, a sequel to the arcade game based on Stewart’s participation in the SCORE desert series, which set sales records at the time.
Ultimately, Stewart’s heart is in the dirt and sand of the desert. “I’ve always had a love for desert racing. It keeps my competitive nature as strong as ever”.
Biography By: Les Unger