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Vic Curl

Vic Curl

Not one to seek out the limelight, Vic Curl has worked tirelessly in the background of off-road racing for over 50 years. An influence on the history of the sport from its earliest days to its present incarnation, Vic’s career can be summed up in one word, heart.

Like so many others, Vic fell in love with off-road racing after witnessing the action just one time, having driven his VW Baja Bug to the inaugural Mint 400 from his hometown in Corvallis, Oregon. Blessed with both intellectual and mechanical talent, he was able to make a career out of his passion and has stood side by side with the legends of the sport, many of whom are now his fellow inductees. 

His career began in 1976 with AMC Jeep as a Service Rep for the western zone. In this role, Vic was tasked with leading Jeep dealers across the Rubicon Trail as well as becoming a significant motivator behind the Mickey Thompson celebrity races in the late 70’s. 1977 marked his first Baja 1000 where, before the days of corporate sponsorship, he used a custom hunting Jeep filled with parts to support anyone running a Jeep CJ or pickup. The following year in 1978, Vic successfully lobbied Jeep to allow him to take a tractor-trailer down to the Baja 1000 to improve the level of on-site race support. Formerly a mobile training unit, the semi was idle until Vic retrofitted, painted, and licensed it to provide service to Jeep competitors. While still a Service Rep, he was not willing to see his plan fail, so Vic earned his CDL so that he could drive the truck himself. In what has become a normal site in Baja, this was the first time a semi was used at the Baja 1000.

After years of success at Jeep, where Vic established the standard for off-road race service and support, he expanded into on-road support, servicing the Renault Cup races in the mid-1980s. Although this was the beginning of parallel off-road/on-road paths, Vic’s passion remained in the dirt.

Upon leaving Jeep in 1988, and a brief stint working with Sal Fish and Bill Savage doing tech inspections for SCORE, Vic began working for Cal Wells in 1990. Under Wells’ PPI and PSRG Vic helped to support Toyota and Ivan Stewart through the early 90’s. This was also Vic’s introduction to Yokohama Tire Corporation supporting their desert racing, sports car racing, and Mickey Thompson Stadium Series efforts.

In 2001, Vic ventured on his own with partner Chikara (Cheech) Yamauchi, to start Trackside Performance and continued to service Yokohama’s motorsports programs throughout North America. As he had done earlier in his career, Vic’s ability in the boardroom would again be used with Yokohama. First through driving the decision to sponsor and support Wide Open Baja tours and the Baja Challenge class in 2000, as well as ProTruck in 2004. In 2005, upon Vic’s urging after a 10-year absence, the company returned to supply tires for Cameron Steele in the top unlimited class. Today, Yokohama enjoys its largest presence in off-road motorsports in the history of the company. That position would not be possible without Vic and his relationship with Yokohama of 30-plus years that is still going strong.

In sum, Vic established the concept of a true service organization in off-road and his legacy is just that. It’s one of hard work, vision, persistence, connection, and integrity. Since his first Baja 1000 in 1977 with Jeep, through his PPI/PSRG days, to his present-day venture with Trackside Performance, Vic has maintained a willingness to help anyone in need. Regardless of equipment, sponsorship, or corporate mandate his notion that “the desert can be a lonely place, especially at night” would guide his decision-making in the field and he never left anyone behind. Vic earned a reputation early on as one of the sport’s “good guys” and that integrity allowed his sphere of influence to grow. That influence allowed him to secure manufacturer involvement and investment, and that manufacturing involvement led to opportunities for drivers and teams that might have otherwise not been given a chance.

The off-road community has given much to Vic and he has enjoyed every minute of it. In turn, he has helped to grow that community. With the support of his loving (and understanding) wife Nancy, he’s been able to involve each of his four children, Nikki, Troy, Shelly, and Eric in the business. Beyond that. he’s introduced the lifestyle to grandkids, nieces, nephews, neighbors, friends, and general acquaintances. Those lucky enough to have had Vic make that introduction have not looked back nor abandoned the off-road community. Some have made careers in off-road, some continue to volunteer, all having a better understanding of what it truly means to live life off-road.