Although he spent his formative years in Southern California, Chris Brandt loves living in the Midwest; it just makes for a long commute to his second job.
That job takes him back to Southern California, to Las Vegas, Arizona and Utah. He doesn't really need a second career – his first one is as a partner in National Concrete Cutting with his father – he just happens to be pretty good at it. So, the Council Bluffs, Iowa, resident will keep plugging away at racing the No. 82 MavTV/Hart & Huntington Toyota in the Pro Lite Unlimited class in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series.
Born in Sioux City, Iowa, Brandt's family moved to Southern California when he was 7. It was there he started riding three- and four-wheelers and where the racing bug first bit. He started racing trucks in the early '90s in the Great Plains Off-Road Racing Association before racing in CORR in 1999. That year he finished third in Pro Lite and was Rookie of the Year. The following year he was second in the points.
He found some success in the U.S. Championship Off Road Series in the stadiums in the interim. But last year he came oh-so-close to winning Pro Lite Unlimited in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series' inaugural season, before finishing third behind Brian Deegan and Rob Naughton.
Now Naughton has moved to Pro 2, and Deegan is still battling Brandt for wins in Lite. But so far this season, Deegan and Marty Hart have been chasing Brandt more often than not. Brandt was leading the Pro Lite Unlimited points after Round 8 at Miller Motorsports Park. He might have a greater lead in the championship had it not been for an interesting race on Sunday at the first LVMS weekend.
“Off the start, my shifter broke,” he explains as he describes what he says is one of his most memorable races. “So I'm sitting dead in the water with no shifter. One of my crew guys said, ‘Hey, put a socket on an extension.' So I pull into the pits and they grab a socket and extension, find one that fits as good as it's going to fit and I'm back out, sitting half a lap down and waiting for the caution.
“I just started picking 'em off one by one. I got to third, I was on the podium and kind of gave up from there. I didn't want to get tangled up and lose my extension – then where was I going to be? Looking back now, I wish I had gone for it. Rodrigo [Ampudia, the first finisher] got disqualified because he was too short – I know how that feels, I got disqualified for being too long – so I ended up second. I kind of wish I'd taken a few more chances to see if I could have picked up that number one.”
It would have been his second of the weekend – the day before he won handily, fending off only a brief charge by Hart, who is one of the drivers Brandt says always poses a challenge. Deegan is the other.
“I can go out and race Marty and we're clean all the way through to the end. Brian, I don't have any problem with, but we race hard and it always seems there's contact involved. He kind of pushes hard to get where he wants to go. Sometimes you have to push back.”
It's that excitement of door-to-door racing that keeps Brandt coming back to short course. Add in the fact that the family atmosphere makes it conducive for his daughter to join him on some weekends makes it all the better. Off track, Brandt enjoys being on the water on his 21-foot boat. “I like to go out there and relax and just float down the river,” he says. “I have to get back into that. Last year I ran so many races, I had no time.”He could probably have more time if he gave up his second job, the one with the long commute. But that's probably not going to happen any time soon.