Brian Deegan is one of the legends of freestyle motocross. He's won in Supercross, been the World Freestyle champion and won gold medals at the X Games – he holds the most medals in X Games Freestyle Motocross history, with 10. His choice of careers has also nearly cost him his life, several times. He's had numerous broken bones, lost a kidney and lacerated his spleen attempting outrageous stunts on a motorcycle.
He's best known for being one of the founding members of the Metal Mulisha freestyle motocross team. That venture has spawned a successful clothing and accessories line most commonly featuring the well-known skull-in-a-helmet logo.
Now he's moving to a new challenge, short-course off road racing in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series. He's formed the Rockstar/Metal Mulisha/Lucas Oil team and is driving in Unlimited Lites. He recently scored his first win at Lake Elsinore and has several podium finishes to sit third in the points standings before rounds 9 and 10 in Arizona. We talked to him about his ambitions and progress in short course racing so far.
Why tackle this new challenge?
I feel like I've accomplished my goals on a dirt bike – motocross, Supercross – and I moved on to freestyle. I helped build that sport and feel like I've done everything I wanted to do there. Now I still feel competitive and want to go out and test myself and set new goals. I feel like the truck racing is a growing sport that's hopefully going to be the next big thing and I really want to be part of that. It's really fun racing a truck. It's one of those things that, when it's over, you feel like it didn't last long enough. It gets me emotional – happy, sad, the feeling of winning. I love that. That's what I live for.
I believe I've gotten more exposure, media and TV-wise, racing trucks than I have in dirt bikes. That's good for my image, my sponsors and my company, Metal Mulisha. The off road market is growing, it's huge.
After having nearly killed yourself on the bike a few times, is safety a factor?
One of the motivations is safety. After racing rally cars at x games, it made me realize…. Usually going in I'm nervous about crashing or breaking bones on a dirt bike. But in the rally car, I'm not worried at all about getting hurt. That was a great change and made me want to focus on off road trucks.
What is the challenge in this for someone who has done it all on motorcycles?
The challenge is learning a new sport. I think the motocrossers have a really good foundation for reading dirt, picking lines, setting guys up. It's the challenge of learning the four wheels, how all those parts work together – the suspension, motors. I didn't now much about automotive stuff before I started racing trucks. I didn't even know what A-arms were. Now I have a pretty good idea of the full mechanics of a race truck and that's cool. I like learning stuff. It's a good challenge mentally and physically.
What are your goals in the sport?
I wanted to move up to Unlimited 2 next year, but now my sponsors are telling me they want me to stay in the Lites for another year. They feel like I have a chance of going for a championship if I stay in the Lites. I'm not in a big rush. I just want to race against the best guys. My goals are every time I get in the truck to go as fast as I possibly can and win every race I enter. That's the goals I set. Next year I'll be Lites and hopefully some Unlimited 2.
Are you having fun?
I'm having fun. This is my first full season and I was able to win at Lake Elsinore. That moment was comparable to winning my first motocross race, my first X Games. I had a tear in my eye; it's emotional. When you work so hard at something, and it pays off, that's one of those moments, and it's really why I do it.
Was there a moment in trucks that the light went on, that you really felt you got it?
That was Chula Vista last year. I was chasing Chad Hord and Marty Hart, and I was really starting to figure this out. You really have to drive on the edge. It's all sensation conditioning. It's all pushing yourself to the limit, and you go, “Oh, that was scary, but I'm OK and I can drive at that limit, now let's push it to the next limit.” It's all about figuring out how far you can push your truck. To go as fast as your truck can possibly handle it. I started getting into that point at Chula Vista last year. So coming into this year, I was ready to win.
Are you happy with your progress so far?
I feel like I'm right where I should be. There's still Robert Naughton and Chris Brandt that are seasoned veterans in the class that make it tough to win every race. They're very fast and, when I first started, they're the guys that I looked up to. I'd like to be beating them every race, but it's hard, because they're driving these trucks at the limit. I feel like I'm in the spot that I want to be. Obviously I'd like to win every race, but that's hard to do.
Do you have an idol in the sport, someone you look up to?
To be honest, I don't have an idol, but some I've studied and made as markers. They are the fast guys; those are the guys that I have to beat. I don't idol anyone, but I do respect their talent. Once you idol someone, it gets in your head and its very hard to beat them. For me, there are guys like Ricky Johnson – yeah, he was my idol on dirt bikes, but when it comes to trucks, he's fast for sure, but I one day want to beat him, as I do all the guys on the track.
So, yes, there are guys that I respect more than others, that I study – Ricky Johnson, [Rob] MacCachren, they're unbelievably good drivers. In my class, Naughton and Brandt are the guys that smoke me, so those are the guys I need to study and beat.
Have you figured out how to change the attitude of the truck in the air?
There's a little bit of technique to adjusting the truck in the air, but nothing compared to what you can do on a bike. And if your truck gets kicked and it's going over, it's going over. A dirt bike you can adjust a lot with your throttle and brake in the air, and your body position. Body position means absolutely nothing in a truck!