RC’S most prolific track builder talks about a life in The Dirt

RC Car Action - - PRO-FILE JOEY CHRISTENSEN - Joey Chris­tensen BY PETER VIEIRA PHO­TOS BY JOEY CHRIS­TENSEN

If you’ve been fol­low­ing pro RC rac­ing

any­time in the last 20 years, you’ve prob­a­bly heard of Joey Wolters Chris­tensen, aka “Joe Dirt,” a gen­uine artist with a Bob­cat and a shovel (not to men­tion nor­mal art sup­plies—more on that later) who has shaped some of RC rac­ing’s most fa­mous (and in­fa­mous) tracks. Joey is the go-to guy when pro­mot­ers and sanc­tion­ing bod­ies need a pro­fes­sional track that can chal­lenge driv­ers and en­sure ac­tion­packed rac­ing, and he has been de­liv­er­ing since 1999. We caught up with Joey be­tween shovel ses­sions to talk about his life in RC.

RC Car Ac­tion:

How did you dis­cover RC cars? What was your first hobby-qual­ity car?

Joey Chris­tensen:

My ear­li­est mem­ory of RC cars was some­how get­ting a Tamiya Grasshop­per. It did not have a ra­dio or any ex­tra parts—it was just the car. I was amazed at how re­al­is­tic and cool the shocks were. I would roll that car around and make my own car noises and pre­tend it was a real car! [laughs] Be­ing that there was no ra­dio or any other parts to it, I moved on fairly quickly, as bikes and skate­board­ing were call­ing my name! I was an only child. My step­dad, Bear, was my dad since the age of seven. He had no other kids and was one of the nicest and most lov­ing peo­ple I had ever met. He owned his own au­to­mo­tive/radiator busi­ness and was a hard­work­ing man who never missed a day of work. He bought used mo­tor­cy­cles and BMX bikes and re­paired them so that we could all race to­gether. He bought an old mo­tor home so that we could travel to races. He bought a trailer at Lake Havasu and an old boat so that we could en­joy the week­ends fish­ing, ski­ing, camp­ing, and rid­ing mo­tor­cy­cles in the desert. He bought us an old dune buggy, and I learned how to drive stick at 12 years old, with wooden blocks on the ped­als so that I could reach. But af­ter mar­ry­ing my high-school sweet­heart and hav­ing two kids by the time I was 19, I moved quickly into fam­ily and fa­ther­hood.

Skip for­ward to 1999. I had been in­volved in open­ing surf-, skate-, and snow­board shops in out­let malls up and down the Cal­i­for­nia coast. I set up the stores, hired all of the em­ploy­ees, de­signed the look, and over­saw the daily op­er­a­tions. Af­ter a suc­cess­ful few years, we sold the stores, and I found my­self off from work for a while, look­ing for some­thing fun to do. My dad had a guy that worked for him who was into rac­ing RC cars at the lo­cal track in Hemet, Cal­i­for­nia, where I lived. My dad and I went to watch one night, and I was so ex­cited and couldn’t be­lieve how cool the cars were. I wanted one! He said, “Well, the prob­lem is you buy all of the stuff and, a week later, you de­cide to get out of it and you are stuck with all this stuff!” I was bummed be­cause he had got me all ex­cited and then pulled the plug. [laughs] To my sur­prise, the very next day he came home from work and had bought all the stuff—a new Losi Dou­ble-x NT gas truck and ev­ery­thing that goes with it! He said, “I’ll buy all of the stuff and you drive it!” That sounded like a great deal to me and off we went. It was a great time to be back do­ing fun guy stuff with my dad.

I even­tu­ally took over the Hemet track in 1999, and we hosted the first-ever Dirt Nitro Chal­lenge in 2000. There were 111 en­tries, and all of the top pros were in at­ten­dance. I think Jared Tebo was 12, and Richard Sax­ton was the top leg­end in the sport, with his pit man Re­gan Leblanc. I had built this over-the-top track, and I felt it was go­ing to re­ally high­light what these cars could do. To my sur­prise and a bit of em­bar­rass­ment, Richard Sax­ton felt the jumps were too big and cut them all down! [laughs] Look­ing back, I was re­ally push­ing the en­ve­lope and they were just not used to my style yet. I was a great learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, and the race has grown into the largest out­door off-road gas race in the world, with en­tries reach­ing more than 1,000. This year will mark the 20th an­nual Dirt Nitro Chal­lenge, and I am so ex­cited.

Where did the name “The Dirt” come from?

All of my friends from my home­town of Hemet had moved away to the beach cities, and ev­ery time they would come visit me, they would re­fer to Hemet as “The Dirt.” There was noth­ing but dirt roads and places to race off-road. The road lead­ing into Hemet was called “The Dirt High­way.” So when it came time to de­sign a new logo for the track, I named it “The Dirt” and drew all of my own lo­gos. The Dirt rep­re­sents my home­town and a life­time of rac­ing in the dirt. To me, it is the main in­gre­di­ent in off-road rac­ing, and I put that on my first busi­ness cards. [laughs] I still have them!

You’re also an artist. Tell us about that.

I have been an artist since I was a small child. My grand­mother had a “how to draw” book, and I drew ev­ery pic­ture in that book re­li­giously. I was prob­a­bly six years old at the time. I would go on to draw and paint my way through school, en­ter­ing into ev­ery art show and art con­test, even­tu­ally win­ning an art schol­ar­ship. In high school, I painted my ju­nior-year wall and my se­nior-year wall, and de­signed our year­book. I started a win­dow-paint­ing busi­ness at 17 and painted signs for the lo­cal busi­nesses in town. I was also an avid ce­ramic en­thu­si­ast and was pres­i­dent of the art guild in high school. I would sell my pot­tery to the other teach­ers at the school. I ended up buy­ing a ce­ramic stu­dio from a former teacher right out of high school and set it all up in my garage. In my early 20s, I worked as a set painter/de­signer at Knott’s Berry Farm as well as set paint­ing at Dis­ney. So when I first had my own track in Hemet, I im­me­di­ately

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