Spotlight on Gipson Dixon Racing

The odd couple, what more can be said of a match up like OG 13 Ultra4 racer Bart Dixon, and Larry Gipson?

This spotlight might be a little different, but its Friday, and I think that just about sums up this relationship, I think a Kenny Chesney song might be the theme song for these two guys so consider that while you learn a thing or two about this unique duo. Its gonna be a long interview as they both have a lot to share about this amazing race. Happy Friday.

Bart Dixon had no idea what he was getting dragged into in 2007 when he lined up with a dozen guys on a lake bed in Johnson Valley. Little did he know he was participating in what would become the biggest event in Rocksports. Dixon had been working as crew chief for a SCORE Protruck team when he started participating in CRCA Rock racing, and he and CRCA Promoter Jeff Knoll formed a friendship that would carry them to the depths of Baja with a disregard for personal safety more than a few times. ” It was no big deal for Bart and I to go pre-run a few hundred miles in his clapped out Jeep by ourselves with a pair of pliers and a cooler. I don’t even think we took a radio” said Knoll. It was no wonder when Knoll asked Dixon if he would participate in a little experiment he and Dave Cole where cooking up that Dixon would be all in. In the very first King of the Hammers Dixon would find himself finishing third to John Reynolds and rock crawling legend Tracy Jordan. Dixon has been chasing the dream ever since, racing in every KOH race to date.

In the early years of KOH the event was invite only. Industry leaders, competitors, and magazine personalities where invited based on the ability to attract impressions, after all KOH was a media event. Crawl magazines ex editors Tim and Brandon hatched a plan that they wanted to inject a guy with little experience into the mix and see what would happen, thinking it would make a great story. What he did was akin to giving a kid a loaded crack pipe and telling him have fun. With nearly no budget Larry Gipson knew he needed an edge, and he went headlong into creating a brand, and image to feed his KOH racing addiction. Some may not agree with his program, but make no mistake Larry Gipson has consistently found himself at the starting line of KOH in some manner every year since he took the first hit of the adrenalin of the KOH phenomenon.It is not likely He is going to be giving up anytime soon, and love him or hate him, Larry Gipson is a recognizable name in a sea of fairly big fish.

In 2010 Dixon crashed his Ultra4 car while scouting an event location with Jeff Knoll. Always looking for a new idea, Knoll and Dixon would often head out into the back country looking for the next great event location. The crash left Dixon’s car a complete mess. The crash severely broke  Dixon’s Leg, and he suffered a mild head injury. Knowing he could not have his car ready to race, and Knoll telling him he would see to it that the tech inspector failed the chassis due to the severity of the accident, Dixon starting looking for a partnership. Enter Gipson Dixon racing. With Dixon’s OG13 golden ticket and Gipson’s enthusiasm it seem a natural fit, and the duo have settled in to enjoying the racing experience while making marked improvement. This year marks the 6th King of the Hammers for Bart Dixon and the 5th for Larry Gipson. pretty remarkable for a guy who was doing a friend a favor by showing up in the desert, and a kid who was participating in a publicity stunt for a magazine. Further proof that life is about the Journey, and not the destination.

How long have you been competing in Ultra 4 Racing?

Larry;4 years

Bart; 5 years

How long have you been racing?

Larry; 10 years motocross/Ultra 4 combined.

Bart; I raced motorcycles as a kid, and started racing Desert trucks in the early 90’s. I participated in the 1999 Warn national on the rock crawling side as well as CRCA events in the early 2000’s

 Tell us about your past experiences in the King of the Hammers and where you have finished?

Bart; I finished Third in the 2007 OG race, DNF at RM 4 when I tore the suspension off the front of the car in 2008, DNF with electrical problems at RM 13 in 2009, I partnered with Ken Mercer in 2010 and he burnt the car down before I ever got in thankfully Bunk saved his life, and I partnered with Larry in 2011.

Larry; In 2008 Those guys Customs built our first Ultra 4 car. We made it to about mid pack with a DNF  being caused by a fuel pump failure. In 2009 we were invited again and decided after a year of wheeling the first car to build a different designed car ourselves. We started building the car on Christmas of 2008 in a carpet warehouse and completed it enough to pass tech on the lake bed Feb 20th. We raced to the top 20 when some melted spark plug wires took our car down to 4-6 cylinders before DNFing after Sun Bonnet trail. In 2010 would mark the first year of  attempting a qualifier for us. We raced the Reno Stampede with a DNF. We then attempted the Last Chance Qualifier event. Drawing the first starting spot we were able to set a 2 minute gap to the backdoor obstacle between us and the next fastest competitor. We DNF’ed the LCQ after a tough break on the upper waterfall. We were featured in the 2010 DVD for our efforts and as a bonus were able to race with our friend Chris Pook from Canada that was unable to get his car completed in time.  We started in the back of the pack and were able to race to 13th overall on course physically.  We broke a steering ram clamp and were able to repair it and continue on. In the end 15 miles from the finish our charging system failed and our ignition died. In  2011 would mark a new race for us as OG13 member Bart Dixon approached us after seeing our previous efforts and invited us to race under his OG13 entry. We gladly accepted his offer and with Bart’s first mile in the car being the start of the race, had no idea how it would go.. I was a little nervous but Bart was racing not just driving.. He was passing some very accomplished teams. We were in the top 10 when we reached Outer Limits and broke a rear ring and pinion gear. With the check point being a few miles away we were hiking out to get the parts to repair the buggy.. It would end our day as we helped other teams continue through the tough canyon of Outer Limits. In 2012 we will be teaming with Bart Dixon again attempting to complete our first race..

What’s the attraction to racing of King of the Hammers for you?

Larry; The challenge and the team work and time with my friends.  The fact that a normal working guy like me can go out on a national level of racing and compete.

Bart; Mastering the difference between technical Rock crawling and threading the needle of the high speed desert racing. I love that you get to do both aspects in one race, as it keeps it exciting, and anything can happen.

What’s your favorite part of the King of the Hammers?

Larry; I love the feeling of racing fast.. Passing people.. Going for that gap.. The team environment in my group. The pride we share. Sharing the stories and excitement with other friends and teams.. Watching the videos of some crazy thing that happened. Of course the parties

Bart; Watching peoples dreams become reality. Anyone can race if they want it bad enough.

How do you physically and mentally prepare for this type of racing?

Larry; I think I get less sleep trying to get my car ready for KOH then any other time of the year. It is very demanding on body and mind.

Bart; I have to remind myself that its an endurance race and not a sprint, I learned my lessons when it comes to going fast off the start, no matter what I tell myself when the green flag drops we all just light the fuse and hold on. Physically My Job keeps me pretty fit so I just go with that.

Teamwork is a big part of KOH, Tell us about your team for the King of the Hammers?

Larry; My team has been a collection of people that have come together for the common goal of having fun racing.. Not one of us would be able to compete in this amazing race alone.. We have Any Seven Offroad Adam and Darren who have been the back bone go to guys since 08/09.. Adam is one of my co-drivers and fabricators. Darren can fix just about anything. Gene from Michigan comes out every year and lends his very experienced hands to help. Bart Dixon is a driver and co-driver along with team partner. In Washington we have a great group of guys that travel every year to KOH and support our team.. Dave and Al Richardson have been with us since the very start in 2008 and have decades of experience in the Northwest wheeling and racing Jeeps. Brother in law and cousin to Dave is Bill and Donny who both work their tails off all year with the rest of the team to make the 1200 mile week long trip to help out. Joel Moranton is a team gopher/photographer and cannot be replaced. Brian and JP have been loaning there efforts, money and garage space trying to help us get a finish in Ultra 4 races. Mike “Crash” was my co-driver for the 2008 KOH event and we would not have started that race without his help.  Steve Peterson built my current buggy and raced with me in 2009. Andrew Cramer is our current ” Crew Chief ” he will be leading our crew this year to keep our car in working order. Dan was added to our team last year and was a huge addition to the team. Staying up through the night with me to get the car completed for the 2011 KOH start. We have a great team with die hard spirit and great talent.  Nothing stronger then the heart of a volunteer !

 How much does strategy play a part in KOH?

Larry; Pit and fuel strategy is pretty big at KOH. You need to have all the pieces in place in case something goes wrong.

Bart; Having a strategy and following it are two different things, we are working on that aspect as a team pretty well so far.

What will it take to win the King of the Hammers in 2012?

Larry; A very well balanced car with a driver and team that will do what it takes and push the edge while making smart decisions on the fly..

Bart; I think we just both need to change our name to Shannon…. What do you think Larry?

How much does a car vs. a drivers ability play into winning the King of the Hammers?

Larry; You have to have a solid competitive car to compete at the top. However I think that a good driver could get in to just about any top 20 car and win.. it is just a lot of things going right and not many going wrong..

Bart; Any well prepared driver can finish with the right vehicle, but winning requires complete commitment, you can’t just show up in the desert and think your going to win, you have to live it. You either have to spend every weekend in a car, have unbelievable talent, or have been investing in this for years. I think winning is different for everyone. We are winning having the chance to do this. If a person wants to win, he will get the tool to do it so I think Drive is the key.

If you had the opportunity to participate in any race in the world, what would it be and why?

Larry; I would really like to race the Dakar Rally.. The Baja 1000 is epic but I think the Dakar is the off road race of off road races..

 Who is your racing idol and why?Larry; I do not know many champions personally but I do know Shannon Campbell. He is a humble champion with a heart of gold.. If I am where he is in 10 years I will have succeeded.

Bart; Jeff Knoll He see’s something and goes after it, He has been a promoter, a racer, on a couple SCORE Trophy Truck teams, had a chance to ride in a trophy truck, and has been in a chopper before me. I think people over look the guys that make this stuff possible for us. He is absolutly commited to Off-Road racing, and I admire that.

Really Bart? get serious

Yes Really.

Before I get all choked up what if you had an unlimited budget what would you build to compete in the King of the Hammers?

Larry; I would build something comparable to Shannon. JT’s, Dave C’s IFS car. I think that Solid axle cars will win some races but I think the go fast sections of KOH will greatly benefit from the desert style suspension.

Bart; I would build a mini monster truck so I could fly over everything like Grave Digger, and run over anything in my way. “What Bottle necks that’s traction.”

Do you have any advise to give someone who is aspiring to race the King of the Hammers?

Larry; Just never give up on a dream.. Know what you can realistically afford. Budget your build.. Market your skills and experience you have.  Write up or video a decent marketing package and keep a log book of everything you do in your operation. Get videos online of you wheeling/competing.. Videos and photos are great marketing tools. Keep members of the team around that want to be there. You are the owner you make the decisions. Honestly there is no half ass in Ultra 4, you are either all in or not at all.. Be ready to commit

Bart; Lots of seat time, find the weak links, and don’t drive over your head.

Is that what happened in 2008?

Bart; laughing, yep! 4 miles.

Can you tell us about the sponsors and people that have made it possible for you to do this?  

 This is a long list. A very long list.. Start with Dave Cole and Jeff Knoll.. Non of us would be doing this without them. Crawl Magazine and Brandon Foster for their invite in 2008.. We have gained and maintained many of our sponsors since 2008. Those Guys Customs for building my first car on a budget.. My friend Michelle for loaning me the money to buy my buggy I was racing when I got invited to the first KOH. My family.. without their support there is no way I would be racing. Emil as Masterpull has supported me through all the years of KOH and mentored me. \ Mike at Pitbull Tires for keeping the rubber down.. Matt at Trail-Gear helping  out with parts. Steve at Xtreme Motorworks for building my buggy and continuing to maintain and modify our buggy. Spidertrax axles. Yukon Gears has been incredible with their support. We would not be racing with out them and Randy’s Ring and Pinion. Vision X Lighting has been part of our team since 2008 along with FOA Shocks and Tmaxx Winches. PRP Seats made our seats in 08 that we continue to run. Advance Adapters supplied our Atlas Transfer case and continued support. High Angle driveline gave us drive shafts that we are still running un touched. Never have had a issue. Joey Archuleta with Hazardous Concepts built our current chassis and the first set of body panels were built by Mary Archuleta.  Fiberwerx fiberglass fenders converted our truck to a 2010 Toyota Tacoma with a Rollin Big Power Grill. Autometer Guages  started supporting us this year.. Designs by Keith custom screen printing and marketing. We have continued our relationships with our current sponsors and are creating new relationships at ever event we attend.. With the newest addition of Tammie Wise to our team our public presence will grow quickly. This year we have even more people to thank in helping us chase the dream, Summit Steel, F’N Offroad, Powertank, Powershop, Xtreme Motorworks, and Its been an adventure thanks to our industry supporters.

The Facts Gipson Dixon racing #26

Driver name:    Larry Gipson/ Bart Dixon   Co-Driver Name: Bart Dixon, Larry Gipson, Adam Pfister

Age:        29/48    Hometown: Seattle,Wa and Vista Ca,

Chassis Builder:  Hazardous Concepts/ Xtreme Motorworks      Engine: LS Chevy 5.3

Transmission:       Art Carr Turbo 350         T-case: Advance Adapters Atlas 4.3 two speed

Axles F/R:      Spidertrax                                          Lockers F/R: Yukon Grizzley

 Seats:                   PRP custom made                                            Shocks: FOA 14″ coil carriers and  triple bypass

Tires:             42″ pitbull Rockers                                          Wheels:       Trail-Gear

About the Author

Jeff Knoll is the former Event Director for the King of the Hammers event. He has raced various classes in SCORE, BITD, MORE, and MDR. Following the California 200, Knoll travelled to Washington, DC to meet with BLM officials regarding the Special Recreation Permit policies of the BLM. Knoll serves on the BLM’s Desert Advisory Sub-Committee regarding Special Recreation Permits. Knoll also drafted language for Nevada’s Senate Bill 156 in 2011 regarding action sports safety.

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