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Harley Letner Joins Youtheory Racing

harleyTell us about your new team?
I have joined forces with Youtheory Racing. I was looking to wrench and join a team since we shut down our doors over at Letner Racing. Not only did they agree to hire me but they offered me a full-time gig racing my car under the Youtheory banner through the end of this season and into next year. It’s going to be awesome with three trucks and one buggy – myself in #1570 Class 1 car, Jerry Whelchel in the #37 Trophy Truck, Jeff Terzo and Anthony Terzo in the #55 Trophy Truck and Andrew Whitehead in the #6183 truck.
How did this whole thing come together?
Basically, I think they might have been talking about it a little bit because we’ve known the each others families for a really long time. I think they knew we were going down hill financially on the racing end of it and when I met with Patty and Darren about getting a job, they said bring my car down. They’re going to wrap it in their colors and add a fourth car to the team and go racing.  It’s pretty awesome, I’m not going to lie.

harleyWho’s been your biggest influence on your career and your life?

Biggest influence on my life and my career is definitely my grandfather, Danny Letner.  Grandpa brought me in at a young age and kept me straight, kept me in school, gave me a set of rules of what I can and can’t do if I want to continue racing. He got me a race car. He was always the ultimate race car driver as far as I knew so I always wanted to be like him. He kept me out of trouble and put me in a race car. I definitely give everything to him.

You’re a third generation off-road racer. Your family has long history in racing. Tell us a little bit about your family history and how it connected you to this.

My Family has been racing forever. My great grandpa has a land speed record in old 32 Roadster’s. My great grandpa started to race in NASCAR. He’s in the West Coast Hall of Fame and then got into desert racing. My dad followed his footsteps, I followed their footsteps and we’ve been racing off-road ever since. When Patty Terzo-Rude was secretary of FAT, her and my grandpa became really close. Family ties between our families go way back.

You are well accomplished in Class 1.  Are you planning on moving into Trophy Truck at some point?

I mean, that’s obviously the ultimate goal. There hasn’t been much talk about it. Eventually, I would love to retire the Class 1 car and move up to Trophy Truck.

harleyAre you interested in other forms of racing?

I would like to try short course. I think that would be rad. Door to door banging, balls out racing. I think that would be right up my alley. I’ve never gotten try it and I would like to give it a whirl. Or some Rally.  Rally looks really awesome too.

I know a little while ago you spent some time racing over in China. What was that like? What’s the off-road scene there?

Racing in China was awesome. It was a way different experience.  The Chinese government hired Hubert from DAKAR. They basically did a Chinese DAKAR over in China and Mongolia. It was pretty rad, they were really in to it but in a different way than Mexico. When you came to a city, all the fans were really into the race cars. Half the time they had never even seen it before.  It was just a really rad experience and something I’m glad I got to say I did.

You’ve also been racing mountain bikes quite a bit I’ve noticed on social media. Are there any similarities between that and desert racing?

I do the mountain biking thing just basically to stay in shape. I think it helps me in the car with endurance. The only similarities as far as mountain biking and off-road is it helps you read the terrain, focus on a lot of different things at once and see things differently while you try to maneuver around them.

Yeah, it’s basically off-road just on a bicycle.

Exactly.  Narrow tires but still it’s just basically teaching you to read terrain, focus and pick your fastest way through things to get it done.

harleyIf you could race any off-road racer heads up, past or present, who would it be and why?

Any off-road racer heads up – I think I would have to go with my dad. The rumor has it and history has it that he was one of the baddest racer’s out there in short course and in the desert.  Every time he comes around he just runs his mouth about how fast he was and how he’s always beaten me. I think I’d like to run a heads up race with him just to shut him up finally because I think I can beat him.

What advice would you give to some of the younger guys that are coming up in the sport?

Surround yourself with good people. Try to get on a good team and volunteer your time. Try to learn from some of the greats and pick up on driving skills and everything. If you’re really in to this, you just have to follow your dream and stick to it and learn how to drive well.

That’s solid. What’s your favorite desert race?

I think my favorite is probably Best in the Desert’s Parker 425. I lived in Parker for many, many years and we go vacation there a lot. I just really like the course.  It’s got a little bit of everything and I like the town of Parker. I really enjoy going back there and I really like that race a lot.

A lot of people don’t know that you work on your own cars. Tell us about your race program and who does the prep work.

For the last few years now I’ve been prepping all my own stuff. I do all my own wrenching which I think is a huge benefit when you’re out in the desert.  If something goes wrong you can diagnose it and be able to flip a belt, change a tire, fix an arm if you have to. I’m really blessed now with this new operation with Youtheory to get the hand’s on opportunity to prep my own car that I’m driving again. I’m really stoked on that.

Who else is critical in running your program?

Everyone is critical. Mainly the team and all the volunteers that come out and make it possible for us to have a program. Obviously Patty and Darren and Youtheory for stepping up and helping to pay for the whole thing. We need the whole team because just a driver and the co-driver can’t do anything. We need all the people who come out and sit in the desert all day to wait for us, give us gas and change our tires.

harleyHow much does equipment add a factor in racing and tell us who built your cars.

I think now more than ever equipment is the biggest factor. There’s so many people and high-end teams that are running the best of the best that you can’t afford to have a little mishap. One or two flats and that’s going to cost you the race. The Mint 400 came down to 42 seconds. I think having the right equipment and the best chassis are very, very important. I have a 2006 Alpha Car Limited crossed with a  Trophy Truck.

Tell us about that car.  Who built it?

My car was built by Johnny Kaiser and some others that worked for him – there’s a lot of them to list. There’s only three of them in the world. One in Australia, Clyde Stacy has one and I have the original one. It’s almost like a truck minus the rear engine and the trans axle. From the front bumper to the cab is basically Trophy Truck. It’s got 72 gallon cell which is bigger than most cars and about 28 inches of travel in the front. It’s a pretty rad car. 2006 and it’s still kicking strong to this day.  The geometry is dialed on this thing.

In general, what are you plans for your future in off-road racing especially as it pertains to this new program?

I would love to stick with Youtheory.  That’s my plan.  My ultimate goal and plan is jump up to a Trophy Truck and try to get a bunch of wins and podiums for them so I can keep working on race cars and driving them.

I know you’ve had some big victories. Any bad crashes or pucker moments that made you doubt that you wanted to do this?

I’ve had one really bad crash at about 110mph that sent the buggy straight over, putting my co driver in the hospital and ringing my bell a few times. It’s with the territory, I never doubted it. This is something I’ve always wanted to do and just like with anything, if I’m on my mountain bike or in my car, if I crash I’m going to get back up and keep rallying.

I know you’re into fitness in general.  How much do you think that helps you in the car?

I don’t think it makes me any faster unfortunately but I started doing all the races solo.  There are some 400 miler’s, 500, 1,000.  I think all in all, staying in shape helps me not get winded in the car. I can stay focused for hours and hours upon end rather than get tired. If I did have a flat and had to get out and do a tire change, I’m not jumping back in the car heavy breathing and all that. I think fitness is a very big part of being a good driver and a fast driver on top of it because you keep your mental edge for hours instead of just losing it after an hour or two.

It seems like Class 1 is slowing down a little bit. What do you think is in store for the future of Class 1?

I definitely agree with you on Class 1 dying down. I really don’t know what the future has to hold. I think it’s a dying class because when the new 6100 trucks came out, they put a damper on the Class 1. Everyone wants to be in a truck and you get big money sponsors in trucks. It doesn’t seem like Class 1 is as big as it used to be. I don’t know. I don’t really know what the future has for us buggies.

It’s a little mystifying for sure. I think they’re an important part of our culture and I don’t want to see them go away but it’s hard to justify when you’re looking at a 6100 truck.

Yeah you can spend just as much money on a Class 1 car as a 6100 truck but I think you can take your 6100 to sponsors and get a lot more backing because you have the truck aspect of it as opposed to a buggy.  More people can relate to trucks. They’re basically Trophy Trucks so I think a lot of people are going that way instead of building Class 1 cars.

When you are racing who do you feel is your biggest competition?

During the race everyone is  my biggest competition because anyone can beat anyone at any given time. I think the hardest, biggest one is myself. Trying to calm myself down is tough.  Winning isn’t everything and you have to first finish to win. Everyone is your biggest competition really. I don’t just single out one person.

Most people’s problem is they are their own worst enemy.

Pretty much. It’s all about pacing yourself and keeping calm. You don’t need to be the fastest guy in lap one you need to be the fastest guy in all three or four laps, however many you got to do.

Do you have anybody that you want to thank?  Sponsors, family, anybody like that?

That’s going to be a long list. Basically my grandpa and the entire Letner racing team, my whole family and now Patty, Darren, and the Youtheory Racing family for bringing me on board and letting me continue to live my dream.

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Press Release Supplied By:  Race Dezert

Press Release Contact Email: offer@race-dezert.com

Photo Credit To: Race Dezert

Website: racedezert.com

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