The Encinitas, California native tells us how it all started: "When I was 18, I had no desire to race trucks—I was into baseball and other sports. But when I went to Mexico, I instantly fell in love! As soon as I got back, I said to everyone, 'I'm going to race the 500 in 2006,' and started converting my stock Tacoma into a race truck. I did a lot of 'monkey stuff' and I was totally unprepared and had no team, but I didn't let that stop me. I jumped into the deep end and did it!"
Brandon did all his race prep in his parent's garage and worked a second job at a quick-lube shop to pay the bills. And when he competed in his first race, he did so with no radio, no intercom or GPS—that's how determined he was to race!
For the first four years, Brandon never finished a race, "I learned the hard way. I absolutely sucked for a couple of years. I was very young and had an attitude. It took a while to learn that going slower is faster—not trying to beat everyone in the first 100 miles is the way to go."
That "never say die" attitude also earned Brandon a spot on SCORE's 2015 "Dirty Dozen" list of racers who are making a mark on the world of desert racing.
Brandon learned everything about racing via the school of hard knocks—he didn't have a teacher or a mentor. "I literally built my first race truck all by myself—and I'll tell you, the fans and other racers were hard on me, saying everything on my truck looked 'homemade'—well, they were right, and the name stuck… so when it came time to form a team, I called it Homemade Motorsports."
In fact, for his second race, Brandon got down to Mexico to find out he didn't have enough money for the entry fee. "All my money went into racing, and I was $40 short to enter the race. Lucky for me, Billy Gasper stepped up and loaned me the money so we got to race!"
Brandon added, "I learned a lot from Google and YouTube! I'd see something at the races, then go home and Google pictures of other race trucks, then I'd try to duplicate that on my truck. I did a lot right… and a lot wrong. We were doing what we thought worked until it didn't work. We were just a bunch of young guys—super motivated—and it didn't matter how bad we did, we knew we would do better the next race."
Another asset of Homemade Motorsports, "My co-drivers and I all know how to work on the truck, so if something breaks during the race, we're not waiting for help, we get out and fix it ourselves."
Brandon's hard work eventually paid off as he's been ranked in the Top 3 in Class 7 every year since 2010, and in 2011, he won the Class 7 Championship. As he says, "I want to be the dude who's impossible to beat in my class—and it's that consistency that put me in the championship."
Brandon also adds that a lot of people cannot comprehend how hard it is to race in the desert, "You can show people a video of what Baja racing is all about, but they'll never really understand it until they're there. And to win in the desert? It starts with our attitude—we never quit. Never give up. And we're always trying to do the best we can."
Here's one of Brandon's training secrets: "To get ready for the long races, to train myself mentally to stay awake, I get in my car and drive." One night, Brandon left Encinitas, a suburb of San Diego, and drove up to Los Angeles to take a picture of the Hollywood sign in the middle of the night, "but when I got there, it was dark! They don't leave it lit up all night!"
Brandon Walsh / Homemade Motorsports accomplishments:
2011 CODE Off-Road Series - Class 7 Points Champion
2011 SCORE International - Class 7 3rd Place
1st Place - CODE Night Race
1st Place - CODE Mexican Logistics 300
2010 SCORE International 2nd Place Points Champion
"When we race-prepped our Tacoma TRD Pro," said Brandon, "very little was done. Toyota engineers know what they are doing, and a lot of what we were doing in 2011 still works today, so we stick with it! The new Tacoma's naturally-aspirated 3.5-liter V6 is a great engine—the one in my truck is bone stock except for the exhaust. Using TRD parts on my race truck made me a firm believer that anything with the Toyota or TRD name on it is the best! For example, we use TRD Alloy Wheels and a TRD Air Filter on our race truck. Most everyone else uses bead-lock wheels during the races."
FYI: "bead-lock wheels" literally clamp the tire to the wheel. This is done so the tire can withstand the abuse of racing over treacherous terrain, or running a low air pressures. The challenge is that changing a tire on a bead-lock wheel is a lot of work.
"We ran TRD Alloy Wheels in the 500 and the 1,000, and because they are not a bead-lock design, we don't have to use race tires; we were able to run BF Goodrich Mudders—a production tire. We didn't have a single flat in either race—that shows you how tough these wheels are."
What does Brandon have to say to anyone considering going racing? "Ask yourself—how bad do I want this? Then keep going no matter what! Don't let people tell you no. Don't listen to the critics. Ignore the naysayers. Realize that nine out of ten people will quit. I can say that I'm not the same person I was ten years ago—and it all started when I said, 'I want to go racing…' and I wouldn't have it any other way."
For this year's 1,000, Brandon once again raced in Class 7, this time in a 2016 Tacoma TRD Pro 4WD truck. "I think we have the most comfortable race truck out there. First, we have a windshield, so when there's a water crossing, we don't get soaked. Second, it's 4-wheel drive—so we won't have to spend hours getting unstuck. Also, this is basically a stock truck that's been race-prepped with a roll-bar, racing harnesses, long-travel suspension, etc.—it still has air conditioning, opening doors and opening windows! So we can race with our windows rolled up and the A/C on!"
For this year's 1,000, Brandon and co-driver, Ted Moncure, made it to the finish line—no small feat as Brandon stopped to tow a competitor who was stuck in the desert (and no, the competitor was not driving a Toyota).
"Toyota has given us a lot of support. For the longest time, all you saw were Fords and Chevys out racing. My first race truck was a Toyota and I have been racing Toyotas ever since—and now, we're starting to see more Toyotas and the fans can relate, thinking 'I have that in the driveway at my house—I can do that stuff!'"
Hats off to the entire team: Brandon Walsh, Donovan Walsh, Ted Moncure, James Lieser, Mike Jarboe, Jetson Lieser, Mark Rotarius, Cody Weaver, Chris Walsh, Travis Freedman, Neil Norman, Doug Boren, Ivan Moncure, Lauren Rae, Tori Ashley Saxon and filmmaker, Dana Brown (Dust to Glory).
Here's how Brandon summed up his performance at the 1,000 this year, "As many of you know my Grandpa is no longer with us. All he ever wanted was to see me and my team to finish a 1000. He used to joke with me and say that I better get one before he's no longer here. So it seriously kills me and makes me so sad that he isn't here to see this and I couldn't do it sooner. We had some issues early on during the race that really put us in a rough spot to finish on time. We knew we were fighting the clock now in a battle that may not have been possible to win. I was up for a good 30 hours with no sleep or rest going into the start of the last 300+ miles of this brutal 1000. Worn out and beat is an understatement. Whenever I started to break down a little I had to remind myself that if my grandpa was here he would be telling me to suck it up, get it done and don't lose focus on the prize. With that and the flawless performances from my co-drivers, our other Driver, Ted Moncure, and my amazing pit crew, we finally got this team's first 1000 finish with just a mere 7 minutes to spare. Love you Grandpa, This one was for you."
An air filter is just an air filter, right? Wrong! When it comes to racing, competitors use the best products, because anything less than the best could lead to a failure.
Brandon Walsh and his Homemade Motorsports team use TRD Air Filters on their race trucks—the same ones you can buy at any Toyota dealer. Why TRD? "They give our truck an instant performance boost because they breathe better than a stock air filter. I've seen the dyno charts and it's the easiest way to increase performance. Plus, they're easy to change, and these air filters are reusable."
So when it's time for a new air filter on your Toyota, follow the leaders and switch to a TRD Air Filter.