Car Culture

Hey Jim Beaver, how did you get to be the king of racing media?

How an off-road racer saw the future of internet radio, and brought in the dirt.

Louis Yio

If you follow off-road racing, rallycross or drifting, chances are you've heard Jim Beaver. He hosts The Down and Dirty Show, which reaches one million radio listeners, and has hosted iconic events like the Mint 400, Red Bull Global Rallycross and the X Games Qualifiers as well as television commentary on CBS Sports. He's well positioned to comment on the action, given his 17-year Trophy Truck off-road racing career.

In addition to his hosting duties, Beaver has teamed with motocross star Jolene Van Vugt to launch the Polaris Star Car video series for 2017. Each race will find a different star behind the wheel of a 2017 Polaris RZR XP4 Turbo EPS side-by-side race car, which can achieve top speeds of close to 100 miles per hour. So far this year Tanner Foust and Travis Pastrana have been guest drivers, both making a strong showing.

I caught up with Beaver over the phone to find out how he became the voice of off-road motorsports.

Jim Beaver

Beaver's #15 Trophy Truck, slinging dirt. 

General Tire/Bink Designs

Q:  What was your first car?

Beaver: I had a 1987 Ford Ranger. The air conditioner didn't work and it had a little 2.9-liter V6. I put some better shocks on it and I literally terrorized that thing out in the desert. I got the truck for my 15th birthday so I spent a year making it rad before I actually turned 16. I learned to drive stick shift in a 1956 Ford and it had a three on the tree. Some people get into one of those old trucks now they're like, "What the hell is this?"  Yeah, it shifts on the column.

What was your first automotive job, and how did you get it?

Beaver: My family has owned a Ford dealership for years so I started washing cars at the dealership for a couple extra bucks. In high school I started doing oil changes, I've worked in parts and service, and I've sold cars. I've worked top to bottom through a Ford dealership. I had the opportunity to be a dealer principle for Ford, but I decided to go the unsafe route and be a media personality.

How did you jump from working in a dealership to hosting your radio show?

Beaver: At one point I was doing radio commercials for the dealership and ended up playing fantasy football with the station owner. He suggested we do a fantasy football show once a week for an hour and I realized it was kind of fun talking on the radio.

I didn't want to wait for the next football season so I started looking around for other opportunities. This is 2010 or so, when podcasts and internet radio were just coming out and it was getting easier to listen to and download audio files. Another off-road show had just gone off the air and I thought "Well, now nobody is doing this," so I put together a plan.

Jim Beaver

Doing his best Blue Steel.

Louis Yio

I had no idea what I was doing. We had 27 people tune in the first week and I think they all just wanted to see me fall on my face. It was rough. I look back and think "This is bad. How did anyone ever tune into the second one?" But I had a lot of contacts so I was able to get Ken Block and Robby Gordon in the first month, these amazing guests, and then people started tuning in.

It went from off-road to include rally and drifting and rad stuff that people weren't covering. After two years of shaking hands and kissing babies I started getting advertisers and a couple of local AM and FM radio stations picked up the show.

Now I've got Polaris as the title sponsor of the Down and Dirty Show with Subaru, General Tire and Dirt Fish Rally School on board as sponsors and I signed with a national radio network with 200 AM/FM stations and I'm on the American Forces network in 177 countries on 500 stations. I went from 27 listeners with a crappy website to one of the largest motorsports radio shows in the world.

Take me through an average work week.

Beaver: It's become easier now that people like Ken Block, Travis Pastrana and Courtney Force are all personal friends. People want to come on the show. I try to have one woman on each week because I really want to empower women in motorsports. I have an 8-year old daughter and I want her to be able to make a living in this industry if she wants to.

Mid-week I start scheduling for the next week's show, by Sunday night and Monday morning I have an idea of who has won the races over the weekend and I try to get them on. The show is broadcast live on Tuesday and the national show airs on Wednesday morning. That's like a director's cut of the live show, so I do some editing Tuesday night.

Weekends I'm usually at events, recording interviews or doing live remote show, personal appearances for my sponsors or hosting events. And I find time for racing the Trophy Truck as well.

Last year I was able to make the radio show my main source of income. It took me four years of growth to finally get to a point where I could comfortably make an income for me and my family.

Jim Beaver

Is it Wednesday, because I see a wheelie!

Shelby Mahon

What is the most tedious thing about your current job?

Beaver: Everyone sees the fun stuff, but people forget this is a business. The backend of bookkeeping and accounting and receipts and invoicing and writing checks is not fun at all. I hate the days when I have to do that kind of stuff.

How does tech affect the future of your job?

Beaver: I don't really know how it's going to affect my job at the Down and Dirty Show, but the tech in motorsports is insane. When I built my Trophy Truck 11 years ago, most trucks were $250,000. Now you have million-dollar builds and all wheel drive and electronics systems. In the next 10 years, it's kind of scary to think where both the motorsports and consumer worlds are going to be. Right now everything is moving so quickly, it's a fun time to be in the automotive space.

What automotive trend makes your blood boil?

Beaver: There are two things. It drives me nuts to see stick shifts going out of cars. I've driven some cars with amazing electronic shifting gearboxes but it's just not fun. I want to have a clutch, I want to have a stick shift, I want to have a handbrake and I want to have some fun!

Secondly, when you see people buy a specialty car and then not use it for its intended purpose. Like, holding on to it and putting in the garage for 10 years. Raptors were meant to go off road and Ferraris were meant to be driven faster than 75 miles per hour. If you buy a cool car, go out and drive it.

What is the one project you've always wanted to tackle professionally but have never been able to do?

Beaver: Right now I'm pretty happy. I just want to drive as many cool cars as possible, race in as many series as I can and have fun times with my friends and then tell those stories. I don't want to win championships or prove anything behind the wheel. I just want to have fun and experience cool stuff.

If you weren't working in the automotive industry, what would you be doing?

Beaver: I had a remote chance of having a professional baseball career. I was a really good first baseman and slugger in high school and had some colleges interested in me, but I was kind of burned out. I walked away right about the same time I stepped into my first race vehicle. In the back of my mind I sometimes think that had I not gone the automotive route there was probably something there with baseball, but I'm so happy and fulfilled in what I'm doing now.