Interview: Chuck Dempsey, Baja 1000 & the Driven to Fight Cancer Campaign

November 6, 2014
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 Interview: Chuck Dempsey, Baja 1000 & the Driven to Fight Cancer Campaign

From November 12, 2014, through to the 16, the 47th Baja 1000 race will take place, with off-roaders from all around the world racing from Ensenada, Baja California, to La Paz, Baja California Sur. For Baja veteran and legend Chuck Dempsey, this year’s race has an extra special meaning. He and the guys from Driven Experiences have teamed up with the American Cancer Society. With the ACS’s colors wrapping the Driven Experiences Trophy Spec Truck, the team plans to represent and raise money for cancer research. The wonderfully apt name they’ve given to this extremely worthwhile endeavor is “Driven to Fight Cancer”.

Chuck graciously took a little time out of his hectic schedule to talk to us about his association with the American Cancer Society, the Driven to Fight Cancer initiative, and why this partnership is so important to him…

So how are you, Chuck?

Good! I’ve been teaming up. Getting some different sponsors. And a lot of racing going on…  Doing business, you know.

How did you get involved with the American Cancer Society exactly?

I have always done some sort of participating with different Cancer charity programs while racing after my dad passed away from this shitty disease. I got introduced to some people in Dallas from the American Cancer Society and then we invited them up to the resort Gateway Canyons and they fell in love with the trucks and the whole idea of what we had in mind for them as to us partnering up with them and bring awareness to the fight against Cancer. Kind of like the same fight to get to the finish line in the toughest race in the world the Baja1000.

How did the ‘Driven’ campaign come about?

We all, Andrew, Jeff and I have had to deal with a loss of a family member due to cancer and it has hit us all real hard. For me I lost my dad and we were very close to each other from childhood all the way to the day he passed. We saw each other every day as I was a part of his racing when I was very young and he was a part of my racing till the day he passed, never missing a race and in the race shop everyday for me as I was doing it for a living.

Could I talk about your Dad a little bit?

For sure.

You said it was liver cancer and we’ve just had a friend die of the same thing, although it took five years for her to pass. Eventually cancer affects everyone, it seems. Was it sudden or something long term?

The crazy thing was my Dad rode motorcycles and we were putting the hammer down in Mexico in the desert and he crashed. You know he very seldom crashed… Unlike me, he never broke a bone racing ever. I’ve broken every bone in my body more than a couple of times. But he ended up crashing and we got back from riding, and later we got back home and he said, “We, umm, got to go see a doctor, ’cause check it out, I’ve got a bruise where I crashed.”

Interview: Chuck Dempsey, Baja 1000 & the Driven to Fight Cancer Campaign

So, like, a week later we go to the doctor, and the doctor says, “You’ve got this deep bruise, but it looks like you did the best thing you could have done by crashing.” Why? “Well, where you crashed and got a bruise, well that’s exactly where we found a growth.” And it all started right there, and they said it was very fortunate that we caught it when we did. So it was the liver and, like the doctor said, it was exactly where he crashed and they ended up cutting it out and it was, luckily, the part of the liver you can cut away which does grow back. That ended up saving him for another five years.

So, did he go through a lot of chemotherapy?

He was pretty good for most of the five years, although sometimes he’d slow. But he’d go slow and then come back from chemo feeling fierce and he’d be able to do a lot more. And it was that long until he got to the second stage and then it took him pretty fast.

So is that what led you toward getting associated with the American Cancer society? The relationship you have through Driven Experience?

You know, I’ve always been into trying to give back. It can be sort of humbling.  When my Dad was sick we went to a place called City of Hope. It was a place where they do a lot of research and we were in there a lot and I’d try to be there every day with him. And the thing is…  everybody in there, the guy mopping the floor, the doctors, the woman at the front desk; everybody in that whole place was super nice and made you feel good about being there while it’s probably the worse place you really want to be.

The Hospice people are really amazing, aren’t they?

Yeah. When my Dad got to that point, the Hospice lady, she was amazing. She was way stronger a person than you can ever describe… So I’ve done some things where I go to see kids. It’s a cool way to get involved. And the guy who owns Driven Experience, he’s had experience with cancer as well and a friend of ours said, “Hey! Let’s invest in something more solid than this!” and we got some people together. So we’re doing this thing called the Cattle Baron’s Ball and we put this thing together and we went down to Dallas, Texas, to meet them and they came up to the resort and everybody kind of got attuned. Then we all got together behind doing the Baja 1000 and the idea of ‘Fighting for Our Lives to Make it to the Finish Line!’

And at Driven Experience it just turned into a whole family experience where we all decided to do our best to help people fight cancer. That they’re all fighting for one more birthday. And it all just seemed like such a good combination. You know, something that they’d never done before. It was sponsors stepping out of their comfort zone and I’d never dealt with a company like that before, so we just decided to put our wants and needs together. It’s a good combination and that’s our deal. If they like the outcome of what we’re doing, we’ll probably get together after the 1000. 

Next year we’re going to do some short course things. I’m going to try to bring some children from local hospitals wherever I happen to be at the time. Bring out five children to hang out during those short races. And it’ll be something I’ve never done before and the kids have never done, either. And, of course, those kids don’t know how long they have to live. Like I said, it’s a cool way to give back.

Interview: Chuck Dempsey, Baja 1000 & the Driven to Fight Cancer Campaign

Tell me, because I’ve got this handout that says the truck is going to be at the ball, is it just up there for display, or is it in a raffle after the race?

First it goes to the IMEX, which is a huge convention of all the resorts in the world, so people can get on board and sign the truck, join up and be part of our fight against cancer. The idea is they sign up and donate to become part of our team. And if you do, you’ll get an email every day during the race and find out how we’re doing in the race and it’ll be like you’re a team member. You’ll be able to check in on your computer to see how we’re doing at Baja. It’s a huge convention.

We go straight from there to the Cattle Baron’s Ball, which is a dinner-auction that goes on all night and brings in at least $3m. So, there’s stuff we’re auctioning, like getaways to resorts and our Driven Experience School in Colorado, and the truck will be on display. People can find it and make donations there as well. And from there the truck goes to SEMA, which is the biggest auto dealer’s convention in the world. And we’ll have a booth there. All the well-known race-truck drivers will be there. Our helicopter and a big Globitron, which will be playing our videos, will be there, too. It’s a pretty big deal for SEMA, too.

The truck never gets raffled then?

No. It’s just a fundraiser. Along the way there’s a company that sponsors all this, and, you know, for them, news of all this is going out to an audience of at least six million people at a time, so that when they think of Chuck Dempsey and Driven Experience, they’re also thinking of those guys. Brings out a positive vibe and we raise some money to help.

I know you can only speak from experience and you can’t really project, but how different is the 500 to the 1000 other than pure distance?

They try to mix it up every year so that it’s a little bit different. You kind of do want it to be different every time, though. And, you know, different things happen every time between each year’s races. Like someone buys a piece of property and now they’re farming it.

This time you’re driving with Andrew Hendricks and Jeff Humberson. What’s the difference when you’re with experienced guys?

Well, the truth is that even when you’ve been doing it for years, you’re really not that experienced. Because there’s so much new stuff and stuff that’s unexpected. Most races in the States are a controlled environment. Well, in Baja it’s a non-controlled environment. Anything can happen. Cows can be on the course. Kids can be on the course.

Andrew and Jeff don’t have a whole lot of experience in Mexico, but they do have a lot of experience with the truck!  That’s where I’m hoping they put their good common sense and drive it safe for the race. I mean, we’re for sure driving to win, but, at the same time in Mexico it’s a little different… it’s such an adventure to just make it till the end.

You think you’ve got a fair chance at winning?

Yeah. I’ve got a lot of confidence in our equipment.

And how many have you done now?

Should be my 28th. My Dad did 41. All the 1000s!

What do you hope will come out of this partnership?

I hope that the Team and I can have a long-term relationship with ACS because we like what they are doing for cancer and at the end of the day we both want the same end results… to End CANCER.

You can make donations to the Driven to Fight Cancer effort by visiting the Cattle Barons Ball website today.

From everyone at BaDoink, Chuck, we wish you guys the very best of luck!

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