We caught up with Joe Sylvester at Windrock Park in Oliver Springs, Tennessee, just outside of Knoxville, while he was setting up his Joe Sylvester Motorsports (JSM) booth, representing Rigid Industries LED Lighting at one of the biggest ATV/SXS rallies in the Southeast, the Windrock Park Fall Jamboree.
According to his mom, Joe’s first word was ‘truck’, which might not sound so uncommon given that he grew up around his family’s construction company. By five, his fascination with anything that had a motor in it began, be it heavy machinery, dirt bikes or naturally, trucks.
A self-confessed adrenaline junkie, Sylvester raced BMX, down hill mountain bikes, MX on bikes and quads, FMX on quads, and shifter karts, before moving on to cars. At 21, Joe started working with a monster truck team, and the age of 22 in 2006, became the youngest owner/driver of a pro monster truck.
Establishing JSM by himself with a used monster truck, after competing all over the country and abroad for two years and with the help of Boardman Steel, Joe built a new truck for the 2009 season, his first complete build.
Expanding into a fleet of customized vehicles, and adding three employees to his 7,000+ square foot race shop with full fabrication capabilities, he also started a full service off-road/performance storefront in Boardman, a suburb of Youngstown, Ohio.
On his way to winning the Monster Jam World Championship with Bad Habit, the monster truck he constructed, Sylvester won several events and became the Guinness World Record Holder for the longest jump in a monster truck.
Selling his monster truck enterprise last year, Joe set his sights on TORC (The Off Road Championship) series. Before he could start driving in the Pro Light class, he had commitments to drive the monster truck through the first quarter of the year, and only then could he concentrate fully on the #8 JSM Pro Light truck, scoring 63 points and finishing in 15th.
RIGID INDUSTRIES (RI): How did this all come about, and how did you become a Rigid Industries Torture Team member?
JOE SYLVESTER (JS): I’ve been with Rigid for a few years now, starting with their involvement with as a sponsor. In the eight years driving monster trucks, I went from a 22-year old kid who didn’t know much about the business, to a Monster Jam World Champ and a 2X world record holder with wins in both racing and freestyle, in a truck that I built and maintained myself. I’m currently the Guinness World Record holder for the longest distance jump in a monster truck as well as the Monster Jam World Finals Young Guns Shootout Champion. I sold my monster truck enterprise last year because I needed a new challenge, and what’s better than to start a career in short course off-road racing?
2014 was my first season racing TORC in the Pro Light class. It was a pretty good year and while we learned that I have the ability, I also found out I’m going to need a bigger budget to reach the top (laughs). Seriously, we take a lot of pride in what we do, and we always go the extra mile for our sponsors through our social media and live event activation. We take sponsors’ products and marketing information to all the races, and even travel to other non-racing events like this Jamboree at Windrock Park throughout the year just to promote our sponsors and sell merchandise.
RI: How do you view the marketing and promotional aspects of motorsports, and balance it with the actual racing itself?
JS: I’m always looking for additional marketing partners or sponsors. There are only so many hours in the day and there are so many companies out there that I think could benefit from our program, and I don’t have the time or the resources to contact them and propose our ideas. However, once I have their interest, it then becomes easier for me to work hand-in-hand to build a program to suit their needs.
We value our partnerships by supporting these corporate sponsors and we continue to grow our program every year to better service them. My background is deep in both action sports and motor sports. For example, you really have to do things to set yourself apart from the competition to keep customers engaged, and we were able to do this with Rigid Industries.
RI: What are your plans for 2015 and beyond, both in racing and as a marketer?
JS: After a successful season in TORC’s Pro Lights class, we may decide to move up to the Pro 2 class in 2015. This premier class offers a new level of competition as well as a greater marketing return on investment for our partners. Whatever it is, we give it 100%; we never do anything without the intention of winning and being the best racers, entrepreneurs, and brand ambassadors we can be. With a solid season under our belts, and a top-notch team, JSM is ready to come out swinging in 2015 for 18 rounds of TORC racing from coast to coast.
My girlfriend is a dealer for Off Road Vixens, a clothing company that she does quite well with. It got me thinking about possibly investing in an existing clothing company or starting my own brand that fits my image and that race fans would want to buy. I would love to be promoting my own company and that brand on the side of my race car.
RI: Anything else we should know about JSM and Joe Sylvester?
JS: After evaluating where I am at and where I want to go, it has become obvious to me that I need to focus on my latest passion, short course off-road racing. I’ve never been one to settle in one place for too long, always pushing myself to the limit, foregoing complacency, pushing through hurdles and smashing through walls, pushing back at those who said I would fail. I felt I had accomplished everything I set out to do with monster trucks, and now it’s time for a new challenge. The sport of short course off-road racing is growing, and I’m very excited to be a part of it. The intensity and adrenaline I feel while racing against 20 other trucks door-to-door is second to none and has now given me a new goal to work towards.
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