Welcome to Face-Off, ladies and gentlemen. Here, we stack up any pair of related off-road racing topics, from people to companies to parts to vehicles, and pit them mano a mano for you, dear reader, to determine which of these competitors you’d like to see succeed.
Practically any topic that ties in with off-roading is fair game, so if there’s a head-to-head idea you have for us, feel free to check it in with a comment down below. Without further ado, let’s throw down and see who our rivals are for this match.
In The Red Corner…
You know the name, and you know the pedigree. It’s Ivan “Ironman” Stewart! Multiple Baja 500 and 1000 winner, storied brawler of the MTEG Stadium Series, and all-around badass, the Ironman takes no prisoners when there’s a time to beat or a rival to punish. In essence, Stewart has become a name among the off-road community that cannot be contested.
Any racer worth his salt today knows how much Stewart brought to the table, and wants to achieve a level of fame and legendary status with the man before it all comes to an end. It started at the Ensenada 300 in 1973, when Stewart proved his prowess behind the wheel of tw0-seat buggy.
The 28-year-old was supposed to be paired with co-driver Bill Hrynko, but when Hyrnko broke his leg just prior to the race, Stewart decided to go for broke and swapped in his mechanic, Earl Stah. As fate would have it, the quick thinking paid off, as Stewart drove the entire race, taking the class win.
Fast forward 10 years, and Stewart was already an icon in his own right, having earned the nickname “Ironman” for winning a number of Valvoline Oil “Ironman” solo Baja race challenges in the mid-70s, and with 30 major race victories, as well as “Driver of the Year” and “Man of the Year” awards, the rising star was soon to shoot even higher as he next joined PPI Motorsports, sponsored by Toyota.
Armed with his unmistakeable single-seater truck, Stewart made his mark season after season, for nearly three more decades, taking home trophies for SCORE, HDRA, and stadium racing events. In 1993, he swept the “Crown Jewels” of desert racing, clinching victories at the Nevada 500, Baja 500, and Baja 1000. Across twenty-seven years of hard work and true talent, Stewart accrued the following wins: 17 Baja 500s, 8 Mint 400s, 4 Parker 400s, 3 Baja 1000s, and 4 SCORE World Championships.
All that, and an arcade game that sold thousands of copies across America. If anyone deserves a spot in the Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame (which he was honored with in 2006), it’s Ivan “Ironman” Stewart.
In The Blue Corner…
There’s a reason folks started calling BJ Baldwin “Ballistic.” The 32-year-old’s rocket-like racing style–not to mention his social media fame and career trajectory–have been both his blessing and his curse, but Baldwin will be the first to admit that it didn’t happen overnight.
Starting much like Stewart with motorcycle competition, Baldwin put up with haters and naysayers for a number of years before he was able to prove himself a force to be reckoned with. His humble foray into four-wheeled races at 17 years old saw him behind the wheel of a Chenowth buggy. It was fast and unforgiving, yet played a crucial role in forging Baldwin’s character and resolve to prove himself again and again.
In his twenties, Baldwin made the switch to trucks and suffered crashes, breakdowns, and other mistakes that cost him dearly. He sought out the help of living legend Larry Ragland, and over the years, went from mobile berm to hardcore winner. He eventually founded his own racing team with Baldwin Motorsports in the mid-2000s.
As of this year, Baldwin has to his credit a number of finishes that continue to demonstrate the young man’s potential: 6-Time National Off-Road Champion, 2008 Baja 500 1st Place, 2010 Mint 400 2nd Place, 2010 Mint 400 2nd Place, 2010 Parker 425 1st Place, 2010 Mint 400 2nd Place, 2011 General Tire Mint 400 Winner, 2011 Best in the Desert Series Champion, and back-to-back Baja 1000 wins in 2012 and 2013.
Sponsors like Monster Energy, Toyo Tires, and Rigid Industries continue to keep Baldwin running in the front of the pack, and the pressure is on this year for the man to do a hat-trick at the upcoming Baja 1000. If we’ve learned anything from the bearded bullet from Las Vegas, it’s that he won’t go down without a fight.
Ding-ding-ding! Round 1, FIGHT!
So which of these off-roading giants has your vote? Is it the iconic Ivan, or the battleborne B.J.? Tell us which one you’d have your money on in the Comments section below!