Have you ever wondered who is this guy Micah Anderson, the Editor of Off Road Xtreme? Perhaps you ponder on how one gets into this magazine business or even pursue a career in the automotive industry. Well here is a little bit of my background.
I want to preface this with a note to the Off Road Xtreme readers. This is a summary of my professional background and how my career materialized out of my personal interests. To be transparent, I, Micah Anderson, am a fan of all off-road recreation types and also various motorsports disciplines as well. If it happens in the dirt, mud, rocks, sand, silt, or snow, on two wheels or four wheels, or no wheels at all, I am in on it!
Getting To Know Your Off Road Xtreme Editor: Micah Anderson
Like most, after high school, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I recall back when someone I deeply regarded asked me what kind of career I wanted to pursue. I told him that I wanted to test-drive vehicles. His reply “I hope you like cold winters in Detroit” was a bit blunt but somewhat eye-opening. Being born and raised in San Diego and some 2,300 miles away from the Big 3, I only had hopes and dreams at the moment.
Automotive And Off-Road Influenced From The Beginning!
My off-road influence and interest in high-performance automotive vehicles was handed down to me by my father. My earliest memories present a capable VW enthusiast who owned and operated a small independent auto repair shop. During the summers, I was left to roam around the shop kicking things over, learning how things work, fetching tools, and getting a small glimpse of a parent who was working hard to carve out a life for his family.
In the late 1980s, when I was still in grade school, my parents wanted a bit more rural lifestyle than what could be found in Spring Valley, near the sprawl of downtown San Diego. They decided our new home would be located in Lakeside, California. We moved into a modest home, on a half acre, in a quaint neighborhood. Out of all of the places we could have moved to, we happened to become the new neighbors of the famed off-road desert racing legend, Ivan “Ironman” Stewart. My older brother and I found out about this and we would pester “Mr. Ivan” anytime he was visible out in the garage, which was often. Riding up on our bikes to request autographed posters on the weekly, Stewart was always gracious and never turned us down.
A Childhood Of Automotive Education
Years later, my father was on a quest to improve our lives and had started a path to become an automotive education instructor. His close circle of mentors and advisors coached him along the way. Thank you, Bill Hammock and Bill Lynn! With a lot of late nights and double duties to earn a teaching credential, he was appointed to an auto shop teaching position at a city high school. He continued to improve his tenure with a master’s degree and became an instructor at Southwestern community college during nights while teaching a Regional Occupation Program (ROP) during the day. During the late 1990s, a position opened locally at El Capitan High School where I was attending. Even though I had years of teaching in our garage, I did enroll in his class and received an A+. He retired some 20 years later.
Up To My Ears In The Sand Box
During the weekends and holidays, we ventured out to the local deserts of Southern California for some high-octane recreation and camping. Our preferred destination was the Imperial Sand Dunes which contains Butter Cup, Gordon’s Well, and Glamis which owns the title “sand toy capital of the world”. We owned a pair of 185 Honda three-wheelers for a time. The highlight of our fleet, though, was our mild 1835cc VW powered swing axle dune buggy with a beam frontend. Over the years, we were able to upgrade to bigger truck shocks and a punched-out 2275cc rocket with an independent rear suspension.
At some point, my old man and his pals decided they had to have a piece of these new high-performance A-arm sand rails. My dad scraped away all his rainy day savings and purchased a rolling chassis from the Santee-based off-road vehicle manufacturer Alumicraft. We went to work to outfit it with the best parts we could afford. For a time, we used the same running gear and VW-based 2275cc engine. We eventually installed a Subaru Boxer engine with a turbo, which was a game changer for us.
It was my dad’s pride and joy. I cherish all the times we spent carving through the sand dunes and gazing into the deep fields of endless starry nights. I learned a lot about cars, maintenance, towing, field repairs, and so much more. To say my father was a strong influence in my life would be putting it lightly. He passed away in 2021 from pancreatic cancer.
Micah Anderson Is Into 4x4s
The first vehicle I was able to purchase, with a little help from my folks, was a sky blue 1989 Jeep Cherokee XJ with a manual transmission and 4.0-liter straight six. It had a mild lift, some upgraded shocks, and sported “massive” 30-inch all-terrain tires. Back in 1997, I thought it was pretty rad and I would love to get my hands on another XJ at this point, almost 25 years later. This vehicle changed my life. It gave me the freedom and access to go off-roading anywhere I wanted at any time. My best friend Tim Armstrong had his own 4×4, a 1977 Ford Bronco. This thing was bone stock but super capable and had lived its former life as a Border Patrol service vehicle. We had many adventures together but always ended up driving separately as we both insisted on driving our own rides.
My dad got into Jeeps too, so there were a lot of trail runs going down back in the day.
Anza Borrego Desert Adventures
We drove to the mountains, the beach, and out to the local deserts too. His family inherited a small house located in Anza Borrego and we would haul down there from San Diego to spend the weekend. We worked to clean it up and make it a nice pad to get away and hang. That year, when the Terra Del Sol Jeep Safari came to Truck Haven, we jumped at the chance to go wheeling. It was the first off-road safari event that I attended with my own ride.
After a childhood of enjoying off-road ATVs, dune buggies, and sand cars, I became fascinated with off-road racing. Living where we did, it was just part of the culture. When I was very young, I can remember going out to Riverside Raceway to watch an off-road race. I even got to see a couple of Mickey Thompson Off-Road Stadium events when they came to San Diego. And the Monster Jam rallies were always an annual do not miss event at the old Jack Murphy Stadium (gone but not forgotten). Supercross was super bitchin too, although I was never much of a dirt bike rider.
Micah Anderson Is A Fan Of Off-Road Desert Racing!
As a teenager, I was exposed to off-road prerunner trucks. Growing up in East County San Diego, I was living in an off-road desert racing “Mecca”. A by-product was seeing some very cool street-legal off-road trucks. At the high school I attended, there were more than a few of these impressive vehicles in the parking lot. They were purpose-built with roll cages, long travel suspension, bumpers, lights, radio comms, and slick paint jobs. These trucks were an uncommon oddity during the 1990s, and actually pretty exotic when compared to traditional 4x4s. They were really the kind of vehicles that were not practical for teen drivers, yet here they were in my high school parking lot and I was scoping them over on the daily.
Eventually, I became good friends with one of these guys and was invited to go out to our local deserts for some high-speed off-roading. This experience completely changed my perspective on what an off-road vehicle was capable of. Needless to say, I shifted all of my interest toward desert racing. This same friend and his four other brothers were themselves desert racers with the last name McNeil. At some point, I invited myself, hoping to tag along to the next planned event. My friend, Dustin McNeil, said he would make it happen. I got the call to go to my first race, which happened to be the 2001 Baja 1000. Like most, I became a die-hard fan immediately. The rest is history and from that point on, I did whatever I could to immerse myself into the off-road racing world.
Micah Anderson Chasing Dreams!
For the next few years, I spent all of my free time hanging out with this desert racing family. They would drag wrecks home from the auction, and working out of their dad’s garage, build them up into capable prerunner-type trucks. Most of the time, the vehicle platforms were Ford Rangers and Explorers. Two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive, coil buckets and shocks or coilovers and bump stops, it did not matter, it was either going to run, or going to the bone yard. We were having a blast driving these things on the streets and thrashing them in the desert. The boys also are regular competitors at the San Diego County Fair WGAS Tuff Trucks.
My constant presence was noticed by the two oldest brothers who were actively entering the local desert races. They enlisted my talents to help promote their brands and racing efforts. From wrenching on the trucks and mounting fiberglass to preparing graphic decals and capturing photography, I was now part of the team. I was able to bring in sponsorship by way of product support, or better.
My valued association went a long way and eventually got me offers to ride shotgun as the navigator in some of the races. My first time in a race was probably the 2003 SCORE Baja 500 with Chad McNeil. I got in a Class 7 Ford Ranger for a long leg that ended up on the coastal bluffs of the Pacific Ocean right before sundown. I recall racing against another Class 7 trying to gain an advantage as we went door to door switching back and forth on different trails. It was epic!
Micah Anderson Hand Shaping A Professional Career
The oldest brother, Jason McNeil, recognized my skills and recruited me for brand consultation to help him start a business. He said, “I have this idea and I want to call it FiberwerX.” I liked the name and was in college at the time studying multi-media and graphic design, so it was right in line with what he needed. We sat down and penned out a business plan, mission statement, and all of that. I created the company’s first logo, first brochure, first catalog, and first website. I captured product photography and established an online social presence, before Facebook existed, on the internet forums.
We basically started from scratch and built up the biggest name brand in the category. The company attended all of the major industry trade shows and we looked sharp and got noticed. You probably saw the FiberwerX Girls or were hoping you did. The team and trucks got press, featured on various off-road videos, and even enjoyed a full spread in Dirt Sports Masterpiece In Metal.
I can recall hand-shaping race trucks and pre-runner bodies, covered in foam, or cutting fiberglass for an installation. Every day I would leave the shop filthy but wearing a smile wide grin. I was living the off-road racing lifestyle and loved every minute of it.
Racing Is Fun But Demands Many Man Hours
Jason was also racing Class 7 at the time. We used the race program to promote the company and the company to promote the race effort. It was a terrific formula and our outfit became very popular and respected. We had a polished program that attracted an outstanding list of supporting sponsorship partners. We would enter the big SCORE & BITD races and also compete locally. The schedule saw us attending over twenty events a year between SCORE, BITD, MDR, CODE, Record, and all of the trade shows. We would eventually win a CODE Championship in 2007.
Jason McNeil and Team FiberwerX Racing would graduate to race in the SCORE Trophy Truck division. This meant we were competing against the most elite off-road desert racing competition. Perhaps we were racing against the best with much larger budgets, but we all learned a lot and had a lot of fun. Jason now fields a truck in the SCORE Trophy Truck Spec division and won the 2021 championship. He is on track to repeat that feat in 2023 leading the SCORE points championship overall with a Baja 500 win and 2nd place finish at San Felipe. Thank you J for the awesome ride!
Micah Anderson Is A Fan Of Short-Course Off-Road!
Sometime around 2005, Championship Off-Road Racing (CORR) was acquired and relocated from the mid-west to the west coast. They were heavily promoted events with tons of legitimate hype and star power. The draw of high-powered off-road short-course racing could not be ignored. My team entered into the desert racing class and we also coordinated a booth to display our company and products for the first CORR event on the west coast in Chula Vista. Before the event took place, I applied for media credentials which were granted. This was something I typically did to capture motorsports photography although I lost much of that media in a catastrophic hard drive crash. One hard lesson learned for sure
CORR saw major success in hosting several seasons of events. Short-course racing was thriving and the action of door-to-door racing was a thrill. The recession would have detrimental effects on the race promoter’s financial standings and the operator suddenly terminated the series in 2008. It was devastating for the sport, but some highly motivated individuals put a plan together and worked up a new short-course racing series.
In early 2009, Lucas Oil Products, a major supporter of short-course racing, shifted from series sponsor to promoter and sanctioning body. They announced the new Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series (LOORRS) with an impressive schedule and television package that seemed to have picked up the sport and positioned it for huge success.
Micah Anderson Going Out On A Limb Pro-Bono
In March, I got a call from a friend, Chad Liesing, whom I had previously sponsored through a FiberwerX and Dirt Alliance partnership. He was going to be racing a SuperLite truck for a new team startup and said that I should come out to the first event and show his team principles what I could do for them. I liked the idea and carpooled out to Primm Valley, Nevada. I arrived on site for Round 1 and the very first short-course race of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series.
The team was Premiere Motorsports Group, sponsored by Hart and Huntington, Rockstar Energy, and a whole list of others. They had eight drivers on the team roster racing in a variety of different classes all under one tent. It was a super team in every sense and extraordinarily different from everything I was used to. My position was arranged with the team principles to come out “pro-bono” acting as the press agent, preparing race reports and press releases.
I took this gig knowing that there was zero promised compensation and only the desire to be involved in professional off-road racing at a high level. It would be completely up to me to carve out a permanent position and create value. This is exactly what I did. I provided the team with impeccable turn-key assets that they needed in a quick turnaround time. I can recall writing eleven articles in nine days following that first event. My interactions and work impressed the team’s principles and I was offered a paid contract position. Thank you Ryan Busnardo and Scot Demmer. I would go on to attend all of the races with Premiere Motorsports Group from 2009 through 2014.
One Door Closes And Another Door Opens For Micah Anderson
From 2004 to 2009, I was still able to hold down a full-time job, while simultaneously going to a lot of races, working as a graphic designer, and building websites for a local San Diego tech company not endemic to racing. Braving through the economic recession, this company seemed immune to the impacts until they were not. I made it through three rounds of layoffs but was finally cut in November 2009.
I reached out to my network and put the word out that I was looking for work. During the final round of the LOORRS inaugural season, after a long weekend of racing, I ran into a friendly face and mentioned I was still trying to secure new employment. She introduced me to her folks who were both executives with Lucas Oil. Later that week, I received an invitation for an interview. It went well and I was offered a job as a Motorsports Marketing Associate which I started in January of 2010.
Even though this was a turning point in my life and my career, it was a little unnerving. I left all of my friends and family and the knowing comfort and familiarity of San Diego, in exchange for couch surfing and borrowed rooms in the Inland Empire for a short period. Thank you, Blake Wilkey and Ken Johnson! In return, I made new friends and a new exciting life. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Hard Work Gets Micah Anderson Noticed
Being involved in the Lucas Oil Motorsports office was a real treasure opportunity. Thank you Tom Bogner for being so gracious and just super fun! I was able to gain insight into a large variety of motorsports. I was also tasked with becoming knowledgeable about the high-performance product line and the critical application of lubricants in high-performance racing components.
My role with the company opened a lot of doors, but it was up to me to push them open. Somehow, folks around the office noticed. At some point, I began preparing executive press releases for many of the top principles and ownership. I also had a small part in assisting the Team Lucas program with presentations, decks, and proposals. Working under their leadership was an experience I am deeply grateful for. Thank you to the Patisons and Tom Fredrickson for the tremendous opportunity.
During my time with Lucas Oil, I received opportunities to travel to some exciting events like the Chili Bowl, NHRA, Drag Boat Racing, Indy Car Racing, Formula Drift, Nascar, Moto GP, AMA Moto America, Pro Motocross, Supercross, and Thunder Boat Racing to name a few.
Micah Anderson Pursuing Other Roles Behind The Lens
Down the road, my career put me in the studio as a professional photographer and graphic designer for T-REX Truck Products, a well-established automotive aftermarket manufacturer. I worked many long hours perfecting the craft to capture high-quality images. I was promoted to the Brand and Product Manager and helped develop their ZROADZ off-road line from the ground up. Thank you Ben Mizban!
Creating Something From Nothing For The Off-Road Community
In the fall of 2015, I was invited to an incubation meeting with some former associates. They told me their ideas. I gave them my feedback and we commenced a seven-month program to plan and launch our new event series we would call The Jump Champs. At the time, our three-man team had no real event planning or operating experience, but we had been to many events and races ourselves. In the early 2000s, the off-road prerunner scene was just growing into its infancy. There was a really cool grassroots-style event that happened a couple of times at Rialto Off-Road Raceway. It was an off-road time trial and jump contest that was a lot of fun. The idea was to create and bring something like that back to life.
The Jump Champs!
In May 2016, we hosted the first Jump Champs event. It was a large success that ended up evolving into a multi-day off-road action festival. The jump contest was the main event that brought in the crowds, but we operated supporting competitions to give the participants more drive time and value for their entry fees. Our Jump Champs motto was “Use your truck more than before” and the idea was to get folks out of the grandstands and racing on the track. We were able to provide that experience to hundreds of enthusiasts. The time trials portion was our most popular competition for the drivers. My favorite feature was the “Desert Duels” which was an off-road drag race.
We maxed out our entries at every event and created unique experiential experiences for all the attendees. Over the course of four years, we held two events a year and even took the show on the road under a different name called Dirt Champs. We were invited to be the live-action main attraction at the So-Cal Fair. We also collaborated with King of the Hammers for The Lakebed Launch, Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks, Off-Road Expo, Sand Sports Super Show, WGAS Tuff Trucks, and Off Road Nights for more live-action entertainment. The Jump Champs suspended the event planning and organizing in 2020 due to the COVID-19. Sean and Andrea Kepler, you two are amazing, and count me in for whatever is next.
Micah Anderson And His Professional Career Reflection
My career in motorsports and the automotive industry has put me on all sides of the spectrum in various roles. At each step, whether it was just for fun, a non-paid position, a part-time gig, a dream job, or just something I needed to pay the bills, I worked hard and diligently to the best of my abilities. Each opportunity allowed me to build up a skill set and experience that I would gladly tap into at a later point. Most of it, I still access to this day. I am grateful for all the experiences and the entire journey.
Looking back now, I can confidently say I have achieved a lifelong childhood dream. My pursuit to become an automotive journalist and test drive vehicles may have faded over the years, but now it has become front and center in my life. I feel fortunate to have had all of these unique experiences and would not trade them for the world.
I would like to recognize and thank all of the people who have been a part of this journey. You all know who you are. Thank you to the readers of Off Road Xtreme for joining me on this journey and being part of the totally awesome off-road community.
See you out on the trails!
Editor – Off Road Xtreme