Robert Stout is no stranger to the world of off road, and in particular the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series. The son of legendary broadcast racing reporter and host, Ken Stout. This Brownsburg, Indiana, native has dedicated his career to motorsports, racing across an array of disciplines, from sprint cars to sports cars, and now off road vehicles.
The wealth of experience Stout has amassed racing professionally proved to be a huge asset in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, which he joined full time in 2018, ultimately earning Rookie of the Year honors in the Production 1000 UTV class. With a year of moderate success under his belt, including a trio of podium finishes, Stout was ready to take the next step in 2019 and quickly established himself as a title contender alongside reigning back-to-back Production 1000 titleholder Brock Heger, and rising off road star, Myles Cheek. These three drivers traded the lead and victories throughout this past season during a highly competitive and captivating title fight. In the end, Stout’s years of racing experience and his savvy in terms of the “big picture” in racing for the championship paid big dividends. He captured a pair of victories and the #915 secured podium finishes in seven of nine races, which proved to be the difference maker in the close title fight.
With a championship under his belt in just his second year of racing, the 27 year old Ken Stout Racing driver has quickly made a name for himself in short course off road and is rightfully generating some buzz within the industry as he looks to continue to build on what has blossomed into a promising career in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series.
Rookie of the Year in 2018, and now a championship in 2019. That’s got to be about all you can ask of yourself. How would you describe your first two seasons of short course off road?
A massive learning curve, for not only myself, but also for the team. Our main suspension sponsor, Paul Yaw, had never competed in the off road racing industry. He is responsible for all of our shock tuning and shock adjustments, which, needless to say, is a massive portion of going fast around a dirt track, especially one with jumps. So [that] was a big learning curve for him. Although I had been competing for a long time, I had never raced anything in dirt. Not racing in the dirt is one thing, but learning how to read it is something that’s difficult and takes a little time. On top of that our two mechanics had never worked on a race team before, so when you add it all up it was definitely a big learning curve. It took a little bit of time, but the results are what we wanted. We wanted to get our feet wet in the first year and see what it was all about. That way, in year two we could chase the championship, and we were able to do so. With what we’ve learned we’re just getting started now.
You’re known as one of the most dynamic drivers in the sport with a diverse portfolio of racing disciplines. How has that wide range of experience helped you find success so quickly in the off road?
Well, the good thing is having been able to jump across a lot of different vehicles at a lot of different tracks [and] in a lot of different series, I’ve forced myself to be able to adapt to things quickly over the past 10 years. I think it’s taken more time to adapt to off road than anything and I still have plenty of work to do. I’m used to getting in and out of different vehicles and having to pick it up at a quick rate, and that’s really a big necessity here in short course, because your track time is fairly limited.
What ultimately lured you to take your chance at the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series? You’ve been around the sport for a long time, and your dad is obviously a legend in the industry. Was it just a natural progression to some day give it a shot?
Well, I’ve always wanted to do it, of course, but to be honest the opportunity had never really presented itself. What was really big for us was to get into the UTV platform. I’m not just doing this for fun, this is what I’m trying to make a living at and having the UTV category come into [Lucas Oil Off Road] presents some good opportunities. Now you’ve got these powerhouse manufacturers like Yamaha, Honda, Polaris, Wild Cat and Kawasaki coming into it, it’s really no different than Super Cross where the some of the riders are making millions. Having manufacturer involvement was a driving force for me to get my name in front of them in an effort to pick up some support and continue my career.
This year’s battle for the title was close and exciting. You, Brock Heger and Myles Cheek were constantly battling one another. What was the experience like and what do you think ultimately helped you come out on top?
Well, looking back, what we’ve really proven is [that] qualifying is a really big deal. I take a lot of credit [with qualifying] from the few years I had to run winged sprint cars. In a sprint car you don’t have any warm up time and then you get 2 laps. The sessions run short, and even a 50 lap race can be done in eight minutes, so it forced me to learn how to do a good lap right out of the box. You have to be able to get in the car and immediately go for it. I think that really played a big part in my qualifying this year [in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series]. In six out of the seven races with [our] new car, I qualified on pole. So, being able to get out and throw a lap down quickly and grabbing those bonus points was really a big part of winning the championship this year. Qualifying was massive for me, and then just really playing it safe in the races. If you go back and look at all the races, I don’t spend much time up on the bike, up on two wheels. That is in part due to the tuning, but really just keeping it within its boundaries so I can guarantee those podium finishes. Even though we didn’t go out and win every race, I put myself in a position to guarantee good points every single round. If somebody slips up once, it really hurts them, I don’t need to win every race, I just need to podium in every race, and those points add up throughout a season.
The final round was quite intense with you, Heger and Cheek all battling up front. What was your approach going into the race, and were you aware of how the points were playing out while you were in the midst of it all?
I knew it was simple as if I can podium, I win, [the championship] end of story. I didn’t want Brock to get the halfway point, [lead] that was the one thing I had in mind and if I remember correctly, I believe Myles did hold him off. I knew from there I could finish fourth, maybe even fifth, and still get the championship. I wanted to get a three car breakaway [and] have either me or Myles get the halfway point - it was smooth sailing from there. I wanted to get in the battles a little bit, but really I let those two go. Anytime I started sticking my nose into the mix, I had my spotter letting me know that I didn’t have to do this. I can sit there and secure that podium. So, it was a nice voice in my ear reminding me that I can just hang out here and think about the big picture. I wanted to get in the battle a little bit more, but I knew what I needed to do. I was hoping the three of us could break away, then from there it was just eyes forward and work on securing that podium finish. Honestly, those two were battling hard enough I thought they might get themselves into a little bit of trouble and give me the win, so I just played it smart. I knew what I needed to do and that was get on the podium and that’s exactly what we did.
Now that you have a championship under your belt, what are your goals for next season and beyond?
Absolutely coming back to defend the title is the first goal. We’ve got some other things going on that we’d like to be able to be the first team to do within the class, but we’ll see what the future holds for us. We know we want to come back to defend the title, and I’d love to be able to get enough support to one day call myself a factory UTV driver for one of these manufacturers. Ultimately, be able to take those relationships and come up through the short course ranks, maybe into a Pro Lite truck or a Pro 4 truck.
Who would you like to thank for supporting your championship run this season?
Tommy Thompson came on board with Magic Dry, a multi-purpose absorbent. It’s that relationship that allowed us to go down the off road path in the first place. And we can’t thank him enough! Paul Yaw and Yawpower Suspension has been both a financial sponsor and really the brains behind this car. Once we did get the season up and running in 2018, he decided to come on board and wanted to dip his toes into the off road world as well. Paul is the reason why this is the best car in the class! Those two are absolutely our biggest supporters, along with SC Fuels and of course, my dad for really putting the team together.
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