Remember the adage about the family that plays together?
Well, if you count racing as playing, then the Pellegrino family of Tony,
Debbie, Jami, and Jordon should never be far apart from each other. This racing
family has been speeding across the desert together for 20 years.
Tony Pellegrino practically grew up on a dirt bike exploring
the California desert, learning everything about it, from steep, rocky canyons
to soft, sandy washes. So when he met and married the ready-for-adventure
Debbie, it was only natural for them to keep up the tradition with their own
kids. Jami and Jordon have spent so much time with their
parents in the Mojave Desert, particularly in Johnson Valley, that it might as
well be their second home.
It’s not just that
the family loves the desert and craves speed, though. Life seemed to conspire
to point this family toward not just any desert race (although they’re always
up for any challenge offered), but to the grueling King of the Hammers race, a
challenge that only the most elite teams with the worthiest cars can hope to
In 2006, Tony turned his passion into a business when he founded
GenRight Off Road, a company dedicated to manufacturing the highest quality
aftermarket Jeep parts and accessories. With an unwavering commitment to
quality, Tony knew he’d have to test each part before he could be confident
offering it for sale to other off-road enthusiasts, so he found himself out in
the desert each weekend verifying which parts worked well enough to deserve the
GenRight name. This meant he was driving hard and fast, literally trying to
find the breaking point. The family, of course, was right there with him.
It makes sense, then, that this extreme driving style would
lead Tony to the King of the Hammers off-road race in 2009, the second official
year of the event. He’s been racing with
the growing pack of cars and drivers ever since, finishing the race four times
(a major accomplishment in a race where the majority of drivers do not cross
the finish line) and placing an impressive second in both 2011 and 2014.
Racing is fun, but for Tony, it’s having his wife and kids
with him that makes it all worth it. None of them would have it any other way.
Pulling off a race like King of the Hammers definitely takes the support of an
entire team, which Debbie leads. She not only co-manages the business, allowing
Tony the seat time he needs to be competitive, but she also manages the
pit-crew on race day, making sure that everybody is in place and has what they
need to do their jobs.
One of those jobs is filming the race, and that is handled
expertly by oldest son Jami. With his keen eye and natural talent, he produces
most of the media, still and video, for the race team. He works tirelessly to
get the shots right and to edit for highest quality. Not only that, but he also
races in the UTV class at King of the Hammers, as the week-long event features a
different class racing every day until the big race takes place at the end.
On the day before the main event, second son Jordon races in
the Every Man Challenge, or 4500, class, and has been doing so since 2014 when
he was just 15. With racing in his blood, Jordon is a true competitor. Pushing
himself and his car to the limit, he took second place in 2016 and is looking
for that first place finish this year. And following the family tradition of
driving hard and sticking together, that goal is well within reach.
Once again this year, Tony, Jami, and Jordon will each have
their day of racing in different classes at King of the Hammers.That means spending more weekends as a family
out in the desert honing their skills and , as they did for the recent
Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.
As a family, the Pellegrinos wouldn’t have it any other way.