Pioneer off-road racer, promoter, series founder
He got his nickname when his grandfather put him to work in the barns at the family’s Los Alamitos horse racing track. "They gave me a shovel and told me to go to work," Vessels told the LA Times. "The nickname stuck." Vessels became one of the most successful off-roaders, winning major events like the Baja 1000 multiple times and four SCORE championships. Ultimately, he’d capture 30 major race victories. Vessels burst onto the scene as SCORE’s 1972 Rookie of the Year. Throughout his career, he worked to bring the sport to a broader audience through things like his 1980 Baja 1000 win, featured on ABC Wide World of Sports, and involvement in the American Thunder cable program. He competed twice at Pikes Peak. Vessels also was one of four off-road racers who founded in 1995 what is now the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Vessels was inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2007. He died in a private plane crash three years later.