Oh, The Stories He Could Tell…
The Experiences Of Off-Road Vet Jason Cobb
Story By: Cody Carney
Photos By: Brandon Bunch
When Yamaha introduced the Rhino back in 2004, there wasn’t any special acknowledgement for the vehicle. At the time, no one would have guessed it would eventually evolve into the sport that it has. Since then, the UTV and its uses have grown exponentially. But when enthusiasts say it has grown so much since its inception, what exactly do we mean? In just one example, we sat down with Jason Cobb to hear his involvement in the industry, and how he saw the sport grow as these machines would eventually integrate into his life. Being the owner of TrophyLite, Jason has a great deal of experience in Powersports and off-road, experience that we can confidently say denotes a professional perspective.
Jason, being around the off-road racing industry since 1988, started behind the counter at a performance Powersports dealership as a parts manager. It was a means to get involved since he had no other way to do so. He grew up in Parker, Arizona, a place infamous for desert racing. Because of this, Jason knew he wanted to find a way to make being part of the industry a living. He was lucky enough to have the opportunity to do it and with it some successes.
Jason: “For Robbie Gordon, Rob MacCachren, Dave Ashley, and all those guys, off-road racing is part of their culture and who they are, but it was a stepping stone for something else. For me, off-road racing was the pinnacle. In 1993, I was a local motocross pro and I was teaching kids how to ride when one of the dads came up to me and said, ‘Hey, you want to be part of an off-road race team?’ I said, ‘Yeah, absolutely. Sounds like a great idea. That’s something I’ve always aspired to do.’ You know at 18, you don’t have any confidence issues. At 22, you really don’t have any. Then at 25, you realize you’re not invincible, and I hadn’t gotten there yet. At that point, we went to Mexico with a sponsor, but while we were there, things didn’t pan out. The people we were supposed to impress took off. Fortunately, I was able to eventually meet up and talk to these same people into sponsoring an off-road race program, and we were able to get onto the start line for the Parker 400. Here I am in my hometown race, in a truck that I’ve never really been in. Lo and behold, we won the race by 45 minutes. It was a dream come true.”
Things continued to snowball for Jason from there. Ford, Goodyear, American Racing, and all these other big names were giving him calls. Guys that he couldn’t get on the phone before. He raced from 1994 all the way to 2001. That was the end of his racing career, but his first steps toward owning a business.
Jason: “My son Josh was born in 1999. I hadn’t had a real job at that point because I’d been living this fantasy life of an off-road driver. I went and got a job with a company called RM Racing, and from there, I started to learn about corporate America and what it takes to bring a product from concept to production to sales. It was absolutely epic. I couldn’t buy that kind of knowledge. Of course, I was gravitating toward off-road. I was building relationships with people, and it just went on until I had made as many steps as I wanted to make for somebody else. I got hooked up with KC HiLiTES and that kinda really put me back on the map as far as being off-road 100 percent of the time, which is where my heart is at. I really found a passion for doing lighting, but unfortunately, I got sick. It was during this time I became really close with the owner of TrophyLite, and he was sick too. He had a couple of other businesses so he was feeling that stress plus the TrophyLite stress, so he asked me to take over TrophyLite. I only wanted to help manage it at first, but eventually took it over and now doing it as a family business.”
By the time Jason had taken over this business, it was well into 2017. Now if we rewind the clock a little bit, looking at the beginning of his career in motorsports from 2001 to the current day, Jason has bared witness to the evolution of the Powersports and with it, the evolution of the UTV.
Jason: “I will tell you I was lucky enough to be a part of many UTV programs in their infancy to try to get them to their next level. To see them where they’ve come today is unbelievable, and as someone whose job is sort of competing with the UTV segment, we’re also embracing it. A lot of what we do with our driving schools and our corporate days in the dirt, they all include UTVs. We rent a lot, we use a lot, and we mark our trails with them, and we then hop into a race truck and are able to duplicate what we just did in the UTV. Everything happens because of the UTV, and I have finally accepted the fact that I think there might be a place in this market for them.”
We see that Jason has had many experiences with and even inside UTVs. Among them, two encounters stand out above the others…
Jason: “When Tomcar had set out to do the Baja 1000 and the Baja 500, no UTV had finished in a high-caliber off-road desert race. It was very much in its infancy, and we finished the 500. We did not do it in time, but we weren’t going to quit like most desert racers do. Sometimes you don’t have any choice, you have to quit. We had enough car to keep going, we just didn’t have enough time. I’m not going to tell you that thing didn’t have any help along the way, because it was 2-wheel drive, it got stuck a lot, and it was heavy and underpowered. But, that car had remarkable durability. We went through 13-14 belts, you think you have it bad now, it was really bad in the infancy, and it’s so much better now. These cars are indestructible today, and that leads me to my second story…”
“I was lucky enough to just go from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas with Travis Pastrana and his friends. We took 4 TrophyLites and 2 Can-Ams, and I really thought that the Can-Ams were just remarkable during this trip. They were so spot on and exactly what we needed. We could put a novice in them and know they would get to the finish line. They certainly have plenty of performance to keep the guys occupied, and I gotta tell you, where the UTV world has gone today… It’s phenomenal. I’m really impressed with that.”
For the Cobb family, whether it’s at the shop or at home on the weekends, UTVs have been integrated into their daily lives. It doesn’t matter what they are in. As long as they’re off-road, they’re happy.
Jason: “We’re lucky enough to live in Arizona where we really embrace the UTV. We’re one of few states that we can drive them on the street or take them to the grocery store. They’re a total utility vehicle and there’s nothing we can’t do. We can race them, take them through the drive-thru, and go get groceries all in the same day. We have done it, will do it, and will continue to do so. People have been flocking to this area because they wanna see the beauty of this desert. We’ve had an epic amount of rain so everything is green. It looks like we’ve carpeted the desert and there are flowers blooming everywhere. We have a shop in downtown Wickenburg where we do UTV maintenance all year round. We’re the only shop in town and because of that, we have a huge following with the UTV community that we’re very proud of. It’s become such a big part of our business plan even though it’s called TrophyLite. We do TrophyLites, sure, but UTVs are a huge part of our foundation.”