Searching for Dirt and Glory: Tony Pellegrino of GenRight Racing
The Thousand Oaks of a few decades ago was pretty different from what it is today. It was like the wild west. There wasn’t nearly as much city and as such, kids had room to run around and get dirty. This was certainly the case for a young Tony Pellegrino, whose father put him on a dirt bike at the tender age of five. From the first twist of the throttle, he was hooked. Since that time, he’s never really stopped playing in the dirt, his toys have just gotten a little more powerful.
Tony started racing almost as soon as he started riding. He was a hard charger on both BMX and dirt bike. Eventually he got into desert racing and the sensation of careening across wide open country with the throttle pinned was something he just couldn’t shake. Eventually, Tony got older and started a family. He put his love of dirt bikes aside and got into Jeeps. Jeeps represented a great compromise between spending time with his family and being in the wide open spaces he’d loved as a kid. He bought his first rig and delved headlong into the nascent forum scene. Already people had developed a formula of sorts for how to build the kind of Jeep that Tony was looking for. Take shocks from Company A, axles from Company B, and add it to a roll cage from Company C and that combination was the best that you could do at the time. Tony took their advice but once he got it all on the floor of his garage he began to see that the best the industry could offer simply wasn’t going to be good enough.
From that experience, Tony was inspired to start his own off-road parts company. This company would be committed to building the best Jeep parts that money could buy. The company would be called “Genuine Ideas Engineered Right” or GenRight for short and soon their products would be seen in essentially every 4x4 publication around and end up on some of the craziest rigs in America.
An essential part of building an automotive company is marketing yourself and Tony felt that the best way to market GenRight would be through competition. He had heard of this new completely unlimited type of off-road racing called Ultra4 which had recently been developed and thought that this would be a great opportunity to not only get some real wheel time, but also to show people what his products were capable of. He had a pretty seriously built Wrangler at the time and thought that it could be modified to work for Ultra4 but when he showed up at an early King of the Hammers event, it soon became clear that trying to run in his Wrangler would be like bringing a knife to a gunfight. The GenRight team went back to the drawing board and came up with a purpose-built buggy in partnership with companies like King Shocks who built for Tony one of the first sets of bypass shocks to show up in Ultra4. Other companies like Currie Axles and MagnaFlow also expressed interest in supporting the build and before too long the buggy was complete and ready to run.
Tony’s first King of the Hammers in 2010 went well enough for someone so new to that grueling type of driving, and he ended up in 14th place overall. For his second year he placed an unbelievable 2nd behind off-road legend Shannon Campbell. In 2015 he placed 2nd again. Between prep for the King of the Hammers and the numerous Jeep and off-road events Tony attends on behalf of GenRight every year in addition to running the company, he finds time to help his two sons with their racing hobbies. His oldest son Jami, 25, races in the UTV class at KOH and his youngest son Jordan, 17, races quite successfully in the 4500 Modified class, placing high in this year’s event.
When asked what he’d like to do in the future, he replied, “I’d love to run the Baja but that is predicated on our sponsors. In the meantime, with 48 or so events on my calendar this year not including prep for King of the Hammers. Trying to develop the right products for the market in between all that means that I’m going to be a pretty busy guy but I love it.”
It’s not an easy thing to do to turn your hobby into your profession, but Tony Pellegrino has done precisely that both with GenRight the company and the race team. He plans to keep racing and working to develop the best Jeep products in the world.