George Schooley had always been competitive, whether it was when he raced motocross when he was 8 years old or doing truck pulls and team roping later in life. So when Schooley started racing jeeps with one of his friends, he opted to watch from the pits while his friend drove because he knew that once he got behind the wheel, he would be hooked.

About six years ago, though, Schooley was finally persuaded to get behind the wheel for a weekend of races. He won all five races that weekend. He was hooked on jeep racing, and that was that.


This week, the 52-year-old Schooley and his Westminster-based Legacy Off-Road Racing team will test their mettle against some of the world's top jeep racers in the southern California desert at the King of the Hammers.

On Tuesday, Schooley will race in the Last Chance Qualifier in an attempt to earn a spot in Friday's main race.

And while Schooley, who owns Legacy Septic and Excavation in Westminster, will be competing against full-time racers, he's confident that he'll be able to hang with some of the world's best.

"It doesn't matter. I want to win," Schooley said. "I'm very competitive like that. My personality, there's nothing I cannot do if I put my mind to it, in business and what I do for pleasure. I love being competitive."

Schooley and his team, which includes co-pilot Kirt Carr and crew chief Clint Bates, have primarily raced on the East Coast during his brief career, and Legacy has shown well in the area — Schooley said he finished fourth in the East Coast 4WD Association in 2015. So in October, he and his team started to think about making the journey west to the King of the Hammers in the Ultra4 Racing Series.

The King of the Hammers will be different than anything Schooley has raced in before. The event draws more than 35,000 to Johnson Valley, California, for what the organizers call the "toughest one-day off-road race on the planet."

In some sections of the race, drivers zip across the desert at upward of 100 miles per hour. But then they'll slow to a crawl to climb over rocks the size of small cars and up daunting inclines. The cars and drivers take a beating. Last year's winner, Randy Slawson, completed the 215-mile course in just less than nine hours.

The racers take three laps around Means Dry Lake with different rock sections on each go-round, giving the racers something different to adjust to throughout the course of the race. Schooley said he prefers the flatter, faster sections of the course, even though he himself doesn't like sports cars. Instead, he'll put his jeep through the elements.

"It's pretty much the roughest one-day race in the world," Schooley said.

The levels of racer Schooley will be competing with varies. Some are lifelong off-road racers. Others are like Schooley. Former NASCAR driver Robby Gordon has competed in the King of the Hammers in the past.

"There's professional drivers that that's all they do is this, and then, I don't know if you want to call us 'weekend warriors,' that have a normal job during the week and we take the opportunity to do what we love to do," Schooley said. "We're going to take a week and go out and do it."

No matter the stakes, no matter the other drivers, no matter the conditions, Schooley is ready. It's the same competitive edge that's carried him through life. Tuesday's Last Chance Qualifier is just the next challenge ahead of him.

In such a grueling sport, Schooley knows he has to be confident. So he sets his expectations high, and he likes his chances.

"Oh, I'll be racing Friday," Schooley said with a laugh. "I'll be racing Friday."