Seth Quintero aiming for Dakar win record: ‘I’ve learned giving up is not in my vocabulary’

Dakar Quintero win record
Garth Milan / Red Bull Content Pool

Before starting an improbable charge in light prototype — putting him on course to break a Dakar Rally win record — Seth Quintero entertained the idea of withdrawing completely.

Having lost nearly 17 hours on track, waiting in the bone-chilling cold of the Saudi Arabian desert for a middle-of-the-night rescue and facing the reality another 10 days of racing with no hope for an overall title, it’s understandable that quitting seemed a decent option.

“I want to be honest, for sure it crossed my mind getting towed back when it’s freezing cold and 2 or 3 in the morning,” Quintero told NBC Sports. “I definitely wanted to give up, but I’ve learned that giving up is not in my vocabulary. It’s not in my mental state. Unfortunately, we had a similar issue last year. I learned giving up is not an option. And I’m never going to.”

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Persistence has paid off since for the San Marcos, California, native, who returned to the Dakar bivouac at 4 a.m. from the Stage 2 mechanical disaster. After an hour or two of sleep, the 19-year-old was on the Stage 3 starting line by 8 a.m. in his OT3-02.

A little under 3 hours later, the Red Bull Off Road Junior Team driver had another checkered flag in Stage 3 and a new objective for this year’s Dakar.

“It was definitely an awesome feeling and woke me up getting that win after those difficulties,” Quintero said. “Hopefully we can keep getting more wins and keep the mental game strong.

“The whole never give up thing is obviously something I live by … for some reason, something mentally in me, I can’t say no and can’t give up. It’s not in my blood. It’s not what my parents taught me. Obviously, these stage wins are definitely helping me get back going again.”

Quintero has been unbeatable since the broken differential in Stage 2. He has won five consecutive stages while overcoming even more mechanical problems to raise his stage victory total to seven despite being ranked 24th and still nearly 16 hours off the lead.

Though he entered the 2022 Dakar Rally with a dream of becoming the youngest class winner at Dakar, Quintero now has a shot at making history in the prestigious endurance race another way.

If he can win at least four of the remaining five stages, he will break the mark for stages won during a Dakar Rally.

“It hadn’t even crossed my mind what the (Dakar stage win) record was, and then I got a message on Instagram saying I was on my way,” Quintero said. “Which woke me up again. It was definitely hard to mentally gather myself to race every day knowing that there’s really no full purpose of going out (because) we couldn’t race for the overall. So yeah, just trying to keep on finding motivation and every little bit helps.”

Even more motivating is that he will have only 13 shots (12 stages plus the prologue) to set the mark. The record of 10 victories was set by Pierre Lartigue during the 17-stage Dakar Rally in 1994 — four more chances than Quintero will have.

“I really just want to win the rest of the stages, regardless of the record,” said Quintero, who also won the prologue and Stage 1. “Hopefully we can win those last (five) and basically have a flawless Dakar apart from those 30 (kilometers) of Stage 2.

“It definitely feels realistic. We’ve put in the time for the past couple of years. Nonstop preparation, spending months outside the country. I definitely feel like it’s realistic. It’s not going to be easy for sure. These last stages are getting really, really rough. Really rocky. It’s going to be who can be the smartest driver to the finish line.”

Seth Quintero takes a break from a November test of his lightweight prototype in Dubai (Marcin Kin/Red Bull Content Pool).

Quintero has been sharpening his skills through countless 4 p.m.-midnight test sessions with co-driver Dennis Zenz, mostly in Morocco and Dubai (but also some racing in Italy and Spain). Because it’s the prototype class, there are many bugs to work out with the untested technology.

“It’s definitely been a pretty crazy three months,” Quintero said. “From the beginning of September until now, I’ve been home for about three weeks.”

The hard work paid off during a hard-fought Stage 6 victory in which he lost the brakes for the final 180 kilometers.

In order to slow down while racing across the desert at a maximum speed of 90 mph, Quintero swung the OT3 side to side on the sand and used engine braking through the gearbox.

Seth Quintero races to a Stage 4 victory, one of five consecutive the American has notched during the 2022 Dakar Rally (Flavien Duhamel / Red Bull Content Pool).

Compounding the braking problem, Quintero then lost four-wheel drive, which left him “like driving in the mud” trying to scale the dunes in an underpowered car.

Yet he still finished more than 11 minutes ahead of his teammate Cristina Gutierrez Herrero for another victory that impressed his rivals.

“I’ve definitely gotten props from a couple of different competitors, which is nice to hear,” Quintero said. “I’m on a different mindset than they are trying to compete for 12 stages. I’m really just competing day by day. So I think that also comes into play with our success. I’m ready to go for it every single day, all day long. I’ve got nothing to lose. I really only have anything to gain.”

There’s been much respect to amass, though, in a bivouac that includes some of the greatest names in off-road and rally history.

Though being a generation or two younger than those legends, Quintero has aspirations of eventually reaching the T1 car class (“maybe another year or so”) to compete against the likes of Carlos Sainz, Sebastien Loeb, Stefan Peterhansel and Nasser Al-Attiyah.

“I’m definitely quite a bit younger than a lot of the guys I’m racing against,” Quintero said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to become very good friends with Sainz, Loeb, Peterhansel, Nasser. They’ve all been really amazing, humble guys. All people I’ve looked up to for a very long time.

“It’s been nice to come back to the bivouac and talk to them and just really learn. I’m just trying to soak in all the information that I can. Because they’re not going to be around driving the car forever, so hopefully that next step I can take, and they can help me into it.”

The best lessons he has learned so far?

“One that’s really stuck with me this race is ‘Go very slow in the slow and very fast in the fast,’ ” Quintero said. “From Carlos, I’ve definitely learned to take every opportunity I can possibly get.

“And also my parents, they’ve just taught me to just never say no. That’s a very good trait to have – and a very bad trait to have. Because I’m willing to put in the work. You can’t really break me, but you can overwork me every once in a while.”

Switching from dirt bikes to UTVs about a decade ago, Quintero quickly rose through the ranks and caught the eye of sponsor Red Bull (which has been tracking his progress on its Dakar Daily TV) by winning the youth class of a 2014 world championship.

He became the youngest driver to win several desert races in the UTV Pro NA Class, and he scored six impressive wins in 2019, including the overall championship of the Best in the Desert Pro Class, the MINT 400, the Parker 250 and the Silver State 300.

All while maintaining a 4.2 grade-point average in high school, which he described as “one of my bigger achievements.

“School is everything for me and for my parents as well,” said Quintero, whose mother and father both work in construction. “They were paying for my race program for a very long time, obviously. And they told me if I didn’t get good grades, I wasn’t racing. I’m very proud of that to be able to be full time at Mission Hills High School and then be also a full-time driver, mechanic, team manager and all that stuff. It’s been a wild ride but one of my biggest accomplishments.

Seth Quintero already became the youngest stage winner in Dakar Rally history last year as an 18-year-old rookie (Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Content Pool).

“We were just a blue-collar family that the only thing we know how to do is work and somehow came out lucky, and here we are traveling the world and having some fun racing.”

And making history. After becoming the youngest stage winner in Dakar history last year, Quintero still has another record to chase beyond the stage victories mark.

“It’s been our goal to be the youngest person ever to win Dakar ever since we started this journey,” he said. “Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to get it done the last two years, but we still have a lot of time. I’m only 19 years old, and I plan on staying here for as long as I can. We’ll keep on trying and keep on charging.”

Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series triples to 34 races in 2023

Xtreme Outlaw Midget 2023
Xtreme Outlaw Series

After hosting 10 rounds in 2022, the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series 2023 schedule will more than triple to 34 races. The 2022 season featured seven different winners in the first seven races, a female racer in Jade Avedisian as the only repeat winner and Zach Daum as the champion.

“Dirt Midget racing is a growing entity in American motorsports, and the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series presented by Toyota is proud to drive further into the growth of the division with both a diverse and lucrative schedule for 2023,” newly appointed Series Director Tyler Bachman said in a press release. “From the kickoff at our first indoor event, to each of the new tracks we’re set to visit next year, it’s a lineup we know both our teams and fans will enjoy.”

The championship purse fund has also more than double with an increase of $42,000 to $80,000 in 2023. The champion will win $25,000. Last year, Daum pocketed $10,000.

In addition, the series will offer tow money to the top 12 in points. Six drivers attempted to qualify for all 10 races in 2022 with 89 drivers attending.

The series will begin on March 10 at Southern Illinois Center in Du Quoin, Ill. and end the same place it did in 2022 at I-44 Riverside Speedway in Oklahoma City on October 15.

During the season, they will visit 21 tracks in 10 states.

Some highlights of the season include the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series pairing up with the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars in 2023 at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo. in April for the Outlaw Showdown and again in August for the Ironman 55 weekend, as well as the creation of a five-day Midget Speedweek.

The Midget Speedweek will immediately follow the Ironman 55 with a swing through Pennsylvania and New York.

Xtreme Outlaw Midget 2023 Schedule

Friday, March 10 | Southern Illinois Center | Du Quoin, Ill.
Saturday, March 11 | Southern Illinois Center | Du Quoin, Ill.
Friday, March 31 | Farmer City Raceway | Farmer City, Ill.

Saturday, April 1 | Farmer City Raceway | Farmer City, Ill.
Friday, April 14 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.
Saturday, April 15 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.

Friday, May 5 | Humboldt Speedway | Humboldt, Kan.
Saturday, May 6 | 81 Speedway | Park City, Kan.
Tuesday, May 23 | Millbridge Speedway | Salisbury, N.C.
Wednesday, May 24 | Millbridge Speedway | Salisbury, N.C.

Thursday, June 1 | Tri-City Speedway | Pontoon Beach, Ill.
Friday, June 2 | Wayne County Speedway | Wayne City, Ill.
Saturday, June 3 | Wayne County Speedway | Wayne City, Ill.

Friday, July 21 | TBA
Saturday, July 22 | Southern Illinois Raceway | Marion, Ill.
Friday, July 28 | TBA
Saturday, July 29 | Atomic Speedway | Chillicothe, Ohio
Sunday, July 30 | Brushcreek Motorsports Complex | Peebles, Ohio

Friday, August 4 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.
Sat, August 5 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.
Tuesday, August 8 | Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway | Newmanstown, Pa.
Wednesday, August 9 | Action Track USA | Kutztown, Pa.
Thursday, August 10 | Linda’s Speedway | Jonestown, Pa.
Friday, August 11 | TBA
Saturday, August 12 | Bridgeport Motorsports Park | Swedesboro, N.J.
Friday, August 25 | Davenport Speedway | Davenport, Iowa
Saturday, August 26 | Davenport Speedway | Davenport, Iowa

Friday, September 1 | Paragon Speedway | Paragon, Ind.
Saturday, September 2 | Paragon Speedway | Paragon, Ind.
Friday, September 15 | Jacksonville Speedway | Jacksonville, Ill.
Saturday, September 16 | Red Hill Raceway | Sumner, Ill.

Friday, October 13 | Port City Raceway | Tulsa, Okla.
Saturday, October 14 | I-44 Riverside Speedway | Oklahoma City, Okla.
Sunday, October 15 | I-44 Riverside Speedway | Oklahoma City, Okla.

* Co-sanctioned with POWRi