RJ Gottlieb (driver)

RJ Gottlieb has been tearing around the streets of his native Southern
California since he was a teenager in the mid ’80s. He began a proper
racing career with several courses at the Bob Bondurant School of Driving,
but at the age of 16, he wasn’t old enough for Sports Car Club of America
(SCCA) racing, so he and his father got into NHRA Super Stock and
eventually Pro Stock Drag Racing. Disenchanted with the lack of “seat
time” in quarter-mile racing, Dan and RJ looked to “Sportsmen” racing
events when he turned 17. Everything changed in 1987 when RJ entered the La Carrera Classica in Mexico in a 1969 Camaro with a race-built 540-cubic-inch big-block engine. The stresses of the overpowered engine in 150-mph sweepers proved too much for the Camaro’s stock chassis, sending driver RJ, co-pilot Chris Kaufmann, and the car out of control, where it hit a wall and was destroyed. Losing no time, RJ and his father located another ’69 Camaro, kept the engine, and built in a Stock Car chassis; and the car known as Big Red was born. They handily took the win at the 1988 La Carrera Classica, and soon became legendary. At the same time, RJ also was competing in SCCA and IMSA cars. RJ cut his teeth on the racing circuit with drivers like Robby Gordon, Steve Millen, and Jeremy Dale. 

All the while, RJ raced his now infamous Big Red Camaro at one-off specialty events like the La Carrera and Nevada’s Silver State Classic Challenge, setting records in Big Red, as well as winning the SCCA Super Production Class Championship. 

While RJ was in college, he continued to race the IMSA GTS, and they continued to bring Big Red every year to the Silver State Classic Challenge. By 1992, RJ was working full time and was headed to graduate school in Indiana. Dan sold all the family race cars except for one. Big Red was sent to and put on display at Don Laughlin’s Classic Car Museum at the Riverboat Casino in Laughlin, Nevada fter 10 years, RJ returned to California, and he and his Dad began the work of pulling the iconic Outlaw Racer out of retirement. The complete restoration lasted nearly a year, and took the car beyond its former glory with upgrades in technology not available in the ’80s. Team Big Red, many of whom had been onboard since the beginning, raced the car a few times before its big comeback at the Silver State Classic Challenge in 2006.

Since then, RJ and the team have been more active than ever, making multiple appearances and setting more records at events like The Texas Mile, Virginia City Hill Climb, Mojave Mile, VARA’s Big Bore Bash. Silver State Classic, SCTA Land Speed Racing at El Mirage and Bonneville and, most recently, The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

The Big Red's Crew