Jobs They Love: Race Car Driver
Lucky are they who look forward to Mondays – or their next gig -- with joy in their hearts! Meet the folks whose talents and passions are happily matched to the jobs they have.
Texan Brian DeFrees is a noted photographer, videographer and director for bands and artists. His work is fresh and intense, fueled with the creative energy of a race car revving its engine at the starting line. That analogy is especially apt when you know that DeFrees is also a race car driver and a diehard motorsports enthusiast of every stripe.
Last month, we posted a story about the timelapse video that DeFrees took in 2012. It documented his 2,451-mile drive through seven states along the entire route of America’s famous Route 66 -- in only 3.5 minutes.
That trip was a follow-up to his 2011 two-month circumnavigation of the continental U.S., a 12,000+ miles tour through 33 states beginning and ending in Syracuse, New York. Captured on dashcam, it became the first known timelapse road trip video of its kind. That 5-minute, mind-boggling visual experience has been viewed 1.2 million times so far and earned DeFrees the moniker “Triplapser.” He’s since packed his popular YouTube channel with 26 more time-lapsed, heart-pumping road adventures.
In addition to making his popular road trip videos, DeFrees is also a 2014 Rallycross National Champion, Second Place Winner at the 2018 One Lap of America road race, and the 2020 Champcar Overall Endurance Race Winner.
When not behind the wheel, DeFrees works as a fintech program manager for ZenBusiness, a company in Austin, Texas, that provides tech solutions for small business owners.
Where did you grow up?
Cazenovia, NY (small town 20 minutes outside Syracuse, NY), and for those still lost, about 5 hours from the city and an hour south of Canada.
How did you get interested in car racing as a kid?
My Dad always had sports cars growing up and we would watch events like the Indy 500 every year. We would also go to the vintage races at Watkins Glen every year, those are some of my earliest memories in my life, especially the smells and sounds of all those old race cars.
So, what was the inspiration for your first big road trip in 2011 and for documenting it as a timelapse video along the way?
My parents had quit their jobs and taken a road trip when they got married so I was always inspired by that. I also knew I was ready to leave Albany, NY, but wasn’t sure where I wanted to settle yet, I figured what better way than seeing every city I was considering moving to back-to-back? For the timelapse, I wanted to capture the entire trip in a way that I hadn’t seen done before and something that would be easy to show to others. I had just seen this really cool video titled “Guy Walks Across America” and I loved the way it was created and executed. Something that requires covering many miles in order to create was very inspirational to me.
Your timelapse videos are trippy! It’s a kick to vicariously speed race around the country this way at the equivalent of something like 50,000 mph, while trying to recognize as many landmarks as possible! What’s the next race on your bucket list to drive and capture on video?
Don’t blink or you might miss a state! I still haven’t been to most of the western tracks like Buttonwillow, Willow Springs in CA and then all of the northwest tracks like Portland International Raceway, the Ridge, Thunderhill. I’d really like to schedule a trip sometime to go hit all those back-to-back.
What was the most unusual or particularly wild race you driven in?
That would be any One Lap of America (the modern-day Cannonball Run) where we cover 3500+ miles and 8 tracks in a week (all in our racecars) or any 24 Hours of Lemons event which is a little more difficult to describe but their website gives you an idea of what a weekend with them is like.
Any desire to compete in the Baja 1000 or Pikes Peak Climb?
Both have definitely crossed my mind; I have friends who have done both and was considering Pikes Peak for a while but no plans to do either at the moment. I’ve been up Pikes Peak twice in my race car, the first time when it was still unpaved so I feel like I got to somewhat experience what it would be like at full speed.
Even though “Jobs They Love” is about people who are passionate about what they do for a living, you are a person with many amazing talents and avocations. We chose to focus on your car racing career, but you’re also a tech manager for a company that builds business tools for entrepreneurs. How does being a race car driver, videographer, photographer and production director help you in your work as a tech designer?
It helps me approach it from more of a creative or alternative mindset vs. someone who might be more traditional or “by the book”. Since I have a diverse background and am constantly learning, it allows flexibility and creativity to approach problems and create solutions that otherwise might not have been possible within the constraints of an already existing system.
You made a hilarious Doritos Super Bowl commercial. What was that like?
Thank you! I feel lucky to have friends who were willing to act in the roles I needed them to so we could pull that off, especially poor Charles who finds non-stop misfortune in the short 30 seconds but keeps a positive attitude about it the whole time… shooting it was the same, we all had a lot of fun, especially trying to get the half-cooked pancake to land on his face. Thanks to my friends for letting us make a mess in the sake of comedy!
Does your canine buddy Herm accompany you on all your road trips?
Herm is along for every road trip I take. At this point I’m willing to bet he has seen a lot more of the U.S. than the majority of Americans have!