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The Name’s Hall. Shelby Hall.

Somewhere in the desert outside Reno, Nevada, kneeling in front of a towering sagebrush, five-year-old Shelby Hall grins for the camera. She’s wearing her signature uniform: a car-themed t-shirt (today it’s Hummer), a pair of hand-me-down jean shorts and her pink sparkly cowgirl boots. She’s just pushed her dark brunette bangs aside to get a better look at her freshly-plucked prize — a handful of dusty Nevadan dirt.

It may as well be fairy dust.

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Born in the Driver’s Seat

In her own words, nothing captures Shelby Hall more accurately than that photo — a little pink, a little sparkly, entirely covered in dirt, and happy as a clam about it all. Born and raised in Nevada by multiple generations of off-road racers, Shelby grew up in the photograph, taken on the sidelines of one of her family’s many days spent teaching off-road driving courses in the deserts outside Reno. Shelby’s grandfather, Rod Hall, was the most decorated off-road racer of all time when he passed away in 2019, and Rod’s sons Chad and Josh, Shelby’s father, kept the family alive in themselves and their children.

“One of my earliest memories was of my mom and dad running this driving school out in the desert. Whenever class was over, I would beg my dad to take me for a ride in the truck. He would strap me in and I couldn't even see over the dash but even though I couldn't see anything, I would just beg him to go faster and faster.” – Shelby Hall

As a young child, Shelby understood that what her parents did for a living was fun, but the significance of their family’s role within the world of off-road motorsports was lost on her. Her grandfather Rod, who she was quite close with, was just ‘papa’ to Shelby. Then, she got an internship at the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame, and it began to dawn on her.

“I always knew that what my family did was different, but it never seemed like that big of a deal to me. I ended up working at the Hall of Fame for like eight or nine years and in that time, I did a lot of research on everyone who had been inducted, including my grandpa. That’s when I learned what a total badass he was!”

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Early Lessons

In 2012, Shelby began racing with her grandfather — and he did not coddle her. He had Shelby sit shotgun for one race, explaining his every move as he made it. He mentioned speed a lot, especially the moments where, if they came around for another lap, he would do something different.

Rod, like all great drivers, was meticulous. Even changes as minute as a one-mile-per-hour speed adjustment were mentioned to his protegé. He talked through his cornering strategy when to brake, when to gas, how to handle every obstacle, how to pass and get passed safely, and more. At the end of the race, Shelby’s head was swimming with information.

Then, he got out of the driver’s seat and tossed her the keys.

I was terrified! But I was also really excited. We raced for the next few years with me in the driver’s seat, up until he got sick and wasn’t able to do it anymore. I learned more in that short time than I could ever articulate.” 

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The Boomerang Effect

Life in the off-road industry isn’t something you can half commit to. You have to give 100% of your energy to the sport just to contend — and you have to give well over 110% to consistently win. During her years racing with her grandfather, Shelby missed her fair share of birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries to travel and race or prepare to travel and race. She found herself craving a more stable life.

After her grandfather passed, Shelby took some time away from racing to dabble in real estate and a few other “regular jobs.” She calls this period “her years of rebellion.” Her time away didn’t last long.

She’s a Hall, after all.

“I wasn’t very happy during my time away. You don’t get the same level of gratification from other jobs. In a race car, I’m my most creative, my most meditative, and my most excited to get up and go to work each day. There are days where it’s a struggle and a sacrifice, but I now know that living a life I'm not happy with is so much worse.”     

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Ready for Launch

Unhappy outside of the driver’s seat, Shelby considered how to climb back in. That’s when destiny called. Well, technically it was the Ford Motor Company. They were putting together a racing team as a part of their re-launch of the Bronco — the vehicle Rod Hall, Shelby’s grandfather, made history in a number of times throughout his career.

The Ford Bronco Racing Team was stacked with talent, all of whom welcomed Shelby back to off-road life with wise and open arms. Almost picking up where her grandfather left off, Shelby had a group of mentor-collaborators to learn from and be inspired by again. She hadn’t felt this energized in years.

“Joining Team Bronco was a pivotal moment for me. Surrounded by so many passionate and talented drivers, I got re-hooked. I felt a part of the community again. And even after the launch was over, I decided to go all-in on racing.”

Today, on top of her activities as a racer, Shelby is planning another Bronco launch — one that’s all her own. Part of it will be off-roading 101 courses, where Shelby will teach newcomers how to off-road in their Bronco. They’ll talk about radios, trail etiquette, maintenance tasks, tires, and more. Another part will host top-tier off-road experiences and events that appeal to women and men alike.

“I love racing but I also have a big passion for the business and community-building sides of off-roading. As a Hall, I took a massive shortcut to feeling at home in off-road spaces. Not everyone gets that shortcut. I want to create a platform where it’s totally okay to not know what you’re doing. Everyone has to start somewhere. I want to be that somewhere.”

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A Legacy Shaped like Shelby

When Rod Hall passed away in 2019, a flood of people reached out to the family, all of them had stories. Small encounters where Rod said something or did something that stuck with them. Many of these people Rod probably didn’t even remember meeting. But they remembered him. And they felt connected to him.

“That’s really when the gravity of his legacy sunk in for me. If I could leave a mark on people like that, but in my own shape, that'd be it. That’s success. That’s what I’m building for.”

She’s well on her way. Shelby made it to the podium at the Baja 1000 in 2012 (1st Place, Hummer H3, Stock Mini), 2013 (2nd Place, Hummer H3, Stock Mini), 2016 (1st Place, Hummer H1, Stock Full), and most recently in 2020 (2nd Place, Ford Bronco R, Class 2). She also regularly competes in the Mint 400 and the Rebelle Rally, with a notable 2020 1st Place finish in the X-Cross Class.

After racing team-owned trucks for decades, this year, Shelby began a build of her own. Her Wildcat XX side-by-side will be the first racing vehicle ever built specifically for her — an exciting opportunity for a smaller driver like Shelby. At her garage in Southern California, she works on the build and the next chapter of her driving career that it represents. Her grandfather’s legendary Bronco watches over from the driveway.

Shelby is grateful to be a Hall. After a few detours in life, her family’s calling is hers again. It’s a legacy that looms tall, if quiet, just outside in the driveway. It can feel hard to live up to, some days.

Hard, but worth it.

Just like racing.

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