The origin of Rocket Chassis comes from Mark Richards Racing Inc., which Richards formed with Baker in the fall of 1986.
Richards sold his share of WRC Racing to Rodney Combs after a seven-year run with the business while Baker left his job running a transmission shop for a friend to begin building Bullitt Race Cars for Ray Callahan, first out of the garage at Richards's home and soon after a 4,000 square-foot shop in Shinnston, W.Va., that is where Rocket Chassis sits – with much more work space, of course - today.
Five years later, in the fall of 1991, Baker and Richards turned Mark Richards Racing Inc. into its now more well-known title, Rocket Chassis, when they began building cars of their own. The first car was completed that year over Thanksgiving weekend; Davey Johnson, Mike Balzano and Rick Eckert were among the initial drivers to take delivery of Rocket machines and by February of 1992 nearly 30 cars had already been built - before the racing season had even begun.
In Rocket's first full year on the scene, in 1992, Baker and Richards sold nearly 70 cars. They haven't slowed down since as Rocket Chassis has grown into the most prolific builder of Dirt Late Models in the country. By the early 2000s the company was selling over 300 cars a year and currently averages in the neighborhood of 250 new chassis with every flip of the calendar.
"Basically, we call this an R&D program," Richards says of the Rocket house car program, which was begun in the early '90s in partnership with West Virginia driver Tim Hitt before Richards and Baker brought it fully under Rocket's roof in 2000. "If we don't R&D, we can build cars 'till we're blue in the face and we couldn't tell anybody what to do with them.
Rocket's house car program and aggressive technical initiatives have resulted in this year's introduction of the Rocket XR1 Chassis, the most radical redesign of the Rocket car in years. The hard work put into the machine has produced a car that is regularly winning races and keeping Rocket Chassis in the headlines.
"We try to stay in line with what the current wave, or trend, is," Richards says. "Everyone at Rocket works hard to give our customers the best quality r ace cars and service. That's always been the key to our success."