Kyle Loftis started and runs the hottest street and drag racing media company on the internet. 1320Video’s YouTube channel has over one million subscribers and its Facebook page over three million likes. Loftis films anything and everything that goes fast in a straight line, whether on a track or the street. Any die-hard, active street or drag racer has seen the logo or heard of 1320Video if they’re not a follower, subscriber or customer already. The name comes from the distance of 1,320 feet, the traditional length of a drag race. Loftis’ combination of innate business savvy, love of racing and unstoppable work ethic has been the catalyst of 1320Video’s success.
The Staging Lanes
The car bug bit Loftis through the car audio competition world in high school. “My dream job was to work at Stereo West, a big shop here in town (Omaha) and Lincoln, where I grew up,” Loftis says. He eventually landed that dream job and started building “bigger and badder” car stereo systems for competition in sound quality and sound pressure level (SPL). At the height of his competition career, Loftis’ Neon held six 15-inch subwoofers, 10 batteries and produced 5000 watts of power. This should provide an idea of the dedication and passion he puts into his interests. The immersion in this culture led him to his first street race, an event that captured his attention completely. That spark eventually grew and developed into the current 1320Video phenomenon.During the stereo competitions, Loftis took pictures and some video with a basic point and shoot camera to share on the message boards. The interest in photography and shooting video grew, as well as an obsession to share the images with others. Sharing imagery of what happened at the SPL competitions became part of the show for Loftis. Then he got a taste of the “go fast” stuff. “When I was working at the stereo shop, one of the guys took me out to a street race right around the time that Fast and Furious came out,” he says. It was a time when street racing was gaining massive attention. Cars at the meeting place numbered somewhere in the 400 to 500 range and six police cruisers and a helicopter showed up. Loftis’ adrenaline levels spiked before any racing had even taken place. “I was just hooked,” he says.
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Loftis continued taking pictures and shooting videos, only now he did it at street races and street car events. Without realizing it at the time, he began to develop the model for 1320Video. “Every time I’d go to a race I’d take more pictures and shoot more video, and I wanted to find different ways to share that,” he says. “So I signed up on as many street car-type forums as I could, and then I would just blast the photo albums and videos all over those. That was my original social media.” Loftis and his early followers weren’t completely satisfied with the quality of the videos. They held a fundraiser and split the proceeds with the Red Cross in Omaha. With the other half of the money, Loftis purchased his first video camera.One of Loftis’ early goals was to gather all of the local street racers onto one message board. Loftis interacted with numerous national message boards, but nothing existed for the local Omaha scene. “My friend sent me a link to a message board that had just been created a few hours before called Omaha Racing,” he says. He contacted the creator of the message board. The original intent of the new board was a place for the creator and his friends, but Loftis talked him into making it available for all of the street racers in town. He went around his college campus and put flyers on all the modified cars he could find. The message board exploded, offering a glimpse into Loftis’ ability to reach people and create growth. “Within like two weeks they had 600 members, and it ended up being like 12,000 in the end.”
Loftis went on a mission to find bigger races and cooler experiences. It was never part of a master plan; he just enjoyed filming and sharing street races. At first using a friend’s server to host the videos, then having a host server in his dorm room as part of the Nebraska Neons Car Club, Loftis drove a Dodge Neon at the time, he continued filming street races and sharing his videos. “I would just hot link all these message boards to download the videos I would edit, which eventually got too big,” he says. But Loftis resisted going the YouTube route at first. “I would eventually embed my videos in my website so people would go to the website to download them or watch them and hopefully buy DVDs.” He released his first street racing DVD in 2003 and worried that YouTube might detract from sales. Friends told him YouTube was the way to go and in 2006 Loftis started posting to YouTube to see if it would attract a new audience. It did.Using YouTube to build an audience and push people to his website, and sending his website traffic to YouTube to watch videos, once he advertised, the whole package turned into something that fed off of itself and possessed unlimited potential for growth. Loftis has, with the help of many friends along the way, pioneered the way a street car/street race media business operates and the model has been copied with success. “I’ve seen a lot of my friends in different locations around the US kind of mimic what I do and it’s really cool to see,” he says. “It’s good to have competition. They’re in the same world I’m in and bring in video and stuff that I don’t film.” It’s another clear indicator that getting racing videos out for the masses truly fuels Kyle Loftis.
Loftis’ credibility within the racing community comes from his determination to be at races, talk to people at those races, and film the best footage he and his crew possibly can. “It’s been an ongoing accumulation of different contacts, races and word of mouth,” he says. “I’ve grown this and found opportunities really based off of that.” His ability to impress event owners played a large role in the development of the company. Owners and promoters he’s worked with have referred him to other event owners, or they see his work online and they reach out to him. Loftis’ contacts include some of the biggest names in the street racing scene. A particular street race in the Midwest was a pivotal point in connecting with some of the major players.Filming a Cash Days-style (participant buy in, single elimination, winner takes all) event in St. Louis managed by a gentlemen known as “Limpy,” set up Loftis and 1320Video for invitations to some of the biggest street racing events in the country. Even though the St. Louis event was a bust and only saw two races, Loftis was in the right place at the right time. “The remaining 10 people split the pot, but from making a video of that and being at that race, I inadvertently met a lot of the big players in the street car world that are still around today, and those guys are running the big events that we film,” he says. Limpy invited Loftis to Dallas (where StreetOutlaws personality Boosted GT invented Cash Days) for his first Cash Days event. “All of the Street Outlaws guys were racing,” Loftis says. “That was around 2006. I’ve shot like six or seven of those (Cash Days) up until they got their TV show. Most of the core Street Outlaws guys you see on that TV show, I’ve known since then.”
The Top End
What started out as a hobby has become a legitimate business venture. 1320Video has established itself in the racing business world. “We’ve got 60 some different items that we sell and direct advertising with our main sponsors is pretty big,” Loftis says. “Everyone wants to be the company that’s shown at the beginning of our YouTube videos.” Always a sound businessman, Loftis limits the video sponsorship to three spots. “They get over 100 million views a year through that exposure. Actually, probably more like 200 million based on Facebook videos and other stuff we upload,” he adds.The website (1320video.com), the YouTube channel and Facebook make up the three main sources of consumer traffic for 1320Video. “Between the three of those, they kind of create this synergy that grows the three of them together,” Loftis says. Once a video goes up on YouTube, 50,000 to 150,000 of the one million subscribers will watch it within the first few days. Once it hits Facebook and the website, there’s another spike of 20,000 to 100,000 views. 1320Video has over 430,000 followers on Instagram as well, “but the subscribers (to YouTube) are an organic way to generate views for our videos,” Loftis says. With the ability to reach that many eyes belonging to rabid car enthusiasts, aftermarket performance companies see the advantage of partnering with 1320Video.
Through The Traps
1320Video remained a hobby up until the beginning of 2015. Loftis worked at PayPal for nine and a half years as a sales engineer, a job he felt lucky to have, a job he enjoyed, and a job he felt responsible to execute to the best of his abilities. As his business and his role with PayPal both grew, things began to get very busy. PayPal was flexible and allowed Loftis creativity in getting his work done. “While I was editing videos, I’d be talking to JC Penny’s or Sears or something with their entire development team on a conference call while on the road coming back from a 1320Video shoot,” he says. In the winter of 2014 Loftis thought about 2015 and what he needed to do to take 1320Video to the next level. “I realized that I didn’t even have time to plan for it and do my PayPal gig at the same time,” he says. “I just grew to a size with both jobs that was too much. I just couldn’t do it. I had to pick one and 1320Video was the natural choice.”He gave PayPal his two week notice, and actually stayed on for another few months to help out his boss, another testament to his dedication and work ethic. But leaving PayPal was the right choice. “Knowing that this year was going to be big, I’m really glad I did it because it’s been hard to manage everything and keep my sanity with how much has gone on,” he says. “It’s been a lot of fun; it’s just been a lot to balance.” Kyle Loftis now runs 1320Video and RaceCarThings.com, a website separate from 1320Video that helps promote other people’s videos, as his full-time gig. With the popularity of street racing, grudge racing, all the other varieties of automotive enthusiasm and culture, and Loftis’ business acumen, 1320Video appears well positioned to continue its growth and popularity.
Now that Loftis focuses exclusively on his own business, his plan consists of doing many of the same things he always has, but increasing the quality and efficiency to the highest level possible. With so many things going on all the time, and the continuous upward surges in viewership, operating 1320Video full-time will keep Loftis busy year round. “The biggest challenge right now is just managing everything that’s going on,” he says “We’ve got a lot of big projects that are going on every day.” It will take a lot of time and effort to shoot video, edit video, stock merchandise, manage online sales, promote partners, look for new sponsors, manage social media, plan for the future, “and of course,” he says with a laugh, “be able to go to all the events we want to.” All this and more done to the high standard that Loftis sets for himself, crew and 1320Video. Loftis and 1320Video have also ventured into putting on their own shows. And if Loftis has his hands on it, it gets big. “We help organize a few events here in Omaha, but there’s one big one that we own called Ice Cream Cruise,” he says. “Up until this year we rented out the Omaha Storm Chasers’ parking lot, but last year we outgrew it. The lot holds about 1,600 cars and we clogged the streets and grass and gravel around the area. It was well over 3,000 cars at one point in time.” Like any good businessman, Loftis gives back as well. “We do a lot for charity,” he says. “This year we raised right around $14,000.”Kyle Loftis represents the ultimate example of working hard at doing what you love and letting the results take care of themselves. His passion for cars, and sharing with others what those cars can do, has gone from a hobby to a viable business that continues to grow and generate revenue. But change is inevitable and street racing’s reputation is not exactly golden, right? No worries, Loftis has had his finger on the pulse of the racing scene long enough to know the direction it’s taking.
“No-prep races have blown up this year,” Loftis says. “There were probably around 50 of them this year all over the US.” No-prep racing brings street racing and track racing together with more safety than a typical street race. As the name of the style implies, the track is not prepared before the race as it would be for traditional events. Track preparation consists of spraying a traction compound on the track and then dragging old tires over the compound. The chemical reaction between the compound and the old rubber creates a sticky surface over the length of the track to allow better tire grip. The prep is maintained throughout a traditional race to make the action safer and more consistent. An un-prepped track makes for a variety of excitement.“The fans love it because the cars are getting all over the place, wrecking and doing giant wheelies,” Loftis says. He adds that the racers enjoy it because it still has the feel of a street race. Trained safety personnel are present and racers have to pass a tech inspection, but the rules are a little bit more relaxed. “That’s been a really cool thing for me just because as I get older, I don’t want to risk my business or my life with the street racing as much,” he says. “It’s a place where we can still shoot all those cool cars, and that culture is still live and feels the same, but it’s in a legal environment.”
With mechanics and bodymen on both sides of the family for multiple generations, it was inevitable that Bob ended up a car guy. A writer and editor by trade, the family man has an obsession for classics, customs, hot rods, street rods, racing, imports, muscle, antiques and anything else with an engine that rolls on rubber.