Monster Energy Interview | Silver State 300 Winner Skyler Howes

Published On: 4/30/2024

What was supposed to be a shakedown with his Monster Energy/Honda Rally Team CRF450 Rally became a win and some much-needed momentum for Howes.

One of Monster Energy/Honda Rally Team’s major moves at the end of the 2023 competition season was to acquire heralded American off-road motorcycle racer Skyler Howes.

Howes was proven, “can’t miss” racer who would help put the Monster Energy/Honda global off-road program over the top in terms of talent. With a serious western U.S. desert and foothills riding/racing background and multiple years of Dakar Rally experience, Howes would be able to step in right from the start and help push, and possibly lead, his Monster Energy/Honda teammates to great heights – including a highly sought-after team championship at the ’24 Dakar Rally, endurance off-road motorcycle racing’s pinnacle event and the opening round of the FIM World Rally-Raid Championship.

But as can often happen in the world of motorsports, and especially with high stakes off-road motorcycle racing, a bump in the road, quite literally, would send Howes flying off his Monster Energy-shod Honda CRF450 Rally during an important pre-Dakar training session in Morocco, breaking the tibia head on his knee and sending some hairline fracture lines spider webbing through his spine.

As tough as the guys at this level are, barely a month of healing later and Howes was there at the starting line at Dakar – a testament to the intestinal fortitude of the DIY Utah native. But from there, as if the off-road gods figure they were going to test him even more, a rare mechanical gremlin reared up in his Honda and ended his ’24 Dakar Rally barely after it began.

With Monster Energy/Honda making the preseason decision not to contest the following WRRC round (Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge) in February, in favor of more testing on the re-designed CRF450 Rally, Howes was faced with some time to reflect and, in his words, get things right with his body. So with the help of a trainer, a nutritionist and, of course, his riding buddies back home in Utah, Howes went on a serious mend.

The effort would pay off in early April as Howes stepped up and was this close to making the podium at WRRC’s third round, the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid in Portugal, before a late race crash earned him a respectable top five (4th) place finish.

Keeping that momentum rolling, Howes worked to dial in his CRF450 Rally bike over the next few weeks, training in the western U.S. in hopes of getting the perfect settings on his bike for the upcoming WRRC stop in Argentina – the Desafio Ruta 40. And this work would lead to the decision to shakedown the bike in a race setting, with Howes booting up to run the Best in the Desert’s Silver State 300 in Nevada – a race that he won this past weekend - for the fourth time in his career.

Monster Energy picked things up with Howes to get his take on his comeback from the preseason crash, his effort in Portugal, the big win in Nevada and the upcoming Ruta 40 in Argentina. Here you go…


Monster Energy: Before we get into your big Silver State 300 win this past weekend, let’s take a second to discuss your year to date with Monster Energy/Honda. Start with Morocco back in October and your gnarly get off there. The knee back to 100 percent, or is it still on the mend?

Skyler Howes: Yeah, came out of Morocco with a broken tibia plateau in knee, some other issues with my back. So going into Dakar was a bit tough. Then we ran into a mechanical issue on Day 5 (at Dakar), which took me out of the race. That was a big bummer. But as far as my health goes, since Dakar, I’ve been able to get things back on track, despite having had back to back to back injuries at races. 

ME: After the Monster Energy/Honda HRC Rally team took the Abu Dhabi round of the World Rally-Raid Championship off, you had some extra time to prepare for Portugal’s Ultimate Rally-Raid round. Talk about that time on the Honda CRF450 Rally, getting to know the bike better and coming out strong for the Portugal WRRC round.

SH: So before the Dakar round we had less than four months of ride time to prepare, which really isn’t a lot of time to get an entirely new bike dialed in (Howes had previously raced for BAS KTM and the Husqvarna factory program). After Dakar, with Abu Dhabi off the plate, I actually felt a bit of a relief. But I definitely wasn’t 100 percent. (I) had some tests done and worked to get my health back in order and focused on training. For me, I just didn’t feel right. And it wasn’t necessarily just bike time, but my health, really. The tests showed I was clinically deficient in all areas, even gut health. So I got all that taken care of, utilizing a nutrition expert, a trainer. Getting the body back was the most important.

Howes continued: I was able to do some riding during this time and, at Portugal (WRRC round), I really felt like my old self. Previously, I’d been pushing it, but my effort didn’t match the times. And now that I had that all that sorted, back in Portugal, everything started matching up. My times showed that a good effort would get me a top three position.

ME: Portugal looked to be considerably different than the Empty Quarter desert in Saudi Arabi, where they run Dakar. Sand gave way to technical, gravel roads, rocky sections – and it rained, practically biblically, heading into the race. How did all that effect your mindset?

SH: Portugal was definitely more of an enduro race, versus open desert valley – which is more my style. So to be able to put up good results, in an area that was not my forte, it was super nice. I’d really started to feel like I’d put my health issues behind. Felt like my old self.

ME: You looked to have a 3rd place podium result in reach for Portugal when, on the final stage, you augured in pretty good. What happened there?

SH: I was pushing hard to get on the podium. I’d gained a minute on the person I need to beat at the first check point, so really pushing it. Then towards the end of the stage I hit a tree root in the shadows, and it kicked me over the bars. I’d lost a couple minutes, but still was able to finish the race. 

ME: Did you return from Portugal with any sort of injury?

SH: No broken bones, nothing like that. Super sore muscles. Neck shoulder and back. Really locked up and tight. Still having some issues with my collarbone. I’d received a deep bone bruise, which has been a slow process to get it go heal. So there was a few weeks where I had to recover again. But I was able to do some testing with the team last week, which loosened me up. Felt like getting activated, going racing again.

ME: Given this is your first year with Honda HRC and you’re still relatively new to the CRF450 Rally, talk about being able to get back on the bike for more testing prior to the Silver State 300.

SH: We were just back in Barstow (Calif.) for testing. I made some setting adjustments in Portugal. Felt really comfortable, really positive. Wanted to take those settings and see if they worked in the desert. And we basically just made those settings on my training bike, with the plans to set up my race bike (in Argentina) the same way. But it still was really close. We had to fine tune it a bit, but the steps we made in Portugal earlier this month was a huge step in the right direction by me. Starting over from scratch was a huge move. 

ME: So that brings us to this past weekend and the Best in the Desert’s Silver State 300. Talk a bit about that race, your history there, and what it means to you.

SH: Yeah, just about every time I’ve raced it I’ve won it. Four times in five years I think.

ME: Was this one of the races that motivated you to work to get to the global competition level?

SH: Yeah, this one and the (BitD) Vegas to Reno. Back when I was really trying to find myself in off-road, trying to race Baja, Best in the Desert, build the resume in hopes of getting support, racing the Silver Stage and Vegas to Reno really helped me a lot. (I) started soloing those races, which gave me the confidence to take on the long stage rally races such as Dakar. I would say Vegas to Reno was the big turning point for me, winning it solo was 2019 (Howes is the only racer to win Vegas to Reno solo, and he’s done it twice). That was the real turning point. And that’s when I really started to push for the long distance stuff.

ME: So you took over the Silver State 300 MC Pro Open race lead at the halfway point, roughly the two-hour mark. What went down in the first half of the race for you?

SH: I was feeling out how my body was reacting, still from Portugal. So I didn’t really push it super hard. They’d got a ton of rain day before, which made the first half of the course muddy and pretty slippery. I didn’t want to have any issues. I’d started four minutes behind leader, and already made up three minutes in first 45 miles, Over the next 100 miles I’d closed the distance even more. At Pit Three, my one and only scheduled pit, I refilled (the Honda CRF450 Rally holds around eight gallons of fuel). But the gas tank has a relatively small opening, and even though I came in right on the leader’s (Shane Logan/KTM) rear tire, I lost 1:15 while refueling. So it took a while to catch back up.

ME: At that point Corbin McPherson would take over (for Logan). Talk about the second half of the race.

SH: I could tell by their marks (tire marks in the wet dirt, sand and gravel) that I was following were where I could make up the most time. I could read how they were braking and accelerating, and figured out how I could catch them (McPherson). It was in the rocky, technical sections where I could gained the most time – and ended up making the pass for the physical lead.

ME: That’s interesting, how the rain actually helped you read what was going on in front of you – without having a view of the lead bike for much of the time.

SH: Yes, being able to see their tracks, read their lines, how they’re setting up for corners, or how they slipped in the mud – it was a huge advantage to be able to gauge this. And, normally, starting from behind in a Best in the Desert or Baja race is a massive disadvantage because of the dust. But in this race it actually helped a lot.

ME: So from that passing point in the rocky section to the finish, it was pretty smooth sailing for you?

SH: (Laughing) At one point I had to stop and open a farmer’s gate.

ME: Did your game plan for the second half of the race change once you had the lead?  And how were you able to pull seven minutes on the KTM bike?

SH: That second half, it’s weird, after having lines in front of you for the first half of the race. With none, for me, that’s why I love racing rally or races like this. It’s up to you to interpret the terrain. I actually started riding much better when I was drawing the first mark. The dirt dried out a little bit, less mud, and I kept getting more confident with our settings and that the bike was going to hold me. I was hitting my marks really, really well. So I dropped the hammer at that point. Really put the bike in heavy race conditions, because when I go to Argentina , there’s no opportunities to make big changes. So I was really happy with the settings we gained from here (Silver State 300).

ME: In terms of your competition last weekend, both Logan and McPherson are pretty fast. Had you competed much with those guys in the past?

SH: Corbin (McPherson) is a local kid here in my same home town. I’ve mentored him quite a bit on being a professional racer. I’ve raced with him a few times, but he’s more hare and hound, some desert. Shane, unless it’s been at a Best in the Desert, I don’t believe I’ve raced him that often.

ME: So talk about that winning feeling, coming in not only in 1st place in the Pro Open motorcycle division, but also putting up, by far, the fastest time out of all the divisions – including quads, UTVs and buggies.

SH: This area, this is my happy place. I grew up in southern Utah with red sand and clay. In Nevada it’s gray dirt and lots and lots of rocks. This area (Caliente, Nevada, where BitD holds the Silver State 300) is where the very first race I won was held, back in 2011. So I’ve been racing around here for the better part of 15 years. I’m really comfortable racing in Nevada as it’s always been my next door neighbor. And the Silver State has always been one of my favorites. Lot of flow, and gosh, so much fun. Speed, two wheel drifting, up and down hills. In the past we did 300 miles in like 4.5 hours. But this year, with the rain, I ran 265 in four hours and 52 minutes. The last 75 miles were super physical; ditches rocks, sharp turns – my heart rate was high, but so much fun. All the stuff I love condensed into the last portion of the race. I was having a blast.

ME: So in a couple weeks you’re off to Argentina with the rest of the Monster Energy/Honda HRC Rally team for the Desafio Ruta 40. Talk a bit about that race and what you’re expecting.

SH: This is my first time in Argentina. Ever. So I’ve looked at past years that they’ve been down there. Looking at past winners, like (American) Kurt Caselli, who’s won it before. Looked at what he did. This year there’s more gravel roads (at the Ruta 40). Realistically, it’s probably closer to Silver State, which I just raced. So settings should be good.

ME: And any advance advice from your Monster Energy/Honda teammates?

SH: Tosha (Schareina) did really well there last year (he won). Pablo (Quintanilla) and Adrien (Van Beveren) do well there also. So I’ll definitely rely on their intel and advice. But, overall, I think the terrain will suit me. Fast and twisty gravel roads. I think it’ll be really fun. Gets you more back into the original rally style. I’m excited for that. Not who can open the stage and collect the bonus, but who has more rally race craft.

ME: Also, riders have spoken about how great the fan support is down in Argentina.

SH: That was the nice thing about Portugal, having the fans there cheering us on. I’ve heard Argentina is the same. People who are passionate about the sport, the culture down there. Especially for my first time, I’m really excited for that. So I’ll look to turn the thing around. Get things back in order, which helped with a win at Silver State. Go into Argentina ready. 

ME: Alright. Well, from everyone at Monster Energy HQ, best of luck to you down in Argentina and we’ll look forward to following the Ruta 40 through the FIM World Rally-Raid Championship’s website.

SH: Thank you. And thank you to Monster Energy for their continued support of off-road racing.


Up next… The FIM World Rally-Raid Championship moves to Argentina for the 12th running of the Desafio Ruta 40, June 2nd through 8th. For more info on WRRC and Monster Energy’s racers with Honda and Hero, link to: