Starts are bananas to begin with in-stadium dirt bike racing. Once you survived that mess, where did you feel your veteran experience helped you most on the track? And in addition to that, talk more about that confidence level being elevated by the fact you were racing a Factory Yamaha.
I would say, having experience benefits me the most for not necessarily one obstacle, or area of the track, but more like knowing the race-craft. The sense of knowing that, if I don’t get the start, try to stay one step ahead of the other guys. Think of what to do 30 seconds down the track. Racing supercross is tough, let alone against 21 other guys who are all very good. So with experience comes knowing how to pass, where to pass, and maybe where not to pass. Having the race-craft of knowing what to do and when to do it is helpful. I’d say, that if I had to pick a section of the track where there can be an advantage, it’d have to be the whoops. The whoop section in supercross is a pretty big separator. And it’s one of my strong points in general. Add to that the confidence of being on the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha 250, which is arguably the best bike that’s out there right now, which definitely helps as well.
So in a way that can go both ways… knowing you’ve got the best bike. You’ve got no excuses, right? Aside from performance, was there a psychological advantage knowing you had the best-of-the-best components? And understanding that, was there a battle within the race that had you psych yourself up mentally, knowing that you had no choice but to perform in a big way on that Factory Yamaha?
Yeah, right off the start it’s a big mental advantage. You see the truck. See all the No. 1 plates on the door. You walk in and out of that thing and you see the guys, all those championships. So the first thing you’re thinking is that ‘I have everything I need now for my success,’ knowing that you have that group of guys behind you. Then you can go either way with it. You can put all the pressure on yourself, or view this as the best-of-the-best. ‘So let’s get out there and make it happen.’ You have the dream everybody wants. You know you have it in you. So be confident in your ability to make it happen. The pieces of the puzzle are in there, ‘Now it’s just up to me to do my job.’
There are not a whole lot of people that have gained the whirlwind knowledge you have, since March, regarding the differences between a privateer ride and a factory ride. Explain to the casual motocross/motorsports fan what you discovered. What are two to three of the biggest differences between a privateer bike and a factory bike? Then also, what are some of the subtle differences that actual dirt bike owners and MX enthusiasts might not know?
The biggest difference between the two, doing the privateer thing you’re really limited to parts and modifications. Basically, as a privateer, I’m limited to what every guy can buy off the shelf. When you’re on a factory team, they make their own parts. You have an R&D department helping you gain every little advantage. And beyond that, you have an engine guy. A suspension guy. An electronics guy. A team manager. A mechanic, besides your dad. A trainer. And they’re all experts at what they do, adjusting and fine-tuning the bike from practice to the race to the next practice and race. They absolutely make the bike the best it can be. As a privateer, it’s me and my mechanic, with my dad handling my practice bike. Kind of a run what you have brung deal compared the team and parts with a factory program. And as a privateer, I wear a lot of hats. From handling all the travel details, to keeping the team running. With the factory, you show up and race. So there’s a lot less pressure involved. And that’s a really big deal.
In terms of some of the smaller, more specific kinds of things that someone who races on the weekends would find interesting, I’d say there is an unbelievable amount of trick parts and options. Say, if you want your footpegs moved from the standard position, up 5mm or back 5mm. Or if you feel you need a bit more bottom end based on the track, the capabilities to the smallest detail are just endless on the factory team. And also, too, you’ve got to remember they’ve already done all that testing. So they can advise me, in addition to me and my preferences. So it’s not just me telling them what I need. From RPM ranges on the start, to mapping the engine – it’s just endless. Any weekend warrior can go out and buy the same bike and parts I have versus what the factory teams can offer. So that’s what you’re up against.
When you were hanging out in the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha hauler, did you ever rifle through the parts drawers, check out all the magnesium, titanium – unobtanium – parts, right down to the tiniest cogs, springs, spacers, and fasteners? What was some of the coolest stuff in there?
The organization of every part of the motorcycle, and how much stuff there is in a factory hauler, is incredible. All the titanium. So trick, so badass. It’s crazy. And those guys know where everything is, how much they have. It’s just like artwork. And I was a kid in the candy store there.
Just like your van?
(Laughter) Compared to my van, for me, it’s super limited. I basically have three plastic tote bins with as much spare parts that I can pack in there. Just enough to get by, making the most of what you have. But we all do that so maybe someday you'll have an opportunity with a factory team. And you’re not going to get there by sitting on the couch and complaining. You don’t put in the effort to get the chance… you don’t get the chance. Pretty simple… you’ve got to work twice as hard as a privateer, with less, to get this opportunity.
One thing you probably did miss, even though you had a team of guys swarming over your Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha YZ250F, was having your dad (Gary) there – wrench in hand, ready with the advice he’s given you since you were a kid. Talk about that special relationship between a privateer dirt bike racer that makes it to the pros, and how close he (or she) is with their father.
My dad’s been a HUGE part of my career, and life for that matter. I definitely wouldn’t be here without his support. For the last couple years, he’s been my practice bike mechanic while owning his own business. He works nonstop but is still able to come to a lot of my races. This has been awesome for me to see my dad be a part of this (Yamaha’s factory team) as well. Been very enjoyable for me to not only share it with him but my wife (Britney) and mom (Donna) as well.
That said, how was it working with the staff at Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha? Which mechanic was assigned to you and how did that relationship work out on such short notice?
I’ve actually had two mechanics. I started with Daniel Castloo, who was Justin Cooper’s mechanic, then also worked with Hunter Layton, who was Jeremy Martin’s mechanic. Both were excellent at what they do. It’s a big job to trust your mechanic, and they did everything properly. And that’s a big thing. I’ve been fortunate to have some great mechanics through my privateer years, and when I didn’t my dad was able to step in. So for me to ride for a team with that caliber of mechanics, the best-of-the-best, was incredible. And any of the guys on the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha team would be capable of handling the mechanic duties. They all work together, every day, at some point or another. They all work with the same system and are very capable at what they do. So I had no problem switching between the two mechanics at all.
Aside from your heat race win at Foxborough, what will you take home as some of the better memories with your time spent this season on a Factory Yamaha?
I’d say the St. Louis Triple Crown. I was really close to the overall podium with a 4-4-3 for 4th. It was a great thing to be that close, and to actually make a podium in one of the main events. The top-five finish in Boston (Foxborough) as well. But overall I’d say the St. Louis weekend, battling for the overall podium, was just awesome.
Thanks, Kyle. Any parting words of advice to the young Monster Army motocross kids?
Sure. To be a pro, first and foremost, you really have to enjoy riding, racing and competing. You see the results on TV on Saturday, but you really don’t see all the hard work that goes in to getting there. So much to it. And there’s days where you don’t want to do it. Maybe you’re hurt, or there’s something else going on. But you have to outlast those days. If you want to be professional at this, know there are times that are going to be difficult. So long as your drive’s there, it’ll all be worth it in the end. To get to that level you’ve got to enjoy it. Work every day at it, both good and bad days, and the ceiling will be endless as to how far you can go.
Awesome. Thanks, Kyle. Give ‘em heck at the final two Monster Energy AMA Supercross rounds. We’ll be tuning in!