The win came as a bit of a surprise to some in the industry, including those close to the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series. Bright is fast and proved that last year with a number of podium finishes in AMA Arenacross Lites class racing. However, at 17-years-old and with not-so-resounding amateur racing accolades, many felt Bright was still a ways off before he could challenge the likes of defending Toyota AMA Arenacross Series champion Danny Smith, along with former champions Chad Johnson and Robbie Reynard.
Sentiments shared by most, but not Bright’s teammate/team owner and mentor, Jim Neese.
“Tyler and I were watching practice at Des Moines and he was like ‘I can’t believe how fast these guys are,’” said Neese, adding that Bright, who had raced AMA Arenacross Lites up to that point, seemed a bit intimidated. “I told him Tyler, ‘Thing is, you don’t get to see yourself practice. And these guys you’re watching now? They’re saying the same thing about you.’”
Neese’s MX equivalent of a Lombardi football speech didn’t quite sink in right away as Bright failed to qualify – even failed to get out of the afternoon program’s pre-qualifiers – for the Des Moines stop. But on the flight home to North Carolina, and during the subsequent practice sessions that week – something clicked. Bright came into Albany this past Saturday and uncorked a great start in the main event, rode fast and smart enough to take the checkers, then uncorked some non-alcoholic champagne with his first-ever AMA Arenacross class win.
“I have to admit I felt a little pride with him there up on the podium,” said Neese, who ran in 2nd place for much of the race, before winding up on the podium as well in 3rd.
We caught up with the talkative Bright on his way to the gym Monday night, still glowing from his first-ever Toyota AMA Arenacross Series Arenacross class win.
Question: Tyler, you came into Toyota AMA Arenacross Aeries last year somewhat under the radar for people who don’t know you. Tell us a bit about your amateur racing background.
Tyler Bright: I raced Loretta’s from ’99 to 2002, and again in 2004. I never had any outstanding results there. I got 9th in the 250 B class at the Mini O’s in 2005. But I won’t lie - I didn’t train that hard back then. It wasn’t until I turned pro last year that I started taking training seriously.
Discuss your first year racing pro on the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series tour.
I did like half the Toyota Arenacross Series last year. Had a couple Lites highlights, but not much. Arenacross kept me going during the winter months, getting me ready for supercross east. Arenacross is a good thing to get you prepared for supercross. It’s competitive and aggressive and that’s what I like the most. After arenacross Bad Boy Power Drink got me to some supercross events, and then I raced eight Nationals – making the main event in six of them. It was during that time that I really started to train outdoors hard. We’ve got an arenacross track here that I’d ride every day getting ready for this season. And if it rained I’d ride our MX track. Every day.
You pulled off a bit of a Toyota AMA Arenacross Series ‘shocker’ win this past Saturday in Albany. Talk about that.
Up to this point my parents, my close friends – everybody I know - was telling me ‘You can do it!’ Gavin Gracyk, who I train with a lot, was saying the same thing. So at Albany I just put my head down and was able to beat everybody out front. When I was there (leading) I just kept telling myself to breath. Then I went to lap Brock (Sellards) and he wouldn’t get out of my way, which was a little intimidating. When I finally won it was the greatest feeling ever. I know I can win now. I’ve won once, which means I can do it again.
One key aspect to your victory is your relationship with Jim Neese. How important has Neese been to your motocross career?
Oh man, ever since I was a kid racing the local races I always stood along the fence and watched Jim race. Him and guys like Kevin Walker. I always looked up to Jim knowing he’s won and done real well. So when we started to work together he was able to show me where you make up time in arenacross – whoops and corners. And in 10th of seconds. Jim’s taught me where to make up time and where to relax. He’s definitely been a big part of my success.
What goals have you set for yourself this season, Tyler?
Well, me and my mechanic, Isaiah Murth, have known each other since we were kids growing up in Lexington (N.C.). We’ve always had a great bond, which is real important between a racer and his mechanic. We sat down before the season started and he said, ‘Dude, if you get a good start, you can win. I’m not lyin’, you can win.’ So my goal was that I knew I could get in the top five, but to win was going to be crazy – which makes Albany that much more amazing.
Tickets for the Nov. 16-17 Toyota AMA Arenacross at the Reno Livestock Events Center are available through www.arenacross.com, at the Reno Livestock Events Center box office, Silver Legacy Casino, any Ticketmaster location, including www.ticketmaster.com or charge by phone at (775) 787-TIXS. Fees and handling may apply. Show times are Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Sunday (amateurs) at 12:00. Doors open Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m., Sunday at 11 a.m. Friday and Saturday advance tickets are $20 for adults, $7 for kids ages 2-12. Sunday’s tickets are $12 for adults, $6 for kids. All seats are $2 more day of show. Note: Tickets for the 2008 Reno Toyota AMA Arenacross round will go on sale 11/18 at 6 p.m.