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5 Minutes with...Blake Wharton

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At the 2008 AMA/Air Nautiques Amateur National Motocross Championships at Loretta Lynn's, Blake Wharton had a rough go of things. In the final amateur race of his career, the shaggy haired rider from Pilot Point, Texas, placed twelfth overall in the MX Lites A class and fourth in the MX Lites A/Pro Sport division. Not exactly confidence-inspiring results considering he was set to compete in his first AMA National at Millville a fortnight later. However, come Sunday afternoon, August 17, 2008, at Spring Creek Motocross Park in Minnesota, Wharton raced to 10-4 moto scores and fifth overall in the Lites division, outshining fellow first-timers P.J. Larsen, Hunter Hewitt, Michael Hall and Alex Martin. And he didn’t stop there. A week later, the Texan got the holeshot in the opening moto at Southwick and led the first four laps before ultimately dropping back to fourth. Finishing his three-race tour off at the season-ending Steel City National with a sixth-overall finish, the GEICO Powersports Honda rider certainly left a very favorable impression on the racing community and appears to be the Next Big Thing come the 2009 Supercross Series. Today, while preparing to do some riding out in the desert of Arizona, Racer X talked with the Charlie Watts of motocross.

Racer X: Hey, Blake, what do you have going today?
Blake Wharton: Well, we left California this morning and we’re in Phoenix right now. We’re going to stay here for a couple of days. My grandma lives here and so do a couple friends and we’re going to ride here for a couple days.

  • Blake Wharton
  • Wharton at Millville
Have you been in California for a while?
Yeah, we’ve been in California for about ten days – or about two weeks, actually.

Have you been riding the motorcycle the last two weeks?
Yeah, I’ve been riding supercross, mainly, and doing a little testing and getting ready for supercross coming up.

Do you know what coast you’ll be riding in 2009?
They’re not real sure on that yet. It can change. It’s up in the air. I’ve just been at the Honda test track riding with all those guys — [Jeremy] McGrath, [Davi] Millsaps, [Brett] Metcalfe, and all those guys — and it has been good.
You’re new to supercross. How have you felt on the Honda track?
Well, it took me a little while to get used to it at first, but with supercross, you don’t need to rush it, you know? If you start rushing things, then you make mistakes, and if you make mistakes in supercross, the ground is a lot harder. In other words, you can’t case a jump. So, I just took my time and picked it up slowly. I feel good right now. I’m just kind of anxious to get supercross started here in a couple of months. We’ve been practicing and testing and getting everything good.

How do you feel compared to other guys you’ve been riding with? Do you feel like you’ve been holding up pretty well?
I feel like I’m pretty good. I don’t want to go out there and just compare myself against anyone else because it's just practice and I’m just getting started on it and it’s early. You know, if I can go out there and ride with those guys a little, then that’s good enough right there.

How do you like your motorcycle? Is it close to what you’ll be racing in 2009?
Yeah, it’s close to what I’ll be racing, and I like it. You know, like I said, I’m new to supercross, but as far as the bike, the bike is great. The team is great and the bike is great and it’ll be pretty much be up to me to do my part when the gate drops.

This being your first full year as a professional, have you done much testing before?
I have not done a whole lot of testing, but we’re starting to test. We tested yesterday. We’ve done a lot of testing, but no supercross testing up until now. We tested a couple of days ago.

What did you work on, suspension and motor stuff?
Suspension, tires, and as things get closer, I’m sure we’ll do a lot more testing and fine-tuning.

How do you like testing? Do you enjoy it? Do you like trying to improve the bike?
Yeah, it’s good. You’re the rider, so it’s part of your job to get the bike set up the way you want to, and there are so many things that you and the team can do to the bike that you can set it all up the way you want to. I have a new mechanic right now, actually – I got him about a week ago. His name is Jeremy Hoyer, and it’s working out great. He’s an awesome guy. He was on the team last year and a couple years before that so he has a lot of experience, which is good for me.

You rode the last three nationals of the 2008 season and did quite well. To that end, has that experience, as well as the positive results that came from it, helped put your mind at ease a bit as your rookie season approaches?
It helped me out just to know that in outdoors I could go out there and run at the front. That was good confidence for me because, going into supercross, I know it’s different. The tracks are different and even the competition is a little different, but overall I know if I do get the good starts and ride the way I know how, it’ll be, hopefully, another good experience.

I want to ask you about the first national you competed in last summer. You arrived at Millville straight from your last race as an amateur at Loretta Lynn’s. How did that race go for you?
Millville was good. It was my first one, so I didn’t really know what to expect. The practices are different, the times are different and the riders are different. Everything is quite a bit different and you have to get used to it a little bit. I knew that if I got a good start that I could run up there. The motos are longer, and I think that if you’re smart and you ride consistent, that it plays better for you than short motos. In my first moto at Millville I got a bad start, but I ended up passing guys real quick. I fell down and caught back up to 11th and then I fell again. These were just tip-overs, but overall I got 10th place in that moto. Considering a bad start and two falls, I thought I rode good. I knew going into the second moto that if I could cut that stuff out and get rid of the falls and the bad start, that I could be up there even further. I got a good start, and by the time I got around the first two turns, I was in fourth. I ended up getting around [Ryan] Villopoto — he fell going down a hill — and then I got around [Martin] Davalos, and then it was just me and [Ryan] Dungey for a little while, and I actually stayed there quite a long time. That was good, running up there in the front. The track was real rough, and I ended up getting fourth. Villopoto caught up and Metcalfe got around me at the very end, but just being up there with those guys for the time I was, I learned a lot and got a lot of experience.

After the moto, I would assume you knew you could do it at that point...
Yeah, it kind of made sense, then. I knew I could do it going in, but until you do it, it’s a little different.

How was getting the holeshot and leading the first moto at Southwick?
I had never been there before. The track was really slick and I wasn’t used to that. When the first moto rolled around, I got a good pick and I went to the spot I wanted. I knew I could get the holeshot and I jumped out there and I got the holeshot and ended up leading for four laps. That was good, considering the people who were behind me. I just figured the longer I could be up there, the better. Four laps was pretty good and I ended up staying in second for a while and actually went back to fourth, but those first three guys were going at a very, very strong pace. For my first year, to be up there and riding with them was good for me.

How do like your teammates and the team you ride for?
Right now, not everyone has been at the test track. Lately, it’s just been me and Metcalfe for the Factory Connection team. Trey [Canard] has been hurt and he’s going to start riding here before long. [Dan] Reardon has been in Australia and I’m sure he’ll be back soon. But all those guys, I have no problems with them. I kind of grew up with Trey. We traveled together a little bit as amateurs and we actually spent a lot of time together when we were younger. We grew up racing each other so that’s been good. And Metcalfe is a nice guy. Reardon is a nice guy, too. He was on the team last year, so I got to meet him a little. The team managers are good. The mechanics are good. Everyone on the team is good. I have no complaints.

Okay, Blake, what’s are the plans and goals for supercross?
My goal for supercross is to be consistent, for one. It’s a series and you can’t be crashing out. You crash one time and that can knock you out for a whole series. You really have to take that into consideration. It’s a consistency thing. My goal going in is to have my starts be perfect to get me out front because supercross has tight tracks and the motos aren’t quite as long. I just want to get out front and ride the way I know how. I’d like to get some podiums.

So you’re having fun being a professional motocross racer?
Yeah, I’m having fun. It’s a little different than the amateurs, but I’m having fun. Actually, I’ve been at the shop playing my drums. They let me bring my drums in. After I ride and Jeremy is working on my bikes, I go in there and play the drums.

And that doesn’t drive anyone crazy?
No, because they’re electric so I can lower them, so they’re fine with it and I’m happy to have them in there.

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