5 Minutes with... Destry Abbott

Like a fine wine, longtime Off-Road racer Destry Abbott only seems to get better with age, as recently the 36-year-old captured his fifth AMA National Hare and Hound Championship. During his successful 2008 season, Abbott also competed in the WORCS Series, Endurocross, and the International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) in Greece, where the USA Trophy Team got on the podium. Teamed up with Damon Huffman and Ricky Dietrich on the Monster Energy Kawasaki Team, they make up an impressive trio. I was able to track down the family man at his Glendale, Arizona, home to get his take on his year.

  • Destry Abbott
  • Destry Abbott
Racer X: Wow, Destry, another championship: How does this compare to the others?
Destry Abbott: This one was very special for me because I tied the record with two guys that I have always looked up to as role models – Danny Hamel and Dan Smith. Actually, the round that I clinched the championship at was pretty scary. My teammate Josh Morros had his big crash and was knocked out, then went into a coma [lasting five weeks]. I stayed with him a while that day, and it was just a very scary day. When I came across the finish line in fourth spot, I knew that I won the championship, but there was no celebrating – all we could do was think about Josh!

With this Championship, you tied for the most titles. How motivated are you to win a sixth and beat the record?
I honestly think that this is the most motivated that I have ever been since I won my first championship! I feel as if I have been riding very well, and I know that I work harder, but smarter, than ever before. Monster Kawasaki is behind me 100 percent, and they really want to see me accomplish this huge goal of mine! I am looking forward to the challenge and feel that I can do it!

Can you share some other highlights of your year?
I really have two highlights that are always going to remain huge to me! First, it was my fifth AMA Hare and Hound Championship, and then of course it was being a member of the ISDE Trophy Team that podiumed in Greece. All six of us worked very well together and put in a lot of hard work to get ready for this year's race. The big thing that most people don't realize is the fact that it's a totally different type of format than what most of us race in the States. So, for us to get third in the world and to show that we have some of the best riders in the world here in the States was huge! It was also the first time in over 25 years that the U.S. Team got on the podium [in the Trophy Team Class]. I just wish that Rich Caselli [team member Kurt's father, who had passed away] could have been there to see us do it. He put in a lot of hard work and this would not have happened without him!

Looking at your racing career, I find it incredible that it has now been 20 years since you turned pro!
[Laughs] The funny thing is that I actually love it now more than ever! The biggest thing is trying to stay healthy, but it is difficult at times. I have had my tough years, but I think that those times just made me stronger, and want it even more. The big key for doing it this long is wanting to do it. The mental side of racing is huge, and when racers do not give 100 percent, that is when they usually get hurt, or burn themselves out. I still plan on racing at the top level for a few more years as long as I am competitive – or until I don't want it anymore.

Can you talk for a minute about the off-road racing scene and how it has changed over the years?
Jim, it's changed more than I ever thought it would. When I started out, it was basically just desert racing out west. Now, you have a ton of different types of racing, such as WORCS, Hare and Hound, Endurocross, GNCCs, and Big 6 GPs. I remember showing up to the races in my pickup truck. Now I get to pit out of a full Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing semi – with our own mechanics and staff. It definitely now has more of a pro-motocross vibe, yet still has that family atmosphere.

  • Destry Abbott
  • credit: Kinney Jones
You mentioned Endurocross. What are your thoughts on that?
Well, I have actually only competed in a few rounds of Endurocross, since it's not in my contract, but it is probably one of my favorite events. I truly believe that this is one of the best motorcycle events that you could watch. Everyone that I know that goes and watches gets hooked and always come back for more. The racing is always exciting, and you never know who is going to win, or even who will make the main! There are usually a lot of crashes, but for the most part it's pretty safe as you are usually in first or second gear. It's very new, and it has gone well. I'm sure that it will even take off further.

You've been with Kawasaki for a while now, right?
Yes, I am going on 12 years with them. My racing career started on KTM, but then back in 1998 Reid Nordin offered me a ride with Kawasaki. It was by far the best decision that I have made in my race career. They are great people and have always been behind me 100 percent. I don't ever see me riding for anyone else. I hope that when I am done racing, I can still be doing something with them.

Continuing with Kawasaki, you are teamed up with a couple fast guys!
We are really a close group and we work very well with each other – from suspension, tires, or whatever else it may be. We always walk the course together the day before and talk about line choices. It really has been an awesome year for all three of us. We've all been doing pretty well.

Okay, finishing up, we know you want to set a record and win your sixth AMA Hare and Hound Championship... What else do you have in store for 2009?
The Hare and Hound title will definitely be my main focus, but I am also going to put a lot of focus in the WORCS series. I was pretty disappointed with the way that my 2008 WORCS season went, because I know that I can do better. Kurt Caselli and I are already working on the 2009 ISDE Team. I'd really like to turn the ISDE into something bigger that what it is here in the States. We have a lot of racers here that could do awesome over there. It would be great if we could pull off a team win, or even have an American take an overall, which we almost did this year!