Racer X: For those who don’t know you Chad, you went from being a privateer racer to a factory mechanic, working with such teams as Yamaha of Troy and Factory Connection Honda, and then you used your experience and started your own business a couple years ago called Eleven10 Mods. It’s no secret that it’s risky starting your own company, so would you say you’ve made the right move? Chad Sanner: Yeah, absolutely. It’s definitely a lot more fulfilling. It’s a challenge building your own company, so it’s pretty cool. Not only do you go to work to make money, but you also go to work to build something. It just feels like I’m racing. Whenever you’re racing you train and ride every day for the weekend, but now I’m working everyday to build my company better. It’s fun, gives me headaches at times, but it pays the bills, so I’m real happy.
People dream to be a factory mechanic, like you were. What made you leave that career? If I was a lot younger or from California, I’d probably still be doing it. But I have a wife and a daughter and family back here in Pennsylvania, so this is where I wanted to be. That was sort of my goal all along. I enjoyed being a factory mechanic, but I just knew it wasn’t going to be a career for me. I just wanted to learn as much as I could possibly learn, like going to college.
It seems like working for those teams was sort of a paid internship for you before starting your own business. Exactly. That’s exactly what I tried to do. Every time someone told me what to do, I listened. By no means did I learn everything—I’m still learning to this day—but I got a very solid foundation. I was fortunate to work for a couple of the best engine technicians in the sport. I can’t say enough about them, and at this point this year they’ve both had the best bikes on the track.
How has the current status of the economy affected you? I would imagine that not a lot of riders would want engine mods at the moment, but I could be wrong. To be honest, either my growth spurt has come along at the time when this economy has gotten bad, or everyone doesn’t even care about the economy in the motocross industry. It seems like the people who are racing and can get really good race motors are just doing it. I have more business in one week right now than I had all of last year. Rebuilds are a bit slower than they were last year, but mod work is better. I don’t know what it is, but business is good.
Have you seen more people maybe keeping last year’s bike and just getting the engine freshened up? Yeah, that’s definitely another thing I did see more of this year. I even talked to the shop I got my bikes from, and a guy there told me the winter was really slow, but it seemed everyone was sitting on their money till now. I think people just are waiting a little longer before getting their new bikes.
It seems like your logo appears on more bikes every week—everyone from Jason Lawrence and Nick Wey to Levi Kilbarger and Barry Hawk. In fact, you even do work for the winner of last weekend’s MX2 Grand Prix, right? Yeah, I’m really good with Zach Osborne’s dad, and I try to work with his guys over in Europe. But usually anything you see Zach riding on U.S. soil is probably my motor. I got to know Zach and his dad a lot over the last year. His dad just heard about me and decided to take a chance and send me a motor and Zach was really happy with it last year. I’m really happy to see that he won a Grand Prix—that’s awesome.
Your located pretty close to our headquarters here, so we’re seeing your customer base growing by the day. Describe some of the services you offer. Well, we can do all of the head work in-house now. We have a brand-new Serdi Valve Seat machine. I bought a small mill for doing all of the machine work in-house, and we actually got a Dyno now. I actually got that off of Zach Osborne. That has helped so much. It’s so nice to throw a bike on there and fine-tune it. With Michael Willard, we put everything together and he raced a couple races on it, then he brought it to the shop and we put it up on the Dyno just to make sure the jetting and everything was all right. We ended up getting another two horsepower out of it.
I also have a track right behind the shop for testing. It’s kind of cool, once I had everything set up, I stepped back and looked and thought about all the race teams I was at, and we never had a dyno or a track right behind the shop. It makes a huge difference. I think I got a very good structure going here.
You mentioned Michael Willard also uses your stuff. Are these guys coming to you, or are you going to them? You know, pretty much all of these guys have called me. It’s mostly word of mouth and they’re coming to me.
Do you have any type of amateur support program in place? Yes. We recently joined up with Sponsorhouse.com. We’re definitely accepting resumes. I know it’s a little late, but we’re trying to build up our program. We got some good amateur riders, as well, like Terren O’Dell, Brad Allison, and several local riders here in Pennsylvania.
You still ride and race, and last year not only did you race and qualify for a handful of AMA Nationals, but you also did Loretta Lynn’s, among many other local events. What’s the plan for you in 2009? Really, I just kind of just race to stay in tune with the bikes and to know what works and what doesn’t. Other than working on bikes, my favorite thing to do is to just ride, and it just so happens that I’m still able to ride and qualify for nationals. I’m not like the other guys where I feel I have to succeed at racing; I just do it for fun. But when I’m going to race a national I put a lot of effort into it. But my number-one priority is Eleven10 Mods. When I go to the races, I like to hang out and talk to my customers and be there to support them.
My plan this year is to ride all of the local nationals, because I really think they’re going to be great this year—I think they’re probably going to be better than I ever seen them, and I’ve been racing nationals since 1995. I’m going to probably race Loretta’s, too. It’s such a tough race and anyone who does well there definitely deserves some credit.
When you’re having a stressful day in the shop, do you just throw on the gear and burn a moto? Oh, yeah! The track is 150 yards away, and sometimes it gets really stressful and I just head out back and ride a moto. Usually, then I come back after doing a moto and can go in the shop and work till midnight. I usually want to work after I get done riding because it just relaxes me.
Now, it’s not just you working in the shop; you have a couple employees, right? Yes, I have two guys. I have Hoss Wall, who I met through Trevor Monks. He has good work ethic and he does all of the assembly of the motors. He’s doing an excellent job. My other guy is a really close friend of mine, Frank Porupski, who has basically been shadowing me. He has an extensive knowledge of motorcycles and he does tear downs, suspension rebuilds, cleaning, parts ordering... He’s also taking on more of a managerial role with the business to get me off the phone, which is quite the task.
You want to mention some of the sponsors that help you out? I’d like to say thanks to Vince Capoza, who has helped me since day one. I talked to Vince even before I quit being a mechanic, and he’s been helping to keep my racing alive the last few years. I’d like to thank Mosites Motorsports, Doug at Bridgestone and John Knowles at Scott Goggles. I’d also like to definitely thank my dad. He’s giving me an opportunity to use his place as my shop, and it has been a tremendous help.
Well, if someone wants to get in touch with you, what’s the best way to go about that? They can call me at 724-562-8877 or check us out online at www.eleven10mods.com.