It’s a hard job being a manager of a professional SX/MX team. It’s filled with ups and downs, and many times it’s as frustrating as it is rewarding. Dealing with the riders, sponsors and making sure everything is in order is a major job. And I’m just talking about for a factory team manager, nevermind a total privateer team. Thirty-four year old Forrest Butler, of Miami, Florida, has been down the long road as a private team manager. He’s trying to go out there and field a team against the best, oftentimes on a budget that would cause any factory manager to pull his hair out. With the last race of the year looming, we checked in with Forrest to see how everything’s going and if he has any hair left.
Forrest Butler: It’s been up and down for us. It’s been far and away the worst season we’ve had as a team. We’ve enjoyed some success over the years, just growing the team since 2004 and this year took a step down. It’s been tough but going back to last year we had a solid line-up going into 2009 and thought we had some good things going for us. Then Bryan Johnson broke his neck in the fall while supercross testing and that pretty much ended his career. Then Jason Thomas broke his leg at the US Open and Shaun Skinner, who started the season strong, he suffered a serious head injury that set him back for the rest of SX and most of the MX season. It’s been one of those years. Three out of our top four guys were laid out and down by round three. It’s been tough. We had that other rider [Matt Boni] that was doing really, really well for us and he jumped ship a little after mid-season on us. That was a big blow to our SX season and it’s just been rough. Then outdoors we have just had every piece of bad luck come our way. Sometimes it’s the riders’ fault with stuff that happened but sometimes it’s not and has been freak accidents. There has been some really odd crap that has happened and that’s basically our season. I don’t know what else to say. It’s racing and anything can happen.
It’s such a fine line for a team like yours. You work so hard to get everything in line and something really small happens, like an injury, and it derails your whole season. On the flip side, the team is just one good finish away from being happy and pumped about the season. It’s a tightrope for sure.
Yeah, that’s the one thing I’ve always said in every interview. I take everything personal because it’s my business, my name and my everything. I’m the owner, manager, agent and everything that goes along with it. It does keep you up at night, no doubt about it. As far as the future goes, well the economy isn’t good right now as we all know, and I’m personally a strong believer that 2010 will be worse than 2009 for us so I’m trying to prepare for it. On the bright side of things, as bad of a year that we’ve had, we keep working hard and we’ve gotten some good PR out of this year. We’ve gotten some television time, we’ve gotten media exposure and we got our first national magazine cover with Motocross Action. We’ve still been doing well in Florida and we started a live blog from each round of supercrosses and the hits went through the roof. So as far as that goes, we’ve had a good year when it comes to sponsor value. In a good way, all that’s healthy and our sponsors are happy. All my thinking about this stuff goes on all day and night.
We just wait, really. There’s a lot of stuff that we’re good on. Our longtime sponsors are tied in with us and we know that we’re good there. Guys like DNA Energy Drink, BTO Sports.com, FLY Racing & Bel-Ray have been there for us and will continue to be there for us, as we will for them. I’m sure we’ll make some adjustments around the economy and we’ll be fine there. The biggest question for us is what OEM we’re going to ride. We’re working with some shops and trying to figure that out what works for us and where the support is. In reality, that’s the biggest thing. One of the biggest downfalls of our team, and I don’t mean to come off like a braggart, is that we put off such a great PR campaign that many teams think we’re more well-off than we actually are bikes and partswise. To be honest, the bikes and parts are the weakest point of our program and I think we’re losing our Honda support this year because of budget cuts. What they give us for support isn’t that much for the size of our team and we’ve basically had to work with local shops in the past to get the bikes and parts that we need. We have an unbelievable program. If there are any OEMs or shops that are reading this and want to get involved with the BBMX team, I mean our only missing link to our team sponsors is that right OEM dealer who is passionate about racing and understands the sport. We have an amazing sales program with the team bikes, and unfortunately we just haven’t found that right match yet. But they have to love racing. That’s what makes the racing world go round, you know?
Are you worried about the energy-drink market like some people are? Some people are saying that bubble may burst and there will only be one or two standing. How’s DNA feel about your program?
Yeah, there’s a lot of stuff going on but it’s due to the economy and the budgets are being looked at carefully. It’s just one of those things that we have to go through. I’m sure we’ll stay together because we’re both such a big part of Florida. We have a lot invested in each other and we have helped each other grow our businesses together. They are feeling the effects like everyone for sure, but the company is very strong as a whole. They’re not going anywhere, and in a way it’s like our team. We’re not going anywhere and are in this for the long haul, just like DNA. We’re both like the small guys going against the giants and sometimes in a period like this that has the big-three energy drinks making some major adjustments, it’s kind of cool to be the underdog still focused on charging ahead. They are good, though, and the energy-drink market is not going anywhere. I don’t know the exact number, but I have read that Red Bull did over $4 billion in sales in 2008. They seem to be doing just fine. Energy drinks and reality TV, they are both here to stay!
I can tell you we will be coming out swinging, that’s for sure! To tell you the truth, we are pushing to ride Suzukis. We are talking with a big Suzuki dealer down here right now, but I don’t know where we will end up yet. Like I said above, we really need a passionate dealership who understands racing. I want to get the word out there that we’re looking for an OEM and if there are any shops or OEMs out there that are interested in a solid team, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org! But as far as the format, it will be one 450 guy only and four 250 guys – two in the east and two in the west. We want to find the right rider for us that has the potential to put it on the box for us and continue to build our team. We want to outdo our 2008 season, for sure.
Lemme guess, Jason Thomas is going to be the 450 guy?
Well, we’re in negotiations right now with him and his high-powered agents and we’ll see what happens [laughs]. I think we can find a way to keep the rolling tank on the team.
You have a kid named Lucas Crespi that kind of came out of nowhere and really showed that he can run in the big leagues...
Yeah, we’ve been working with him a long time and have always helped him out with amateur racing. We’ve been watching him and when he turned pro we were happy to help him. We thought that he could maybe get his feet wet and score some points but, to be honest, he surprised us when he scored points in five out of his first six motos. His endurance was good, his speed was great and it was a real bummer for him to get hurt like that. [Crespi broke his foot in practice at Budds Creek and had surgery to repair it last week.]