5 Minutes With... Kenny Watson

October 20, 2009 11:28pm | by:
Rockstar/Hart & Huntington team manager Kenny Watson has been around a long time and is a real unique individual. Anyone who has met Kenny and been friends with him can attest to that. The thirty-seven year old Watson was a privateer mechanic for a long time, and then switched to running the now defunct Plano Honda team. Watson segued that into some industry jobs and for the last three years has managed the Rockstar/Hart & Huntington race team owned by freestyle pioneer turned entrepreneur, Carey Hart.

  • Kenny Watson is excited about 2010.
Coming off a successful 2009 season that saw team rider Matt Boni win the top privateer award in supercross, Watson is looking ahead to bigger and better things in 2010 with a new rider, a new mechanic and a new look.

Racer X: Tell me about your team for 2010, Kenny.
Kenny Watson: Well, we’re bringing back Matt Boni and looking for big things from him. Last year he was getting his feet wet in the 450 class and he did well, so we’re looking for him to build on that. We just signed Chris Blose to be our second rider and he’s a super-humble young kid that wants to make it. We’re excited to have those two guys riding for us this year.

Personnel-wise, we’ve added former factory Suzuki mechanic Tony Berlutti to our staff and I think that’s going to be a huge advantage for us on the technical end of things. Last year we got some support from Honda but this year we are 100% a full privateer team with no help from an OEM. We’ll be buying every nut and bolt on the motorcycle. We’re still working with Carter Powersports here in Vegas on the dealer level but like everyone else, they cut back and one of the victims was our support. We’re still working with them but the support isn’t the same.

Were you happy with the way last year went for you guys?
I would say so. That was our second year going racing and the first year was a stepping stone for us with the bikes and then last year we got the right technicians and the right people around the team. Once we improved the bike, then the riders started coming around. But definitely Matt Boni stepping up and winning the privateer award really put a boost into our team.

  • Matt Boni was the top privateer last year, and returns to the squad in 2010.
You’ve been around a long time and what do you think of the tough times that our industry finds itself in with the general pull-back from the OEM’s and aftermarket companies?
Y’know, I can only speak for our team and for us we don’t really go after the industry for our backing. I know the motorcycle industry is really hurting right now and we support it 100% but at the same time, we’ve gone outside the box to get our funding. We’ve gotten people involved that aren’t in the industry. This year we got more revenue from sponsors than we did last year, thank God we have Rockstar in our corner or we couldn’t do this. We have so many new outside the box sponsors coming on our team that it hasn’t been a problem. That’s why we can go buy our bikes and parts and that’s why people can’t tell us that we can’t run a hot pink front fender.

Well what I meant was the fact that you guys did well for Honda last year with top privateer and had a great pit presence but yet found it tough to get OEM support…
Well what I can say is that they were interested in working with us, they had offers on the table but we were going to go in a different direction. The clock was ticking and we couldn’t give them an answer in their time frame. They had to make a decision and we lost our support because we were going to go ride a different color. At the end of the day, it made the most sense for us to ride Hondas because we still have a lot of parts, we have done the R&D on the bike, but we would have to change things like the wrap on our truck, the team uniforms and all those little things down the ladder. For us to start with another color would’ve just been really tough.

I’m not trying to disrespect Honda or anything like that, they’ll help us out and we’ll still be there to help in any way that we can.

Berlutti’s going to be a great hire for you guys and you’ve known him for a while right? Talk about having him on board.
I’ve known Tony for a long time and I’m not his boss, I’m his equal. He’s down here right now looking over the bike and has already suggested things to do that we’ve never thought off. I first met Tony in the mid 90s when I started as a mechanic. I met him and Skip Norfolk at a gas station and followed them to Hangtown. That was it, I stuck on their bumpers the rest of the year and they showed me the ropes on how to be a mechanic.

He lives here in Vegas and we’re based here so that’s a good fit. He’s going to be huge for us Matthes. Carey [Hart] and Tony have known each other for a long time and Carey used to look up to Tony for advice and things like that when Hart was riding out here. Little known fact is that Berlutti and Hart were both on Team Tamm when Hart was on 60s.

  • Chris Blose just signed with the Rockstar/Hart & Huntington squad.
What’s Hart like to work for as a boss?
Carey Hart is a very unique individual. Some people don’t understand and there have been rumors going around the industry that we don’t take it seriously, that we’re out drinking at the bar and things like that. I would like to dare anyone in the industry to try and jump into his life for fifteen minutes – they’d jump right back out. That dude has so much going on, it’s scary. When I got here I thought I knew what I was doing but I was re-trained. I used to be a guy that could order parts, make the flights and things like that, but now I know about being a team owner, owning and running a clothing line, owning a tattoo shop, to anything that this company does. I could leave here and go get a job running whatever inside and outside the industry.

We’re running our thing and doing what we do and we don’t care about what people think. We’ve had mechanics come by and say that if they wanted to listen to the music and see dancing girls, they’d go to a nightclub. I say just keep carrying your tires to Dunlop and go eat a sandwich and shut up. What we’re trying to do is build a brand; no other team is doing that. We’re trying to build a fan base and make sure they leave supercross with a smile on their face.

You could ask anyone who got fourth at Anaheim 2 and they won’t remember but you can ask them if they remember coming by the truck, getting an autograph from Carey, playing some Rockstar Pong, getting free hot-dog, getting to hang out and shake hands with people. There’s only one winner on the track and one winner in the pits and I think we’re it.

It’s not like getting a ticket to get an autograph for one of the big guys like James Stewart. You get your ticket, wait in line and have him give you an autograph and that’s it. No disrespect to James, he does what he has to do, but we do things a little different and at the end of the day, it’s all about fan base.