Sometimes it can be debatable whether or not a rider it a “true privateer” especially as the rigs get bigger and the pit presences become more professional. However, after getting off the phone with Alex Nagy on Thursday, there was no doubt in my mind that he’s about as privateer as a privateer can get. From driving to every single race this year, to sleeping in his pickup truck while on the road, Alex is doing whatever he can to make the dream come true.
We called up the Illinois native to see how he gets to each race, what it’s like practicing at Milestone alone during the week, and to get his best travel tips.
Racer X: So you grew up in Illinois, but are you out in California right now?
Alex Nagy: Right now I’m back home in Illinois. Usually right around Thanksgiving every year I go out to California—I’ve got grandparents that live out there—so that’s always made it pretty easy for me to make the transition back and forth. But right now I’m back home.
I was looking at your results from Loretta’s and it looks like your last year there was in 2011 on 85s. Did you race there after that?
No, 2011 was my last year at Loretta’s.
And why’d you stop going to that race?
So 2011 was my last year at Loretta’s and I want to say I raced one of the Supermini classes and one of the 85 classes. In 2011 I was on minis still and that year at Mini Os was my last year on minis and I ended up getting hurt and breaking my collarbone and wrist and dislocated my finger as well. So that kind of put a damper on my whole mini days, and that was pretty much the end of that. So after that race I had a lot of thinking to do … what direction I wanted to go and what I wanted to do with my racing. I made the decision to just move up to big bikes and instead of racing the C or the B class like a lot of people do, I went straight into the A class and started racing A locally at 15 years old. So right around when I turned 16 I was ready to try the pro scene if that’s what I wanted to do.
Do you think you missed out on anything by skipping those classes?
To be honest I don’t think I missed out on anything. And looking back on it I have no regrets on it. Sometimes I wonder how much different the path would of went, but throughout my whole amateur career I was always good, I was always fast, but I was never able to catch the eye of anyone in order to get any support from it. So for me to have continued as an amateur and doing all that stuff, I think I would have been pretty much spinning my wheels and probably have ended up in the same spot that I ended up being in when I turned pro anyways. So I kind of just shortened up the time for learning and just made a go at it as quick as I could.
How do you think you handled turning pro so young?
It was definitely a steep learning curve for me. I started off by doing the last four outdoors of 2012 and I wasn’t able to qualify at any of them. But I tried and I learned, and it was a huge eye-opening experience for me to see what the pro ranks are like. And even just moving up to the A class locally. Once you start racing against grown adults and racing for money, things change a lot quicker than the amateur days when everyone’s all there to race and it’s all fun and games pretty much. So outdoors was brutal and then I did supercross. I was still 16, I think that was in 2013 I did West Coast supercross. I had no previous supercross experience, no one to train me, just pretty much went at it. [Laughs] I would go to Milestone everyday by myself and ride that track. I managed to get through it healthy which was awesome.
So you were 16 and you would go to Milestone alone?!
Yeah, I would drive there by myself everyday. My grandparents lived in Orange County so it was about 70 miles each way. So I would be driving quite a bit every day at 16 in a yellow van. I’d just show up to Milestone and pay the money and ride till 2 or 3 p.m. and go home. That was the California grind for me at that age. It was a pretty cool experience.
So when you’re riding out at the track are you more focused on working on your sprint speed or doing a full 20 plus one moto?
It depends on what the track conditions are like; it depends on what the situation is like if I have someone there with me or not. Most of the days I go to the track by myself the goal is always to survive and not go home in an ambulance. [Laughs] I’ve had to drive myself to the hospital from Milestone one time. It was a broken arm. I’ve had that experience and it’s not that fun so every time I go and ride by myself it’s always make it through the day safe and go home. Whenever I’m luckily enough to have someone there to watch my back, those are the days to really work on sprint speed, ride out of my comfort zone and do that stuff. And the days when I’m there by myself it’s just work on your fitness, work on your technique, watch, learn, and have fun and enjoy it as much as you can.
Tell me a little more about breaking your arm and driving yourself to the hospital.
It was kind of just a chain of bad events. The day before I got a flat. So I usually always go and ride in the morning and then come home before traffic gets out in the afternoon. So I got a flat and I’m like, “Okay I’ll wake up and change the flat in the morning and I’ll go ride in the afternoon.” So I showed up to Milestone around like 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. And anyone who’s ridden a Southern California supercross track in the afternoon knows it’s pretty much a hard pack highway. I went out and did my first session, and then was about to go out again and the water truck went out. They just hosed the track down to where it’s just this ice rink. I always try to get home before it gets dark so I’m like, “Whatever the track will be slick, I’ll just ride it.” And I ended up getting wheel spin on a step-off and crashed. I got up, went back and knew I was in some pain. Luckily I loaded my bike up before I realized … I knew my arm was hurt but I didn’t know it was as bad as it was. So I called my mom to find a hospital for me to go to and she’s like, “I don’t know what to tell you.” So I just looked on my phone and went to the one in Riverside right off the 91, and sure enough I’d broke my arm. Quite the experience. [Laughs]
Transitioning into what you’ve got going on now. How are you getting to the races? Because you’re doing every round.
Yep, I’m doing all of them. Since I’ve started I’ve driven to every single race. Usually I do all the driving on my own. So for St. Louis, tomorrow [Friday] I’ll be leaving early in the morning and then get there Friday afternoon, get everything all settled and go from there.
Have you acquired any good travel tips in your years of driving across the country?
Oh yeah! I’ve definitely got some good travel tips. My biggest rule of thumb is if you get off the highway to get food or to get gas and you can’t see it from the exit, you don’t drive to it. I think everyone’s been on a wild goose chase at an exit on a highway where it says there’s an RV stop three miles this way or something two miles that way and you end up driving that way and there’s just nothing there and you just wasted 20 minutes of your time. So definitely don’t do that. Then I always try to sleep in the truck as much as I can just to save money on hotels and that stuff and also it’s a good idea to stay close to your stuff and keep an eye on it. There’s a lot of people out there that will try and take your stuff, and if you’re keeping an eye on it it’s less likely to happen.
Yeah have you ever had any close calls with people trying to grab your stuff while you’re at a truck stop or something?
Knock on wood … I always try and stay away from sleeping at truck stops. I think I’ve only slept at a truck stop maybe once and that’s just because I was so tired of driving and every rest stop seemed to be closed, so I really had no choice. But I try to avoid truck stops, so usually go with rest areas or Walmarts. But it’s getting harder and harder to find a Walmart that’s friendly with sleeping there. So knock on wood I haven’t had any bad experiences yet. But every night I sleep in the truck I’m always on edge thinking about it. So far it’s been safe. [Laughs]
And how are you affording to get to all the races this year?
My parents are helping me out a lot and they’re definitely my biggest supporters. Without them there’s definitely no way I could do it. You know, in the off-season I do some work for my parents and that stuff, but other than that my parents are my main funders and main support. To do it as a privateer with your own money is next to impossible with the amount of money we make at the races. So my parents are kind of chasing the dream with me and hopefully one day it’ll pay off and if not, at least we had a lot of good memories along the way.
What were your goals going into this season? Was it to make every night show or to make it in a few mains?
My goal is definitely to make a main. That’s kind of the one thing that’s been tough for me to get. I’ve made the night show, outdoors I’ve even been able to get a top 20, and all that stuff. But the one thing I haven’t been able to do yet is to make a main event. Last year I made every single night show, and that was awesome, but no main events. In the passed I’ve missed it by one position, I’ve missed it by two positions a couple times and it’s always seemed to kind of get away from me. So yeah a big goal of mine for this year is to make the main event and then also to be consistent with making the night shows. Because in the end, the night shows are what make you the money back. That’s a major key as a privateer, to always be consistent with getting a paycheck and that stuff.
Any sponsors you’d like to thank?
I’d like to thank Sportland 2, Axo, Pirelli, Shoei, Rekluse, Race Tech, ODI, Spy, Yoshimura, EVS, JJW, RK Chains, Socal Supertrucks, and Motostar.