One of the greatest things about our sport is that every so often, a rider comes along who makes us ask, “Who is that?” Before this weekend, I had never heard of Jess Pettis—but in his very first attempt at Monster Energy Supercross, the rider out of Canada set a solid qualifying time and nailed down a holeshot in his heat race. There it was, the “who is that?” moment. What better way to find out information about a rider than to fire off some texts, acquire his number, and have a conversation. Take it away, Jess!
(Note: This is a transcript from an interview conducted via iMessage and has been edited slightly for clarity.)
Right out of the gate, I have to ask, who is Jess Pettis? I'll be honest here, we're doing this completely blind. Tell the fans who you are!
Jess Pettis: I’m from a small town in Canada, by the name of Prince George, British Columbia. I’m 20 years old, and I’ve been racing motocross for 13 years now. I have been racing in Canada most of my career, racing the Canadian nationals and arenacross series.
I know this past weekend in Oakland was your first-ever attempt at supercross in the U.S., correct? But have you raced here at all in the past—as an amateur, maybe?
Yes, first ever supercross. I have wanted to race supercross for a couple years now, but injuries have kept me from making it happen. And I’ve raced [the] Oak Hill spring national in the supermini class, but that is about it.
You didn't have to do the Road to Supercross program in Amsoil Arenacross?
No, I actually didn’t have to. I guess being a foreign rider, it isn’t mandatory.
Let's talk about your first supercross. You qualified 19th out of practice. Walk me through that a little bit. How was your qualifying experience?
Yes, I enjoyed it a ton, qualifying went great, they had me in C practice, so I made sure to get out in front of everyone and learn the track for myself. I got the track dialed pretty quickly and put down some solid lap times, which put me 19th heading into the night show. I have been working extremely hard, but to be honest, I had no clue where I was going to belong and didn’t set much for expectations. So, I was happy with how the day started.
Qualifying top-20 your first time is pretty good, in my mind. How did the night show go for you? You got a helluva start in your heat race, then had a pretty gnarly crash. What happened there?
Yes, I was very happy with my qualifying, I think it was a great start. The night show started out awesome with a holeshot and being right in the mix with the factory guys. The track was very challenging with all the ruts, and I let the pressure get to me a bit by making a few mistakes. I came up short on a rhythm section, which put me over the bars and forced me to go to the LCQ.
An unfortunate 15th in the LCQ, though, huh?
Yeah, I actually got a terrible start, pretty well in last place. I worked my way through the pack and passed into fifth, but I crashed on the dragons back with one lap to go. As everyone knows, it’s over once you crash in a LCQ.
An educational night though, correct? What's the biggest lesson you learned, and how much higher are your expectations for San Diego, now that you have a base to go off of?
Yes, 100 percent. I definitely learned to relax a bit and try not to rush things. Also, minimize the small mistakes and I think we will be much better. I believe a main event is possible, but we will go race by race and see where we end up.
How many more of these things will we see you at in 2018?
I’ll be at San Diego, Salt Lake City, and hopefully Vegas. I’d love to be at Seattle, since it’s the closest race to Canada, but I have a conflicting race in Canada.
A little more about you. You're currently staying in the U.S.? Where are you staying, who are you training with—what's the day-to-day like for Jess Pettis?
Yes, I am currently living and training with my trainer, Kevin Urquhart, in Menifee, California. He has been a huge help in teaching me the right technique to ride supercross. I ride supercross three days a week before the race, as well as lots of mountain biking, road biking, and gym workouts. I love the way of living down here, and staying on a strict program, not being in three feet of snow!
Sounds like a pretty solid program. Anyone you'd like to thank before I let you go?
Yes, for sure. Thank you for the interview. I would like to thank mx101, FXR, Yamaha Canada, Rockstar Energy Drink, Vernon Motorsports, 100%, 6D Helmets, Ryno Power, Dedicated Ride Co, SSS Suspension, Twisted Development, Marin Bikes, Bulldog MX Training, Decal Works, Ride Engineering, Renthal, FMF, my mechanic Andreas, my parents, and all my friends, family, and sponsors from back home. Thank you.
Awesome. Thanks for taking the time to chat, best of luck the rest of the season!
Anytime, thank you so much for the interview and hope to see you in San Diego. Take care.