Blake Baggett is definitely different. That is working for him right now, because even though his previous team, Yoshimura Suzuki, has folded, he’s had a new ride signed with Rocky Mountain ATV/MC-KTM-WPS (formerly BTOSports.com-KTM-WPS) for months. Meanwhile, a lot of other good riders are still without rides. Blake is in a good spot with his new team, and we checked in with him last night to see how it’s going. (By the way, he was quite happy to contribute a vote in his swing state of Florida.)
As usual, no one answers questions quite like Blake. You should enjoy this one.
Racer X: Okay, so I’m assuming the reason it was hard to get ‘hold of you is because it’s super training boot camp time?
Blake Baggett: We’ve got some secret stuff going on, yeah. We’re blending up some secret sauce!
So the reason you can’t talk to the media is because this is top-secret?
Of course. Gates are locked here at El Chupacabra Ranch. But we definitely have some new resources with the program that I am sure are going to be key for 2017 opportunities.
Okay, so, are these resources of the human kind? Is it land? Is it physical?
It’s human resources. I’ve let out some teasers on social media. One or two hints here and there.
Well, I’ve noticed on your Instragram you’re always riding with Chizz [Kyle Chisholm], but you always tag Michael Byrne in your posts. But we never actually see Byrner. Is he there, somewhere, helping?
Ooo! Alright! You might be catching on here!
Well we’ve said before, when Byrner worked with past riders like Mike Alessi, if you give Byrner the keys he knows what to do with them.
I think it’s definitely going to work out very well.
So is this a gnarly time of year? Does your schedule turn super gnarly on November 1?
Yeah, pretty much. It’s basically the same program as everyone else, you’re building the base. You’re working on getting those 20 laps solid and consistent, trying to never waver more than a few tenths. Once you get that figured out, and the race gets closer, you work on your speed and your ability to take advantage of opportunities.
It’s 9:30 p.m. right now. Are you more tired at the end of the day at this time of year than others?
Right now it’s only 6:30.
Wait, you’re in California?
What are you talking about? It’s 9:30 p.m. Eastern.
Yeah but you’ve got to live on the same time zone as the races. It’s 6:30!
[Laughs] Oh! So it’s only 6:30 in Anaheim. You’ve still got heat races in front of you and everything!
Yeah, we haven’t even gone out for opening ceremonies yet!
[Laughs] Okay then, let me change this. When it’s almost 10 p.m. California time, will you then be more tired than usual?
I’d say it’s just different, not worse. You’re building, you want your lap times to be as close as possible. You’re working on the Steady Eddie right now, and you want every lap to be within the same second. If you do that, you’re pretty solid. That depends on the track, of course. Some people’s tracks are worn down this time of year, because they haven’t rebuilt them yet, so they’re not as steep and it’s easier to be consistent on those tracks. When you get closer to Anaheim, they’ll rebuild them and re-steep them, and then it gets really hard to be consistent.
Is El Chupacabra Ranch all peaked out?
It’s a little steeper than most. We try to keep it maintained and we try to make it realistic, but we want to keep it safe, too. If it’s too washed down you get a false sensation, then you get too much confidence and it will bite you. I’ve always found that the closest you can make it to the actual racetrack, the better you’ll be. We’re racing supercross, so you don’t practice on flat track. The more we could do, the better. If we could have 22 riders out here on the gate, get some lights, get some hay bales, get some crowd noise piped in, some Monster Energy flames and all that, we’d be ever better off. The more realistic you make practice, the more you’ll feel like you’re just back home at your practice track when you’re at the race. You’re always more comfortable in your own setting than someplace else, and that’s why most car accidents happen within a half mile of your house.
Wow. This is deep!
Yeah, you think you can do it without paying attention, so maybe you take your seat belt off early, and you start thinking about what the kids have torn up while you were out, how many blinds the dog ate while you were gone … you start thinking about that and you have problems. It’s amazing how comfortable you can get in surroundings that you’re used to.
So this is why you set you pretend you’re on California time.
I’m not pretending! I’m looking at my computer right now and it says 6:30!
So, I thought this time of year is when you’re closest to the Rocky Balboa training in Russia part of the program. When you’re just all-out boot camp mode. That’s not what’s going on?
I don’t think it goes to that extent. I think most people blow it out of proportion. They might make it sound like that on social media, but it’s actually pretty close to what you do during the season. Maybe you’re adding 15 to 20 percent to that, just because you’re not traveling on Friday. You’re not resting on Friday when you’re traveling. You’re going to autograph signings, you’re chasing your lost bags down from the baggage claim, and you’re on a plane. When you’re sitting next to two big people on an airplane, you don’t get an armrest. How can you rest without an armrest?
Excellent point. I haven’t spoken to you since you switched teams and brands. That’s a pretty big switch. Have you ever ridden a KTM before?
I actually did one time. Last year I rode the bike for a quick second at the Foxborough Supercross race. My teammate now let his bike go in the whoop section, and I rode right over it!
Oh, so you rode over a KTM!
Yes, I rode over one! So I have technically ridden on top of a KTM on a supercross track before, but it’s not the way I would like to do it. Other than that, that was it. It’s a big change, but the team is unreal. The owner, the manager, all the personnel and staff, the guy who is in charge of parts and shipping, and my mechanic, they’re great. My mechanic, if I could clone the guy I would do it. He’s on top of it. We’ve got new resources on the team and the goal is to be out front.
This is basically another KTM factory team, right? Whatever [Ryan] Dungey, Marvin [Musquin], and [Trey] Canard have, you have it too?
Well, I have different graphics. [Laughs] It’s a full factory bike, yeah. There are no excuses here; when you find out what the bike’s capabilities are and you use them, it’s pretty unreal.
Well, I’ve been wondering this: There are a ton of good riders still out there looking for a ride. And the team you were on no longer exists. So are you the luckiest guy in the world, or the smartest? How did you make this happen?
It’s basically like when you go and play the stock market. You’re just guessing on it, but, I had an inside key. I knew one of my stocks was going to crash, so I knew it was time to sell. So, yeah, I did a short sale on it and bought something else. I knew I was going to have to make a move, and it’s something I’ve always been interested in. I knew these guys since I was on minibikes at Loretta Lynn’s. We talked a long time ago, but it didn’t pan out. We were finally able to put everything together. It’s a small, tight-knit organization, not a lot of big bosses, but it’s cool because we also have access to all of these great resources over at KTM. It’s real personally-based. I think some situations where a team is big and there are so many people involved, it becomes more like a business. Here we’re there to do a job but it’s not just business—everyone is willing to go above and beyond, and they’ll work a Saturday and Sunday for you without asking for a Monday off. They’re there for you through thick and through thin, and I think we’re going to have a great season, everyone on the team, not just me.
Let’s talk 2016. Did we really see anything from you last year that was realistic or was it just a write off with injuries?
It was pretty much just a write off. The old collarbones didn’t want to stay together! Even plated, the plate even gave up on me.
I didn’t even know that could happen.
I didn’t know either! I can say I tried. I raced Glen Helen four days after surgery, and I fell down on the first lap, was dead last, came back to 18th. I gave it everything I had but the season was just a wash, couldn’t put it together, couldn’t make it happen. I gave it my best shot. I had a fourth place at a supercross, and I had a fifth place at the last supercross round that was a mudder. There were a few things that seemed like they were going in the right direction, but I couldn’t keep the train on the tracks.
Hey, you passed Tomac to get a podium in the first national moto of the year.
Yeah, definitely, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, but for some reason we kept having power outages.
Monster Cup. Was that a realistic view of what we’ll see come Anaheim? How much progress have you made since then?
Huge. Huge. That race was just a shot in the dark, but it’s good to have it. It’s a little mellower track, you get three starts, you get to see where you are at. I was able to get a holeshot in the first one and that probably surprised a few people, but I faded back in the first one. I tried some things in the next two, but wasn’t able to connect with it. I’m going to be super excited to go racing once we get through November and December. It’s a great bike, but I just have to get used to it. The way it reacts and handles is just completely different and it takes time to get comfortable with that. You have to have the confidence in it so you can get into a not-perfect situation, and you can get out of it. That’s what racing is all about. You can do so many perfect laps, but when you have someone in front of you and someone behind you, and someone wants to dive bomb you in every turn, and they’re getting so aggressive you’re about to go number-plate to number-plate head on coming out of a turn, that’s when things change. I don’t know how or why people are able to drive it in there that deep on you, but that’s the kind of stuff that goes on at Monster Cup sometimes.
Last thing, an update on the El Chupacabra Ranch down there. How’s it going?
Yeah we’re about 18 months in. We’ve had a few setbacks, but it’s so much fun. This is what I like to do, we’re working all the time, and the way I look at it is I’m just reinvesting in myself, and when I’m done racing someone else will get to enjoy it, too.
Oh, wait, are we talking selling sometime down the road? Is this the stock market again?
Maybe. Maybe I’ll open up some shares and let you in on it. But I can’t tell you everything because that would be inside trading. But I’ll let you in on a few things.