Autumn: The time of year where the temperatures begin to cool, leaves begin to fall, and professional dirt bike racing officially enters its off-season. Two thousand and sixteen has definitely been a year to remember, and since things are relatively quiet at my desk (for now), I felt like today was as good of a time as any to talk about the year that was. So in this final rendition of “Wheels Up,” I’d like to recap ‘16 through my eyes, share a few of my experiences, and elaborate a bit as to why this past season has been a special one on a personal and professional level.
As most of you know, in February I officially became a member of the Racer X Online/Racer Productions staff as social media coordinator for a multitude of social media properties. (Thanks again, MC!) During that time I’ve been fortunate enough to attend a handful of races (professional and amateur) and post content for each round of Monster Energy AMA Supercross, Amsoil Arenacross, Amsoil AMA Grand National Cross Country, and Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, as well as the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s. In addition to having a hand in race-related content, I’ve also had the opportunity to assist in marketing and promotional duties for the magazine and racing series as well. If I had to pick the single most-rewarding aspect of my job I’d say that it is being able to partake in the behind-the-scenes/promotional side of racing. Unless you are someone who has experience working in this industry, you really don’t get to see a lot of the things that go on when the fans have gone home and the weekdays roll around. It truly is an exhilarating environment to be involved in on a daily, even hourly, basis.
Before I continue, I would just like to take a moment to encourage those reading this to never give up on your dreams and to take as many risks as you can to force opportunities to happen. There is a cliché in regards to good things coming to those who wait for them; and I am living, breathing, talking, rolling proof of just how much of a copout for laziness that is. No matter what your aspirations are, motorcycle related or not, work your butt off, invest in yourself, show people your vision, deliver on the promises that you’ve made, and you will someday start to see the dividends of your sacrifices. My validation for making such a claim is this: in 2015 I was frustrated with the sport of motocross and on the verge of getting a “real world” job. I was no longer having fun working and being around racing because all of the nights spent sleeping in the driver’s seat of my van (or wheelchair), spending my own money to “work” and eating ham and cheese loaf sandwiches…. It all began to feel like wasted effort. However, I knew that if I quit I would resent myself for the rest of my life.
Fast-forward to 2016 and here we are, I’m having the time of my life and working inside the sport I love so much.
As stated above, my year actually began in the month of February. The first item on “Wheels’ Docket of Adventures” for 2016 was a trip to Birmingham, Alabama, to take in some Amsoil Arenacross action. If you’ve never attended one of these events, I highly recommend doing so. Arenacross never fails to deliver an abundant supply of tight racing, fast riders, critical passes, the occasional crash, and all of the stuff that fans crave. One of the coolest things about my adventure to Birmingham was being able to catch up with an old high-school friend who now resides nearby, and being able to introduce his young son to dirt bike racing. Not one to fly, the drive back to Illinois would turn into a 12-hour Ice Road Truckers-esque road trip home.
Approximately one week later; I would be on the road again, heading south towards the Georgia Dome for a weekend of Monster Energy Supercross. I believe I mentioned in a prior installment of “Wheels Up” that this trip to Atlanta was especially special because it was the very first race in my 28 years of life that my dad would be able to accompany me to a race. Another weekend, another great race, another road trip memory made.
My winter would go on to be filled with posting content for the arenacross and supercross series, traveling to races, and living out my dreams that I had nearly foolishly given up on just months prior. Amidst the awesome events that took place during my visits to a handful of supercross races were interviews and bench-racing with the best racers in the world, chats with Jenny Taft, track walk shenanigans with Lurch, etc. Another thing that will stick with me throughout my career are the fan interactions. Whether it be the way a couple young fans lit up whenever I asked if they’d like their picture taken for @RacerXOnline’s instagram, or the young mother in line for a pretzel, I’ll always remember how incredible it felt to help make someone’s trip to the races a little more awesome. We tend to be so focused on the action that’s taking place in the dirt, and rightfully so, that sometimes the action in the pits and on the concourses are overlooked. It’s easy for me to relate to those sitting in the stands, because deep down that’s me—just a fan enjoying the day!
Fast forward to the summer and the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, and my experience working at these races is almost indescribable. A moment ago I just described myself as a fan enjoying the day, and to return to some of the races that I grew up watching as a kid, only this time as an employee working the series, still gives me an incredible sense of pride and accomplishment. For instance, as a young kid I grew up attending races at RedBud and Spring Creek and to come onto the property in 2016 with the task of helping promote these races on social media was phenomenal.
"Without the support of people like you—yes you—we don’t have jobs, nor as near exciting lives as we are blessed to lead. To those who assisted me in traveling this year, I can’t say thank you enough."
One of the most “wow” moments had to have been sitting inside the fence at Spring Creek alongside the sand-whoops during press day and smiling like a giddy child as Dean Wilson wheel-tapped his way through them, mere feet from where I was sitting. I realize that this makes me sound like a rookie and like I’ve never been to a race before, but that’s not the case at all. There are just those moments that make you smile and you think, Holy cow, this is my job? Of course this is a career and there are serious moments, I take my job very seriously, but every once in a while I think people should loosen up just a bit and take in what we have the privilege of calling work.
During the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship my number-one task on the weekends was to bring each of you live tweets and updates during all 48 motos as they were happening. In all honesty, that was a really awesome part of my job. We all know how exciting the races were, but to be able to interact with the fans and the races as they were happening brought a whole new level of excitement into my life.
On the topic of excitement, I’d just like to complement the amazing fans of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on their grade-A level of stokedness anytime a camera was pointed at them. I would roll along the opposite side of the fence with my GoPro mounted on the end of a stick and fans would go crazy cheering. While likely not having a clue what it was for, whether it be at the podium at RedBud or a corner at Muddy Creek, you all never hesitated to cheer in jubilation. Hats off to you great fans of our sport, this Bud’s for you!
Switching gears from the MX scene, I also have had the privilege of working the Amsoil Grand National Cross Country Series (GNCC) as well. Much of the same things that I’m tasked with during the motocross season, transfer into the realm of GNCC. Being new to GNCC racing, but coming from an off-road background, I felt completely comfortable covering this form of racing. The one thing, and probably the biggest thing, I can take away from the GNCCs is how family oriented that series is. Whenever I think of GNCC racing, I think of everyday, working, loving, all-American people (with the occasional Australian sprinkled in) who love racing and competing. It’s easy to get lost in the seriousness of racing, and these men and women all take racing seriously, but there is also a plethora of fun, smiles, laughs, and good times correlated with GNCCers.
Lastly, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Loretta Lynn’s AMA Amateur National Championship. While there I was granted access into the lives of the Robertson family and penned together a piece showcasing what it was like as a factory-level amateur athlete. I also spent many long days on the “boat dock” along the starting line, bellied up to the bar, using it as my makeshift office, tweeting and watching the action unfold. The dock became my office due to the rain that we had at The Ranch, but I can’t tell you how many new friends I made those days, especially because I had wi-fi access and the live streaming feed from RacerTV.com on my laptop! Heck, I watched probably half the motos with Ryder DiFrancesco’s grandfather before I ever figured out that’s who he was! And that’s the beauty of Loretta Lynn’s: people coming together on a common ground. Loretta Lynn’s is a week of rollercoaster emotion. You get there and you’re so fired up and ready to get it all going, then you begin working and the stress kicks in, you go to dinner and laugh about how the day went, then you sort of begin to miss your family back home, you remember how incredible of a week you’re having, then it’s over and you’re bummed out to be heading home, then you get home and sleep for 15 hours in your own bed.
Previously I used the word exhilarating, and that’s exactly what this year has been. Now that the off-season is here, I’ve asked myself a time or two, “Now what?” In reality there is a ton of work to do to prepare for 2017, but the fan in me is already jonesing to be at the track.
As always I’d like to thank each and every one of you who take the time to read my writing, who stop me at the races and say hi, who yell out “Hey Wheels!” in passing, who send me messages asking when a new article will be out, who check out my work, and especially those who are fans of all of our social media platforms. Without the support of people like you—yes you—we don’t have jobs, nor as near exciting lives as we are blessed to lead. To those who assisted me in traveling this year, I can’t say thank you enough.
This year was incredible, and I only touched on some of it but I look forward to seeing, talking, writing, and connecting with all of you incredible fans again in 2017!
Until next time.