Gared Steinke was a fan favorite in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross a year ago, qualifying in the 250 Class seven times while riding a Husqvarna 125. If you attended a race last year, you can attest to the interest the California native generated.
Steinke was hoping to compete in all 12 Nationals again this year, but he sustained a shoulder injury at the final round of Amsoil Arenacross and was just cleared to ride. We caught up with Stank Dawg before his season debut at Washougal to see how his shoulder is recovering, riding the Alta, and more.
Racer X: The last time I saw you was Vegas Arenacross. You went down in the whoops. What happened?
Gared Steinke: Got a little squirrelly in the whoops. I was skimming them all day and then the heat race last lap I decided to try to jump one and it wasn’t very good for me. I hit the deck and did an AC separation, dislocated my shoulder. Just getting back into action. Doing physical therapy. Got the OK from the doc to start riding about two weeks ago and ridden about four or five times before Washougal National. Just going to go out there and do everything we can.
How’s it feeling, the shoulder?
It feels really good, actually. Everyone says shoulders and knees are one of the worst injuries you can have as a motocross racer, but if you do the physical therapy like the doctor tells you to do and you stay on it and stay very positive with the physical therapy, it feels just as good as it did before.
You raced Thursday at Portal International Raceway?
Yup. It was the first time I rode the 250 two-stroke since you crashed her out here at the Top Guns race. It was a pretty fresh bike, 250 two-stroke KTM. Scott Russell from Motorsport Hillsboro, he always hooks me up and rolled it right off the showroom floor for me again and let me have at it at Thursday Night Motocross. Came out of there with a fourth. I think I had the speed to run with the top three, but just out of shape and got tired around lap five. It’s about a 20-lap main event, so I didn’t have the endurance to run the top three pace.
You also raced the Alta last night, right?
Yeah, I did. I rode it for the first time in practice. Got two practices on it and then went out and raced it. It’s a one-moto format and I raced the Alta. It’s a big eye-opening experience for your average motocross racer who’s used to a two-stroke or a four-stroke. Lots of noise, and then hopping on that bike being completely electric, no sound or nothing. So, it’s a little different, but I enjoyed it. Just trying something different, something new.
How was the power band? How did it all feel?
Honestly, I’d say the mid and the top end is just as fast as a 250F, but on the bottom end it didn’t feel like it had much bottom end, which is understandable because it’s electric which is kind of all or nothing. But the biggest thing I noticed is it does still have a throttle control. You can still roll the throttle on it and it’ll still track through the corners good and all around. Everyone’s biggest complain about it was it’s heavy. When I got on it, it didn’t feel much heavier than a 250F. Another thing I really enjoyed is how well-balanced it was hitting the jumps. It didn’t feel front-end heavy or rear-end heavy. It kind of just felt normal, like a normal bike.
Were you running regular brakes, regular moto setup? I know you can do handlebars and other stuff.
Yeah, it was just all stock. Stock brakes, stock handlebars. Kind of weird not having a clutch and no shifter, but it was all around a fun experience.
How’d you do in that one?
I got second. I was before the Hill Master Class and I got beat by a guy on a 450.
So, this will be your first National. Were you planning on doing all the Nationals before you got hurt?
Yeah, I was planning on doing all the Nationals. Had it set up to where I was going to do every single one, then the shoulder at Vegas set me back. Just got the OK two weeks ago to start riding. Washougal, Unadilla for sure, then see if I can’t work out any more of them from there.
So, you’re going to be riding the smoker?
Yeah, riding the Husky 125. Same bike as last year, just all freshened up. Jim Hasker from Hasker Racing’s got the motor all tuned up, nice and pristine.
Who’s going to be wrenching for you?
Right now, no one. I got no one out there.
Solo wrench sesh?
Solo wrench sesh. Maybe if one of my buddies doesn’t qualify or something he’ll go out there and help me, or maybe one of my buddies that we’re staying at his house tonight. Maybe he’ll come out and help me.
But you’re not driving to Unadilla, right? You got somebody taking it over there for you?
Yeah, someone’s taking the bike and I’m flying over there, thankfully. That’s a long haul.
What about next year? What’s in the works?
Right now, I’m doing arenacross for sure again. I’ve gotten a few offers from Rockstar Yamaha team for arenacross, and then also Jay Joplin, he’s a Husky team right now. I got an offer from him too. We’re still open in the air, but most likely it’ll be for Joplin Racing.
How was the Team Babbitt’s for you?
That was an awesome experience. Denny Bartree’s a cool guy. He’s been in the business a long time as a team manager. That whole program they have over there is really, really solid. I was thankful to have Tyler Verba as my mechanic. He’s all around a great mechanic. He knows the bike inside and out. He went to school for it. He’s one of the best mechanics that I’ve actually got to experience working with. Hopefully I can stay off the ground and finish two, 30-minute motos and hopefully score some points at Washougal.