They say everything is bigger in Texas, and Texas motocross is no different. The Lone Star State was home to one of the biggest amateur racing scenes during the early 2000s. One pair of Texas brothers stood out from that pack. The Wharton brothers blazed new ground and raised the standard for what it took to win as they rose through the mini and amateur ranks.
Tyler Wharton is the eldest of speedy duo, and while his racing resume does not include the professional factory rides (and wins) that younger brother Blake enjoyed, he was still very fast and talented. Despite winning countless amateur championships, his professional career was much shorter than Blake’s.
Wharton left the sport shortly after turning pro due to an illness and moved into the working world where he is carving out a living buying, selling, and renting out properties in his home state of Texas.
Racer X: Tyler, what are you doing with yourself these days? It seems like you largely disappeared from the sport once you stopped racing.
Tyler Wharton: Well, I just got back from Mexico last night. I was in down there for the Day of the Dead and was checking that out. It’s crazy! But for me, well, I’ve moved and now live full-time in Beaumont, Texas, and I’m in real estate. Mostly, I try to keep things fun and when I’m not working I do a lot of traveling. Basically, I work really hard for bit, and then I travel for a bit. It works out to be about once a month I go somewhere. Having just got back from Mexico, now I’m going to go and visit New York next month.
The travel sounds fun, what is it that you enjoy about it?
When I do these trips, we really like to take photos. So I guess you can say that I am a little into photography. I like to travel and walk the streets. [I’ve visited] Columbia, Peru, Mexico, Israel, London, Cuba, Seattle, Alaska—and that’s just the past year. I just go and take photos and walk around. I get Uber and walk. I walk 10 miles a day and shoot pictures. It’s my goal to see all the countries in the Americas, that’s about 48 different countries.
What kind of stuff are you doing in real estate?
I have mostly commercial properties. I also have my broker’s license, but it’s mostly commercial stuff that I focus on; I don’t do much with my license. I pretty much just fell into it. One of my friends went and got her commercial license and I was kind of interested in what she was doing, and it peaked my interest. I quit racing about seven years ago and started in real estate just about five years ago. I have most everything I own rented out as of right now.
Do you do your own work on the properties?
Most of it, yeah. I will get down on the floor and keep busy, but I’m no carpenter. That said, I can keep my hands busy, that’s for sure. But you know, coming from motocross, we are limited on real world education. We know how to train, but real world education is hard, and it’s difficult to see [things] outside of racing—that’s all we knew. So it kind of worked out as I try to apply the same work ethic to this as I did my racing.
How did the hurricane impact you?
Well, on one hand, it’s an opportunity. My stuff survived without really any issues. But it brings a ton of work, and there is an opportunity that can come with it. There are no rentals in this area, so it’s good if you are owners and your place didn’t get much damage. So I have benefitted from the storm, but my dad had some issues and I know some guys that had major damage. The area where my stuff is was hardly damaged; we lost power. These storms, you can try to see the positives to every situation.
Is your dad in real estate as well?
My dad has rental properties as well, but we are not partners on anything. So, after the storm, there are so many properties going up for sale, I am looking for some bargains. I tend to like the funky commercial stuff. For example, I just closed on an old nightclub. We’re just now getting utilities and power turned on, and working towards getting the place rented out. I need to get a roof on the place, that’s like $50k. For me, I have time on my side, as when you are younger, you can buy something and hold onto it for a long time. So anything I buy, I am planning to hold onto it. I like the rental properties and am working on building a portfolio of rentals. To get my first property, I sold everything I had for the down payment, and that included my pickup truck and my tractor. I even borrowed $10k from my dad to get it, but I got him paid back. So right now, I have 11 properties in total.
Let’s talk about your racing career. Your transition from amateur to pro was pretty hard for you, right?
I raced Loretta’s for factory KTM, and then turned pro right after. I did one outdoor race at Freestone, but my pro debut was at Millville when I was 18. I was privateer and I did it on my own. I rode the 450 class, and I had some confidence as I had won a few championships at Loretta’s. It was just me and my trainer, Shannon Niday. We were not allowed to park in the pits, I was with all the people and the tailgate parties. In the first moto I crashed out, but then in the second moto I got ninth, so I was pretty pleased with that. But things were already going in the wrong direction from there, and the real downfall of my racing career was having Crohn's disease.
Whoa, that’s a big deal. What was that about?
Yeah it was pretty bad. The disease is in your stomach. It is partially stressed induced. So, after that race, I was in the hospital in Millville for three days. I didn’t even go home. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but it is why I ended up quitting in the end. With the Crohn's disease, I started having issues when I was 16. It is in the lower intestines, and basically your white blood cells attack themselves and your guts flood with white blood cells. Eventually they have to cut some off and it’s beyond repair if it goes on for a while. I partially blame it on racing as it can be a stressed induced thing, but maybe not entirely. But let’s just say that leading a happy, easy life without racing makes it far more manageable. I kept it on the DL for a long time as I didn’t really want people to know.
But, yeah, I was on my own program and kind of left my family’s deal, and did everything on my own. Dealing with the Crohn's disease, even buying medication, that was tough. I didn’t have insurance, I was argumentative and basically was doing my own thing. I think that the reason my pro career didn’t work out was maybe 50 percent due to Crohn's and the other 50 percent because I was on my own and being stubborn. But I am honestly 100 percent happy to have done it, and also to have left the sport as well. Racing is tough, there is no money to be made, we are trained athletes, we were trained and at the top of our game. But I am very glad that I got out when I did.
How did you decide to retire?
Later on, maybe the next year, I was at RedBud . I did practice, but I was in such pain, I pulled off and said I would not race again or ride again if I was in pain. I needed to have some surgery done, so I took care of that, but that was it. I tried ridding a few times again, but was basically over it.
You and your brother had quite the amateur career. Let’s talk a little about what it was like to grow up in a home where it was motocross 24/7 and 365 days a year.
Our setup was ahead of its time for sure. Nowadays, places like MTF [Millsaps Training Facility] are common. We didn’t have those places back then. So we had our program with trainers. We were pretty darn successful and at some places, we were just on a different level. We had a bunch of bikes, and we would ride like seven classes. We could make good money with the factory contingency, but my dad had really put the whole thing together early on and then it gathered momentum. But then once I turned pro, I didn’t have the help with my dad, I was on my own. And that was hard. But both my brother and I took the structured program we had and have implemented into my life. Motocross was our version of college education, and doing two or three 45 motos and working out twice a day, well you can’t replicate the dedication that takes to do.
It seems like that many of the brothers that race, the youngest one is always faster.
I think that’s true for us. But as for my brother, there has never been an amateur that has won more than my brother. And I don’t mean with respect to Loretta’s, but just the overall amount of wins. One year at the World Mini in Vegas, he signed up for seven classes. I think it was the mini class, supermini, both 250 and 450 stock and mod, as well as the 125 two-stroke class, and he won all of them in the same day! People talk about Adam Cianciarulo and the Alessi brothers and all the stuff they won, but I don’t think anyone has ever done that at an amateur national. That was also the first year that KTM started their amateur program, maybe 2005 or 2006. I also remember one year at Lake Whitney he won every moto, it was like 17 motos. But we were both pretty dominant back then. I think from 2004 to 2008 our program was really on point.
Were you guys home schooled?
Yes. We had tracks everywhere around our house, and we didn’t go to normal school. When we turned pro, we had three different supercross tracks and Marc Peters came in and built them. We were home schooled, and I finished when I was 16 years old. I have not done any other education since then. My brother is now going to college, and I thought about maybe doing some classes as well. But you know, if you do well in motocross with a program like that, you can take what you learn and apply it the real world, and you don’t need a fancy college education. As long as you have half brain left and don’t suffer from too many concussions, the motocross education is actually pretty good.
Do you still follow the sport?
Not really. If I owned a TV and happened to watch it, which I don’t, I might probably check it out for a little bit, but then change the channel. Honestly, watching my brother out there, who kept at it, it would stress me out. So I don’t really watch it at all, but I do know racing is still fun. But once it’s a profession, it’s a different thing. Going out with your buddies and riding is fun, that’s what it’s all about, that’s what it originally started as for us. But when your livelihood depends on it, it changes the game. I have not rode motocross in years. I do have a Café Racer and a KTM adventure bike that I enjoy riding, but no motocross. I even have a Moto Guzzi. I just ride around town, and I think I would like to have a place where I have a couple of street bikes as decorations.
What about on the personal side of your life? Are you married? Any kids?
No way. No kids, no marriage, I have kept things pretty simple. My goal was to stay single until I am 30, and travel once a month. I keep things pretty light. I do have a girlfriend, she was down with me in Mexico and we have fun, but no wife and kids.