Since stepping away from racing during the 2014 season, Blake Wharton, a three-time race winner in 250SX East Supercross, has always considered a return to professional racing. He will make his return to supercross during the 2018 250SX East Region Championship in Monster Energy Supercross.
A press release from Wharton today says he will compete aboard a Munn Racing Husqvarna TC 250 with additional support from KSRWheels, HAAN Hubs, O’Neal Racing, VP Fuels Racing, Factory Connection, Free The Peeps, Seat Concepts, and TORC1 Racing.
“My intention just two weeks ago was to be on the line at the season opener for the East series February 17 in Arlington, but we’ve been pushed back a round or two because I had practice crash that’s put me behind a bit,” Wharton said. He says he’s hoping to be ready for the second round in Tampa on February 24, but he may not be 100 percent until the third round in Atlanta on March 3.
“Obviously, I don’t plan to contend for the East title this year, so if I have to miss a round or two to make sure I’m healthy enough to race, that’s okay with the team. If we get seven rounds in with some decent finishes as the season progresses, we’ll count that as a victory and start focusing on building the effort for 2019,” he said.
Wharton, a former Rockstar Energy Suzuki and GEICO Honda team member, has more than a dozen career podiums in the 250SX East series, including three wins to his credit. Wharton earned five top-five overall season finishes during his career. At 26, he wants to return to the sport to complete some unfinished business.
“I left the sport after a bout with Epstein Barr in 2013 and a knee injury in 2014. After dedicating my entire life to racing, the circumstances of my early departure were less than ideal, to say the least,” Wharton said. Wharton, who is based in Pilot Point, TX, believes he is more prepared mentally for a return to the sport he loves.
“I’m not suffering from any delusions about my return,” Wharton said. “It’s not easy jumping back into a sport as competitive as supercross after a three-year layoff. I don’t have a factory bike, but I do have outstanding support from the guys at Munn Racing and all my other sponsors. They’re behind me 100 percent, and our early goal is simply to put it in the main and do the best we can. We’ll see how it shapes up from there and take it week by week.”
While managing his own expectations, Wharton does expect to return to top-five form by the end of the season.
Wharton’s not thinking simply short-term. Ultimately, he’d like to find a place in the action sports industry once he’s done racing and he believes building on his previous racing success will help him better prepare for that.
“At the end of the day, we all know supercross is a dangerous sport and I’ve considered my motivation for returning carefully,” he said. “A return wouldn’t be a viable option for me five years from now.”
Wharton's last run in supercross came in 2014, when his former employers at GEICO Honda offered him a replacement ride to fill in for Justin Bogle, who was injured before the season. Bogle rehabbed quickly and actually made it back to the races, so he and Wharton raced together. Bogle's remarkable recovery culminated in the 250SX East Region Championship that year. Wharton, citing a late start with the replacement ride, couldn't quite find his old podium level.
Since beginning his hiatus, Wharton has remained active in the industry and on the track, penning several features for us in Racer X Illustrated and conducting motocross schools in the United States and in places as far flung as Africa and Ecuador. He’s also made progress on his education, studying marketing communications at The University of North Texas. He’s even managed to publish four songs, which are available for download on iTunes.
“I think all of my experiences over the past three years have helped me mature personally and as a professional athlete. I’ve got a few good years left to put all this together on the race track with an eye toward my future, and now is the time to do that.”
Blake Wharton turned professional in 2008 after a highly successful amateur motocross career. He began his pro career with Factory KTM and moved to GEICO Honda, where he competed from 2008-'11 before moving to the Rockstar Suzuki team for 2012 and 2013. In his last year of competition, Wharton served as a fill-in rider for the GEICO Honda team. He has thirteen career 250SX East series podiums, including three 250SX East series wins at Saint Louis in 2009, Indianapolis in 2012, and Houston in 2013.
Munn Racing is owned and operated by Chip Munn, who bought his Texas dealership in 1999 and promptly began heavy support of local amateur and professional racers. In 2012, the Munn Racing team completed its first full professional racing season, and they’ve been committed to growing the sport by building a strong program ever since. While the team has supported a number of professional racers over the past several years, Munn’s commitment to strong 250SX finishes has been significantly elevated for 2018 with the hiring of Blake Wharton.