Words by: Mike Holliday
The title may sound redundant but Feld Motor Sports, the promoters of Monster Energy AMA Supercross, has started a program to help young racers transition from the amateur ranks to the professional ranks. In a well thought out step-by-step program, current amateur riders can get a glimpse into the professional sport they have dreamed of since they were little kids. It is appropriately titled Supercross Futures and offers opportunities to select riders from across the country to participate in one of four venues on the pro circuit today. The young racers will follow a rigid schedule of practice, qualifying and racing mixed in with the rigors of interacting with the media over the course of a weekend. The four events culminate with a championship style finale in Salt Lake City this weekend. Parker Ross and Jaxon Pascal are just two of the riders chasing the dream and their story, like many others, outlines their trials and tribulations on the road to success.
Both Ross and Pascal started riding dirt bikes at a very young age. Ross began his racing career in Northern California at the now famous Prairie City SVRA (home of the Hangtown Motocross Classic round of Pro Motocross). When he was just eight years old, he made his first run at AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch, and qualified. From there he was hooked. He spent all his time racing at the local scene to improve his craft and later found himself traveling out of state to compete with faster riders.
Pascal found himself on a similar path, however he was based out of Thunder Valley in Colorado. He also made his way to Loretta Lynn’s at 11 years old and had some moderate success. He too was hooked and found himself wanting to chase the circuit to find faster racers. Both riders grew up watching supercross every Saturday night, and this quickly became their dream to race in a stadium one day, as professionals. Even though the two competitors were on the same trajectory, to this point in their racing careers they had never met. That was until January of this year. By coincidence, the two made it to the same team and they both had the same goal of racing professional supercross and that perhaps they could join forces to do it together.
For the 2023 season both Ross and Pascal were given an amazing opportunity to ride for the SLR Honda team, owned by seven-time Baja 1000 champion Mark Samuels. Being a part of a team that has already experienced what it is like to win is a huge advantage for both of these amateur riders. SLR Honda’s goal for Ross and Pascal was to qualify for the Supercross Futures National Championship in Salt Lake City. They took this opportunity to do what they love every day very seriously. Ross, now 17, and Pascal, 18, took the leap of faith and left home within a month to move to Southern California. This gave them the opportunity to start living, riding, and training every day. As you can imagine, this has been a monumental transition for them, having to live on their own while trying to become professional athletes.
Now it was time to race, and they both lined up at the first Supercross Futures event at Anaheim 2.
“To be honest, it was a bit overwhelming,” Ross said. “I thought I was prepared but that all changed the minute I rolled out on the track. The noise, the fans, the lights—all of it was way more than I anticipated.”
“That night had me guessing if I was cut out to do this,” Pascal followed it up. “I knew in my heart the answer was yes, but my results did not match my expectations—not even close.”
With the first “learning experience” under their belt it was time to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the night and regroup for the next round. That opportunity came in Glendale, Arizona, with both knowing it was now or never if they wanted to make the Salt Lake City finale.
They made quick work of the field and both riders were very consistent through the entire main event. Ross finished a respectable sixth and Pascal close behind in eighth. Good enough to qualify them for Salt Lake City. They have been working even harder on their weaknesses to be even more competitive in the Supercross Futures Championship.
With their ticket punched, Ross looked back and said: “What an experience. I don’t know how guys transitioned to the pro ranks before, but I feel pretty lucky the Futures program exists today. It really helped me understand what it takes both on and off the track.”
Pascal echoed those thoughts and added: “We not only got to race on the biggest stage in the world, we also got to meet all of the people that make it happen from the top people at Feld and the AMA all the way to some pro racers that help guide the program. I agree with Parker, we are lucky to be invited to the Futures program.”
The last supercross race of the season will be exciting as three champions will be crowned in the professional ranks and now one additional champion will represent the Futures class of 2023.