ATV Motocross

Site Lap: Big Information Coming In

Site Lap: Big Information Coming In

Friday, November 21, 2014 | 9:25 AM
Friday, November 21, 2014 | 9:25 AM

A few short weeks ago we were all wondering what is going on in the ATV Racin' Nation. Then little bits of big information started leaking out. Then the banquet rolled around, and all of a sudden big news happened and more information was provided. The announcement of the 2015 schedule, the announcement of Daytona SX was monumental, Mtn. Dew announced it's return as title sponsor, and the 1.7 million viewers of ATV racing this season were all good news and the lead in to some big announcements.

The big announcements actually started not long after the season ended, when Thomas Brown announced his leaving Wienen Motorsports and forming his own team. Again, it was no real surprise, and then Brett Musick was rumored to be taking Brown's spot on the team and things calmed down for a few weeks. 

Thomas Brown has some big news still coming for the 2015 season
Thomas Brown has some big news still coming for the 2015 season Photo: Ken Hill

Leading into the banquet, Josh Upperman was rumored to be making a move. Upperman made the move from Baldwin Motorsports to Root River Racing, and as we will find out the story behind this from Rich Gillette a little later, it is something that has been in the works for quite some time.

Then shortly after the banquet Thomas Brown said he had some announcements he was going to be making concerning his new team and some additions to the roster. Though I haven't gotten the full scoop on this one, it sounds like Brown is working hard to make sure the program is rock solid and seems motivated and focused on going for the championship.

Back to Josh Upperman and Baldwin Motorsports. Since we know what Josh is doing and that he was the focus of the Baldwin Racing program we were left to wonder what Mark was going to do. Would he find someone else? Would he focus on a mature support? Will he start a whole new team with a whole new rider? Would he just park the rig and build motors? Very little had been said, but there were a few murmurs here and there, and then this past week a video quietly made it's way onto Facebook and went almost instantly viral in our ATV Racin' Nation. 

Baldwin Racing put out a video that announced their team
Baldwin Racing put out a video that announced their team Photo: Ken Hill

The video starts out pretty simple. It makes a few obvious statements and then it announces the new team and a whole new attitude. Things just got good! Before I write much more on the subject, if you haven't seen the video yet click to watch now.

All I can say is "wow!" Talk about making a statement and calling out. That for sure does it. I still won't spoil it but I for one am excited at what level this combination can achieve. Being a 2-time champion for the rider and Mark being the leader and builder he is, may make these two tough to stop. Look whom Mark spent his time with, Tim Farr and Mark worked closely together each bringing to the table their own talents. The experience of both should weigh heavy.

Let's check in with Ken "get my gun" Hill:

Well things are starting to pop regarding the 2015 season as a few riders have started unleashing the beast as it were. I had to chuckle when John Natalie posted the picture on his Facebook wearing a Yamaha jacket and set the racing world on its head! I knew he wasn't riding blue but it goes to show you how quickly a single image can become the focal point of your program. Of course when Baldwin Motorsports dropped the video releasing the official announcement the rumor mill crashed to the ground and we all know now what 2015 will look like out of that deal. And how about that video? 

Chad Wienen found himself on the top spot of the podium a lot in 2014, can he do the same in the 2015 season...
Chad Wienen found himself on the top spot of the podium a lot in 2014, can he do the same in the 2015 season... Photo: Ken Hill

There was a ton of fun packed in those few minutes and a giant call out wouldn't you say? It will take a heap more than a video to unseat Chad Wienen as the champion but it shows some new fire into Baldwin and Natalie, which can be a big problem for quite a few front-runners if Natalie gets back on his A game. My personal take on this new team will be that quite possibly John Natalie gets a much needed mental break as the Baldwin crew takes over maintaining and prepping his ride which I assume is the plan as that is how Upperman rolled. A fresh and unstressed Ironman showing up with nothing to do but relax and race can be a lethal combination. This could turn out to be the biggest joint venture in the past few years and could bring a serious challenge to anyone seeking a podium finish. 

Everyone else is still being fairly secretive as information still slowly gets put out there. Ronnie Higgerson has taken possession of his Vechery Racing Honda so we should soon see some pictures and video of him shredding southern dirt! Thomas Brown has gotten as far as having his trailer unwrapped however he has not released much more than that. Being in Texas, I figure he will be one of the first riders to start pounding moto's or he better be! Hetrick, Wienen and Natalie aren't going to be cutting anyone any slack in 2015 especially at the Daytona round so the more training the better.

Speaking of the Daytona race, there seemed to be an uprising of negativity on social media regarding when we will actually race versus the bikes. In a perfect world we would race the same day and maybe in the future that will be the case but seriously, we take a giant step forward and the negative Nancy's begin the keyboard assault on it? I try and keep in mind that many who are doing the complaining are also keyboard racers but that type of thing is read by those who support us and who are against is so what exactly are you accomplishing? Be proud and supportive and send any issues you may have via email to the series so that we can all work on making things go the best possible route they can.

John Natalie made his big move for 2015 over to Baldwin Racing
John Natalie made his big move for 2015 over to Baldwin Racing Photo: Ken Hill

That is all from me this week. I am heading to the GNCC banquet this weekend and Monday starts my annual deer hunting therapy session that has been known to last through all of December! Everyone be safe, get cranking on those dedicated social media pages for your racing program and enjoy the downtime while it lasts!

Thanks Ken! Good insight once more. And now let's check in with Rich Gillette who has some inside information and rumors to extinguish as well as some other great announcements.

The Insanity of the Offseason at Root River Racing

Rodney, after we spoke the other day and you were asking for clarification on a few rumors that we rolling around, I figured I should sit down and let you and everyone else know what has been happening at Root River Racing.  

Yes, Josh Upperman is joining the Root River Race Team. No, he is not replacing anyone on our team. Was there any ill will between Josh and Mark Baldwin or myself and Mark Baldwin, NO? Is Root River Racing still accepting resumes? The answer is, yes until November 9th. Are there any full sponsorship spots left on the team, no only partial sponsorship are still available.

Josh Upperman made a surprising move to Root River Racing!
Josh Upperman made a surprising move to Root River Racing! Photo: Ken Hill

I know everyone out there is wondering how is it that Josh Upperman left Baldwin Motorsports and joined Root River Racing and everyone is ok with it. Ladies and Gentleman, it’s called respect. I had a casual conversation with Josh at Unadilla about racing, 2015 and what it’s going to take to get him on the podium more often. His primary concern was time to train and the financial ability to train the amount needed to be competitive in the Pro class. At the end of the conversation, I ask him to put together a sponsorship request of what he would need to get on the podium.  At Red Bud he presented it to me with what I felt was something the team could handle, but Josh and I had one very tough hurdle to get through, to talk to Mark Baldwin.

Over the past few years, Mark and I have become good friends and great working associates. Out of my respect to Mark there was no way I was going to offer a formal deal to Josh without talking to Mark face to face. I found that opportunity at Loretta’s. Mark and I talked at the rear of my pick up, one of the few places we could find that we would not be disturbed. I explained what Josh and I had discussed in the past couple of weeks and what I was willing to offer him. He was impressed with the offer and happy for Josh. I could see the disappointment on Mark’s face and I tried to reassure him that this was not intentional to pull Josh from Baldwin but was to offer a great person and Pro rider the opportunity to win a AMA Pro ATV Championship. He thanked me for talking to him directly about it and offered any additional support that we may need for Josh and our team, Baldwin Motorsports would be there for us.

In other news, we are ecstatic with the results of our team. 2014 was the best the team has ever done winning 5 national championships in 450 A, Production A, Open A, Women and Super Mini. The team also hit the podium 68 times and taking 36 overall wins. At the banquet we were honored with Team of the year as well as Sam Rowe winning Amateur of the Year and Noah Mickelson winning Youth Rider of the Year. Coming off a year like that, the riders have set a new bar for themselves. 

The team is growing and taking new shape. The team is losing one of our most inspirational and talented riders to marriage and the GNCC. Megan Manshack was asked to marry Luke Shepherd on the podium at Loretta Lynn’s after she won Women’s class. She had also stressed to me that she would like to try for the Pro Women championship in GNCC. After what she had accomplished in two years with the team, how could I say no. Our support will always be with Megan in her adventures and would hope that she could make it to the ATV MX nationals from time to time.

Joel Hetrick had some big news during the off-season, he's engaged! Congrats Joel!
Joel Hetrick had some big news during the off-season, he's engaged! Congrats Joel! Photo: Ken Hill

Bringing under the tent in 2015 other than Josh Upperman will be long time partial sponsored rider Tyler Mack and newcomer to the sports Owen Subjek. Tyler Mack is hitting the B classes with Alex Gillette, while Owen will be competing in 90 Jr Open and 90 Jr Shifter classes. These additional riders will bring the team to 10 Full Sponsored riders. Of the partial sponsored riders from 2014 Jordan Digby, Nick Weber and Trevor Thatcher will be returning for sure. The 2015 new partial sponsored riders will be Jeffery Rastrelli, Ryan Korody, Kyle Burnham, Gramm Meyer, Jacob Stevens, Kobe VanFossen, Kazin VanFossen, Maci Davenport, Dylan McClellan and Grant Olson.

The team is taking new shape by adding what we are calling “Support Family Riders”. It is something that we have been working on for the last two years and will fully implement for 2015. The concept for a support family rider is taking on the burden of building, rebuilding, hauling to and from national events, track support and appearance of full sponsorship of a rider and his or her family by way of the family’s support of the team. Where this concept came from was watching a great family with 4 mini quad riders that we had known for years struggle to keep their machines running. It was painstaking to me to watch the kids come off the track dejected because of mechanical failures. I knew Marcey and Mark Liebe were frustrated, because they were neither doing the best that they could, but they didn’t have the technological know how nor the time to do the proper maintenance on their machines. When they were on the brink of giving up, I talked to our mechanics to see if we had the time and talent to do the maintenance on their quads. Rod Mickelson, the team manager, told me they would make it work, so I approached the family to offer them an opportunity to continue racing. 

In the off-season that year we rebuilt their quads and corrected everything that was wrong that was causing most of they’re problems. The family also followed us to Texas to train over the winter. We all sat down to talk about our program and to be on the same page when it came to expectations. At the first round of nationals, Tristen, Taron, Trax and Teagan finished every moto and came away with top 10s for the weekend. Needless to say the family was happy. Outside of the joy that we gave that family, they repaid us for parts and labor on top of sponsoring the team with diesel fuel for the year.

We can't wait for the 2015 battles!
We can't wait for the 2015 battles! Photo: Ken Hill

This past year at High Point we had taken on the Vossman family after a lot of struggles in pre-season an after the first 3 rounds. Tommy and Johanna were amazed at Sunset Ridge when they got on their quads and were able to feel comfortable and compete. For the remainder of the season, the Vossman’s were welcomed in as a part of the team. Tommy and Johanna’s dad Tom Vossman, was all smiles from ear to ear as he watched his kids improve round after round. He was so grateful, that he has been working on sponsors for Root River Racing and the series through his contacts in the Indy Car racing series and the company he works for. 

Towards the end of this past season, Bryan and Conney O’Neil approached us about the Vossman’s and the Liebe’s and the program they had going on with Root River Racing. We told them the stories and they were very interested in being a part of this program. Rod and I sat down to try to figure out how this all was going to work. Rod and I had determined, with the return of Doug Schiltz, our shock specialist, and the additions of Leon Spinden and Jim Keough as full time mechanics, we had the manpower to take on the another rider. 

As you can see, the Root River Racing crew is busier than we ever have. In a nutshell, since October 1st, 2014 we have been steadily working on the rebuilds and full new builds 24 race ATVs. The pressure of all these builds is enormous on the mechanics, because of the standards they put on themselves for perfection and my strive for never having a mechanical failure at a race. Some days are better than others, but for the most part the mechanics haven’t killed each other and I haven’t killed them all. For the most part, the whole team is very excited for the first ever-Supercross race at Daytona Speedway and for the 2015 season. We will be there next year in full force striving to achieve our mission, “Root River Racing's mission is maximum amount of podiums possible! National recognition for our performance, representation of our sponsors, leadership qualities and respect of other riders and teams.”

Chad Wienen may have some more compeition rising for the 2015 ATVMX season
Chad Wienen may have some more compeition rising for the 2015 ATVMX season Photo: Ken Hill

Wow! That's a lot of information. Keep the well full. Feel free to message Ken Hill or me and we will be glad to help spread the good words for 2015. 

That's it for now. Till next time, God Bless Your Heart and All Your Vital Organs.