The Holidays are here and believe it or not Thanksgiving has come and gone. Black Friday has come and gone and now we are in the middle of cyber sales galore. Yep! Christmas is in the air and all the hoopla is in full swing. Last week I spent Thanksgiving with my two wheeled motocross family at the 44th annual Winter Olympics.
It was a great time at Gatorback Cycle Park and I even spent some time with 2-Time ATV Champ Jerimiah Jones, who was in attendance working with the folks at Hinson Racing. I’m not sure how many recall, but there was a Winter ATV Olympics for a couple of years though that time of year was a hard time to draw much of a crowd. It was a rather neat format for the ATVMX community with the Supercross and the Motocross Championships leading into Olympiad champions and such. Who knows though, now that the sport has progressed to the point we are now it could be a viable option if all the pieces fall into place. It took all the right pieces this past season and we created history so maybe we can create it again.
As Christmas approaches we normally are locked out of what’s going on as folks have either inked deals by now or are waiting to finalize things after the first of the year. The last few days though have brought some big news and some big changes in the coming season. This is rather exciting as it looks like a few folks may have gotten an early visit from Santa.
The biggest news perhaps is the Maxxis/Liquid Wrench/Elka/Honda ATVMX Team announcement. Whoa! Stop the presses! Did I read that right? Is the word Honda in that? That is like icing on the cake to the historic year of ATV racing that just took place. The really exciting thing is that if Honda is the icing then what could be the cheery on top?
If you are wondering what the “cheery on top” is it comes in the form of one of the most exciting team announced in a while. Aside from the Natalie-Baldwin merger last year this may possibly be the biggest announcement in nearly a decade. The line-up includes amazing sponsors, phenomenal riders and some of the industry’s top mechanics.
The sponsors of Maxxis and Elka are obviously involved in a huge way. The idea that these two companies have tagged their brands so dominantly to this team tells a story of its own. Add to that the return of Liquid Wrench who has dedicated their beliefs in this sport for another season stepping up to great levels for 2016. Having Liquid Wrench as a part of our sport involved on the rider level shows a true commitment to seeing our sport grow. Then of course having Honda as a part of a program on any level is the piece to this package that sets it above and beyond.
The riders include in the AMA Pro ATV ranks Joel Hetrick and David Haagsma. Nearly everyone associated with the ATV Motocross National Championship knows about Joel Hetrick. The majority of the same people may not know but have heard of the west coast sensation David Haagsma. Hetrick is expected to be the lead rider on the team but if stories of the talent Haagsma possesses we may end up with a true powerhouse race team with the two slugging it out for the championship. Of course Haagsma is not completely proven and has not seen a full season of national competition. That being said though the little time he has been spent here it was easily recognizable he may be a true threat given the right tools and it looks like he is moving into a fully furnished garage.
The third rider on the team announced is Grayson Eller. Eller was a strong youth competitor working his way through the ranks as one of the top challengers. The move up to the big bikes has been promising especially as he matures and finds his confidence and speed. Coming from a motocross family as his dad was a two wheel pro in his younger day he knows what it is going to take to succeed. The major advantage though for Eller may very well be in the mentors assembled for him to work under and learn from. The next few seasons look for Eller to be the sponge and absorb all he can from Hetrick and Haagsma and then wring it out on the track in B class racing. The bar may raise once again.
As far as the team of mechanics goes it is impossible to think you can get much better. Possibly one of the most sought after and respected mechanics in the industry is Paul Turner. “P.T.”, as he is affectionately referred to as by friends, just received an award as Mechanic of the Year at the annual ATV MX Awards ceremony a few weeks ago as Chad Wienen’s mechanic. I don’t question loyalty or friendship in anyway with this move. What I see is a man that is actually sacrificing a lot in hopes of helping our sport grow. The move certainly looks like a move to do just that and with the spirit of competition intensifying it can only take the sport to new levels it needs to achieve.
Allan McCostlin and Shawn Ulikowski will bring their expertise to the table as well. Under the direction of Turner these three should be able to bring a full factory effort and feel to a team based program. It is a step in the right direction. We see what Turner did with the Wienen Motorsports program which filtered to Thomas Brown and his program and is enabling him to build his team and with the move to this new team it may just be the shot in the arm our sport needed. I know there are a few individuals that are responsible for pulling this all together and I can assure you every move they make will be a move for the greater good.
In closing on this week I must echo the fact that this is another strategic move benefitting a sport that has in a sense lost its direction. Everyone knowing what is wanted but not truly needed. The key ingredients have been time and patience and without either there is no solid foundation. Recent events in our sport with the growing recognition through Racer TVs recorded and live coverage of the events, social media, new and major events in major venues have strengthened the foundation and many are starting to look at ATV racing as a place to build.
That’s it for now. Let’s check in with Gloop and Ken “My wife still has shot a bigger buck than me” Hill. Till next time, God Bless Your Heart and All Your Vital Organs.
In the Loop with Gloop:
So this week some big news came out of a new team for 2016! Joel Hetrick, David Haagsma and Grayson Eller are teaming up in 2016 and I wish the best of luck to them. Give these guys a follow and see how everything pans out for their 2016 debut. Check out the press release HERE!
Keeping up with Ken Hill:
Ken’s piece was written back in November right after the banquet had ended. We took a break over Thanksgiving, and now we see how Ken’s night went at the 2015 ATVMX Awards Banquet.
Well, the 2015 banquet has wrapped up and I am tucked into my room uploading the last of the night’s images. I must say this place is huge! There was a ton of stuff to get into that’s for sure! It did take me a few minutes to find my room, but the walk was worth it, the place is decorated up pretty fancy! I apologize to anyone I bumped into while I was walking and looking at all the cool stuff!
The awards celebration itself seemed to roll at a good steady pace as everyone received their awards and got to describe their season and of course, thank those who gave them support throughout the year. It is always great to see the youth racers fumble about as they face the stage and large audience, many for the very first time. I was impressed by this year’s crop of young riders who seemed to not have any issues telling us all how it was! Big smiles, the shy eyes at times, but an excellent representation of the series and we were all very proud to have them up there!
Various classes showed the grit and drive that is required to compete at the national level for an entire season. Many expressed successes and failures yet they still managed to fight their way to a season end performance that earned them a spot under the big lights. If you listen, you can hear at times how hard it is and how many people it takes to find success and even that is never guaranteed. Racing of any form is tough, ATV racing seems at time almost impossible, but each season these riders find a way, create opportunity and charge forward even when the tunnel seems so dark and the light so far away. Maybe that is what draws us in, those of us who just refuse to quit racing and drop a shoulder and press on even when we know the road ahead is rough and filled with obstacles.
Indeed, this night is filled with winners and champions from the smallest of racers to the elite Pro class. The smiles of families show the pride and hide the pain felt through the process a racing family feels season after season. Maybe in a way, it is the need to be tested that drives us, I am not really sure but I know something keeps us going. The handshakes, the hugs and the community feeling sure don’t hurt. We are family even when competing to be the very best.
The 2016 schedule is out, and all I can say is wow! It looks like we will have another season of good tracks! Did you know that this season was the very first season I made it to every race? In the past, I had handed off duties to another photographer when the travel was on the verge of being to far for driving. Other years I had a serious health issue pop up that kept me from attending. I set out this year to prove to myself I could do both the ATVMX and GNCC series from start to finish. I think I even said in my best Lethal Weapon Mel Gibson “NO BACK UP” a few times when things got tough! I have one more banquet to do in December and my quest will be complete.
Speaking of awards, I even got one this year! I received a Media Award of Excellence at the banquet, which is pretty sweet! I have a few of them but each one means something special and I am very thankful. I commented on stage that I wanted to split the award with Gloop because he and several others as well as I rely on each other to keep material moving through social media and throughout the racing world. It is indeed a group effort and I thank everyone I work with for not only their support but also their commitment to the series. I am too old to worry about trying to make a name for myself or be somebody, I did that long ago. I let my ego go and kept my pride and enjoy seeing others succeed!
Well, that is going to wrap up my contribution to this week Site Lap. The images are all uploaded and now it is time for some shuteye and my vacation. I have the GNCC banquet to do and other than that, I will be sitting in a tree or tucked into some ridge somewhere as I hunt for the next 6 weeks. No promises on hearing from me, I will do my best to get things done as usual but after this busy season it is time for a mental break and to recharge my batteries…Daytona will be here before we know it!
Side Note: Ken needs someone to send some deer his way
The 2015 ATVMX Awards Banquet Specialty Awards are now available online for your viewing pleasure!
Check out all of the Specialty Award Winners from this year's ATVMX Awards Banquet at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio by clicking HERE.