MPG / DAILY BREAD / FEBRUARY 23, 2017
Tyson Johnson had one of the best years of his sprouting amateur career in 2016, earning his first two top ten finishes at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch as well as an invitation to the coveted Monster Energy Cup. He has really developed some impressive indoor skills which he was able to showcase at the beginning of the year in Oklahoma City during the inaugural JuniorMotoX as he came away with the win in the Supermini 1 class. The California native has left the supermini behind this year and moved up to a bigger bike -- a welcome change that has occurred in tandem with joining the brand new BTO Sports Amateur team for 2017. Johnson’s successful 2016 season earned him the deserved attention, therefore putting him in a confident and optimistic position heading into the new year. He chose to make the switch from Kawis to KTMs for the upcoming year and seems to be feeling right at home on the new bike. The BTO supported rider contested his first Loretta’s qualifier of the season a couple of weeks ago at Arizona Cycle Park, coming away with third overall in Schoolboy 1 and overcoming some mistakes to fight around the top ten in 250 B on his 125cc machine. We caught up with Tyson to chat about signing with the BTO Sports Amateur team, his experience at the Monster Energy Cup, and his favorite place to ride out in the motocross haven that is California.
You just signed with the BTO Sports Amateur team for the 2017 season, talk a little bit about what it’s like to be onboard with those guys.
Yeah, it was really exciting. I actually found out about it from my Dad and sent in a resume, and they got back to me really fast. I was super excited to sign the contract with BTOSports.com and everything’s going really good. The guys: Taylor, Austin, Jose and everybody over there are super nice and do whatever they can to get me the best stuff.
Going back to your roots, how old were you when you got your first dirt bike and how’d you get into the sport?
Uh, I was two and a half when I got my first bike. My Dad started riding when he was in his thirties -- just started doing some off-road stuff, and my cousin had a bike and let me try it out; I just had the most fun ever!
Do you remember your first race?
I kinda remember my first race. All I remember is that it was super muddy and cold, and I believe my bike blew up.
I gotta ask about the instagram name. Where did chicken little come from?
So, one of our buddies -- we were at dinner and we were thinkin’ of a nickname, and he just came up with chicken little because of Tyson chicken. That was about two years ago, I think, and it just stuck from there. My Dad always calls me it now.
You raced your first area qualifier of the year down at Arizona Cycle Park, how’d the racing go down there for you and where’d you end up?
The racing was really good. On Saturday, I raced 250 B Stock on the 125 and Schoolboy 1, I believe. Schoolboy 1 went good, I got a third overall in that and in 250 B I made a few mistakes, but I think I got thirteenth overall or somethin’ like that. The first moto I got sixth and the last moto I went down, so that didn’t help me very much.
You moved up onto the bigger bike this year, how’re you feeling in the older classes as well as moving from Kawasaki to KTM?
I love the bikes. It’s so much more fun, the bigger wheels and everything gets over stuff so much easier and the power’s awesome! It’s a really easy bike to move around and everything -- I mean, it’s heavier but it doesn’t feel heavier.
Looking back on the 2016 season, was there anything in particular that stuck out to you as one of the highlights of your year?
Well, I was super excited at the JuniorMotoX in Oklahoma. I had to go to the LCQ’s and my hopes weren’t super high for the main; I wasn’t sure how I was gonna finish, but I got a good start and got the win in Supermini 1. For my other class, I got an okay start and finished sixth. And then another one was Loretta’s, I did my best finishes ever with a seventh and a tenth. Monster Cup was a big one -- just getting invited and being able to be there was super cool.
You got first in Supermini 1 at JuniorMotoX, what did you think of that race considering it was the inaugural event?
I thought it was super fun! The track was really good; it was tighter, so I dunno how it’d be on a big bike, but I liked it. It was super fun for a mini and I liked how they had the whoops, and they weren’t easy like I expected ‘em to be. But, it was fun; it was technical. It wasn’t as supercrossy as Monster Cup, but it was tight and fast and to be able to ride SX and practice on it was so a lot of fun.
Loretta’s was pretty solid for you last year, you ended up getting two top ten overalls in both of the Supermini classes. Could you talk a little bit about the week at the Ranch?
It was really good. I got seventh overall in Supermini 1 and tenth in Supermini 2. That was my fourth year -- every year I put too much stress on myself, because it is the biggest race in the amateur championship. This year I kind of went into it confident but less stressed - just having fun, and I lined up and just did the best I could.
You were one of the select kids to get invited to race Monster Energy Cup in Vegas, what is it like being a part of that race on the big stage and all?
Yeah. It was super cool, because I didn’t think it was gonna be like it was -- I shouldn’t say we were with the pros, but we were in a way ‘cause we got to do everything they did like the opening ceremonies. The track was fun; it was hard, but it was fun...and the crowd, just knowing you’re in front of everybody was a really cool experience, and sitting up top just looking down was awesome.
What did you think about the metal grate start, did you have to change your technique or anything? That’s something that will most likely be standard by the time you’re racing SX.
It didn’t really change my technique. My first time I did it I was a little skeptical. I didn’t think it’d grab like it did, but it was really tacky. I know they put it down the start too, ‘cause they had plywood and we were just digging through it.
You managed to get a top ten there as well, how’d the racing go for you?
It was fun. My first moto I got a really good start and just kinda made a little mistake, but stayed where I was at and just tried to ride my own race and have fun.
Do you find yourself favoring SX or MX more?
I like the SX more -- just because it’s such a different experience, we don’t get to do it a lot. I like jumps and the jumping is really fun.
Living out west, you have a lot of options as far as tracks go…what is your favorite track to ride out there?
Ummm, I think Cahuilla. I live in Northern Cal, and I spent a lot of time with my trainer in Southern California, and I think Cahuilla is my favorite right now. The guys, the owners and everything put a lot of work into it. I just love how -- I don’t wanna say they have wide open berms, but it feels like that. It just has a really good flow to it.
What’re your goals/expectations heading into the 2017 season?
I guess my goals are to do the best I can, of course, and to not let anything stop me -- just have fun and if I don’t do as good as I can, train harder and get ready for the next one!
Who would you like to thank?
Seven MX, 6D Helmets, Torc 1 Racing, BTOsports.com, Matrix Concepts, Hinson Racing, 100 Percent, No-Toil, Alpinestars, EMT Racing, Ethika, Addiction Industries
/ Words / Lake Kilpatrick
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