MPG / DAILY BREAD / MARCH 2, 2017
Joey Crown is one of the most decorated amateur riders that will be contending the A class throughout the upcoming 2017 season; he has three Loretta Lynn’s titles to his name as well as twenty-eight national titles between the United States and Canada. 2016 didn’t live up to the incredibly high standards that the Michigan native has set for himself throughout his illustrious career, but he’s coming into the 2017 season with a point to prove at the spring nationals, seeking redemption at Loretta Lynn’s, and eager to make his professional debut at Unadilla if all goes according to plan. Crown showed the undeniable speed that he’s possessed since he was on minis multiple times throughout the 2016 season, most notably at the JuniorMotoX where he took the win in both of the 250 classes that he contested. The Kawasaki rider managed a fifth and an eighth overall at Loretta Lynn’s in the incredibly competitive 250 All-Star A/B and 250 A classes, but his results and rhythm were marred by costly mistakes at the beginning of the week. Crown put in a dominant ride in his last moto of the event in the 250 All-Star class when he pulled the holeshot and checked out, giving himself a little bit of a confidence boost heading into the TransCan at Walton where he dominated the MX2 division. The new year has gotten off to a good start as he’s feeling incredibly comfortable on the new Kawasaki which was apparent in his results at the Florida Winter AMs at the end of January -- he scored first and second overall in the 450 A and 250 A classes two weekends in succession. We caught up with Joey to talk about how his preparation has been going heading into spring nationals, mixing it up with the pros at the end of 2016, and how he’s able to keep his dirt bike skills sharp with BMX and RC Cars.
How old were you when you got your first bike and how’d you get into the sport?
I’m eighteen years old right now and I started riding dirt bikes when I was three, and it just kinda grew from there. I started racing when I was five.
What’s your first significant memory on a motorcycle?
Umm, very faintly I remember going to the races and always wanting to race. When I finally got to my first race when I was five -- the first race stuck out to me for sure, I think I got third in my first one and just kinda kept going from there. I looked up to my Dad and saw him racing, and I always kinda wanted to be like him, y’know. It kinda grew into more than just going to have fun on the weekends kinda thing and now I am where I am today.
You started off your 2017 racing season by doing a couple rounds in the Florida Winter Amateur Series and came away with a couple overall victories and a couple second places. How’d the racing go down there for you?
It was good, I felt pretty good. I felt my like my speed was where I want it to be, I just gotta work on my starts. My second places were kinda because of my starts; those guys would just get a start on me and it was hard to get around ‘em, but that’s one thing I’m working hard on for Loretta’s and spring nationals. Those races definitely helped me get a little confidence -- I still got it and we’re gonna come out swingin’ for the spring races.
How’re you feeling on the ’17 Kawi and what’s your program been like coming into spring nationals?
Umm, my program has been pretty good. I’m lovin’ the ‘17 a lot more than last year’s bike; they definitely made some major improvements. I’m a smaller kid, so they kinda made the bike a little bit narrower and a little bit smaller, so it fits my style and myself a lot better. I feel like I’m ridin’ the bike and it’s not ridin’ me. I feel more confident in myself and in my bike, and I feel like it’s gonna be a good 2017 year.
You’ve been putting some motos in down at GPF and training down there at the beginning of the year, talk a little bit about the facility down there.
Yeah, for the month of January I was at GPF ridin’ and trainin’ there. It’s pretty good, the track’s really nice; they’ve got all sorts of dirt: sand, clay, and stuff like that. There’s a couple fast Canadian guys like (Colton) Facciotti that came down, so I was ridin’ with him, and (Cole) Thompson, and a bunch of guys ridin’ SX too, so that was good. Lately I’ve been staying at County Line in Florida -- some new owners bought it and made some good changes to stuff, so I’ve just been havin’ fun down here. I’ve been ridin’ with Marco Cannella and puttin’ motos down with him, workin’ on starts and stuff with Matt Goerke, it’s been good so I think I’ll be ready.
Aside from moto, you also do a lot of BMX riding, snowboarding, mess around with RC Cars, etc…what do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t racing dirt bikes?
I dunno, I never really thought about it that hard. I do like BMXing -- I’d still probably be doing that, and RC Cars, and snowboarding and stuff -- that stuff is fun to me. I’m not much of a ball and stick kinda guy, I like two wheels...mountain biking too, I like mountain biking a lot and stuff like that. When I’m not racing a dirt bike, I like to be racing RC Cars. There’s something with racing, I guess, that us racers just -- I dunno, it’s the competitive edge, I guess. I actually get more nervous racing RC Cars than I do when I’m on my dirt bike. When I’m racing (dirt bikes) it’s just something I’m used to, but when I’m racing RC Cars -- I mean, I’m pretty decent at it but it’s easier to make bigger mistakes; if you crash with an RC Car then it’s your whole entire moto whereas on a dirt bike if you bobble in a turn, it’s not the whole race. So, I’m gettin’ better but it’s pretty crazy sitting there driving an RC Car and your heart rate’s elevating, but it’s fun. On my down time or when I’m stuck at home and the weather’s not good, that’s what I like to do. It keeps my racing edge sharp so to speak. It’s something that you wouldn’t think would make you nervous or give you an adrenaline rush, but sometimes it does.
It seems like you’re definitely comfortable on a BMX bike, do you think a lot of those skills transfer over to riding your dirt bike? Obviously McGrath and Seely both come from BMX backgrounds among other guys.
Yeah, I think so. The technical ability definitely transfers over to moto like you said with Cole Seely and McGrath -- y’know, I look up to McGrath and how good he was at BMXing, and then how good he was at SX. I like to think that it correlates and I try to, y’now, keep that in my training program and mix it up. It’s fun and then I think it definitely helps me with pumping and being able to soak up stuff -- like on a BMX bike, you don’t have suspension, so your body is the suspension so to speak. So, it kinda correlates into moto with soaking up jumps and trying to be smooth. I think my style is kind of a smooth style which on a BMX bike you’re always staying relaxed and smooth so you’re not landing hard, and I think it correlates over between the two.
I saw that you’ve been down to Ray’s MTB park a couple of different times to ride, what do you think of that spot?
Yeah, Ray’s for sure is definitely one of my favorite places to go. It has verts, bike jumps, and trails -- it’s just amazing what they put in a building. Everytime I go it’s just unreal how big it is...uhhh, and it’s definitely one place I like to go a lot in the winter months and the fall and stuff, I try to definitely make the trip down there.
Reflecting on 2016, you went down to the inaugural event at JuniorMotoX and took two titles in the 250 A and 250 Pro Sport classes. How’d the racing go there for you and what’d you think of the event?
Yeah, JuniorMotoX was probably my best race of the year, I’d have to say -- just winning both of those races. It was a pretty cool event and I definitely think it’s gonna grow in the years to come. It’s a fun event and the coverage is pretty good, I think it’s gonna grow. I was pretty happy with how I rode; my heat races weren’t very good, but I made it happen in the mains and got it done. There was definitely some good, close bar-to-bar racing there.
I gotta ask you about the Loretta’s Regional at High Point last year, because I was there and it absolutely poured down on Sunday. That was easily one of the hardest downpours I’ve ever seen, can’t imagine what it was like to ride in that muck especially on a track with so much elevation and so many off-cambers.
Yeah, High Point was definitely pretty interesting for me -- comin’ into it I had a little ankle injury, so I kinda just wanted to get through healthy. I ripped some good starts and the first day I won three out of my four motos or something. I was going into Sunday 1-1 in the 250 class I think and then like a 1-4 or somethin’ in 450, so I was sittin’ first and third...then I saw that rain comin’ and I was like “Ohhh, nooo!” I was kinda hopin’ they were gonna call it, but then they didn’t so I went out and rode -- I didn’t do what I wanted to do, but there were definitely some tricky conditions. The one moto I fell twice just ‘cause it was hard to judge the surface with so much water laying everywhere, it was probably one of the muddiest races I’ve done in a long time. I couldn’t imagine trying to take photos in it, haha! There were so many areas that were just flooded; I’ve never seen so much water on a racetrack before.
So, it kind of prepared you for Loretta’s anyways because of the crazy weather that ended up happening there. You had a gnarly crash in practice and then another gnarly crash in one of the All-Star motos but pulled it together at the end of the week with a moto win, how was the week at the Ranch for you?
The week at the Ranch definitely didn’t go anywhere near what I believe I could have done and what I knew I was capable of doing, but I was happy to at least end it on a good note -- rip the holeshot and just relax. The first crash in practice definitely took the wind out of my sails; practice was difficult, it was pretty wet and I was tryin’ to get used to the track. In the first moto, I was runnin’ really good -- I think I was tenth on the first lap and I made it up to fourth, y’know, I was catchin’ the top three guys and then I dunno what I did, just wasn’t breathin’ for the first few laps or what, and I just kinda faded. It was pretty upsetting at that point -- I mean, I believed I was putting in the work and the right work, but y’know, obviously I wasn’t and it’s so frustrating ‘cause I thought I was ready and to do that was disappointing, ‘cause I had expectations from other people. I think maybe I put a little too much pressure on myself also, umm...which didn’t help my case by no means. Then the crash in my first All-Star moto wasn’t good either -- I was comin’ through the pack good and just hit the ground and bumped my head again and y’know, really just took another big blow to myself, and at that point I just wanted the week over. I got in a bad mindset and my next few races kinda showed that, but the last day I just relaxed and was like ‘I kinda got nothing to lose and my past results show that I can make it happen.’ I just kinda tried to relax and my last A moto I got a better start and I think I got sixth, I believe, which is way better than I was doin’ but not where I would like to be. Then my last moto I ripped the holeshot and just rode like Joey Crown can ride, just kinda relaxed and had some fun -- the whole week I was not havin’ fun and that was race was fun, and as you can see my results were good. Next year I’ll definitely be wantin’ some more motos like the last one.
You turned things around up at the Walton TransCan and ended up getting first in the MX2 class as well as third in the Superfinal class, how was that event and the racing?
The racing there went really well. That was right after Loretta’s and I was kinda depressed so to speak; I was not very happy with my overall finish at Loretta’s. I was really frustrated and I went there just trying to redeem myself. I raced during the week and that went good, I won my youth class or whatever, and uh...Sunday we got a bunch of rain and the track crew did an amazing job, they pushed a lot of dirt off and the track was good. I hit a tree in practice which wasn’t very good -- hit a slick spot and slid into a tree comin’ into a chicane section, then after that it was kinda like ‘I dunno about racing,’ my leg was hurtin’ me pretty bad. But, I decided to suck it up and whatever...I ended up rippin’ the holeshot in the 250 class and won by thirty seconds or somethin’, so that was pretty good and uplifting for myself, just a good feeling. Then in the Superfinal against all the 450s and stuff -- I didn’t get the greatest start, I spun off the gate and my start wasn’t that good, but I felt like I rode really well. I set some fast lap times and I ended up getting third. I was all over second and the leader wasn’t too far from that, and the guy who won, Kaven Benoit, I saw him go to Des Nations and he kicked butt there, so that made me feel better that I’m runnin’ the same times as him, and he’s racing at that stage and finishin’ top ten and stuff. That made myself feel better.
You went to the Soaring Eagle race at Redbud and got to race some SX and mix it up with some pros. Did that help to build your confidence to be able to kind of see where you’re at against some of those guys?
Yeah, for sure. I’ve been racin’ there every year they’ve had it, I believe, and I struggled with basically getting a bunch of seconds. This past year I was able to win the All-Star class and it was my first year racing pro there -- I line up on the line and I’m sitting next to Jake Weimer on my left and Phil Nicoletti on my right on factory 450s and I’m on my 250, and I was like ‘Aww, here we go.’ My start was probably as bad as it could get, so I didn’t get up there with those guys, but I felt like I rode really well. I came through the pack pretty good and I was up to tenth, I believe, and I had (Josh) Osby in sight and I think Nick Wey was right in front of him, and I fell and it was just kinda whatever from there. I ended up not finishing that well, but it was cool and I’m definitely gonna go back to that race and hopefully it should be good if I get a better start, and now that I got my first time out of the way, y’know, racin’ those fast guys -- the guys with names that are pros. I feel like I can be as fast as those guys...but the name, right? And the factory bikes….
Did that kinda wig you out a little bit sitting on the line being between two factory guys like that?
Yeah, a little bit -- just thinkin’ I’m sitting here on a 250 against factory 450s -- it was like ‘How am I gonna make this work?’ I’ve never been in that position before, too. I mean, I’ve been against 450s, but never with factory pro riders right next to me and me being on a modded 250, but still not anywhere near -- and then I’m thinking of that in my head and my mindset wasn’t right before the gate drop, and my start wasn’t very good. But, I felt like I rode pretty decent and my times weren’t too far off Weimer and Nicoletti, and Cunningham -- the top guys. My times weren’t too bad being on a 250 comin’ through the pack, so I feel like this year if I get a better start then I’ll hopefully walk away with a little bit of money in my pocket.
What’re your goals/expectations heading into 2017 and what’re your racing plans?
My goal for this year is pretty much to win. It’s very well possible and I’m capable, and my equipment is good; my Kawis been great, the new ‘17s are a major improvement and I’m likin’ them, and feelin’ comfortable. I feel like it’s a good possibility and it should be good. My plan this year is to race Daytona and Freestone, then I plan on doing some Canadian Nationals just to get my feet wet in some long motos, then race Loretta’s, and the tentative plan right now is to do the last three rounds of the outdoors after Loretta’s. So, that’s my goal and hopefully in those -- I mean, it’s a ways away, but also so close -- so my goal is just to get out there and just be scoring points. I mean, I believe I can be running with the top ten guys. Austin Forkner has always been my competition and I’ve beat him, battled him, and believe that I’m capable of running where he’s running right now, and he’s been killing it ever since he turned pro. The difference between him and a lot of other guys around my level is just the confidence that he has; he believes in himself -- not that he’s not an awesome rider, don’t get me wrong -- but umm, I just feel like that’s a big separation that he has over everyone else. He believes he belongs and that’s always been a crutch for me -- I need to believe in myself more and make it happen. I gotta have confidence in myself and in my equipment that I can go get it done.
Who would you like to thank for helping you out?
Monster Energy Kawasaki, Babbitt's, Thor, MCR Suspension & MX Training, Dunlop, Decal Works, C4MX, Bell, Tamer, FMF, Motion Pro, Mobius, Oakley, Gaerne, Guts, Boyesen, Wiseco, Rekluse, Uni, Cometic, VP, Renthal, Pablo Fitness, EverRev, Giant Bicycles, Amsoil
/ Words / Lake Kilpatrick
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