MPG / DAILY BREAD / FEBRUARY 15, 2017
Brandon Yates put together one of the most promising years in his blooming amateur career during the 2016 season. The Kansas native didn’t start racing until he was a freshman in high school -- although he’s eligible to race Collegeboy this year, he only has about six years of actual racing experience. Yates collected an abundance of titles over the course of 2016; he started things off with a pair of titles at Freestone, got a podium and a top five his first time racing at the Ranch, won two titles at the Baja Brawl, swept his classes at Ponca, and closed the year out with a title at Mini-O’s. He continued his winning ways as he was lighting up arenas across the midwest with a plethora of podiums in the Liquid Nitro series. He just made the full time change to a legitimate training compound by making the move down to Matt Walker’s facility in Culloden, Georgia. Yates was committed to coming into the spring nationals with more preparation and momentum than ever before, but he unfortunately experienced an injury during competition at the AMSOIL AX in Nashville -- a torn ACL and MCL will put him out of contention for the better part of the year, but he’s eager to get back on the bike and show his speed at the sharp end of the B class when he returns. We caught up with Brandon to chat about how he got into the sport, making the move down to the Moto X Compound with Matt Walker, and showing up at the Ranch for the first time.
How old were you when you first rode a bike and how’d you get into the sport?
Yeah, I’m eighteen years and old and really I’ve been ridin’ a bike ever since kindergarten. I live on a dairy farm -- my family owns a farm, we’ve just got a bunch of land and stuff. And my Dad, he’s always had a bike since he was younger...like ever since I got my first bike, I just started ridin’ around trails and stuff like that, just for fun. Really, it kinda grew on my own; my Dad and my Mom never really pushed me to ride or anything, I just always wanted to do it. Actually, I never started racin’ ‘till I was a freshman in highschool, ‘cause my parents were always too scared to let me race. I finally talked ‘em into letting me go to my first race when I was a freshman...and after that it just all kinda started, I got the drive to wanna go do it.
What was your first race like?
Oh man, I was neervous. I was really nervous. I remember I was on the gate -- and it was just a small local race, I was racing beginner class -- I had a Honda 85 at the time, and I got first in it! I think that’s what really fired me up, ‘cause I didn’t really have any expectations or anything ‘cause it was the first race I’ve ever been to. I got first in it and I was pretty pumped on it...I dunno, ever since that day I’ve just been hungry to go out and race and just keep on doin’ it.
You had a pretty successful cross country career in high school, could you talk a little bit about that?
Yeah, in middle school I started out doing cross country and I did track as well. But, I was always kinda better at the longer distance stuff, so when I got to high school I just kinda focused on cross country. I was a pretty good runner at the time...then as I became older, I started to get pretty decent at it. I went to states all four years of high school in cross country -- actually, this last year I got a scholarship to go run at Ottawa University in my hometown. I was supposed to go run there and go to school there and everything...literally like a week before I decided that’s not what I wanted to do and I wanted to focus on racin’, so that’s kinda where it led me. I wasn’t happy with it and I decided I was gonna do online school at a community college, and come out here and start trainin’. I feel like running has always been a positive thing for me...like when I get sick or something I’ll go out on a run and it helps me just to feel better. I think it’s really helped push me farther and farther forward when it comes to racing just because my conditioning is always pretty good. I think cross country and motocross went hand in hand and growin’ up, runnin’ all the time really helped me when I got into the sport.
Did you say when you’re feeling sick, you go on a run and it makes you feel better?
Yeah, it’s a little weird, haha! If I get like a cold or something, I always go out and try to run, and whatever it is just kinda clears my system up. It sounds crazy, but it always helps! My Mom was always a runner and stuff too, so that’s kinda what got me into the runnin’ side of it. To be honest with you, I don’t like runnin’ that much, but I do it anways ‘cause it’s really good for me and it helps me out with motocross and stuff.
So, a big part of your program is training down at Moto X Compound with Matt Walker, what’s it like to be at the facility down there and be be a part of that group?
Yeah, for sure. The facility’s awesome; I think they’ve got like eight or nine tracks altogether. Before last year I trained with a smaller trainer, Trampas Parker, in Oklahoma. He’s really, really good with one-on-one and all that. But, as this new year came about I kinda just wanted to try something else and get in a facility that had, y’know, faster riders to push my ability. We met up with one of my buddies that’s down here -- he was talking about Matt Walker and how good the facility, the training is, and all that. I came down right before Mini-O’s for a week just to try it out and I absolutely loved it from the time I got here. I mean, they have a physical trainer that comes in two days a week as well, Bubby Mitchell, he’s awesome and super good with the physical side of the sport...and then we’ve got also got Timmy Badour who’s also really good with training and does a lot of the track work and stuff. The tracks here are awesome and we’ve just got a lot of really good kids here also, they’re great kids to work with and they can push my ability as well -- that’s what I really like about being down here, just having kids that I can watch and learn from that are pushing you the whole time.
You had a pretty gnarly crash at the beginning of the year. What happened in the crash and how long did that keep you off the bike for?
That was actually like the first week I got down here. It was rough, my parents just left and it was like the third day I was here...I was just going around the sweeper, I hit a patch of mud with my front tire and I washed out, and it just sent me head first into the takeoff of a jump. I don’t really remember much more after that point, but I got a concussion, I fractured my eye socket, and I fractured my nose. It was pretty rough lookin’ there for a while, my face was all swollen up; my Mom actually came back down to try and help me and stuff or a couple days. It was pretty rough goin’ that first week, but honestly like the fourth or the fifth day after it happened -- I was back on the bike. I wasn’t really supposed to jump anything or do anything like that just ‘cause of my concussion, but once the swelling went back down in my eye, I was back on the bike.
You had some great results throughout the 2016 season; you won quite a few titles in the C class from Freestone all the way to the Mini-O’s. What would you say was the highlight of the year for you?
I would definitely say Mini-O’s. It was a really good time this year, it’s probably one of my favorite races to go to...just ‘cause you’re down in Florida and there’s so many people that are there, just the overall vibe and experience goin’ out there to race is awesome, so to get a title down there to cap off 2016 was really cool. I was really hopin’ to do better at Loretta’s this year, I was kind bummed on that, but it was alright...y’know, everytime I don’t do as good as I want to, it just fuels me to do better, so I was happy with how the year ended.
Yeah. Top five for both your classes isn’t too bad for your first time at Loretta’s…
Yeah, it was probably the most stressful week of racing that I’ve ever had. Y’know, I first got there and it was really cool just to be down there, and be with everybody, to check the place out and see what it’s actually like. I’ve never even been there before, so it was my first year to watch and to race; it was pretty cool. The nerves didn’t even really start hittin’ until I was actually on the gate. Like, the whole time before that I was totally cool, I was just ready to race and ready to ride my bike. Once I got on the gate, man...that’s when the nerves kicked in. That whole week was just really stressful, then it was rainin’ the whole time so that didn’t help it out any. But, it was fine; I came out clean and didn’t get injured, so it was a really cool experience overall to get down there and race. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back down there soon.
From a results perspective, it doesn’t get much better than the Baja Brawl this past year; you took the title in both 250 C Limited and 450 C Limited, and also finished second overall in 250 C, how’d the racing go for you there?
Baja is probably the funnest race I’ve ever been to, it was crazy! The whole weekend was literally just a party and everybody was runnin’ around, just havin’ a good time. The track there’s awesome; it’s just a big sand track and really like it’s wide open everywhere. I felt really good at Baja and I came out with some good results. My family couldn’t make it down there, so I was just down there with a buddy. I was a little nervous at first ‘cause I didn’t really have anybody with me, but it turned out to be a good weekend.
You were a part of the inaugural Motoplayground Race in Oklahoma, how’d the weekend of racing go for you and what was your impression of the event?
Yeah, it was awesome. I raced Ponca there the year before and I came out with a title...y’know, the turnout was alright the year before, it was decent. But, this last year it was actually really good! It had a pretty good turnout, Harold and Motoplayground did a really good job getting the word out for the race this year, so it was a great year. The pit bike race there was crazy! Actually, one of the Moms got a little whisky in the pit bike race. Oh man, it was funny! It was a good time, everybody was screamin’. And it’s only like, I think, three hours away from my house, so I didn’t have to drive far which is always a plus.
So, you’ve been on Suzukis for a couple of years now and you got the opportunity to put in laps at the Carmichael farm, recently you went down there before Mini-O’s. What is it like to be able to ride on that hallowed ground and how does that help your program?
It was awesome! The last two years I got to go down to Camp Carmichael right before Mini-O’s -- the first year was a blast and the second year was even more fun. It was a great time; got to hang out with Ricky, got to talk to his Mom, and uh...this year Chris Wheeler and a couple other people from Suzuki were down there, so I got to talk to them. Chris kinda already knew me a little bit, but I got to finally meet them in person, so it helped me out just to get my name out there. Just to be able to ride the track and hang out with the people from Suzuki was pretty cool.
As far as recent races go, you’ve been dominating the podium at the Liquid Nitro AX tour. How’s the indoor racing been going and what’s the move to the intermediate class been like?
Yeah, I’ve been feelin’ pretty good here havin’ just moved up to the B class. I was back home for just a little bit and I did a couple Liquid Nitro races, and I did pretty good there in the intermediate class. Actually, just a couple weeks ago in Nashville for the AMSOIL AX, I was doin’ really good in practice and -- I think it was like the third lap of the second practice -- I came out and just got a little bit whisky in the whoops, and my foot came off the peg and I hit the ground real hard, and I ended up tearin’ my ACL and my MCL. So, I got that to deal with right now. It’s been alright, but it’s just kind of a little bit of a battle for sure. I’m kinda bummed out about that, but on the bike I’ve been feelin’ really good lately.
Are you still riding with that?
I was, but literally just like last night we decided that I’m gonna go home and get surgery, just to get healed up, so I can come back out here full swing. I’m headed home this weekend to get my surgery and all that. I’m kinda bummed out about it, it’s not gonna be too fun to sit on the couch and not be on the bike, but stuff happens. It’s part of the sport that no one likes, but you gotta deal with it, just try to take the positives out of everything. Y’know, maybe the time sittin’ down while I’m trying to recover will help me to come back firin’ away.
Do you have any idea what the timetable is like on your recovery and when you’ll be able to get back on the bike after that?
Uhhh, I think it’ll be close to four to six months that I’ll be out. We like literally just found this out the other day, so I’m kinda bummed out about that. I plan on heading back out to Moto X Compound right after Loretta’s, I think. We already signed up for Daytona and we already signed up for JS7 and then this happened in AX. I was originally just gonna try and ride with it and thought everything would be alright -- this last week in practice, my knee popped out on me twice in just four days. I don’t wanna keep beatin’ my body up, especially when I’m not even able to put one hundred percent into training and just everyday ridin’. I’m just trying to stay as healthy as I can.
So, you plan on heading back to the compound after Loretta’s, what races do you plan on doing at the end of the year?
Yeah, I’ll be back for Ponca and definitely Mini-O’s. Right after Loretta’s I’ll get back down here to Matt Walker’s...I think on the first of September. I’ll be back training full time and start fresh with a clean slate next year. I think it’ll be alright, I’m pretty bummed out about missin’ this year, but injuries come about and you just gotta deal with ‘em.
Who would you like to thank for helping you out?
Suzuki, Fly Racing, 100%, Bike Graphix, Factory Connection, Donnell’s Motorcycles, Moto X Compound, AMSOIL, EVS Sports, Dunlop, Acerbis, Marcus Trotter, Yates' Dairy, 6D Helmets, Text Interactions, and Tamer
/ Words / Lake Kilpatrick
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