MPG / DAILY BREAD / JANUARY 23, 2017
Words / Lake Kilpatrick
Jace Kessler really began to make a name for himself throughout the 2016 racing season. The Michigan native’s accumulated results and accolades throughout the year earned him some attention from BTOSports.com, and they chose him to be a part of their amateur program for the upcoming year. He proved himself on a myriad of battlefronts this past year; whether it be the mud bogs of Loretta Lynn’s, the brightly lit stage of the Monster Energy Cup, or the flowing natural terrain of Gatorback at Mini-O’s. Kessler will be looking to take the step to the next level during the 2017 season as he’s now supported by a legitimate amateur team, giving him an opportunity to showcase his skills. After taking some time off throughout the winter, he got back into the swing of things during the opening rounds of the AMSOIL AX series, contesting the Supermini Dominator class. He grabbed a second place finish on the opening night in Cincinnati and took the victory in his home state of Michigan in Grand Rapids. Kessler will be looking to take that positive energy down to Florida where he’ll be putting in work to prepare for the Daytona RCSX. We caught up with Jace to chat about his plans for 2017, what it was like to race Monster Cup for the very first time, and his history as an ice racer up in the Great Lakes State.
Some big news for you to kick off the new year, you signed with the BTOSports.com amateur team for the 2017 season, could you talk a little bit about the deal you’ve got together with them?
Yeah, I just signed with BTOSports.com a couple weeks ago. I’m super stoked to be a part of their new team. They’ve got some awesome sponsors backin’ them: Seven, 6D, Hinson, Matrix, Torc1, and a lot of other good sponsors. I’m really happy to be part of the team and hope to put some good results in and show ‘em what I got in 2017.
So, 2016 was a pretty good season for you. You had to overcome a bit of adversity to get into Loretta’s, because you broke your wrist right before the Red Bud regional and tried to ride through the pain.
Yeah, I broke my wrist at the beginning of April when I was training for Loretta’s qualifiers and regionals. Actually, I broke my right wrist pretty bad. It was bad, because in 2012 I broke all four of my growth plates at Mini-O’s, so it messed up that injury. But, we got it fixed and I tried to ride through the pain at Red Bud for my regional, and I just couldn’t do it. I tried goin’ out there and I think I missed it by a couple spots, but we went to my backup regional and ended up gettin’ in. I was healthy there, so that’s basically how it went.
You showed some good speed at the Ranch with a second place finish and a couple of top fives, what was the week down there like for you?
It was pretty good. Umm, I started off the week good; I got a couple podiums and I got a second place, so that was good. At Loretta’s it always seems like there’s a mud moto somewhere in there during the week. I’m from Michigan, so I know how to ride the mud. For me it’s fun, it makes for good racing. Goin’ into the final moto, I actually had a pretty good shot to win it and I ended up crashing in the last moto - ended up throwing it away. So, I was pretty bummed about that, but y’know, you learn from your mistakes and it just made me wanna come back stronger.
Monster Energy Cup was another solid performance for you, what was the experience like racing there for the first time?
I got the invite and I was super stoked about that. We actually went and built a SX track at my house and I just trained there, then I went out to California and rode at MX 707 Designs. Monster Cup was good! I love SX and that race I felt I did really good. Y’know, I was up there battling with all the top guys, it felt good to be up there. It was such a great experience, I was just super pumped to be able to go there - with the fans and the crowd - just the whole atmosphere was cool. It was a good time. I mean, it took a little bit of adjusting at first, but after practice and stuff I got the hang of it.
What did you think of the elevated start, did it make things a little more intense coming into the first corner?
Oh yeah, for sure. The elevated start was pretty cool, y’know, you were hittin’ fifth gear down that thing. It was pretty gnarly actually on that (metal) grid. It took a little bit of getting used to tryin’ to start on that. In practice my starts weren’t very good, but I figured it out in the main. I got decent starts, but it was definitely hard adjusting to that. It hooked up a lot, so I always used the second thing on my holeshot device, so we had to change that up, and I used the first. Mainly, I just had to get over the bike a little more and really squeeze harder, and get forward to keep the front end down.
Towards the end of last year, I saw you were putting in some SX practice with Joey Crown. How does riding with a top tier amateur guy like that help you step your game up?
Yeah, Joey came out to my house a couple of times. Our track is actually legit, it’s all to scale. So, I told Joey to come out there, ‘cause he lives about an hour from me. So, he came out a couple times and loved it. So I kinda trained with him a little before Monster Cup, and that helped me a lot - just chasing someone fast like that.
Some more podiums came your way at Mini-O’s, but you also experienced some bad luck down there…
Mini-O’s was pretty good. I thought I did alright, I got two seconds and two thirds in the outdoors. I thought I coulda rode a little better, my speed was just a hair off, but I won a moto and was right up there battling. I had little bike problems in SX, but the outdoor part of it was pretty good.
You’ve started off 2017 with some AX racing in the Supermini Dominator class, could you talk a little bit about your experience racing the first two rounds of that?
Yeah, it was pretty good. As of right now, we planned on hitting the first two rounds, ‘cause they weren’t too far from my house. Y’know, Cincinnati was pretty close and I live thirty minutes from Grand Rapids. There’s always some pretty fast kids that race the AX like Jack (Rogers) and Jordan (Jarvis). I was able to get the win in Grand Rapids, so it was good.
Do you have to approach AX differently compared to a more SX style track like the Monster Energy Cup?
I mean, not really. I kinda like to stay on my same schedule. I actually didn’t get much preparation, I took a little bit of time off. With me being from Michigan, it’s winter here so it’s hard to ride right now. So, I hit a couple indoor tracks and that was basically it. AX has got it’s similarities and it’s differences. It’s cool bein’ in an arena like that and there’s always a bunch of fans at night, so that aspect of it makes it pretty cool. The track gives you a little bit of a taste of what SX is like. It’s definitely a little different, but y’know, it’s got the catapult and the whoops, it’s pretty similar to SX.
You get a chance to hit up any lakes and do some ice riding up there in the winter?
Umm, yeah. I used to ice race quite a bit and I actually have a couple titles on the ice. But, now I’m mainly just full on training...I’m actually about to go down to Florida to start training for the spring nationals. So, I haven’t raced ice in a couple years, but I used to when I was on 50’s and 65’s.
What’re your plans for the 2017 season, classes you’ll be racing, etc…?
I expect big things of myself in 2017. I really wanna make some noise and show everyone what I got. Y’know, if you look back at previous years at all the nationals, I have always been right up there battling for titles, but have always came up just a bit short. I'm really looking to take that next step and show everyone I got what it takes. I’m gonna race Mini Sr. 2, Supermini 1 and 2, and Schoolboy. I've been putting in the work this winter and I just feel refreshed and almost like a whole new me! I got some awesome people behind me and I'm really excited for what the year has in store.
Who would you like to thank that is helping you out this year?
BTOSports.com, Seven, 100%, 6D Helmets, Alpinestars, Ethika, Matrix Concepts, Torc1, No Toil, Powerband, Nihilo Concepts