MPG / DAILY BREAD / JANUARY 3, 2017
Words / Lake Kilpatrick
In five years when the name Seth Hammaker is being reverberated around football stadiums across the United States, lots of people will remember the 2016 racing season as the first time they heard his name. He came into the year flying under the radar; he showed speed at the RCSX in Daytona, but a crash and a concussion would knock him out of competition. The Pennsylvania native went back to the drawing board and came into Loretta’s out of the spotlight, placing the pressure and the expectations on his competitors. During a week of racing that ranged from torrential downpours to scintillating sunburn, Hammaker showed his speed in each and every condition, earning himself his first ever Loretta’s title in the process. He carried that momentum into the Monster Energy Cup and stole the show from the factory supported superminis by outpacing them throughout the entire day. All of the blood, sweat, and tears finally earned him a call from Team Green Kawasaki. We caught up Seth after his first race with the team (at Mini-O’s) to chat about his journey to the top, how he’s feeling on the 250, and what his plans are for 2017.
First of all, one of the first things you did when you got home after Mini-O's was hop straight on the 250, how’s the transition to the big bike been?
Uh, yeah. The 250 has been really good, the four-stroke is obviously different from the two-stroke, but I’ve been adapting pretty well and just trying to get as much time on it as I can... even though I have two, almost three months before the spring nationals. But, other than that like it’s been good, I really like the whole bike overall. It’s just easy to transition from my supermini and I’m excited to move on and get more comfortable with it.
What sort of adaptations have you had to make to your riding style now that you’re on the bigger bike?
Yeah, with the four-stroke I noticed that the power is always there for you...you don’t have to ride as hard which can be a good or a bad thing. But, um...the bigger bike definitely helps me, because I was tall on my supermini, so I definitely fit the 250. I mean, I thought I’d be a
little small for it, but I feel good. Definitely need to put a little bit more muscle on and be able to throw it around a little bit more, but other than that it’s been pretty easy.
Going back to the week of racing at Mini-O’s, it was your last competition on the supermini…how did it feel to win your last ever race on the supermini whilst simultaneously winning your first Mini-O’s Championship?
Yeah, it was. The whole week I was kinda, you know, obviously nobody wants to get 2nd every time. I mean, you always wanna win, but sometimes you gotta take it. I was just trying to be as consistent as possible the whole week. I had three 2nd overalls coming into the last moto, and uh...didn’t get a good start; tried to like time the gate, didn’t work out. And then just never gave up through the whole moto, just charged my way up. And then with like three corners to go I made the pass on 1st place for the win and the overall. And uh...it was my last supermini race and my first championship at Mini-O’s, so I was definitely stoked on that; just how the whole race went, it was awesome to end it like that.
2016 has been a bit of a breakout year for you. You won your first Loretta’s title, your first Mini-O’s Championship, dominated a moto at the Monster Energy Cup…what’s the feeling like reflecting on the 2016 season now that it’s come to a close?
Yeah, this year I definitely made a...I guess you could say, made a statement, and just for like myself it was a big confidence booster. Even when it started out at the beginning of the year, you know, just riding with faster kids and I noticed that I was there, but I just needed to put it all together. And we ended up doing that for pretty much all the nationals including Loretta’s and after Loretta’s. Even like a year ago, two years ago...I was going to these nationals here and there and just getting like 10th, hoping to get inside the top 5. I was just kind of like sick of being an okay rider. I wanted to be the best, and I’ve worked hard to get to where I am, and obviously it paid off. But no, the 2016 season was something to remember and I think it’s just the start of what’s going to happen.
You mentioned you were kind of fed up with being a top 10 guy, what changed in your preparation to bring you to the next level?
I started riding like as much as I could and I noticed that as long as you’re on the bike, you just get used to everything that the bike is gonna do. You know the bike in and out and that’s gonna help you in general. Uhm...but just like the cardio, like everything that I do basically goes into motocross and that’s all that I think about. But, I mean it is a lot of hard work, but you’ve just got to put in the time and it will come.
Out of all the achievements and accolades you’ve collected throughout the 2016 racing season, which means the most to you?
Uhh, definitely the Loretta Lynn’s championship. It’s kinda funny ‘cause that’s like the first one, but that was the one that nobody at all expected me to win, and that’s the one I came out and just, you know, made it happen. Obviously, the Mini-O’s last race on my supermini - that was one to remember, but I think my first championship at Loretta Lynn’s was definitely something to remember.
You rolled into Loretta’s this year with a ’Seth who?’ butt patch on your gear. It was a really clever, ironic way to kind of hype yourself up, even more so when you backed it up with wins and podiums. What’s the story behind coming up with that patch?
Yeah, um...well before the race nobody really knew like how I was gonna do, but all my family and friends, and my one buddy Shelby Reitz...he was like ‘I’m gonna make up a butt patch that says ‘Seth who?’’ ‘cause nobody really knew...I mean, some people knew who I was, but nobody really thought I could do anything. He decided to do it...and at first I didn’t really think it was a good idea, but then it turned out to be super cool and it kind of stuck...with Monster Cup, I think we did it, too. It was kinda cool.
Yeah, and at Monster Cup you weren’t able to run 51, because it’s Kessler’s number, so you had to improvise.
Haha, yeah. We had to tape my number plate and jersey.
When you were on the flight back from Vegas, were you kind of expecting something at that point? Did you feel like you did enough to earn a ride?
Yeah, at that point I was just like...I proved myself at Loretta’s; in the dry, the mud, the outdoors, the supercross - it didn’t really matter, and you know, in front of a lot of people. It showed that I had all the ingredients to put everything together. Obviously, after I crashed at Monster Cup I was kinda like ‘Man, I don’t wanna think like people think I’m gonna DNF every moto.’ But, I knew that I was gonna get at least something out of it. But, all in all, it worked out.
The results that you’ve put in this season undoubtedly garnered some factory attention, what was going through your head when you finally got the call from Team Green after you got back from Vegas?
Yeah, like when I got the call from Team Green, it was pretty surreal. You know, like Team Green Kawasaki, it’s the best and biggest amateur motocross team there is. And to be one of the guys to ride for them, you know, it’s awesome. I look forward to continuing the relationship and just performing well for them and myself. I’m honored to be a team rider for them.
Only a couple of months later you capped the year off with your name stuck on the back of a custom Team Green helmet. Things have kind of come full circle for you, from the ‘Seth who?’ butt patch to just ‘‘Seth’ on the back of one of the most prestigious pieces of gear in amateur motocross. What was it like picking that helmet up with your name on it?
Yeah, like I knew that all the Team Green riders received one of those, but it’s just cool to wear one of those. Everyone looks up to…you know, not only that, but they recognize that little stuff and the helmet’s one of ‘em. And uh...to have kids and everybody just look up to me, I wanna try and be a good role model. But anyways, it was just a cool feeling to get one, and it’s definitely something to hang on to, for sure.
Bell also put together an awesome gold helmet emblazoned with a #1 for all their champion riders at Loretta’s, which helmet do you think will stay set up on your mantle when your racing career is over?
Hmmmm, I’m gonna have to say the Team Green one. I think Loretta’s was good - that was awesome that Bell put on that helmet for all the champions, but uh...I think the Team Green one is gonna be a statement for my whole career, like how I got started.
It’s going to be hard to top the results that you’ve had in 2016, especially since you’re moving up to the big bike class…what sort of goals have you set for yourself for 2017?
For 2017, obviously I wanna win. But, I know that it’s a different class and, you know, it’s like you said: if you get a bad start, it’s not like you can come up as quick as you used to, because all the guys are competitive. I just wanna be consistent, I wanna be there every weekend, I wanna be healthy. I wanna be there at all the races; be healthy, be ready, um...be fightin’ for the championships, and hopefully wrap a few of them up, and just be there in the title hunt.
What sort of contract do you have going on with Team Green and what kind of deals do you have going on for 2017?
Yeah, I signed a one year deal with Team Green. I just need to prove myself to, you know, continue my relationship. It’s all up to me if I wanna put in the work and there’s no doubt about it that I will, so I don’t think it’s gonna be a problem. But uh...I mean, I’m excited for this year.
The first national everyone can expect to see you at will be Daytona, what classes are you planning on contesting next year?
Yeah, I’ll be there in 250 B Limited, 250 B, and Schoolboy 2. I’ll be racing all three of those at Daytona, Freestone, and I don’t know about Loretta’s yet.
What’re your plans for the offseason and training through the winter?
Yeah, after the New Year I’m going down to my buddy’s house in Florida. I’ll be going down there two months prior to the spring nationals. I’ll be preparing myself to get ready for them, and uh...after Freestone I’ll be heading back to my house, hitting the area qualifiers and getting ready for Loretta’s and stuff, doing whatever I need to do.
Thanks for your time, man. Any sponsors you’d like to shout out?
Monster Energy Team Green Kawasaki, Fly Racing, Bell Helmets, 100%, Alpinestar, Dunlop, Maxima, Renthal, RK Chains, UniFilters, Motion Pro, ARC Levers, Hinson, pr2, Pro Circuit, N-Style, VP Fuel, Acerbis