Nate Thrasher had one of his most successful years to date in the 2016 season. The Tennessee native put in some solid results at Loretta Lynn’s that included a moto win. He won a championship at JuniorMotoX, grabbed a title at the Daytona RCSX, and completely dominated the competition at Mini-O’s. Thrasher scored more points than any other rider down at Gatorback over Thanksgiving week, earning himself the Pro Circuit Platinum Pipe award. The stellar results he’s been stacking up throughout the season afforded him an invitation to the Monster Energy Cup for the first time ever, but the added attention more importantly brought him a Team Green Kawasaki contract for 2017. Thrasher got the chance to go back out west and put in some laps with some of his new teammates out in SoCal -- his first experience spending time in the hub of the industry. He’ll be coming into the spring nationals with a newfound sense of confidence drawn from his incredible string of results at Mini-O’s as well as the support of his new team. We caught up with Nate to talk about the time he spent out on the west coast, snow skiing for the first time, and what he’s got planned for the upcoming season.
First of all, some really big news for you recently is that you signed with Team Green Kawasaki for 2017. Could you talk a little bit about what it’s like to be a part of their program?
Yeah, it’s great! I was super pumped to get it, it’s one of the best programs in the world for amateurs. I got that after Mini-O’s -- after I did so good there, I think I won five championships. I did really good there, I had a pretty good year everywhere else, too...just didn’t quite get it done everywhere else. But, I got it done there so I was pretty pumped about that.
What’s it been like for you making the switch to the Kawasaki?
It’s been great, their bike’s so good; that just makes it that much easier. I think it’s a little bit faster than the KTM, so that just makes it so much easier to switch over to the Kawasaki. The motors are really close, but it handles just so much better than the KTM does. I’m a little bit faster on it too, so it’s gonna make a good year.
You went out to California and got to put some motos in with some of your new teammates, what was it like spending some time on the west coast with those guys and riding out there? Have you ever been out there before?
Yeah, I went out there for Monster Cup and stayed out there after for about two weeks, I think. I just went back, because I didn’t have any bikes out here so we just packed up and went out there. They had my bikes out there, so it was good. It’s very different (riding) out there. There’s not many ruts, the dirts a lot different, jumps are different, tracks are different -- it’s more high speed, the elevation...totally different.
You got to ride at Glen Helen while you were out there. It’s one of the most iconic tracks in the sport, known very well for it’s elevation changes and everything. Were you kind of surprised at how big Mount St. Helen was when you got there?
Yeah, you can barely make it up! It looks big on TV, but when you get there it’s just so much bigger. When you come to the bottom on the first lap, and you’re just lookin’ up like ‘I dunno if I’m gonna make it up or not.’ But, it was good. The first day was super muddy so we didn’t really get to practice, they like cut all the hills off. The second day was really good -- we rode all the hills and stuff, we raced. The start’s very different; it’s long, there’s big bowl turns. It was pretty cool. It’s something to go to...if you go to California, that’s the place to go.
You also got to go snow skiing for the first time when you were out west. It’s a lot different than riding a dirt bike, huh?
Oh yeah, haha. I crashed quite a bit for my first time. Y’know, it’s not bad. It’s fun when you go up there, you’re pretty far up there and it’s a long way down. So, if you’ve never been then it’s something you need to go do, it’s a lot of fun.
You just won the Supermini Dominator class at the AMSOIL AX in Nashville this past weekend, what was your first impression of the series and the racing?
It was good. That was my first AX, I didn’t practice before or nothin’ so that was good. It’s a lot different than SX or MX. If you’ve never practiced for it, it’s a lot different. It’s so much tighter. The whoops, and the finish line…you’ve just gotta hit the whoops -- you just gotta be consistent with everything on every lap, that’s the hard thing about it.
You raced Monster Cup so you’re no stranger to big crowds or anything like that, but is there a little bit of added pressure lining up in a stadium full of crazy fans like that?
Oh, definitely. At Monster Cup when it’s your first time, you’re lookin’ around and there’s so many people there and you don’t even know what to do. On the first start there, you were on top of it and you didn’t even know what to do comin’ off of it...like (there were) so many people! I was like middle, so if you don’t have like closer to the inside gate you’ve just gotta hold it tapped and hope for the best if you get a good start, that’s pretty much all it is. And the (elevated) start is totally different, you can’t like launch it out of the gate, if you launch it then you jump down it. So, it’s totally different than a normal start, too.
Going back to 2016, you put in some awesome results across the season. You won a title at the Daytona RCSX, won a title at JuniorMotoX, had lots of good finishes at Loretta’s, and completely dominated Mini-O’s…are you content with how the season went as a whole?
Yeah, it was good. I think I could have gone better at Loretta’s -- I went (23-3-1), so I mean one moto just killed me. It was a muddy mess, I went down like three times. Every time I would go down, I’d have to push my way up and I was just trying too hard, kept going down. If I would have got top five, I would have won the championship, so that’s kind of a bummer. It was a crazy year this year at Loretta’s; it was muddy, every moto was different, and the track was never the same from practice to the next day. But, everywhere else...yeah, I’m pretty satisfied.
You finally got a moto win down at Loretta’s, what did it feel like for you to get that checkered flag and kind of have that weight lifted off your shoulders?
Well, you don’t really feel that when it first happens, you start feelin’ it when you get back to the truck. All the adrenaline is still rushing, you’re not really feelin’ the win settle in yet. So yeah, when you get back to the truck and it all settles in -- that was sick!
Things were really clicking for you down at Mini-O’s, you were on another level pretty much the entire week…could you kind of walk me through the racing down there and how it felt to come away with the Pro Circuit Platinum Pipe award?
Yeah, it was good. I was super confident, it’s all about a good start...you can get a top three and if you’re one of the fastest, you can put it up front -- that’s just what I did in SX. In MX, one moto I had to come from like fifteenth to win and I like made the pass on the last lap, that was pretty cool. But, the pipe is so nice! I was super pumped on that. I didn’t think I was gonna get it until I went in -- and then I raced six classes on SX and six on MX, and I DNF’d two races. I crashed out of one and my bike blew up in the other, so I never thought I was gonna get it. It was cool and then I got the Bronze Boot which is pretty sick, too.
What sort of goals do you have for yourself this season?
My goal for the Supermini class is top three every national...I mean, that’d be good, but it’s not good enough. I want to win more than anything. Top three’s good, but a win is a lot better.
What’re your plans for 2017? Races you’ll be attending, classes you’ll be entering, etc…
Yeah, I’m racing the 85 (12-14) this year and Supermini 1 and 2. I’ll be going to Atlanta -- that’ll be my first big race of the year, that new AMSOIL Dominator class in Atlanta, that’ll pretty cool...kinda like Monster Cup. Then we’re going to Daytona, we’re going to Millcreek, Freestone, think we’re gonna try to do California Classic this year if it’s possible -- it’s just so far out there that it’s hard to do. That’ll be cool if we get to do that, and then do all the regionals and go to Loretta’s, hopefully get it done and win!
Who would you like to thank for helping you out this year?
Team Green Kawasaki, Monster Energy, Pro Circuit, Oakley, Pro Circuit, Seven, Bell Helmets, Alpinestar, Hinson, Renthal, Nihilo Concepts, Ethika, Dunlop, MTF
/ Words / Lake Kilpatrick
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