There are a lot of teenagers that don’t work a day in their life until they’ve graduated high school or moved onto college, but things are always different for a kid grinding away as an amateur motocross racer. Devin Stang, affectionately known as McLovin’ throughout the pits, is no exception to that adage; the seventeen year old manages to balance a full-time job, the responsibility of a homeschooling program, and his aspiring racing career all at once. Stang had a trying year throughout the 2016 racing season in which he was forced to overcome multiple injuries -- at the beginning of the year, he broke his back while preparing for spring nationals, and he suffered a first corner crash at Loretta Lynn’s that put him out of contention for the rest of the event. He experienced a bit of the same bad luck during spring nationals this year after getting run over in the first corner at Daytona, but he managed to fight through the pain and grind out a fourth place finish in the College Boy class. Stang is incessantly working his way back to the level that he possessed before his injuries last year, putting in the work all by himself in his home state of Minnesota. We caught up with Devin to chat about pushing through his injuries last year, how he got his nickname, and the man underneath the helmet.
How old were you when you got your first motorcycle and what introduced you to the sport?
So being from Minnesota, I started out racing snowmobiles and when I was about eight years old I won my first dirt bike at a snocross banquet. Pretty much ever since then I’ve loved the sport and I’ve really advanced. I got pretty serious with it a couple years ago and it’s just really takin’ off for me.
Have you had the chance to ride a timbersled yet?
No, I’ve actually always wanted to. That stuff looks really cool to me, but I never got the chance this winter. So, next winter we’ll see. I heard that it feels way different, so it might be a little scary but I’m pretty decent at both, so I’m definitely willing to give it a shot.
Do you still go ride snowmobiles for fun?
We actually haven’t. I thought about riding one this winter, but I never got the shot, and the last couple winters I’ve been down in Georgia. I was actually staying at MTF full time for the last two years and some issues kind of arose where I stopped going there -- great facility, but I ended up almost backing out of racing for a little bit. But, I’m starting to get back into it really heavy again.
Living up in Minnesota poses some issues with weather during the winter, what do you have to do to get some seat time in during the winter and maintain some level of fitness?
Actually, we only have one little indoor place called the sandbox in Wisconsin, so my Dad and I would go up every weekend and ride as much as possible. During the week, I just go to work everyday and try to keep up workin’ out in the basement and doing everything I can to stay healthy.
Do you remember your first race on a dirt bike?
Pretty clearly, I actually do. There were two gate drops and I went with the first gate drop when I should’ve gone with the second, and then I crashed eighteen times, and got dead last.
Is that why you run the number 18?
Haha, actually no. I’ve never thought of it like that. I always liked Levi LaVallee (the snocross racer) -- that’s how I got the number. He was number 108 and the first year I went to Loretta’s I changed it to 18, and I’ve liked it that way ever since.
How did you get the McLovin nickname? There’s gotta be some story behind that…
Oh, there’s a good story behind that. I was always the crazy kid at the training facility -- y’know, the kinda guy that would try anything. One day an older kid comes up to me and he goes “Man, you look just like McLovin if we just got a pair of glasses on ya!” I dunno, the name just kinda stuck and then everybody in the moto scene started knowing me as McLovin, and it just really caught on. Now most people don’t even know my real name’s Devin, so it’s pretty crazy to think that it’s really -- that’s just my name, y’know.
It seems like you have quite a few interests away from racing such as BMX and parkour. How do those things translate onto the motorcycle?
Ummm, I mean...I always just did those things as past-times. That’s what I liked to do for fun and just mess around with and stuff. One thing that translates over from dirt bikes is that I always liked seeing how big I could jump on a BMX bike, but I was never any good at the tricks.
So, you were setting up dare devil jumps around the neighborhood when you were a kid and stuff?
Always! Those 1080 ramps that you would buy from WalMart -- we always had our own mini X Games goin’ on.
Photography is also a pretty big hobby of yours as well, how’d you get into that?
Ummm, my Dad always kinda had a camera and I’ve got a good friend, Alex Ingalls, and he’s huge into photography. He kinda started me off and I’ve always thought it was really cool. Now I’m starting to spend some money from working on that and really focus on that as part job/part hobby now.
Have you been able to do some freelance stuff to bring a little extra cash flow in yet?
I’m workin’ on it, but I haven’t really gotten much yet, but we’ll see. The one good thing is that because I have a lot of friends from moto and a lot of connections, I can take photos for those guys and get exposure that way, too.
You also work in order to support your racing career and everything, obviously it gets pretty expensive.
Yeah, I have a full-time job -- forty hour per week job with my dad. My daily schedule is pretty much: get up at 5am, go to work at 7am, work from 7am - 3pm, come home, eat, road bike, school, and go to bed. My dad owns a heating and cooling company and I just work with the guys putting everything up pretty much -- runnin’ the pipes, putting in the air conditioners, and furnaces.
How is it balancing your school work when you’re on the road for races and such?
Yeah, when I’m on the road I’m able to do work. But, even still at the nationals it gets hard to focus on it, so I try and get ahead before I leave.
Looking back on spring nationals, it was a bit if a mixed bag of results for you. Are you content with how things went?
Honestly, I had hoped for a little bit more. Daytona was going good; practice was looking bright and in my first moto of College Boy in the first turn, I actually tipped over and got ran over five times, so I was just beatin’ up for the rest of the week. I had some bike issues at Freestone that really caused that to go downhill, and just being at home I fell out of shape and wasn’t really ready for the longer motos.
Obviously your injuries weren’t too serious when you got ran over at Daytona considering you kept racing, but what were you dealing with for the rest of your races there?
Yeah, it was not a pretty one. I bit holes through both of my cheeks, cut open my chin and chest, got ran over on my back twice, and took a handlebar to the groin -- so I could barely lift my left leg, but I managed to push through it.
When you showed up at Freestone, was all that stuff back to one hundred percent?
Yeah, I had the week off and just relaxed and kind of let things heal. I went into Freestone one hundred percent and just made the best out of it. I tried to have fun and be positive, so that part went well. It was nice to be back around the national scene and realize what I need to work on.
Is it difficult competing in a week long event like that where the track is changing each and every moto and you’re riding your butt off everyday?
I would say I adapted to the changing track conditions quickly, but just the very hard part for me was just trying to stay on top the whole moto and not get so tired. That was a huge struggle for me ‘cause I wasn’t in the shape for it, so by lap five I was just trying to survive. But, I still kept it positive by scrubbin’ every jump out there, haha! That’s always been my favorite thing to do.
Last year was rough for you at times — you ended up having a couple of injuries, one of them right before Loretta — talk about what you went through with those setbacks last year.
Okayyyyy, alright. At the beginning of the year, my whole spring nationals were screwed up ‘cause I broke my back. I was practicing about a week before Daytona on SX and I just made a timing error, and I ended up going over the bars and landing directly on my butt. I ended up cracking my L5 and breaking my sacrum almost clean off, so it was definitely a tough one for me to have to sit out in my prime and watch all the guys race spring nationals. Before Loretta’s -- I try not to talk about it -- but I tried to a double backflip off the bridge and uh...landed on my stomach. In the first turn of my second moto of the week, I ended up tweakin’ my shoulder and really messin’ that up bad -- that was an injury that stuck with me for a long time, and just really has kind of been a setback for me. I went and got the proper physical therapy and everything’s pretty good now.
What was the recovery process like for your back?
It was just ice baths every day and try to eat as healthy as possible, and then when I could finally start walking again, I just focused on getting my core back to as strong as I could.
Are those injuries still something that you notice now?
Yeah, more with my back ‘cause I’ve broken it twice now -- it really sticks with me, so that one’s the hardest to overcome.
Did those injuries play a part in your consideration of almost walking away from the sport?
Yeah, it definitely was a thought in the back of my mind; I was kinda over the injuries -- just waking up with a sore back every day was hard for me. I definitely wasn’t focusing as much as I should’ve been which in the end definitely brought me down quick.
What’re your goals and expectations for yourself heading into the major nationals for the rest of the year?
Umm, I’m just going to focus pretty much every day on getting my work and school done until that ends, and stay healthy, riding on all the weekends. I’m gonna try to go to as many races as possible and really grind it out there, try to get to the practice track a few days a week. When school ends, I’m gonna be trying to go just about every night and really work on that. Hopefully I’ll come into Loretta’s as the underdog and show everybody what I’ve got!
Are you planning on staying up in Minnesota throughout the summer and training there?
Yeah, because of work -- I’ve got to really focus on that and keep my dad happy. He supports this whole thing, so it’s his rules.
Who would you like to thank for helping you out?
Dad, 6D, Fox, Spy, Motoprimo, TZR, Factory Connection, Dunlop, Darius Company, Team Solo
/ Words /Images / Lake Kilpatrick
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