For motorcyclists and motorcycle racing enthusiasts
We are a weekly podcast that brings the biggest names in motorcycle racing right to fans. In addition to candid interviews with top names in motorcycle racing, we provide insights into the trends and trendsetters driving the motorcycle industry.
Blake Wharton – King of Daytona Pros Versus Joes at 2023 RCSX
In this episode, we're joined by three-time 250 Supercross racer winner Blake Wharton, who discusses the upcoming "King of Daytona—Pros Vs. Joes" XR200 race on Vintage Day at this year's RCSX. Blake then discusses a few other projects he's been working on, including a recent photo shoot for the video game series franchise MX vs. ATV.
MotoAmerica is a signature sponsor and partner of Pit Pass Moto. Hear from champions of Superbikes on the podcast, and keep track of the race schedule right here.
Welcome to Pit Pass Moto, the show that brings you deep dive interviews with the motorcycle industry insiders and racers that make the sport move.
I'm your host Dale Spangler. And this week our guest is former pro motocross racer turn motorcycle storyteller and singer, songwriter, Blake Wharton.
This episode of Pit Past Moto is brought to you by MotoAmerica. MotoAmerica's the home of AMA Superbike racing, and is North America's premier motorcycle road racing series.
Rewatch every round of the 2022 series and revisit all the action with the MotoAmerica Live+ video-on-demand streaming service. Or visit the MotoAmerica YouTube Channel for race highlights and original video content.
To view the complete 2023 MotoAmerica race schedule, head over to motoamerica.com and be sure to follow MotoAmerica on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for real-time series updates.
Let's get started.
We'd like to welcome back to Pit Pass Moto former pro motocross racer, Blake Wharton. Blake, thanks for coming on to the show. What you been up to lately in both your personal and professional lives? What's new with you?
What's new? Well, a lot of action, but I've been enjoying the races, of course, now that Supercross is back. So, that's in our weekly schedule for sure. We're not going to miss any of those events. And then of course, we got Houston this next weekend, so we'll be going there and then in Dallas soon.
But yeah, just 9:00 to 5:00 and over here watching the races and then we get some side projects going as well, so. But we're looking forward to come March 7th.
Yeah. So, one of those projects, kind of the sort of big news why we wanted to have you back on was this event that you're calling the King of Daytona—Pros Vs. Joes race, that's going to be in conjunction with the Ricky Carmichael Supercross Vintage Days, if I'm not mistaken.
So, tell us about that. Where did this idea come from?
Well, earlier last year or later last year, we got to do the Diamond Don’s big vintage race here in southeast Texas. And we were introduced to the class there, which is the XR200 Class, small little bikes that some people probably have just sitting in the garage right now, or they've been using as pit bikes for a long time.
And a friend of mine built a bike and he invited me out there. And so, we showed up and there's 22 guys, like five, six, seven, eight fast guys. So, it was actually, it was a blast. We got to do a story on it and a video on it. It was on Racer X.
And so, from then we just thought, “Wow, this is a cool concept.” They've been doing this concept, I think for a while. Some guys have done it in California, we learned it from Diamond Don event, and then I'm sure it's been happening in since the ‘80s and ‘90s to a degree.
But we thought, “Wow, wouldn't it be cool to take that to the big show, which would be Daytona being Daytona Bike Week.” And I'll be seeing a different side of it. Back when I was racing full-time, it was just like, you'd fly into Daytona, you'd do your thing and you'd fly out.
But I'm told there's a lot of cool stuff happening, so maybe we'll get a chance to watch the amateur guys and hopefully maybe a couple of them will want to stay for the next day and win the vets in the ATV’s race, from what I'm told. So, looking forward to it.
Yeah, I was wondering if that was the case that it sort of carried over the idea from that Diamond Don Vintage race, which I think, by the way, was the 20th anniversary, if I'm not mistaken, this past year.
Yeah, that's correct. Yeah.
Yeah. I really hadn't heard of this event much, but then when I did some digging, I'm like, “This looks like a really, really cool vintage race.”
Well, Diamonds, it's, yeah, exactly what you said. I had heard about it years before, but it's like that event that everybody knows about, but they maybe have not gone to. It's sort of like underground, if you will still.
But it's got a great turnout from when we were there. And Diamonds got a cool facility and we just had some really cool guys out there this year. I'm sure they've had really good runs the last 20 years as well.
But just seeing the different bikes and then of course, I grew up with motorcycles and I'm a second-generation racer, so I saw the vintage bikes coming up and I knew about the different brands and different guys, but I've never done much with vintage personally.
And these XRs kind of fit in a different sort of mold. They're vintage, but they're four-stroke technology and they're pretty bulletproof. Good for people who are wanting to learn and get in a little bit cheaper, good for vet guys that are not riding full-time anymore or guys just looking to level the odds and even the playing field.
But yeah, that's where we first experienced the 200 class and we're wanting to do some different projects this year and different media projects and writing and film and stay involved in as many ways as we can.
And so, this was one we hit Davey up on and Tim Cotter. Because Davey, let me do the story and so, he's well aware of the class and they like the idea. And vintage racing is actually pretty big, I've come to understand in Texas and there's been a lot of good guys that I've gotten to meet from that event.
Then I went to Donie, Texas for another AHRMA event, so that was our second one. And so, we just got to meet a lot of cool people and have folks from the Ohio area up there in California. And we're hoping to meet some other guys when we go to Florida for this thing.
Yeah, I was noticing the Diamond Don event from last year. I mean, there's some pretty big names that show up at that. Like Kevin Windham for example, I think I saw where you made a post for Erick Vallejo from Mexico, former pro racer, and then some of the more veteran riders like Brad Lackey.
So, I assume, with this event going to Daytona, like has there been already some pretty good interest from some former pro racers?
There's been some good interest. Yeah, Erick's a friend of mine. He came to Donie with us and where we raced the 1982, 1981, ‘83 Yamaha 100 CCs. And yeah, it'd be awesome to have him out. I don't think he's going to be able to make it. It's far for folks on the other side of Texas and so, I'm thinking we're going to pull more from the Gulf Coast crowd, and maybe some folks from a bit north. But definitely, some interest so far.
After that race, we saw like 10, 15 guys going to build these bikes like immediately. And so, we knew that there was interest there and we knew that it was a good niche of the sport. I mean, literally just all these guys and the builders, like Kenny Vaughn for example, who built a bike that I raced at Diamond Don's, he was swamped all of a sudden with work. And then Mickey Dunlap, who's doing my motor, he's just swamped with work.
And so, we know the bikes are there, it's about getting people to show up. And fortunately, Daytona is a well-known event. It's just getting the word out that this class will be taking place on that day. And then if you've got a bike and you want to throw a pipe on it and change out the spring, you're pretty much good to go. It doesn't take much to get them race worthy, but you can go all out and spend 10 grand in them as well.
As far as pros go, we got some good guys that I've been talking to. It's a little bit harder right now, with Supercross, so some of the guys that I may have approached are going to be pretty busy. They still may come.
But there's some good vintage guys like, in a Wincross, Nicholas Jones. We've got Riley, the Ripper, he’s a fellow Texas racer. He races the XR200. I talked to John Short, Cody Gilmore, a lot of the guys that are going to be there from some of the flat track stuff.
And maybe some of the dads of some of the amateur guys. I was hoping maybe a Mike Brown or a Kevin would show up, but not totally sure yet. So, we're just getting the word out still. So, I'd like to lock in some of those guys here soon.
And yeah, I mean, even the intermediate guys and guys that maybe who didn't grow up racing, they're still really fast on those bikes. And there's some really good guys, Sean. I've been talking to Sean Hackley about it. He's pretty much lightning on a 110. He's always been super, super good.
There's a whole list of them that I've got wrote down that I'm in communications with. It's just about finding the bikes for these guys. Because not a lot of them are going to have those just sitting around. And yeah, so, that's where we're at right now. But a lot of interest so far and we'll see.
Yeah. I mean, sounds already like it's going to be really interesting, whether you're there to see the cool bikes or just see some old fast racers, like you're saying. Because a lot of those names you mentioned, I think, man, if half of those people come, it's going to be really a fun event.
What do you think the end goal is with this event though? Is it just more just to bring attention to the whole vintage racing scene or are you kind of hoping for this to snowball a little bit more?
Well, we'll see when we're there and when it's done. But yeah, we're not opposed to doing this more going forward. There's already some really cool races around the US and even in Europe that do some really cool vintage racing.
And maybe introducing this class would help a bit. As you know, the unfortunate part with vintage bikes is there tend to be less of them each year. You can't be too hard on some of them and just parts are becoming hard to find for like the 100, for example, the Yamaha. Really cool bike, but it's kind of a rarity these days. So, the XRs are a bit more abundant and you can just do, I think more of them.
So, it's a good class for that type of racing and to introduce sort of a different side. Like I said earlier, we're just trying to do as much as we can right now, with the different projects and we love staying involved.
Me and my partner Jordan Lake, who's helping me out with this, and we're building some bikes. And yeah, if we could take it to one of the other big venues, that would be awesome. Who knows? And we're just open to possibilities.
And yeah, the community is really cool. I grew up racing with just pretty intense amateur scene when it was — I don't know, it's big now, but it was at a high point when I was coming up through the amateurs. And so, you didn't really ride as much for fun. And so, that was kind of a newer concept that was introduced to me.
And you can just tell at these events, everyone's nice and everyone's having a good time, and it's just for the event and to promote just the coolness of this concept and being involved in just racing. And so, either way, whether you win or you come in third or fifth, it's a good time. And hey, the build's half the battle.
So, for me, I want to build something as cool as we can and show up. It's speed and style, it's everything that the vintage guys want. And then maybe a little extra for some younger guys or some current pros.
So, I assume, you being a columnist for Racer X Illustrated will be able to look for an article and possibly even a video here after that event?
Yeah, we're going to definitely do a video. We've had some good interest on it for folks on line are like, “Hey, where can I watch this? Where can I watch this?” And they do air the Amateur Racing Day, of course, the pros, but the Amateur Racing Day on RacerTV. But this won't be on RacerTV.
But fortunately, we have a friend of mine, online and TV personality, Kaplan America who's going to be there and I've been talking to him a good bit. So, he's going to be covering it for us at the very least.
Of course, we'd like to have some other magazines or journalists or whatever you have out there, and I'm sure Davey will want to do something on it. So, we'll definitely be doing some film for sure. Definitely doing some film with Kaplan.
And I'm just getting the word out, but fortunately, it's a big event, there's a lot of people already there. And if we just have a bit of that crowd there, it's going to be pretty entertaining.
Well, that's cool to hear. I recently just discovered his YouTube channel, Kaplan, and he was over in Saudi Arabia for the Dakar Rally. And so, I was following some of that. Really good insightful stuff. So, I'm looking forward to seeing what you guys come up with together, so you can.
Yeah, Kaplan does a lot of shooting there. He's there all week. We spoke about it and he's a big fan of the concept. And of course, he's big into all the different bikes. And so, we're hoping to combine forces a bit and cover this event and see what happens.
Ultimately, it's up to the folks online and at the races to see how interested they are. And we'll keep it going if we can.
Before you finish today's episode, first we have a word from our sponsor.
Let's talk about another one of your projects you have going on. I saw recently where you did look like a video slash photo shoot for the MX vs. ATV video game series. Looked like that was kind of a fun, interesting day.
Yeah, no, that was a cool shoot. We did it over here in north Texas at Oak Hill Track (that I grew up riding) and we used the UTV track. But I got a good friend of mine, Zach Beavers, who I grew up with, who used to race moto, and he's in UTV stuff now.
And then we've got another fellow quad guy, which that community is much more thriving than I originally had thought. All these years I hadn't seen quad racing and here it is happening at Daytona, and here it is happening at Loretta Lynn’s. It was a cool event.
I got to know the MX vs. ATV guys several years ago. Unfortunately, COVID happened when we were starting to talk about doing some different projects. And so, it wasn't until now, that we got to really get out and do something.
And we're going to be dropping that soon. And I hope to do more projects with those guys in the future. Of course, it's a game that I grew up on and most of us did and it's changed several different iterations over the years and the gaming tech has changed.
So, it's cool to see. And it's cool to see them being involved with motocross as they have the last couple years. So, yeah, more stuff with those guys to come, so look forward to it.
What do they actually do with that? Do they kind of like somehow turn that into illustrations or animation for the video games themselves?
No, not quite to that point yet. That would be awesome. Some different things that they could possibly do with motion capture, that would be great. But that's some pretty high dollar stuff.
This was just a promo video for now. And we really love the concept of basically just live action UTV quad and dirt bike. And we plan on doing some more stuff going forward, but just seeing those units out on the same track, if the track was somewhat fair and neutral, seeing the advantages and the disadvantages.
We grew up with quad racing. It was always around at the local racing scene and then kind of died off. And so, you could see where the quads were fast and how they would change the track and how things were just different and it was a different world.
But those guys still rip. Surprised at how fast Justin, the quad racer, his bike was just a rocket ship. And I know some of those guys got 75, 85,000 into their units, and then our UTV there was $150,000 and it's like a turbo. And it's like so loud and fast, it almost hurt my ears just being around it.
And so, the dirt bike is good, it's nimble, and then you can have some advantages, but it's definitely a lot cross than people might think.
So, that was one of the things we set out to do, to explore and see how cross these vehicles were, and let's watch them in the live action sort of setting. And it's a bit dangerous there, so you don't see that much anymore at public tracks with those vehicles. And of course, UTV guys are on different tracks.
So, just a cool concept. Yeah, we definitely hope to looking to do some more stuff with that.
I liked your comment though, where, “Make sure when you're riding with UTVs and quads that they are the ones on the outside in turns.”
Yeah, yeah. The bumping and grinding, it doesn't go so well when you have a bike in the mix of that. I know, it's kind of funny because I was talking to Zach and yeah, he had no problem being in his caged UTV. He felt safe as can be, happiest, if you will.
So, yeah, don't try it at home. At least be very, very much careful because we know how dangerous he can be. But just to be around those vehicles, again, with quads. Of course, I grew up riding with and around quads at the public tracks, but it's just, you don't see as many of them anymore.
But the UTV was a different animal and getting close to that thing and putting my hand on it a couple times and seeing how fast we could go and it was cool, it was cool. And you definitely, don't want to catch pros on those things. And you definitely, want to give them a little bit of room when they're pushing the front end.
Definitely. So, what else has been going on? Like I know you have your Blake Wharton motocross training schools, and then, of course your music career. What's been happening on those fronts? Anything new, exciting there?
We're still recording some music and we're going to be implementing some music with this project, actually with MX vs. ATV project. We're going to be doing the music for it and that'll be cool. It'll be a bit different than what we're used to doing, it's more like sync style music, just to compliment the film, the video.
But yeah, I still do some training on the side. I don't have as much time these days to do it, but I enjoy that. But yeah, just going to the races and soon with Houston and Dallas and just enjoying it from a different side.
We've always got something in the pipeline, always got something in the works and so, we'll definitely keep you guys in the loop whenever we get one of these other projects that I've got working that I can't talk about just yet on the books.
But yeah, I'm just enjoying the other side. It's a different chapter of my life, but we still get to go out and do some of the things that we grew up doing. It's just a different side. We got plenty of ideas, we're just finding places and placement for them.
And the sport is evolving and it's growing, so I think there's room for it. So, whether it's a bike test or a desert motorbike test that we do, or it's some strange build or a different race that we're going to, I like the oddity stuff. I like the races that maybe no one has heard of.
I mean, going to countries where motors thought maybe not to have existed before and I've always been passionate about that. And so, keeping those motocross broad stories going and meeting new people in the industry. And that's what it's about for me.
Yeah, I love that. Last time we had you on, we talked about, I believe it was Israel, you went over there-
… and did some schools and actually took part in a race and super fascinating.
Yeah, the motorcycle sport and the motorcycle sports different versions of it. They're alive and well in other parts of the world, it just looks different. And seeing the guys racing the scooters in India and in Indonesia and these different parts of the world where it's not really motocross, but it's like you could tell that that's what it's aspiring to be. It's pretty wild.
And some of the things that these guys are doing on these not say modern motorcycles or very expensive motorcycles, even that, there's just a lot of passion there. Lots of different communities where there needs to be some light shed.
And I think it's the American viewer would really appreciate that and they’d like that. Seeing this, it's just like, “Wow.”
When we first went to Israel, people just didn't know that that was happening, and I didn't know to the extent either. But I know it's alive in other parts of the Middle East. It's a little harder to get to those areas right now, but we're open and we'll see where it takes us, this road.
Yeah, I kind of got that same feeling with just following this year's Dakar, like they're just so into sport right now. And so, a lot of those places in the Middle East seem like they're really into motorsports.
They definitely can be. Motorsports is a bit western for some of the cultures over there. They love bikes, they do. They haven't had the opportunities to maybe pursue them so much in the past.
But yeah, there's no shortage of money in Dubai as we know. And so, there's no reason why they couldn't be a successful and thriving motorcycle community and culture there. I'm sure there already is to an extent. But even more so than it is now.
And then Israel is a small country, but they have a lot going on for them and a lot of good things economically. And so, there's no reason why you couldn't see that. Some of these places just need a little more organization.
And in the US, we're pretty lucky. We got a lot of land, a lot of space, tracks come and go. But ultimately, it's been pretty easy for us, who have aspired to be racers and have pursued that as our passion. Not so easy in some parts of the world, but the passion is certainly there. It's everywhere.
Definitely. Well, I wanted to get your take on the state of Supercross right now. Want to see what you think you being a former three-time, 250 Supercross race winner. Wow, what are your thoughts this year?
I think for me personally, (of course, I probably say this every year) it's one of the best starts to the seasons I've seen in a while. We've got top six riders within 15 points of each other. The level of competition has never been this close in my opinion, and starts are more critical than ever.
What are your thoughts so far on the series?
Well, it's very much alive still. It's anybody's game, at least in the 450 class. And even though it's really been Tomac’s world up until this weekend and everybody's just been living in it. He's been so perfect and seems like he hasn't made a mistake in three years. But things happen and he was pushing hard in that motor where he was, I believe behind Webb.
But those little mistakes, man, it get gets you off onto the side of the track and those hay bales they grab you, they don't let you go. And we saw that with Malcolm Stewart earlier.
But very exciting stuff. I mean, it's always really good early on in the season and fortunately, it's still, it's not like one or two guys yet. And it may whittle down a bit, three or four rounds from now.
But Webb coming on strong, I'd like to think that the East Coast is going to suit him and just, I think make it to where it tightens up. He's really good on those tight tracks and those rudded tracks, which of course, on the east it's things slow down a little and you have to pick and choose more.
So, really for a guy like that, I think he's going to be, and he's quite possibly coming into his stride right now. And that could be what he needed and needs to get up there and really mix it up with Eli. Eli's been so fast. Of course, we'll see how he comes back after this fall.
And then Sexton, he's been kind of what we've all been expecting it, he's been really fast and we just haven't seen maybe the consistency. But of course, he's got it going now and with a win.
And then Jason, I grew up with Jason, I know Jason fairly well and he can win on any night, if it goes his way and he's feeling it. And so, having him in the hunt, because he had such a good year last year, I mean, I think that's good. That definitely keeps it exciting in the lights class.
I'm looking forward to the East Coast. It's going to have some veteran guys that we haven't seen. Maybe, what is it? I guess Searle and it's another rider that's going to be coming back. I can't think of who it was right now. But, so, that's going to be pretty exciting. Of course, I've always liked the east, we've got the Texas rounds.
And in the lights class on the west, it's hard to beat Jett Lawrence. It's his year to win. I mean, it's expected of him. That doesn't make it any easier. Sometimes that's actually when it's hardest to win because he knows he’s got the speed, but he is got to play it smart.
And this weekend he kind of got a little bit lucky with R.J. going down and some of guys going down because he had a rough go. It wasn't his best weekend.
But that's the triple crown stuff. It's like anything that can happen strange, it will. And it tends to raise life into guys that wouldn't have maybe been going for it from the get-go at a traditional round. Racing 15 minutes plus two laps and 20 minutes plus two laps is about one of the hardest things that you can do. People, I don't think realize that there's a big difference between 15 minutes and 10 minutes.
And so, when you give those guys that opportunity, you see guys like Phil going for it. This last moto, he was going for it and if it would've been a shorter moto, he probably would've won it. And so, I like the triple crowns for that. You just give guys a chance that maybe wouldn't have had it because they're not quite to that point yet.
So, all in all, it's real good. It's been good. There's been several years where it's been, we've thought it was maybe the best it's been. I know 2013 it could have been that for me. And then I know the ‘80s there was lots of good racing and early 2000s. So, it's hard to say.
Racing is always going to be exciting. If you've got people showing up to the starting gate, you're going to have races. But we'll see, another couple rounds will be a little closer to see who's going to take the confidence. And it looked like it was Eli, and I still think it is. He's got the momentum, but you see how quickly it can change.
So, with Houston this weekend, it's kind of like you're basically your current hometown. I mean, I think you're a little outside of town there, but it's also one of the places you won a 250 Supercross main event, so that has to be pretty special for you.
Tell us a little bit about like what was it like to win that race in front of — I mean, were they your hometown fans then?
Sure. Dallas was more of my hometown at that time as I was living in Dallas when I wasn't in California, but my dad and my brother were already living in southeast Texas. So, it was about as close as it gets. I spent a lot of time here over the years and I know pretty much everyone in the Texas motorcycle community.
But no, it was awesome. Actually, my grandpa got a chance to attend that race. He didn't stay for the whole night, but he got to attend that race earlier in the day and that's not something that he did a lot of in my racing career.
So, it was an awesome time. It was hard fought, for sure. Would've liked have gotten some more wins and top finishes in my home state. But yeah, I cherished those moments. And going back to that place, it'll be fun. It's always a good time.
Definitely. Well, you kind of gave us some little bit of predictions on the 450 class, but with the East Coast starting up this coming weekend, I'm pretty excited. It's kind of like another A1 all over again when the different coast starts up.
We've got Tom Vialle coming in from Europe, Hunter Lawrence, Michael Mosiman. I mean, I've got a list of people here, I'm going, “Man, it's going to be tough to predict who wins.” I got Nate Thrasher, Jordan Smith, Max Anstie, Jeremy Martin, Garrett Marchbanks, and then question marks, Haiden Deegan and Dax Bennick, who by the way, those guys look pretty incredible watching the Supercross futures there this past weekend.
They look good. I think it was a little bit deceiving because that track was extremely difficult. Just with the whoops alone that wasn't a very friendly amateur Supercross track, but those guys are definitely very fast.
The level's been rising over the years and you can tell watching those guys on their practice tracks. Of course, when you go to the race, it’s a bit different deal, but it's hard to be a first-year guy or not even pro yet and hit whoops like that. Are they racing the East Coast, Bennick and Deegan?
I’m not sure. I think there's a chance.
Yeah. Well, and it'll be good if they do. They'll be exciting to watch next year if they don't. But yeah, that was another guy, it was Anstie who I was thinking about. He actually looks really good on the practice track right now. He's been back in Supercross for, I don't know, a couple years and it took him a while to kind of catch his stride.
But I like that story and I like seeing those guys. Of course, Chris Blose is another guy that's a veteran. And so, I'm kind of rooting for the veteran guys and Searle, another guy I grew up kind of racing with and who will be exciting to watch again.
So, I'm rooting for those guys, but it's going to be hard to maybe go against a Smith or a Lawrence, I think. I think they have to be probably considered the favorites. I know that the PC guys are hurt, so we kind of lost some of those key players. So, it kind of simplifies things a little.
But it's going to be good regardless and everyone comes out swinging at round one, so there's never a shortage of excitement.
Definitely. Well, folks, the inaugural King of Daytona-Pros Vs. Joes event is going to occur on Tuesday, March 7th. As I mentioned earlier, as part of the RC for Daytona Vintage Supercross.
Blake, really appreciate you coming on today. Any last words or shoutouts outs you'd like to share with our listeners?
Well, no. If you guys are at Houston this weekend, or Dallas in the upcoming future, or if you're at the Daytona Supercross or Amateur Day, just stop by, say hello. If you have any questions on these different events that we're doing or different projects, just feel free to hit us up online.
Otherwise, look for those articles probably on Racer X, not long after the event here in March.
Again, thank you so much, Blake. Appreciate your time today.
Thanks for having me on.
If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to follow Pit Pass Moto on your favorite podcast listening app, so you never miss an episode. And if you have a moment, please rate and review our show. We'd appreciate it.
You can also follow us on social media or visit pitpassmoto.com where you can listen to past episodes and purchase your very own Pit Pass Moto swag.
This has been a production of Evergreen Podcasts. A special thank you to Tommy Boy Halverson and the production team at Wessler Media.
I'm Dale Spangler. I hope you'll join us next week for another episode of Pit Past Moto. Thanks for listening.