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Sammy Halbert, Josh Strang, Josh Hayes

This week hosts PJ Doran and Dave Sulecki interview Sammy Halbert of CoolbethNila Racing (starts at 11:28), Josh Strang from Babbitt’s Kawasaki Racing Team (starts at 23:33) and 4x AMA Superbike Champion, Josh Hayes (starts at 35:10). The guys discuss traveling to Australia, ATF Racing's growth and standing up for other riders.

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PJ Doran:
Welcome to Pit Pass Moto, the show that keeps you up to speed on the latest in motorcycling and brings the biggest names in motorcycle racing right to you. I'm PJ Doran.

Dave Sulecki:
And I'm Dave Sulecki.

PJ Doran:
This week we have Sammy Halbert, Josh Strang and road race phenom Josh Hayes. But first, here's the latest news in the industry with Tony Wenck. Welcome to the show, Tony. What do we got in the latest news in the industry?

Tony Wenck:
Hi boys. Well, the big news I guess would be Ken Roczen. And after three years away from standing on the top step of the podium after some horrific crashes. And I'll be the first to admit that I didn't think Ken Roczen would ever be what he once was. So I'll eat crow. Nobody's happier for Ken Roczen, but he put it down 24 laps inside Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. Kid won. He finally, after three years, I mean, we've seen that the comeback story has been incredible and he is now a contender in 450 Supercross for a title. And he wins the big race. I mean, everybody's got to be pretty excited for him in those regards. I don't care. I don't know how you couldn't be a fan of Ken Roczen, right?

Dave Sulecki:
Yeah. How can you not be? I mean, he's lucky. Yeah. He's lucky to be able to shake hands now. I mean, just the story's amazing. I guess he wasn't chasing bike set up this week, that's for sure. He got that all sorted out and just looked aggressive. He looked like the old Ken, you know.

Tony Wenck:
Yeah, for sure. And then if you'd had watched the coverage on TV, you wouldn't have, I mean, they hardly made a fuss about it other than they just interviewed him at the end. But Barcia comes in a real quiet second place, and like I said, if you watched it on TV, they didn't cover him a bunch, but the kid is solid. He's, still got the red number one plate, he's 6 points ahead of Roczen, 10 points ahead of third, which is Cianciarulo, Justin Barcia-

PJ Doran:
Anderson and Cianciarulo. He's got two guys there in third.

Tony Wenck:
Oh yeah. You're right. There tied, with Cianciarulo getting the nod. You're right. That's right. Jason Anderson's there too. But I tell you, Barcia is to me is probably the biggest surprise out of everybody there. He said he was sick, so that's how he finishes sick, that's pretty exciting for the Yamaha squad.

Tony Wenck:
There was, we talked about this before, that there was a time that nobody wanted to touch Barcia and they gave him a shot and he's back and you can tell he's just like, "I'm here. I got the red number one plate." And it's pretty cool. So I'm pretty stoked for both those guys. Like you said, Anderson, Jason Anderson and Cianciarulo are tied in points for third place.

Tony Wenck:
Cianciarulo is another kid that I am very excited for, we've watched him since he got up in the pro ranks. He's always been the best spoken writer on the podium. We've just seen him plagued with a lot of injuries. We've talked about him, I've heard a lot of people compare him to Robbie Reynard's career back in the day. The fastest guy on the track, but he just can't put together a season.

Dave Sulecki:
How about that move he tried to put on Osborne before that big 35 foot double and he blocked him and rolled the jump and forced Osborne. Osborne gave it right back.

Tony Wenck:
And how can you not be a fan of Osborne too? That kid I think he finished, he's way down on the points compared, he's like 10th or something. He finished fifth behind Tomac but Osborne as a guy that I've been a big fan of over the years because he went and did off road and he's done some different stuff. He had to make his way overseas for a long time and now he's back as a factory guy. It's cool.

Tony Wenck:
And you know what, I'm more of a fan of watching these guys than I ever have been I think, just because there's such a good backstory. If you look at the top 20 guys in Supercross, there's a good story behind all of them. And even down to like Wilson and you know, Cooper Webb being the kid that we, hopefully we see him come back and do some stuff. We don't, we don't want to see it. It'd be a one year deal like Anderson, but I guess he's been sick obviously you guys know. But we've talked about Blake Baggett being an outdoor guy. He's doing very well in Supercross, Justin Braden, of course. He's my favorite being an Iowa guy and a friend of mine.

Dave Sulecki:
So what happened there with Braden? Is anybody talking about the engine problem and the heat race?

Tony Wenck:
No, I haven't talked to anybody about it. I thought about reaching out to them, but having it be St. Louis, there's a million people that were there that he's, you know, they made a big deal about Fortner having 100 friends and family. I guarantee you Braden had 300 friends and family and in the stands.

Dave Sulecki:
Yeah it is. And they need to talk about that more at that kind of race. Because they did mention it was his home race, but that's about as far as it went. And then he was having bike problems and I'm sure they'll come out with ignition problems is a stock answer. Usually when a bike gets pushed back into the pits to get an engine replaced.

Tony Wenck:
How about Chad Reed pulling off early? What was up with that?

Dave Sulecki:
I didn't really read anything about why. Yeah, he ended up 21st.

Tony Wenck:
He's phoning it in at this point. [crosstalk 00:05:37] "251, I'm going home. All right, see you next week."

PJ Doran:
I don't think he is. I know you're being facetious Tony. Because we're huge fans of his, it looked like he had perhaps a bike problem. I didn't see him limping or anything.

Tony Wenck:
So Brighton says he hasn't seen his potential yet. I think another guy that we're just seeing come into his own is Malcolm Stewart. And I think Malcolm, if all the stars aligned correctly, I think you see Malcolm running up front. I really do. He's a mad man in the whoops, he's thinner than he ever has been, he is a beast on a motorcycle, he's got a really good program behind him now. He belongs on a 450. My goodness. How many years did he ride in the 250 and we're like, what are you doing?

Dave Sulecki:
Yeah he's too big. [crosstalk 00:06:18] He's a big guy. He went and hit warp speed in the whoops. He, I forget who he passed his early on and just from nowhere, just he was going 10 miles an hour faster.

PJ Doran:
He made them look like they were standing still. Yeah, I remember it. It was so dominating and so obvious watching it on screen. You're like, wow, he's in an entirely different gear than that guy.

Dave Sulecki:
It's like, where did that come from? But I think Tony's dead on. He's a big guy and he's a strong guy. He belongs on that big bike and he proves it every race.

Tony Wenck:
Yep. So on the 250 we've got Austin Fortner with the big win. I think this Fortner's season. We said this last year and it was, he didn't finish it out, but Fortner obviously with the pro circuit team behind him, he's got a real good program. That's his home race. Guys always seem to find another gear at their home race. You can't get any more home race or anybody than Austin Fortner because he was, he's like a couple of hours away, growing up there. I used to see him a lot on a super mini and that kind of thing at my track. He'd come up for qualifiers and that kind of thing.

Tony Wenck:
So big fan of Austin Fortner's dad Mike, somebody we've dealt with for a long time at Wiseco. We've supported those guys and I'm really stoked to see Fortner win it, I think he is, I wouldn't be surprised to see him when several from here on out. I know Justin Cooper, he's going to have his hands full of Justin Cooper on the Yamaha. I don't think anybody could argue that Austin Fortner could be the guy to get on a tear and run in 250 class for awhile.

Dave Sulecki:
Yeah. So Cooper had a solid night I think even if he was a little bit off to come back and finish up second was pretty good. He's right there in the points, so it's going to be hard to ignore him. And how about Brandon Hartranft on the box too? I mean, that's probably, I think his first podium.

Tony Wenck:
Yeah. I think the best he's ever seen as a fifth place in Supercross. And I think that's once or twice he's done that. He's now on the Troy Lee team. So he's got real good resources behind him. He's an East coast guy. He doesn't have a ton of amateur accolades that he can, he's almost an unknown. It'll be really interesting to see what Brandon can do. And, you know, when you see a guy get a, get a taste of that podium, and he was up there when they interviewed him and he said that he was as surprised as anyone. So yeah, I could see that Brandon can do very well.

Tony Wenck:
Here's the opposite. Alex Martin, who's been in this class since 2009 he is on the JGR Suzuki team. He finished his fourth AMart has been, I mean he's now the veteran in this class, which is weird to said because when he got his start, he was racing for the team that I managed. We did his pro debut on the West coast in 2009 so AMart been there and done that. He should know what to do. He's due to start running up front and if he's not going to now, I don't think he ever will. I think he's got all the resources behind him.

Dave Sulecki:
Yeah. Do you think he's got the resources or is anything holding him back? I mean, he's he's been there. You think he knows what to do to get to the top.

Tony Wenck:
Apart from the fact that he's on a Suzuki?

Dave Sulecki:
I wasn't going to go there, but since we did, yeah. I mean he's the lone Suzuki out there that makes the mains every Saturday night. It makes you wonder, and we've talked about the vehicles and they're a step behind technically, but I think JGR if anybody can make the bike go fast, it's those guys. They've got a really strong engine program there.

Tony Wenck:
I know they do a lot of weird stuff with intakes and I mean they change a ton of stuff on that Suzuki to make it go and in stock form, I've been told that it's dangerous to ride on a Supercross track. But I don't think that's unique for any of these motorcycles that are in the top five to top 10 they're all tuned machines that are beyond what you know, we can buy probably, to a certain extent. So I don't know if Alex is being held back by the brand, but I know this that he certainly has the experience and he should be able to get, he should be able to see his potential this year if he's going to.

Dave Sulecki:
Let's hope so. That's a good looking motorcycle.

Tony Wenck:
I know you're a Suzuki guy.

Dave Sulecki:
A little bit. Yeah.

PJ Doran:
All right. Well, thanks for jumping in with us, Tony. I hope you continue to kill it down there in Florida and I hope you feel better. We're wishing the best for you man.

Tony Wenck:
Yeah, just the low back deal. It's nothing new. I, you know when I hit that coyote in Baja a couple months ago, I didn't do my back any favors. So I suppose it's a work in progress kind of like kind of like everything in my life.

Dave Sulecki:
You're no spring chicken.

Tony Wenck:
Well turkey more like.

Dave Sulecki:
There you go.

PJ Doran:
We'll talk to you again soon Tony and thanks again for sharing the news with us. We'll see you soon.

Dave Sulecki:
All right, thanks guys.

Dave Sulecki:
See you Tony.

Dave Sulecki:
This week's a trivia question of the week at Pit Pass Moto is, what year was the Snell Memorial Foundation established and why? So coming up, our first guest today on Pit Pass Moto is Slammin' Sammy Halbert.

Dave Sulecki:
How are you Sammy?

Sammy Halbert:
Hey guys, I'm doing good. How about you?

Dave Sulecki:
Doing real well, doing real well. We're really excited to talk to you and talk about the upcoming season and also talk a little bit about your past, but you've got some big news for us this year.

Sammy Halbert:
Cool, yeah, the last two years I've been on the Harley factory team, which was a pretty cool experience, my first time being on like a full factory team. And then now switching like it's just like the sport of flat track sort of changed when Indian came out with this bike that's just been dominating. So it was fun being on the Harley team like I said, but it was just a struggle trying to beat the Indian all the time and the next year I'm switching to riding the Indian for Coolbeth-Nila Racing. So I'm pretty stoked on that. Kenny Coolbeth runs the team. He's a former champ, I'm sure you guys have had him on before. He lives in Florida, just like three hours from me. So it's pretty sick being, having my team based relatively close to me. So it's a good setup.

PJ Doran:
And Sammy again, congratulations. I know you are a pro racer. You, you were not a guy who in any way said anything other than you love the ride you had last year. It's the factory Harley team. It's a dream ride, but this has got to be, it's earth shattering and every, we have yet to meet the racer who's gotten on the Indian and said, "Wow, I wish I wouldn't have." Have you gotten eight seat time on one yet?

Sammy Halbert:
Yeah man, I've been on it a few times. It's definitely, definitely an easier bike to ride. It's just Indians are purpose built, flat track motorcycle a modern one, which there's nothing else out there like it. So over the last couple of years it's sort of like the Indian was the Moto GP bike and then like the Harley I was racing or whatever was like a more production based. So yeah, just the purpose built bike it just turns left so well. It turns so well. It works really well. So definitely looking forward to getting to race it and seeing how I stack up with the rest of the boys on them.

PJ Doran:
and the AFT Series, or National Flat Track Series continues to really, it seems like in the world of two wheeled racing, one of the few series that we see really thriving, growing. At least that's the outsider's perspective as we watch the series, attend races and talk to racers like yourself. We've got, we've got a lot of things happening there. What do you think about the very recent announcement that Indianapolis is coming back on the schedule to be a partnered event with our Moto America National Road Racing Series? They're in Indianapolis on that same weekend. I've been to that event when it was combined with the Moto GP and I always thought it was an incredible track. It's got a lot of history. What are your thoughts on bringing that back onto the series?

Sammy Halbert:
Are they actually racing the Indy mile?

PJ Doran:
Oh well, I guess I may be ill informed. I presumed it was the mile. Are you guys not running the mile? Because I know they announced a race. Is it going to be a short track event?

Sammy Halbert:
Honestly, I saw the announcement, I think it might be the same weekend we have a national, so I think it's more like-

PJ Doran:
It's a local race then not an AFT race.

Sammy Halbert:
Yeah, it's not an AFT race, I haven't really talked to anyone to see what it's really all about. But yeah, either way it's cool that Moto America's promoting a flat track in conjunction with their National and I saw I was going to be a Super Hooligan National Championship round, which was kind of some grassroots stuff going on there, which is all good man. It's all like that trickle up trickle down effect or whatever. Like more flat track the better.

PJ Doran:
That makes a lot of sense. And my apologies then I presumed it was an AMT event when I saw the announcement, but I didn't finish reading the entire news brief, then. There's similar events around the country. If you go to the Road America races, you would get to go to the Dairyland Classic right next door in Plymouth or whatever. So very similar to that, I guess.

Sammy Halbert:
Yeah, but this is the first time that Moto America is actually, it sounds like they're promoting the event to some extent. So I think it's the first time they've ever been directly involved with flat tracking, so that's kind of cool.

PJ Doran:
What are your thoughts on the series outside of just your pits? I mean, are you feeling as positive about the series as it seems to look again from an outsider's perspective?

Sammy Halbert:
Yeah, no, it's been good. LOur TV's been getting better every year. I think this year we're going to have to same day broadcasts. We race that night, so I'm guessing they're going to be pretty close to live, so that's pretty cool. And all that stuff is good. And then the rest of it, it's going to be interesting to see how things shake out, especially over the next five years. There's a lot of changes going on right now. We've been on an upward trend, but they're not, ATF is not sitting on their hands, they're trying to make it happen, and so there's more changes coming down the pipeline. Like this year is pretty big with either they're changing our class name to Super Twins and changing the way the programs are on in the structure. And so it'll be interesting to see how it plays out.

Sammy Halbert:
You know, staying cautiously optimistic right now that all the changes will be good in the long run. But it's hard to predict what's all going to happen. But I'm just kind of, I pretty much as a racer just focus on doing the best I can. But, but yeah, it'll be interesting like the structure's changed so much to where it's more of like a team based partnership with the series. So the teams really partner with the series. And the riders, we're a little nervous to see how the riders get treated going forward, because now the series pretty much just only wants to deal with the team.

Sammy Halbert:
And so the riders are kind of like, I feel like on the back burners, at the last event of the year last year the riders stood up to the series and told them like, "No, this is bullshit. We're not racing this track." Because that track was bad and guys were getting hurt right at the end of the season. The track was pretty bad. And like I said, guys, were getting hurt, paralyzed, almost dying. And we stood up to them and said for the first time, really since since we hadn't stood up to the series like that. So we all got together and told them what's up and stood by each other and changed the way that race was run and to where we all were able to leave safely.

Sammy Halbert:
And so I think the series took notice of that. And so it'll be kind of an interesting battle between the series and the owners and the riders to see really we're in the balance of power lays, and how it shakes out. So it's their series and we're just playing in it, but we're the one risk in our asses and it's a gnarly dangerous sport, racing those cushion miles. It's pretty gnarly and pretty dangerous. And so we as riders, we're trying to make sure we get the respect we deserve and get the tracks we deserve to ride on. So they're trying, we're all on the same team, but it's just how it is. So that's kind of where it's at and we'll see how this year shakes out.

PJ Doran:
There's still a rider's council of some form, isn't there Sammy? I know in years past there has been at least one, if not more riders that had at least some voice with the series. Is that kind of going away? Is that what I'm hearing you say?

Sammy Halbert:
No, that hasn't gone away, and actually act just like I said, the way things unfolded last year, the riders kind of like impromptu got together and then put a stand up. But I know this year they actually, AFT just sent out an email today asking for one rider representative from each class so we can go to them in a more professional way. So yeah, we're all working together and they're trying to work with us as well. But like I said, just kind of a interesting time in the sport I think was with a lot of changes and structural changes. So just so for me, like I said, remaining cautiously optimistic that it's all going to be good, we're going to get safer tracks and all that good stuff. So time will tell, but either way, the racing's always sick and just going to send it.

Dave Sulecki:
Couldn't agree more. That's growing pains I think as a series develops and things get better quickly. Probably faster than even AFT had planned, and they don't want it to spin out of control. And to your point, you also don't want to see people get hurt for no reason. And I'm kind of curious Sammy, so you've gotten on the Indian, which is great. You've gotten some seat time on it. I understand. Is that true?

Sammy Halbert:
Yeah. Yeah. So I got to ride it at the Dunlop Tire Test, and then I also went and just like I said, with Kenny only being a few hours from me, we've met up in the thing a couple times at some of these tracks here in Florida. Yeah man, it's good. I'm going to just, just put my head down and go kick some ass. That's the plan. I mean, the bike, it's been good. I fit on it well it seems like, and I'm instantly pretty comfortable on it, so it's looking for good things.

Dave Sulecki:
And you won't have to re earn your nickname, so you'll just they'll already know that. I'm going to assume you haven't been on the big track yet. Is that true? You've mainly been just short track testing?

Sammy Halbert:
Yeah, one half mile. And then short track otherwise. Man, it's really rare to test on a mile. Like I'm only at time I've ever tested on a mile was with Harley and it's pretty rare to get mile track time. But yeah, all good there. I think really if you dial in the smaller tracks, it all kind of relays over to the big tracks.

Dave Sulecki:
And your kickoff is I think Daytona, so that's what, a month and a half, two months away. And that's a tiny venue, I think. You tell me, I mean I think it's the shortest of the short tracks.

Sammy Halbert:
In the past we rode the Daytona short track, which for me was sick. I won like a few times, but now we're racing at right where the Supercross is. So the last couple of years we raced where the Supercross, they're platting out all those peaky jumps for us luckily. And then we race on right there in the infield of the Daytona international Speedway. And we actually go up on the banking up on the high banks on the front stretch and then back down into the infield. So that's been our program. And then this year we're racing on the same day as the 200, so after the Daytona 200, we'll hit the track and put on a show.

Dave Sulecki:
Yeah, I would say you're going to end the full stands for that program for sure.

PJ Doran:
Do you get to hang out down there much Sammy? I love Daytona. It's a such great place and a great time. Do you get to stick around much or is it in and out for the race only?

Sammy Halbert:
Oh yeah, for sure. I usually plan, I'm usually there a few days early for stuff and then, but you know it's race on the whole time, and then last year I stuck around for a few days after and just tanned it up, chilled on the beach and all that stuff. So it depends how much time we've got after. But yeah, usually at least got to lock in at least one beach day down there.

PJ Doran:
Well, all right, Slammin' Sammy Halbert's been our guest here on Pit Pass Moto, the Coolbeth-Nila racing team member. Good luck this season coming up, Sammy. We a wish you the best on your new ride. Are there any sponsors you want to say thank you to that we haven't yet got a chance to let you mention?

Sammy Halbert:
Coolbeth-Nila Racing, they're the team, and Roof Systems of Dallas, Texas came on, and a lot of my long-time backers like Fly Racing, WPS, Dodge Bros Racing, 60 helmets, Motion Pro and everyone's kind of sticking behind me and yeah, and looking forward to rewarding them and all my diehard fans with some solid results this year. It's been a while since I've been on top and looking forward to making that happen again.

PJ Doran:
All right Sammy. Well thank you again for joining us on Pit Pass.

Sammy Halbert:
You're welcome, see you.

Dave Sulecki:
we're speaking now with Babbitt's Monster Energy Kawasaki racing team rider Josh Strang. Welcome back to the show, Josh.

Josh Strang:
Yeah, not too bad. I've been good, actually. I just got home from Australia, I hadn't been home for two years, so I got to go back for Christmas and see my family and, and take the little fellow home and I made all his cousins and family and all that. So it was good to get home and recharge and get ready for the season.

Josh Strang:
So Full Gas Enduro starts February 9th this year and then GNCC starts maybe last weekend in February. So I've got about four weeks till we start racing. And then I think about six weeks until the first round of GNCC.

PJ Doran:
That first race is still, is that the one in Florida?

Josh Strang:
No. So we have the first round of GNCC is actually in South Carolina now, so Big Buck, and then two weeks later then we get head down to Florida, do it back to back Florida, Georgia race. So,

Dave Sulecki:
And don't you, don't you go back to South Carolina for Full Gas?

Josh Strang:
Yeah. Yes. So the first Full Gas is in South Carolina. So we go there and then I'm not sure of the schedule. I go week to week.

PJ Doran:
And you're still recovering from a long road trip home.

Josh Strang:
Yeah. That's not too bad. Actually. I think coming back to the US is easier cause we land in Charlotte in the afternoon so pretty much you just have to stay awake for a couple of hours and you go straight to bed. Whereas you get to Australia and you there early in the morning. So you have all day to try and stay awake to adjust to the time. So it's a little easier to come back to the US from Australia.

Dave Sulecki:
So Josh, I read some interesting news about you with Total Cyclist. Can you talk about that?

Josh Strang:
Yeah. So what the deal is, I like to think I've got three or four more years of racing in me and I'm excited and 100% committed to that. But I also have started, I just want to start helping some people. And I think that may be a direction I will go once I'm done racing, is trying to help and coach some people, whether they're kids or amateurs coming up through and maybe even some pros once I get done racing. So yeah, the goal is to start just trying it out and seeing if I enjoy it and helping some kids out currently while I'm still racing as far as training off the bike and on the bike goes, so we've just started doing that, which is exciting. It's obviously second to my racing and stuff, which is I'm still excited about as well. It's just a new thing that we're starting this year. I've just taken on one kid right now and that's all I really want just to try and see if I enjoy doing it.

Dave Sulecki:
It's always interesting to me because you know, mountain biking and cycling in general is very adjacent to any of the motorcycle sports, really. Anybody who rides off road or, or motocross is usually training on a bicycle. So it's, to me it's a natural fit. And I think it's interesting how the GNCC has merged e-bike into their program to try to promote it and bring people in. And I think attendance proves that it's working.

Josh Strang:
Yeah bicycle riding in general, I guess every person who started has started racing, started out on a bicycle, whether it be a little BMX bike or a strad or whatever these days. But the similarities, especially mountain bike has to GNCC riding is fairly similar.

Josh Strang:
So I think there's a lot of guys that do it for fun and for training. The GNCC also have that new e-bike series. So they had the first go at it last year and I think it was not too bad. I think people are still, there's a lot of people that go to GNCC racing who just want to ride motorized vehicles, whether it be a motorcycle or quad. But then I think that once they learned that e-bike riding is actually pretty fun, and the courses they set up are actually fun as well, I think it'll get bigger as well, that event, which is cool to see. So I wish I could race the e-mountain bike as well. I just, even though those bicycles have the electric motor and they assist, it's still difficult. It's still a difficult race. I just think if I was to race that on a Saturday afternoon, I just think it'd be a little too much to do that and then race on Sunday as well.

Dave Sulecki:
So I'm curious Josh, the KX 450 you got on last year and, I know you've spoken very highly of it, I personally am very involved with that motorcycle because I bought one this last fall. Great bike. I agree. What was it about that bike that really when you first got on it and rode it that you know, really struck a chord with you?

Josh Strang:
I really have a feeling it was just a familiarity that I had from riding Kawasakis when I used to live in Australia back. And I think I just jelled with the Japanese bike instantly. So I think that was the biggest thing. I just felt comfortable and I just sat in the seat properly in the handlebars were in the right spot. And for me it was an easy bike to ride. So that was probably the biggest thing I noticed is how the bike that I rode originally was stock. So it was just so easy for me to get on and go and ride it, and then so being able to do that, then you could transfer it into a race bike a lot easier and less time and then just more comfortable overall.

Josh Strang:
So yeah, for me, the ease of setting the bike up was what really drew me to the KX 450, so I was happy with it last year. I think I was a little off early in the year, as far as just everything getting set up personally. And then towards the end of the year I felt a lot better. So hopefully going into this year, I'm a few steps ahead of what I was last year and can be more competitive early.

Dave Sulecki:
What is it mainly, is it suspension setup that you're trying to dial in or is it the engine itself?

Josh Strang:
No, so the engine itself, we had suspension testing and that took a couple, especially being a brand new motorcycle it took, it's so hard to test for those, the GTCs. They're super off and until you got right actually race one you can't really set up the bike for it and until you go race a couple and then have have a direction where you want to go to. So yeah, last year it took a couple of races to get a setting that we really liked and then we had a few other things that we changed during the year, and then I think really it was just getting time on it and used to it and getting up to competitive speeds.

PJ Doran:
The Full Gas Sprint, Enduro Series, awesome series. Every racer we talked to by and large has said really enjoys the format. I know it's been growing. Is it still in your eyes from your perspective still a series that's growing on a year over year basis or is it kind of leveled out there in those pits?

Josh Strang:
I think it can grow as far as support goes. It's just that series is so unique. You can thank you again and I have so many entries could a weekend. So the GNCC, you can get, I mean I could probably handle [inaudible 00:30:21] and still be able to get through the races for one. When you get too many races at the sprint, because there's only two courses and you have to spread out, there's only so much time in the day where you can set riders apart at 15 seconds or whatever. So if you get many more people than what there is, then it gets for a drawn out day and there's less racing. But I think as far as the racing quality goes, it's really good. And I think the support and that will continue to grow at that series.

Josh Strang:
From '08 to 2012 I guess you could see there was just less people. But since then I believe the GNCC, because it's been around so long, you can notice each year how much some has grown. And it continues to grow, and the GNCC, especially with the add on of the e-bike stuff, there's just more people just there. So you know as long as there's more people coming to the races, they're buying products, whether they're buying new motorcycles, or new parts for their used motorcycles, they're spending money in the industry, which for myself is good. And then for racing in general is really good too.

Dave Sulecki:
I think it's attractive to people because it's a less expensive way to get out there and ride and you get to ride a lot, two hours plus on the course. So those kinds of things are what are going to keep the sport going and keep it alive. And proof is the GNCC was able to go up against the AMA and AMA blinked and they're growing bigger every year since.

Josh Strang:
I don't think you ever have anyone leaving GNCC and complain that they didn't get enough riding. And so I think value for money at the GNCC is definitely worth it and they put on a good series too. I mean I've been doing it for, I think this is my 12th, 13th season at GNCC, so I've been doing it now for a while. And like the whole series, I know a lot of people that in a GNCC family now and it's cool to go around as part of my life and I enjoy doing it.

PJ Doran:
Josh, thanks for talking to us today on Pit Pass. It's been great to hear from you. Welcome back to the country. Glad you got to go home. And last minute, any sponsors you'd like to thank? I know you've had a lot of people help you out along the way.

Josh Strang:
Yeah, Babbitt's Online, Monster Energy, Kawasaki, those guys started the team last year. So without those guys, obviously I wouldn't have a job. But I mean like we talked about the bike's really good and all that sort of stuff. And I've actually seen a couple of guys up to Babbitt's to buy some Kawasakis, so they're good to work with as well. I mean I, I've talked to the salesman up there and a couple of spare parts guys and they're always real friendly, so those guys for sure. And then Pro Circuit, Dunlop, Sidi Boots, those guys have been with me for I think 12 years as well. So I mean everyone else that helps out and everyone for tuning in as well.

Dave Sulecki:
All right, we'd like to thank Josh Strang for joining us today on Pit Pass Moto. So this week's Pit Pass Moto trivia question of the week was what year was the Snell Memorial Foundation established and why? And the answer is 1957, and it was brought forth to develop performance standards for improved rider protection. Basically, let's protect our noggins guys. That's really why it came along.

PJ Doran:
Yeah, they standardize the process of how to rate and then essentially they baselined performance of helmets and it was the international and world in industry standard for all helmets for most of my life until very recently, right Dave? But now the Europeans, along with the waterfall or watershed of research and study being done by the NFL and motorsports racing councils have determined, wow, this maybe wasn't exactly, this isn't how we prevent head injuries. We may in fact be making them worse. So we've got a new standard that's kind of replaced Snell.

Dave Sulecki:
Yeah. They're moving away from more of the blunt force type action to a more sheer move or a twist move.

PJ Doran:
Yep. And they're more talking about controlling inertia. Snell was all about direct impact. Make sure it doesn't punch a hole in it when it hits the ground, regardless of the egg inside being scrambled, essentially now they're saying we need to slow the egg down a bit on its way to stopping, is I think the crux of the change.

Dave Sulecki:
Good to see rider protection put at the forefront. We all need it.

PJ Doran:
All right, welcoming now to the show, one Josh Hayes. A multiple champion, AMA Superbike racer, Moto America racer and just and obviously a father. Josh, thanks for joining us. We understand you've got some father duties so we'll, we'll try and be cool with your schedule.

Josh Hayes:
I appreciate it. Life gets away from you sometimes.

PJ Doran:
I think you're just finding it man. Well are you getting to take the whole family with you? Let's talk about your very impending travel deal to Australia. I assume you're going to be heading over there relatively soon. When do you got to leave?

Josh Hayes:
Yeah, we got the whole family going on Sunday. So we take off, because we don't land until, we leave on Sunday land on Tuesday. So we lose an entire day going there. But Melissa, this year is coming to ride and join the Mojo Yamaha team. She's going to ride a CZ 750, I'll ride that CMR chassis FJ 1100, and the whole host of the rest of the team will be there. We're bringing little Hawk, take him and showing penguins and kangaroos and whatever else we might run across. And then we're bringing my mother in law as a babysitter, both having riding and duties, we're going to need a little help.

PJ Doran:
You guys just need to rent a boat and leave a little sooner. It sounds like he could make a real family trip out of it. Are you guys worried about the fires at all that are happening? That's the big news with Australia right now.

Josh Hayes:
Yeah. I mean it's been a big concern of course, but we've gotten some emails from the track and from other people. They're reassuring us that everything down there around the Philip Island area is okay. So as much as we hate that for Australia hopefully this is a small ray of sunshine in a difficult time. You know that the event goes off well and people want to come and try to have a good time.

PJ Doran:
Absolutely. And to let all of our listeners know you are yet again going to race in what is called the Phillip Island Classic and then the races you're in are further named the International Challenge. Is that all correct?

Josh Hayes:
As far as I know, yes. Sounds right.

PJ Doran:
And then to add another wrinkle this year, well not just this year, within this week long, essentially this race equates to our bike week at Daytona, right? Is that a fair statement? Does it have that kind of vibe when you're there, Josh?

Josh Hayes:
Kind of. There's the big thing that stood out to me with the classic racing is that, I've been on the business end of racing for a long time where everybody's trying to figure out how to carve out a digit of living for themselves. And this is 100% about passion. There's not a person there that's making money. Every person there is just passionate about the sport, spending their own money to take part in an event that is love of two wheels. And with these guys, it's a love of older bikes, too, the camaraderie. The racing is hard. Actually really, really, really hard on these old machines and went really fast on them. But like when I won the final race last year I had the captains from both the New Zealand team and the Australia team in our garage, congratulating me and hoping we would come back, just because they thought it was exciting too and loved being a part of it.

PJ Doran:
Yeah. That doesn't happen at Daytona too often. I will grant you. You don't have number two showing up at number one's garage giving you a high five.

Josh Hayes:
No, doesn't happen.

PJ Doran:
And I was going to add that further, they've renamed or they've added a title within the race title, the Oceana title, apparently. I was reading about it this morning and found that to be interesting. They brought that sub race title.

Josh Hayes:
Yeah, that is a historic thing that's just Australia versus the US part of it with a different point system. So we're going to have quite a few things and having to play our cards right for several different reasons over the course of the weekend. But my goal is, we have improved the Mojo Yamaha number one that I rode last year. We made some pretty significant improvements to it. I got to test it just a little bit, do a few laps on it, and so I'm really thinking that we should be a force to be reckoned with throughout the entire weekend. And hopefully we can make a statement earlier in the weekend in qualifying in race one and just have a smooth weekend, and I think we have a really good shot at it.

PJ Doran:
Well that sounds awesome Josh, because last year you came really strong at the end of the weekend's racing you were clearly a front runner from the beginning, but you really hit your stride towards the end. We're expecting you to be where you were at the end of last year. Do you feel like you're going to be capable of that?

Josh Hayes:
I really don't see any reason why I shouldn't be able to be there and be competitive from day one. So, like I said, the bike is actually improved from what it was last year. The competition was pretty strong. So I have a hard time imagining them getting much stronger than what they had.

Josh Hayes:
And we're going to be a little different. We're going to have some new players in there for the overall American team. Not having Jason Pridmore there, losing that asset is terrible. But we're going to add in Taylor Knapp who was a Superbike racer here in America who is a fantastic rider, and Jordan Szoke, the multi time Canadian Superbike champion. So we're, we're bringing it and bringing back Larry Pegram who also has the capability and has finished pretty strong and quite a few races, and Michael Gilbert. So we're going to have, not to mention, we're not sure who Terry Bruce is bringing to ride his two bikes. So we're going to have a very strong contingent and I think it will be quite a disappointment if we're not like right on top of it this year.

PJ Doran:
Well that is good news for everyone on this side of the pond. Anyway. I'm looking forward to seeing how your wife does. Has she raised a two stroke like that ever? Has she ever racing thing vintage?

Josh Hayes:
No actually, you know Melissa started on 125s and 250s at US GPRU, and so she does have quite a bit of time riding those two stroke motorcycles. She did get to test this CZ 750 at Willow Springs at an RMA event back in April. So she is a little familiar with it. The thing about these CZs, they're riding them pretty safe these days because parts are hard to come by. So you know, it's not quite like in the old days when those guys were tuning up to the very, very hilt and they can bite you really hard. They can go a little bit on the safer side. But this is a kind of racetrack based on my knowledge of riding it, I think this is a racetrack that's lend to her quite well. And I quite expect her to enjoy finding her way around the race track and I think it'll probably be later in the weekend before she really comes good. But I expect her to do that.

PJ Doran:
Well and we're looking forward to watching her. Do you get to ride for her? Is she still running her effort? We'll wrap up with you here momentarily, josh but, is she still running her a Moto America effort or any race team at all this season or is that moved to the back burner?

Josh Hayes:
No, it's still a little bit of a fluid situation. We still have the 600 and our plan is still to do the Daytona 200 this year with me riding for my wife Melissa again. After that for the Moto America season, she's been working on a deal to join forces with Hudson Racing Group. They've been in the process, but like I said, things are kind of up and down and you can tell just by all the headlines that racing's changing quite a bit. So it's not a done deal, but they're working together trying to come up with a good solution so that everyone can go racing and do a good job and hopefully that will pan out. Otherwise it could be just one offs here and there and figure out what's the next stage of life is going to be a little bit.

PJ Doran:
Well, we wish you the best. Josh, you're one of the most active hashtag quote marks in air quote mark, retired racers that we know about. You continue to go out and dominate on the road race track the same as you have your whole career, so congratulations to you. We'll let you get to picking up your son. Tell Hawk we say hello from Pit Pass Moto, and your wife as well.

Josh Hayes:
I will do that. You guys, I appreciate the call, and thanks for having me on.

PJ Doran:
You bet. We'll talk to you again soon. Josh. Go get him in Australia.

Josh Hayes:
Thanks, bud.

Dave Sulecki:
We'd like to thank Josh Hayes for joining us today. Road racer extraordinaire and all his great stories. Upcoming racing this weekend, we've got Return to Anaheim, Anaheim II, January 18th, that's Saturday night. Hope everybody's out to watch that one ought to be a good one. The first two have been spectacular Supercross races. Just a lot of exciting things happen, a lot of drama, which everybody enjoys. Ken Roczen getting his first win in over a thousand days after his injuries. Really, really great storylines and great racing. What do you think PJ?

PJ Doran:
Absolutely, and there's a fair number of things that haven't happened yet. In my mind, Eli Tomac coming completely out of his shell and being the guy that I think he still is in a dominant racer. There's a couple of other guys in the pits that maybe there they haven't been 100% healthy or they've got some other reason they haven't fully hit their stride, but I think that's starting.

PJ Doran:
Thank you again to our guests, Sammy Halbert, Josh Strang and Josh Hayes for being with us today and we want to thank you for tuning in. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to subscribe to us on your favorite podcast app where you'll get alerts when new episodes are uploaded. Of course. Make sure you're also following us on Twitter and Facebook and of course, Pit Pass Moto dot com. This has been a production of Evergreen Podcasts. We'd like to say a special thank you to Ed Coolencamp, social media contributor, Chris Bishop and Tommy Boy Halverson, our producer Leah Longbrake, and audio engineers, Sean Rule Hoffman, and Eric Coltnow. Now I'm PJ.

Dave Sulecki:
And I'm Dave.

PJ Doran:
We're going to see you next week here on Pit Pass Moto. Thanks for tuning in.

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