A year ago the MotoSport Marketing team tapped the company's two best riders to embark on a journey never taken before - reach the podium via a cold refreshing pint of liquid hops. "Pints to Podiums" commenced and Brandon Hoff, MotoSport's Display Marketing Program Manager and Rory Sullivan, MotoSport's Content Manager, began training in earnest.
Hoff's goal was Loretta Lynn's and Sullivan planned to tackle the Washougal National and Unadilla. The two could often be seen running down the streets of Tigard, OR dodging and weaving between traffic and on Monday's, if the two spent time racing that weekend, both would provide updates on how track day went. But Hoff and Sullivan never lost sight of their favorite pastime - beer.
Misfortune hit a month or so before Washougal when Sullivan crashed during a local race leaving him with some banged up ribs, a broken wrist and a lacerated kidney. He managed to heal in time to get behind the gate but the discomfort proved just enough Sullivan was unable to pin it and qualify.
That left Hoff brewing.
He mashed the regional Loretta's qualifier and a week before the gates dropped on the ranch everyone at MotoSport bid him adieu as he drove three days from Oregon to Tennessee. This is what he said:
Years Riding: 25
Age started riding and on what bike: Age 5, Yamaha PW50
Hometown: Norfolk, NE but currently reside in Hillsboro, OR
Bike Raced at Loretta Lynn's: KXF450
Other races/Previous racing experience: I've raced a handful of Outdoor Nationals, Supercross, and Arenacross with limited success.
Favorite Track: Millville
1. Your Loretta Lynn's undertaking actually began as part of our forthcoming "Pints to Podiums" video. At what point did your training cross over from the bar to the track?
This all started last year as I was watching live timing from the 2015 Loretta Lynn's National. Loretta's is a race I've always wanted to do, but I never had the money or time to make it happen. So sometime in August of 2015 I went out and bought a bike after not riding for five-plus years.
2. Explain the video. Was this about getting you off the bar stool and onto the track or just how far can a rider can make it while still enjoying his favorite microbrew?
The video to me is about an average guy with a job and mortgage with little time to ride and train. Possibly an early mid-life crisis, who knows?
3. You've never done Loretta Lynn's before. Is this the biggest racing event you've ever competed in?
No, I've done a handful of Supercross and Arenacross races as well as a few outdoor Nationals. My best outdoor Moto finish was 27th.
4. At Loretta's you raced the Junior 25+ finishing 30th overall and Vet 30+ finishing 34th overall. About what you expected?
Not at all. I thought 15th-20th place would be a realistic goal coming in. I definitely struggled with bad starts and the mud. I wasn't mentally prepared for the conditions.
5. So you should have done better?
I feel I should've done better, but everyone on the starting gate is a good rider. I tried, I struggled, but I had fun. That's what it's all about to me.
6. You didn't train with Aldon Baker but you did train. In hindsight is there anything you'd do differently?
The only change I would make is just to ride more. I was lucky to ride once a week, and after taking five years off that's not enough to be competitive.
7. Perhaps less beer?
No, maybe more beer.
8. How was the track at Loretta Lynn's?
The layout of the track is super simple with good dirt. Nothing crazy as far as obstacles go.
9. Thirty seven classes race at Loretta Lynn's. What's left of the track after just half those classes race?
Not much, by far the roughest track I've ridden 15 years. Deep ruts and big bumps!
10. Were you better off going first, middle or end of the day?
It depended on what part of the day it rained. Over half of my Moto's were muddy and brutal.
11. So the weather played a role?
Rain, rain, and more rain!
12. After getting a taste of the privateer life, just how hard is it for someone to make it through the pro ranks?
It's tough, there are so many aspects that make it difficult. Mainly it boils down to money, time, and having the skill set to do well, which are three things I don't have enough of. It takes years of trying and sacrifice to perform well at the top level. At the end of the day if you're not having fun it's not worth it. But if it's something you really want you will find a way to make it happen.
13. The track was gnarly and one problem you mentioned after the race was not getting enough riding time on technical tracks during training. So getting laps in at local MX tracks doesn't cut it?
Not where I live anyway. The tracks I'm able to practice at are hard pack freeways, not good prep for Loretta's.
14. What were you most impressed with at Loretta Lynn's?
MX Sports ability to stay on schedule despite the adverse weather conditions.
15. What were you least impressed with at Loretta Lynn's?
Kids in golf carts. I sound like a grumpy old man.
16. You're now a veteran of racing at Loretta Lynn's. What advice would you give someone wanting to give it a shot?
1. Have Fun 2. Get there as early as you can. 3. Hydration 4. Prepare for the unexpected. 5. Have Fun.
17. Will you do it again?
Maybe when I'm 40.