Photos by: Chase Yocom

These “Privateer Showcase” interviews presented by Race Tech Suspension at MotoXAddicts tell the stories of the guys in the trenches week in and week out trying to chase their dream of racing professional Supercross. While the riders at the front of the pack get the money, the T.V. time and the glory that goes with it, there’s a huge pack of guys just hoping to get a spot inside a factory semi. We tell their stories.

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This week’s “Privateer Showcase” interview is with TiLube / Honda’s Jesse Wentland. Jesse is a fifth year pro racing in the Eastern Regional 250SX Supercross Championship in 2017, and he has been right on that cusp of breaking through and becoming a podium guy his whole career. The Elk River, Minnesota-born rider has finished as high as fifth in a 250SX main event but has never been able to garner the attention needed to get signed up on one of the bigger 250 factory-backed satellite teams.

For the 2017 season, Jesse was signed very late into the silly season by the Ti-Lube / Honda team and over the first two rounds has finished 11th and 17th. Not the results yet that Jesse needs to take his career to the next level, but a decent start when you consider he didn’t even meet his team until the opener in Minneapolis. With some time on the bike and some much needed momentum, we expect to see the #62 Honda inside the top ten and possibly grinding his way back up into the top five before the season’s end.

Wanting to hear from Jesse, we gave him a call this week to talk to him about his season so far, life as a privateer and what he thinks it will take to get himself onto a factory squad.

Jesse earned #62 despite missing quite a few races in 2016.
Jesse earned #62 despite missing quite a few races in 2016.

Jesse, thanks for taking our call and doing this. You said you were riding today, but where have you been riding at?

Down at Climax Motorsports Park. It’s in Climax, Georgia. It’s not too far from GPF and MTF. A guy named Dan Cobb runs the place. It’s a really good place. They have an outdoor track, two Supercross tracks and an Arenacross track. That’s pretty much the main place I get to ride at. There’s usually a good group of guys to ride with, so it works out well.


Let’s talk about the Atlanta SX. You got a horrible start and ended up 17th. Definitely not what you wanted, but what are your thoughts on the night?

The track was good and I liked it. It was a little bit slippery in some spots I think, and it got a little bit one-lined in areas which made it hard to pass. It was pretty good, but I kind of screwed myself in the heat race by finishing ninth place. I was running fifth and went down, and finishing ninth gives you 18th gate pick in the main. The start was really unfair at that race because it was such a tight left-hander first turn. Everyone near me just went straight and went off the track, so I had nowhere to go. I worked my way up and then made some mistakes and fell back to 17th again. I felt like I was riding my ass off to get 17th because everyone’s going so fast. I’m looking forward to Toronto, getting some better starts and running up front again.


You started your season off in 11th in Minneapolis. You’re originally from Elk River, Minnesota and, throughout your career, you’ve always been great near your home. You’ve also had your best outdoor motos at Millville. Is there something you love about racing in your home state?

I don’t really know, but I do seem to always do good when I go home. I don’t really put pressure on myself to do good, but I always love the hometown atmosphere. You have all the friends and family around you, so you obviously want to do good for them. I think it’s fun to sleep in your own bed again, being around your friends and family and just going racing. And Millville seems just like racing another local race when it’s the National. Racing in the brand new US Bank Stadium was an awesome experience too. That stadium is really, really cool to be in.

Jesse rode well in Atlanta, but bad starts and mistakes got the best of him.
Jesse rode well in Atlanta, but bad starts and mistakes got the best of him.

You’re riding a Ti-Lube Honda for 2017. How did that deal come about for you?

It was a pretty last minute deal. I honestly didn’t know what I was doing and I was debating on either getting a job or doing something on my own. I have a Suzuki 450 down here from when I raced over in Germany. I was maybe going to do a few SX rounds on my own, but the deal came together at the last minute, I think in the beginning of December. We got a bike and everything set up; I started riding their bike and I met the guys at the first round in Minneapoils. They were very welcoming, both Joe and Phil, as well as Buddy Brooks and his brother Jimmy who’s my mechanic. They were really welcoming and really supportive. They’re just an awesome group of guys to be around. I think it was definitely a good decision, and I’m very thankful for the opportunity to ride for them.


I’ve always thought you’re one of those riders that is right on that cusp of breaking through; you just need that shot with a factory bike. Have you ever gotten close to a deal with any of the top teams or talked with them throughout your career?

Yeah, I’ve tried a lot. I’ve tried to put my name out there, and I’ve tried emailing and talking to the bigger factory teams, but it’s tough. There’s a lot of good riders and I feel like I’m one of them, but it’s just like you’re saying, “the shot,” whether or not they’re going to give you a shot. I’ve tried proving myself, like last year with getting some good finishes in SX. I was finishing inside the top ten and then got a fifth in Toronto, but then I got hurt. I don’t know what the team owners think as far as what they want in a rider, but I’ve been trying. I’ve been trying every year since I turned pro, but I just haven’t gotten my shot yet. I’m still trying. Ti-Lube is connected to Honda and have factory Honda support, so it’s a good opportunity for me to ride for them and get in with Honda. I’m hoping it will open doors as my results get better.


You turned pro in 2013 and have been a privateer your whole career. What would you say the hardest part of being a privateer is?

The financial part, I think, especially now that I’m on my own living down in Florida. I don’t live with my parents any more, so I have to pay for my apartment, groceries and all the bills like a normal adult. It sucks ’cause we don’t make that much money being a professional racer. I’m not sure what the factory teams pay—I’ve never gotten that shot—but I think as a privateer, it’s hard to do a whole series and financially get through a whole series.


Do you ever feel like it’s an out of sight, out of mind thing. You’re an Elk River, Minnesota boy, but do you think if you were a Murrieta, California kid you might have already gotten that shot?

Yeah, maybe, or even if I just moved out to California and hounded some of the bigger teams and rode at the local test tracks, like Ryan Dungey’s story. He hounded Roger Decoster and rode out in California and finally got his shot. Look at him now. I just never I guess had the guidance of what to do, and my parents never really knew what to do. We always thought we were doing everything right, going to all the amateur nationals—Mini O’s, Loretta’s, Lake Whitney—and I would do really good and try to talk to teams. Nothing ever came of it and we really didn’t know what to do next, so I turned professional on my own. It’s been a little bit of a struggle to get the bigger teams to notice me, I think. On your own, you learn as you go, while on a team, they know how it all works.

Expect to see the #62 battling for a top five before Vegas.
Expect to see the #62 battling for a top five before Vegas.

If you had to get a job, what kind of job would you try to get?

Oh man, I’ve been thinking about that a lot (laughs). I have no idea. I love the moto industry, so I would love to find something in the moto industry and stay involved as much as I can. If I was to quit, I would still race, just not professionally as much. I would still hit a few rounds here and there. I’ve met a lot of people over the years, and if I found someone that was offering me a good opportunity, I would probably take it. I would pretty much take anything if I enjoyed it and it didn’t make me miserable (laughs).


So far you’ve finished 11th and 17th in the first two SX this year. What are the goals for the rest of ’17?

I know that 17th sucks for me, but I know I rode my ass off trying to get that 17th. I’m not as unhappy as I would have been last year with a 17th, but I definitely want to be inside the top ten. To be close to my teammate Freddie (Noren) at the end of the season would be cool and great for the team. It gives my mechanic Jimmy or his brother Buddy bragging rights (laughs) with whoever finishes best on the weekend. I want to stay healthy and finish the season too. I don’t want to get hurt. I’m sick of getting hurt. That’s really the main goal.


Good luck with the rest of your SX season. Any sponsors you want to thank for helping you out?

Yeah, TiLUBE Honda Racing, Storm Lake Honda, Buddy Brooks, TXS Productions, Yoshimura, Makson, O’Neal, ICW, Renthal, Twin Air, Cycra, RK Chains,, Mototassinari, Evans coolant, Renegade Fuels, G2 Ergonomics, Hammerhead designs, Excel rims, 139 Designs, Rockwell Watches, Dedicated Clothing, Arai Helmets, Scott Goggles, CTi and Motool.


Dan Lamb is a 12+ year journalist and the owner of MotoXAddicts.