Photo: Devin Davis – Presented by Race Tech
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.
This week’s “Privateer Showcase” interview is with one of the biggest surprises of the 450MX class at Glen Helen, Nut Up Industries-backed privateer Dillan Epstein. Since turning pro in 2013 after a decorated amateur career, the twenty-two year-old year old Californian has struggled with staying healthy and finding good rides, but every time he lines up, he turns heads.
After struggling with his bike at the Hangtown opener, Dillan made some adjustments and put some solid points on the board with a 18-12 performance for 15th overall in the 450 class at Glen Helen. It was an incredible ride from the #90, and he will now take that newfound confidence and head up to the “Great White North” to contest the MX1 class in the Canadian Motocross Nationals.
We gave Dillan a call to get some of his story and talk about his first two 450 rides in the Lucas Oil Pro Motcoross Championship.
Dillan, you said before I called that you were heading to Canada right now? Racing some Canadian Nationals this summer?
Yep, me and Nick [Dillan’s practice mechanic and Ryan Surrat’s race mechanic] are currently heading up the I-5 freeway.
What’s your deal for racing up there this summer?
I had no idea I’d be racing Canada at all until closer to when outdoors were starting. I got a call and they said, “Hey, we’re going to do Canada and just the first two rounds of US outdoors.” A better deal popped up where we [Nut Up Industries team Dillan rides for] ended up helping the Monster / Kawasaki team in Canada because they got a lot of their budget pulled. We’re helping them out with bikes and parts, and in return, they said Dillan and Ryan Surratt can park under the semi with us. They said we could part the Nut Up Industries canopy next to the semi and we can use the semi, and if something breaks we have parts on the rig. It all worked out where we’re one big family.
I wanted to touch a little on your story. You were a super fast amateur—2nd in 250A at Loretta Lynn’s in 2012—but the way I was told the story is that you kind of got hung out to dry with the Pro Circuit team. I heard you were told you had a deal until the last minute. That had to be tough.
Before Loretta’s, Pro Circuit had called me one day after riding Glen Helen on a Thursday and Bones [Jim Bacon] said “Hey, what do you think about riding one of our race bikes at Glen Helen?” I said, “Are you kidding? Is that a question? Sure!” (Laughs) I was shocked. I ended up riding it and that was when they ended up picking Ivan Tedesco to fill in for Dean Wilson who was hurt. I ended up being a little bit quicker than Tedesco, but I was told that they were thinking that Tedesco had more maturity, and we’ll let Epstein finish his amateur career and we’ll let him ride the last few nationals. This is all stuff I was being relayed, not hearing directly. Then at Loretta’s, my dad was at the Kawasaki rig with someone from Pro Circuit there. They had a meeting and they said that they had a race bike on the rig for me for after Loretta’s. We were told we would get a phone call a week after Loretta’s to do the last few outdoors, but I never got that phone call. We didn’t know what to do, but we were told not to talk to any other teams or we could lose Mitch’s interest. We ended up finding out three weeks later that we would not be getting a Pro Circuit ride.
That deal went to Justin Hill, correct?
Yeah, but it was where nobody knew what was going on. To me, I don’t even care, I’m an “is what it is” kind of guy. It was a bummer he didn’t tell me earlier, but the Team Green manager at the time told me that the Steve Lamson from Star and Tyler Keefe from Troy Lee Designs wants you to call them. I go and give them a call, and they filled all their spots one or two weeks ago. It was a kick in the teeth, but the Kawasaki guys still ended up pulling some strings and getting me bikes and parts for SX. It was gnarly, but it was cool that Kawasaki still helped me out.
I guess that whole deal was a welcome-to-pro MX/SX politics. (laughs) It’s tough, but it’s one of those deals that changes everything. If things don’t end up working out, you’re probably going to be looking back thinking about what could have been if you had gotten that PC deal.
Yeah, exactly, but to this very day, I always tell people—even today the PC story was brought up—I can’t tell you if I would be happier riding for a factory team. Right now, I have all the freedom in the world to use whatever we want. If something doesn’t work, we’re not contracted to use anything. Obviously we never want to burn bridges, but at the same time, if something doesn’t work, we’re not contracted and can always get better. We don’t have a factory budget, but we have a big enough budget to be competitive. I believe this past weekend showed we can compete.
Lets talk about Hangtown and Glen Helen. You’re riding the 450 class this year and you’ve showed really good speed. You qualified 18th at Hangtown and 17th at Glen Helen and went 18-12 in the motos. You were not able to score points at Hangtown, but your speed has been on point.
At Hangtown we ended up having some bike problems with suspension, so mid-week we ended up switching to Race Tech. I went and sat down with Rob and met all the guys at Race Tech. I wanted to meet these guys and see what they were about. I didn’t want to just be just another number in an assembly line, and they made me feel so comfortable and confident that I wasn’t going to be just another set of forks in their shop. They bent over backwards to get my stuff right and I had only ridden on it two days before Glen Helen. And we didn’t have all the parts they wanted on the bike.
Yeah, I’ve gone through their facility, and it’s no joke. If you can’t get on a factory bike, they’re the next best thing. Were you immediately more comfortable at Glen Helen?
At the race, we got all the parts on the bike and we tested it in the first practice and it wasn’t right on point yet. So I called Rob in a little bit of a panic and was like, “Hey, what do we do now? We kind of went backwards a little bit.” He said to do this, this and this, and after we changed a few things, the bike was unreal for the second practice. I was like, “Alright, game on. Today’s going to be sick!” Then before the race, Rob said, “Just make me proud.” I was like, “Yes, sir.” (laughs)
Glen Helen was a great day for you. How did it feel running near the top 10.
The first moto was a little rough. I was running 18th or 19th and starting to get my groove in and ended getting around one of the guys, but coming down the hill, I did a little bit of a rag doll off the bike. I ended up blowing my hands off the bars and crashed, but I got up and got back to 18th again. I was like, “Man, I have more in the tank than that,” so in the second moto, I just laid it all on the line.
You’re a California kid and I know you have ridden Glen Helen a lot, but what did you think of it for the national this year? It was rough before even the first practice went out.
I love rough tracks. The rougher it gets, the more I like it. I’m not the greatest qualifier, but my times get faster when it gets rough. I’m just more comfortable on a rough track and I couldn’t tell you why. I think it suits my style. I like to be creative with the breaking bumps—like double through them—and I end up having more fun. I’m like a little kid in a candy store with a rough track.
Now, after arguably your best pro performance, you’re heading up to the Canadian Nationals. Are you a little bummed you can’t make a right turn, head to Thunder Valley and continue your momentum instead of heading north to Canada?
I’m a little bit bummed, just because now I know I can get top ten. I knew coming in; I was like, “Alright, I can get a top ten,” but now I actually proved it to myself. I was just two positions out. I need to get better on my starts, but I truthfully think a top ten is realistic now. I truly do believe it. It would be cool to prove I can run with the top ten every weekend, but at the same time, I also think Canada will be good. There’s going to be fast guys like Mike Alessi, Christophe Pourcel and some of the fast Canadian riders up there, so it will be good racing. I think I can run near the front in Canada and that in itself will be a confidence booster as well.
Good luck to you up there this summer and thanks for your time. Are there some supporters and companies you would like to thank for helping you get to the races?
Yeah, for sure. My dad, NutUp Industries, RBI Motorsports, , C4MX, Race Tech, Xbrand goggles, SKVI, Shift, Fox, Kawasaki of Modesto, Dunlop, Dr. Terry Weyman, NoToil, MotoCutz, SpectroOils, Rekluse, WorksConnection, SDGUSA, Vortex Ignitions, VPFuels, ODI, Stacedawg at HyperX, Yoshimura.