Photo by: Hoppenworld

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 motocross and 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 the breakout rider of 2017, Henry Miller. It seems like every year there is one rider that climbs out from the shadows into the spotlight and this year Henry is that guy. Henry turned pro in 2016, and in just his second year as a professional, he is already racing for top tens in the 450MX class of the 2017 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.

Henry started his 2017 outdoor season at Thunder Valley on the 250, and after scoring just 1 point in his first four motos, he jumped into the 450 class at Muddy Creek. Since then, his first five overall finishes in the 450 class have been 16th, 15th, 9th, 12th and 12th, and it looks like he is just getting started.

After the Washougal National last weekend, we decide to give Henry a call and get to know the young privateer a little better.

Henry, thanks for doing this. You have been making a name for yourself outdoors this year on the 450, so we thought we would let our readers get to know the #81 a little better. First, where are you from originally and what was your local track growing up there?

Rochester, Minnesota. I was kind of all over, but my main track was Millville, out at Spring Creek. Other than that, I didn’t really race that much in Minnesota. We travelled a lot and did amateur national stuff. I raced at Millville on local weekends and that’s about it.


With the Minnesota winters, you guys probably had a pretty short riding season up there, right?

Usually, if we’re lucky, we start at the end of April and get all the way until about Thanksgiving. Sometimes it didn’t work out like that, though. Sometimes we couldn’t start until June. It all depended on how the weather played, but it was never as long as the people down south.

That #81 is going to be a lot smaller in 2018.

We have Loretta’s amateur national going on right now down at The Ranch. What was your Loretta’s and amateur career like?

Basically, we did all the amateur nationals except the ones on the west coast. I went to Loretta’s—I want to say my first year was 2007 and I went every year from then on out. I never had any great years until 2014. I won my first national championship at Oak Hill. Then we did the Ponca thing, and we raced Loretta’s that year. I got 3rd and 4th overall in the B class. Other than that, I was top ten or top five at amateur nationals. I never really had a break out year where I got a lot of help or support. I wasn’t recognized for anything.


If you look around, Minnesota is a very talent rich state for moto right now. I mean, if we ran a Motocross of States here in the US like the MXoN, Minnesota would probably be the favorites with guys like you, Jeremy and Alex Martin, Jesse Wentland and Ryan Dungey. Was it one of those deals where a local boy like Dungey breaks through and all you guys just start believing?

I don’t really know. I have yet to figure that out myself, but right now the Minnesota people are working at it now. I feel like everyone wants to be that next guy and they’re making a little more effort at it. I don’t know why Minnesota is finally breaking out now, but it’s good to have it.


Yeah, it seems like the state breeds that grinder work ethic that it takes. Seems like you guys may not get noticed right away—heck, even Dungey wasn’t a big name amateur—but you have the work ethic to do whatever it takes. If you don’t have a ride, you don’t care. You will work through it until you get one.

Yep, exactly. We see what it takes, know what it takes and all just try to follow in each other’s footsteps and make it happen.


You turned pro in 2016 and had a decent rookie year—earning national #81. In 2017, though, you seemed to kind of catch fire half way through the SX season and run with it.

I had a tough time leading into the first round of SX. The Monday before the first race [East round 1 in Minneapolis] I knocked myself out and broke my finger. I just tried to race because it was my home race. I was like, “I can’t miss that.” I went in there and in the first lap of the first practice I endo’ed in the whoops, so that was the start of a rough SX season. At Atlanta, I tried to have fun and make the main. I made it in there, but I struggled at the first few. Then at Daytona I got landed on in my heat race and that set us back again. Then at Indy—after taking the whole week off—I was focused on having fun, riding my own race and enjoying it and I finished 11th. From there on out everything started going in my direction.


To start the outdoor season, you skipped the beginning, but then ended up joining the 450 class. Talk about how that came about.

I actually just skipped the first two, and then at Colorado on the 250, I hit a fence and dislocated some of my fingers. Then we went to High Point and my bike blew up in the first moto and leading up to that I blew up three motors. I was stressed out and didn’t want to ride the 250 any more. I wasn’t enjoying it, so I called Chaz—a guy that helps me—and I was like, “Bring a 450. I just want to race that from here on out.” He brought it with him to High Point and I rode it one day before Muddy Creek and we just started racing that. It fit my riding style better, and it’s been a real good season.


Yeah it has. You have become a solid top ten guy in the 450 class, and we have all been surprised to see it. I know you know your talent and what you’re capable of, but you have to be surprised by your results as well. How much have you surprised yourself?

Definitely, I was really surprised when I came around on the last lap of Southwick and the pit board read 9th. I was like, “There’s no way I’m up here his far.” It was awesome, but now I know what I can do now that I’ve been there.

Those who didn’t know who Henry Miller was before 2017 know who he is now, especially riders in the 450 class.

You did very well at Red Bud, Southwick and Millville, but they were all very similar tracks, so some may have thought you were just good in those conditions. Washougal, though, was night and day different in terms of soil, and you were solid there as well with a 13-13 day last weekend. How did you like that track?

Honestly, I’m not a fan of hard packed tracks. I never have been. I just tried to adapt to it and get through the weekend because I knew I had to. I knew everyone was riding the same track, so I adapted. In the first moto, I was catching up to everyone and I was going to try and pass [Tyler] Bowers for 12th, and I crashed. That hard packed stuff got me and I slid out in one of the corners. I figured out you can’t push like you do in the loamy stuff. I just kind of had to learn.


You have now proven that you can run inside the top ten, but what do you think your ceiling is this year? You have seen the pace around you and what the top five guys pace is. We have Unadilla, Budds Creek and Indiana left. Can you start getting closer to that top five group?

The top five guys are on a whole different level. If I can start up front and stay up—unlike I did at Millville—I think I can possibly stay right there with those top five guys—if I can keep it together and just ride my own race, definitely. We’re going to find out, and Unadilla, Budds and Indiana are more my kind of tracks. I like the bumps, the ruts and stuff like that more than the hard pack. Indiana is my favorite track on the whole circuit.


Yeah, it’s very RedBud like.

Yeah, definitely. They bring in so much dirt and dig it so deep and so wide. You can go wherever you want really. I enjoy that track.


Before I let you go I have to ask about your massive holeshot in Millville followed by you digging the front end and going over the bars 100 yards later. What was going through your mind when you got the holeshot on your home track, and then what went through your mind when you crashed?

As I was getting the start, I seen that white line first and there wasn’t anyone next to me, and I was pumped in my head. I was smiling. Then we went over that little hill and I wasn’t expecting to get as much traction as I did. It’s normally a little hard and slick there and you break loose a little bit there, but the 450 hooked up and got away from me a little bit. As I set down the front end, I caught one of them soft spots, and it was over from there. Over the bars I went. The first thing that went through my head was, “Well, I have 39 dudes behind me; which one is going to hit me first?” As soon as I hit the ground I tried to stay as close as I could to my bike and get out of the way, get back up and get going.


Do you plan on riding the 450 again next year in SX and MX, or is it too soon to tell?

Everyone’s asked me that, and I’m not really sure. I’m going to dabble around a little on the SX track here on the 450 in the off time and see how I like it. Right now, I think we’d like to stay on the 250 for SX, but you never know; you might see me on the 450.


Well, good luck the rest of ’17 and with whatever you choose to race in ’18. I appreciate you taking the time to do this. Any sponsors that help you out that you would like to thank?

Yeah, for sure. @fxrmoto, @triggrracing, @motostuff_com, @shoeihelmetusa, @dt1filtersusa, @hinsonracing, @blackdiamondmx, @seatconcepts, @arcmemlon, @enzo_racing, @rk_excel, @fmf73, @provenmoto, @evssports, @odigrips, @rtitanium, @dunloptires, @nore_worx, @trickeng, @mototape, @hauck_power_sports, @thecollectiveex, @xbrandgoggles, @ruttedracing, @dixiefuel01, #meadowvalleymx

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