Photo by: Ryne Swanberg

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 one of the two big name Loretta Lynn’s graduates that made their debut at the 2017 Unadilla National. After a highly decorated amateur career that included three Loretta Lynn’s titles over the years and 2nd and 3rd place finishes a week ago in the Open Pro Sport and 250A class at the 2017 edition of Loretta Lynn’s, Joey Crown jumped up into the pro ranks at Unadilla.

In the not-so-distant past, the top two to four A riders would graduate from Loretta’s with a guaranteed factory pro deal, but in 2017 only Justin Cooper—the Horizon Award winner—made his pro debut on a factory bike. For the Team Green amateur grad, it is a different story so far.

The Michigan native showed up to Unadilla as a privateer and, in a torrential rain storm, put points on the board in both motos after qualifying early in the day in 13th. The #355 definitely showed he has the speed to compete at the next level, but starting at Budds Creek, he is out to prove he belongs on a pro team for 2018 and beyond.

After Joey’s 18-15 for 16th overall pro debut at Unadilla, we thought we would give him a call and get to know the first year pro.

Hey Joey, we thought with your first pro race behind you, we would introduce you to our readers. Where are you from originally and what were your local tracks coming up?

I’m from Metamora, Michigan. My local tracks were Baja Acres and a couple of little ones. Also, RedBud is just a few hours from me—probably about three or four hours—and I go there when I can. Those are my local tracks.

Joey showed top ten speed in qualifying. Now he just needs the rain to stay away at the final two rounds for him so he can begin getting the results. Photo by: Garth Milan

Well, you made your much anticipated professional debut this weekend at Unadilla after decent final results at Loretta Lynn’s. I say decent, but most would be thrilled. Still, I know you kids want 1-1-1’s. You finished 2nd in Open Pro Sport and 3rd in 250A. At Unadilla, though, you scored points in both motos, so that’s solid considering the weather and all. How would you say your debut went?

I’d say it was pretty solid. I definitely would have liked it to be better, but I can’t complain too much. I think I ended up 16th overall. The conditions were pretty challenging. (laughs) In the first moto, in the middle of the moto, my motor started to go, but I was able to salvage an 18th. I was pretty stoked with scoring points in both motos, especially in the mud in the second one. I was able to keep it on two wheels. I was happy about that. That was a chore in itself. I ended up 15th in the mud, so it was pretty good. I know what I need to work on, and hopefully I’ll fix a few things for the last two and end up in the top 10.


You’ve been on a few different bikes throughout your amateur career, but for the last three years, you’ve been a Kawasaki-backed rider. What kind of support did you receive for Unadilla last weekend and the last three rounds?

I’ve had help from Kawasaki throughout the years. They’ve helped me out with bikes and some things, but really not much coming into this race. I had a couple people help me out with getting to the race, but really not much else. That race, my parents drove our fifth wheel, but for Budds Creek, we’ll just be out of the van. I’m pretty much full privateering it, but hopefully I’ll get something. My goal is to put it into the top 10 and hopefully get some more help.


How tough was is being a privateer in those muddy and rainy conditions? With having to do it all on your own, it probably made for a pretty rough day.

Yeah, for sure. It wasn’t too bad, but my mechanic, my dad and a couple other friends of ours had to do a motor swap after the first moto. I got back and there’s not much time in between motos. At that point in time, we didn’t know there was going to be a delay. They were ripping the motor out and the only extra motor we had was in my practice bike, so they had to take the motor out of my practice bike, take the motor out of my race bike and swap them out. In the midst of all that it started down-pouring. Working under the eazy-up. The wind’s blowing and everything is getting soaked. (laughs) I barely made it up to the line, and I’m on the line for a couple of minutes before the gate dropped and I’m ready to go. It was going to be a mud moto at that point in time and then they ended up delaying it. It ended up being a two-hour delay after that. It was pretty much, “Welcome to the great outdoors,” so to speak. (laughs) It was good, though. I put in solid results.


Before the rain came I thought you showed you had some really good speed in qualifying. You and the other rookie debut—Justin Cooper—were 12th and 13th respectively. You definitely showed your speed is right in the mix with a very deep and talented field.

I was pretty stoked with qualifying 13th, but I was pretty bummed too. That was just my third lap of practice with the green flag, and that’s when I laid down my fastest time in. I didn’t even feel very good. I was casing jumps and kind of coasting around the track. I couldn’t believe that was my fastest lap, and I wasn’t able to better it after that—just from getting caught up with people on their slow laps, slower riders and tough to get a clean lap. It was definitely a difficult practice for me. I’m hoping next week I’ll be able to show a little bit more of my speed I guess and get a little bit cleaner laps.

Joey negotiating the mud of upstate New York. Photo by: Patt Weiss

That’s probably one of those learning curve things at the next level. That’s not something you can really practice. From what I’ve been told, qualifying is definitely something you have to get used to.

Yeah, for sure. In my head, I thought I’d just wait, let everyone go and try to get some clear laps. With waiting, I got shorted; practice was shorter. I got flagged off earlier by waiting, and I really didn’t wait enough also. I feel like I waited enough, but I still end up catching someone or someone would fall. It was always something. Also, they prepped for rain, so they didn’t till it up that deep and water it, so it wasn’t that rutted. That made it one-lines, so when you would catch someone, it was hard to pass them quickly.


That comes with confidence. First race, you want to hang back and see where you fit it. The top guys get out first and bang bars. When you get confidence and settled in, you’ll go out with those first guys that are up there jockeying for position in qualifying.

Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. (laughs) Guys just go! Everyone takes off like it’s a start and then they’re like banging bars in the first turn. Like holy smokes! This week I think I might try to take off with the front group and tag onto [Zach] Osborne or someone that’s going fast.


Budds Creek this weekend. Is that a place you have raced before?

It’s my first time going there. I’ve always wanted to go there for qualifiers or regionals, but it’s never really worked out. I’m pretty excited. I hear it’s a fun, flowy track. It should be fun.


So you see yourself inside the top 10? Is that what would make you happy?

Yeah, for sure. I know I can do it. I just got to get a good start and remember to relax and breath. The pace is fast for sure, but that’s my goal. If I get inside the top 10, I’ll be stoked with that.


I’m sure the conditions made it hard to really get a feel of what it’s actually like at this level, but was there anything that really surprised you about the pro level at your debut?

The biggest thing that surprised me was how close the races are. There ended up being a delay, but I still got up there as if it was normal before they delayed it. It’s like really quick between motos. I got back, got changed, rinsed off and I wanted to take a nap but I didn’t have time. I had a little something to eat, got my gear back on and went back up again. That’s something that was more difficult than I thought it would be. Also, at the beginning of the race, the pace is really fast. Those guys are all going really good right from the get go. I’ve always struggled with that, and that’s something I need to work on.

With the current talent pool in 2017, a lot teams want to prove what you can do at the pro level before they’re ready to sign a check. Photo by: Pat Weiss

This has changed a lot over the last ten years, but in the past, the top four A riders out of Loretta’s always had a deal. You are definitely one of the top graduates. Is there any talk of you going to a team for ’18?

Not that I know of. I’m really hoping so. My individual moto results at Loretta’s weren’t the hottest, but I had quite a few tip overs and a flat tire in my last moto. That moto was mine to lose. I thought I had that one in the bag, and I get a flat. I feel like I deserve a ride. Like at Daytona this year, I won both titles there. At this point in time, I’m talking to people, but it’s hard. There are so many fast guys that are already pros that have rides and there’s not many spots open. Hopefully, getting in the top ten will help and I’ll get something. That’s my goal for the future.


Thanks for taking my call today, Joey, and we appreciate your time. Are there some sponsors that are helping you out right now you would like to give a little love?

Yeah, for sure. Monster Energy Kawasaki, Babbitt’s, FMF, Dunlop Tires, Racetech Titanium, THOR, MÖbius, Club MX, Cometic Gasket, Rekluse, Mechanix Wear, Motion Pro, Decal Works, Oakley Goggles, Renthal, GUTS Racing, VP fuel, Bell Helmets, Uni-Filters, MCR Suspension & Rider Development, C4 MX, Wiseco, Giant Bicycles, Tamer Holeshot devices, Boyesen, ethica, Gaerne Boots, Everrev, PDA Jerky and Pablo Toribio.

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