By Travis Delnicki
I love Supercross like a fat kid loves cake. If you are reading this, I am sure you feel the same way. I am as big a fan as anybody but, have also been fortunate to compete at the pro level for a few years. 2016-2018 I competed in the entire 250 east tour. As with most struggling privateers there comes a time where the living out of a van and leaving your job for months at a time is maybe not the smartest move. It is a tough pill to swallow as a racer. At the beginning of December, I tried putting together a program to race the series in 2020. Most people start riding in December so needless to say it was a bit last minute and I could not come up with enough support in time. Fast forward to the beginning of February and I was able to put together a little program to race Daytona with the help of CSC Services, a family friend's hood, and duct company. In the weeks leading up to the event, I spent Monday through Saturday working my 9 to 5 as a CNC machinist. I hit the gym after work as much as I can to stay race ready as possible. Being from New England, we’re deep into the winter season so I knew I would have to cram in as much riding as possible the week leading into the race.
Let’s go over the logistics of getting signed and getting everything sorted out. Step one is registering for your pro license. The license costs $300 and is only good for supercross. Every other year you must submit an ImPact concussion test in with all your paperwork. It seems kind of dumb to me because you could KO yourself at the practice track, and nobody would know. That’s only $20. Next up is the race entry. It should be noted that for 2020 the entry fee went up from $200 to $225. Add in that you are going to need a mechanic for the weekend and a weekend mechanics pass is $50. So just the bare minimum to sign up for the race you are looking at $595.
(Travis rode his ass off at Daytona, but just missed the night program and the much needed $700 purse. @173photos)
Next up is the bike. I am riding my Supercross bike from 2018. It is strictly a supercross bike, so it has only been ridden a handful of times since Vegas Supercross in 2018. I needed to freshen up the motor, get SX suspension, and do minor things like grips, graphics, race fuel, etc. I get good support from my local dealership and some of my sponsors but I’m still paying for most of these expenses at a discounted rate. Luckily, I was able to loan SX suspension from my guy Tim at TCD which saved me a ton of money and the hassle of setting my suspension up for SX for just one race. All said and done, bike prep cost me roughly $1000. When I originally built the bike for 2018, it cost me around $15,000 including the cost of the bike. Throw in all the oils, lubes and parts I need for bike maintenance, new FXR gear, and a little maintenance on the F150 for the road trip and we're looking at another $400. So after about $2000 in expenses, I am finally ready to hit the road.
It’s the Friday before Atlanta SX and I am finally ready to hit the road. This is a full privateer effort. So much so that I am driving by myself and only taking my pickup truck. I worked a full day leading up to the drive, so I don’t hit the road until 7 pm. I drive until 2 AM and stop at a rest stop off I-95 to take a nap and rest up for the remainder of the drive. By 5 AM, I am back on the road and on my way to my buddy Max's house where I'll spend the week. One of the biggest saviors as a privateer is having friends and family in the area for free places to stay as the series travels week to week. By 4 PM I arrive in Florida in time to catch a little bit of Race Day Live and set my fantasy picks. The drive down cost me about $200 in fuel and with a less than ideal road diet, only about $40 in food. I am exhausted following the drive and after watching Atlanta SX I get to sleep to be ready for riding the next day.
I am very fortunate to have Max’s house to stay at. He lives 10 minutes from a track that has a Daytona track set up as well as a separate supercross track. This will be where I ride for the week to prepare, so it is nice to not have much of a commute to get to the track every day. With only a few days to get ready, there is no time to waste at the track. With everything being so last minute, my first day of riding was with outdoor suspension. My SX stuff was not arriving until Monday so I had to use what I had just to get some riding in. I had a good day of riding with my buddy Deven, who is also prepping for the race, but I did not feel great on the bike, so I was a little nervous after day one.
Right away on day two, I felt like a new man. It felt like I was back right where I left off which was a huge relief. I rode Sunday through Wednesday and made a lot of gains throughout the week, so I was feeling pretty good going into the weekend. There was a good group of riders who came to ride including, Justin Starling, Logan Karnow, and Curren Thurman just to name a few, so I was able to get a good gauge on where I stood. In my opinion, the toughest part of being a full-blown privateer is having enough time in the day to get everything done. Luckily, I had a short commute to the track throughout the week, but I still found myself up until 11 PM multiple times throughout the week prepping my bike for the next day. I was able to get in a jog or bike ride in the morning before heading to the track, but there is very little downtime during the week and it can be a struggle to fit in everything that needs to be done while allowing time for recovery.
(Travis is still chasing the dream, but economically his professional career is an expense rather than an income. Unfortunately this holds true for many riders considered "professional ".)
With a short commute and a free place to stay, I was able to keep my expenses for the week low. Riding was $200 and food costs stay consistent to around $30 to $40 a day. Thursday, I head to the Air BnB that myself and few friends split for the weekend. My portion of the place cost me $300 for the weekend. By Thursday night I am $3000 into this race but I could care less because I am just hyped up to get inside the speedway tomorrow and just enjoy the environment of the pits on a Friday.
It’s time to drive to the speedway and things start to get real. Before I can head into the tunnel, I must stop and get my credentials since it is my first race of the year. In classic AMA fashion, my hard card hadn’t been printed yet for whatever reason, so they gave me of those big, annoying credentials that fans get at Daytona. I was having none of it and just used my 2019 credential to get around all weekend. I am not sure if that’s a worse look for me or security. I also need to get a ton of passes for friends that hit me up in the days leading up to the race. I get a kick out of hearing from people, that only hit me up the one time a year supercross comes to town. It can be an annoyance, but you can make a buck or two, so I just suck it up. Anyhow, it’s always exciting going into the tunnel and popping out next to turn 1. Daytona is such a legendary place; the coolness factor never goes away.
I pull into the pits, unload and find a place for me to set up in one of the garages. For the factory teams, it is annoying to have to pit in the garages, but for a privateer, it is kind of cool to feel like one and the same. Fridays are laid back; get some fresh Dunlop’s and bring the bike through sound. Sound is always hit or miss as a privateer and it can be comical to see the measures some people have to take to pass. I pass with flying colors, drop another $150 for tires and head off to watch press and get a first look at the track. After press is over, I head back to the pits and hang out for a few talking with friends I rarely see not being at the races every weekend. That is one of the best and worst things about this sport. You meet some of your best friends, but when you are not racing you never see them.
As I get ready to head back to the room for the night, Karnow who I am splitting the room with, calls me and tells me we are getting kicked out because they are not allowed to rent the place out for less than two weeks at a time. You would think they would tell us this ahead of time, but nonetheless, we end up searching for a new place to stay for the next few hours. We don't settle into our new raunchy hotel until 9 PM the night before race day. These are the things that just happen as a privateer. When you think everything is all good to go, some sort of issue pops up. As they say, there is beauty in the struggle.
Finally, its race day. My mechanic Jack takes my bike through tech. There is not much to tech inspection. They make a half-assed attempt to check that your spokes are tight, and your footpegs are attached and send you on your way. Next, we head out to track walk, followed by the riders meeting. Eventually, it is time for free practice and the rest of the day's activities. This article is more less to take you through life as a privateer, not me and my day particularly, so I will cut to the chase. I ended up missing the show by two-tenths of a second, ending up 43rd overall. Not what I had in mind. Although I felt like I rode well, I was just short.
That’s a week in the life of a struggling privateer. The one round of supercross cost me right around $3500 by the time I got home, and the sad part is I missed getting the $700 night show money by a couple dabs of the foot in a corner. Hopefully, this can give you a better idea of what a real privateer goes through just for that little taste of living a childhood dream.