Tely Energy Racing’s Steward Baylor comes into the 2019 season as the defending champion in the Kenda AMA National Enduro Series. The South Carolina rider is known as one of the more controversial figures on the circuit and for the past three years he has elected to manage his own team rather than race for a factory team.
Baylor got off to a slow start at the Kenda AMA National Enduro Series opener in Sumter, South Carolina, but was able to come from behind to finish second overall behind eventual winner Russell Bobbitt. Dirt Rider spoke with Baylor on the eve of the Sumter race about his plans for the upcoming season and the nagging knee injury that plagued him last year.
How is the knee?
I guess it is what it is. It’s been bothering me, but I keep it wrapped and keep going. We messed it up there in May of last year and still finished out the year pretty strong. It took me a couple months before I got back rolling. Now it’s more or less I just know what I can and can’t do, and what my boundaries are. Knowing that, I know what I can and can’t do, and know what I need to do to go and win races. We’re putting our focus toward doing just that. As long as I can keep my head right on race day and not let emotions push me away from the plan, we’ll continue to perform on top. When racing’s over, I’ll go and get it fixed.
Let’s talk about the off-season. What did you do during the off-season to get ready for this year?
This off-season we came back from Chile very late this year, so it was mid-November before my off-season started. The first thing we did is I came home and I left for two weeks to go deer hunting and my normal routine. I came back, got married, did the honeymoon, then [it was] Christmas. I didn’t start my training as early as I usually do, but since the season went so much longer and ended with such a strenuous week like [the] ISDE, when I got back on the bike my fitness was far from gone. It was two weeks and I was right back where I needed to be as far as heart rate zones and recovery differentials, things like that. We hopped right back on the bike there actually the week of Christmas. [December] 23rd I started riding. Between the 23rd and now, so a month and a week I guess, I’ve put in 54 hours of practice time, so no lack of trying there.
We’ve ridden a lot—a lot more than probably I ever have as far as actual seat time. I’ve spent a lot of time this year working on building the track and the training facility that I’m working on. It’s been long days here. I’m getting up at 6:30 [or] 7 a.m., out at the track by 8 a.m. I’ll hop on the dozer, run the track, and hop on the dirt bike and ride it. As soon as I’m done with my motos for the day, I’m back on the dozer getting prepped for the next day and changing things up. Building new tracks for the guys to come out and check out. Then we try to do some workouts there in the afternoons. It’s been good. I’ve had Evan Smith at the house working with me a lot, and Liam Draper’s back now. I’ve got a small crew that’s kind of a solid crew to work out with and train during the week. I think we’re going to see really good performances out of both Evan and Liam this weekend. I hate to say it. These guys, at some point, do become competition to me, but right now it’s good to be training with that competition.
You’ve talked about building a training facility so that you can start a business training other riders. Can you talk about that?
Basically there is no set-in-stone off-road training facility. Although I really do want to break into the moto market and that’s a big part of my plan. Right now in the grand scheme of things, within the next four years before I retire, I would like to have a full off-road and moto training facility up and on its feet. I’d like to have something to step into easily after this career is over and move right into training kids. My passion is riding dirt bikes and anything that I can do to keep myself riding and having fun. That’s exactly what I’m going to do. I wanted to incorporate that into whatever I do after motorcycles.
I get along great with the kids and the parents as well. I have a fun time doing it. Obviously I don’t know if I’m a great trainer or not, but I feel like I’m really good working with the kids. I’ve always been strong at the GNCC podiums and trying to give back to the youth. That’s just kind of where I want to be. Eventually I want to have my own kids, so that’s where I’m looking into the future is something a little less bonus-driven and a little more stable.
So right now I know that off-road training facilities aren’t big, but 10 years ago neither were moto [training facilities]. What happened is one kid went to a facility and started beating the rest, and now everybody’s got to go to them. The same thing can happen in off-road. I feel like it’s an untapped market. As I retire, there will be other riders who could easily step into a position that hopefully I’ll open the doors for.
So it’s a lot of money up front. It’s a whole lot of time—more time than I could possibly imagine that I would put into anything. But at the end of the day, I really hope it pays huge dividends. Obviously, my new wife [is] not super thrilled that I’m gone all day long every day, but one day I’m just hoping that everything pays off.
Do you have any major changes to your team this year or how you’re operating or anything like that?
As far as the team goes, everything’s staying roughly the same. I’m no longer doing the sprint enduros. I wanted to focus on two series so that I could really focus on the GNCCs more, as well as giving myself a little more time to open the track and do some things around there. Maybe enjoy married life, which obviously that doesn’t change much because we’ve been together forever. Aside from dropping the sprint enduros, the only big changes this year is a couple [additional sponsors]. Moose Racing is huge and [so is] Forma Boots. Those are two big sponsors that stepped up this year. Obviously, Moose has a huge presence in off-road, so we’re pumped to be with those guys. But other than that, not really any major changes for us.