Score some more good results for the van brigade! Dean Wilson and Tyler Bowers have friends in high places and access to better parts than the average privateer, but they are, nonetheless, not pitting out of factory rigs. They're still right in the thick of the action against #deepfield this year.
Wilson, of course, was a sensation at Anaheim 1, leading most of the race before finishing fourth. He had a scare at Oakland, though, when he jammed his knee in the first turn of his heat race and was clearly shaken up by the incident. Wilson struggled to get into a rhythm right away as he finished in 12th. He went back to his sprinter van and regrouped for the LCQ, which he won. In the main event, the top 10 riders shuffled positions multiple times, but Wilson was quietly steady throughout the chaos, finishing in sixth on the night.
Bowers has had an interesting first few rounds of the season. He finished 21st at Anaheim 1, then went to Germany to compete in the ADAC SX Cup, causing him to miss the second round. He returned to Anaheim 2 to get 16th. At Oakland on Saturday he finished in 12th, and showed improved speed as soon as he rolled onto the track for practice.
Steve Matthes talked to both riders after the race.
Dean Wilson | Sixth in 450SX
Racer X: Started off as a scary night in the heat race. Before we get to that, the main event was very good. I don’t know where you were off the start, but late in the race you were charging hard. You were moving up. You’ve got to be stoked with the main.
Dean Wilson: Yeah. That was the toughest main yet, man.
Everyone is saying that, by the way.
Oh, really? The track was gnarly. I physically didn’t feel good. Mentally, I was stressing. So on the start line I had to talk myself into everything. Get that start and fight for it. Dude, I was on the outside. I was like four to the outside. Bogle was next to me. Me and Bogle came out real good, and then he got me a bit more and he drove it in, which was good. He doubled in which made the inside, so I just followed him. Anyway, I was probably back in the top ten and then just a bit of carnage. Avoided it. Just tried to have a rhythm. This track was gnarly. The first set of whoops, it was kind of like Baggett passed him on the far left. I was like, you know what? That looks pretty consistent. So I hit the left every time after that. It wasn’t pretty, but I got through it. Then the next set I just tried to jump, but it was tough. It was a tough one.
I think you got sixth, so it was a nice ride. How’s the knee?
The knee is a little sore and stiff. Obviously with my knees, I get scared so easily. Going into that first turn in the heat, I had a really good start. Me and Marv tangled bars and I just punched my foot into the ground. It kind of scared me and it was hurting for a minute. Scary. I’ve worked so hard to get back. Anyway, we bounced back from it pretty good so I’m happy with that.
How many corners did you have to go through before you were like “I think I’m okay?” Like three or four?
No, it took me like three or four laps of rolling around because it was stinging at first. It was like a stinger. Then I kind of just finished out the heat like, I think I’m okay. Then obviously did the LCQ. That was good. After the LCQ, and they prepped the track in the LCQ, I was like, dude, this main is going to be gnarly. Even in the LCQ it was kind of gnarly. It was tough, but I held my own. I could actually see Kenny at the end which was cool. It was a good bounce back.
You’re keeping this whole thing rolling. It’s feeling really good. You’re putting in some good finishes. What about the Rockstar team? Obviously, Anderson got hurt. What’s the latest with that?
I’ve got to talk to sponsors that are with me right now and try and figure it out. That’s my first priority. Obviously Rockstar is still supporting me, and me sliding in there would be quite easy, but I just want to go through my sponsors that have been supporting me. Obviously the privateer deal is awesome and everything’s going good and I really like it, but a lot of people only see me on the weekends. They don’t see during the week. My dad’s grinding his ass off every day. It’s a lot of stress for the old bugger. He tries hard and he enjoys it, but at the same time it’s a lot of work for him. And we’re on the west coast. These are the easy rounds. The east coast would be tough. So I’ve got to talk to my sponsors. Obviously they [Rockstar Energy Husqvarna] want me on the team. It is what it is. It’s all good.
Your mechanic, Paul Perebijnos, is a good friend of mine. Obviously a great friend of yours. He’s working a full-time job. He’s working for you on the weekends. How cool is it to have Paul back in your corner?
It’s really good. We just have such good chemistry. We understand each other. He knows how to approach me. He knows me like the back of his hand. It’s awesome. He was working at a sales conference in Dallas. Last week he was like, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it.” I was like, “It doesn’t matter. You’ll be there.” It’s been good to have him and Sam who missed his flight this morning, so he didn’t make it. Just a good little crew. Keep it small. Good people. It’s the way I like it. We’re having fun. When I’m on the starting line now, sometimes I just get so nervous, I’m like, 'Why am I getting so nervous?' And it’s because I want to do well, but at the same time, I want to enjoy it. I want to enjoy that feeling of being out there because not everybody can be there. It’s tough. I just want to train my mind to enjoy being there. Once the gate drops and you get a good start, it’s fine. But on the starting line, people don’t know. It’s gnarly. It’s like you’re going into battle. Twenty minutes… It’s demanding.
The season has turned out fantastic up front. It’s been turning out fantastic with you. It’s really, really cool to see your progression and then the battles up front. There’s so many cool things to talk about for us media guys.
Yeah. It’s good. There’s a lot of different winners. I guess Cooper was the first two-time winner, right? So he’s riding well. Didn’t expect that, to be honest. The class is insane. That’s why you just got to be that [good in the] start and fight for it. Everyone’s on pretty good bikes. Everyone’s fit. It’s just about fighting for it.
Racer X: Nice speed today in practice. All day long you felt really good. You were good here last year, too. Let’s get to that. What’s with the improved practice times today? What’d you find?
Tyler Bowers: Donk [my mechanic] and I got to work this week. I had that German championship thing I was doing. We got a little bit of a late start before the season on top of everything. I didn’t get my bikes until pretty late in the year—a couple weeks before A1. Then go to A1, try to do your thing, fly to Germany the next week. Then the next week you get back and it’s raining, so you just kind of chill at the house all week. I’m jet lagged anyway, whatever. So this week was the first week Donk and I really got back to work. All my titanium bolts came in. For me, I did the testing all summer. I’m big on bike feel. I can really tell a lot of things. I’m pretty... I wouldn’t say picky, but I can feel a lot. I know how to make this thing work pretty good. Donk and I this week just got after it. We tried a couple things. Made a shock change with Showa and then changed some bolts. That was a big thing for me. Just changed some things around and got the bike working good. I think more than anything I just rode more this week and got comfortable on the bike again. I was really comfortable on this 2019 Kawi 450 before [the Monster Energy] Cup, and then I got hurt at Monster Cup and had a lot of off time. I just haven’t really gotten a chance to feel like it’s my bike again. I’m just starting to get back into it and feel comfortable on my own bike. I’m really excited for the next few races. I think Donk and I are working good together. We got the box van here. It only died on us one time on the way up, and then we only ran out of gas another time. Actually I take that back. It stalled on the way to the gate. I had to start it up at the gate. Anyway, we’re here and we look to go to San Diego next week.
Main event tonight, the track looked like it got pretty brutal, pretty beat down. A lot of guys were struggling out there.
Yeah. It was blown. I got off to a rough start. I took a risk. I don’t normally like going outside off the start, and there were a couple rough gates on the inside so I went way outside. I was like, whatever, I’ll try it. It was a horrible idea. There might not have even been anybody behind me. I don’t know. Charged through. Luckily a couple guys went down. I think Donk said I might have ended up twelfth or so. But the track was just so beat, dude. It wore you out. You had to really think. You were trying to square up lines to try to avoid all these bumps and ruts and weird kickers and jumps and stuff. Then you got some other dude trying to hit you head-on coming into the corner. It was a pretty exciting night, for sure.
It looked like some very, very elite riders were struggling near the end to hold it together fitness-wise.
Yeah. I think on top of everything, the whoops in practice, they were big and they were gnarly but they were big and round and kind of close together. So we get our bike setup for that, and then we come out in the night show and they rebuilt the whoops but now they’re all pointy. It’s not anybody’s fault. The track crew does a great job. It’s just, “Whoa! Hey, surprise!” Then because they were pointy, they broke down differently. I think a lot of us were struggling to make changes to the bike and our riding in general to figure out these whoops again. Those were huge tonight.
You got Showa’s stuff on your bike. I know you test with these guys a lot. Could you have gone with KYB if you wanted? Or was Kawi pushing you to try the Showa stuff?
I just have the Showa stuff. Romey is a good friend of mine at Showa. A couple years ago I was left without a ride, without a bike. I talked to the guys at Kawi. They let me borrow a bike for the summer and Romey was able to scrape up some trashed parts out of the trash can and put some suspension on it and I was happy. Then what they get out of it—I get to test with it. They get two guys on the track now, Joey and me. They get feedback from both of us on race day and we can make smarter changes for everybody involved. So it’s just a really good relationship. I love working with the Showa guys and everybody at Kawi. I get taken care of, so I’m happy.