Jeff Crutcher's Working Class Privateer Series From Spring Creek Is The Perfect Conclusion To His Summer
A few years back at the Baker’s Factory I met Jeff Crutcher. Although we didn’t know it at the time, our Midwest roots were very close through the AMA District 18 region and the Missouri State Series and we had many mutual acquaintances. Quickly we developed a tight friendship thanks to our attendance at rounds of the Monster Energy Supercross Series, me on assignment to cover the races and him to film the “Inside Track” video series. Crutcher is no slouch on a motorcycle, as he was a quick and well-supported amateur that had a few things go awry as he neared the switch to pro racing, which has led to his full-time occupation as a delivery driver for FedEx. Because he still has the speed and passion to race, he decided that a run at select rounds of the 2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on his KTM 250 SX would be a good idea for the summer.
As quick as Crutcher is on the bike, his wit is even faster and he wrote an op-ed about his passion to race and the day spent racing the Spring Creek round this past weekend. Dude looks and writes a bit like Hunter S. Thompson, but doesn’t have the hardcore drug use, so the story has been left in its pure Gonzo style.
All opinions are Jeff’s, by the way. Not that anything bad is in the article, but you know, I just don’t need to get lit up by anyone that takes offense to this somehow.
Prior to this year, I could never afford to do more than 2 nationals in a year. I always felt like somehow I was being shafted by MXSports or the AMA for everything being so expensive, at a time when vehicle fuel was teetering on $4 per gallon, being stuck in the back 40 parking lot when I did show up, and just cheated out of equipment/opportunity/you name it- I had a reason or justification for why I was never given a fair chance at becoming a professional moto racer. But therein lies the problem with my old outlook. Fair chances are not given, fair chances are earned. That's a really hard concept for many riders and industry people to wrap their head around, because they have their head buried so far up their own ass they can't see the light of day.
Before you write me off as some type of anti-privateer shill, there is nobody in the paddock with more love and admiration for the peasants on purchased equipment. I have a tremendous amount of respect for everyone who lines up at a pro national. Being completely honest though, our sport attracts riders and crew members who want to be the "star". Henceforth it's no surprise a lot of individuals feel like they are the have-nots simply because they are the ones still footing their own bill. I was that way for a long time and I can spot it from the other side of the course. But let me tell you, there is nothing more dignifying than paying for everything off the salary of your own hard work.
I don't really care for Millville on pro day, or all together as a course. The last time I rode at Spring Creek was in 2009- the last pro national I competed in before Muddy Creek this year. Part of this disdain was a motivating factor to compete again, which was deeply rooted in how much I hated the Kawasaki 450 I raced on in 2009. Almost a decade surely changed my outlook on life from "I want everything to be given to me" to "I want everything to be earned by me". I wanted to do better than I did in 2009, even if that had nothing to do with on track results but instead strictly attitude improvement. The course had to be overcome, and I had to do it on a bike I love.
Everyone has a regret or a "If only I would have done this one thing different". It took me almost 10 years to realize how much a thorn in the side my last attempt at pro racing was to me. Obviously, I'm not getting any younger and with each calendar year I see that it would only get harder physically to be competitive. Oddly though, my mind and attitude gets stronger with more resolve as I mature, with that I recognized I had to right the wrongs (of which I mostly blanked out of my mind through sheer disappointment) that 20 year old Jeff made. Today as I sit here typing this, I feel 100 lbs lighter with almost a seasoning of De Ja Vu, as if I had wished for the opportunity to NOT feel the way I always have about my old shitty results and attitude in 09 so many times that this feels like it's happened before. It's a very rewarding feeling and I hope that whatever thing it is that bothers you from your past with a coulda/woulda/shoulda will some day be conquered and converted into an "I can, I will, I did."
My weekend was vastly different from the previous three nationals, namely that I made a plan to drive up and pit out of my Dodge pick-up instead of pitting with The Big Show. However, as I have learned this year- the less you ask for the more you receive. Dane Rouse, big brother to 450MX racer Brent Rouse popped in my Instagram DM and unveiled to me his plan for the Bubba Burger team (consisting of Brent Rouse and Brandon Scharer) to field a 3rd rider at every event for the remainder of the season. They had picked me for Millville and extended the invitation to pit with fruits such as free Bubba Burgers, my own EZ Up, bike wash station, a prime parking location, cold drinking water, and Dane serving as lead mechanic for anything that might go wrong. This was quite different than roughing it in the cornfields out of my Dodge and a very attractive offer. I signed on the proverbial dotted line for my one day contract as an official rider on the Bubba Burger team roster.
Friday morning I loaded up at 4 am and went to work for a dreamy 5:30am to 5:30pm shift. My job for the day was loading 4 vans with packages and running a combined 100 deliveries and pick ups in downtown Lawrence, KS- home of University of Kansas. Back at the station I hit the locker room and refreshed for the 7.5 hour drive. I expected to make it a few hours north before needing a pit stop and perhaps a nap- but I hardly made it out of Kansas City before my watering eyes demanded I pull off and get some power sleep in. Admittedly, I am not the best at traveling, but that's based off a scare I had about 10 years ago when I was on tour with a band as merch guy, and I was behind the wheel and fell asleep somewhere in Ohio. I woke up in the median without wrecking and made a promise to myself that if I ever get tired, take 30 minutes and get a reset in. I laid down across the front row of my single cab and set a timer for an hour, except I didn't push the "start timer button". About an hour and a half later, I wake up and the sun is dropping like a Mayfly in June. Not much of a speeder, but I needed to make some good time. I set the cruise at 80 on I35 north with the intent to pull off for the night somewhere in South Minnesota. Some coffee, a cheeseburger, a tank of "Iowa Clean Air" E88, and an episode of Joe Rogan fueled me to east of Albert Lea where I found a dark drop and switch lot around 12:30am. I was an hour and a half from the race track, so the timer was set (I double checked) for 4:45 and off to count sheep I went under my grandmother's handmade quilt.
Saturday morning I woke up a tick before my alarm buzzed, and the crisp Minnesota air was ideal for windows down and hoodie up. I fired up some Yacht Rock radio on spotify after grabbing a hot cup of joe (shoutout to the guy at Pilot that comped my coffee- your sponsorship was greatly appreciated) with an ETA of 6:15 am. There were some local road closures so I FedEx'ed my way through the back country of Wabasha county on gravel roads and actually arrived almost 20 minutes early from my ETA. Upon arrival, the security crew was very skeptical of my rig with lack of parking sticker. I explained I just got there, with arraignments to do Tech at 7am, and that I was pitting with Bubba Burger. "OH! You're the FedEx guy!!! Come right in!" That's right peasants, step aside- FedEx has arrived. Later in the day I learned Brent and Dane feed the parking crew with Bubba's at every round, and they informed Chris and security crew that I would be rolling in on Saturday morning. The pit spot was GOLDEN. We were inches from Factory KTM and Rockstar Husky.
I placed my bike and pit kit under the Bubba tent while the rest of the crew was waking up (typical left coast cali boys waking up after the sun) then shot over to do Tech with John Starling at around 6:45. A brisk 62f in the Spring Creek valley matched my dark roast perfectly as I did some glad-handing with the usual suspects at riders meeting, and some old familiar faces. Obvious already it was going to be a great day at the races. Forward to practice session 1, Brent and I climbed the starting tower to watch group A take off and cut the first laps in when I heard shouting from below. "JEFF. JEFF. GET DOWN HERE. YOU'RE IN A" Dane was screaming as he pushed my bike out into the starting line. "What in the actual hell" I was saying as I stammered down from the birds nest. I jump on the 2 smoker and Dane says "Dude you're in A group! So sick! Go have fun!". I missed the wheels on the ground lap, and pulled out on the course right behind my old trainee Benny Bloss. I followed him for half a lap thinking it would be my golden ticket into the chocolate factory, just riding his pace over all the leaps with literally zero time on the track and not even a sight lap- until he pulled a complete amateur move and without reason fell over in a left hander. I passed him yelling "Booooooooooo!" whilst enjoying a nice relish of "I see we still have work to do with old Coach Jeff". It was a cute thought until 3/4th's a lap later I tipped over like a beginner before the new section that was once collarbone hill, and Ben passed me back. Karma.
I pulled off the track after the checkers flew with another giant grin and as much bewilderment of how in the hell I got slotted in group A- and I inquired with Jeff Canfield whomst is the Race Director. It was based off my times from Red Bud mixed with who did and didn't show up at Millville. It's a loose formula, but it worked in my favor. My time wasn't impressive, but in the second session I managed to shave 4 seconds off. Segment-wise, I was wicked fast until the uphill of Mt. Martin where the 15 horsepower disadvantage was spotlit like an ant on the sidewalk under a child's new magnifying glass. The unlikelihood of making the uphill 3 piece was slim to none, especially after I consulted with Stank Dog on the line of qualifying session two. I asked if he got backside of the landing to which he replied "I tried it and nutted it." There are three measurements of casing a jump: Short It, Frame It, Nut it. The final being the worst case scenario. I knew if his 40 pound lesser than I meatwagon mixed with his Haeseker hotrod engine couldn't do more than Nut It, that jump was completely out of my wheelhouse.
I had 24th pick in my LCQ, and another very obviously down on power start. A few heroic passes on the first half lap in the sand rollers upped me to about 16th, until we hit the uphills and I dropped multiple spots. Every lap though, I made some fantastic jockeys for position in the sandy sections of the course and that alone was a job well done for me. The final lap I had a tip over, but that didn't ruin any of the fun. Not my best finish in my season of LCQ's- but I rode a hell of a lot harder and a hell of a lot better than 2009 Jeff which was the ENTIRE reason I set out to do this string of races this year. As AMA clipped off my transponder after the race- I fist bumped Nolan Myers after we had a small epic through the last lap.
I returned to the Bubba Burger factory tent and started sharing race stories with the team. Brent said I passed him in the sand rollers in a way that made him question why he even races, which was a nice feather in my cap. Dane started ribbing his brother with "Dude the FedEx guy beat you once again". Laughs were had, the vibe was great, and the appreciation for moto was strong in our tent. Just by proximity, we were an easy stop for autographs and sticker handouts. Brent fired up the grill and started making his signature grilled onion and bbq Bubba's with cheese, and we broke out the sharpies for all the fans that stopped by for autographs. I remember when I was a young boy, it didn't matter who they were or how they finished- I wanted every rider's autograph. The tables have turned and I was now that no-namer handing out my John Hancock on event T-shirts and other rider's plastics. Around 7pm I decided it was time to flush this turd in a punchbowl and head back to Kansas City. On the drive home, it was nothing but nostalgic reflection. It was an absolute thrill and honor to be part of this series, to get to overcome my past bad results, to do it entirely on my own dime for a weekend, and to do it all on a bike I truly love: my 67-hour stock-suspension $167-a-month 2017 Freedom Cycles KTM 250sx 2 stroke.
Unlike so many other professional riders in moto who get too excited to finish their own sentence- I actually CAN thank my sponsors and am going to do so right now: Jeff Stanfield at Freedom Cycles in Grandview, MO. for sponsoring me without question since 1995, Wiseco, Bill's Pipes (who came on board this last week), Fox Racing and Josh Hudson my local rep, Nick Peterson's Bike-Works, Innovative MX and Scott Gebken, Transworld Motocross and Anton for giving me a soapbox, Mika Metals, Twin-Air, WeBig Inc and Todd Covey, Pirelli Tires, Motul, Bar2Bar MX and the Richardson Family, Bubba Burger and the Rouse brothers, everyone who listens to my podcast Over The Bars, the entirety of the Missouri State MX Series and EVERYONE back home, every person that came up to me at the last 4 rounds, the posters on VitalMX, my personal family, my girlfriend Aubree, MXSports and the AMA- my management team, coworkers and workgroup 5, the IXDA staff and FedEx Express- and to readers like you: Thank You.
See you on Sunday.