Full-Time FedEx Driver Jeff Crutcher Is Back With Part Three Of "The Working Class Privateer" Series
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 Southwick 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.
Combined together between Supercross and Motocross, 999 pro licenses can be held in a single year. 99 (or one-tenth) of those licensed riders are ranked in order from 1 to 99 based on the previous year's top 99 points accumulators between indoor and outdoor racing. Of those 99 racers, perhaps 50 of them will enter each round of both SX and MX. Furthermore, 25 to 30 of this elite class will remain healthy, have sufficient funding, a canopy to pit under, etc. We're down to- and I want to spell this out letter by letter to illustrate the picture I'm painting.. two point five percent of available numbers being represented at every round of professional dirt bike racing in the United States.
What does that make everyone else?
In what other professional sport can someone like myself potentially line up (directly) next to the points leader of the outdoor series because I could go fast for one single lap? It's a stretch of the imagination, but for all intents and purposes and/or that funny line in your homeowners insurance policy written out as "an act of God"- it's in the wheelhouse of possible. One lap. That's all that is asked of me.
Perhaps on a good day I could transfer directly in. By a good day, it would probably take about 55 entries showing up and 30 of them being their first time riding a big bike. A slight exaggeration yes I know, but that's certainly how I felt after riding my first session out on the famed Southwick course. My first qualifying time was somewhere around 20th in my group, and I was satisfied with that. "Room for improvement, I could probably drop a little here and a little there and bump up to around 15th in my group" I said to myself as I checked the scoreboard on my phone after session one. Wrong.
The course was twice as rough my second time out. I continuously kept making mistakes all the way around each lap and found myself counting my lucky stars after the checkers were thrown. At the pit, my team comprised of myself, Nick Peterson #400, Frank and Sam Craven, and my girlfriend Aubree shared "tactics" of how to overcome the conditions and laughs at how insanely large the bumps and chop had become. There is one way, and one way only to train for Southwick: go to Southwick.
Personally, I strongly believe the one day program is bullshit. Timed qualifying lends such a helping hand to the seeded 250(f) racers who have the track worked in for them by 250(f) group B and a majority prepped track for the 450 group A racers to enjoy and lay our industry loved terminology for quick laps: heaters. When I first started racing outdoor nationals in 2005 I had to race my way into the Sunday program, and on Sunday morning race some more to qualify for the fast 40. This was absolutely the most fair way to select whom will be lining up for the final 2 main event motos in each respective displacement category.
MXSports and its sanctioning body the AMA have absolutely zero obligation to cater to racers like me. Notice I didn't say "athletes like me", that's because in the spectrum of red plate holder Eli Tomac all the way back to the guys who didn't qualify into the 450 LCQ- by comparison, I am not an athlete. The riders in my category are hobbyists. Even some of the riders who make the final 40 are just that. We have good looking bikes, the lanyard that reads "PRO RIDER" in bold lettering, sublimated team shirts to thank our sponsors, and respect given to us by fans regardless of finish position just like the top dogs. What I DO NOT have is the talent to qualify myself as a professional athlete. I am a participant in the biggest little sport in the world.
Quite morose sounding. I view it the opposite. It's my one way ticket out of normalcy that will make for quality campsite stories in my golden years. MXSports gave me my license for $350 and a few results proving I'm capable. Imagine calling the MLB and asking to speak with their director of operations to tell he/she how good you are at fielding a ball and swinging a bat. "I have a small resume and a couple videos of me taking hacks in my yard. My high school coach will vouch for me" and huzzah you're center field going around the horn in daytime warm-ups nestled between the likes of Golden Glovers similar to Alex Gordon and Mike Trout.
It's quite odd that the premier class seems to be holding the majority of secondhand group of riders. Let's be honest with ourselves- not one person in the paddock believes that a 250 two stroke compares to a 450 four stroke. We all know the story of the development rules being adjusted for the minority and taken advantage of so egregiously by the OEM's with such haste and great prejudice against the commonwealth of the market's best interest in the name of technology advancement. Hence why someone like myself who is entry list fodder is required by regulation to race the premier class, because I purchased the motorcycle that suits my riding style best. This isn't the best pound for pound analogy, but I'll use it anyway: there are far less major league players than there are men on triple, double, and single-A clubs. To develop and refine talent in our equivalent to the majors simply based on the cost of competitive equipment has bad policy written all over it.
The hobbyist professional is essential to motocross and supercross, and also the majority of entries at every round. I'm in a unique position because my expectations to perform on any level are practically nil. When I was on the starting gate for the LCQ at The Wick and the card turned sideways I thought to myself "wow my heart rate is way low". When you take the pressure of performing to whatever standards you think you should live up to, the racing becomes a lot more fun. Sometimes I feel sorry for the guys who do this for a living, their probability of having a bad weekend is far higher than mine. I started 15th, and made a few passes to around 13th on the first lap. Being that close to the top ten in the LCQ was an accomplishment. I dropped back a few spots by way of very novice line selection on lap two, then set up to pass a dude on a Honda. In my 25 years of racing I've never taken a face-full of roost so hard as I did off this guys rear tire. It was beyond bird shot- more like ten desert eagles of sand from point-blank distance and it almost knocked me off the bike mid-air. The roost penetrated between my helmet and goggles and sealed off my helmets ventilation so within half a lap my goggles fogged up and my sight was gone. I dropped anchor and fell back to 24th at the checkers, exactly where I finished last weekend in Tennessee. For me, this was a good weekend and a major check off my bucket list.
After leaving the races in Southwick we stopped at a fueling station that had a full blown red bull display featuring both Ken Roczen and Ryan Dungey. We grabbed our snacks while the boxvan was being filled up outside (thanks to the gentleman who stopped by and gave Nick and I $100 for fuel, he didn't want to be named) and as I saw the good people of southern Massachusetts hurry around town going to the places they can be found- I caught myself thinking about how amazing the fans of our sport are while pouring over the fence lines to cheer on the locals and privateers. It was a humbling thought considering that just 5 miles away the largest motorcycle race in North America was abuzz and the average American was completely clueless to what was happening in our world. We have our problems, our politics, our arguments. The privateers will always feel shafted, and the factory riders hanging on by the skin of their teeth. The fans will come to the track and scream until they're hoarse, air horns will be emptied, beer will be spilled, sunburns will be aplenty. This is a niche sport with all the territory it commands. I'm god damned blessed to be a sliver of it for 45 minutes a weekend.
Side note: thanks to Jake at Sandbox and his local riders, every fan that came by and talked to Nick and I
while buried in the wooded part of the pits, Frank Craven for the loaned boxvan and hospitality, MXSports for not exiling me and my critical analysis, GuyB for allowing the outbound links, TWMX, Cameron McAdoo, Chris Zieber, my sponsors, and readers like you. See you at Red Bud, bring La Croix.