The life of a privateer isn’t for the faint of heart, as the position requires endless heart and determination for a goal that may never amount. It’s a gamble to say the least, and Justin Hoeft is a prime example. The rookie bet on himself, as he lined up for his first professional motocross national in the 450 class at the infamous Glen Helen Raceway and nearly broke the top ten after narrowly missing out on a holeshot in the first moto. The So.Cal resident spent a few years racing for TLD/Red Bull/GoPro/KTM as an amateur, and is now working with Team 51Fifty Energy before heading to the Washougal National. We caught up with the premier class rookie in between motos this week to talk about his one-race deal with 51Fifty Energy.

We’re out here at Milestone today and we caught you doing some testing with Team 51Fifty Energy on a 450. Are you a new member of the team? 
Yes, and no. A little while before Mammoth, I started doing a little bit of suspension testing with the team. I went up to Mammoth and raced on my own equipment, but when I got back I sat down with the team and they’ve been nice enough to help me get to Washougal, and I’ll also do the PIR race the week prior to the national. I guess we’ll see what happens from there. I haven’t signed a contract with the team or anything like that, so essentially I’m still available for hire (laughs), but I’m just focused on Washougal, right now. I want to put in a good result, while I have this opportunity.

Have you been to Washougal to race before?
I have been there to race, but it was during my amateur days. It’s been quite sometime since I’ve been up there. I’m really excited to get up there because I know the dirt is something that I’m not necessarily acquainted with.

You put in quite the ride at the 2017 Glen Helen National; especially when you consider you rode a 450 at your first U.S. motocross national. What was it like racing with the big dogs?
It was a lot of fun! It was a lot more relaxed than I expected. In the 250 class and even the amateur ranks, there’s so much pressure and the intensity almost seems to be a little higher. In the 450 class, it’s almost as if everyone is a little more mature (laughs). Now that I am a pro, I like the fact that we get to do two 30 minutes +2 lap motos because it gives you a little more time to make some moves if need be. The first couple of laps in the amateur ranks are pretty cutthroat, but it’s a little more mellow in the 450 class. I will have a lot more seat time before Washougal than I did leading into Glen Helen, so I am excited to see how everything goes after having more time on the bike.

Was your decision to race Glen Helen pretty last minute?
Yeah, a little bit (laughs). I had to overnight all of my paperwork just to get my membership in time. I never even found out I was able to race until the Thursday before. Everything was pretty last-minute, but I had a lot of fun and I think everything worked out pretty great. I’m really happy that I was able to do that race!

At the start of the first 450 moto, you almost got the holeshot! Did you expect to do that and what was it like running right behind Marvin Musquin on the opening lap?
My starts can be a little hot and cold at times, and that first moto was obviously a good one, so it felt good. I was actually really calm and relaxed throughout the first moto, so that made things a whole lot easier, plus it’s good not having to pass your way through the pack. The second moto wasn’t quite the same, though, because I got a bad start. I started to panic a little bit, and just being back there with those guys made things a lot harder because I was having to expend a lot more energy trying to pass people. That was an enjoyable day.

Since Glen Helen, what have you been up to since then?
Not a lot other than riding and training. Mammoth just wrapped up, so I devoted some time to get myself ready for that. This privateer life is no joke, though. It’s so much more difficult when everything falls on you, and I really don’t have a budget to go racing on my own. The bike I own is a 2014, so it has a lot of time on it and parts are expensive. It’s crazy how fast a practice bike can deteriorate, too, so it’s really important to stay on top of the maintenance, which can also get a little pricey. The other thing is having the time to handle all of that stuff because you also need time to train and ride. It makes life a whole lot easier when you have a few people helping you out with that stuff, and that’s how it is with 51Fifty Energy. A lot has been lifted off my shoulders thanks to this team, so now I have plenty of time to focus on what I need to focus on; training and riding. I probably wouldn’t be riding right now if it wasn’t for these guys!

So having the team around has allowed you to focus more on you and your riding, right?
Yeah, exactly. The time that I was using to wash a bike or work on it or something like that, I can now put into my training regimen. It’s hard to stay in it and motivated, though, because I don’t have anything to work towards, it seems like. I mean that in the sense that my schedule for the year is unwritten because I don’t have a ride. For example, I have Washougal coming up, which is great motivation because I have a golden opportunity to showcase what I’m capable of, however, after that there’s nothing. It’s important to stay consistent with your training, but when the racing is inconsistent it’s tough to want something that’s not really there. The 51Fifty guys have brought structure to my program, which is something that I desperately needed.