Gary Sutherlin is 22-years old. He’s a full-on privateer WORCS racer and sits in 11th place in the points after two rounds. His best finish is a 7th and earlier this week he got the phone call he’d been dreaming about: the invite to race out of the factory Kawasaki semi truck. As a replacement rider for the injured Destry Abbott, Sutherlin will be thrust to the top level of off-road racing teams. But it’s not his first time under the Monster Energy tent. After all, he was a championship-winning mechanic with Ricky Dietrich in 2006.We caught up with the friendly off-road racer just before his big race for a quick interview. Read on to find out what it’s like to live the Privateer life and get this kind of chance.What just happened with the Monster Energy Kawasaki Team?Well, it’s kind of funny, really. Destry Abbott and I were on our way to the National Hare and Hound race in Idaho (where Destry somehow gutted out a sixth-place finish with a sore, recently dislocated shoulder). Jason Smigel, Kawasaki’s Off-Road Team Manager, called Destry and asked him to find out if my sponsors would be OK with me racing out of the Kawasaki Semi Truck at the Havasu WORCS race. It was between me and one other guy, I guess. I called all my sponsors and they were totally exited and OK with me getting on the factory team as a replacement rider for Destry. I called Smigel back and sort of sat in limbo for a couple days over the race weekend. The week after Idaho, Smigel called Johnny (Destry’s Mechanic) and asked if I was still good to go and I said yes. I’ve been on cloud nine ever since!That’s got to be a great phone call to get
Oh, you have no idea! It’s a great opportunity and means a lot to me that Jason Smigel and the rest of the team thought of me to fill in for Destry. I’ve become really good friends with Destry and I’m sure that helped but it’s nice to know that I’ve also begun to put some results down and they’re paying off. It’s tough with a full-time job and it’s just awesome to have this opportunity that can help show me all the hard work is worth it.Tell us about your day job. What do you do for a living?I definitely don’t race motorcycles for a living, I can tell you that (laughs). I work construction. I do glass work, glazing to be specific. My schedule is 6am-2pm five days a week at work and then I do my riding and gym work after two o’clock.So you get some practice time even though you have a full-time job?I have one bike right now for race and practice so all my time has been put into prepping that bike for the next race or into working out at the gym. Since I’m trying to race all the National Hare and Hound races, WORCS races and some local stuff I have a lot of prep work to do. I don’t really get to practice much right now. In the first two months of the year I practiced twice. Seat time is definitely my downfall right now. When did you become such good friends with Destry Abbott?
Dez’ and I have been friends pretty much since I moved down here. I worked for his mechanic Johnny at his personal shop for a couple years. So, I’ve always been lucky enough to ride and hang out with Destry. After getting back on Kawasaki’s this year and moving a lot closer to him we’ve been pretty good buddies. We hit the gym together and stuff so it’s been great for me. I’ve been learning a ton from him and I can never thank him enough for what he’s done. He’s always gone above and beyond any expectations I ever had. Not only as a mentor but really as a friend. What did you do before you raced the WORCS races?Right before I started racing off-road I was Ricky Dietrich’s mechanic on the Kawasaki team. I also raced some professional motocross.How would you sum up your professional motocross career/effort?I had lots of ups and lots of downs. I was successful enough to qualify for an Outdoor National and checked some things off my list of things I wanted to do in motocross. But all in all I’m totally happy with off-road. I wish I would have started (off-road) sooner.When were you Ricky Dietrich’s mechanic?
All of 2006 and half of 2007. About four or five races into the ’06 season Ricky got the WORCS points lead. That’s when he asked me to be his mechanic. We wrapped up the championship that year together. I worked half of the next year with him until he was injured and then I decided to try racing the series myself.As a motocross racer at heart and a fast kid from Montana, how did you become a mechanic for a WORCS championship winning factory team and end up in Arizona?I started taking the steps to become a mechanic in 2005 right after I had a pretty bad injury racing. I wanted something to fall back on and I wanted to get out of Montana and see what the rest of the world—especially the warmer places—had to offer. So, I went to Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Phoenix and really liked Arizona so I’ve stayed here ever since.So even though you don’t have time to practice as much as you want, you definitely don’t need a mechanic to help you with your prep work.No, (laughs) that’s one good thing about my practice situation I guess: I don’t have to spend a lot of money for anyone else to work on my bike. It does take a ton of time out of my training but it’s all-good.How long have you been racing WORCSThis will be my third year. My first year I was a privateer, last year I was on the Zip-Ty Racing Husqvarna team and this year I’m back privateering with the same program I had in ’08.So what exactly is your current privateer program?For 2010 I’ve been riding on my own with the help of Valcom Motorsports, Topar Racing, Fly Racing and Kawasaki.You’ll be riding for the full factory team this weekend for the Lake Havasu round of the WORCS series. Did you ever think this would happen?
You know what’s crazy? I’ve worked out of the same truck that I’ll be racing out of. I worked with Ricky as his mechanic and now I’m his teammate. It’s a dream come true. I’m only 22 years old so I feel like I still have a shot at making a good career out of racing. Even though the economy is in the tank and it’s hard to get a ride for anyone I still think I can do it. For Kawi to call me up with so many good riders out there is awesome.How’s the pressure? Are you freaking out?No. There’s no pressure for me. I have the same attitude and mindset as if I’m riding my privateer bike. I’m just having fun. I’m spending my own money to race every weekend and if I don’t make it fun then there’s no sense in me doing it. If I have fun, my results will come for sure.What are your goals for the race this weekend?I’d really like to be in the top five. I know with the amount of practice I have that’s not going to be easy. But I know were I stand and I think it’s a good goal. I really like to pull the holeshot and finish top five. That’d be awesome.
Well good luck, Gary. We’ll be looking for the #40 in the top five this weekend! Now drop that sponsor list on us.Thanks. I gotta’ give it up to Valcom Motorsports, Topar Racing, Fly Racing, Axo Boots, FMF, Rekluse, Rev Graphics, Smith Goggles, Dunlop Tires, GPR, Twisten Wrenches, Destryabbott.com and Kawasaki.