Team BBMX Racing - Dirt Rider Magazine

Forrest Butler isn't quite sure where the last four years went, and he definitely doesn't understand how he's been able to keep making it work every day. Still, each weekend his DNA Energy Drink/ semi manages to roll into the pits for another round and drop awning right next to the very men he idolizes-other team owners. In its fourth year on the circuit, the Butler Brothers MX team is ahead tenfold in support, money and riders, yet Forrest continues to run the program as if it were day one. This story isn't about brothers who start a team to race together. That one's been told already, by them and other brothers. This piece is about taking on the risk and finding the support to build a race program to succeed against the odds, when even a podium finish seems like a dream-at least for now.Building It
Forrest Butler and his brothers-Karsten, Brandon and Taylor-didn't follow the same path as their factory counterparts and competition in the paddock. First, they're from Miami, as far from a motocross proving ground as a rider can get. Ice hockey is bigger in South Florida than motocross (Florida Panthers, anyone?). The brothers come from a family that values a solid work ethic and a good education. Their father, Raymond, who runs an insurance agency, holds this philosophy: "If you don't have the money to do something, you build it." And their mother, Becky, is a 39-year veteran of Delta Air Lines, still working 60 hours a week. To top it off, Forrest didn't race motocross until he was 17 years old. The late start didn't hold him back, and his greatest feeling in racing came just a few years after he started, when he swept the final two motos of the Open B class at Loretta Lynn's Amateur National. He also won his first amateur title at the Mini Os in the 250 B later that season and took that momentum into the Expert class in 1998 then turned pro in '99.Eventually there were choices to make. By '01, he was only a semester and a half away from graduating with a business degree from the University of Florida. He was also trying to race professionally at the same time. He chose racing. "I wish I would have stayed in school, because I'd rather have a degree," Forrest said. "I stopped early solely for racing. I thought that you had to train all day, and going to school was too stressful." In '01, he broke his back and moved home to South Florida. While healing, he went to work with his father at the insurance agency, where he still holds a full-time position.In '02, the three oldest brothers went pro and found out how costly it was to run a racing program even when all of its members were pooling their money to get to the races. While the Butler brothers were well known in the Sunshine State, their initial results on the National scene didn't make sponsors want to reach for the their wallets. Instead of continuously pounding laps at the practice track trying to improve lap times while working for a results-based level of support, Forrest, Karsten and Brandon began knocking on doors and making cold calls. They were able to scrounge up $10,000 for each of the first couple of years from nonmoto businesses to race in select East Coast events. By '04, Forrest was at a place where he felt he could turn the operation into a business. His only setback was that the extra work of running a team had put a strain on his ability to pursue his racing career. "It got to the point where we were using the practice and race days as our training because there was no time to do it at home while working, going to college and running the business. And South Florida doesn't have many choices for practice tracks."

By '05, team owner Forrest was racing less and less. While the younger siblings continued to pursue the racing dream, the eldest worked on a plan for the team's future-more financial support and a deeper roster of talent. Armed with a logo-laden fun mover rig and sponsors such as the Action Sports Medicine Foundation, Air Nautiques and MSR, Forrest was also able to add nationally ranked riders Doug DeHaan and Cole Siebler. He said that kind of support and expansion raised two questions: "How could a team that only made it as far as the night show each week get that kind of support and talent, and where was the money coming from? The family must be loaded."The truth is that his dad was against the idea of Forrest working at the insurance agency and running the race team simultaneously. There were no handouts. "My dad has worked his butt off with the agency, and it's all commission based," Forrest said. "If you don't put in the work, you don't make money. We carry that value into everything we do. When he saw me start the team and make it work, we began to see eye to eye."Something From Nothing
BBMX represents a new type of business model for the teams in the pits of a supercross or motocross race. While Forrest's dream is to eventually win races and titles as his idol, team owner and Pro Circuit head Mitch Payton, does, he and his brothers have had to figure out ways to pull in support and keep sponsors happy that aren't strictly results-based. For that, they applied marketing and sales skills they'd learned while knocking on doors earlier.It's now '07, and BBMX rolls into each race with a semitruck towing a 53-foot tractor trailer. For the fourth consecutive year the team has shown an increase in support and talent by nabbing its first title sponsors, DNA Energy Drink and Creating a private race team can fall under the classic chicken-versus-the-egg conundrum. What should come first-results or support? Without top-five finishes, is it realistic and possible to get title sponsor support? It seems BBMX has proven it can be done. "Competition is great, and being on the podium is great. But if you are living that message of enjoying the sport for its essence, whether you're winning or losing, that's the mentality we go after," Lonny Silverman of DNA Energy Drink said. "If BBMX has a podium-quality team in the future, then that's what the future holds, but Forrest Butler and those riders would be racing no matter what their situation is because there's something inside of them that drives them to do it."Being a South Florida-based company, DNA found the perfect match in BBMX to get its "cans in hands" in that region and beyond. But the Butlers have been able to reach beyond their own backyard and grab the attention of sponsors 3500 miles away. Different companies have different needs, and BBMX preys on those needs. Its other partner in the team title is a SoCal-based mail-order company. "The value is I'm branding BTO Sports," Vince Arimitsu, owner of BTO, said. "Basically, it's brand recognition. There are 15 other mail-order companies. What will entice a customer to call me? People are recognizing BTO Sports from racing. People like to support the companies that support racing. For example, our sales in Florida, BBMX's home state, are way up this year. Look at Chaparral. When it had the race team, the company was on fire. MotoSport Outlet is the premier company, and I'm trying to do the same with this team."

If you want to beat the best, act like them. BBMX riders gather for a video review to see where they can shave lap times.

Last season, Forrest was able to attract the attention of Rick Case Honda, the world's largest full-line Honda dealer. The company was looking to boost sales in its motorcycle dealership, and Forrest convinced Mr. Case himself, who owns 13 major car dealerships in Ohio, Georgia and Florida, to take a break from his vacation in Colorado to attend the Thunder Valley National in Lakewood. Mr. Case met with the Butlers and even rode his Honda Gold Wing right up into their pit. Although none of the team's riders cracked the top 20 that July afternoon, Mr. Case, who is also the exclusive Honda dealer sponsor of the Indy Racing League's Andretti Green Racing team, was impressed enough to become an associate sponsor of BBMX in '07. While Forrest has been able to lay the groundwork for financial muscle behind his team, it wasn't all done with guerrilla marketing. Some of it is the result of simply being a nice guy."The Butler brothers are so endearing to the community, so in touch with their core market," Silverman said. "They are approachable, too. A kid could walk up to anyone on that team on any given Seminole Raceway practice day, and they would stop what they're doing and take the time to speak with him. That kind of stoke that kid is getting from the Butlers is worth way more than just looking up at some idol on the big JumboTron who happened to win that given night."With this kind of support in '07, the team was able to hire journeyman Jason Thomas, a friend and former roommate of the brothers while all three were pursuing college degrees in Gainesville, Florida. Thomas, a former Husqvarna factory rider, has been on the AMA circuit for a decade and has been one of the top privateers in both supercross and motocross over the last five years. He brings a history of AMA supercross top-10 finishes to the team as well as good bike-testing knowledge.While living in Gainesville with the brothers, Thomas saw the beginnings of the team he now represents. "They knew where they wanted to be and where they wanted to go, and back then it was just tough to get taken seriously," Thomas said. "They would go to the races and not finish where they wanted, and the companies would just kind of blow them off because they didn't have the results or good parking spots in the pits. Forrest didn't have it handed to him when he turned pro. For every dollar he got from a company, he had to give the company something else. It wasn't because they were paying him to finish fifth in supercross, so he had to figure out a way to make them see he deserved their help. That kind of forced him to find a different angle to justify companies paying him."One of those angles was striking a deal with select hotels at each round of racing in '07. The season started out at the Hilton Anaheim/Orange, a three-race, cross-promotional sponsorship in which the team encouraged racing enthusiasts to stay at the Hilton, which is across the street from Angel Stadium. The team also set up the rig and awning and displayed its bikes and sponsors' products, including free DNA Energy Drink samples. In another unprecedented move for a team like his, Forrest produced a television commercial that focused on the team and bought air-time on all the SPEED Channel telecasts of the AMA supercross events. The first running of the 30-second spot aired live on January 6, 2006."I think his biggest blessing is the gift of marketing," Thomas said. "He's really good at knowing what the sponsors are looking for and how he can help them. I think that's what the sport is lacking-the understanding that sponsors aren't there to just help people out. They're there to sell product, and the teams that market their products the best and get their name out there are going to get helped."Continuing the Dream
BBMX might have been started by Forrest, but the future of the team goes beyond the eldest brother. Younger brothers Karsten, 28, and Brandon, 24, have both taken an interest in the management and operation of what has become a full-time business. Both hold degrees in fitness and wellness from the University of Florida. While Karsten still has aspirations to keep racing professionally, that part of his career, like his older brothers', is difficult to keep up with while trying to help run the team. He separated his shoulder at the Toronto Supercross last December, and he currently works full time helping manage the team but hopes to ride select events this season. Although Karsten's been involved since day one, he's still stunned by the team's success and is enjoying the knowledge he's gained. "I knew the team was growing and there was a possibility for a future, but two or three years ago I didn't think we'd be this big now," he said.While some people find it hard working with family members, the Butler clan has made a living out of it, going back to '21, when Forrest's great grandfather, Raymond W. Butler Sr., joined an insurance agency that is now Butler, Buckley & Deets. While Forrest juggles his duties at the agency with the race team, he can now rely on Karsten: "Karsten has helped so much. He did the leg work for the whole hotel deal, and he's put his riding aside to help the team grow.""In business knowledge, Forrest is a little ahead of me," Karsten admitted. "Every time I think I have something down or know one subject, then I hear him bringing up something else. It's the experience that is great. I'm constantly learning."Forrest Butler is an easy person to talk to and very polite, but he never stops thinking and it seems as if he never relaxes. His work ethic with the team last year strained his health, and he contracted chronic fatigue syndrome and eventually the Epstein-Barr virus. But he doesn't like to use overworking or being busy as an excuse. "My dad always told me that the more you tell people how busy you are, the less they listen," he said. The recent birth of his first child has grounded him a bit and helped put his life's priorities in perspective, but he's still insatiable about the business end of his affairs. "If we ever win a title, we need two," he said. "You can't fall behind. But I also never want to be the guy who becomes so busy he can't remember his friends. That's my biggest fear.

A little multitasking while waiting for the night program to begin.