Catching up with Jess Pettis

February 16, 2018

by Dawn McClintock

Young Prince George, BC rider Jess Pettis became somewhat of an overnight sensation to the American media and spectators when he turned heads at the Oakland and San Diego SX rounds. On his maiden voyage at the Oakland round, Pettis was setting fast laps times during qualifiers and had many people asking, “Who is this kid from Canada?” He got some TV time during Race Day Live and despite some pitfalls that kept him from showing his true worth in the mains, he proved that he can run up with the fast guys. We caught up to Jess after he had completed his two supercross rounds and we wanted to learn more about his injury that forced him out of the mix in San Diego.

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FXR: Hi Jess so where are you at these days? Are you still down in California?
Jess Pettis: I’m still down here in California and I should be here for a while yet. I’m in Menifee so I’m in the mecca of where everybody moto is.

Have you had any prognosis of what’s going on with your shoulder yet?
I went in and I will know here today or tomorrow. They had to do an MRI and a bunch of scans. So I should know in the next day or so what’s going on. But it’s not right. There’s popping and my shoulder is really weak so I know that somethings not right but just not sure yet.

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When exactly did the shoulder issue occur?
In Oakland, like everyone saw on TV, I crashed in the heat race and I was completely fine from that but in the LCQ I moved into 5th place and then I crashed with a lap or two and I landed on my shoulder. It didn’t seem to be anything too serious. I finished the race and it was just kind of sore so I took the week really easy. I got it checked and everything seemed to be fine when I got x-rays. So I went and raced on the weekend. It was all fine. It was sore and it was weak but I was able to ride. Then during the heat race it completely gave out on me and started popping every time I moved my arm. So then I decided I wasn’t able to ride and I was forced to pull off. So the injury was originally from Oakland but it got worse as I kept on riding.

You’re going to have to find yourself a duct tape sponsor.
I know right! [laughs] Just duct tape or styrofoam around me or bubble wrap. [laughs] Yeah it’s frustrating but it’s part of it. I feel like I’m kind of going through a crappy little injury streak but then you look at my buddy Noah McConahy going through the same thing and Roczen. There’s a lot of riders who are going through it. It’s frustrating and it’s not a great thing to go through but everyone goes through it and it comes with the sport. You take what you’ve been dealt with.

You’ve sure gained a ton of media attention from your 2 supercross appearances and plenty of support from your fan base. What has that feeling been like?
It’s been pretty overwhelming from people back home in Canada. Everyone has supported me and been behind me. The support has been awesome. I was pretty shocked after Oakland even, the amount of social media posts and people reaching out to me and contacting me about how cool it was for me to be out there. It was awesome. I didn’t expect to get that much publicity just from qualifying really well. I was feeling really good but I didn’t get the results in the races. Obviously that’s what I wanted. I was a bit bummed about that but everyone else was really stoked with me being out there and at least someone representing Canada. So it was cool.

I even saw photos of the arenacross in Chiliwack they put the moto on hold for the guys to watch you on TV and Future West had a message board opened up to send you well wishes. It was pretty neat to see.
You don’t get that every day. I saw that and I thought it was pretty cool. You don’t usually stop an arenacross series in Canada. You wouldn’t expect them to put it on hold to watch supercross. That was pretty cool.

You certainly proved that you are quite capable of running up with the fast guys in supercross. Will we see you return?
Yes, 100%. I mean I’m enjoying it down here and it’s been my goal and to finally go and get my feet wet was really cool. Just with the experience, now I’m hooked for sure. I feel like I have a lot more to prove not to people but to myself. I qualified good but I feel like I can get good results gauging myself on the other riders I practice with. I believe I can be up there and do good in main events. I feel like there’s some unfinished business that I have to go and do.

The first round of the Canadian Triple Crown AX series is set to start real soon. I guess it’s too soon to tell if you will be able to line up?
Yes, I’m not sure. Obviously I’m more about my shoulder whether I can do it or not. It’s something that I would like to do but I’ll have to see in the next few days and see where I’m and and we can go from there.

What do you think about being the top dog on the MX101 squad now that Maffenbeier has moved on?
I think it’s going to be good for me. I’ve never had that with the team. I’ve always kind of been the second guy on the pole and being on the Kawasaki team I was always kind of the younger rookie there. Going to MX101 I was with Maff and some good riders. I think Marco is going to be great too. I think with me being the more experienced rider on the team with a couple more years on the team, I think it will be good for me. Hopefully I can give Marco some advice on stuff I have learned over the last couple of years and help him out. I think we will be good team mates.

It’s nice to see you’re going to have a couple of the outdoor nationals right in your backyard. You must be pretty pleased that it’s returning back to Prince George.
Yeah, I’m pretty stoked for sure. I think everyone in St. George as well. I know all my friends and family that came out there, they were pretty pumped on the whole national and how professional it was and the track and the crowd. How big of a stage it was really kind of shocked everyone. I know a lot of people are going to be back because it was a good word spread about how the national was so I’m definitely stoked that it’s going to be back there. I can sleep in my own bed and then go race. My home track. I think it will be good. The track was one of the better tracks last year. I’m not just saying that because it’s my home track but I really think it was probably one of the better tracks in the whole series. I’m looking forward to it.

I noticed that round two is at the Popkum track. Have you ever ridden that track and do you feel it’s a track is the calibre to host a national race?
I have rode there one or two times times but not a lot. I thought it was a good practice track and I’m not too sure about a race track but I can’t say much because I said the same thing about the Prince George track that I was a little concerned about it and they proved everybody wrong. They put in a lot of hard work, they fixed up the track, they put a lot of money into it and it was one of the best ones. So if the Popkum guys can do that. Make it a bit wider, haul in a bit of dirt and make it more of a race track, it has potential for sure.

You’ve had a core group of people who have helped you out with your supercross effort. Did you want to rhyme them off?
I have a lot of great sponsors back home that have made this possible like local businesses, friends and family that have pitched in. Obviously it’s super expensive. Vernon Motorsports, MX101 Racing, FMF, FXR, Cycra, Dunlop, 6D, Rockstar Energy Canada, Kevin Urquhart, Ride Engineering, Inc., 100%, Decal Works, Rekluse Canada, Dedicated Ride Co., Ryno Power, Classic Autobody, Hrsepwr_ranch, Joshua Myatovic, Outlaw Motorsports Kamloops, White Spruce Enterprises, Spotless Uniform, Dean Birks, Twisted Development Racing and Andreas Konrad.

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All the best with your recovery Jess and looking forward to a good season for you!
We will keep you informed for sure. I should know in the next few days and hopefully I get some good news. It does suck. It is only a couple of weeks away so it doesn’t give me much time to heal up but we’ll see what we are dealt with and go from there. If I have to miss one round it may not be the end of the world but we’ll see. Thank you for the phone call and I appreciate it. It’s going to be a fun year! Thanks for all your support too, it means a lot.