Catching Up with…Jess Pettis
By Billy Rainford
Prince George, BC native, Jess Pettis, has been steadily improving and has had the eyes of the motocross industry on his since he was quite young. His rise to prominence at the Pro level almost looked to have stalled a couple years ago and it left some of us wondering how far he would go. And then 2016 happened…
Jess showed up, seemingly as a rider reborn at round one of the Rockstar Energy MX Nationals at Whispering Pines in Kamloops, BC and finished 3rd in the first moto of the series! He was taller, more solid, and had a new-found air of confidence about him. He finished out the MX2 season 5th in points.
Fast-forward to the 2016 Future West Arenacross Championships and we have ourselves a rider looking to go undefeated. Jess has won all 4 of the main events so far as we head into Penticton this weekend for round 5. We grabbed him for a quick chat as he left the gym getting ready to race this weekend.
#20 Jess Pettis showed up at round 1 this past summer and finished 3rd in the first MX2 moto of the season in Kamloops and is undefeated in Future West Arenacross action so far this fall | Bigwave photo
Direct Motocross: Hello, Jess. First off, congratulations on the first couple rounds of Future West Arenacross! But we’ll come back to that in a sec. Let’s first talk about your 2015 outdoor season. What happened between 2015 and 2016?! Something changed and we want to know what! You grew, for sure, but what did you do over the winter that seems to have helped so much?
Jess Pettis: I made the switch to train in Florida during the winter instead of California. I went down and trained and lived with Colton Facciotti at GPF. While I was down there, I got a call from MX101 as they needed a rider for the year. We were able to make it work and between a great winter of training and the MX101 crew it was a great outdoor season.
OK, so you went into the 2016 outdoor season after working with Colton at GPF. What were you hoping for at the first round?
I was hoping to be a top 5 guy, and get through the first round safe.
You went out and held on for 3rd place in the first moto of the year! What were you thinking at that point?
I was super stoked and was so happy all the hard work had payed off and I knew where I stood. The first round everyone wants to prove how good there off season was.
He spent some time at GPF this past winter training with 4-time champion, Colton Facciotti | Bigwave photo
You finished the season 5th (just 5 points off Brad Nauditt in 4th). What was the highlight of the summer for you?
My highlight would have been either my first ever podium at the first round or ending it with a bang at the last round and earning 3rd overall on the day with 3-4 moto scores.
What did you get up to when the outdoor season ended in August?
I went home, went to the lake for a weekend, and went hunting. I was able to get myself a trophy elk which felt like I won a championship… so that was awesome.
OK, so now we’re heading into round 3 of the Future West AX Championship. You’ve won the first 4 main events! What’s going on out there?! Are you getting great starts? Are you an AX specialist all of a sudden?
Ya, first round went really well. I was able to get good starts and put myself in good positions. I have been in Kamloops for 3 weeks making sure I was 100% ready coming into it.
Can you take us through both nights in Armstrong, BC?
The heat races went really good [Friday night]. I got both holeshots in the mains and didn’t look back. I made sure I didn’t make many mistakes to allow the other guys catch up. I was able to win both mains my about 4 seconds.
And Saturday night was pretty well the same deal. I actually got together with (Shawn) Maffenbeier in the heat race, so I had a terrible gate pick. But pulled both starts again and led all 15 laps.
So, now we’re heading into round 3 in Penticton, BC and you’ll have the Canadian AX Tour guys to face, too. What are you hoping for this week against guys like Chris Blose?
Ya, Penticton should be good. A couple more fast guys will be there which will make it fun. Hopefully, get good starts and keep the momentum going is the plan.
We haven’t been at the races yet this fall. Who’s been your toughest competition? Are you in tight battles?
Ya, there are definitely some gnarly guys. There’s Supercross Pros Noah McConahy, Chris Howell, there’s Ross Johnson, Maffenbier, and some other good Canadian Pros which all keep me on my A-game.
This series will be done in December. What will you do over the winter? We’re hoping to have more Canadians to cheer for in AMA Supercross!
I would love to do the west coast Supercross, and I feel this year would be good to get my feet wet. There’s still some stuff to figure out but we will see.
What will you do to get ready for 2017 Canadian Nationals?
It depends if I’m doing Supercross or not. Possibly back to GPF or maybe California. We will see.
Consistent podium finishes are what he’s looking for in 2017 with occasional wins mixed in | Tyler Spikman photo
Are you signed on to the MX101 FXR Yamaha team again?
My contract goes until December with MX101, so we will see and I hope so. Great group of people.
Hey, how tall and heavy are you now?
5’8″ and 155 pounds.
How are your folks doing? Is your dad smiling at the Arenacrosses so far?
They’re doing good as always, and yeah after last weekend there was no reason not to have a smile around our pit.
What are your hopes for the rest of the AX series? Sorry, had to ask.
(Laughs) Keep the ball rolling.
What about next summer? What will make you happy at the end of next season?
I feel I’ve learned a lot, and know what to expect. Hopefully, be on the podium consistently and, of course, [it would] be nice to get wins but play it round by round.
Jess has dreams of competing at the highest level of the sport — Supercross | Tyler Spikman photo
Is your long term goal to race AMA Supercross and Outdoors?
Yup, for sure. Everyone’s dream as a kid growing up in the sport is Supercross. Or if not, at least mine was.
Who’s taking those hot photos of you riding out west?
Darren Marr. I’ve been getting all sorts of bangers for my Instagram (Laughs).
OK, thanks for the chat today. Good luck this weekend and the rest of the AX series. Who would you like to thank?
Thanks, Billy. I’d like to thank MX101, FXR, Yamaha, bLU cRU, Rockstar, SSS suspension, Al Brown Motorsports, 6D, Forma, Ride Engineering, Marin bikes, Renthal, Nihilo, R&R Automation, Cycra, FMF, Dunlop, Prince George Motorsports, Mom and Dad and all the other amazing supporters.