#ICYMI | Catching Up with…Michael Fowler
By Billy Rainford
Catching up with #41 Michael Fowler. | Bigwave photo
We’ve all gotten to know Michael Fowler quite well over the past few years. He’s the personal rider who always has time to talk to the media and anyone else who happens along to strike up a conversation.
His 2017 summer season got off to a rocky start that almost left them with a blank timetable (more on that later) but with an attitude as positive as Michael’s they rallied together and made the entire season happen, regardless of the stumbling blocks placed in front of them.
Michael also lost his dad during the season, but in true moto family fashion he didn’t skip a race weekend, and that’s exactly how his father would have wanted it. Our condolences to you and your family, Michael.
Here’s a look at his 2017 Rockstar Energy MX Nationals season:
Michael finished 15th overall in the MX1 class and will be #25 for the 2018 season. We grabbed him for a chat this week to learn a little more about his past and what he has planned for the future.
We grabbed the Pennsylvania rider for a chat and here’s what he had to say. | Bigwave photo
Direct Motocross: Hello, Michael. First off, our condolences on the loss of your father this past summer. Like we were talking about, moto families are the closest families. Can you tell us how you first got into motocross?
Michael Fowler: Thank you. It was very random and unexpected how we lost him this summer, but it showed me how much everyone in the moto community is there for each other. I had so many people willing to be there for me when I needed them this summer.
Anyway, I actually got started in motocross by seeing my cousins ride and I wanted to ride with them. My mom wanted me to play baseball and forced me to go to a baseball camp one summer. While I was gone, my dad bought me my first race bike which was a YZ80. Once I started riding and racing I fell in love with the sport and knew this was what I wanted to do with my life.
Where did you grow up and who were your influences as a youngster?
I grew up in a small town called Beech Creek in Pennsylvania. Not too big of a place so I could ride and no one really cared about the noise or anything. My biggest influences were my cousins, Jarred and Bryan. They both raced and rode and they had their own track long before I did. I used to look up to them so much and wanted to be as good as they were. I rode with them all the time in hopes that one day I could beat them.
How did you choose your first racing number?
Actually, my first racing number came on my bike. It was a used YZ80 with the number 5 on it. The number just kinda stuck with me. I ended up using that number for many years up until I made it to Loretta Lynn’s where they forced us to run a two digit number which I then chose 15.
Can you take us through your amateur career? Biggest win, favourite year, best finish at a big amateur national, etc.?
My amateur career was nothing too spectacular. I didn’t know much about racing when I started out. I didn’t even hear about or know what Loretta Lynn’s was until my last year on an 80. My first year I tried to qualify for Loretta’s I was in the infamous C class (Laughs). It was 2007 and I ended up winning a moto at the regional which really spiked my confidence going into Loretta’s. I worked hard leading up to Loretta’s and it paid off for me. I went 7-6-4 for 5th overall my first time there.
After Loretta’s my parents decided we should try Mini O’s. We headed to Florida not really sure what to expect. I ended up winning a National title in the Motocross C class by going 1-1. It may only have been C class but still counted as a National title and one of the coolest feelings I had in my amateur career.
Other than that, my amateur career was kind of a let down. I moved to B class, was actually sitting 2nd overall going into the final motos at the regional, and I ended up breaking my back. While I was out injured my local district forced me to the A class so I decided to just focus on trying to earn a Pro license from then on.
Michael’s summer almost didn’t happen when things happened the day they were set to leave for BC. | Bigwave photo
Who did you come up through the ranks racing against?
One of the guys I raced with growing up that people would recognize would be Nico Izzi. I wouldn’t really say I raced him as much as he ran circles around me but I was on the track (Laughs). Other than that, I grew up with a lot of my local friends and family. My cousin Jarred was always the main person I wanted to beat. He is my cousin, my best friend, and number one rival. Still to this day no matter what we are doing it’s a competition between us to see who can be better.
When did you turn Pro and what brought you up to Canada in the first place?
I turned Pro in 2011 I believe. I tried a few nationals here and there but never took it too seriously until around 2013-2014 when I started racing Supercross. That’s when I started really putting effort into racing Pro. I love Supercross but it’s way sketchier than anything I have ridden outdoors.
As far as coming to Canada, I had a little issue with the AMA at Red bud one year where my transponder that they gave us didn’t work. I told the officials and they said it wasn’t their issue and that’s too bad. I basically went there, paid all my money, and didn’t get a single recorded lap time. I asked them to just reimburse my entry fee since my transponder didn’t work and they said, “not a chance.” I decided if that’s how they wanted to treat the riders that I would ride elsewhere.
I chose to try the Canadian nationals then and my first ever national in Canada was Gopher Dunes. Not the best decision I ever made (Laughs). I had never rode anything so gnarly until that day and the track definitely won that day.
What is it that keeps bringing you back?
I choose to keep coming back because I love the atmosphere and the people at the Canadian nationals. Everyone is so much friendlier and laid back versus American nationals. Just the overall fellowship of the riders in Canada versus America is totally different, too. In Canada, everyone is friends and we talk and laugh before and after motos.
In America, everyone basically feels like enemies all day at the track and it’s too much pressure to act mean when you’re already known for being too friendly to people.
Michael really loves Supercross and will hit as many races as he can in 2018 in honour of his fallen friend, Dylan Slusser. | Bigwave photo
You had a bit of a rough start to this season. Can you tell us about that?
Yeah, this year was a bit shaky starting off. We had some team issues where someone got offended by something that was only said to help the team and they decided to take the money and sponsors’ products and leave all the riders high and dry the day we were leaving. All of the riders banded together and pooled our own personal money together to make this season happen.
I was actually en route to Kamloops when my phone rang and Andy White from FXR was calling me asking if I was coming to the first round because he got an email about how I wasn’t racing any of the series. The guy who left everyone stranded went to all the sponsors and tried to throw the riders under the bus, saying how we all decided not to race and we weren’t going to any rounds etc etc.
I had to make a lot of phone calls then on the last part of our drive to tell all the sponsors we were still racing and that they had received false information. Once we got to Kamloops though things got better when people saw us and realized we were actually there. It really helped to stop the rumors.
You finished out the year with some pretty solid performances. 11th at Pleasant Valley was your best. What was your best race this summer?
Yeah, for sure the 11th at Pleasant Valley was awesome. That was the best ride I had in the MX1 class this past season. My best result however came from my MX2 debut at RJ’s. I ended up with a 10th overall on a bike I didn’t even ride or practice on all season, so I would say that was my best race all year.
What’s your favourite track up here?
My favorite track has to be Riverglade. I love going there every year. The people there are awesome and the track owners and crew are some of the best people you will meet. By far my favorite round, every year.
You ended up 15th in MX1. Were you happy with that?
Yeah, I ended up 15th overall in the series in MX1 but I’m not super-pumped on that. I messed up my knee at round two this year and actually had someone else starting my bike before the motos until we got to Gopher at round 5. That meant if I fell and the bike stalled that I was going to DNF so I had to ride cautiously until we got to round 5.
I wish I wouldn’t have messed up my knee because I really wanted to try for a top 10 overall in the season. I mean, it didn’t help at RJ’s that I got a flat in the first moto 3 laps in and moto 2 was down in the first corner and had to fight my way back up through everyone until I hit the wall from double-classing. I mean, all things considered with the injury and bad luck I can’t complain too much about 15th overall in the series.
Like you said, you raced both classes at the final round at RJ’s. You kind of already told us, but how did your day go?
Yeah, like I mentioned, the MX1 class was kind of a wash out at RJ’s with the flat in moto 1 and first turn crash in moto 2 before hitting the wall of exhaustion about 3/4 of the way through the 2nd moto after all the other races I had done before that.
Now, on the other hand, my day in MX2 was pretty good. I didn’t have a great start either moto but I was able to go 13-11 for a 10th overall on a bike I didn’t even ride or practice on. I was pumped on my rides in MX2. I just wish I could have done the same in MX1.
What did you get up to after the series ended?
Since the series ended I have been home a lot helping out with everything now that my dad is gone. Kind of took some time off riding because it felt weird racing without him around. I have slowly been getting back into riding and have done some Pro/Am races and went to the Sleepy Hollow two-stroke shootout race where I actually was able to win the 125 Pro class on a borrowed KTM. Currently, I am looking at getting a normal job for a while to help my family and hopefully save money to race next season.
Will we see Michael in Canada in 2018? I’m willing to bet we will. | Bigwave photo
What will you do over the winter?
This winter I will probably spend most my time working. I’m going to try my best to sneak in as many southern trips as possible to ride as much as I can and I will be trying to hit as many Supercross rounds as possible, as well. Can’t miss Supercross, I gotta sign up and do it for my buddy I lost this past year. I’m going to keep racing in honor of Dylan Slusser because we always traveled together and raced the Supercross rounds together so Supercross is all for him.
If I can make it happen, I want to do the whole series again. I don’t care what class or brand bike. If I can get any type of offer or support from someone up there I’m all in for coming back and putting in a full season at 150%. It’s been my dream since I was little to race for a team and have support where I wasn’t dumping all my money into it and eating all the costs. I want nothing more than to be able to race the full series again next year. I earned number 25 for next year so I want to drop that even lower next season.
OK, we’ll let you go now. Thanks for chatting with us today. But before we do, who would you like to thank?
Yeah, no problem. I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me. I do have to thank everyone for helping me, though. I want to thank my parents for making this all possibly over the years, FXR and Andy White, Arai, Factory Connection, 100%, Sidi, Rekluse, FMF, Works Connection, Sunstar, Motool, TLR Performance, Moto Tape, Moto Hose, Cycra, Aggressive Graphics, MxTire, KSR Wheels, Engine Ice, Five Star Powersports of Duncansville, and Matrix Concepts.