Catching Up with…Jess Pettis

By Billy Rainford

We grabbed the new champion for a chat as he was dropping MX101’s Kevin Tyler off at the Vancouver Airport before heading south to California.

20161104-_ Jess Pettis

Jess Pettis is the 2016 Future West AX Champion and we grabbed him for a chat | John Meaney photo

Direct Motocross: Hey, Jess. How are you doing? Are you actually driving toward the border right now?

Jess Pettis: Hey, Billy. Ya, I’ just driving to Vancouver to drop off Kevin Tyler and then I’m going to head into the States.

Is Kevin sitting beside you right now?


Oh, well say hello for me. First, congratulations. 

Thank you

That’s pretty exciting, huh?

Ya, I’m super-stoked. It was good. I’m glad we were able to get it done last night.

OK, let’s talk about that. Going into the season, did you think you were going to have the speed to do this well?

Ya, I mean, I went down and did a lot of work before coming into this series. I did a lot more work training on the track. I went down to Kamloops and trained at Ross Thompson‘s Horsepower Ranch for a month or so on the Arenacross track, so I knew I was coming in prepared. It’s hard to find a good track to get ready on so I was able to do that and keep my program going really strong. I came into the first rounds winning all 4 main events so, after that, I kinda knew I had the speed with good starts and everything. I just kept the ball rolling all season long. I only missed the podium for one main event so that was good.

So, did Ross Johnson hand over the #1 plate?

(Laughs) No, but we had a plate ready. Kevin and them came up after the last main and put it on the bike, so that was pretty cool.

OK, well let’s go over the final round. Were you nervous going in?

No, I kept pretty calm. There was some stuff on the internet that I kind of just put behind me and didn’t let any pressure get to me. I just went in with an open mind and just go race and have fun and not let anything get to me. Just stay out of the carnage, get good starts was the mindset I had. We did that and were able to keep consistent all weekend. I didn’t let it get into my head or anything, just went out and rode.

Wait. What was said on social media?

No, just the whole week it was, “Is he going to be able to do it?” and all this stuff.

Ya, it’s probably best to just stay off social media. In your position, you can post things up just don’t read it!

Ya, for sure (Laughs). I’m glad we were able to keep it consistent and put it all together.

Did anyone have both bikes there (250 and 450)? You rode a 250 in both classes, right? 

Ya, I just rode a 250 in both classes. (Noah) McConahy and (Chris) Howell, pretty much all of them, had 450s at the first round but they didn’t think it was too much of an advantage so a couple of them went back to just riding the 250. (Ross) Johnson had a 450 the whole series, I think (Ryan) Lockhart…ya, most of them were on 250s.

Kyle Beaton

Kyle Beaton was back on the track in Chilliwack, BC. | Bigwave photo

Hey, I saw the return of Kyle Beaton in the results. How did he look?

Ya, he was riding really good, actually. He’s still got crazy skill on a bike. He was right up there in the heat race and was battling with the top guys. The main events were a little longer so it kind of hurt him a little bit, but he’s definitely still got the skill and he rides the bike really well. It was good seeing him back and ripping it up.

What did you guys do last night to celebrate. I know most people usually head over to the local Boston Pizza there in Chilliwack.

There wasn’t really a whole lot that went on. I didn’t go to Boston Pizza. It was nothing crazy.

So, how do they give the overall plate? Is that the Open champion or a combination?

I, honestly, don’t really know.

You won them both, so it doesn’t matter!

(Laughs) Ya, I won them both so it doesn’t matter. I didn’t know if next year someone runs #1 in the Lights and in the Open or what but I don’t have to worry about that, we got them both, so…

#20 Jess Pettis.

Jess is already headed south to prepare for his run at the 250 West Supercross season | Bigwave photo

So, is that your first big title you’ve won so far as a Pro?

Ya, as a Pro, for sure. Ya, well, I haven’t won any championships in the Pros. This was the first one, for sure. It was nice. Some of the guys came up to me. Everyone was on it all series. McConahy and those guys are no slouches so it was cool racing with all them.

You beat some guys who’ve made Supercross main events. What do you do next?

I’m heading down to California and going to train with Noah, actually. I’m going to, hopefully, do some Supercross. That’s the plan. I’m not sure if we’ll be at A1 or what round, but that’s the goal is to try and hit a couple of those, at least, and get my feet wet and get some good experience.

Where will you be staying down there?

At Kevin Urqhart‘s. He lives right in Menifee and he trains Noah and a couple other guys, so I’m going to go down and it will be a good program, I think. I might be at A1, but how many rounds I’m going to do…if I’m going to do all of them or 2, we’re just going to see how I feel and just go from there. No one is telling me I have to be at the first round or not, so I’ll just go by how I feel and if we’re ready then we’ll be there.

Now, you don’t normally go south this early in the season. Is this strictly because you want to do Supercross?

Ya, just for Supercross.

OK, you’ve got Kevin Tyler beside you, and I know your contract with them goes until December 31st. I’m assuming you’re signing back with the guys?

Um, ya, we’re kinda of figuring all that stuff out right now. Nothing as of right now but I think it’s all coming together, so it’s looking good, for sure.

Who’s your teammate going to be? No pressure.

No clue (Laughs). Kevin doesn’t know who it is yet, either. I think he’s been talking to a couple guys but nothing is set yet.

Jess Pettis

Jess has yet to sign on the dotted line for 2017, but feels things are headed in the right direction with his MX101 FXR Yamaha rider | Tyler Spikman photo

So, the goal of everybody is to keep improving, but Jeff McConkey always jokes about you getting the ‘Most Improved Rider’ award 2, 3 years in a row!What do you attribute this to?

A big part for me is just being safe and getting more experience on the bike and learn more. It’s all been kind of coming together and I feel better and better every time I get on the bike and I know what to improve on and surrounding yourself with good people is really key too. That’s the goal. If you keep improving and getting better, you can’t complain about that.

How old and how tall are you now?

I’m 19 and about 5’8″.

What are your goals for next summer? Do you think you’ll have the speed to challenge (defending MX2 champ) Cole Thompson?

Ya, I mean I definitely want to be a podium contender and hopefully get some wins. I’ll hopefully have a good off-season of training and come in feeling good at Kamloops.

Is Kevin going to want you to beat that #14 kid? (Dylan Wright has gone from the MX101 FXR Yamaha team to the Honda Canada GDR Fox Racing team for 2017)

Ya (Laughs), for sure.

Well, thanks for chatting with us today, Jess. You’ve got a pretty exciting season coming up. Who would you like to thank before we let you get back to your driving?

Awesome. I’d like to thank MX101, FXR, Yamaha Canada, bLU cRU, Rockstar, 6D, 100%, Marin Bikes, Alan Brown Motors, SSS, Decal Works, Renthal, FMF, all the team sponsors…there are so many.

Jess was driving into Vancouver at the time so we’ll cut him some slack and let you check out their list here: