Jess Pettis in the Prince George Citizen

From original article in the Prince George Citizen:

Ted Clark: Prince George Citizen

Pettis gears up for second crack at AMA Supercross series

Prince George motocross racer Jess Pettis contemplates the red clay track he’s about to ride during training run at the Baker’s Factory facility in Clermont, Fla. Pettis,. 23, is getting ready for racing in the big leagues of motocross – the AMA Supercross Series, which starts Jan. 16 in Houston, Texas. – HANDOUT PHOTO

Jess Pettis is living the life of a migrant factory worker and he could not be happier.

Based in central Florida, where grapefruits and oranges ripen in the constant sunshine and unrelenting heat of the sub-tropics, the 23-year-old motocross racer from Prince George is not there for plantation work. He’s there because of Baker’s Factory, an elite training facility in Clermont, Fla., where legendary trainer Aldon Baker has developed a habit of turning dirt bike racers into champions. 

The 23-year-old Pettis is preparing for his second crack at the big leagues of motocross, the AMA Monster Energy Supercross East series, which launches Jan. 16 at NRG Stadium in Houston Texas.  To get ready he has his choice of five practice tracks on the 93-acre site of Baker’s Factory, two of which are built to simulate supercross courses.

Pettis  trains in the gym every day, does yoga, and goes for road bike rides. Four days a week he’s on the motocross course cracking the throttle open on his KTM and he’s noticing the fitness gains he’s made. He follows a strict diet and exercise regime and his vital signs are constantly monitored before during and after workouts to try to achieve a balance that will add up to best performances in races.

Baker is a former world-class mountain bike racer from South Africa who has trained the likes of Ricky Carmichael, James Stewart Jr., Ryan Villopoto, Jason Anderson and Ryan Dungey to AMA and FIM championships.

“It’s top-notch, the best tracks, the best trainer, blood work, heart rate, all the testing, nutrition, you know where your body’s at – they basically make you a fine-tuned athlete,” said Pettis. “It’s a lot of money but you’re getting the absolute best you can get.

“There’s only seven of us and the other six guys I’m training with Cooper Webb, Marvin Musquin, Zach Osborne, RJ Hampshire, Dean Wilson and they’re right near the top, they’re the Kobe Bryant/Michael Jordans of motocross. The training is hard, we have about two months of boot camp and then we go racing. It’s really tough right now but I see big improvements every day I’m riding.

“I’m just getting more comfortable on the tracks down here. Supercross is no joke, it’s another level. It’s the best in the world and the tracks are hard.”

Pettis, a Prince George Secondary School graduate, has been based in Florida for nearly three years, after an eight-year stint attending training camps in California. He had been living with his sister Kaitlyn and brother-in-law Jesse Wentland, a former motocross racer, in Tallahassee, Fla., until he got the call to go to the camp. He’ll soon be making that four-hour trip back to Panhandle to spend Christmas with them.

A knee injury in training that required ACL surgery a year ago scuttled his second supercross season and Pettis went eight months without racing. When he did return to the Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MX Tour, Canada’s top professional outdoor series, he was in a class of his own wrapping up his second MX- 250 title in three seasons.

“I didn’t know where I was going to be because of my ACL reconstruction but I came in and damn near won every race, I won nine of the 12 races and the championship and it was a dream, season,” Pettis said.

“It was a big waiting game with a whole lot of therapy and that’s what I spent my whole last winter doing, building up my leg and getting my knee back to normal,” he said. “In the summertime I kind of reinjured it but I hit it really hard in the gym with rehab and stretching and now it gives me zero issues. It’s finally to the point where I’m not stressed out or worried about it.”

The AMA series has three rounds scheduled for Houston, Jan. 16, 19 and 23, then switches to Indianapolis, Ind., for races at Lucas Oil Stadium Jan. 30, Feb. 2 and 6. A race is scheduled for Daytona Beach on March 6 and more dates will be announced. COVID restrictions will limit crowds in the stadiums to 40 or 50 per cent capacity and Pettis said all riders will be tested before each race before they allowed to enter the stadium.

Pettis got his first taste of supercross in the winter of 2019 on the AMA Western tour and turned heads that year as the only Canadian on the circuit when he posted five top-12 results, including a fifth-overall finish in San Diego.  A few weeks later he was training for his next supercross event when he went over the handlebars trying to land a practice jump and broke his collarbone. His wounded wing healed and he rode the Rockstar Energy MX circuit that year with a cracked wrist but still managed to finish second in the points standings.

“(Injuries) are part of the game, it’s the down side of the sport, but at the end of the day it makes me more knowledgeable about the body,” Pettis said. “One day, when racing’s over, I feel I could be a physiotherapist. You learn so much about every injury and fitness and recovery and everything.”

As a two-time Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MX points champion in the 250cc class, Pettis will have to move up to 450cc next summer on the national circuit and he’s comfortable with that. He’s had some track time on KTM’s 450 SF-X bikes this year and liked it. He figures it will be a smooth adjustment to the more powerful bike and longer races.