#500 Julien Benek in Seattle | Tree Three Media photo

PODCAST (and Typed) | #500 Julien benek Talks about His 2024 Seattle Supercross

By Billy Rainford

Canadian rider #500 Julien Benek from Mission, BC has had an up and down racing season, from mono to a broken thumb, but was back behind the gate this past weekend. He lined up to race 250 West at the 2024 Monster Energy AMA Supercross at Lumen Field in Seattle, WA in some very tough conditions. We grabbed him a couple days after to talk about it all.
Tuesday, March 26, 2024.

Lead photo by Tree Three Media


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I used some transcription software to do the work on the podcast to make it readable. Check it out if you’d rather that:

Direct Motocross: Well, we had Julien Benek from Mission, British Columbia, back in action after a little hiatus, an unfortunate hiatus. But we’ve got him on the phone. We’re going to go through what happened in Seattle, the buildup, and what he’s got next. Of course, as we all know by now, it didn’t go the way he wanted, but we’ll get him to explain that.

So, hey, Julien, man, thanks for chatting with us.

Julien Benek: Yeah, no problem. It’s, cool to be back on the podcast.

On the old podcast. Alright, buddy. Well, um, let’s, let’s first back it up. I mean, last time we spoke, you, man, you had a heck of a season, man. You were dealing with mono, you broke your thumb, you were still trying to ride through it.

You went, you had some surgery done on your thumb. The mono, I’m assuming is gone. You were back on the bike really quickly. Take us through all that.

Yeah, uh, I had surgery on my thumb like eight or nine weeks ago, pretty much. So after A1, I went to San Fran, raced San Fran and then got home, went to the doctor as soon as I could to see what they could do surgery wise.

And, uh, they rushed me into surgery, kind of like. They just put me at the top of the list. So I got really lucky with that. And, uh, I had surgery within a week of being home. And, uh, yeah, the doctor told me not to ride for at least three months after the surgery. So hearing that I was like, yeah, no, there’s no way.

He was freaking out that I was going to keep, or that I was going to ride too soon. I just kept telling him, no, dude, don’t worry about it. And, uh, I haven’t told him anything. I just took my recovery really seriously because I know like I still have races left for the season and I knew I could be back in time, I just wouldn’t be 100%. Either way, I wouldn’t have been a hundred percent, surgery or not, so I figured I’d get the surgery because this is still gonna be a problem no matter what. It was a problem all last year. I had the same injury. It was a torn ligament in the thumb, skier’s thumb.

And, uh, it’s just really, it’s a, it’s a dumb injury. I just really hated dealing with it. So the surgery just seemed like the best option to me. Uh, yeah, I had like a month and a little bit before Seattle, to fully start training again without mono. No, obviously I’m not like, I’m not in the shape I was before A1, but I’m pretty close.

So I definitely made some pretty quick gains with the time I had. It’s okay.

So you’re told three months to take off. You turn three months into what? Because I’ve seen videos of you that were nowhere near three months. How long were you off the bike?

Yeah. Uh, I think I started riding after five weeks.

Oh, okay. So you took over a month. That’s not that bad for you. That’s great!

Yeah, so I took a decent amount of time off just till I knew I could hang onto the bike without severe pain. Like I’m always gonna have pain riding the bike no matter what right now. So whatever’s manageable and I know it’s gonna get better.

When I first got to California, my thumb hurt pretty bad, man. Like I could barely, I couldn’t really hang on too much with the inside of my hand. I would hang on with the outside just to try and ease the impacts onto my thumb. But yeah, everything slowly started getting better. It just took a lot of, look at a lot of thumb exercises and just time, really.

Well, I’ve had that surgery myself, but it’s different because I had a pin and obviously there’s no way I was going to ride a dirt bike with a pin in my thumb, but yours was different in that they screwed it, right?

Yeah. So they took a piece of tendon out of my wrist and put it onto my thumb and they also put in a, uh, like a little tether. They put in two anchor points into my thumb, tied them together and then over top of that, they placed the tendon and screwed the tendon in.

Okay, so you didn’t have an external pin at least.

No, no.

Okay, so it was strong enough after five weeks that you just take the pain and you’re going to be okay, right?

It has two forms of support now, the tendon and the anchors.

And it just felt really strong. It just hurt a lot too. Like I can’t pinch. I can only click. I can only close straight. But it just hurts, and I’m not supposed to, so I’m still trying to follow the doctor’s orders, but not to the full extent.

Yeah, it’s one of those things where, I mean, we can all take the pain if we know we’re not just going to ruin it again, right? So if you can take the pain, but you’re not going to rip that thing right off, then you kind of, in your mind, you can tell yourself you’re sort of okay, right?


Okay. So you’re off for five weeks, that’s good. When did you go back down south?

Yeah. I went back to California. Uh, oh man, like, uh, three weeks before Seattle. Yeah. Three weeks. And then rode there for two weeks, came back home, rode my backyard for a few days, and then it was Seattle. So I had about three weeks of on-the-bike training and four weeks of off-bike training. So I mean, not a lot, but better than nothing.

Yeah, better than I thought. Like for what you were going through, I thought you were going to be… I was counting you out, basically.

Honestly, like, I didn’t really have any pain in my thumb. Just because the track was super slow. There wasn’t a lot of, like, super hard G outs. So that was kind of lucky-ish for my thumb. I really wish the track wouldn’t have been as muddy as it was. It was, uh, super technical and it really, it took a lot of luck to do good, I think, because if you’re not, you don’t get the start, it’s kind of hard to make passes, but not totally because that track was so technical that a lot of people were going super slow.

I’m disappointed with the way I rode. I honestly, I wanted to do way better, but considering the time I had on the bike, and the minimal amount I had on Supercross. When I was in California, there was like, I had like three full days of Supercross within the whole two weeks I was there, so, that kind of sucked.

Oh, wow.

But I mean, I just, I didn’t ride how I wanted to ride. I know I could have done better. I just, I think because I was away from the track for so long and all the other elements going on, it just kind of messed with my head a little bit. I couldn’t zone in like I usually do. And, uh, yeah, I don’t know.

Yeah. Well, you know, I mean, it’s, you know what it’s like, unless you win by 30 seconds, you’re never going to be happy. Even then you’ll find something to complain about. That’s how racers are. But, um, and it was also weird because qualifying, I mean, like Michael Mosiman set the fastest lap in the B group and then nobody went faster I think except Jett Lawrence in the 450s was the only guy to go faster in the second. I could be off on that but so it was kind of weird for qualifying.

I mean you qualified 29th, but was your fastest one first practice or a second qualifier?

Yeah, first qualifier was the fastest track the whole day. The B guys got super lucky. Their track was brand new like nothing was, you know, nothing was, like, imperfect.

It was just ready to go, just hold it wide open. So, they got lucky with that. A lot of the B guys beat me in qualifying because by the time I got out there the track was pretty hammered.


But, uh, I mean, 29th is still not bad considering the track that I had. Yeah, I mean, I’m not too, uh, not too bummed on it.

Right, and then like we always say, the whole thing, it’s all progression and the whole thing starts with your qualifying time, right? You need to qualify better, obviously, to get the gate pick for your heat, then get the start, then all, it just, then if you don’t get that, then you’re on the outside in the last chance qualifier, and it just snowballs, right?

So, and another thing, too, is, I mean, you being from BC, of course, in the media, we always say stuff like, “Oh, he’s from BC, he’s gotta love riding in the rain,” or “He rides in the rain all the time,” but doesn’t mean you like it, or does it?

Yeah, well, that track was different. We don’t usually have anything that rutty.


Like, I wasn’t, I was not ready for that at all, because, I mean, my track has no ruts, so I gotta start making some ruts out here, but, California, there wasn’t a crazy amount of ruts either. There was none at the Supercross tracks, so it’s like, you’re just going into the race hoping you can ride these ruts good enough to keep up with the guys that you know you should be keeping up with, but they’ve been riding all season.

We’ve seen a lot of ruts this season in Supercross.

Yeah, so the guys who have been at the races they kind of have a step above what I have compared to rut riding at the races.

Yeah, for sure. For sure. Hey, you know what, I mean, I spoke with Cole Thompson this week, too, after Seattle and just, I mean, it seems like every week, I mean, Cooper Webb even kind of joked about it that we’re saying it every week that it was the gnarliest track they’ve ever ridden kind of thing. I took some pictures of the Indy track and they were literally almost knee deep, the ruts and stuff. How bad was this? Was it that rutted?

It was like… there was nowhere that didn’t have ruts. Like, everywhere there was ruts. It didn’t matter where you went on the track. The only place that didn’t have ruts was the straightaways. And like, yeah, just the straightaway. And that’s it.

Like, the whoops weren’t super rutted, but they were just really, like, bumpy. They weren’t like a normal whoop where they get cupped out. They were just like, there were uneven bumps everywhere on the whoops, so it was really hard to do it. To gauge whether or not you could blitz or when you could triple out of the whoops or into the whoops or whatever it was It was just super hard to gauge what the track was going to do because it was changing so fast. A lot of the corners they would have ruts. You’d enter the corner right at the beginning and the rut wouldn’t end till the end of the first jump!

So you’re following all the ruts that are on the track and you can’t really get out of it. There’s just, there’s just so many.

Yeah, it’s funny. So I was at a friend’s house watching and both of us are like, sometimes you watch Supercross and it’s like, you know, I’d like to go out there just to kind of goof around, maybe double some of these triples, have some fun. But both of us looked at that track and were like, “I have no interest in riding that.

Yeah, it was, it was, I mean, it was fun, but it was scary because I mean, if, if you come up short on anything, like that dirt, it was so sticky. You just stick into the ground, like you’ve seen it with (Nate) Thrasher and, uh, (Jo) Shimoda, when they case that, uh, that long rhythm before the whoops. Like, they just case it and stop. Like, so it’s, it was technical for sure, and fun. Pretty scary.

That finish line jump was weird too because you land and then you have to turn right away. Yeah, but a rut in every single spot that you think you’re going to land.


So it’s It kind of off balance, like it’s, it gets you off centre and you mess up the, that right handed sweeper and you go straight instead of right.

Yeah. You can see a few guys front ends getting, you know, pulled around out of their hands and stuff. But okay. So then we go to the heat, man. It looked, uh, results wise, it looked like you were darn close. Take us through, take us through how that heat went for you.

Yeah. Um, I had a decent start. I was like 15th or something and then passed a few guys and I just pumped up really bad. I just couldn’t hang on to the bars.

Oh, did you?

I was trying to squeeze with my legs as much as I could and lay off the clutch a little bit to be a little smoother so I could relieve the arm pump.


It took, it took too long for me to figure that, figure that out. And, uh, yeah, I mean 10th was Slade (Varola) and he was three seconds ahead of me or two seconds ahead of me. He just, we just kept the gap even pretty much the whole race and yeah, I mean, it was just really who got the start because all the guys that were on my level were all going to same speed. It was hard to, uh, it was hard to find that time that someone else wasn’t making up.

Right, man. So do you, do you suffer arm pump or is it something with your thumb? You’re holding differently or it’s just the track? What’s the arm pump deal?

I think it was just the track. Honestly, I didn’t usually, I do a breathing exercise before I take off for the moto, but I wasn’t thinking for that one. I did for the LCQ, but unfortunately it didn’t matter.

Yeah, I don’t know that track was just super gnarly and it’s you couldn’t only squeeze it to your legs I mean there was so much going on like that track was super busy with the ruts, like it’s just, it was super intense, but yeah, I feel like everybody had problems with arm pump

It’s funny, man. I mean, cause anybody listening to this, obviously, you know, you’re out at your practice track and they’re not racing at that level, you’re a vet rider or whatever, if you’re listening to this and I mean, you’re just not going to ride on days when a track looks like that and you get arm pump and then you pull off the track. Like, can you just imagine, you know, we’re sitting at home watching it. Can you imagine trying to ride that track with arm pump? Like that’s just, that’s awful.

Yeah, it’s pretty gnarly. You just got to really, uh, tune into, uh, to tune into the bike and try and flow with the tracks, that’s really all you can do.

Okay, so 11th, not bad. So you head to the LCQ. Obviously, we know you didn’t finish, but take us through what happened there and how you were doing up to that point and all that kind of stuff.

Yeah, I, uh, I had a good start and then coming into the first turn it was pretty slick. A couple of dudes back ends were washing out like right in front of my front wheel, so I had to either get on the brakes or hit their back wheel and go down. So I got on the brakes and immediately just started sliding, put my foot down, my foot was sliding so I just tucked the front, fell over a bit. Got back up, and I was ripping, dude. I was, I passed like three dudes in one lap! Three, four dudes in one lap.


And, uh, yeah, then I went into the whoops, and, uh, I thought I hit neutral. I looked down, and I see my chain was hanging off my swing arm. I was so pissed, but, I don’t know.

Well, I tell you, that, uh, that OG’s gear you’re wearing, it sure stood out. There was no hiding out there. The camera would go by with the leaders going, and you could certainly see you sitting there.

Yeah, yeah, no, it was good. Good gear selection for the weekend for uh, visibility.

All right, so obviously you don’t finish the LCQ, you push the bike back to the pits. Did you stay around and watch? Did you guys head out? What did you do?

Uh, we pretty much started loading up right after that. I mean it was gonna take a while to load up. Anyway, so, we just got a head start on that, and uh, we didn’t watch really anything unless there was a TV in the pits.

Okay, was it just you and your dad, Oliver?

Yeah, just me and the old man just getting it done.

How was that drive back with him?

Uh, not too bad. I was the only one that was mad.

Okay, man, so now you’re back at home I’m assuming.

Yep. Yeah, we’re back at home now gonna try and figure out a training schedule for the weeks coming. I’m gonna try and race Colorado next I think oh, we were gonna go to St. Louis, but it’s like 37 hours or something one way.

And it’s a Triple Crown.

It’d be really expensive because we’d be doing I mean if we’re out that way we’re gonna do some East Coast rounds as well. But it was just too expensive for what we could afford. And, uh, yeah, I think Colorado is really my best option at this point.

If it was a little closer would you still have gone for a Triple Crown?

If it was like 10 hours closer, yeah, we would have left, but it’s just maybe 15, but it’s just too risky. I’d say, I know I have the speed. Uh, I just don’t have the luck. So, uh, I don’t know. I really wanted to race it. I really, I really did, but it’s just, it’s a lot of money to go spend.

I mean, we’ve been having problems ever since the season started and, uh, yeah, I don’t know. I just, I think Colorado is my best option.

Yeah. It sounds like it, man. Well, yeah, I don’t, I mean, obviously you got to make your own luck. You got to not think about that. You can’t think you have bad luck, right?

I know, I know. It’s just, it’s hard because that’s all I’ve been having. I mean, I have been lucky with my thumb that I’ve been able to get back on the bike as soon as I did, but… just when I’m on the bike, it doesn’t seem to work out that well.

All right. Well, okay, man. Okay, so the plan obviously would be Denver and then Salt Lake City as well?

Yeah, Salt Lake. That’s an East/West Shootout, so top 20 from each coast. But you can still try and race if you don’t. I think it takes a certain amount of points to be, uh, automatically into the night show. That’s true.


But, uh, I’m still gonna try because it’s not super far. It’s only, I haven’t, I haven’t checked yet, but doable.

Yeah, it’s doable for sure. Uh, but yeah, I think Salt Lake and Colorado will be my last two.

Okay, nice man. All right, well, okay, so that leads me to my last question here for you. What’s the summer looking like for you?

Um, I’m not too sure. I’m trying to figure out a plan for Nationals if I can do everything on my own, but that’d be really expensive and you don’t really make any money doing Canadian nationals, so there’d be nothing to support me along the way. I’d have to find my own support.

It’s hard to say, man. Like I’m trying to figure it out, but it’s not that easy. A lot of money already or a full time job prior like three months ago saving up whatever I could but uh yeah, I don’t know, I’m trying to figure it out. I’m talking to a couple people or one person about support for Nationals, but we haven’t really gotten too far into details yet. I do plan on doing the first two rounds in Alberta and then if I can find enough support or if I do good enough and someone wants to help me go across, I will go across for the Eastern rounds. But I don’t know. The first two rounds are for sure and then the rest of the season, I don’t know what’s going to happen.

Okay, so you’ll, you’d commit to the Alberta ones, but not even the Manitoba one.

Uh, oh, maybe, yeah, okay, I haven’t checked the schedule yet, but I’ll do Manitoba probably, yeah.

Okay, cool. I don’t have a photo of you shaking hands with Kevin Tyler, so I can’t start that rumor yet.

Yeah, no, nothing, uh, there’s not really a whole lot to, uh, to do for a ride this year either. I mean, we lost SSR, who else? Uh, that Gas Gas team, Cobequid, uh, who else? There was another one.

Yeah, and I mean, I want to see you, Daniel Elmore, and Tyler Gibbs all together, but uh, you’re all on different bike brands, and I’m not sure how we’d make this work, but uh, there’s a pretty solid team right there.

Yeah, I know that’d be the uh, privateer special I guess, I don’t know.

All right, well, I hope something works out for you, man. I mean, like you say, you’ll start out the season anyway, and hopefully something comes up between now and then so you know that you are planning on doing the whole thing, you know what I mean? It’d be nice to know not going into the first couple thinking maybe I’ll go east.

Yeah, I mean, I really think it depends on how I do. I’m gonna try and hopefully podium the first couple rounds because I mean I know I have the speed to do that. I just need to work on the endurance and, I mean, dude, I’m going to have a pretty solid program pretty soon here and, uh, yeah, I mean, all I want to do is win. I don’t care what I’m doing, like, I’m racing Supercross. I want to win at Supercross, dude. Like, I want to win. I just want to win.

Yeah, that’s got to be the attitude. Otherwise, what the hell are you doing out there, right?

Yeah, exactly.

So hey, I guess I should clarify. What size bike are we talking this summer?

Well, I have 2 250’s right now and I only have one 450 that has quite a few hours on it, so probably 250 class because I have my Supercross race bike that doesn’t have that many hours on it and my practice race bike that doesn’t have that many hours on either. So yeah, I think 250 class is where I’ll be

Okay, well hopefully someone’s listening to this and they’re thinking, uh, boy, I’m looking for a solid rider to support and some of the names we’ve seen, including yours, kind of piqued their interest. And we can kind of see some of our, geez, top three, five, eight guys getting some support here to go across our series.

Yeah, that would, uh, that would definitely be pretty cool. But I don’t know, there’s not a lot, not a lot of cash flow in Canada, which is unfortunate. It’s sad because a lot of the riders are really good, and they could be doing something that they should be doing for a living, but it’s just, there’s not enough funding. So it’s, it’s unfortunate, but it’s just where we’re at, I guess.

Yeah, and I mean, we make the joke all the time that, uh, one of my first questions when I’m talking to a top ten rider in our country and I’m, I’m asking them what they do for work.


Okay, well hopefully that changes, hopefully you find something, man, hopefully you can just keep your attitude positive anyway and keep moving forward, get that thumb solid, get the rest of your… how’s the rest of your body, your shoulders, your legs, you all good?

Uh, yeah, I think, yeah. I’m pretty good everywhere else, just the thumb.

Okay, good. Alright, well, hey, I know you’ve got a few people that are helping you out, so why don’t you thank some folks and we’ll let you get back out there training.

Yeah, definitely. OG Optics, Guts Racing, Blood Lubricants, Brad Hatt helped me out with some race gas this, uh, this Supercar season, so that was cool. Rental Equipment, Matrix, Renthal, Tri City Plumbing, International Motorsports, Maple Ridge Motorsports, Factory Effects, Hydropower, and crap, the MS Studio.

All right. Awesome, man. Well, hey, I appreciate you taking the time. I know it wasn’t the most positive experience for you there in Seattle, but thanks for taking the time to take us through it all and good luck with everything. And hopefully we see you at Denver and Salt Lake City.

Yeah, man. Thank you.