JOHN BASHER’S INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: BLAKE BAGGETT

Blake Baggett had several offers following the 2014 season to continue racing the 250 class. The former AMA 250 National Champion had endured a fair share of struggles indoors throughout his career (save for Daytona), leading him to maintain 250 Supercross eligibility. However, Baggett elected to leave the big paychecks behind and race the 450 class for 2015. It was the right move.

Blake finished fifth overall in 450 Supercross, was the top Suzuki finisher, and even scored a podium (Daytona, of course). He followed it up by finishing fourth overall in the 450 Nationals. Baggett was the standout among all 450 rookies in 2015. He was also the lone rider under the Yoshimura Suzuki factory awning. With James Stewart suspended for performance-enhancing drug use, Blake had a fleet of top personnel focused solely on him. That level of attention seemed to pay off.

For 2016, Blake will be joined by Stewart. He will also be a sophomore in the highly-competitive 450 class. See what he has to say about his rookie year, having Bubba back, and why he thinks it’s better to live in Florida.

You were still eligible for 250 Supercross and could have secured a good deal in the 250 class for 2015. Instead you jumped up to the 450 class. Are you happy with that decision? I’m definitely super happy that I made that decision to jump up to the 450. At first it was a real learning curve. I’m still learning. I don’t have everything figured out, but the goal was to move forward and up to the premiere class. I felt like it was a jump that I needed to make to advance my career. I needed to elevate my game and step it up. It was time to move up and race the guys that I raced against during my whole amateur career.

In your opinion did you have a good rookie 450 season? It was a good season. I made the most out of it. I gave away a lot in some areas, but I did well in other areas. I had some good results and made some good things happen. It was encouraging, and I’m really excited to get this next year started. I want to see what I can put together in my second year.

“I’LL ADMIT THAT TOWARDS THE END OF THE SEASON I GOT A LITTLE FLAT. I LOST THE SPARK A BIT. ALL OF A SUDDEN I WOULD GET IT BACK, AND THEN I’D LOSE THE SPARK AGAIN. I DO THINK THAT I MANAGED THE WHOLE SEASON PRETTY WELL. I HAD SOME HIGHS AND LOWS, BUT I DID THE BEST I COULD WITH THE KNOWLEDGE THAT I HAD.”

How tough was it to close out the season? It’s a tough schedule racing 17 Supercrosses and then 12 Nationals. The longer season takes a toll on a rider. I’ll admit that towards the end of the season I got a little flat. I lost the spark a bit. All of sudden I would get it back, and then I’d lose the spark again. I do think that I managed the whole series pretty well. I had some highs and lows, but I did the best I could with the knowledge that I had. Going into 2016 I feel more prepared and aware of what to expect.

What did you do to find motivation when you started losing that spark? Sometimes it was just getting away from the daily grind and the repetition of life. I was doing the same thing over and over, so I broke things up. At times I wouldn’t ride as much as normal, or go to the gym as much. You have to have fun, too, you know? I would go jet skiing and things like that. Those breaks are necessary at certain points in the season.

Are there any motos you’d like to get back? I know that Mt. Morris wasn’t necessarily a high point for you. I had an issue at that race and had to pull off in the first moto. It wasn’t the greatest finish, and I didn’t want to have any races where I couldn’t finish. Unfortunately, I ran it as long as I could, but I had to pull it back to the truck. I did the best I could from that weekend. In the second moto I started from the outside and got boxed out. I had to regroup from that. It was good to have a weekend off following High Point, because I was able to get refreshed. I did less motos and had some fun during that time. It fired up the engine again.

“I’M GOING TO LEARN FROM HIM [JAMES STEWART], AND HOPEFULLY HAVING HIM BACK WILL ALLOW ME TO SOAK UP SOME KNOWLEDGE. FROM THERE, I’LL PUT THINGS TOGETHER WEEK IN AND WEEK OUT. IT WILL BE DIFFERENT TO HAVE HIM BACK, BUT IT WILL BE PRETTY COOL.”

You were a one-man band this season with James Stewart out. What’s it like having Stewart back as a teammate? It’s huge. I’m going to learn from him, and hopefully having him back will allow me to soak up some knowledge. From there, I’ll put things together week in and week out. It will be different to have him back, but it will be pretty cool. This year everyone would kind of stare at me when I pulled into the pits and started asking me questions about the bike [laughter]. They were looking for answers, you know? It will be nice to have James back.

Is there a benefit in having a teammate? There are some benefits in having a teammate, but at other times it’s nice to be by myself. I had everyone focused on me. The support was incredible. In the end, it’s probably better to have a teammate, though. That way you can use information from one source to the other. It’s a little bit tougher with testing to use one rider and figure things out. They say that it’s better to use two minds than one when coming up with something brilliant.

Was there added pressure on you to podium as Suzuki’s factory rider this year? I don’t think it really changed much. I did the best that I could. There wasn’t much else that I could do, and the team understood that.

Being from California, do you think Florida is a better place to live for riding and training? Yes. It’s easier for me to get the work done in Florida. I don’t have to sit in traffic on the way to the track or waste much time. I also don’t have to worry about riding a public track and have some guy come flying out of a berm and hit me. In Florida I’m able to replicate race conditions more often, and the heat is miserable. I have pretty much everything I need in Florida.

You’ve heavily reinvested in yourself, buying a place in Florida. Was it a tough call to make? If you’re going to gamble on something, then you might as well gamble on yourself. That’s the goal behind buying property in Florida and investing in all that I have. I’ve been using it to my advantage. Fast guys come to ride, and it is becoming the ultimate training place. Sure, I put a lot of money into my ranch, but if it gets me the results then it will all be worth it. That’s the plan, anyway.

blake baggettinterviewinterview of the weekJAMES STEWARTJOHN BASHERyoshimura suzuki