JUSTIN HILL INTERVIEW: BACK TO RACING FOR THE 2022 SUPERCROSS SEASON
You can say this past year has been quite crazy for Justin Hill. Shortly after he and his wife had their first daughter, before the 2021 season began, Justin stepped away from his career and thought he would never racing AMA Supercross again. He become a sheriff in his home state of Oregon and was going to fulfill his dream of working in Law Enforcement. However, as like many other riders have felt, that certain itch that is hard to describe came back for the number 46 as a tantalizing offer came into the picture. Now, Justin is back on two wheels and preparing to have a successful season of Supercross onboard Team PRMX’s Kawasaki KX450. But the decision wasn’t easy, nor was the process of getting there. We caught up with Justin to learn more about his comeback to racing for 2022.
WHAT MADE YOU COME BACK AFTER YOUR HIATUS?
“Man, there have been a lot of reasons. I quit, I was just kind of fed up like I didn’t have the dying desire to go back to the sport. You have to be really dedicated and you have to leave it all out there on the practice days and the race days. When I had my daughter, we settled in for a bit, and then it was pretty much time to grind again. We’ve always planned on going to race this year  but unfortunately, there were a handful of goofy deals. You know, just really typical stuff, like stuff where I would normally be like, ‘yeah I’ll play ball.'”
“And it dawned on me that I’ve dedicated a lot of time to this and it wasn’t materializing the way I really wanted it to. At the time I wanted to work out a program out of Oregon while the weather is good and the contract situation was just not happening. I was left twiddling my thumbs and I didn’t want to leave my wife on her own with our first child. I kind of realized I didn’t need it anymore. I’m going to spend time with my family and my brother was the first person I told that I was retiring. He gave me the typical Josh response knowing what my potential is and he wants me to do my best. He said, “No you’re not. You’re not done. You’re racing this year.”
“And I told him [Josh Hill] that at this point in my life, you could hand me one of the best deals on the market and I probably wouldn’t do it. Deals did come along and found their spot in my inbox but I just wanted to be a real blue-collar guy. I just wanted to hang out with my kid. Years prior, I had a lot more drive in me to chase those sort of deals and I was really motivated every step in my career even up to last year and 2020.”
“I was pretty pumped where I was in my career too. I had some pretty solid finishes and was starting to knock on the door of the guys in the top five. During my break, I wasn’t super vocal about what my situation was on social media, or about anything because I’m not really a social media guy, but after losing an option to ride for an extended amount of time was very punishing heading into the final 2020 Salt Lake City rounds [during the first Coivd shutdown]. The elevation change, zero bike time, three races a week, it was a death sentence.”
“All the work I had put in the early season and midseason was not reflected with my performance at Salt Lake. It was so frustrating. When more opportunities came again [for the 2021 season], it almost felt like I was owed something, a chance to prove myself again. But it didn’t happen for the correct reasons and in the correct time, as everything happens for a reason.”
“I have never been so blessed to miss a year of racing. At one point, I was really questioning what I was doing and I had to do something I always really wanted to do. I joined the Law Enforcement in Oregon which was a blessing. I’m 26 and I have never been so stoked to hurt and grind to get in a good position where I am now. Physically and mentally. I haven’t stubbed a toe in 3 years really. I am very fortunate to not get out of the sport with an injury. My last real injury would have to be in 2019 when I hurt my shoulder, but other than that, I haven’t hardly had a scratch since then.”
HOW MUCH RIDING HAVE YOU BEEN DOING LATELY?
“Well, it went from, I’m done, right? I am just going to spend time with my daughter, I don’t even want to look at a dirtbike. I am just going to use my time to be a family man. It went from that to asking if my brother is riding today and slowly but surely that itch started to come back again. Big Hill Jam came around and that was the first time I had ridden in a while. I took my cousin on a tour of our property on my bike. Big Hill Jam came around, I threw some gear on and hit the 220 footer and I felt good. I thought to myself, “this is weird, I shouldn’t be doing this.”At the time I was hitting the gym, lifting weights, trying to be a strong man. Obviously that is horrible for motorcycles which is why I didn’t think I would feel so good. But I felt so good and happy with it. My friend, Brad Grimes, was starting up this place called Moto Five Four One down in Central Point Oregon.”
“He basically took this bare land that was like a county fairground type situation and he started to develop this place to train. Every week I would come back and you can see the development of the track in real-time happen every seven days. I rode there several times before Top Gun came around where another fried of mine, Brad, was building a team. They asked if I wanted to join and I said sure but I am wildly under prepared. I’m thinking to myself, “There’s no way I’ll have any chance at beating these outdoors guys.” There’s always a solid group of guys that race there. After the race, I was just mad. It was the first glance I saw in myself where I had seen where my level of riding once was and it just bothered me. I have too many years in this and I’m too capable to feel this way when I do it at my physical prime. So that just got me really fired up, I was like “I think I want to do this again.” And then it really came about because of this place at South of the Border.”
WHERE ARE YOU LIVING NOW?
“I’m living and training at South of the Border MX. They didn’t have an official Supercross program going on before, but now my best friend Matt Bisceglia [who is a trainer at SOBMX] explained, “Hey Ryan is doing this Supercross program, a legit one. And there’s also this team that’s going to be out of here.” Right away I was getting a good feeling about this because as many racers know living in California, you’re spending almost your whole day in the car. You live in Temecula, you ride in Hemet, San Bernardino, or wherever, then the race shop is in Corona, and you have to go to the gym in Menifee. It just feels counterproductive to sit in traffic all day. There’s plenty of guys who do it but there’s no doubt that it takes a toll on you.”
“It’s really really slept on to have all of this stuff in one spot at a training facility. Where I live is 200 feet from the gym, 200 feet from the gym is the race shop, 500 feet from the left of that is both of my Supercross tracks, a hundred feet to my right is a pool where I do all my pool sprints. It takes so much off so that you can just worry about the work. So that’s the story of how this whole PRMX thing came about. Julien, the owner of the team got ahold of me. To be honest, I didn’t really know much about the team. I had seen Cade Clason and a couple of other guys ride the bike, I knew MX-Tech did the suspension and I had heard a lot of good things about him, about Jeremy. So I was interested.”
“The first time I talked to Julien, I told him that I’m not going to burn clutches and there’s a few things I’ll be easy on, but I said, “I’m gonna come destroy your stuff. We’re gonna put hard laps in and I’m gonna be in really good shape or this isn’t a deal for me and you.” He was all excited about that and I said, “if you can remain excited about that then we’re going to be good.”
WILL YOU BE SUPERCROSS-ONLY FOR 2022?
“Yes, I will only be doing Supercross as of right now. With how things go, there might be a possibility that I do some of the Canadian stuff but with how things are right now, I would like to do some more stuff my brother like Big Hill Jam and be a lot more involved with the event. I want to do some fun events, I don’t want to be off of a bike from May to September. I want to stay active, it just makes it easier to get back into the swing of things when you’ve been riding rather than starting from ground zero. If we have a good year and we decide to do it again, I’ll be in a lot better position to do it again.”
HOW IS THE KAWASAKI KX450?
“The bike is solid. Many of the bikes nowadays are built for smoother power for the normal guy. Then there’s the Kawi and Honda and obviously Yamaha as we know. The 2020 Honda I had been riding hits really hard and the Kawi hits incredibly hard. And then in the mid-range, the Kawi explodes with power. We’re trying to bring that power down lower and we have some solid guys working on the engine and suspension. Before signing with the team, I came out and spent a week testing the bike to see if it was worth it.”
“After 10-15 minutes on the bike, I felt pretty comfortable and I was surprised. The MX-Tech guys were there to see if they can get me in the ballpark of where I wanted the bike to be and they got me there. I have been tweaking since then and we’re going to have another test day in a couple of weeks. One thing that makes the testing and development of the bike tricky is how much better I’m getting each time I ride and get more comfortable. It makes it tricky when you’re trying to develop suspension because I’m maybe not telling them the right thing yet, because I’m not quite where I should be. I believe in these guys as far as suspension goes and I’m pretty excited to work with them. I think I’m dealing with some smart guys and I think that they need someone to believe in them and everybody will be pretty surprised with the program. It drug me out of the void, of not doing this thing at all. This was the only option I considered based on all of the factors. On what this team is, on what they can do for me, on what South of the Border is doing for me, Ryan Shaffer and all of them here. This is a compilation of things that make me say, “Ok, I’m going to do that, this is a rad deal.'”
“I have spent a lot of time on Kawasaki. Truthfully, most of my adult fast racing careers have been spent on green. I know the characteristics of them, they don’t have a lot of big drawbacks, and you’re already close to where you want to be just hopping on one of them. I liked the Honda a lot. I liked the KX250, the KTM 250, and now this bike, I would definitely say that those are my top four bikes if you will.”
“Whether I be here for a year or two or three or four, what ever it is, I am hoping that the day I leave, they’ll look back and be like, “Yeah, we got a lot out of that. We got a lot out of Justin being here.” It’s funny because I look at something in a really simple manner. Do they have parts? Do they have a suspension guy? Do they have a truck? Check, check, check. Alright, well, are they going to be cool and work with everybody? Because that’s important, and so far, that’s what I’m experiencing.”
“I have done a lot of growing in the last year in a lot of ways and being a dad is a big one. I’m ready to make some tough decisions and be a grown up. I did this as a kid for a lot of years and now I’m just not that same guy. Things are different. The respect towards the work load is in that same category of changes as well. I’m being very methodical about what’s in my program and what’s not. So far, I’m smoked, but I missed this feeling. It feels good to be smoked and have to gear up and do it again.”
“I’m stoked man, I think I think we have a real shot at it, you know, like I said, I wouldn’t do it just show up. I felt like I was in a position where I was just gonna be doing it to show up this last year. Now I’ve got that burning desire back. I’m really wanting to do it.”
YOU’RE WITH YOUR BUDDY MATT BISCEGLIA WHO IS A TRAINER AT SOBMX TOO.
“Yeah man, I think that’s gonna surprise a lot of people too, because I think that some people are probably sleeping on this training facility as well. When they see what it what we’re going to get done here, and not just me too. You know, we have Brandon Ray and Justin Rodbell and Justin Thompson and I think we have Hunter Sales and we have another kid, Julian, from Canada that is going to come down I think too. So we have a bunch of guys that I think you’re going to like. So far, like I’ve done more workouts and training sessions and laps with these guys than without them. We’re already kind of banding together and doing these programs together.”