The title may be a bit misleading. For you see every team is just that, a team. No one man holds the key to the overall success of an operation, especially one as complex as running a motocross/supercross team. However, having the right people in place is a key factor for any company's success, and it appears as if Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki has finally found the right recipe.
Bobby Hewitt has risen through the ranks much like an amateur athlete would. Owner of a granite company in Texas, Bobby started the Xtreme Team Green amateur program a number of years ago and has since worked his way into owning Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki’s Factory Lites program. However, as with any climb up the ladder, there were bumps along the way. While the team always boasted a healthy ration of potential, that potential rarely showed through in their results…until now. Approximately six months ago Hewitt hired long time industry head, Dave Gowland on as Team Manager. Dave was with the team through their 2011 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship campaign and spent the off-season making the necessary changes to bring his team to the forefront of our sport. For this edition of Industry Insider, we hooked up with Dave following their most successful supercross season to date to try and figure out the secret to his success.
You had a lot of success with Rockstar Suzuki in only your first supercross season as Team Manager. It seems that while the team always had good potential, it rarely showed through in their results. What has been the difference maker this season?
I think that Bill Keefe had done a great job prior to me. Obviously they were trying to put the systems in place to be able to continue the relationship with Suzuki. They’ve been with Kawasaki for a number of years, working from Kawasaki and how things went together. Bill did a great job at sort of setting the stage for us to start. But then Bill obviously left. Bobby takes over as the team manager, then his business in Texas explodes and he’s torn between the race team and his successful granite business. When he asked me to take over it was somewhat left up to the employees. They did a great job with what they had but there was not a whole lot of continuity. The team, Bobby had Hunter on his own program and then he had the factory program. It made it a little bit difficult. We made some adjustments as soon as I started. But the real change doesn’t come in until after the end of the season where we really look at what we are, who we are, what we want to do, and where we want to get to. There were issues that needed to be addressed and there were some issues that just needed a little bit of a polishing. So, I basically put my spin on it. I waited the whole Outdoor series to measure what needed to be done. We just started to redirect and focus and help put some people in place here from our employees’ standpoint that I thought were going to be better suited for the task at hand. Then we were fortunate to resign some riders and sign some new riders.
Coming off the outdoor season things didn’t look extremely promising. But, like you said, you were able to resign a few riders and then land Blake Wharton. What was the outlook prior to the supercross season?
We continued to look forward into Supercross. We had high expectations for ourselves. I think we did want to prove to people that our team was worthy, that we were one of the four, five teams that were up there that were going to be contenders week in and week out. I think we came out of the gate good and strong. I think we did leave a little bit on the table early in the West series, but it was refreshing to get started on the East. And with the success that Blake had it breathed a lot of new life into us. And that momentum carried us over when we returned to the West Coast. Then we started to see guys like Jason and Martin start to rise to the occasion. But it’s been a real team atmosphere. It’s a team deal. Every one of us is working towards a common goal. There’s no individuality here. We support one another through the thick and thin. It’s a team.
You chose to hold onto Jason Anderson despite a rough rookie campaign for him last year. It appears as if that decision is now paying off. What has lit his fire, so to speak?
Obviously, I’ve been through others before, dealing with amateurs in the time that I spent at Team Green. I’ve seen riders have good years or bad years. So, I’m not just about to bail on somebody because they had a bad year or didn’t transition that well. I’ve seen Jason’s speed before. I think it was just a little bit of a hiccup that we ran through. We’ve started to work on that. But the biggest thing that I really enjoyed was that he too as a rider recognized that he had some shortcomings, and he needed to address those. And when I asked him to take care of it, when we looked at the necessary steps to do that, he was receptive. Having Randy Lawrence as our team trainer, he’s kind of committing himself to him and doing exactly what Randy had laid out, the program that Randy laid out for him, goes without saying. He just started to rise to the occasion. He made the transition a little bit more simple for him. He started to hit his mark and his stride. I think that coming Outdoors we’re going to see another, new Jason Anderson again. I think a lot of that goes to Randy Lawrence and the commitment that he has made to him, also. So, again, it’s a team. I’m just the conductor. I stand up and kind of orchestrate what’s going on. I need to have good engine people. I need to have good mechanics. I need to have a good team trainer and other guys that are working together. Hunter is working with Randy, and Blake is working with Randy. When Martin is out here they practice together sometimes. Together as a team we’re able to push each other to get better. I think that’s the results that we’re starting to see. It’s a combination of a lot of different factors.
Would it be accurate to say that you’re now focused on winning titles?
Yeah, obviously it’s fair to say that we want to win races, but at the same time I’ve got to be humble. My expectations need to be the same but guys like Mitch Payton that have been doing it year in and year out and have got as many Number 1 plates on his doors as he does, I can’t think that I’m just going to come and kick him off his pedestal right away. I have more respect for him than that. I’m humble. I have to be humble. I tell my guys each and every week, we need to be humble. We get successes; we get them in small doses and we need to be humble about it and take each week as it comes. If I want to be...GEICO, same way. They’ve been working on it for years to win championships, a lot longer than I have. I’ve only been here, like you said, for six months. I’ve been very fortunate to have a good group of guys that share the same passion and vision as I do and are willing to work hard for it. Not saying that everybody else isn’t working hard, or any of the other teams aren’t working any harder, but it’s just working. I’ve got the right combination right now that is delivering the results that our team expects, and I’m going to stay humble. I’m really looking forward to A1 next year. That’s where I think I’m going to be able to hopefully really see the fruits of my labor, because it’s still in the infant stage, as you mentioned.
Do you think what Blake Wharton was able to do on the East Coast spurred your team to believe in themselves, and the entire program more?
I think you’re absolutely right. It shows that we can do it. It shows that the hard work pays off. All the guys are doing the same thing. They’re doing the same road bike rides. They’re doing all the same motos. They’re at the same practice stage with the same guys. This is a mental game. As soon as one person on your team or one rider on your team has some success I think that’s the thing that everybody starts to believe in. Hey, look - we can do it. Yes, we have the bikes that are going to get the start. Yes, we have the equipment that’s going to be able to go the distance. I think that’s just another part of it that flips a switch in all riders’ minds, like hey, yeah, we can do it. I think that I played a part in it. Early on I think that Martin could have gone the distance and could have won motos, but he just had to get in the right mindset and I think that now he’s in there.
What needs to happen at the end of the summer for you to be happy?
I think I’d be pleased with the same kind of results that I had for Supercross. I want to be able to get some holeshots. I want to lead some races. I want to be in the title chase. I want to use the Outdoors as another building block to start off next season. That’s really what I want to do. If we can improve from a team standpoint, from a rider’s standpoint, from a development standpoint… Using the Outdoors and getting similar results to what I had right now, then I’m going to be pleased. Anything over and above that is gravy.