We give a hard working privateer some exposure
We give a hard working privateer some exposure
Who is #606 Ronnie Stewart? It is a question that has haunted me for over a year now. Perhaps you’ve heard of an article I do call Just Short, where I do a Short profile of the riders that came up Just Short of qualifying for the main event in Supercross aka 3rd place in the LCQ. The idea being these guys usually get little or no press so I try to give them a Short time in the spotlight. I don’t mean to toot my own horn but I feel like overall it does give these riders a little bit of notoriety, it’s not CBS, SXonSpeed, RacerX, Transworld, or Vital but it’s something and if it enlightens at least 29 readers then I’m happy.
Enter one Ronnie Stewart, this guy has been my kryptonite. I’ve “profiled” him three separate times now for coming up Just Short and in the course of two years I haven’t found any pertinent or interesting information about this guy. Nobody knows him. I don’t claim to know a lot of industry people but still none of the people I know, knew anyone that knew him. What happened to that whole 3 degrees of separation thing? The links below are what I’ve written about Ronnie previously over the two years. Don’t bother clicking the links there is nothing interesting to read there only my ranting about him being so difficult to find information about.
The ex pro bowler Kevin Barnett with Supercross Live catches up with Ronnie Stewart in this Short interview check it out.
I realize its doubtful anyone reading this in on Facebook, but if your into that Short of thing give Ronnie a friend, a like, a thumbs up, a wink, a high five or however the hell that works.
Perhaps you’ve heard of BelRay lubricants, well they have a lube to fit any of your needs and they support Ronnie Stewart, so support them by clicking on this link below.
The Just Short fan mailroom supervisor Jason Weigandt, forwarded along an email from one Scott Lukatis who is well acquainted with Ronnie. Ironically Scott said he had just been talking to Ronnie about trying to increase his exposure. A couple texts later and I had finally bagged the one that got away thee Ronnie Stewart.
Moser: How are you, man?
Ronnie: I’m good, thanks.
Just driving down the road?
Yeah, I’m driving to Hangtown.
How far of a drive is that for you?
It’s not bad because I was in Southern California so I’m just kind of cruising up I-5. I don’t know where you’re from…
Yeah, I’m out of Washington State so I don’t really know how far north Hangtown is.
Okay. It’s about 8 hours.
Oh, that’s not a short drive.
In the grand scheme of things it’s actually not too bad. I’m from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, so traveling 8 hours really isn’t too bad considering how far I actually am from home.
Well, I hope this is the real Ronnie Stewart and someone’s not pulling a prank on me.
Yeah, well, Scott Lukatis said that you were trying to find me or you were having trouble searching me down or something.
Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s easier to find Osama Bin Laden than it was to try and track down information on you. So, I’ve been trying to do a profile on you for PulpMX. Basically I profile the guys that get the first non-qualifying position in Supercross. So, third place in the LCQ. I’ve attempted to find information on you a couple times online without much success, so I’m glad that Scott got us in touch. Now I can tell the world who Ronnie Stewart is.
Cool, very cool.
So, are you just a super shy guy or why are you not on more social networking? Why is it so hard to find information on you? Do you owe somebody money? Are you hiding from somebody? What’s the deal?
No, none of the above. I do have a Facebook. I don’t really know why it would be so hard. Have you been to any of the races or you were just trying to search online for me?
Ronnie Stewart at Atlanta SX this year. Photo by Scott Lukaitis
Basically I’m not your average fan, but I’m not all the races or anything like that. So Google’s my best friend when it comes to research. But there’s no website, no Twitter, no Instagram for Ronnie Stewart and nobody really uses Facebook so I didn’t catch that stuff. We need to up your image or your visibility to the average fan, so that people know who Ronnie Stewart is.
Do you have a smart phone?
Do you know what Twitter is?
Are you anti-Twitter or…
I actually have a Twitter, well I signed up, I activated the account, and I’ve never used it and it’s been a few years.
You might want to start with Twitter. Well, I won’t beat you up too hard over this, but I think that hopefully this interview sparks a little something to help get your name out there a little bit more and get you some support, so you can support your sponsors, and it all goes hand in hand. Maybe this will encourage you to show the world who Ronnie Stewart is through some sort of social networking, besides just Facebook, which nobody uses.
Facebook is the only thing that I use. But I was speaking with Scott Lukatis in Vegas and he talked to me about potentially starting up a website, all that stuff.
Well, let’s get back in the time machine and we’ll go back to… You said you’re from New Jersey? So, born and raised Jersey Boy, or…
Yeah, born and raised in New Jersey, but technically I live in Pennsylvania. But I live right on the Delaware River, which divides Pennsylvania and New Jersey. So I consider myself from New Jersey just because I’ve lived there most of my life.
So you must have grown up with J-Law and Jason Weigandt then?
Not really. I never really raced much with J-Law but I’d see him at the track in my earlier years, but I never really raced a whole lot when I was younger. Never really spent a lot of time with him. As a matter of fact I probably only talked to the dude about one time, once or twice. So, we know each other, we see each other every now and then at the local track like Raceway Park that we have in New Jersey. But other than that I don’t know Jason Weigandt and I’m not really friends with J-Law.
The elusive Ronnie Stewart at the Kawasaki Race of Champions. Photo by Scott Lukaitis
So we’ll go with the cliché question of when you first start riding a motorcycle?
I first started riding a motorcycle when I was ten years old. My dad obviously bought it for me. It was a KX50 and I used to have a track at my house and I would ride every day after school.
And then how’d that turn into racing and all that?
It basically progressed from just riding in my backyard to going to the local tracks, Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey when I was old enough. Back when I was 8, 9, 10 you actually had to be a certain age to race in New Jersey. I believe it was 10 or 11 but there was a period of time when I was on a KX50 that I wasn’t able to actually race there. Now it’s much different then back when I was that age.
I just mainly practiced and then as I got older and I got into my teenage years I started to do some more local distract races, like District 6 and some of the more competitive series in the northeast. Never did any Loretta Lynn’s. I was going to try to race that one season and I wound up breaking my collarbone, so that was a no go there. Never did any other national amateur races, but always was on a bike, always practicing. And then in 2009 I raced the Arenacross series and that’s how I got enough points to get my pro license and then it went from there to summer of 2009 was my first effort to compete in the Nationals on a 450.
So you did the road to Supercross through Arenacross?
I did. In 2009 I raced every round of the AMA Arenacross series and that’s how I got enough points to get my pro license. And then later on that summer is when I went to my first National, which was High Point.
So do you come from a family of racers or are you first Stewart professional racer in your lineage?
I am the only Stewart basically in my immediate family that races professionally. My dad was the one that got me into the sport and he started riding shortly after he got me into it. So it hasn’t been passed down for generations like some other racing families.
Let’s talk about who’s helping you get to the races. You’ve been at it, you said, since ’09 what sponsors are helping you out this year.
First I would like to mention my own race team that I started, called Ronnie Stewart Racing, obviously I’m the one who kind of put this all together and make it happen for myself. But with that being said, there are so many people that truly do make it work. And those people are Micro Builds, Hellbound Racing, Dirt Candy Graphics, Gardner Race Services, Ocean County Powersports, FTI Racing, Bel-Ray, Recluse, Trilly Designs, Spy, Dutch Racing Seat Covers, Wiseco, Renthal. Those are the people that support me.
Ronnie at Hangtown, he came up seven-tenths shot of qualifying for the motos. Photo by Simon Cudby
Being a privateer, what’s the hardest part that the average fan might not realize? Obviously the cost has got be huge just to go race the Supercross or Motocross series. But from the outside looking in, what’s something they might not realize that takes a lot more time or effort or money than the average fan might realize?
Well, obviously, the cost and the financial strain on trying to compete at a professional level definitely can get overwhelming and it can really drain you physically and mentally. But something that the average fan probably wouldn’t realize is how taxing it really its on your body physically and mentally because as a privateer you basically are all of the above: you’re a mechanic, you’re the coach, you’re your own mechanic… everything. And it takes a lot out of you when you ride and you train and you try to keep up with what the factory guys are doing with training and riding. And then the more you do that, the more you ride the bike, the more bike maintenance, the cost goes up because your bike gets worn out, so the work goes up to maintain your bike so it’s safe and competitive.
Traveling around and driving really takes a lot out of you when you drive from race to race. So it really is difficult to do it all on your own. The average fan that would just go to the race and just see the start, the practice, and the gate drop and the races and that’s it, they probably wouldn’t have as much of appreciation as if they would actually see what goes on during the week. There’s the day to day struggles that we have to go through, the day to day tasks that we have to deal with. A lot of people just see the bright lights and they see the factory guys and the nice shiny bikes, and the top guys make a lot of money, and the big rigs and all that stuff.
But what they don’t realize is all of the people that don’t make it to that level and how difficult it really is and how many people are at the track and the crashing and the injuries. I just recently had a pretty big crash the other day and left me with a pretty sore shoulder. So all the adversity that you have to overcome, being a professional motocross rider, it’s a lot tougher than people would think. You just don’t know unless you actually do it. If you would have told me five years ago how difficult it was, I would have told you, oh, yeah, I know. But I really didn’t know. You truly don’t know how difficult this really is unless you actually give it a whirl.
Yeah, I can’t imagine honestly. Is it even possible to maintain some sort of training routine at all with being on the road like this? Or do you just kind of do the best you can in-between the races?
Well, that’s one thing that being a privateer that you’re at a major disadvantage. It’s kind of like a catch-22 or it’s a double-edged sword because being on the road, if it’s your only option, it’s your only option. Getting from race to race, you want to be able to get there and compete, but at the same time, like you said, being on the road you really can’t have a consistent training program, regimen, because one day is traveling, one day you’re here, one day you’re there. I travel in a big RV motorhome and if you can’t pull into an LA Fitness, where I’m a member at a gym, or you can’t get to a certain area, it’s really hard to be consistent when you’re on the road. So the ideal program would be to base out of Southern California or one of the premiere facilities on the East Coast and be able to fly back and forth to the races, so you can develop and maintain a very structured and consistent training program and build each week.
So if there is one race where you make some mistakes and some areas where you need improvement you can go home, you can work on those things, compared to the privateer kind of lifestyle where you’re on such a budget you have to basically go straight to the next race. And if there’s a track in-between then you get to ride and that’s great. But if it’s too far out of the way you may not be able to go there depending on how your finances are. Racing as a privateer is not just trying to do your best, you also have to do what you can to make sure you can get to the race, because that’s obviously the ultimate goal.
So for the last five years have you been driving to the Supercross races and the Nationals?
The last four years I basically had a different program each year. The first year I did it I drove to 7 rounds. That’s the most I’ve ever raced of the Nationals. This is my first time being out and racing Hangtown and Colorado. Last year for Supercross I rode the Lites class on the West Coast for the first six rounds and then I moved up to a 450 for three rounds heading back East. And then what I did from there was rather than chase every round I decided to stay home. I hired a personal trainer and I tried to get in the best shape I possibly could and did what I stated earlier, had a consistent program where I could ride and train rather than traveling all around.
Then I was going to try to hit the races that were closer to me and really focus on quality over quantity. Rather than race every one of them and struggle I was thinking that if I could race half of them and do much better then the entire season that would be more successful. This year I did it a little bit different. I decided to go and race the last half of Supercross, because I wanted to end up out in California right after Vegas and ride all the tracks in Southern California where all the top guys are. And then head up to Hangtown which is only an 8 hour drive and race the first couple outdoors. So, rather than have downtime in-between Supercross and Outdoors my strategy this year is just to stay on the circuit, stay on the program.
Ronnie at the Las Vegas SX.
So how many of the Nationals do you plan on racing at this point this year?
At this point the goal is 9. Basically every one with the exceptions of Washougal, Salt Lake City, and Lake Elsinore. I do have some people that back me that were talking about those rounds and it’s very possible that you will see me there, but I will definitely be doing the other 9 races for sure.
Do you have someone that’s helping you wrench at the races or are you doing all your own bike maintenance?
That’s something that’s always changing as well. There were some races where I was just by myself. Vegas was one of them. I do have a friend of mine, Kierra, she was actually a crewmember of some friends of mine and she brought my bike up to the line just so I could pack my gate. Some races I have some friends and family that are able to be there and help out, and some races I’m just by myself. But we’re working on trying to have somebody there for me at more of a regular basis. But for the most part I always have somebody for outdoors, but for Supercross there were a few rounds where I was by myself.
Some people debated over how do you classify a privateer, but I’m sure that nobody will question that you’re a true privateer. You’re doing it for the love of the sport I guess, do you still enjoy doing it at this point?
Absolutely. Obviously I am classified as a full privateer. I do it for, like you said, the love of the sport, and also this is a goal that I set out to do when I was younger and basically I want to finish what I started and do my best. At the end of the day as long as I can tell myself and my family that I didn’t leave any stones unturned, I tried my best in every possible way, I gave it enough time to try to better myself and get to the top level, as long as I can say that I did all that I can, I will hold my head up high and be very proud of the years that I put into it and the hard work. And I will have no regrets. So at this point moving forward it’s all about trying my best, having fun, and enjoying it.
Well, it’s been nice getting to know you a little bit. I think you could have a good fan following, you’ve got a great story. I think a lot of people would like to keep up with your results and how you’re doing. So, get on Twitter for me.
All right, sounds good, thanks for the call.
Anything else you want to say?
I would just like to thank everybody that’s ever helped me. I just want to comment a little bit about being a privateer. A lot of people talk about privateers and it’s almost like they feel bad for a privateer, and I just want to make it clear that even though we’re a privateer that classifies us as not a factory rider, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have so many people that help out. Every one of us privateers has a whole army of people that support them.
So I just want to thank everybody that has ever helped me in my racing career, from when I was amateur to professional, all the way up to present. I have a lot of people that believe in me and that make it possible. I definitely wouldn’t be able to do it on my own, so I really have to thank my friends and family and all my sponsors for doing everything they possibly can for me. Big shout out to them for sure.
You seem like a really sharp guy. It’s an uphill battle and it’s an inspiring story. You’ve made me a fan.
Absolutely. It’s an uphill battle but, like I said, I’m going to finish what I started. I’m not a quitter. When I found out how hard it really is to be a professional Motocross and Supercross racer, I’m not the kind of person that is just going to quit and back down and do something else. I’m going to keep at it, give it enough time for me. I’m not going to give up even though how tough it really is.
I don’t think there’s anyone that’s ever raced or even rode consistently… That didn’t question, how far could I have made it? I ask myself that sometimes. I never rode professionally, but that’s a question I’ll never have answered, and it’s something I’ll always wonder. How far could I have gone? Could I ever have qualified for a National? So I think it’s great you’re chasing your dream. I’ll never have the answers to those questions but you’re out there living it.
Absolutely. That’s one of my goals is to not say that when I’m older. Up until now, even if this weekend was my last race, I could honestly tell myself and look in the mirror that I really tried my best to utilize all my resources, done my best with everything, and create the best possible race effort that I can every single year that I’ve raced. I will definitely be able to, when I’m done racing, say that I tried my best and I utilized all my resources and I’m happy with where I’m at. Not everybody is a Ryan Villopoto. Not everybody is a Ricky Carmichael. Everybody comes from a different background. Everybody has a different story and different things happen to them.
And there’s a lot of luck involved in this sport as well. Even if you have all of the pieces to the puzzle that you need, well you still need luck on your side. You could have the slightest little injury that can set you back, and I’ve had my share of injuries. I just think that I’m happy where I’m at. Obviously I want to get better, but I’m doing the best I can and that’s it.
Thanks again Ronnie, have a safe drive good luck this weekend and get on Twitter. I want to thank Scott Lukaitis (Scott’s the Brand Manager for Bel-Ray but also the editor, owner, and chief content producer for NJ Motocross and a freelance photographer and writer) for getting me in touch with Stewart this is his job title. I realize Facebook is the least used social networking site in the world but Ronnie has one so if you happen to be on there give him a thumbs up, like or poke or whatever you call it.
Until Ronnie gets a twitter account which he’s promised me he would (I bet it’s a 50/50 chance) you can contact him via email at RSR (Ronnie Stewart Racing) firstname.lastname@example.org