Lance Kobusch has been a big name in the amateur motocross industry since his days on minibikes, earning support from Cobra and Team Green for the majority of his career before joining Suzuki a couple of years ago. The Missourian is facing an entirely new situation this year as he prepares to make his Monster Energy Supercross debut as a full privateer, sending it back to his early days of riding with him and his pops going to the track. Kobusch had some unique off-season preparation in comparison to some of his competition in the 250SX East division, heading over to Germany for the three-round ADAC SX Cup throughout November and December where he ended up taking the crown in the SX2 category. It was a big shot in the arm of confidence as he’s encountered some adversity due to injuries throughout the last few years, so he’s hoping that it will carry over into his upcoming professional supercross debut in America. We caught up with Lance to get the low-down on the entire experience over in Germany, the details on his program coming into 250SX East, and a freakish coincidence between himself and one of the other riders he shares a training facility with at Moto Sandbox.
First of all, I wanted to talk about the whole experience of you going over and racing in the ADAC SX Cup in Germany. How’d that whole opportunity come about and what was that experience like?
Dude, it all got started from Tyler Bowers and being buddies with him. He was honestly kind of like a dad for me over there. Everything happened so last minute, there was a little bit of talk about it but nothing was really set in stone. I didn't think it was going to happen and then they literally called me at like 12:30 PM and they're like "Okay, we want you to come over here," and I had to fly out the next morning! So I had to go get a physical, I had to get a doctors appointment, I had to have papers signed and notarized by the bank; everything aligned in half a day. Plus I had to pack and make sure everything was ready, and I went over there all by myself, you know. So it was honestly pretty nerve-wracking just to go over there by myself. But dude, Tyler was awesome for me over there 'cause our flights got in about the same time so I was able to meet up with him and they had everything taken care of. Any trouble or anything and Tyler just kind of guided me threw it all because he's been going over there -- if it wasn't for him, it would've been mad chaos for me. He just took me under his wing and showed me the ropes and yeah, goin' over there if you would've told me at the first round that I was going to win the championship I would've been like "Pfft, you're crazy. You're out of your mind." I had no idea what to expect. I didn't know if it was gonna be gnarly; if it was gonna be a little hinky-dink race in a barn or something, I had no idea. I get over there, dude, and I think I crapped myself when I saw the track. I had not been on a supercross track in about two years, hadn't ridden a Kawasaki in two years; zero preparation. I think I had ridden two or three times in the three weeks before...like everything was scattered. I was actually in the middle of building a garage with my dad whenever I got the phone call. So I go over there and I just looked at it like I'm going to have the best experience of my life -- win, lose, or draw; I'm just going to try and learn what I can from, not only from motocross but life in general, you know. I ended up doin' okay the first night, not really good, I was just super sketchy the first day honestly. (laughs)
How was the track compared to what you're used to riding over here?
Dude, so the dirt is like playdough...you get on the gas and it doesn't spin, it's just knobby marks, full traction. The rhythms and the whoops are no joke, like the second round we went to the whoops were brutal. I didn't even hit 'em the entire first practice. There were like three guys that tried it and they all crashed; they were big. It was pretty similar to Arenacross here in America, everything is pretty gnarly. It's just mad chaos; the racing is chaotic, the fans are chaotic. But it was so cool, the opening ceremonies were like a circus act. I don't know what they have for the speakers in their stadiums, but it seemed like it rocked the entire place. I'd get goosebumps before I would go and race.
What did you think about racing completely different competition than you’re used to?
It was cool because I didn't know anybody there, so I didn't pay any attention to them. It was kind of refreshing...instead of 'I've got Garrett Marchbanks on my back' or whoever; I know about 'em, I know how they ride, I've raced against 'em my whole life whereas over there I didn't know who anybody was so I'd just focus on myself, you know. It was pretty refreshing. One of the guys (Håkon Fredriksen) that I started to become friends with there at the end got 8th at Des Nations, dude, and he's like seventeen-years old or something. So it's pretty gnarly, there are some fast dudes over there. But it's so chaotic -- I'd say my consistency is what got me the championship in the end, just being there. I wasn't always settin' the world on fire; I was just makin' the mains and puttin' together solid laps.
There were three separate rounds, so did you live over there full-time during the series?
Yeah, so there are three weekends and there's the first night of racing and the second night of racing, but they count them as two separate points races. So altogether there'd be six rounds, but you go over there three times. I just flew over for the weekend every time except the second time I came a couple of days early and stayed a couple of days extra for vacation, and my stepmom was able to come with me on the last one. The amount of adversity I had out of those rounds was crazy. I crashed in practice of the first round I went to in the whoops, and I mean wadded myself up, just planted myself into the ground. Someone had crashed in the whoops and I tried to dodge 'em and I dolphin-dove headfirst into the ground, so that was the first night. Then in the second night, I came out feelin' good and I got the first night out of the way so I'm like "I'm gonna send it tonight." I go out there for my heat race and I was running 2nd and there was a guy in front of me who had been messin' with me the day prior; yelling at me, throwin' his hands up at me, and flippin' me off. He was right in front of me and I wanted to win just to prove myself, you know. So I make a fairly aggressive pass on him and if he would've checked up I don't think it would've been as bad, but he ended up goin' down, and I got disqualified. Because it was in the heat race they gave him my spot in the Main and made me go into the LCQ, so then I had dead last gate pick comin' into the Main and the start was like fifteen feet long. I came from last up to 3rd and I made the pass in the second-to-last corner, and the guy comes back and t-bones me and puts me straight over the berm. I got hung up in the tuff blocks but I still managed to hold onto 5th, so that was just a crazy hectic weekend. The next weekend I go there and in timed practice, I cross-rutted in one of the rhythms, land on some tuff blocks and sprain my wrist. Initially, I thought I broke it but I went and got it checked out and they said they didn't think it was broken, just sprained or something. It swelled up like a balloon though.
Did you deal with a language barrier at all when getting that checked out? That could be a little bit nerve-wracking.
Well, there was a guy on the team that spoke both English and German, so he translated everything. But honestly, most of the people over there speak enough English to get by and then when we'd go out to eat I know how to ask for water or chicken or whatever. So I had them check my arm out for me and it ended up super wrapped up where I couldn't even move it...like I had to move my whole arm, and this is at the second round with the crazy gnarly whoops everybody was struggling in. Dude, I couldn't hold on to save my life. They gave me some Ibuprofen over there but their medicine is not nearly as strong, so it was horrible. They put this IcyHot type stuff on it to try and numb it and it was a mess, I couldn't even hold on. I just survived the weekend and I actually ended up getting 2nd the second night. The first night, the track got super one-lined so I just rode around and got 5th, just managed it, you know. Even then thoughts of the championship were not even in my head, but I ended up leaving that round second in points because the points leader didn't make the Main one of the nights. So I come home from the second one and I've hardly been able to do any riding. There was this arenacross race by my house I'm gonna go hit up and then I'm gonna go to Albertson's and start doing some training. I wanna come in prepared for the last round and win the championship. So I go to this arenacross race and we go barrelling into the first corner and this guy slides out straight into me, cleans me out, somebody runs me over and I get knocked out. Then I couldn't ride and I was sittin' at home on the couch for two, two-and-a-half weeks and then the race is back up. I think I had two days on the bike and then I had to fly back over there, still no preparation, and I just came in mentally ready to win the championship. The stadium (in Dortmund) was a little bit bigger; the track was way more high speed and the French series just ended so there were a lot more people there, plus more Americans came over for that one, and I was still able to pull out the championship. So I was just absolutely ecstatic with that, you know. If I'm gonna be honest, the past couple years in motocross for me have been a struggle to say the least. I've been pourin' my heart and soul into this sport for many, many, many years. It's literally been my life since I was three-years-old and I don't remember anything without it. It's been a long, dark road the past couple of years so to be able to win something was just huge for me mentally -- to feel like all the days I don't want to get out of bed, all the days that nobody sees where I'm still grinding it out, to feel a little bit of satisfaction from that was just huge for me. Especially, I feel like it gives me a little momentum coming into the supercross season. The gate drops, the different tracks, the racecraft, and the whole experience together; I've grown as a rider immensely in the past few months, you know, so I'm hopin' it's giving me good momentum comin' into supercross. I'm trying to come in with a very open mindset but then again there's always that pressure I put on myself to wanna go out there and perform, just because it's my dream and it's what I work for every day -- it's what I want the most in the world. So there's always that pressure but then again, I'm comin' in this year practicing on a stock KTM that I bought with my money from my local dealership and that's what I'm going to be racing on. I've been riding for teams since I was six years old; I rode for Cobra and then I rode for Kawi, so I don't have the pressure of the team or anything on me.
Is it a nice change of pace for you coming into Monster Energy Supercross this year to not really have a lot of expectation weighing you down? So much of your amateur career you were expected to win every time you hit the track and I know that’s where you strive to be, but do you feel like there’s almost less pressure coming into the pros because of the situation?
Oh, for sure. I can go out there and do the worst that I could possibly do and I'm in the exact same shoes that I'm in. I feel like, and it's horrible to say, but I feel like I've fallen all the way down the ladder with injury after injury after injury for so many years straight now. It's just been a huge struggle for me and I feel like I've fallen all the way down, so now it's just me and my pops again goin' to the track, and I'm trying to bring that energy that I came into motocross with when I first started. We started 'cause we loved it, you know. All these guys that are racin' on the weekends are doin' it because they get paid, if you think I'm makin' a dime you're out of your mind. I'm losing money doing this, I'm just doing it because it's my dream. It's something I've chased for so long, but man I've been puttin' my heart and soul into it for a long time and especially these past few months tryin' to get ready. From injuries to goin' over to do the German stuff, I'm halfway through my second week of supercross so I'm a little bit behind comin' into it but I'm just gonna give it everything I have and try to do it smart; try and surround myself with the best people that I can have, you know, which is my dad and family.
I thought it was pretty funny that you and Joey Crown went from racing each other at the Baja Brawl and the two of you are battling it out in the German SX Championship a couple of months later. He did pretty well in the MX2 class at some of the other off-season races, is that something you’d entertain doing in the future?
For sure. They gave me the invite to go back next year and I'm gonna do whatever I can to be able to go back. Yeah, if I can go over there and make a little bit of money...sweet! If it can help buy a few parts for my bike here...sweet, but just the experience alone and the friends that I've made over there. It's so much different over there, just the entire atmosphere and the people from the teams and everything. Everybody's so cool! After the races, the whole team goes out to dinner and we all hang out, joke around, and it's cool because we have people from England, France, Germany, and all over on the same team. So to learn about the different cultures on that side of things was super, super cool.
What was your favorite part about Germany away from the races in terms of sightseeing or food and things of that nature?
The schnitzel is my favorite German food; they said that's as German as it gets and it is quite fantastic! I haven't really traveled out of the country a whole lot; I've been to France and the Bahamas, but that's really it. Just how different it is from America and it's cool over there to see everything, how everybody gets around by trains and scooters, not necessarily cars all the time. It's cool how unique it is. It was such a cool experience just learning about it, going and seeing stuff like the giant cathedrals they have there, it's just mind blowing. It seems like they have such a cool history, you know. When we were there, they found bombs from World War II in the city (Dortmund) that we were staying in! I guess they still find bombs all the time when they're doing construction, they'll be diggin' and sometimes they'll just the bombs and some will explode, like some are still live. Dude, they found six of them in Dortmund!
I saw on your Instagram that you spent a little time riding at Club MX and now you’re down in Florida at Moto Sandbox to get dialed in for 250SX East. Just talk a little bit about what you’ve been up to since you got back from Germany and preparing for your supercross debut here in the States.
Yeah, we've been a little bit scrambled just trying to get everything together to make sure everything's aligned and everything's gonna work out, just gettin' everything organized. That's all completely new to me because I've always had teams take my stuff to the track, so I'm trying to figure out rides to the track, how we're going to get there, what days we're gonna leave, and how we'll have stuff planned out to save as much money as we can. After I got back from Germany, I think I took about a day to unpack and repack and then went straight to Club to do some suspension testing. That was super cool, I've heard a lot of things about their facility over the years so it was cool to finally be able to go there. It's really, really nice. Then I came down here (to Florida) and I have a cousin that lives in Orlando, so that's who I'm living with right now. He's got a spare room in his house that he's letting me stay in, so it's nice 'cause I get family, you know. I'm livin' with family and I'm about an hour from the Sandbox, so they were nice enough to give me an opportunity to train there. I mean, Ken Roczen, Adam Cianciarulo, Chase Sexton, Alex Martin -- there are some bad dudes that train there, you know. If they can make it happen from there then I should be able to, too. I think being around fast guys will be good and dude, the tracks are epic. They are so sick! Like I said, I'm trying to surround myself with the best people I can and I think that's huge. So I've been staying down there and my cousin's got a membership down at the local gym, so I'll in LA Fitness grindin' out every day. I'm trying to find that happy medium from life and dirt bikes. Trust me, I'm puttin' in the work. I'm riding my butt off but on my days off it's nice to not be at a training facility and be somewhere where I can spend time with family, like we went and played golf the other day. You need the normal life stuff to kind of recharge and keep it fresh, so I'm gonna put my heart and soul and everything I have into this -- me, my family, my dad, we all are. Hopefully, it pays off and hopefully, I'll come into supercross with some good positive energy and just do the best that I can do.
You’ve been riding with Chase Sexton lately and you two are around the same age and grew up in the same area, raced against each other as kids; how cool is it to be riding with him again except now he’s the defending 250SX East Champion?
Yeah, dude. It's so crazy how my life has gone. It all started by a KTM Mini-Adventure from the local motorcycle shop, you know? And going racing with Austin (Forkner), Chase (Sexton), and all these guys that I grew up with. Then the crazy road I've been on and it all looped back around to buying a KTM from the local dealership and riding with Chase every day. But yeah, Chase has gotta be the nicest dude out there on the track -- out of everybody that races, he's gotta be one of the coolest dudes I know -- just a good genuine person, plus he's a bad dude on a dirt bike. It's pretty insane, I remember driving down the road and hanging out, playing with toy dirt bikes talkin' about racing supercross one day, and that he has turned that into a reality. And he's now a supercross champion and it seems so real to me, you know? Like I can make it happen. It's really been huge and motivating me to work harder, and harder, and harder. All that aside, Chase is still Chase. He's still the same dorky kid that I grew up with, you know? We're always gonna be moto buddies like forever. It's been so cool to be back with him because it's been a long time since I've really been able to hang out with him again, but yeah dude I'm so ecstatic about where I'm at and what's going on, and it's crazy how life has this way of working itself out. Out of all the dark roads I've been on, all the struggles I've gone through; it's always a blessing in disguise. At times it's been hard and trust me, I've wanted to be done racing -- I've been like "Maybe I'm not cut out for it, maybe it's not for me," and we all have self-doubt, but there's no quit in me.
I’ve got something that’s too big of a coincidence not to bring up. #194 on a KTM, fresh off the plane from Germany, rookie supercross season...
I see where you're goin'...
Did you pick that number intentionally as a little nod to Ken Roczen?
No, it was not intentional. So what's crazy is I'm from St. Louis, he's from Germany. He won the St. Louis Supercross the same night that I won the German Supercross series. What else is crazy is that I'm a purebred German, like my great-great-grandma came over to America from Germany to St. Louis then she had a kid with a German, then she had a kid with a German, etc...so I'm pure German too. The whole number deal -- I had a whole list of numbers and I went through the whole list and they didn't have any of them. I had all kinds of stuff picked out that I could relate to and I also want a number that I think looks cool on the bike. I was tryin' to think of something and I had this friend that used to race that I was really good friends with and he was #195, so I was like "What about 195?" and they were like "Well, we have 194," and I just started laughing and I was like "Wow, this is going to be perfect." It's so bizarre that that was the one that they had, so I guess it's just meant to be. The KTM deal is bizarre too because I wanted to ride Husky -- I tested out this Husky for a minute and I thought it was sick, so I came back and thought if we're gonna do this full privateer deal I want to ride a Husky but the problem is that the local dealership doesn't sell Husqvarnas, just KTMs but they're like the same thing. So I had to be tied in with that so I was like "Crap, alright. We're gonna go with KTM!" Of course, I was with Shift (Fox) and then I had to leave them and go with Suzuki so as soon as that contract was up I called Aaron and I was like "Yo, dude. What do I have to do to come back? I love you guys, you guys hooked me up." and he was like "I got you, I'm sendin' you gear right now." It's so weird how all it all lined up but I'm comin' in (to my rookie supercross season) #194 on a KTM wearing Fox gear exactly like Ken Roczen. And what's weird is people tell me I look like a young Roczen all the time, like I'm not just saying that. I've always tried to have my own style -- cool, good energy, throws cool whips, crazy style; then Ken comes over here when I was little and was exactly what I was tryin' to be, and I was like "What the heck?!" So instantly I was a Ken Roczen superfan and now I end up at the same place as him with the same number, on the same bike, in the same gear, both of us German, and I was like "This is so crazy." Not a single thing was intentional. Everybody is going to be like "He's trying to be like him," but then again if I can be like Ken Roczen, I'll take it.
Do you have a specific stadium that you’re most looking forward to riding in? I bet you’re a little bit bummed that they made St. Louis a west coast round this year.
Yeah, I'm beyond butt hurt about that. I'd say the second home for me would be Texas. I rode there a lot when I was growing up because it was always too cold in Missouri and I spent a lot of time there too. It's like my home away from home so I'd say Dallas is kind of like a home race for me. Even though I'm living in Florida right now, you could say Tampa, but Florida isn't like a home for me. Texas is more of a home. Growin' up in your hometown, from riding bikes and stuff like that, you know things from ridin' bikes like where there's a good lip on the sidewalk where you can jump it, you know all the streets; well I had that in Texas growin' up. Devin (Xindaris) is like my brother and I spent a lot of time down there with him when we were little and me and him would just tear up the towns ridin' bikes and that sort of thing, so I'd say Dallas is one I'm looking forward too. But it kind of sucks it's a Triple Crown.
Do you have any plans regarding the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship or are you just focused on getting through SX at the moment?
I don't think I'm doing outdoors. I don't come from a rich family and it's so expensive. If anything, I was going to hit up Millville and maybe Redbud. I've raced at Millville since I was on like 65s and I feel like that's a track that not a whole lot of people ride all the time. So I might go there and throw down once, see what it's like, but we'll see. I think I have some decent outdoor speed and I know a few tricks out at Millville, so maybe I'll go try a few outdoors but for the most part, I don't have the money for that. My whole goal is to go through this season, gain experience, and do the best I can -- maybe get some support out of that, if not then I honestly make way more money doing like little local races and stuff. Or if I have to go help my dad build some more garages then maybe I'll do that, too. (laughs)