SETH HAMMAKER: I GOT NEXT
Seth Hammaker has been a regular contender at the top of the A class, establishing himself as one of the hottest properties in amateur motocross the last couple of seasons after signing with Team Green Kawasaki and eventually penning a deal with the Pro Circuit squad to bring him into the professional ranks. The Pennsylvania native was forced to postpone his debut on the professional scene after struggling with multiple shoulder injuries throughout the 2019 season, effectively forcing him to scrap his entire year and start over. Although Hammaker would’ve been competing in the 250SX East category this season alongside former amateur competitors such as Jo Shimoda, Pierce Brown, and Jalek Swoll; he’s choosing to look at the positives that came as a result of his longest layoff from racing since he was four years old. He quickly proved that his work down at the Goat Farm has been paying off when he claimed number one plates at Daytona and Spring A Ding Ding early in the season, but things were cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic and as we all know, motorcycle racing along with the rest of the world remains on pause. We caught up with Seth to chat about being back at the races this year, training with Aaron Plessinger, and his eventual pro debut in the 250 class.
INTERVIEW BY: LAKE KILPATRICK
What have you been doing with all of your extra free time lately because of this lockdown period?
Honestly, nothing has really changed a whole lot for me because I can still do my daily routine. I'm still down in Florida at the Farm and we're still riding four days a week, still doing our training. One of the only things that has been different is that our gyms are closed, so it's been more cycling and stuff like that. To pass the time, shoot...I don't even have a Playstation or Xbox so it's pretty boring around here.
I'm sure by the time you're done training for the day, you just want to relax and reset...
For sure, but luckily as of now, we're still able to ride. There's a lot of people that aren't able to ride or ride as often, so luckily down here we're able to keep it going.
Have you had time with all of this going on to hop on MX Simulator and challenge Logan (Leitzel)?
I think in arcade mode I could probably beat him, but I dunno. He's pretty good.
Yeah, he's got a lot of hours of practice put into that.
Yeah, too many hours. (laughs)
One of the biggest issues for everyone has been food -- I know you’re in an apartment by yourself down there, are you cheffing it up or ordering lots of takeout?
I'm doing a lot of cooking at home. I do that normally, sometimes I do takeout but I don't do that too often. I'm not a big fan of cooking, but you gotta get it done. It's good for the diet because you know exactly what you're cooking.
What’re your go-to meals to cook at home?
I do a lot of chicken and rice, tacos, sometimes fish, but yeah...not a whole lot. Pasta, just stuff like that.
How has all of this affected your day-to-day life in Tallahassee and training at the Goat Farm?
Yeah, as of right now it's tough to do any of our strength workouts with the gyms being closed down because here at my apartment I don't have any weights or anything to do that. I've been replacing that with a little bit more bike rides; mountain bike rides and road bike rides. Besides that, the stores have been pretty empty but they're restockin'. It was funny when I got back from Freestone, I didn't have much food in my apartment so I went to the store and I couldn't believe how picked over everything was. Now that everything has kind of settled back down, it's better now. It still feels kind of normal, everyone is still out and about in Tallahassee it seems like...I don't know if they should be or not.
When all of this isn't going on, what’s your typical program like down there throughout the week?
Normally, we do four days a week on the bike; Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday is a normal week, weather depending. We do cardio about three times a week off the bike and some strength training, we try to do that two times a week. That's basically our normal training right now and we're kind of ramping it up here to see what we're getting ready for next, it's hard to tell. We don't know what we're training for yet, but we'll see.
So you kind of have to find a balance because you don't want to burn yourself out training too hard with no races coming up.
Absolutely. Yeah, if we just never know what's coming up you can't just run yourself into the ground for four months of offseason training, but you still gotta keep in shape and keep the riding going.
Is Jeannie (Carmichael) as gnarly as all of the stories I've heard about her?
Yeah, she's pretty gnarly. (laughs) She's definitely all about it and she's out there every day at the Farm when we ride and Ricky (Carmichael) also comes out twice a week most of the time just to help us out with sections and technique. He'll come out to help us and make sure everything's going good, but most of the time it’s Jeannie out there that kind of runs the program. Then I use Rob Beams for my off the bike stuff and everything is working out well. Jeannie and Rob are on the same page and we're all kind of making sure everyone is on the same page so we can get the end result that we want, so it's been good.
Does Ricky go out there and throw down ever? It looks like he's getting back into good riding shape.
Oh, dude he definitely has been. He's been cycling a lot and he hasn't been on the bike in a while that I've seen him, but I know he can still go pretty fast when he hops on. (laughs) He's been cycling a lot, we went on a mountain bike ride last week and that was pretty fun. He's a good dude to be around for sure.
I have to imagine when you first get down there, as a kid your age who grew up watching him dominate on TV, it has to be a little bit surreal.
It's definitely wild, like you said growin' up watching him dominate and now training with him and going on mountain bike rides with him -- it's pretty awesome. I try to learn as much as I can from him, he knows what he's talking about. He's been through a lot and he's got a lot of knowledge and experience about the sport.
I saw that Aaron Plessinger has started riding there recently, what’s it like having a guy of that caliber to spin some laps with? This is your last year as an amateur, so it must be nice to have an established pro like that to gauge your speed.
Yeah, I was pumped when I heard he was going to come and he's been riding with us for a few weeks now. He's a super nice guy, really chill, but works hard at the same time. Just being around him, riding with him, and learning from him -- obviously he's been a top guy in the 250 class and now jumping up to the 450 class, making his move up there -- I love riding with him and he's definitely fast. It keeps me pushing and it's the same with Joey (Savatgy). He just got back on the bike, too, and he's only been at it for like four days now but he's getting his speed back. It'll be really nice to have those two pushing me and hopefully I can push them as well.
That's sweet to have two top 450 guys like that to kind of kick your ass a little bit in training because when you get to the races and you're on an even playing field against other 250s, you're ready to give that right back. (laughs)
Dude, yeah. We're riding out here and we're doing our motos and stuff and sometimes it's like you said, you're just getting smoked...I mean, not smoked but you just kind of feel that way. At the same time, it's all good even though you want to be as fast as those guys, it takes time. Once you get to the races, it's going to be hopefully so much easier and I'll be that much more prepared.
It must be tough right now for you not to be able to go racing with all of this stuff going on. Was that the longest layoff of your career last year with both of your shoulder injuries?
Yeah, it was the longest time I've been off the bike since I started racing and riding when I was four years old. It was crazy! I had injuries growing up but nothing with that amount of time off and recovery; it was about six months off the bike.
Are you dying to just get back to racing at this point? You had a lot of success at both Daytona and Spring A Ding Ding at the beginning of the season, so it must be tough to not be able to carry that confidence into the next race.
Yeah, it is. It's really tough and man, everyone wants to know what's going to be next but I guess we just gotta wait it out and see what happens.
A lot of the other major sports organizations are saying August or September in terms of getting fans back in stadiums, but like you said we'll just have to wait and see.
Yeah, I don't know how that's going to work for the outdoor season, too. It's not in a stadium but it's still a big gathering. Plus, riders are in contract until October normally and if other people already have other deals, if they're racing after October then the rider isn't obligated to race, you know.
What did you think about Marchbanks taking the win this year? Obviously this is a guy that you’ve battled closely with throughout amateurs, a teammate of yours, so it’s gotta give you a little bit of confidence seeing him going out and performing at that level.
That was really cool to see and I was pretty pumped for him, too. It gave me some confidence, you know; I raced with him and battled him and then he goes out and is at the top level in supercross. I was super pumped for him and it shows me moving forward that if he can do it then I'm looking to do the same, so I'm definitely looking forward to that level. I can't wait!
It sucks with the injuries you had, because you were already anticipating making your pro debut this year and then now all of this is going on.
I was thinking about that, too, since I was supposed to go pro this year. Now that all of this is going on, I'm kind of glad I didn't. It kind of worked out for me to get more experience, because I want to make sure I'm ready to go into the pros but with all of the coronavirus stuff, it would've been a weird first season anyways.
You ended up getting one championship at Daytona and this is the second year in a row you’ve done really well there. How does it feel to know that next year you’ll be going back and racing on Saturday night if you end up doing 250SX East?
Yeah, I can't wait. The past few years I've been there racing the RCSX and every year I'm like "Next year's gonna be the year, next year's gonna be the year," and then last year I was there like "Next year is for sure going to be the year!" But I was back there watching on Saturday, so it'll just make that day way better when I get to race on Saturday.
Has it been strange for you not to have Supercross to watch on Saturday nights recently? I know it’s been super weird for me.
It's been pretty boring and that's something I look forward to every week, especially when it gets down to the championship, 'cause we'd be in the final few rounds here soon.
Yeah, and the battle for the title in the 450SX class was looking so good this year...
Oh yeah, I think so, too. You really can't afford to get hurt during the outdoor season if you're one of those guys.
This was your first year out at Underground MX for Spring A Ding Ding. What was your first impression of the whole event?
Yeah, first year there and it was definitely super fun. The track was unreal; it was gnarly rough and the dirt was just awesome. I really enjoyed that and the event was good. There were longer motos for us and I just had a good time. I feel like everyone there had a fun weekend, so...
The track there seems to be a rider favorite, did you like the layout?
Oh yeah, we did have some rain and that didn't even affect the track, it probably helped it out more than it hurt it. They would always rip it super deep like right away in the morning and make sure it had enough moisture, then the rest of the day it stayed good. They didn't have to go through and fix everything because the ruts were super good and it was a good rough where it wasn't super sketchy. It was like slow you down kind of rough, the ruts were deep, and I thought it was good. They barely had to throw any water on the whole weekend, so it was awesome.
Are you glad you guys weren’t jumping the hip jump on race days and you didn’t have to send it?
Yeah, dude for sure! It was kind of fun for a little while, but the first time I hit it I was kind of scared a little bit. (laughs)
Dude, yeah! (laughs) I watched you the first time you hit and I could tell...
Yeah, 'cause you're blind going up it and you can't see the landing and you don't wanna get sideways, but it's kind of fun after you get it down. It saves a lot of time that's for sure.
How’d the racing go that weekend from your perspective? There were quite a few fast kids in the A-class and you had some good battles, but ended up coming away with both championships.
Yeah, it was good. I even liked how practice was timed qualifying which is super beneficial; I like doing that wherever it is. The racing was good, I had good starts all weekend and just kind of was trying to ride smooth and smart. The A class had a good turn out and I was kind of surprised how many guys there were, that's always good to see 'cause it's hard to get a good turn out at some of the events. The racing was good in general, I had a good time and it was a good experience for me to get more laps at a national level coming back (from injury) like this, so I had a good time.
As we talked about, next year you'll be turning pro. What's the outdoor track you're looking forward to racing most and what's the city you're looking forward to racing in most?
Yeah, so outdoors I'd have to say I'm looking forward to racing Redbud. It's probably just one of my favorite tracks in general and the atmosphere and the fans there are pretty crazy it seems like. I've never been there for a pro race...
You didn't go to des Nations?
I didn't...but it just seems like a super fun time so that's one I'm looking forward to.
You call yourself a motocross fan and didn't even go to MXDN in your own back yard? (laughs)
(laughs) Yeah, I know. As far as supercross goes, that's a tough one, man. Dallas looks pretty sweet, I've never been there. People always talk about how big it is.
What about Unadilla? That'll be your debut if everything goes to plan with the scheduling. Personally, I think that's one of the gnarliest tracks on the outdoor calendar.
Yeah, that's definitely one I'm looking forward to. Like you said, it could be my first one and the ruts look gnarly; they get long and deep and it looks super crazy. Also, I know people say the roost hurts there so maybe I'll throw some handguards on. If I'm gonna be out front, we won't need 'em. It always seems like the rain has something to say there and I've never ridden the pro track; I've raced the amateur track twice but it'd be cool because it's my first pro race and I've never raced that track which will be interesting. It's always fun to do that.
So, Budds Creek is going to be considered your home race?
Yeah, Budds would be the closest one. It's even closer than High Point even though High Point is in Pennsylvania, but it's on the complete opposite side from where I'm at. It's one I'm looking forward to because I know there are going to be a lot of people there. I do like Budds as a track, it's a fun layout. I'm definitely looking forward to having a lot of family and friends there as well, I've been thinking about that for the last couple of years.
Is that the kind of stuff that's keeping you going through quarantine right now?
It really is, honestly. I just gotta think about that stuff. I've been watching so many GoPro videos of the outdoor season the last couple of years, like Cianciarulo and guys like that. It's just keeping me going and I'm trying to learn that pace from a GoPro. I'm not sure if it's really the same, but I'm trying to comprehend what it's going to be like. I'll do that while I'm working out and it passes the time and it's obviously something I'm interested in, so it keeps the workout a little bit more fun and it pushes you, too.
Last year especially, have you started to pay more attention to the 250 class in terms of studying the competition to absorb as much as possible?
I've always liked watching the 250 class more than the 450 class -- I just think the 250 guys are just sendin' it more, they have more to prove working towards a 450 ride and earning a spot on a team. It kind of reminds me of college football vs the NFL, I like watching college football more for the same reason. They're not getting paid the big bucks but they're working towards the NFL. Anyways, for sure I've been studying the 250 class to see what they're doing and see what it takes to be up front 'cause it's one thing to jump in there...I think all of the rookies expect to be up front right away and sometimes it catches some of the guys off guard how fast those guys are. Some of the top guys have a lot of experience, it takes a little while but we'll see what happens and I'm definitely hoping to be up front right away.
You're right about the 250 class. As a photographer who has stood next to the first corner on many 250 starts, it's pretty intense.
Yeah, there's no feeling like that, you know. I feel like a lot of the feeling you get on the starting gate is just the unknown of what's going to happen. As much as the nerves might get to you, you just don't know. For some reason, I like that feeling. It doesn't matter who you're racing. Before any gate drop, if you're at a local race and you're the fastest guy there or you're at a pro race, I still get the same amount of nerves honestly. That's just the way you feel on the gate.
Who would you like to thank for helping you out?
Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green, Pro Circuit, Fox, Bell, Scott, CTI, Dunlop, Renthal, Maxima, Hinson, Acerbis, AP Designs, Throttle Syndicate, Uni Filter, VP Racing Fuel, Motion Pro, Specialized, OGIO, Ryno Power, Ethika