The 2020 season is a big one for Orange Brigade's Daxton Bennick as he recently made the jump to the all-important Supermini classes. The Team Dunlop Elite rider has entered his last year on mini bikes following an impressive showing at the Loretta Lynn Amateur National Motocross Championship as he defended his title in the 85cc (10-12) Limited class after some intense battles with his buddy, Haiden Deegan. Bennick suffered a break to his tib/fib last fall and was forced to sit out the Thor Winter Olympics but he's recharged for 2020 after putting in some long hours at his private facility in North Carolina. Bennick has been fortunate enough recently to spin some laps with professional-caliber riders such as Chad Reed, Josh Hill, and Henry Miller, so he's certainly learning just what it takes to go fast at a high level. We were able to get on a phone call with Dax after he finished up his evening track prep in the dozer in order to get the lowdown on his latest training program, the mental struggle of battling with an injury, and his racing at the beginning of the season.
First of all, is it more or less kind of the same program for you or has the coronavirus pandemic affected your day-to-day schedule?
It's pretty much the same, honestly. I just literally go from my house to the track about every day so it's not too bad. It sucks 'cause after I ride I'd normally go get some food with my buddies or something, but I can't do that right now. Other than that really, it's pretty much the same. I just go to the track every day and ride and I've got my own gym there too, so it's all good.
What have you been doing with all of the extra free time and downtime you have now?
Yeah, it's getting warmer outside so it's about time to get out on the lake. I've just been hanging out with the fam, going to the track, some days I don't even ride. I'll just hang out and ride pit bikes a little bit and just do whatever really. It's been pretty laid back.
We saw on social media you've started manning some of the heavy equipment at your track. Talk a little bit about that.
Yeah, it's super fun. I'm gettin' better at it, I'm not great but I'm getting there. I can go out and fix something or whatever if my dad isn't there, so it's nice to know how to do that.
How have you been approaching training and riding right now? No one knows exactly when we'll be back racing and you have to find a little bit of a balance of not overdoing things while still staying prepared.
So, Buddy Antunez is coming in two days a week now and he keeps it light and pretty fun. There are a few people down here riding with me about every day. So I normally do like two days with him, do some motos and sections and stuff, and he helps out a lot. I probably take like a day off and then I'm actually getting a mountain bike, so I'll probably be doing that a little bit more. The rest of the days I'll do motos still, but find transfers, and Josh Hill comes out and rides. It's pretty sick, he's fun to ride with!
Who are you riding with mainly at your track right now?
So, (Chad) Reed's been coming up quite a bit actually and my dad let Henry Miller move in and he brought one of his buddies that’s in the Schoolboy class, his name's Cameron Skaalerud and he's pretty cool. They're living down there right now so I get to ride with them about every day and then some local friends that come and ride. My buddy Wristin (Grigg), he just turned pro and he's pretty fast so it's pretty much just the squad every day.
What's it like to have some established pros and fast guys like that to ride with?
It's definitely sick 'cause it keeps it entertaining and I can kind of gauge off their speed, 'cause they're going pretty fast. When we do motos, they'll start behind me and whenever they get around me I can kind of fall into it for a few laps with 'em. It definitely helps me, I can improve when they're in front of me 'cause they've got pretty good lines too.
Have you seen Josh Hill do anything on your track where you didn't even know it was possible?
Umm, he did this one really big supercross transfer. At my finish line, you turn and there's some whoops and then a berm and on the other side of the track there's a supercross triple and he hit the berm all to the supercross triple, it was pretty big. I didn't think he was going to do it and he did it on like his second run.
What was it like to rip Chad Reed's two-stroke with his graphics on it and everything? That had to be pretty cool.
Oh yeah, it was sick. That bike's fun too, it's pretty fast. It's probably faster than the 250F, but that was pretty cool. I fell over but (laughs) it was all good.
Speaking of falling over, how was the whole recovery process last year after breaking your tib/fib?
Yeah, it was crazy. Nate Thrasher and Sage Lewis were there whenever I hurt my leg. I was goin' fast that day and there was a little ski jump that was getting pretty rutted up and I just cross-rutted off of it. It was a pretty big crash and I ended up not needing surgery, but it was a long recovery it felt like. I couldn't do nothin' for a long time...like zero. Whenever I got my short cast it helped a little bit and I could start moving my leg a little bit more, started to get on the bicycle a little bit. It was long and it definitely sucked 'cause I couldn't ride but we got through it. It was cool hanging out at Mini Os, I've never really gone to a race and just hung out so it was pretty cool, but I was dyin' to race for sure.
You spent quite a bit of time on the 125 training at the end of last year, how do you like it?
It was sick! I love the 125 and that's what I've been riding lately. I like it. It definitely fits me better and I feel like I can ride it way better. The supermini was not working at all, I could not ride the thing. Even at Loretta's on the 85 I was struggling, I feel way more comfortable on the 125 and I can honestly move it around way better than the supermini 'cause the supermini is so little.
Did you feel like riding the 125 helped you on the supermini just to make it feel more agile and kind of more like a pit bike?
Yeah, yeah. Whenever it's littler it definitely feels more like a pit bike, but in my case, it wasn't good to ride the 125 and go back to the supermini 'cause I was too tall. I feel like if you fit the supermini and rode the 125, when you get back on the supermini it would make you ride it better. That's how I've always been -- when I was on an 85 I was more timid on it and then when I got back on my 65 I could pretty much hold it wide everywhere.
How did racing go for you at the beginning of this season?
Yeah, so Daytona was my first race back and originally we were going to do a qualifier...nobody really knows this but I broke two ribs, I didn't crash, I just cased a triple and it somehow broke my ribs. So I didn't do the qualifier and I showed up to Daytona and that was my first race, so it was kind of slow goin' getting back into everything and I definitely feel like I could've done a lot better, but it was my first race back so it wasn't that big of a deal. Then Spring A Ding Ding came around and I felt a lot better there because it was a track I could actually ride and I love that track, it's pretty sick! Everything got a lot more familiar when I got to Spring A Ding Ding, I think I got a 3rd overall and then I crashed in the other moto and got like an 8th. There are definitely some fast guys riding that class right now, so it was fun. I wish we would've got to do Freestone, I felt really good in practice but that didn't happen.
What do you like about the track down there at Underground MX?
For sure, that's definitely one of my favorites. The dirt is awesome and the jumps make it sick, too. It gets really good ruts and it gets pretty good ruts, too. I love that track; I'd like to just go there and ride one day!
You guys get to do a little bit of that for the Team Dunlop shoot. This will be your last year on the Team Dunlop Elite program, what has it meant to you to be with them these past years as an amateur?
Yeah, it's really cool. I always remembered that it was awesome when I was a little guy lookin' up to guys like Pierce (Brown) and some of those guys on superminis when it was probably their last year, too. It was awesome getting to ride with them and now I'm one of the bigger guys in the class. It's a sick program and Rob Fox is awesome and he's killin' it. That whole program just feels like family.
What do you think will happen with Loretta's this year? Have you seen the separate plans they have laid out?
Yeah, I heard about the Super Regional deal and then the qualifying at Loretta's. I think if we qualify at Loretta's that will be pretty crazy, there'll be a lot of people there. I'm not too big on that one but the Super Regionals sound pretty cool. That wouldn't be too bad, it actually sounds like a good idea.