Austin Black sailed smoothly through the 2019 season in the B class, collecting overall podiums and number one plates at the majority of the big races that he attended throughout the year. The Oregon native had some success under the Bar X Chaparral Motorsports Suzuki squad, notably winning titles at Freestone and Mammoth. Black also won a moto in the 450 B class at Loretta Lynn’s, but a DNF in the first moto left him out of contention for the overall. Since moving up to the A class, he has put together his own program and switched to KTMs, immediately feeling comfortable on the new bike. His confidence was apparent at the beginning of the year during Supercross Futures and Black also has newfound confidence in his program as he recently started conducting his off the bike training with Broc Tickle. We had a conversation with Austin to catch up on what he’s been doing during the lockdown, his move up to the A class, and when he plans on making the step up to the professional ranks.
What have you been up to during the recent quarantine to keep yourself from going insane?
I just started training with Broc Tickle off the bike so that's been going really well. I've been making a lot of progress with that and I'm training with J Whipple now, so I just changed up my program a little bit. I've been riding a lot; the tracks just opened up here so we're able to go ride some tracks now instead of riding the hills, but it's been good, man. I'm just keepin' the ball rollin'.
Was that your go to when the tracks were shut down -- just go do your own thing up in the hills?
Yeah, pretty much. I went home for a couple of weeks to Oregon to see my parents and took a little break. I got back down here about three weeks ago and I was hittin' the hills for a good two weeks, and it was good for the first week 'cause it was rainin' a lot but yeah, I've been just trying to figure it out anyway I can.
Did you change your program up and start working with Broc when you got back from Oregon?
Yeah, about two and a half weeks ago I started training with him. It's been really cool just to see what that kind of dude's program is and to be along with it. It's kind of special just to see what he does and I learn so much from him with my body and other little things. I'm able to ask him questions about the championship he won and you know, just that stuff.
Yeah, there's definitely confidence in having confidence in your program.
For sure, I got a really good base goin' on right now so I'm really happy with that.
You didn't do any of the races during the springtime at the beginning of this year, were you planning on doing Freestone before it got canceled?
Yeah, we were actually there about two days before practice and everybody was talking about the coronavirus and we were trying to figure out if it was gonna get canceled. We ended up taking off the day before practice just 'cause we kind of had a feeling what was going to happen so we took off. I was planning on doing that, but my next step is probably Loretta's and then just hit the outdoors after that.
When you got back to California at that time, did you take some time off of the bike or continue your normal training routine?
Actually, when I got back those were my first days training with J Whipple so I rode those few days with him and figured out that's what I wanted to do. At that point, my bike needed to get all re-freshened up so I just went home to take a break and then I just came back here and got back to it.
We were just talking to Preston Kilroy the other day and he mentioned training with J Whipple. Who else have you been riding with?
Yeah, Kilroy and Schwartzy (Dilan Schwartz). But he's got a lot of people, Jo Shimoda trains with him too and he's got a bunch of fast guys. It's pretty cool to ride with those dudes, it's badass! I love it.
Obviously the absence of racing has created a bit more free time, what have you been doing in your downtime?
Dude, my life pretty much consists of riding dirt bikes and training. I go out and ride my mountain bike and road bike. I come home -- I just got a little dog, so I play with my dog. I don't really play much Xbox or anything, so I've just been staying focused and trying to figure out what I want to do this year, make sure that I've got everything goin' good. My main focus is my racing right now.
Last year at Mammoth, you won the title in the 250 Open class. That was a pretty hectic race and it was apparent that it meant a lot to you on the podium, talk a little bit about that race.
Yeah, that was a really fun week. I ended up winning that title at the end of the week and throughout the beginning of the week I was getting 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 2nd. You know, I felt it comin' and I was riding really good. I was having a good day on that last day and I just had a feeling like "Dude, I got this." We went off the start and Stilez (Robertson) was out front; we had a good battle goin' for like three laps and I ended up passing him. During that moto right after I passed him my rear brake went out, so I was stressin' out big time. When I got up on the podium I started getting emotional 'cause I was so excited, I wanted that big bear so bad!
That massive downhill had to be pretty gnarly with no rear brake.
There was one moto I actually lost my rear brake and got a flat tire and I hung on for 3rd. It was horrible. I love it though, that's my favorite race of the year.
Last year at Loretta's you would have been in the running for the title in 450 B if not for a DNF in the first moto. Regardless, you still came back and won the final moto in that class but it had to be a little bittersweet.
Yeah, that would've been good. That first moto was like the hardest moto I've had in my entire life. I got a bad start and ended up catchin' up, but there are so many people in the back; it's so hard. I got cleaned out like three times.
Was that the one where you got your bike tangled together with another rider in the corner right before the mechanic's area?
Ooooh yeah, that was the first moto! That's when I got cleaned out in the mechanic's area and I've never gotten hit so hard in my life, dude. He knocked my gloves off like that never happens. It was crazy.
What was the thought process behind switching to the KTM after Loretta's and parting ways with the Bar X Chaparral Motorsports Suzuki team?
I mean, I had a good run on the Suzuki for sure. It was a good team to be a part of and they are good people runnin' it, but it was just time for me to switch and get something new. I rode KTMs all of my career before I got on Suzukis so I automatically loved it. I felt right at home on the KTM for sure, I definitely made a lot more progress on it and I just feel more comfy. I think it'll set me up better for my future and I'm more confident on it, you know.
Do you have anyone helping you out with that this year or did you put together your own privateer effort of sorts?
Yeah, so my real dad's out of the picture and he's been out of the picture for a while. My stepdad -- he stepped up and he's one of my best friends -- he's helpin' me with everything on my racing. He gets me bikes and helps get all of that set up for me, so it's been working out really good.
How was the transition to the A class for you starting off at AZ Open?
Actually, I had my first A class race at Top Gun at Washougal and that was like a full gate all weekend, so that was pretty cool. Freddie Noren, Ryan Breece, Derek Kelley, Chris Howell, Devin Harriman -- just a bunch of local dudes, like super fast privateers. It was badass, I really didn't even know what to expect. In the 450 class, I got 2nd place behind Noren and in the 250 class, I won all three motos so that was a confidence booster for me.
That probably helped your confidence for the AZ Open, what was it like getting down there and racing the usual competition?
AZ Open was good. That was actually my first race on the KTM and I had about a week on it. It honestly went really well, I progressed all week long. I went from like 4ths to 2nds, runnin' with the top kids, and I just kept getting better and better throughout the week and that's all I could ask for because of what we were workin' with. I think I got a 3rd and a 4th overall I believe -- I mean, I was happy with it. I was gonna push forward from that and we're onto the next one still, but there hasn't been a race since that really except for the Supercross Futures.
Was it nice going into the AZ Open where the pressure was off a little bit without many expectations for yourself?
It was definitely nice. I had no nerves; I wasn't expecting anything out of myself but I know where I should be. I felt good, I wasn't expecting to win and if I won then I won and that'd be cool. There were some motos I was winning and I made some mistakes and went down, but it is what it is. It's just part of learning, but it was cool not having any pressure like that. That's always nice.
How many Supercross Futures did you do and how'd those go for you at the beginning of the season?
So I did Glendale and Oakland. Glendale was cool actually just being in that stadium, being surrounded by everything; it felt really cool even if it was during the day or whatever. That was a really good weekend, I was winning the first Heat Race and I ended up eating crap on a triple. But I bounced back in the Main and got 2nd, so I got my first points there and 1st and 2nd, got that invitation to Monster Cup, so I got that which was cool. Oakland went really good, I got 3rd in my Heat and won my Main. That was a solid race, I ended up just getting the holeshot and puttin' it together and I got all my points there.
As someone in the Futures class getting ready to make the transition to Supercross, what'd you think of the tracks?
I mean, I think they did as best as they could on the tracks. You know, we've got 50s and Vet guys ridin' it, but I honestly had fun on the tracks. They were just enough to have a good time and do different stuff to pass people. I think it was good. I grew up ridin' arenacross when I was on 50s and stuff, so I'm kind of used to all that. I had a blast ridin' that stuff.
What do you think about the Super Regional format that MX Sports has imposed?
I think that'd be pretty cool. It'd really pick the right kids out to go to Loretta's, I think. It'd be nice to get lined up next to some of the kids you normally wouldn't race until Loretta's and get the feeling.
What're your plans for the end of the year following Loretta's and the 2021 season?
Yeah, I plan on going to Loretta's and I want to kill it. That's my main goal and we'll just kind of see what happens after that. I'm for sure going to race the rest of the outdoors after that and one of the main ones that I really want to hit is the Washougal National since it's my home race. That's a goal for me this year and then we're just kind of playing it by ear for next year. I'm obviously going to go race Supercross, I'm just not sure when or how yet. I'm planning on gettin' there, I just don't really know the process of how I'm going to get there yet. I'm gonna keep rollin' with what I got now and put all my work into it and hopefully get something good out of it.