Jace Kessler had a strong year during the 2019 racing season competing in the B class for the final time. The Michigan native started the year off with multiple podiums at the Daytona RCSX and Freestone, setting the tone for a successful year of competition. He put his head down throughout the summer and came into Loretta Lynn’s firing on all cylinders, laying it all on the line in the 450 B Limited class in the hunt for a title, coming out with a 2nd place overall. Kessler shook it off and turned things around at the Baja Brawl a few weeks later, putting it on in his home state of Michigan as he swept all twelve motos that he contested throughout the weekend. Kessler ended his B class campaign at Mini Os with many podium finishes and another number one plate, making the transition to the A class at the beginning of the 2020 season. He traveled out to California at the beginning of the season in order to scoop up his Monster Energy Supercross points through the SX Futures program, doing it all on his own for no other reason than the love of the sport and the determination to be the best. We were able to pull Jace away from an afternoon shred session on his pit bike for a quick chat about his season last year, moving up to the A class, and doing a California road trip all on his own.
What have you been up to the last couple of months with the quarantine going on?
Right now I'm just out here shreddin' some pit bikes. There's this place by my house that has these BMX dirt jumps so we go back there and hit them on the pit bikes, it's so fun! But I've just been trainin' and riding at home. With everything closed, it's been hard to find places to ride but luckily I know people with private tracks so I've been shredding those and trying to put in some work and do the best I can so comin' out of quarantine when we're back racing I'm ready to go.
What's the riding situation been like for you back home in Michigan?
Yeah, I'm back in Michigan right now. It's been pretty good -- I've got a little program going on right now where I'm riding three or four days a week and just training and all that. I've been riding this pretty gnarly sand track by my house and a couple of other private tracks, so I've been trying to do that and just start doing some longer motos, ramping up my training a little bit.
Apart from the riding and training, what have you been doing in your downtime?
Yeah, it's been tough not being able to go anywhere or do anything. Like I said, we've been ripping pit bikes and playing Xbox with the buddies and everything else. It hasn't been too bad but I'm definitely ready to get back going again.
Are you on the Call of Duty: Warzone grind?
Oh yeah, well that and Supercross 3.
After racing ended up getting postponed, how did you approach that situation? Did you take some time off?
Yeah, for me it actually kind of worked out a little bit in my favor. Comin' into Daytona I only had four days on the bike, I got a concussion before Daytona so I had zero riding time. I kinda went to Daytona just wingin' it and I really don't think I was completely good to go yet, so that was a bit of a struggle for me. After Daytona, we felt like we weren't ready so we didn't even go to Freestone and I'm glad I didn't 'cause it ended up getting canceled. So I went home and just put my head down and was right on the grind, you know, tryin' to get back to where I was and keep building.
Last year you came about as close as you can get to a title at Loretta's in the 450 B Limited class and you had an incredible battle with Hunter Yoder. Both of you left it all on the track, what was that like from your perspective?
Yeah, I was pretty bummed on that one actually. I had a good week goin', I won the first moto and the other one got 3rd comin' from behind. The last moto I was set up in a position to win and I put myself in a great spot, actually pulled the holeshot and was leading. You know, Hunter was riding good and he was right on me, we had a good little battle goin' and comin' right into the corner by the billboard I actually clipped the little yellow thing there on the inside and ended up going down. But he got around and me and my heart rate spiked through the roof there, I tried to recover and I stayed right on him but after that I was pretty much done, especially on that 450; that thing's a lot to handle. But it was good, I was pumped to be up there like that but I've come so close so many times so I wanted that really bad and I pushed hard to try and come back and get him, I just couldn't make it happen.
You went onto the Baja Brawl from there and ended up sweeping all of your motos in your home state. That must've been a pretty special weekend for you.
Yeah, Baja has always been like my home track or whatever and comin' in there after Loretta's I really just put my head down and went to work and came to Baja ready. I just told myself I'm not gonna be beat, I'm gonna be perfect and that's what I did. I put myself in good spots every moto, put in some good rides and I was able to go twelve for twelve and win every moto.
What was the award you got there?
Yeah, I think they called it the Bad Axe award. That was pretty cool, I didn't see that the previous year but when I got up there and they gave it to me, so that was pretty cool. Baja has always had cool awards with the whole Leonidas theme, you know.
Mini Os was your last race in the B class and you had pretty solid finishes across the board there as well as a title in 250 B Limited outdoors. How was it for you to finish out your campaign in the B class there?
Mini Os was actually pretty good for me. Like you said, I came away with a title in 250 B Limited so I was pretty pumped on that. I had some other good finishes too and some overall podiums between supercross and motocross, but I wish I could've got goin' a little earlier in the week. My starts in supercross hurt me pretty bad so I was always comin' from behind and same with motocross, they were kind of all over the place. Some motos I'd start back in like 15th, but it was good overall and I was mixin' it right up there with them guys. I know I'm right up there with the top dudes but with everybody bein' so close nowadays, everybody's so fast you have to put yourself in a good spot and getting a start is the main thing.
You went out and did a couple of the Supercross Futures rounds on the west coast at the beginning of the season? How did that go for you?
Yeah, I got all points and I got the win at Oakland. But Supercross Futures was a tough one for sure, I'm from Michigan so I drove all the way out to California and it was all by myself 'cause my dad couldn't take off work and stuff, and I don't have a mechanic or nothin'. I made the trip out to California all by myself and went to all the races, I was doin' everything on my own -- bike work, making sure everything was prepped, going to the gate. Like I was on the gate asking people next to me to set my holeshot device, so it was pretty crazy. That brought a lot of anxiety going to the line, not even knowing if somebody can set your holeshot device. That was pretty tough. The main reason for goin' all the way out there was just to get 'em over with and out of the way since they're in January; I just wanted to get 'em done. It was definitely a test for me, I'm happy I was able to get all of my points and get out of there safe 'cause those things are chaos.
That's pretty gnarly with no one helping you out. Were you crashing in the van? did you have places to stay out there?
No, I went out and I was staying at my girlfriend's actually so I had somewhere to stay and then just hotels on the weekend and stuff, pitting out of the van. It was hard though, that's probably the hardest thing I've done to this day -- just doing literally everything on my own.
That's dedication right there and with the current situation we're in now, you're probably glad you got them over with.
Oh, I know 'cause there are some people who haven't even got their points with the whole COVID thing, so I'm glad I was able to get everything done there.
What was your mentality like moving up to the A class this year and taking that final step before transitioning to the pros?
Yeah, I'm hungry to move up. After Mini Os, I felt like it was time. I did two years in the B class which is pretty much about normal or whatever, so I was like, it's time to move up to A or whatever and these next couple years are pretty crucial for my career, you know. I want to go pro and I'd like to do it on a team, so right now I'm just putting in everything so I can show everybody that I can be one of the guys. Hopefully, I can kill it at these races and get something goin' into the professional ranks.
Have you thought about the time frame at all on when you might want to make that transition?
Yeah, we have put a little bit of thought into it, talkin' with my family a little bit. Right now I think the plan is to do the full year A class since this is my first year and then I plan on hitting three of the Outdoor Nationals. I'm not exactly sure which ones yet with the schedule change and stuff, but my plan is to do three of them. I'd really like to do Redbud since Redbud is my home race, so that'd be really cool and I'd like to do that one. Kinda just do Loretta's, Mini Os, you know and finish out the year in A. We'll try to see where that takes me and then hopefully the next year go pro for outdoors.