ON THE MOVE:
Brianna Scheltema gradually built up her speed throughout the 2019 racing season, starting the year off with a strong top ten finish in the Women’s class at the JS7 Freestone Spring Championship. She experienced some unfortunate bike problems throughout the week of racing at Loretta’s, but didn’t let that disrupt her momentum as she showed up in her home state of Michigan at the Baja Brawl ready to do battle. Scheltema scored a top ten finish in the 250 C class and a 3rd overall in the Women’s class, providing her with a little confidence booster heading to Oklahoma for The Motoplayground Race at Ponca City. The Kawasaki rider immediately found the fast lines at Ponca and wasted no time getting up to speed on the track, scoring a 2nd place finish in the first Women’s moto. In the second moto, Scheltema chased down the leader and took over the top spot, clinching the overall with a decisive moto win that earned her the number one plate. She’s been able to recreate the same race pace at the beginning of the 2020 season, putting herself on the podium yet again at Spring A Ding Ding. Scheltema punched her ticket to the Ranch at Riverside Raceway in Iowa during the first weekend of Regionals and she’s gunning for a top ten at Loretta’s this year. We had a quick chat with Brianna to talk about winning a championship last year at Ponca, working on a dairy farm, and sending it at Baja Acres.
What did you do for the few months that there was absolutely no racing happening?
I was in Florida for a lot of the time and I would just ride at some local tracks that were open. Other than that, I'd go sit at the pool and hang out with my grandparents, just go hang out with people down there. I'd come home (to Michigan) and work a little bit, and I work on a dairy farm so I feed calves, so when I came home I'd just go work on the farm, too.
Did you take some time off when racing was postponed?
Well, the whole situation definitely made me not be able to ride as much which was kind of a bummer for me 'cause I like to be riding as much as I can. But it was really nice to just take a chill pill and just slow it down, relax, and take a break 'cause I don't really take too many breaks. That was really nice.
It must be a nice change of pace 'cause there isn't much of an offseason.
Yeah, there's really not much time off. (laughs) Normally we go down to Florida with the Hazens because their trailer is an hour and a half away from ours in Florida, so I'm always riding with Landrey.
So what's your riding and training situation been like recently?
Mostly, I've been riding around here in Michigan. I've done a few local races and just ride at a bunch of local tracks as much as they're open just to start getting ready. I haven't thought about going to a training facility yet. I'm kind of waiting on if Landrey can or not 'cause I like to ride with her since she's around my speed, so it's fun to just have someone that you can ride with all the time. She was actually going to come over to my house and ride at a track twenty minutes from here today but it's thunder storming here all day so we didn't get to do that.
What sort of hobbies do you have away from moto and what did you do during all that downtime to stay entertained?
Well, like I said when we were in Florida, I'd just go sit at the pool. I love to sit at the pool and go to the beach and then when I'm here I like to hang out with friends; I don't get to do that very often. And yeah, just catch up with family - I've been kayaking a little bit and goin' to the beach and then obviously workin' on the farm, just little things like that.
How'd you get hooked up working on a dairy farm?
It's one of our family friend's and they needed help. Last year they were looking for someone to feed calves and the schedule is really flexible, so they're okay if I leave for a few weeks or a few months but they like to have help as much as they can. It's really fun and even though calves are kind of annoying, they're very entertaining.
Switching gears over to some of the racing at the end of last season, how did the Baja Brawl go for you in your home state of Michigan?
I definitely struggled for a little bit, struggled getting the flow. I don't ride at Baja too much but I really like it. My biggest struggle was hitting Kong, I was terrified to hit that and finally I hit it in my 250 C class. I got the holeshot and I was in 3rd and I was like "Okay, I have to hit this or I'm going to have a bunch of C guys landing on top of me." I finally followed one of my friends that was ahead of me and cleared it and then I was freaking out 'cause I hit it, but that was really exciting. It was just a relief 'cause now I know how it feels. I kind of wish I was doing it at the beginning of the weekend 'cause I think I could've done a little bit better, but I'm still happy with my results. Top three is top three.
From there you went to The Motoplayground Race at Ponca City and grabbed the number one plate in the Women's class there. How'd that weekend go from your perspective?
So I'm the kind of person that sees the rider roster and kind of places myself and I was not expecting anywhere towards 1st. I was kind of thinkin' more like 3rd or 4th, around that area, so I wasn't expecting that much. I went out there and I really liked the track; I've never been there before but it was super fun. I loved the deep ruts and I loved the flow of the track. It was probably one of my favorite tracks that I rode all year. I dunno, our second moto I had a terrible start - my starts were not very good that week - so I was about 2nd or 3rd. I kind of had that flow goin' and I could see Katelyn (Clauss) start to let up a little bit and I passed her right in front of the mechanics' area, so right where my dad could see and he was so excited! I somehow held her off for the rest of the moto, I somehow all of the sudden had a fire and I just wanted to win!
Did you feel like you kind of just gelled with the track right away, your first time being there?
Yeah, that track was really easy to get to know. The flow was super easy and there wasn't anything super difficult on the track that I was scared about, like Kong. (laughs) Yeah, I really liked it and hopefully I can go back there this year.
How did the races to start the season back in the spring go for you starting with Daytona RCSX?
I've never done Daytona before and we finally decided to do it 'cause the Hazens kept telling us we should do it each year. All of a sudden, we were like "let's just go," and we're very thankful we went now that Freestone was canceled. It was super fun! I'm not a supercross person but I did enjoy it. It's not as supercrossy as the Futures were. I definitely liked it and I will do that one again for sure. I enjoyed it! I didn't think I'd like it that much, but I felt good and I felt comfortable.
How was Spring A Ding Ding following that?
Yeah, Spring A Ding (Ding) was really fun. We did that for the first time last year and I really enjoyed it. I definitely wish the Women's class could have a little better turn out but I definitely did have fun and it's always good to have the fast girls there like Tayler (Allred) and Mikayla (Nielsen). It was fun tryin' to keep up with Mikayla 'cause I've never been very close to her. I was keepin' up with her for the first few laps. I could definitely tell I was gettin' tired, but I was working really hard tryin' to keep up with her for a few laps. It was fun!
As far as the C class goes, were you happy with a couple of top-ten finishes in that?
Yeah, C class has definitely been very challenging for me. There are a lot of fast people and there are a lot of people that are closer to the same speed as me. In the Women's class, you have really fast or slower and in the C Class you have really fast, fast, kinda fast - the pace is always so similar so you're always with someone. But it's really fun and it's always challenging! I like doing the boys classes 'cause they really push me a lot more and it's just fun to ride with 'em.
What has it been like these past couple of weekends to finally be back at the races after such a long layoff?
It's just really nice 'cause it's finally starting to feel more normal in the world. I just miss being at races and when we got to the first local race two weekends ago, everyone was just so happy to see each other! No one was weird and everyone gave hugs and it just felt like life was normal again. Even at the Regional, my dad was a little upset that he had to wear a mask but other than that it was really fun. It's just nice getting back and seeing everyone and it's not fun when you can't see everyone for this long.
How'd things go for you at the Loretta Lynn's Regional at Riverside Raceway in Iowa?
I'm all qualified! It went really well, I wasn't trying to push myself. I knew I could've kept up with Landrey, Bryanne Wolf, and Jada Murphy but my dad just kinda wanted me to keep my pace toned down and go at like 80%. He didn't want me to go crazy and fall 'cause Regionals aren't where it matters, that's where Loretta's comes in. As long as you get top six at the Regional you're fine, so I was sitting in 4th and he motioned at me to calm down. I had a huge gap behind me from 4th to 5th so I knew I had breathing room, so I just toned it down and went at like 80%, made it around the track, and chilled out.
What’s your mindset heading into Loretta’s this season?
I'm really hoping for a top ten in Women's. I've been struggling with that. I got 12th place in 2018 and I was really hoping I could've got 10th but I just couldn't keep it together. Then last year I had bike problems the whole week so that was really deflating and I ended up gettin' like 20th or something the first moto, then like 38th the second moto 'cause my header flew off my pipe so I felt like my bike was going to explode my whole second moto. Then the third moto, we got everything together but I was so tired and drained from not really riding so I got 15th which I'm not complaining about but I was tired and not riding that hard 'cause I had bike problems and I wasn't even trying, so in the third moto when I was trying I just got tired so quickly! We're just gonna hope for no bike problems. I got a new mechanic this year, so we'll hope for the best.