I Seemed to Have a Problem with One Mistake Leading into Another... I Worked on that a Lot" | Derek Kelley Check-In

We caught up with Derek Kelley who told us about learning to let the mistakes go and getting used to the pace up front

I Seemed to Have a Problem with One Mistake Leading into Another... I Worked on that a Lot

You might be surprised to hear that once you get past all the factory 250 riders, the top privateer is AEO’s Derek Kelley. Derek is in his third season as a pro and is riding the best he ever has. He told me at the beginning of the season his goal was to get a top ten overall. He had a top ten moto at Thunder Valley and two 11th overalls. He’s working on cleaning up the crashes and improving the starts, so I expect he’ll meet his goal before it’s over. Derek talked with us on his way to Washougal recently.

Below you'll find the written form of this interview. If you scroll to the bottom you'll also find the extended version of this interview via a media player

Jamie Guida - Vital MX: We wanted to check-in with you and get your thoughts on your season so far. This has been your best season to date.

Derek Kelley: Definitely. I'm super stoked on how it's going. Just excited to keep the ball rolling and keep improving every week.

Vital MX: How did the deal with AEO Powersports come together?

Derek: Last year I was on Teddy Parks team for outdoors. I've known Jeremy Scism for a long time, and he helped me out before the team even came about with his shop. And I’ve ran his suspension for a couple of years now. I was talking with him, and he ended up wanting to do a team. He put together what is AEO Powersports KTM racing for this year.


Vital MX: I've heard they have a little bit of factory support. You told me this was the best bike you've ever rode.

Derek: Definitely. I don't know exactly everything that goes into it. I'm just a dumb rider, but it's definitely a very competitive bike and best setup I've had so far, for sure.

Vital MX: Previously your best Overall finish was a 13th at Hangtown last year. This season you’ve bested that three times. Talk about that.

Derek: Last year I made some good strides towards the end of the year. I have a history of rough starts. So, I'm stoked. I was able to start this season pretty strong and continue to improve a little bit each week. I tied for tenth this weekend and I want to crack that top ten by the end of the year.


Vital MX: What is it about this bike that you like?

Derek: The motor is really solid and super-fast. It's quite a bit better than what I had last year by a long shot. From memory I’m like, ‘Oh wow, this was way harder last year’ or ‘I was struggling here’ where this year I'm able to get over stuff a lot easier and I can pull through the deeper stuff and I'm starting to get some good starts. Also, the suspension set up is really good. We're able to do a little bit more testing than I was last year. It's just a full program for sure.

Vital MX: Do you have more time during the week? You're a full privateer and driving to the races, right?

Derek: It's definitely a squeeze. I only get two days a week. Whether that be for training or if we’ve got to make something happen with the bike. And obviously the team is on a budget, and we don't have a lot of manpower as far as that goes. But it's definitely more than anything I've ever had. It's been a big help. I mean, we switched some parts out from the first round and stuff like that. It’s just fine tuning.


Vital MX: What do you find the most difficult thing for you this season?

Derek: The most stressful thing is obviously the monetary part. It's tough to make a living. Not even to make a living, but just to make enough to get to the next race. Without the support of my parents and everything that Jeremy does it wouldn't even be a ballpark dream. My dad is my biggest supporter. He's all in for sure. He comes to every race with me and helps a lot with the money. He's super, super excited about being able to watch me grow up and move into pros. It's been cool to share this journey with him.

Vital MX: What about the other support you get? Who else do you have in your corner that helps you on a day-to-day basis?

Derek: My girlfriend, Kayley, she's a big, big supporter with me emotionally and whatnot. I have my trainer; Evan Nystrom who’s my physical guy. I have Kevin Keyes with Moti MX Mental Training. He's helped a lot. That's been a new thing for me this year. And then Jay Whipple's my on the bike coach. I have a new mechanic this year. His name is Scott Youngstrand, and he's been an awesome addition to the program. He's got a lot of knowledge behind him and helps a lot with the bike set up.

Vital MX: Talk about the mental coach. What have you noticed the difference in and what kind of things do you work on?

Derek: Last year I seemed to have a problem with compounding mistakes. When I'd make a mistake, it would just kind of lead into another one. And that's one thing that we worked on a lot at the beginning of this year. Letting stuff go and being able to recover. I think that's been the biggest help for me so far this year.


Vital MX: What’s the environment under the AEO tent like?

Derek: It's a big family and everybody gets along really well. It's a whole lot of jokes and ribbing each other. It's just a fun environment. Everybody gets along really well, and there's not a whole lot of drama. Everybody knows what they have to do.

Vital MX: You told me at Millville that starts have hindered you. Is that the primary focus for improvement?

Derek: That's what we've been working on for the last two, three weeks, ever since Red Bud. I really have been focused on doing starts off the gate. This weekend I was able to get darn near top ten starts every time. And now it just opens a new can of worms with things I have to work on. I'm used to coming from the back and battling with those guys when they're already kind of worn out and tired. When they're fresh, they're actually pretty fast. I’ve got to get used to that pace right up front in the beginning. And that's just a learning experience for sure. 


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