Another recent Silly Season announcement is Jace Owen moving back to his previous team, Phoenix Honda, from the Muc-Off/FXR/ClubMX Yamaha team. Jace has spent much of his career on these two teams who actually have a close connection. He visited with us about the change, the bikes and his goals recently.
For the full interview, check out the YouTube video right here. If you're interested in the condensed written version, scroll down just a bit further.
Jamie Guida – Vital MX: Jace, what’s been going on?
Jace Owen: Oh, not much. Just got done doing a little workout, actually. Had a good day riding on the new bike. Today was day three on the Phoenix Honda. So just trying to adapt to the bike. It's been a couple of years since I've been on the Honda. I actually rode for Phoenix before I went to Club and was on that bike for two years. So just excited to be back on the Phoenix bike and getting to log some laps.
Vital MX: Before we get into that, how do you feel coming off these postseason races? You did World Supercross.
Jace: The World Supercross deal was pretty awesome. I've actually done overseas racing, obviously not the World Supercross, but I spent quite a few years in Germany during the winter doing that Supercross series. And I raced Paris a few years. I was really looking forward to World Supercross when it came up. I put in a lot of hard work during the summer even though I didn't race outdoors. I stayed at Club riding and training and then about six weeks before the first WSX we started riding supercross. I felt really good, and I had very high expectations for myself. I went to Cardiff, and I qualified fastest and that was a confidence booster. And then when the racing happened, the first main, I ended up having a rear brake issue. So, I wasn't able to finish and then had to hop on the spare bike and didn't feel comfortable switching bikes like that. Then we went into the second round in Australia and tried to push through it. We had a couple freak things in qualifying. Once racing started in my heat race Oldenburg and I actually battled, so I felt like I got the train back on the tracks. In the first Main Event I got a good start and actually ended up third. I set myself up good for the night of racing. Then the second main just ended up having a little bike hiccup and I wasn't able to finish. That kind of took me out for the night. As far as the racing part, luck wasn't on my side, I guess you could say. I wasn't able to put together consistent races to be in the fight. I definitely felt I had the speed to be a podium guy and win races.
Vital MX: You mentioned not feeling comfortable on the spare bike. For people that maybe don't understand, there was one spare bike for everybody. I'm sure it wasn't set up exactly the way you want it. It was just a general spare bike.
Jace: You're exactly right with that. You can only have one spare bike and we didn't get to ride the spare bike prior. It was a hurry up offense getting everything together and with outdoors just getting finished up. The engine and stuff were the same, but it wasn't exactly my set up. To hop on it and get the 30 second board and then the gate drop on a bike you've never rode, it was definitely difficult.
Vital MX: When you're in Melbourne or Cardiff and there's a race that you have prepped for, does it still feel like you get a little bit of vacation time?
Jace: Yeah. Once you fly over there, you're kind of jet lagged a little bit from the long flights, especially Australia. It was like 23 or 24 hours of actual flying, not counting layover time and things like that. Then it's 15 hours ahead from where we are here in Charlotte, North Carolina. So, it was hard to adapt a bit. But we raced Saturday and then I didn't end up flying out until late Sunday. So, we did get to spin the day and tour around and sightsee a little bit. I guess to answer your question, yeah, it kind of is like a vacation. We all went over there as a team and the main goal is to race my dirt bike and I want to do the best I could do and be on the podium. I wasn't able to do that. But it still was an awesome experience. Heading into next year it’s something that I want to do with it being more than the two rounds. Adam Bailey did a great job. My experience was great. The racing part didn't get the results I wanted, but I guess there's always next year and we’ll come back for some redemption.
Vital MX: 2022 Supercross ended with an eighth overall in 250 East on the ClubMX bike. That team from the outside seems like they're doing all they can to win and to be a top-level team. So, why the change to Phoenix Honda?
Jace: My relationship with Brandon Haas who owns ClubMX is great. We've had history from when I was an amateur. The first year when I turned pro in 2014, that was actually the first year that Brandon was involved with doing the pro side of racing. It was the Factory Metal Works team. My teammate was Vince Fries and the “Cat”, AJ Catanzaro. That was my first experience. And then when I started riding for Phoenix, they trained at Club. I would say the bike, the program, everything's awesome that they have going on. With JMart coming on board, obviously he's a championship guy, a lot of focus there. They wanted to downsize the team as well. And then I've had a past with Phoenix and they're still based in North Carolina. I have a house here. All the stars aligned and just made sense. I could go back there and somewhat be the guy and get a lot of attention and focus. I felt like where I'm at in my career, it was a great move for me. And the Honda, I've had some really good results with that in the past. But riding for Club for two years was awesome. I'm still going to be riding and training at Club. I still have all those guys to ride with, train with and everything. The only thing different is the atmosphere team wise and then riding a different color bike.
Vital MX: You mentioned being at both Club and Phoenix Honda previously. What are some differences that fans may not see from one mid-level team to the next? They almost look identical to a factory team. But there are obviously budget differences. There are parts differences. What's something that you can tell the fans from the rider’s standpoint, that's different between these different teams?
Jace: I think you said it a little bit. Obviously, budget for the factory teams is not unlimited, but they definitely have a bigger budget. I would say Phoenix or Club in my experience put everything into it. They grind and put in just as much work. But you're not really getting the ‘works’ parts. So, I feel like as far as the bike, maybe it's not quite as strong or maybe the engine is not quite as strong. The suspension that I've had on the bikes, especially on my Phoenix bike that I'm on right now, the KYB Enzo stuff is really, really good. I'm actually gelling with that well, so it's kind of a tough question to answer. Sometimes I feel it's almost better to not have so many things to try just because you can get lost and then end up having to circle back around right where you started from.
Vital MX: Can a team like Club, Phoenix, Firepower, Solitaire, etc., can a team like that legitimately contest for a championship?
Jace: I definitely believe so. I think it's a lot about who you surround yourself with as far as the team and then obviously putting in the work ethic and the grind. Having a good relationship. I'm stoked because Heath Harrison, he's been one of my really good buddies for a long time and he kind of helps run the team over at Phoenix. He's also going to be my mechanic for next season. So that's a big help to me. He still can get on a dirt bike and rip. That's going to be a good aspect for me to have at the races helping me. Not just necessarily being a mechanic, but also being there and being able to pick out things he sees. That'll be a great help to my program heading into the ‘23 season and on race day.
Vital MX: The Yamaha is arguably the best 250 platform from base. What is something about the Honda that you like better?
Jace: I would say after having a couple years on the Yamaha and then now getting on the Honda, which it's a new bike from what I rode before, it was different. The big things that stand out to me, the Yamaha has more weight from the middle to back of it. It kind of rides a little bit lower and steers from the back end. Not a lot of weight on the front. It seems a little bit shorter, fatter as to where the Honda feels like there's more weight on the front end. You have a lot more front end feel for me. I’m trying to adapt to it. It's almost as if the bike has been turning too much. It's very agile. It's definitely skinnier. It seems a little bit taller ride height for me compared to the Yamaha. Both bikes have been good, but to only have three days on the Honda, I feel I'm starting to adapt with the bike very well, very quickly. But the two bikes definitely have a lot different feel. With the Yamaha there's a lot of noise, it's very loud, you get a lot of engine noise from the air box and where the filter is. Where the Honda, it's kind of quieter. The biggest thing is the way the bike rides, where the weight is on the bike. The Yamaha definitely has a very strong engine, but the Honda, I'm happy with it so far and I definitely think we have some room for improvement as well.
Michael Lindsay – Vital MX: Is “making it” in the traditional Supercross path still the dream or the goal? Or with hitting World Supercross and other off-season races, has it changed to chasing the money at those events?
Jace: I definitely still have like a rock that I want to flip over on the Supercross world. I did Supercross for 2014, 2015, and then I jumped into the Arenacross world for quite some time. I won a lot of races and won a championship in 2019 for Phoenix. I've only had a couple years back into the Supercross world. 2021 was my first year with Club, but I tore my ACL after the first race, tried to ride through it, made it a couple rounds, and ended up breaking my ankle. So, ‘21 was kind of a wash. Then I only had about six weeks on the bike coming into the ‘22 season. I didn't have a lot of momentum going. It was hard for me. I definitely wasn't up to pace when the season started. For me, the biggest goal was to stay healthy and just see some steady improvements. And I was consistent, I got eighth in the points. It's definitely not where I want to be, but it was something to build off of and I just want to continue staying healthy. I feel like being a top five guy and I would like to get a podium in my career. And that can always change. Maybe things will start clicking and it can be even better than that. I do also enjoy going overseas and racing. So, I think that'll be a part of my racing. Maybe when I'm done towards the end of my career, maybe go back to Arenacross and try to get another couple of championships in that. But who knows, just kind of see where it goes and take it year by year, day by day.
Vital MX: Define success for you in 2023. You've touched on what your goals are. But overall, for the whole season, what would be successful?
Jace: Truthfully, it's just staying healthy. And like I said, I want to be a top five guy. I'd love to get on the podium. I got eighth in points in the ‘22 season and if I can improve that, be top five in points and set myself up even better for the following season. Keep the momentum rolling, I think that would put me in a great spot. And then I would like to do World Supercross. With the history that I've had, I would love to fight for a championship in that. That’s my goal and expectation. Even though there's a lot of good dudes and a lot of competition, I think that type of racing, riding style, and the way they build the tracks suits me really well.
Vital MX: I can't wait to see this thing kick off and see how it goes.
Jace: I'm super excited and I'm stoked on the opportunity to be back on Honda riding red. I'm actually going to do Paris Supercross this year on the 250. I will be racing it on a Honda. I’ll have at least seven or eight days on it before I have to fly over there and I feel great.