This week HEP Motorsports and Kyle Chisholm announced a multi-year agreement that will see him not only racing but also performing bike development. Chiz has continuously performed well as a privateer in Supercross as one of the older riders in the class (he just turned 35). He’s also aware he needs to start looking to ‘what’s next’. This new role at HEP may be just the thing. I reached out to get some details and hear what he thinks.
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: Big news yesterday, Chiz! How’s it going?
Kyle Chisholm: I'm just at the airport in Salt Lake City. Sorry, it's a little noisy, but, yeah, it's my layover and I'm headed home. A little red eye and get home to my girls. I had a good week out in California and just headed home.
Vital MX: I think the last time we talked, your plan was to do your own deal for Supercross in 2023, and everything changed yesterday. You signed a multi-year deal with HEP Motorsports.
Chiz: Yeah. I'm super excited. As we talked before, that was pretty much the plan all along. You know, I've done my own deal and my own program the last three years. Yamaha has been great, and I had planned on Rock River with all my sponsors, partners from the last few years. Just keep doing that, keep building on it and then I had some interest from Aaron and Dustin Pipes. I’ve known those guys from when I worked for them in 2019 and stayed friends, hung out, and go to dinner sometimes. I still had a good relationship and they reached out to me, probably a month or so ago and kind of made me an offer but it wasn't really what I was looking to do. So, we talked a little bit, got me out there, rode the bike, and did some testing for them. I didn't want to switch bikes or something for no reason. I liked what I was doing. But then when we went out there and I tested with them, Larry Brooks is there now and they're really trying to up the team and the program and grow it and expand it. And we went out there, I rode the bike and we just worked really well together. We had a good three days of testing. After that, they kind of came at me with, “Hey, we'd love to do more than just you come race for us for one year”. It was more, they see some value in me helping develop it and some other areas in the team. And for me that was just a really, really great opportunity. We always joke about it, but I just turned 35 a couple of days ago and I can't race forever. I wish I could, and I think other people wish I could, but I can't. Or maybe people think I can, but I know I can’t. So, for me I’m looking at it as a good potential transition. At some point in the next few years, I won't be able to race full time anymore. And it gives me a nice role that I can add value, bring value to the team. And they're growing. It was good timing. And just like I said, it just makes a lot of sense for me. I get to race, I get to help the team in multiple ways, add value other than just racing on Saturday. I’m really excited for the opportunity and happy to be able to do it, and also thankful for all my sponsors the last few years that helped me get to where I am and have this opportunity.
Vital MX: You mentioned your age a minute ago and of course any time you do an interview now we're going to talk about your age. It's just part of it. Were you surprised that a factory supported team calls you at your age to come be part of it?
Chiz: Yes and no. You know me. I don't like bragging about myself whatsoever. I don't think I'm cool or anything like that. I'm just a normal dude. But I've done my own thing. And being a privateer, no matter how much Matthes says I'm not, whatever, but I've done better the last few years and done well. And even as I've gotten older, I've done better. So, on that hand, not really that surprising. Like I said, I've had a good relationship with Dustin and Aaron and the guys, and it's not like I've been sucking the last couple of years. But I guess it was a little bit of a surprise when we sat down and they're like, “We want to offer you this opportunity to race and also help grow the team and be a part of that side of it as well”. That was not expected at all. When that was offered to me it was awesome because to be honest, I don't want to say that I was even looking for that. But subconsciously or deep down, that's something that I kind of always hoped for without even really knowing it to even express it to a team. When we did so much testing and with Larry, they saw some of that value that I could bring. And already knowing the potential of Kenny being there, I was like, “Man, I can't believe they just offered me that. That's the perfect scenario for me with where I'm at in my career”. So, we worked it all out and it was awesome.
Vital MX: The press release says “multi-year deal”. Is it two or three? Can you even say?
Chiz: I’ll probably get in trouble but it's two and there's an option for a third. Without getting into too much detail, the third year is more or less us mutually agreeing what the role that I'll play in the team will be. Because I potentially could keep racing if I want to. So, there's that. I could do some races almost like a Justin Brayton. I don't know what he's doing, but I've heard maybe this year he doesn't do AMA, maybe he does a couple, and he does World Supercross. It could be something like that. As well as testing and bike development with the team. I would love to get into more of a management role if the team grows and I can add value in that way.
Vital MX: Are the two years for U.S. and World Supercross? Is it specified what you'll be doing?
Chiz: It's not really specific. I kind of have the option. I would love to do World Supercross, but honestly, we were already talking, and I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves because I don't know for sure yet. I would love to do both. You know, I'd obviously do AMA supercross, I'd love to do World Supercross, and that is, I think, the general consensus of what we plan to do. Especially just seeing the schedule that just came out. I've already told them I would probably like to go do a few outdoors as well. We'll cross that bridge as it gets closer. I'd love to qualify myself into the new Supermotocross stuff, too. The last one’s a conflicting date with World Supercross. But I'd love to, if I can do well, qualify myself into that and do those races.
Vital MX: You might race more this year than ever.
Chiz: Exactly. Everything's fluid because you never know what could change between now and then. But the general plan is for me to do Supercross and World Supercross on 450 for both.
Vital MX: When you mentioned the schedule for World Supercross, which starts July 1st, was that pretty enticing? Six rounds, six countries including France, Germany, Canada, Southeast Asia, and others?
Chiz: Yeah. I mean, I love traveling. I always have. Going to those places, getting to race a dirt bike and getting paid to go do it. If you didn't love traveling, maybe you wouldn't think it's cool. But I love traveling, experiencing, seeing the world, different cultures and all that and love to be able to bring my family when I can and just get that experience. That's super exciting for me, to be honest, being selfish because that's my thoughts towards it. I wish there were more. I heard there may be eight, and who knows, maybe they'll add a couple. I was hoping for more. And yeah, like I said, either way, I'm pumped I get to go do that. I will say I didn't expect there to be such a gap between the rounds. I think it's like July 1st, July 22nd, September 30th, two in October and then the end of November. They're very spaced out over like a four- or five-month span. I was hoping they would be a little bit more condensed. That's going to be tough from a training standpoint, too. You want to cram a month or two of training and then go race for six, eight weeks where now I have to be ready in July. Then I have to be ready at the end of September, then I have to be ready in October and then the end of November. It's going to be really drug out through the summer. I think you're going to really have to balance managing your training and prep for that because you can't peak in July for the first race and expect to be still peaking in November after racing Supercross for five months or whatever. So, that'll be a challenge. But I enjoy the challenge. But yeah, I love the schedule, I love the countries they're going to and I'm trying to see where I can squeeze some more in. I’m already looking at where the Paris Supercross is and how can I get into that one? Go from there to Australia. So yeah, I'm really looking forward to that.
Vital MX: You mentioned that you've been on the Suzuki for a while now doing some developing and testing. Did you ride it before Kenny rode it? Before he considered coming? How did that schedule work out?
Chiz: I’m backing up a little bit. What I was saying earlier when the team had made me an offer and I was kind of like, it just doesn't make sense enough for me to leave what I'm doing. I was still working on some things with my own program and more details to get ironed out. So, in the meantime, I was like, “What's the harm”? I'll come out and ride the bike. They mentioned me coming out and testing some stuff. I thought, “Let's go out and just see how it is. Let's see the bike and get out there, ride it and just go from there”. In the meantime, waiting on some answers on my own deal, I tested a lot for like three days working mainly on the chassis and handling, rigidity and comfort, and cornering and stability, and all that stuff. Just trying to improve the bike as much as we could. I ride with Kenny at home and I already kind of knew that was the plan. And I think a lot of the public even knew that he was going to be going out there at some point. I would say part of what I did was to set the bike up as a starting point for Kenny. Just like I did with Eli setting that new ‘23 Yamaha 450 up for him to ride it back during Supercross. It was essentially the same thing to go out there and do that on the Suzuki. And again, not sure what I can or can't say, but needless to say, he's changed the suspension setting just a little bit. He made a pretty minor suspension change since I set it up the three days of testing that I did. He got on it and I think everyone's seen the videos at this point. I’ve seen him ride all the time during the week on his Honda the last six years. And I don't want to come out and say he looks better on the bike, but he looks amazing on the bike. I think he's just changed a fork setting and a shock setting a little bit. Other than that, it's basically the way I set it up. We probably tested ten different engine combinations and different clamps and all kinds of stuff to get it to where I thought it was the best. Kenny got on it and he had the option to go through all that stuff as well, and he got on it and he calls me the first day. He's like, “Man, this thing is amazing. Way better than I expected. This really changes my plans”. Obviously, he did really well in Paris with the Firepower Honda. I think he expected to maybe try the bike, but after having that good week in Paris to maybe still be doing that. I kind of expected it, you know. When they were in Paris racing, I was in California testing the Suzuki for HEP. So, I was talking to Kenny while he was over there. You know, kind of letting him know how things were going. I got it set up as well as I could. It was awesome to be part of that as well. Like I said, that's what makes this whole opportunity for me, I guess selfishly, really satisfying. I enjoy that. I think I'm good at it. The team saw that. To have more of a role than just being a racer, I think I can add value in that way. And I think I have so far with Kenny getting on board. And I think we have another pretty good rider coming out. Unfortunately, with Brandon (Hartranft) getting injured, potentially have another good rider trying to fill in. He was riding really well. He was out there when I was out there.
Vital MX: Yeah, you don't have to confirm, but we’re hearing Shane McElrath is coming in to ride it. But, about the development thing real quick. You must be doing pretty well at this. Just based off what you just said about Kenny not changing much. And we already talked previously about the stuff you did for Eli and you told me how much he liked it, which I asked him about it in Paris. Then I interviewed him just a couple nights ago, and I specifically asked him, “when a guy like Kyle Chisholm comes and develops a bike for a guy like yourself and it's a different style of riding, how close can somebody actually get it for you”? And he said, “About 90%. And then the last 10% is on me”. He seemed very, very pleased with what you're doing. So, as we've talked over the last couple of years where we wonder what post-race life might look like for Kyle Chisholm, this development thing may be right up your alley, right? I mean, it seems like it's just falling right into place.
Chiz: Yeah, Like I said, I enjoy it. It lets me ride a motorcycle, right? Obviously, when I'm done racing, I love riding dirt bikes. I always see myself doing that, you know, in some capacity. Even when I'm not racing full time and retired from racing. I enjoy testing and I'm very sensitive on the bike to feeling things and all that. I think I'm good at it. Like I said, I hate saying that even about myself. I don't want to come off as bragging, but I think it is something God blessed me with. I'm very good at feeling and giving feedback and just giving the right feedback to the people that are smarter than me in developing some of these things. The team is in a very big growth stage to up the level of the team. They've hired Larry, they've hired Dave Cruz on suspension and just trying to up the team. And to touch on what you talked about with Eli, it's funny because for Eli, the testing I did with Yamaha on that new bike, I definitely didn't set it up for me. For people that maybe didn't hear, I basically rode his current bike is 2022. The bike he won everything on this year. I rode that bike and then I rode the new bike and I had to basically piece by piece, figure out what works on the new bike from his old bike because he really liked the ’22, clearly. What works on it? What doesn't work on it? What translates from the ‘22 to the ‘23? Get a good base setting that's similar. It was either, “I'm signing the contract, or I don't” and maybe he doesn't sign the contract. So that's kind of what I was faced with getting done. So, it wasn't really setting the bike up for me. Even though I don't like that, he must have liked it because that's what was on his bike, you know. That's how his bike felt in that turn or that bump. I've got to make this bike do it even if it's not right for me. For Kenny, I've ridden his bikes, “off the record”, you know, keep it between us and the listeners, I've ridden his Honda and stuff like that. And I kind of know the way he likes his bike set up. We ride together a lot. I don't ride with Eli at all, but I ride with Kenny a lot. I've ridden the bikes he's ridden. I won't say any more. We're very similar in how we like it set up.
Vital MX: You rode Suzuki back in 2019 with Hep. How much has the team changed in just a few years? Have you noticed any significant things in the limited time you've been with them?
Chiz: They've honestly just grown. I know it's hard for listeners because they're not in the race shops and they don't see the behind-the-scenes stuff as much. They have a brand-new building. They actually have three buildings. They're going to pick up equipment this next week. They're getting their own dyno, I think they're getting a suspension dyno, an engine dyno. They're just really growing. The building is new and big, multiple offices. When I worked for them before, it was like a two or three car garage. Not at their house, but a little thing on the side of Aaron, Dustin's dad, where one of his businesses are. It was like a side garage. They're going to grow into two more buildings next door. They have way more staff. They've hired, Larry as team manager, Dave Cruz, their suspension guy, Jamie Ellis from Twisted Development is doing the engine stuff. And now they've brought me on for the time being as a racer/tester. They have more riders. They're going to have 250 riders this year. They're doing World Supercross and outdoors and AMA Supercross. From the bike standpoint, the bike is basically the same bike. But to be honest, some stuff that I changed on the bike back in ‘19 that I really liked, I kind of brought some of that back in terms of some engine mounts. We kind of custom-made stuff back in ‘19 that I tested back then that I really liked. We brought that back. They went away from that since I left. But they still had some sitting around. I said, “Let's put those back on”. It was way better. Kenny seems to think it's better. I think some of the other riders, Brandon, before he got hurt, he actually liked it as well. The engine has changed a lot because Jamie wasn't doing the engines back in the day. I've already made a few changes that Kenny's going to be testing here in the next week or so that I think might be better. The suspension, it was Ohlins when I was there before. They're now based on factory Showa. Dave Crews, for those that don't know, he was a factory Kawi suspension guy. Very, very good suspension guy. So that's improved. I don't know if I’m speaking too soon, but multiple semis and whatever in the pits, too.
Vital MX: Suzuki as an OEM seemed as if they had pulled away from putting a lot of money into the professional motocross/Supercross series. Does it seem, from what you've heard, that Suzuki is back in and going to make a push or is this more Dustin and HEP trying to make a big push?
Chiz: I think maybe a little bit of both. I don't want to speak too much on it just because I'm still a little bit new, so I haven't gotten into that department a whole lot yet. But honestly, I think it's a little bit of both. You know, with Progressive and Twisted Tea and other sponsors all stepping up, they're just in a growing spot from outside sponsors. They have great sponsors on board. I think there's new ones still coming that we haven't even heard yet. And I think Suzuki sees that. I don't know that anybody, Kenny or the team thought he really was going to do it? He had other offers and how well he just did in Paris on his Honda. Everybody hoped for it. But I don't think anybody could honestly tell you they expected him to do it. I think Suzuki is really excited that Kenny is going to be there. And what Dustin and Aaron and the whole Hep team, PMS, I guess I could call it, what they're doing just as a whole with the effort that the team is putting in. I hope that that's going to lead to more and more from the Suzuki side. You know, I think at the end of the day, we're all going to do our best no matter what. I hope that excites Suzuki even more than they already are there.
Vital MX: Let’s get an E Start on that thing.
Chiz: Yeah, we'll see. I have to be honest; we've worked really hard on some engine changes and, knock on wood, the thing starts first kick every time, you know, 99% of time. It's been really good.
Vital MX: HEP is a California based team. You're in Florida. I'm not even going to ask, no way you're moving the whole family out. It’s not easy or cheap to ship parts and engines back and forth. I guess you guys have it figured out.
Chiz: You know me, I'd be an open book and honest. So back into the conversation when they brought that up to me, I told them, “That's amazing. I love that. That's perfect for what I could see myself doing. But before we even talk money or anything, any type of terms, I'll just be up front and honest. I'm not moving my family, not moving to California. I can be here. I'm here right now, but I'm not moving”. And Dustin and Aaron, they're family people. They put on races and promote races. Dustin was an AMA Supercross racer. So, they get it. They're very family oriented. They're like, “You don't have to move here. We don't expect that. You may have to be out here for a week or two at a time doing stuff”. And I'm like, “That's totally fine, no problem. I totally understand that. I'm good with that”. And it really makes sense from a team standpoint too, that Kenny and I both can be in Florida testing, and we can be in California testing. The new rider, I won't say his name. You maybe already have. I don't even know, honestly, if anything's official. I noticed things are getting figured out. He may also be in Florida quite a bit, which kind of makes it cool for the team. We'll spend a lot of time in Florida with Tampa and Daytona and a week off during the season this year. We can all be in one place riding together here and in California.
Vital MX: Of course, you know, I'm pumped for you. I'm excited. So, I want to tell you congratulations. I have one more question and it's a totally different topic. I saw on your Instagram back in November you got to do a Great American Teach In at Pride Elementary with Feld Entertainment. You got to go spend a day with the kids at the elementary. How did that come about? What was that like?
Chiz: That was awesome. I remember when I was a kid in school and they did the Great American Teach In and firefighters and cops, police officers, doctors, or any different job occupations. People come in and talk to you for 30 minutes, tell you about their job and what they do. As a kid in school, it was really cool. You got to go see their fire truck and talk to them and do that stuff. I loved that as a kid. I always enjoy that. Just memories growing up in school. Sean Brennen from Feld does a lot of that PR. Their office is only about 45 minutes from me in Tampa. I believe Sean's wife is a schoolteacher and he was like, “I'm going to go do this thing. I've done it the last couple of years. I'd love to have an actual racer there with me. Would you be willing to do it”? And I said, “When is it? If I'm available, I'd love to do it”. We brought my bike in and I think I went to the school at like six in the morning. We were there from like 7:00 am to around 3:00 in the afternoon. We have 30-minute rotations of classes just coming in. And we spoke to, I think over 300 or 350 kids that day, just about Supercross, what it is, what I do, you know, working hard and training and eating right. And, no matter what you want to do, whether it's a motorcycle racer or anything in life, work hard, be disciplined, and you can do anything you want. I'zm a dirt bike rider and that's what I get to do and just teach them, hopefully life skills and lessons and values and stuff like that. It was a great opportunity to give back. Hopefully impacted a lot of kids lives for the future. And we've even talked about trying to do it in cities that we go to for Supercross as we travel and try to go in and share our world and what we do with kids. You never know what kids are going through at home and things like that. And me having kids of my own in school, if you can impact them positively in any way, that's an opportunity that I would love to do.