PHOTOS | Octopi Media
We’ve never truly seen what Tyler Bowers can do in the 450 class. Over the last few seasons, the multi-time AMSOIL Arenacross champion has signed deals with 250 teams in the Monster Energy Supercross Series with varying degrees of success, but there were very few options for the new father in 2018. With that, the popular racer put together a privateer deal for the opening stretch of the series that was funded partly by the hefty payouts he received from teams in the small Supercross events that took place throughout Europe. We spent a few minutes with Bowers in the back of his box van just before the start of the 2018 Anaheim Two Supercross and learned more about the independent operation, his overseas adventures, and if there were any chances of a fill-in ride with a factory outfit…
I think a lot of people were concerned when you didn't show up in Houston, but you had a pretty good reason with the ADAC Supercross championship in Germany. Can you break that deal down a bit for people that don't know?
Concerned I didn't show up in Houston? I didn't think anyone cared about me 'cause I'm driving to the races [Laughs]. Anaheim One went really good for me and I had a deal in Germany to do their Supercross series over there. Normally all of the Americans, like the Arenacross or Supercross guys that do the series, can't do the Dortmund race because it's the second weekend of January and always overlaps with a series over here or the UK Arenacross. It's hard for guys to make it to that race. This year I'm a privateer and I told the team there that I could do it. I got to the point where I was leading the championship there and it way more sense for me to go to Germany and make money to wrap up a title than it was to drive to Houston and blow all of my money to drive halfway across the country and then back to Anaheim in a week.
It was like four thousand miles round-trip.
Yeah, and that's just crazy. For me as a privateer, it made more sense to go there because it's basically funding my program here. I have some help from guys like Triggr Racing, Rutted Racing, and AHM Factory Services is doing all of my motor work. I get help here, but it's much different.
How did the connection with the German team all come about?
Last summer I was riding a Kawasaki and went to do some money races like the PRI before Washougal and I've raced in Germany in 2012 and 2013, so I rode for the Kawasaki Pfeil team then and I know it's a good program. I contacted Harry Pfeil and we were able to work it out. They had me come over and the first weekend we raced in the Netherlands for a race that wasn't part of the series, it was just a warm-up race but since I won everything there they were pumped. I have a baby that I'm trying to feed, so it was good to go make a little money before the season.
Was that worked in with the BUD Racing deal?
It had nothing to do with the BUD Racing deal. I was over there and did the race in the Netherlands and the next round was in Stuttgart, Germany, for the first round of the ADAC Series, so the BUD Racing needed a guy. I was doing good in Europe and my name was getting big there, so they called me up to race Paris on the 250F. I hadn't ridden a 250 in over a year, but I wanted to do it. They had a good bike and it was cool to experience to ride for them at that race.
For me being an American media guy that goes over there, the European fans are always excited to see any American racer. That has to be a huge selling point for you, to show promoters that you are a well-known rider that will do well at any event.
It's hard though. The German rounds that I do, they're not like regular Supercross or even Arenacross. I don't want to rag on the guys, but there were two American riders that came to one round and I lapped them, but they qualified pretty damn well tonight. There's a lot of chaos and the tracks are a lot smaller than Supercross, they are more of an Arenacross size. The tracks have a lot of option sections and the jumps are like "Excitebike" because they are tricky. The dirt is so tacky and there is no roost, so it's grippy and there are knobby marks everywhere in the track. If you land a little sideways, you're going into the stands. It's difficult and different. The guys over there are no joke, because all of the French riders like Cedric Soubreyas Cyrille Coulon, and Gregory Aranda all go fast. Dominique Thury is a German rider that I battled with for the title, so the guys are no joke. They are used to that series and it's a lot different.
Does your Arenacross background help?
I would say so but the first year that I went over there in 2012, it was after my second Arenacross title so I thought I was big and bad. I figured it was like Arenacross and I was going to crush it, but at the first race I didn't even make the Main Event in the first night. I got my ass handed to me. But the second night I won, but it's so different and I had to get used to it. My first year I was battling for third in points and didn't do Dortmund, the second year I was battling for the lead at one point, and now it took until this year for me to figure it out. It was good for me this year, but it's not comparable. It's almost like a different sport than Arenacross or Supercross. You have to go there and experience it to figure it all out.
What's the plan for you now? At first, it was just the West Coast races on a 450 as a privateer, but now it sounds like you're in for all of them.
I don't know and I'm just flying by the seat of my pants right now. I was for sure going to do the West Coast races but now I signed up for the next three. I wanted to get through Anaheim One and Two, get through those, and now here we are. I signed up for the next three (Glendale, Oakland, San Diego) as a privateer, but I'm looking for a fill-in ride. All of the people that are helping me out understand that we are going race by race, but my program is pretty damn good. I want to carry it to the East Coast, but we just need a little more support.
It sounds like the bike is really good, the Showa suspension guys are here to help, and Kawasaki has pitched in something. It's not all just shit you went and bought. There is some stuff that you bought, but there's also help.
Yeah, but I bought a lot of the stuff on the bike. It's very close to standard and not a far cry from a standard Kawasaki 450, but I get some help from Showa and Kawasaki kicks me down some chassis parts here and there. It's not too far away from what you buy off of the showroom floor. I run the stock pegs still. A lot of the engine is stock, but there's some head work. It's a great package and we have to find funding to get to the next races. I can get parts all day long, but I can't fill the tank to drive to the next race with parts. I can't put a sprocket in the gas tank. I'm getting help from Triggr Racing and Rutted Racing, so we might be able to make it happen.
Did any team call you when their guys got hurt?
Nope and everyone is going "day by day" is what I hear. I think that's the new thing, to be hurt but not be hurt. Everyone is terrified a fill-in guy is taking their ride. I didn't any calls. I heard J-Bone said I was an option, but they never called and that was a bummer. I'm happy with my program and I'm going to keep going to the races.
Did having her changed your mindset towards racing? I know there are guys that say yes and no. But it's another mouth that you have to feed…
Yeah, but it's not even like that. You just have a different, like a calmness that comes over you when your family is at home or at the race. You have to make smarter decisions, that's for sure. It's not like I didn't try hard or train hard, but now I have dad strength [Laughs]. I probably train less because I have to be a father most of the time, so I'm not running myself into the ground every day. And that might be part of it. Now long motos aren't as hard to do because it all just happens. She's amazing and the coolest thing ever is to have a baby. It's hard to juggle that and be a privateer, my first year piecing it all together, but it's working.
Did you have an option to go back to Arenacross?
I think the option is always there, but we just never entertained it. I have a good relationship with the Babbit's Kawasaki team, so if I went back there is where I would go. We talked about it, but I said that I wasn't ready for it yet. They had some problems with sponsors this year, I think a few pulled out, so they weren't able to do their normal three-rider team. It wasn't time yet. I had options for teams in Supercross but they weren't legit. I'm not going to go mess around and barely make Main Events or be in the Lites class running around in fifteenth place because I know that I'm better than that. I get to run what I want to run on this bike and it's a good program.
What do you expect of yourself, realistically?
I know that I'm capable of a lot more, but going into A1 I got fourteenth and that was mediocre for me. I think a good night for me will be in the top-ten and a great, spectacular night would be a top-five. But I should be able to get in the top-ten if I pulled my head out of my ass and ride like I know how.