NASCAR & Auto Racing

Small, local motocross team looking to compete with big factory squads

250cc rider Adam Cianciarulo rides in a practice session at Thursday's media day for the 47th Hangtown Motocross Classic at Prairie City State Vehicular Recreation Area.
250cc rider Adam Cianciarulo rides in a practice session at Thursday's media day for the 47th Hangtown Motocross Classic at Prairie City State Vehicular Recreation Area. aseng@sacbee.com

Dave Herrera is ready to battle the factory motocross teams Saturday at the 47th Hangtown Motocross Classic at Prairie City State Vehicular Recreation Area. If only his two best riders would hurry up and heal from injuries, the Sacramento-area’s only professional motocross team could field a large team in both the 250cc and 450cc motos.

Herrera is the founder and team owner of Wheatland-based Herrera Ranch Racing, which formed late last year in time for the AMA Supercross Series. He had hopes that El Dorado Hills resident Jesse Janco and Pine Grove’s Tyler Krisman could ride in Saturday’s outdoor nationals season opener at Hangtown in front of the hometown crowd. But Janco is still nursing a torn right ACL and Krisman is out with a shoulder injury.

Herrera Ranch will still have Mesa, Ariz., rider Deven Raper in the 450cc class, Herrera said.

“Tyler and Jesse are the only two local riders to qualify for the finals last year, so it’s really a bummer neither can compete this Saturday,” said Herrera, a commercial real estate salesman. “But stuff happens for a reason. For instance, Jesse didn’t have real good mobility in his knee from multiple earlier injuries, but when he got surgery and fixed it altogether, he feels he’ll ride even better.”

Krisman is expected back for the Thunder Valley Nationals, the third of 12 races, in Colorado, while Janco says he’ll be ready by the Washougal National in Washington, the eighth race, on July 25.

“I’ve been doing a lot of cycling and working on my cardio,” said Janco, 19, who attended Oak Ridge High before being home-schooled his last two years so he could concentrate on riding. “My goal is to get healthy and race each week, so the better we do the more sponsors we get, and the more sponsors we get the more support we get, too.”

Janco was a privateer – racer not under contract – until signing with Herrera. Privateers in motocross are without factory sponsorships such as KTM, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Honda. Those factory teams hire the best riders and buy the best equipment. Privateers live out of pocket, and following the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship Series coast-to-coast is very expensive. It’s been decades since a privateer has stood on the podium after a pro motocross race.

Instead, privateers hope to race well enough against the professional riders that team owners take note and sign them to contracts. But with perhaps 20 or so riders with those coveted factory contracts available in the 250cc and 450cc classes, usually more than half the field in races are privateers.

Janco and Krisman raced as privateers at the 2014 Hangtown Classic, where Janco finished 30th and Krisman was 32nd.

“Man, it was tough out there as a privateer where they stick you way out in the pits, but luckily I met Dave (Herrera) a couple of years ago while riding at his ranch track (in Wheatland),” Janco said. “Jim Haeseker, my engine builder, called Dave to see if he’d be interested in signing me, and he was. It’s great to be a professional on a good team, and I’m looking forward to finally getting a chance to ride.”

Haeseker, a Jackson resident, is now on the team, as well. So, too, is Greg Janco, Jesse’s father and mechanic.

Herrera built a track on 10 of the 20 acres on his ranch a couple of years ago, mostly for his friends and family. But word spread about the track, and soon the best local riders came out to train and work with coaches. Herrera said he always wanted to promote Northern California riders and felt the best way to do that was to form his own team. Now Herrera Ranch Racing is the only Supercross and Motocross team in Northern California in a sport dominated by teams from Southern California, Japan and Europe.

The commercial real estate company Herrera works for, Colliers International, is a main sponsor. The team has 14 other sponsors. It’s a good start for a first-year team, Herrera said, but nowhere near the big boys such as Monster Energy Kawasaki and Red Bull KTM, who may have the same amount of sponsors but are gleaning much more money and support from each.

“Our first budget is very conservative,” Herrera said. “Factory riders are taken care of completely and so are ours, but the factory teams have much bigger crews and therefore astronomical budgets. Our budget is closer to those of privateers.”

Herrera Ranch Racing isn’t locked into a particular factory, which can be both a help and a hindrance, Herrera said. For instance, Janco rides a Honda CR250, Krisman likes a Yamaha YZ250 and Raper rides a Kawasaki KX450.

“It’s a help in that as we’re learning the industry, we don’t have as much pressure as if we were a factory team,” Herrera said. “It doesn’t help in that with that added responsibility comes the significant financial support. We’ve left it open if the right deal comes along.”

Mark Billingsley covers local motor sports for The Bee. Reach him at editorwriter@att.net or @editorwriter001.

Hangtown Classic

  • When: Today and Saturday; gates open 7 a.m. each day
  • Where: Prairie City State Vehicular Recreation Area, 13300 White Rock Road, Rancho Cordova
  • Cost: Today, $20 (children ages 6-11, $10); Saturday, $40 (children ages 6-11, $20); children ages 5 and younger admitted free. Parking, $10.
  • Information: www.hangtownmx.com
  • TV: Saturday, 2 p.m., MAVTV; 4 p.m., NBCSN
  • Opening ceremony: 12:25 p.m. Saturday, followed by pro motos in both classes.
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