Interview: Luke Renzland
Traders Racing Yamaha rider Luke Renzland (23) had been running like the proverbial Swiss watch, consistent as ever he was fith in the 250SX East standings after 5 rounds. In the super competitive East-West shootout in Indianapolis Luke shattered the ceiling. He posted the fastest lap of the night and made the first ever podium of his pro career. So who is this El Dozer guy actually?
Originally from New Jersey the multitime Loretta’s champion has been plugging away steadily since making his SX debut in 2015. Last year Dreamland’s in-house track builder finished eighth in the 250SX East Region and scored a sixth place finish in Atlanta, until then the best of his career. Fast forward to the present. Renzland just became one of the very few privateers to score an East-west shootout rostrum finish!
Congratulations Luke, what a ride for you in Indy! You ran second for most of the race with the most stacked field of the year. It definitely opened some eyes out.
Luke Renzland: “Thanks! It was a crazy day, my goal was to make top-5 or get a podium before the end of SX season. To get my first podium at the East/West Shootout was the last place I pictured myself getting on the box. All year I’ve been the 6th to 10th place guy. I haven’t exactly made it easy on myself with the starts I’ve had. It’s been mind-numbing coming off the track knowing that I just came from the back again! I think I only didn’t crash at the start in Tampa and Indy. The last two weeks I haven’t done one lap on my SX track. I’ve just really been working on starts and last week we got six hours worth of starts in –clutches were smoked. My brain was smoked too (laughs).”
You’ve had a super solid season so far but your evolution in the Pro class has been about gradual improvement rather than a meteoric rise.
Renzland: “That’s always been the thing with me. Even as an amateur I would move up a class and would be a little further behind and then I’d slowly build until I was one of the top guys. It ‘s been the same in the Pro class. This year I’m coming closer and closer to achieving my goals. It just took a while to put all the pieces together. Finally in the main event in Indy I was able to execute what we’ve been doing during the week.”
And you won the Litkit award, celebrating the most stylish rider, in Dallas!
Renzland: “Yeah absolutely, that was my first trophy as a pro. Got to appreciate that! The Grey/Red Shot Contact kit looks great man, I’ve been wearing it quite often. Looking good on the track is half the battle.”
You’re a pretty versatile rider and you’re fast in the sand. How much does that help in supercross?
Renzland: “I think that’s part of the reason why I’m able to come from so far back in the main event. When the tracks break down and they’re not at their best condition I’m feeling I’m at my best. I enjoy it when tracks are broken down, I’ve never really been a good hard pack rider. I like it when it’s loose and rutted.”
How does summer look like for El Dozer?
Renzland: “Honestly I’m trying to figure it what I“ll do this summer. I’m sure I want to do a mixture of things. For sure GNCC has my interest, I will do a couple of those whether I race outdoors or not. Right now I don’t have a plan in mind. My focus is now on ending the SX season strong, we’ll see what I do after that. Either way, I think I’ll have a bit of a break after Las Vegas.”
Most elite riders just have their programme to focus on. You’ve got a sidegig working the machines, preparing the tracks at Dreamland. How does that work out?
Renzland: “Honestly I like it. That work on the property is a little bit my therapy I guess. It enables me to wash out anything on your brain and it allows to focus on something different for a change. When you don’t have anything else to do than ride and train that’s kind of hard. Like when you’re constantly replaying everything in your mind and that will break you down.”
Your family owns the Dreamland facility in northern Florida and over the years you guys literally build it to what is. So you know the place inside out. You already had some of the best riders in the sport coming over. Who impressed you most?
Renzland: “We had Josh Hansen here recently. Although he hasn’t been riding much he impressed me right out of the gate! His style is unlike anyone else. He’s got a cool style even when he doesn’t try to look cool. We had Ricky Carmichael here. He was impressive for not having raced competitively for 10, 11 years. Over the years we had a good group of guys coming here. It’s always fun to see new people visiting. No matter who they are or what their level of riding is they’re always impressed and even a bit intimidated by the tracks so that’s cool!”
What are you most proud of, what you’ve accomplished as a rider or what you did with Dreamland?
Renzland: “I’m proud of it all, I couldn’t have done without the other you know. It’s definitely a lot of work at home to get the property to where it’s at now. But that’s definitely been a family effort. It’s cool to sit back at the end of the day and look back at what we built together. Of course I’ve been working hard at being a racer for the last 20 years so… I’m proud of how far I’ve came but at the same time I’ve a lot farther to go so I’m just going to keep chipping away at it.”
With Skip Norfolk, the race director at Traders Racing Yamaha, you have a legend of the sport in your corner. Skip was the long time mechanic for Jeremy McGrath, and he helped to develop the Traders team further when he joined in 2016. What is it like working with him?
Renzland: “Skip is like an endless book of knowledge! He probably has more race experience than anyone else going to the track nowadays. And he definitely has more experience winning main events! He knows what it takes to win at the elite level. Also he knows how to push me to get there. No matter what question I have he’s there to help me out. Skip is been a huge part of the growth proces of the team. I’m really happy to work with him and I consider him more of a friend really.”
It seems you guys have a neat package as far as the bike goes. Especially the Öhlins suspension is very different from what we’re used to seeing.
Renzland: “We started to work with them last year and we ork very closely with the group of guys in Sweden. Between races we communicate with them on a weekly basis. Every year they make 2, 3 trips over to the US to do testing with us and introduce new stuff. It’s a factory effort; they return to sit down with their engineers, crunch the numbers and figure out what to do for the next step. Then they bring over the new stuff and we’ll test it again. It’s cool to work with a group of guys like that from Europe. I’ve never worked that close with any company as far as development goes. We’re racing at the highest level of supercross they competed in so as a group we’re learning together. All the settings we come up for SX are actually new to anyone.”
It’s rare to see a private team compete against the factory teams. From the team owner Gary Luckett, over Skip Norfolk to the team manager Kenny Day, the Traders guys have good reputation for being very demanding of their equipment. Where do you think your bike ranks against the factory motorcycles?
Renzland: “Well, it’s really hard to say exactly until you can compare them yourself. But we thought the Traders Yamaha was really good last year. We thought the bike was on a competitive level last year and we made huge progress on that this year. I definitely would say that our bike is competitive to say the least. I try not to worry about what those guys have and keep building what we have. ”
Obviously you train at Dreamland most of the time. Does that mean you do most of the riding on your own or do you invite guys over?
Renzland: “My whole career, all the way back as an amateur I trained at private tracks. Just me and my brother Kody. I’m used to chase the stopwatch and push myself that way. But the last couple of years I’ve been riding a lot with Nick Gaines, my team mate at Traders Racing. We’re able to push each other and when he’s not there I fall back on my own programme and my brother on the stopwatch.”
You’re a great jumper and you have no problem with going big. What’s your advice for the weekend warrior who wants to improve his jumping?
Renzland: “Man, my advice would be to take your time with it. The more seat time you put in… It’s crazy how quickly things will come and the more in-tune you will become with your bike. I’ve never been one to rush into things myself. Actually when I was a mini-rider my family called me ‘velcro-tires’ because my wheels would never leave the ground! But over time things will come as you get more comfortable with the bike and it will become second nature to jump anything.”
It’s funny to see moto guys, especially at the top, who’re into off-road too. Not everyone gets that side of the sport.
Renzland: “I’m open to anything really. Last year I expanded my horizons doing a couple of GNCC races at the end of the year. That side of the sport is actually really cool, I like the off-road stuff. Me and one of my friends have been talking about how cool it would be to be part of the US Club Team at the ISDE. I don’t know when that’s going to happen but to go over there and experience what it would be like is awesome. I’m open to give any new kind of racing a go, whether that’s dirt track or anything else. I’m kind of dabbling in trials and did my first event last year. Really, anything with two wheels I’m interested in!”
If you were in power and you could change one thing about the sport what would that be?
Renzland: “Man, I would like give the riders one month off between supercross and motocross. That would be my dream for sure. Especially for the 450 class but even for the 250 class. It seems the season becomes so much of a grind by the end of the year. You don’t feel fresh at all and by the mid-point of the motocross season you feel burned out.”
Last but not least, where does the El Dozer moniker come from?
Renzland: “When I raced off-road last year I was the moto guy that was out of control, going into trees and stuff. That led to someone making the comment that I was ‘dozing trees. That turned into ‘El Dozer’ and it seems to have stuck now!”
Thanks for your time Luke.
Renzland: “My pleasure, see you around.”