GNCC Racing

Tuesday Toolbox: Steward Baylor

Tuesday Toolbox: Steward Baylor

Tuesday, March 12, 2019 | 7:00 PM
Tuesday, March 12, 2019 | 7:00 PM

Steward Baylor Jr. was the winner of this year’s opening round, the Wild Boar GNCC. He’s been around this series for most of his life, and signed his first pro deal at the tender age of 14. He told us about his off-season, racing strategies, and plans for this season. Although he has struggled with injuries the last few years, it looks like his career is back on the upswing. We look for him to have a very successful GNCC season this year!

Steward Baylor earned the first win of the season in Florida.
Steward Baylor earned the first win of the season in Florida. Ken Hill Although pretty much everyone knows who you are, they might not know where you come from. So, why don’t you start off by giving us a brief history of your riding career.

Stu Baylor: I grew up racing the GNCCs from the time I was about 8 years old. I won quite a few amateur championships, moved up quickly through the ranks and by the time I was 14 years old I signed my first pro deal with KTM. In 2010 I moved into XC2, and in 2011 I won my first XC2 championship. In 2012 it looked like I was going to the next dominant rider to start a GNCC reign, but then I got injured, and the last four or five years have been up and down. The first couple years after I got hurt I had to have a series of surgeries, which kind of stopped everything. At that point I didn’t know if I would ever be able to get back on top again. Every weekend we’ve just been trying to better ourselves and get back on top.

And it looks like you managed to get on top at the Wild Boar GNCC. Congrats on your win, by the way!

Thank you! I love Florida, I’ve always loved the sand and I’ve always thought I’m, if not the strongest, at least one of the strongest sand riders out there. I was joking around with some of the guys at Kailub’s this week… you know, everybody likes to talk a little crap before the first round. So, I told everyone that I was going to turn the fastest lap in Florida. Then everybody was like, well, why don’t you just win the race then. And I said I wasn’t too worried about winning the whole race, I just wanted everybody to know that I’m the fastest sand rider (laughs). As it turns out I don’t think I turned over the fastest lap after all, but at least I won the race.

Can you tell us about the race itself?

Yeah, I think I pulled a Kailub on Kailub yesterday. I rode behind him and kind of followed him, along with Jordan Ashburn and then Trevor Bollinger were up there for awhile too. I got in the mix of things and instead of trying to take the lead like I usually do, I waited a bit longer, until we only had about two and a half laps to go. I saw an opening and knew that I could start to make my push. I pushed as hard as I could and knew if I could get enough a gap on them, they wouldn’t be able to see me and it’s hard to catch what you can’t see. The following lap, sand got in our quick-fill. It drowned out my bike and I got VP all over myself. I was burning for the next couple hours. And that gap I’d worked so hard for was gone, I left pro row a mere second ahead of Kailub. That was very frustrating because I felt like I had given it everything I had to get that gap. I was winded and thought for sure I was going to tank. At that point in the race is usually where I start to fall apart anyway. I don’t know if it’s mental or physical, or sometimes just bad luck and bike issues. So, I was just waiting for something to go wrong – but it didn’t. Everything kept going right and I got back in my groove. I think we put over a minute on them that very next lap. From there I just rode on to the finish.

Baylor made the pass for first, and checked out at the Wild Boar GNCC.
Baylor made the pass for first, and checked out at the Wild Boar GNCC. Ken Hill

I bet it feels good having some momentum going into the season.

Yeah, definitely. I was pretty worried about this first race, because about 5 weeks ago at the National Enduro I blew out my knee, aggravating an existing injury from one of the Sprint Enduros last year. I couldn’t hardly walk the day after that race. It was kind of a good thing for me that the first race got postponed. It gave me some extra time to heal and a mudder is one of the easiest conditions to tear up a knee in. But my knee didn’t even swell up at Wild Boar. Now I feel like I’m ready for whatever comes my way! I know that I can still do this and will be a top contender this year.

So, what are you hoping to accomplish this year and what is your strategy for getting there?

GNCC is my main focus this year. The last few years I’ve focused on National Enduros and ridden the bike that best suited me. I wanted to change everything this year though and have a revamped program. Instead of doing a lot of sprint and interval work to prepare for the Enduros, we’re focusing more on long-duration work to prep for the three-hour races. As the season wears on I just hope I don’t wear out! That’s the big thing. I just hope that we have a smooth year.

Other than shifting the focus of your training, is there anything else you did over the off-season to prepare that you would like to talk about?

I had a lot of fun, but I did my motos, I did my work. One thing I was really spent a lot of time working on really keeping my feet on the pegs. I think that paid off a lot, because by the time I fully blew it out, it became more natural to keep my feet on the pegs which is what you have to do to protect an injury like that. Really it was just a lot of time spent doing control drills and motos and putting the work in. We still had time to build a lot of tracks and I spent a good amount of time on the dozer too, which is always fun for me. I’m still enjoying all of this, and that’s a big part of anyone’s program. When you stop having fun with what you’re doing, you’ll never be as successful as the guy who still enjoys it.

Baylor celebrates his victory at the season opener.
Baylor celebrates his victory at the season opener. Ken Hill

Right, you guys recently put on a race at your place, didn’t you?

Yeah, we put on a race just to see how it was. We ended up having a great pro turnout, Josh Strang, Ricky Russell, Andrew DeLong, Evan Smith, a lot of good pros came by. It was a hell of a battle between everyone, and really fun to watch – I didn’t really feel like I should race when I put on the event and it was held at my own track (laughs).

Was it interesting being on the other side of things like that?

Definitely! It was cool and it was something unique for this area. It was kind of like a J-Day race, and you don’t see any races like that outside of the New England area. It was cool as shit watching, I had a blast cheering everyone on!

I also saw that you got married over the off-season – want to tell us about your better half?

I’ve been with Jade for … god, eight or nine years now. I met her through racing and I felt like the time was right. We’d been together forever and that wasn’t going to change. We got married in December and planned it for the off-season. We went for a honeymoon and I got to take quite a bit of time off. I came back refreshed and ready for to roll.

Steward Baylor (center), Kailub Russell (left) and Thad Duvall (right) rounded out the top three.
Steward Baylor (center), Kailub Russell (left) and Thad Duvall (right) rounded out the top three. Ken Hill

You’ve had a pretty good career already, and have gotten to do a lot of different things. What accomplishment are you the proudest of?

I would say the 2012 National Enduro title is my number one. It’s well known that I’ll ride through injuries, ride through the pain, but in 2012 that was a whole new level. That year was the injury that almost ended my career. I fell at the Indiana GNCC, fracturing my wrist. We didn’t think it was broken at first because the x-rays were misread, so I continued to race. Then we realized it was broken and had to get a surgery, after which I immediately went back to racing. I also broke my foot and my collarbone in that same year, it was a mess. But somehow, I still managed to pull out the Enduro championship. Winning that, especially injured … it was grueling, and the toughest thing I’ve ever had to overcome. That season is kind of what I hung my hat on whenever I thought that racing might be coming to an end – if nothing else, I had accomplished that. And I would say it is still probably the most memorable championship for me.

This last question is normally what trips everyone up – what is one interesting, non-motorsports related thing about you?

I like to drink beer (laughs)

And who would you like to thank?

Tely Energy Racing, KTM, Moose, Kenda, Shoei, EKS, Forma, G2, Fasst Company, Seat Concepts, Mojo Motorsport, Hinson, Spectro Oils, TM Designs, ODI Grips, Fastway, Senge Graphics, IMS, Twin Air, Evans Coolant, Cometic Gaskets, Morgantown Powersports, Ride On Moto, DP Brakes, Motion Pro, VP Fuel, Super B, E-Line, Wick Flow, Live it Extreme, and Brown’s RV Superstore.