Josh Merritt is an XC1 Pro ATV racer in the GNCC Series and off to the best start of his career. In addition, he tried his hand at a new form of racing several weeks ago – the ATV Supercross at the Daytona International Speedway. He plans to hit more ATV Motocross rounds, schedule permitting, though GNCC remains his main focus. Originally from Ohio, he now lives and works for the Glauda Family in the Carolinas, where he has a great group of people to ride and train with.
GNCCRacing.com: So, Josh, tell us a little about yourself.
Josh Merritt: My name is Josh Merritt. I’m from Akron, Ohio. I’m currently based, have been for the last year in a half, in the Carolinas – right on the border of North and South Carolina. I’ve been living in the Glauda household. I’ve been racing since I was eight years old, worked my way through the ranks, and was Youth Rider of the Year in 2008.
I moved up to the 300 Class and did okay. From there I went to College A, spending one year in the class and finishing 6th. I wasn’t the fastest kid coming up, but I made it here with hard work and determination. I also played high school soccer while I was racing, just living the life of a teenager at the time.
I moved up to the Pro-Am Class and learned a lot and got faster. I got to ride with Chris Borich, Johnny Gallagher and Landon Wolfe…Wow, what a crowd! I was able to better myself and made it up to the Pro Class eight years ago. I’ve just been putting in my years, learning more and more each year.
How has your GNCC season gone so far this year?
I got a 7th at Big Buck, an 8th at Wild Boar and a 9th at The General. So, my year has been pretty good. I’ve been consistent and that’s always the goal. I would like to do a little better though. I feel like I’m on the threshold of being with the top guys. This class is kind of split right now, between the top guys and the mid pack guys, and I’m right there in the middle. I would like to be with the top group up front. I need to find about thirty seconds a lap and get good starts so I can stay with them. So, I need to be working on my starts.
But overall, this is the best start to a season that I’ve ever had. I’m not sure how soon we’ll be racing again, but I’ll be ready when we do.
Now, I saw you also did an ATV motocross round while we were down in Florida…
Yeah, so on Saturday I raced Wild Boar, then on Sunday I went to a motocross track to practice on this BNR Motorsports ATV. I got maybe fifteen minutes of practice in. We got to Daytona on Monday and had tech inspection and a riders’ meeting. The tech inspection was very interesting because they have a lot more rules than GNCC. Tuesday morning, I was up and ready to go at 5am. I guess you could say I was a little nervous/excited. We got a track walk in around 7am, then the qualifying races started at 8am, and the heat races started at noon. It is a very long day compared to a GNCC. You have to mentally prepare yourself to race multiple times, and physically prepare yourself to have enough energy to get through the entire day.
The motocross quad that Ryan (BNR Motorsports) built me was amazing! Although we cut it quite close to the deadline, I was pumped to race such a beautiful quad. The moto quad is much different from my woods quad, so it took me some time to get used to this new flow. The moto quad is faster, wider, lighter, less ground clearance and has a smaller tires. All these factors made for an interesting couple laps while I got more comfortable with the quad.
How much advance planning did this take?
Ryan Smith and I had this planned out for a while. I had to get an AMA Pro License. Two of the top riders, Joel Hetrick and Chad Wienen, sent me emails saying I had the ability and the rider awareness to race with the top level ATVMX athletes so I could forward those emails to AMA Pro Racing. Before that I had only raced one motocross race as an adult, so I didn’t have much experience, which meant I needed to get those references to get my license.
Then how did the race go?
I got 7th or 8th in the heat race and then ended up 12th out of 18th in the main event. It was awesome being out there with those guys because they are the fastest in the world at that type of racing! The trio – Joel Hetrick, Thomas Brown and Chad Wienen especially. They go overseas and put on a show, demonstrate their speed to the world. So, it’s cool just to be there, let alone be lined up next to them.
For sure! You mentioned you had only done one moto race prior to this – what made you decide to go out on a limb and give this a try?
Well, in GNCCs I’m kind of known as a guy who is pretty fast in the corners, field sections, and moto tracks. I did ride some moto when I was a kid, and I do go to moto tracks and practice on my woods machine, so I thought I’d do okay. But, yeah, those are a bit different than racing the Daytona ATV Supercross on an actual moto quad. But, I thought it would be fun to try something new, and figure things out on the fly. I think I adapted well and impressed some people. I want to hit a few more rounds, schedule permitting.
Since the two machines are really different to ride, how do you plan to split your training time?
That’s a good question. After Daytona I took the moto quad I raced on back with me and Ryan from BNR Motorsports took my practice woods quad. While he’s working on that, I’ll be riding the moto quad. And then once he finishes it, I’ll go back to the woods quad. I do want to improve on the moto side, and I think watching film from the race has helped, but my main priority is still GNCC.
Backing up a bit, how did you get started riding and racing in the first place?
My dad actually raced, started out on three-wheelers, then made his way to four-wheelers, that’s how long ago that was (laughs). But he didn’t really want me to get into it at first, but as you can see obviously I did. We’ve been doing this twenty years now and he still loves being around it, still builds my quads and supports me. My sister, Kara, also raced, up until about two years ago because she started Nursing school. It’s always been a family affair for us, it wouldn’t work if we weren’t a team. It is tough as a privateer, with all of us working full-time, to get the bills paid. It’s a hard one for sure.
What made you decide to start racing the GNCC series?
Growing up, we raced a local series in Ohio, the same one Walker Fowler did. He started going to the GNCC Series and soon talked my family into going to one and trying it out. 2005 was my first GNCC, my sister and I did the John Penton because that was the closest one to us. I ended up 3rd in the Class and 4th Overall. That next year we did the full GNCC Series and have been ever since. We did skip Florida a lot of years, because we had drops and Kara and I were in school.
Speaking of school, was it hard to balance that and racing…. Although actually it’s probably harder now, to be working and racing professionally as a privateer; isn’t it?
I would say it was easier while I was in school just because I had less responsibilities and I was a pretty good student. Like I said, I played soccer, also did club soccer and indoor soccer, so it was a year-round thing. I loved the team sport aspect of it and just competition in general. We had a great team in high school, I loved those kids to death, we were like a family. Things are definitely harder as an adult, just because of work and bills, not being able to put in as much time on the quad. Getting out of school at 3:00 you had quite a few hours of daylight, while by the time you get off work, not so much.
So, what do you do for a day job?
I work at Active Waste Solutions. The Glauda Family owns it. It’s a waste company, and I pretty much just drive a truck all day. I’m super thankful for them, for letting me work for them and giving me the time off I need to race. That month off we take for Florida-Georgia is nice for sure! Plus, Junior, James and Landon are all racing, and even Jamison raced her eBike last race. They’re the reason I came to this area, to work with these guys, help train them and train with them too. I just hope I’m benefiting the family as much as they’re benefiting me. I truly can’t thank them enough!
I assume having a group of people like that to ride and train with is super beneficial.
Oh, for sure! Junior is good, some days he can just blow my doors off (laughs). It’s good riding with him because we’re very competitive with each other, but in a friendly way. We’ll talk crap before and after the race and before and after practice. It makes us push harder, every single day. Levi Coen and James, they’re right there with us too, trying to get better. Having a group, it makes the grind not as bad. When you have a tough day, you have your friends right there. He’s sweating as much as you are, you’re pushing as hard as you can, with the mentality that you’re not going to be the one to quit in front of them.
Tell us something about yourself that doesn’t involve racing.
Well, I love fishing. I would say that if I was going to have any other hobby besides this, it would be fishing. My dad owns a boat store, and growing up he’d run fishing tournaments, so that’s one reason I enjoy it so much, I think. With this whole break we have now, I’ve already gone fishing two or three times. It’s been kind of nice (laughs). I like going by myself, it’s relaxing, peaceful and quiet. Leave the phone and the technology at home and just unwind. Other than that, I pretty much ride and work.
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview! And who would you like to thank?
I would like to thank my mom, dad, sister and girlfriend for making this possible. I would also like to thank BNR Motorsports and their crew, Moose Racing, GBC Motorsports, HMF Engineering, IQ Equipment, SSI Decals, MotoSeat, Yamaha Outdoors, Braaptec 724, Wienen Motorsports, Nine2 Crew, Houser Racing, Precision Racing, Pierce Performance ATV, Hinson Racing, CV4 Powersports, DP Brakes Racing, Urmosi Throttles, Tire Balls East, GoPro, ODI, Evans Waterless Engine Coolant, Active Waste Solutions, Jimmy Bortz for all the support over the years. And, most of all, the Glauda Family!