Johnny Gallagher, Drew Landers, Cole Richardson and the obvious one, Walker Fowler. Just a few of the big names this week’s featured interviewee has worked with as a mechanic over the years. Obviously, we’re talking about Mark Notman. Many who attend the GNCC’s regularly are well aware of who Mark is and what he means to Walker Fowler’s success. We had a chance to catch up with Mark and learn a little bit more about him, his success as a rider and his journey as Walker Fowler’s right-hand man in all six of their GNCC Championships. Oh yeah, he also had a very big life-event just a few weeks ago!
GNCCRacing.com:Mark, I’m sure you’ve had a busy offseason, what have you been up to?
Mark Notman: Really the work hasn’t stopped. Most people consider their off-season as a time to take a break and relax. Everything has pretty much been the same since the season ended, just no racing. Been building old race bikes to sell. November and December was spent getting bikes ready for Walker Fowler to head to Florida for the winter. Then I gotta start on new bikes for the GNCC season.
In addition to building for Walker, you also build bikes for Drew Landers as well as Johnny Gallagher, correct?
Yup, building Drew’s bikes for this year as well as Johnny’s. I actually built Hunter Hart his new bike back in November. Not doing full time mechanic work for Hunter, but I did the initial build for him and his team is going to take it from there. But yeah, I helped him out with his suspension. Walker invited him up here back in September and I think it’s paid off well for him in those last few rounds last season.
Wow, that’s big for Hunter Hart! Outside of the world of racing, you had a pretty significant life-event. Less than a month ago you got engaged. Tell us about that.
Yeah! Thank you! It’s been almost exactly a month ago. It was Christmas Eve, obviously with COVID we aren’t really able to go out and do anything super fancy. We were sitting at my house, keep in mind, we’re both terrible at taking pictures. I said, “Hey, before we forget, why don’t we take a picture together!” She set up her phone on the mantel and set a self-timer and it worked out perfect. As she walked over to setup her phone, I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me. It was pretty cool; she didn’t really see it coming so that made it even better.
Since it was a surprise, do you have a date?
Actually yes! October 30th this year, we’re getting married.
October 30th! WOW! So, you’re banking on no make-up rounds of GNCC in November?
Well she wanted a fall wedding, and obviously with race season it’s difficult to plan anything. But the venue we found had two weekends available. One weekend was Ironman, which obviously wouldn’t work. So, the Halloween weekend being available, we took. The make-up date isn’t for another two weeks after that. So, we can still be gone for a week on the honeymoon and back home just in case we have a make-up round.
That’s very exciting, you’re going to be very busy this year. Any chance you get to bring your fiancé to “the office” this year?
Yeah, for sure! She made a few rounds last year and she’s hoping to make a few this year.
Well back to racing, most folks are aware that you did in fact race prior to working as a mechanic for Walker Fowler. How did that transition come about?
2012 was my last year racing in the Pro Class. The last couple years I raced I just wasn’t where I had been in years past. Back in 2008 I finished 2nd in the XC2 with a ton of podiums. A few things changed for me the following year and I really never got back to where I was in 08. In 2012 I switched bikes mid-season, which financially drained me. Between that and not getting the results I knew I was capable of, I just simply got burned out. We’ve been friends with the Fowlers for, wow, probably 20 years or real close. It was my dad actually, he mentioned something to Danny Fowler, Walker’s dad. They were looking for a mechanic after Walker parted with Bill Ballance. One thing led to another and I was hanging up the boots and picking up wrenches.
I’d say things have worked out pretty well. You’ve been apart of all 6 of Walker’s Championships?
Yeah, I’ve been with him since 2013, so the last 8 seasons.
As you look back, and obviously you’re nowhere near being done, but as you look back, what are some of your favorite highlights and big takeaways from the last 8 seasons?
2015 was obviously very special. It was our first Championship. We had some issues mid-season when we broke a chain at Limestone, I believe. Obviously gave up some points at that one. After summer break Walker got on a roll and had a little bit of luck with, I believe Adam McGill, he had some misfortunes and we ended up gaining some points heading into Ironman. It wasn’t close like back in 2014 when we were battling with Chris Borich but there really was very little room for error. I think we needed at least a Top Ten. So, pressure, but not major pressure like we’d faced the previous year. But halfway through the race Walker’s riding around in 11th or 12th. (Mark laughs. At himself or at Walker, I’m not sure.) You know obviously the end goal, the Championship, it weighs on a rider’s mind, especially when it’s the first one. But he finally got it together after the fuel stop and moved up to 3rd or 4th with some help from a few other guys that broke down. But that one was very special. And of course, 2017, that was Walker’s near perfect season. Of course, that was “ruined” by Johnny Gallagher at X Factor. But, as Johnny’s mechanic, it was a perfect year for me. Plus, that was our first year on our own as a team. We’d left AmPro and started what is now WFR. We had a lot to prove to everyone, including us, that we could do it on our own. And we did, so yeah, 2017 was very special as well.
What’s a week of preparation look like for you from a mechanic’s perspective.
It starts as soon as the last race ends. Get the bikes home, tear them down, make sure nothing is broke. They pretty much come down to bare frame. Bottom ends stay in typically, but everything else for the most part gets checked out, re-greased and cleaned. I try getting all that done in the first week after a race. Then on Tuesday of the next week we get the bikes out and put 20-30 minutes on them to make sure everything is dialed. Then take them back to the shop, clean them up, slap the graphics on and load up to go racing.
You’ve had the opportunity to race a GNCC here and there over the last few years. Unfortunately, if you’re racing that usually means Walker Fowler is not. Unless it’s a situation where he’s got the Championship wrapped up early. Regardless, you raced Ironman last year. How is it being able to throw the leg over the bike and do some racing?
Yeah, I’ve actually been able to race Ironman the last couple years. It’s fun! In 2019 I made Walker run my pitstop. After my pitstop he had to go and prep his own quad (Again, Mark chuckles.). I think I got third in Sportsman A and 10th Overall. I was hoping for a better O/A and a class win, but I wasn’t really that prepared. It was just fun to be out there.
In other words, if Walker Fowler wraps up the Championship early, we get to see Mark Notman do some racing.
Well yeah, normally. I’m thinking maybe that’s not the best idea this year, since I’m getting married in October. But we’ll see.
From a mechanic’s perspective. We rarely see any of you machines suffer a breakdown during a race. Whether it’s Walker, Johnny or even Drew Landers. It just seems like they rarely have a bike failure. Is that to your credit, theirs or a combination of both?
I’d love to take all the credit for that. But honestly, a lot of that falls on the rider taking care of the machine while they’re out there. For example, Mason Dixon last year, it was an absolute duster. We had a game-plan going in because we had the same conditions there the year before. Walker said, “If conditions are as bad as we expect, have a filter ready. Even if we loose time, it will pay off in the end.” I mean, we bend some things up here and there, it’s woods racing. You can’t bee 100% all the time. But yeah, overall, it’s a solid team effort. A lot can be said about the components we run as well. We have a lot of great companies in our corner that make our jobs a lot easier. The Yamaha quad is an absolute tank. They’re indestructible, they’re hard to beat. Our hat is off to Yamaha for building such a great machine.
Alright, one more and we’ll let you thank some sponsors and folks that support you. Now this is likely the thing people want to know the most from you. Are you ready? How many times on Friday and Saturday do you have to answer the question, “Hey, do you know where Walker Fowler is?”
Whoa, man… probably every bit of 50 times or more. It’s either the RacerTV crew, you or Rodney looking for an interview and then obviously the kids. The Walker Fowler fans that want to hang out or get his autograph. Obviously, there are folks who only get to a round or two per year and want to say hello. But he’s definitely got a group of kids that show up every race just to say hello.
Alright, I’m going to do you a favor, Mark. For you folks reading this, next time you see Walker Fowler, ask him if he knows where Mark Notman is hanging out.
Perfect! Thank you!
Mark, big congratulations on the engagement! Looking forward to seeing what you and your riders do in 2021. Last thing, who are the people and sponsors that help make this possible for you?
Thank you! Obviously, I’d like to thank my family for all their support throughout the years. My fiancé, Katie, for understand all the weekends I’m on the go. The Fowler family for believing in me back eight years ago and letting me be a part of their journey. Then of course all the great sponsors we have, Yamaha, GBC Tires, Fly Racing and the list goes on. Huge thanks to those guys for helping us out and believing in Walker and myself. Getting us in a position to go out and win Championships!