I’m a huge advocate for people who figure out ways to make money doing something they love rather than working a job they hate to support what they love. How’s the saying go, “Do what you love and never work a day in your life.”
Devil’s advocate on that mantra, sometimes doing what you love for a living takes the fun out of it. There are moments you wish you had a “normal” 8-5 but more often than not, quite frankly, it’s the coolest thing ever!
Johnny Gallagher will be the first to tell you, he’s not out there racing for championships. He’s out there racing because it’s fun, it’s challenging, and it has given him opportunities in life that no other industry could have given him.
GNCCRacing.com: Johnny, thanks for joining me today. How’s it going?
Johnny Gallagher: Well, it was going well until I just spilled my morning coffee all over my work bench. But that’s okay, I’ll get over it. Life goes on.
I think it’s safe to say everyone in the GNCC Racin’ Nation knows who you are. So instead of having you verbally give us your resume, tell us how this all started for you and what led you to where you’re at now in the industry.
Whoa, so I’ve got to go WAY back. I’m actually so old that I didn’t even start on a quad. I started on a three-wheeler. Dad raced before I was born at a local series in Ohio. He was a big motorcycle guy growing up, always had street bikes and didn’t actually ride a dirt bike until a few years before I was born. He started racing and then I was born. On my fifth birthday I got a three-wheeler. My mom was and still is quite conservative. She thought it was cool that my dad raced, but she thought it was dangerous. So needless to say she didn’t want me to ride, let alone race. Dad got me a little ATC 70. Right then and there was the official love for ATVs and racing. I thought I was going to get a PW50 to be honest, thought I’d be a dirt bike guy.
When did you start getting some success in GNCC?
Progressed on the three-wheeler and eventually got a four-wheeler. I actually won my only GNCC Championship in 1990. The Overall Youth title and the Super-Stock title I believe it was called back then. Raced against guys like William Yokley and Bob Sloan’s son, Jason. The excitement I felt for racing ATVs and racing GNCC never went away. All the way to today, still running in the XC1 Pro class.
You’re a huge Yamaha guy. A great advocate for the brand. To the point that when I think Yamaha, I think Johnny G. Sorry Walker Fowler and Stew Baylor, it’s just the truth. How did you get hooked up with Yamaha all those years ago and end up getting support for your career moving forward?
You could say the old Tri-Zinger 60’s is where it started. But realistically I hadn’t owned another Yamaha until 2008 when I started riding for them. I had a great relationship with guys through Bill Balance, and I helped Traci Cecco, now Traci Pickens, wrenching on her bikes and helping her get to the races from 2005 to 2010. So over those years the guys at Yamaha were pushing me to get on with them. Funny enough, the thing that finally got me on a Yamaha was I was riding for Jeff Cernic and he had every major brand except Yamaha. Once he finally had Yamaha in 2007, I transitioned to Yamaha in 2008. And since then I’ve had factory support. It has taken me to some amazing places in my career as well as given me the opportunity to be involved in some amazing programs around racing as well.
One of those programs you’re involved with is the GNCC University presented by Yamaha Racing at Snowshoe. How did this come about?
Yeah, GNCC University came about in 2009, we did it with great success on both the motorcycle and ATV side of things. As the Snowshoe GNCC became one of the premier events of the year it started getting difficult to hold the GNCC University at the same time. I believe the last year we did it was in 2013, until it started back up in 2019. 2019 was a huge success but obviously it wasn’t able to happen in 2020 with COVID going on. Thanks to some help from Steve Nessl and Jennifer Davie from Yamaha as well as Tim Cotter from Racer Productions got together and with Yamaha making a huge push in off-road racing were able to bring the GNCC University back to life. With the success that Yamaha has had in the world of GNCC with Walker Fowler winning Championships as well as AmPro Yamaha stepping up their game over the last few years, Yamaha said hey, we want to give something back to the off-road community. The first thing that popped up was GNCC University, no matter how difficult it will be.
I already know the answer to this question, but I feel like a lot of people may not. This program isn’t just geared toward our youth riders, correct? It’s something that riders of any age and ability are welcome to join?
Correct! It’s an opportunity for everyone no matter what age. An opportunity to learn from some of the best in the business. Riding skills, fitness, nutrition, bike setup. You name it, we’re covering it at the GNCC University. Obviously, it’s primarily youth riders that come out and join us. But I have to say, some of the biggest improvements we see, in results, come from the adults or older teens and even younger adults in their 20’s. There are a lot of factors in that, but I think as people get older and they’re spending their own money on something they are a little more dedicated to the program because they want to see a return on their investment. Even if it’s something small, their technique, or just the confidence boost they have from getting advice from Pro riders, it’s paying off on the track come race day. Youth riders are still in that sponge stage mentally. Everything the pros tell them is soaked up and applied because they want to chase that same success they see in their favorite pro rider. So really, there’s something for everyone.
Alright, putting you on the spot. Who are a few riders that have come through this program who are having success now?
Off the top of my head, Hunter Hart, John Glauda and Landon Wolfe. Landon, I believe it was his A class season or perhaps his XC2 season, he came as a student. He told me himself, he approached it with a willingness to learn despite the fact that he was already so close to the top. And the result was it gave him enough of a boost that he feels it’s helped him in his racing career. And I mean, the guy is a multi-time 4X4 Pro Champion, working on another one this season. And you see the results Hunter Hart has been getting as well.
What’s the schedule look like for the program?
There are some packages available on Snowshoe’s website, which is awesome! There is also spots available even if you’re rolling to the race with the RV. It’s $300 if you’re just wanting to do the University. That includes three days at the University, the instructions from riders, dinner Wednesday, breakfast lunch and dinner Thursday, breakfast and lunch on Friday. It’s well worth it. We cover everything from training, nutrition, mental preparation, bike prep, maintenance, setup, riding skills and everything else that’d go with it.
Who are some of the instructors you’ll have there?
Walker Fowler, Traci Pickens, Josh Merritt, Jeff Pickens, and myself on the ATV side. Mark Notman and Danny Fowler will be there for the support side of things. For the bike side the list is super long, but some of the heavy hitters are Stew Baylor, Becca Sheets, Layne Michael, Rachael Archer, Jason Raines, Emily Raines, Randy Hawkins and Mike Witkowski.
As if the names mentioned aren’t enough reason to join, give us one more item that makes this all worth the investment.
Every year we’ve done this, we’ve had several riders win their very first ever GNCC at Snowshoe. To me, that speaks volumes to what will be learned on the mountain. You’re also getting seat time on the mountain that you wouldn’t otherwise get.
Johnny, thank you so much for joining me today. One last thing, who are the sponsors you’d like to thank?
Thank you! My parting shout out would be, come enjoy a few days with us at GNCC University and from there, let’s enjoy some racing at Snowshoe. And by that, I mean let’s party on the mountain. I want thank GBC, Fly Racing, Yamaha, BNR Motorsports, Scott Goggles, FASST Company, ODI, SSI Decals, Maxima, Quadtech, Hinson, IMS, IQ EQUIPMENT, Fox Shocks, Houser Racing, DP Brakes, GPS WHEELS, Powermadd and Live It Extreme.