GNCC Racing

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Tuesday, February 22, 2022 | 4:35 PM

This week GNCC Racing caught up with the Big Buck 4x4 Pro overall winner Haedyn Mickelson for the Wiseco Tuesday Toolbox.

Haedyn Mickelson earned the season opener 4x4 Pro overall win in South Carolina. Ken Hill

GNCCRacing.com: Haedyn let’s go back to the beginning. What got you start riding?

Haedyn Mickelson: When I was around five or six years old, I lived up in Minnesota. My parents would trail ride a lot. My brother and I would sit on the back and ride with them. It got to the point where we wanted to ride by ourselves. Dad bought us a little LTZ 80 Suzuki. Up in Minnesota you had to be 16 to ride the trails by yourself so we went to the motocross track. So I actually started, as most people know, on the moto track. Raced moto from the time I was 7 until I was about 22 years old.

What got you to make the shift to racing woods?  

I grew up racing with Wesley (Wolfe) who did moto and GNCC. I had a buddy reach out to do the Heartland Challenge in Iowa with him. So I gave it a shot on the sport quad. It was alright, I enjoyed it. A few weeks after that was the Ironman GNCC. I gave that a shot and I got absolutely smoked out there. It was so bad. I signed up for the A class because I was racing Pro-Am in Motocross. I remember getting a start somewhere mid-pack. We came up to the first creek crossing and the guy in front of me got stuck in some deep ruts. Then I got stuck in the ruts for what felt like hours. By the time the race ended I was completely done with GNCC and woods racing. I knew if I was on a sport quad, I needed to be on a moto track. The next year the same people I did the Heartland Challenge with bought a Can-Am 4X4 and asked if I’d like to give the Heartland Challenge another shot. I’m always down for something new. The 4X4 made sense to me for woods racing, I knew on that machine I wasn’t getting stuck at any creek crossings again. I talked to my dad afterward and the owner of Phoenix, David, about getting me hooked up with a Can-Am Renegade. From there I raced 4X4 A class at GNCC, I think that was five years ago now. I did fairly well and really enjoyed it.

Was that the end of the ATV Motocross career?

Yeah, I was kind of over it at that point. I’d been doing it for roughly 17 years. I decided to start focusing more on the 4X4 Pro Class and looking back I think that was the right idea for me. I never expected to be a GNCC woods guy. The only experience I had in the woods prior was me, Grayson and our buddies sneaking off into the woods at a moto event on TRX 90’s trying not to get in trouble. Next thing I know, I’m on a 4X4 at GNCC and loving it.

Ken Hill

You’ve made several podiums, but the win had eluded you until this past Saturday at Big Buck. It epic fashion too, a four way battle after the white flag came out. To what do you owe that success?

I spoke with Santo (DeRisi) before the season started. My first lap has historically been terrible. Whether I get a good start or a bad start that first lap just isn’t good. It seemed like no matter what I did, Landon and those guys would be way ahead of me after the first lap. Santo gave me some solid advice on what he used to do, and I was very confident in myself coming into round one. When I took off, I didn’t get a great start. I think I was second to last into the woods. I knew what I had to do to get caught up with those guys, so I had to sprint and start making passes. By the end of the first lap I was sitting up into the number four spot, but I could see Landon, Cody, and Brandon up front. That was motivating to know I was close enough that if I rode smart, I’d be there with those guys. At the end of the third lap we got into a bottleneck and all four of us were bumper to bumper. The way the race timed out we never got a two lap card and the four of us came through for the white flag wheel to wheel. I was a little nervous seeing the white flag. Right after the white flag, Brandon pulled over to pit, so I picked up the number three position. Then about five miles left Cody pulled over to pit. That’s when it hit me that it was just me and Landon. I’d been running with them all day and felt like I had the speed to get him. There was one spot on the track, a corner just off the main line. As Landon approached it I kept thinking, Please don’t see that line, please don’t see that line, when he went by it I popped right into that corner and it was like a black out as I got in front of him. From there I just kept thinking, don’t mess this up, race smart. We rant into a few lappers, but the rest of the track was pretty tight, so I was able to hold Landon off. Coming through for the checkered flag in first place was such an amazing feeling. After three seasons of running the pro class I feel like the work finally paid off.

Did you do anything differently during the offseason to prepare for 2022?

I actually got to ride a good bit on the quad I raced Saturday. Which was different for me in the past. Most years I’ve been down in Florida riding motocross, not on a 4X4. This offseason I got a lot more seat time on the 4X4 and I felt more comfortable on the machine than I have in the past. The speed was there for me throughout the race instead of just the last lap.

First win is the hardest. Now that it’s out of the way what’s next on the list of goals for you? 

I really want to just be running up front with the guys all year. I think I can be there contending for wins each race. In the past I’ve been up and down with a win and then a fourth or fifth. So I want to be more consistent and show that round one wasn’t just a fluke. So I want to win as many as I can.

Mickelson is looking forward to battling with the other 4x4 Pro competitors this year.  Ken Hill

You’ve got a job outside of racing. What do you do for a living to help support racing?

Yeah, in the offseason I do hurricane clean-up and disaster relief. I drive a truck with a self-loader, and we do disaster clean up. It’s a weird job, seasonal obviously. But hurricane season is right after the race season for us, so it works out really well for me. I’ve got my CDL so during the year I will haul some things around for money here and there but primarily it’s the disaster relief that pays the bills.

When you’re not racing or training, what do you like to do for fun?

I ride bikes a lot. I love doing downhill Enduro biking. Also I recently got really into golf. Hit the links with Josh Merritt a few times over the offseason down in Florida. We’d get done riding and immediately go hit the golf course.

Kayla Bolton

Who’s better, you or Josh?

Umm, honestly, it was tight. I won one and he won one. I can’t remember who won the third round.

All the 4X4 guys seems pretty tight. Who’s in the pits and helping you on race weekend?

All the DeRisi guys for sure. Santo, Jordan, all of them. They’re the main guys getting the quad setup for me. They have a lot more experience with woods setup than I do so I trust them 100%. James has been awesome getting the suspension dialed in for me as well. Landon helps me out a lot too. So every Saturday morning we’re talking to him about the track and everything surrounding it. Honestly that’s one of the things that draws me to GNCC. We all get out there and compete for sure, but we’re buddies off the track. It’s a little different than moto. 

Haedyn Mickelson (center) with Landon Wolfe (left) and Brandon Frazier (right) rounding out the 4x4 Pro top three at the Big Buck GNCC. Ken Hill

SBR (Stewart Boys Racing) plays a pretty big role for you as well don’t they?

Yeah, I have to give a huge shoutout to them. When Phoenix bought me the 4X4 and I raced it for two years we realized none of us really knew what we were doing with the 4X4. That’s when I met Jason (Stewart) and he told me I need to take it to DeRisi. The year after that I spoke with Jason about helping me out and from there, he’s done everything possible to get me out there racing. I can’t thank that family enough for everything they do.

Who else would you like to thank?

Obviously SBR as I just mentioned, Action Offroad, Derisi Racing, Fly Racing, Can-Am, HMF, STM Powersports, SSI Decals, and THXC Designs.