GNCC Racing

Tuesday Toolbox: Steward Baylor

Tuesday Toolbox: Steward Baylor

Tuesday, November 21, 2023 | 10:50 AM
Tuesday, November 21, 2023 | 10:50 AM

GNCC Racing: First off, let’s jump right into the most important question, how’s deer season going?

Steward Baylor: Deer season this year has been on the back burner for me this year, but I am finally getting to spend a few days in the Midwest hunting with the family! As most know the silly season gets really silly when you’re the racer and trying to line up the deals for the following season, in turn leaving me with not much time to myself! 

Alright, now we’ll dive into racing. You and Jared Bolton got to head over to Japan and race the JNCC series. What was it like?

Initially it was one of the bucket list races but a country most people do not put at the top of the list to go visit. I now have it as one of the top countries that I would enjoy visiting again in the future, although the racing was awesome, my favorite part was the culture over there. The people were so welcoming, and they really went above and beyond for us over there, from the bike to the support, and my favorite part was the food they prepared for us every day!

Baylor on the mic at the JNCC race alongside Yoshiteru Kawana (left) and JNCC President, Masami Hoshino (right).
Baylor on the mic at the JNCC race alongside Yoshiteru Kawana (left) and JNCC President, Masami Hoshino (right). JNCC Racing

Let’s talk terrain. How did it stack up against what you’ve raced here in the states? What track or area would you compare it to here? 

The track was very similar to a J-Day with no quads on it before and ribbon on both sides, very wide with many optional lines. The terrain was very steep, and the dirt was a slick black loam, although that sounds weird - “slick and loamy” it was unlike anything we race back home. It had a lot of rocks under the dirt and made for a very choppy race course. 

From following along on social media it looks like they really embraced having you there. What were the people like? Were they prepared for Baylor Heavy?

They were an awesome group to be around, welcoming and enjoyable to spend time with. From the time we landed we noticed that everyone was very respectful, and they did enjoy having a few cold ones with me after the race! We had a great time, a lot of people brought us gifts, brought us some of their local food (I’m pretty sure because I’m fat - most gifts were food) and they taught us some of the language, at least enough to say I didn’t speak Japanese! 

Were you able to go out and enjoy the sites a bit? Maybe throw back some sake with the boys?

We stayed away from the sake, but we definitely enjoyed some beers and we were able to check out some of Tokyo, which was the cleanest city I’ve ever been to. They really hold each other to a higher standard over there. 

Baylor taking on the Japan terrain at the JNCC Finale this year.
Baylor taking on the Japan terrain at the JNCC Finale this year. JNCC Racing

Give us some Japanese you learned while there. I won’t hold it against you if you can’t spell it, because odds are I won’t be able to either. We’ll let google correct us, so we don’t look silly.

Well, I cannot type the language but good morning, is ohayo gozamisu, thank you is arigato gozamisu, we learned yes and no, “excuse me do you speak English,” and a few others, overall, it was a very difficult language to learn.

Now that you’re back in the states you got right back to work. Some big changes coming your way. Some are public, some aren’t so public. You know how I roll; I’ve always felt that’s the rider’s story to tell when they’re ready to tell it. Can you elaborate on some of the rumors floating around? 

There will definitely be some major changes for my 2024 season, we have some amazing manufacturer support which allows us as a team to grow, which also means some other riders programs may look different as well for 2024! It is hard to hold under my hat, and I’m very excited for announcements (when I’m able) but obviously to shop riders and deals the information is leaking, a lot of time the sponsors have to know the riders and I have to sell them on it, so the chatter is definitely going! 

Baylor had came out swinging in 2023, earning the round one win at Big Buck.
Baylor had came out swinging in 2023, earning the round one win at Big Buck. Ken Hill

You took on a LOT in 2023. What are some takeaways from the year with the many hats you had to wear? Everybody talks about what to do to be successful, but nobody ever talks about what NOT to do, when that’s probably the most important thing we learn when venturing into something new and challenging.

Most definitely, hindsight is 20/20 and we learned a lot with this new program, some good, some bad; I want to continue doing this into the future so I just tried to take it all in while trying to run the program from a racer’s perspectives, trying to put performance at the top of the list, overall I really think we did a good job for the first year doing it while also racing full time. It definitely took some changes and getting the right group of motivated individuals surrounding us! I’m just hoping we worked most of the bugs out for the future. 

Alright, the tough one… The 2023 championship. It’s easy for us spectators to point to one or two things and say “what if” but you’re the man inside the helmet and on the machine. How do you keep moving forward and focus on capturing that elusive XC1 Championship in 2024? 

This year definitely hit hard, as have the last couple. I’ve definitely been the most winning racer as of late, but consistency and trust in the program hasn’t been there which is a reason for going out more on my own, obviously with some great support with Tely to help build this thing. With that said my goals are clear and I feel this season left us knowing what we have to do to be better next year and try again to conquer this thing!  

The XC1 class continues to get younger and younger with each passing year. I think a lot of folks want to look at a 2nd or 3rd year pro as being a favorite. But there’s something to be said about a veteran Pro rider. Mental toughness in our sport is arguably as important if not more important than physicality. What are some advantages you have now that you’re one of those veteran guys in the class?

Man, what a gut shot! I swear I still feel the same as I did when I lined up in XC1 over a decade ago, but I have definitely learned a lot being up front for so long. I think the advantages are clear; I know how to manage races better than some of the other guys. It’s still never an easy task with all of the elements that we have to deal with. With that said the biggest advantage is my stubbornness, to fail, to give up, and to listen to others, as a younger racer I would listen to others a lot which sometimes helped and sometimes hurt. Since then I’ve found the ones that help and try to stick with what I know works for me, although I still try new things I try to do what I know works, we all saw KR take the speed to another level training moto which I do, we’ve seen him follow guys and stalk them trying to find weakness, and we saw him stick with tires and setup that he liked, I learned a lot from these things. But my program is slightly different, what works for me has been testing in a similar area to find comfort for before each event, and I stick to it. I also found keeping a log book of what tires (even if not mine) won the year prior so I can try them, I keep notes on what I wish my bike would have been like for each event and I think these small things help me and it’s all stuff I have learned from time in the class.  

Baylor on his way to earn a victory at a muddy Mountaineer GNCC.
Baylor on his way to earn a victory at a muddy Mountaineer GNCC. Ken Hill

Shoals MX continues to grow. We saw a major presence at Loretta Lynn’s over the summer, and obviously there are several successful guys and kids putting themselves on the box at the GNCC’s as well. How are things going at the Shoals? 

This year has really turned our facility around, I’ve found a lot of happiness watching this place grow, we are now setup at mini o’s and watching our group put in their best efforts. Our winter program is booked and has a waiting list, and we have had a ton of success coming out of the facility as of late. It will also be the base of operations for the race program next year, we are so proud of the dream we are building! 

Little man, Levi, seems like he’s determined to start his XC1 career as soon as possible. How soon you going to try getting him racing? Or are you going to try getting him into something safer like golf? (Good luck with that…)

Well… I really thought we could get him into something that made more money so he could take care of me, but that kid came out loving 2 wheels, so I guess I need to make more money to chase it! We tried the STACYC racing this year, he was a bit overwhelmed and does not like waiting for Ricky to throw the flag but all week long all we hear is dirt bike noises while he builds jumps in the living room! 

Baylor, his wife Jade and son Levi before the start of a race this season.
Baylor, his wife Jade and son Levi before the start of a race this season. Mack Faint

Alright, I know you got to get your butt in a deer stand. Let’s wrap this up. Who are the sponsors and people you’d like to thank?        

There are so many great people that helped the program this year, my wife for standing behind me and helping take on the extra responsibilities this year while I’ve been so busy, Todd Ely making this possible, Rocky Mountain, these guys have done so much this year to keep us going. Timmy, and Antti at KTM for pulling though to get this program on its feet. My mechanics, they all played a part in the success this season, both Blake’s put up with a ton of s*** to chase this program all over the country and baby sit me!  

Also thanks to: Redline Oil, MSR, Steel City Men’s Clinic, Loud Fuel, Browns RV, Dunlop, Shoei , Forma, Nine 2, G2, Acerbis, Fox Ford, Tusk, Factory Connection, HBD, Bill Gold, FMF, XC Gear, Off-road Performance Coach, ODI, Bullet Proof Designs and IMS.