GNCC Racing

Tuesday Toolbox: Josh Merritt

Tuesday Toolbox: Josh Merritt

Tuesday, February 20, 2024 | 4:00 PM
Tuesday, February 20, 2024 | 4:00 PM Let’s go back to the beginning. What was your first bike/ATV and when did you start racing?

Josh Merritt: I started racing ATVs when I was eight years old on a Suzuki LT 80 with my sister, Kara Merritt, and many other prominent names in the GNCC world today. 

Merritt crossing the line second overall this past weekend.
Merritt crossing the line second overall this past weekend. Ken Hill

We’re going to dive right in. Big Buck was a heck of a showing by you! Give us the race recap from your perspective.

After earning 5th place at Big Buck last year, I said it was a dream start to the season; this past weekend changed that meaning entirely. Saturday brought us beautiful weather, great racing conditions, and racecourse. I was able to grab a great start that inevitably caused some controversy over the holeshot winner. Being able to make it into the woods first really just set a good pace the first lap. Brycen was able to get by me on a split line before the hill climb and I was able to put it in cruise control behind him. I tried to latch on for as long as possible, since I know he is normally a minute faster than me a lap. I figured if I could follow him for a lap or a few miles, I’d be getting ahead of where I normally would be. I was able to get into a really good flow doing that and just took it one lap at a time. I pretty much raced from the halfway mark to the end of the race all by myself, so it was challenging to know if I was going faster enough. Luckily, my pit crew gave me good pit boards, telling me the gaps and to keep pace. Man, coming into that checker flag, I was beyond pumped up with a 2nd place finish for the first race of the year.

This is tied for your best career finish to date. A very convincing second place finish. Sure, there was a gap between you and Brycen Neal. But you maintained your pace and the gap between you and third place, regardless of who the rider was behind you. Late in the race, that rider was Walker Fowler. Were you aware the man with multiple National Championships and the second most wins in GNCC history was the one trying to chase you down for second?

About halfway through the race, I was getting good pit boards saying I had a minute gap and then followed by another saying it was 40 seconds. Naturally, I was getting a little nervous and then I actually got a pit board for my sister that said, “Walker’s Flying.” That kicked in the nervousness, and I really picked up the pace after that I knew he would be coming for me. I’ve ridden with him my entire career. It was exciting to see the lap times at the end of the day. I was proud and excited to see I was able to finish the last lap 2 seconds quicker than him. I also told my sister to never give me a pit board again that says, “Walker’s Flying,” because I knew that already, haha. I just needed to know the gap. Later to find out, they were lying on the pit boards, and my gap was actually getting bigger, not smaller between me and Walker.

You’ve teamed up with Outlier Performance, owned by Levi Coen, for your training program. How much of a difference has that made in the success you’ve had over the last year and into the 2024 season?

This is year 2 with Outlier Performance, but I grew up with Levi. He’s been my best friend since I started racing GNCC, possibly one of the first people I’ve met in the series. Teaming up with him for the physical training of my program has been great. Sometimes we butt heads like brothers, but at the end of the day, he’s pushing me to be the best I can be, and we both know that. I think what he has me doing is obviously working. I’ve never felt this strong coming into a season and consistent throughout the week.

Merritt ran the duration of the race at round one in second.
Merritt ran the duration of the race at round one in second. Ken Hill

Racing at the Pro level is all about “what have you done for me lately.” Do you feel some added pressure now that you made the podium in round one?

I don’t feel any extra pressure from earning a podium at round 1. I truly think it was a surprise for a lot of people, including myself, taking into consideration my history in XC1 Pro. I’ve learned a lot of ways to not find success in GNCC so I’m putting that all together and doing the best I can do each and every round. My plan is to take it one race at a time in hopes that, that will give me the best results at the end of the year and reduce the amount of pressure on myself. 

I presented an open-ended question on social media during the off-season. I kept your identity “secret”, but you mentioned, “If I win a GNCC, I’m retiring immediately.” This is something you’ve mentioned to Johnny Gallagher as well. In fact, he brought it up during the broadcast, Saturday. Has that idea changed for you? I think I speak for EVERYONE when I say, please don’t go, if that scenario happens.

That’s a really hard question right now. I’ve been racing a very long-time, man. I’ve sacrificed a lot and spent too much money along the way. My dream as a kid was to win a race. All I can say is, I hope we get to find out soon.

We’re headed down to Florida for round two. This is historically the “survival” round for everyone. How are you feeling about running down in the sand and palmettoes?

I was able to train at Croom with the Action Off-Road team for a month, day in and day out, in the sand. I felt really good riding with Wyatt Wilkins, James Glauda, Kenny Shick, John Glauda Jr., and Grayson Eller. I truly think it will be a survival race like normal. I was able to work off last year to perfect my sand set up, so the goal is a top 5 this year. I can’t slack off and get a 9th like I’ve done in the past. Mark Notman my bike dialed in for the sand whoops and I’ve put in the work with Levi Coen. 

Josh Merritt (left) earned his career best finish with a second overall in South Carolina.
Josh Merritt (left) earned his career best finish with a second overall in South Carolina. Ken Hill

Enough about racing, when you’re not racing or training, what does a free day or weekend look like for you? What are you doing for fun outside of the track?

I love hanging out with my girlfriend, Maci Devenport. We actually just bought an investment property together and we’re in the process of renovating. Between that and racing, my time is consumed right now. Aside from that, we love playing pickleball with our friends and against people. It’s very competitive for me and there are a lot of good people around our area. It is a newer sport, so everyone seems to be getting better every single day and with me only playing once in a while, it’s fun to have competition. 

You’ve got a lot of great people around you, supporting you. Who are the people and sponsors you’d like to thank?

I’d like to thank my mom, dad, sister, and girlfriend. I have a ton of families that have helped me out over the years that have given me a place to stay. Action Off-Road, GBC Tires, PowerMadd Hand Guards, Fly Racing, HMF Exhausts, BNR Motorsports, Fox Shocks, Go-Ko Trucking, Rocket Machining, B-Squared, Precision, Upp racing, Fuel Customs, Beringers, P3carbon, Houser Racing, SSI Decals, Streamline Brakes, MotosSeat, Rath Racing, JSR, DP brakes, Rick’s Crane Service, Outlier Performance, Yamaha, Wienen Motorsports, & Notman Motorsports.