Gaylord womans pro motocross career starts off with a bang
By Kelsey Lauer 8/17/09
A need for speed is nothing new for Gaylord resident Danielle Sawicki, 21, who has been competing in motocross racing since the age of five when her father introduced her to the sport. She turned pro in 2007.
I just love the adrenaline rush that you get; its just an awesome feeling, sitting on the starting line of a pro race and having 30,000 people screaming and everything like that, she says. Walking down to the line, kids hanging their arms over the fence to slap your hand and things like that -- thats really cool, because I know that not a lot of girls can say that they did it, and Im living it right now.
As a professional motocross rider, Sawicki competes in eight races per year all over the country. Riders participate in two motos per race; each moto is 20 minutes long30 minutes for menplus a lap of the track.
Final results are calculated based on a point system; first place is 25 points, and points may be earned up for a finish up to 20th, with one point. Sawicki is currently ranked 20th.
The competition (in the pro-division) is just stacked. I mean, its fast; its rough from first place to last place, she says. You cant give an inch to anybody, or theyll get past you. You have to be on your A-game to get there.
FROM AMATEUR TO PRO
When I was an amateur, Id race maybe 30, 35 races per year, Sawicki says. When I was doing this stuff, I was going for Loretta Lynnthe amateur nationalwhich is like the Superbowl of football. It took me four years to make it to Lorettas.
They do different regions out of the U.S. and split things up. They only take 42 riders (per class), so out of the U.S.they did a statistic on how many people actually try to qualifyover 25,000 try to qualify. They have 33 classes.
Two years ago, Sawicki made the decision to try to qualify for her pro license, for which she had to race in several amateur classes and be evaluated by race officials.
The womens (motocross) president said there was a pro race in Pennsylvania I could come to, so my dad and I drove nine hours to Pennsylvania. We get there and they have a flash flood like that day, and they ended up canceling the amateur program, so I wasnt able to race, she says.
Sawicki ended up qualifying for her pro license at the next race on the circuit, held in Texas, where she raced in the college girl and B classes and placed second in one class and fourth overall.
So, they told me hands down that I was able to get my pro license, Sawicki says. Then, they actually had a pro race that Sunday, and I was able to get things together to where I could race in that. I ended up finishing top 10, against girls from all over the U.S. and overseas. It was pretty cool.
TRAINING & TRAVEL
To keep herself in shape for the physical demands of the sport, Sawicki exercises for hours every day -- she even has a practice track in her backyard thats just under a mile long.
People say its just getting on a bike and going, but it takes a little bit more than that, she says. I would ride four or five days a week at these tracks near where I was living at. I have a road bike that I ride, and I do something like 20 miles per day. Im at the gym six days a week.
When the snow flies, she heads south.
Theres a practice facility that a couple families from Michigan own; I was able to go stay there, Sawicki says. They have two tracks and I was like 15 minutes from Florida. I was able to stay there and ride six days a week. Theres a bunch of kids from Michigan that live there who ride there as well.
And last spring found her out in California, training yet again.
I was out there for about a month training for the first race and then I ended up driving from southern California to Texas to meet my dad, she says. I was able to actually go to these tracks and ride with the top men pros there. I would be on the same track they would be on and that was really awesome, to be there and to ride with the best of the best.
Ive been in Georgia (and on) the East Coast and West Coast, so Ive traveled a lot, she adds. I told my mom and dad I want to get one of those RV maps and mark where Ive been since Ive been to a lot of states, more so than most kids my age.
TAKES A TOLL
The physical rigors of the sport do take a toll.
I havent broken any bones, knock on wood, but Ive had two reconstructive knee surgeries. My first surgery, I was a freshman in high school, so I was like 15, and I just had one last year in January. For the first surgery, I was out for 10 months -- I wasnt able to ride or anything, but this last surgery, I wasnt able to ride for three months during the winter, so it wasnt that bad.
Traveling so much is difficult, too, mostly due to the amount of driving required.
If we have to go somewhere, its hard for my dad to drive everywhere. We drove out to California; it took us three days to get there, Sawicki says. I would drive during the afternoon for a few hours to give him a break, but most of the time he drives. He says, Youre going there to race. You shouldnt have to worry about driving to the track. Ive been able to fly to a couple races, so that works out better.
But despite the difficulties, Sawicki plans to stick with motocross for the foreseeable future.
When my days of racing professionally are over with, Im sure Ill get a job with a motocross sponsor or something like that, doing something to promote the industry -- just be an amateur support rider or help out the support riders, she says. Theres an international circuit, but you have to know some people to get to ride over there. I wish I could go overseas to race because they get a lot more exposure and the girls are just a lot faster over there.
What you need in order to make a living at the sport, besides physical strength and endurance, is an unparalleled level of dedication.
Even on the amateur level, for a girl that wants to get into it, its got to be something that you want to do. I have a lot of heart and I train; you have to want it. Im sure if others are doing it in the amateur circuit then theyll want to figure it out that racing pro is what they want to do. Racing professionally is something; its hard and itll pay off.