I feel like I say this almost every interview, but the off-road racing scene is loaded with so many cool and down to earth people throughout the pits. 2011 GNCC Four Stroke A Lites Champion, Scott Grills, is no exception as he is one of the easiest guys to get along with both on and off the track. Last season, Grills found his groove while grabbing eight wins in the thirteen round GNCC series. Whether it’s rocks, sand, mud, or dust, the Ohio native knows how to tackle the tracks and as one of his competitors, I’ve seen it firsthand. His consistent finishes grabbed the attention of many and for 2012 Scott landed himself a ride with a team that has become a permanent fixture in the pits. We caught up with Grills to see how his off-season has been going and get the low down on his new ride.
Hey Scott, how are things going?
Pretty good, I’ve been down in Brooksville, Florida for about five days now riding and training with Jimmy Jarrett. It’s definitely different from the cold weather in Ohio, that’s for sure! We’re staying at a Days Inn hotel right across the street from the track so it’s convenient.
Good deal! Croom has a fair share of whooped out, fast trails. It seems like most of the serious racers make at least one stop at the park before heading to the race. So before we talk about your 2011 championship, how did you get started in racing?
When I was fourteen, my Dad and I decided to try out a local CRA race in Ohio and I just happened to do pretty well. I finished second in the 85cc Senior Mini class, which opened my eyes more to the racing world. Neither of us was all that serious about racing and just went out there to have fun. It was another two years or so before we decided to make a run at the full series. I think I was about sixteen, and things just took off from there!
How long were you racing before you tried a GNCC?
At one of the local races I went to, Walker Fowler was there and he started telling me all about the GNCC’s. I didn’t know much about them at the time, but once I got a big bike I went to the John Penton race in Millfield, Ohio and signed up for the 200B class.
Ohio has long been one of the hot beds for GNCC racers. Riders like Charlie Mullins, Kailub Russell, Cory Buttrick, and Nick Fahringer, just to name a few, are Buckeyes. Has growing up in the Eastern half of Ohio benefited you in any way with who you grew up riding and training with?
I actually never really had the opportunity to ride with any of those guys until last year and now this year. I’ve recently hooked up with Jimmy Jarrett who doesn’t live too far from me and done some riding together. I think what makes Ohio riders so good is a combination of the weather and terrain we have available to ride. I honestly couldn’t tell you though. There is always a local series running so during the off-weekends we can run a two-hour race just to stay sharp.
I know it’s been a while since the banquet and all, but you’ve got to feel good about heading into the 2012 GNCC season as the Four Stroke A Lites champion. Has that given you any more motivation to push yourself during the off-season?
Yeah, I’ve never really been super motivated, but every time I get on my dirt bike I give it 110% and just ride as fast as I can! It doesn’t matter if I won or lost the last race, every time I get on my bike, I give it my best. Now that I’ve won the Four Stroke A Lites class, I don’t want to lose; so I guess you could say it has motivated me! (Laughs) I want to do well and definitely don’t want to do any worse, that’s for sure! It hasn’t added any pressure, but like most racers, you set a bar for yourself and always try to go above and beyond your own expectations.
I agree, you’re always looking to get to that next level and that’s what drives us as racers. During the final race of 2011 at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch, you had a pretty hard get off. Your sub-frame was bent, exhaust destroyed, etc. Were you injured after that incident or able to walk away and ride in the following weeks?
Yeah, I bent the bike up really bad after that crash. I swapped out and went straight into a tree through a pretty fast section while I was pushing the pace. I needed to finish top ten overall at that race in order to clinch the top amateur overall. I guess I was pushing a little too hard and that’s what happened. I didn’t get hurt; just sat on the ground to get my breath back. I got really lucky, as the bike took most of the hit.
That’s pretty amazing you were able to walk away from that. The Loretta’s track was fast and had little room for error with all of the trees, as Josh Strang had a similar get off, ultimately breaking his leg. You won eight of the thirteen GNCC races in 2011 aboard a Kawasaki KX250F and grabbed the class title a few rounds early. After winning the championship, there was rumor in the pits you and Fred Andrews of the FAR Husqvarna team were talking. Was this just a rumor or were you both at some point looking to make a deal?
He talked to me a couple of times, but at that point he still had a few other riders of interest. Fred called me and we talked about some possibilities, but for business reasons, he ended up picking Andrew Delong. So, it wasn’t just a rumor, we were talking, but he had to go through several other guys before making the final decision.
Well either way, it’s good to see Factory teams are still showing interest in young riders coming out of the amateur classes. Now that you have that A Class championship under your belt, will we see you on one of the Pro Lines this year?
Yep! I will be giving the XC2 class a shot.
I’ve seen some pictures on the internet of you over the past couple of months riding a Honda. What prompted the change from Kawi to Honda for your first season running Pro?
Well, I impressed the JG Offroad team last year and they decided to hook me up for 2012 and bring me on board!
Wow! That’s good news! I don’t think many people, including myself, knew that you and the JG Offroad team were working together!
Yeah, it’s great and I’m really happy with the opportunity. I’m getting along really well with the team and it’s been good riding with Jimmy (Jarrett) down here in Florida. They are helping me with bikes and parts as well as transportation to and from the races. It’s definitely helping out my program tons and will allow me to focus more on racing. For now, everyone is just putting in the final touches before the opening round in a few days at River Ranch!
Making it to all of the GNCC races on a privateer budget is a challenge, I’m sure spending more time focused on the racing aspect rather than finances is a huge weight off your shoulders. Since you’re on an all new team and bike for 2012, have you done any racing during the off-season to prepare?
I went to the first round of the National Harescramble series in South Carolina a few weeks ago and was able to race for the first two and a half hours before getting huge blisters on my hands. Up to that point I was thirty seconds behind Chris Bach in eighth. I just couldn’t take the pain anymore and my hands were a mess. After being in the cold and not riding a whole lot during the winter, they blistered quickly in the warm weather and sand.
The opening round in River Ranch, Florida is only a handful of days away. What do you have in-store between now and then?
Pretty much just keep riding and get used to the bike some more. It’s a lot different riding on the sand, so just adjusting to that in its self and changing how you ride can be challenging. With the ground being frozen in Ohio for much of the winter, I don’t get too much time on the bike, so we are just going to ride as much as we can in the days leading up to the first round.
Even though you’ve got the support of the JG Offroad Team this year, there is still a lot of work that needs to be put in on your end. Once the season gets started, what kind of effort does it take in order for you to make it to the races every weekend and finish consistently at the front?
It just takes a lot of motivation and really having that desire to go racing. I come home from work at five o’clock and then if I have enough energy, I’ll ride or work on the bikes. I do my best to ride three times a week and almost always have something that needs to be worked on with the bikes every day. That’s about all I ever do. I don’t spend my money anywhere else!
Being a serious racer can without a doubt consume a lot of time, but I too couldn’t think of a better way to go out and have fun! That’ll wrap things up for us Scott. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy training schedule down in Florida and good luck this year! Who would you like to thank?
Yeah, I would like to thank Honda, JG Offroad, Moose Racing, Cycra, Sidi, Smith, G2, Bell, Factory Connection, FMF, Kenda, CV4, Renthal, IMS, PG Graphics, Works Connection , Rekluse, BRP, and Silcolene.