I absolutely love learning about some of the kick-butt women that race. Their stories are as captivating as they are inspiring… and I couldn’t wait to introduce you to this woman, Veronica Whitesell – not only a force on 2 wheels – shes successfully rocking it on 4 wheels now racing UTV’s as well as owning a dealership! So lets get to it – Meet VERONICA…
Hometown and Age- 31 Marshall, IL
How did you get started in riding off-road? How old were you?– I went to college for training and showing horses in Terre Haute, IN. I was a scholarship rider for our nationals team and ended up working at the barn and training school horses in between classes. That’s where I met this guy who was bringing his niece for riding lessons at the school. He was single, had his own business and raced dirt bikes. We started hanging out with the same people and eventually started dating. I was showing horses every where, and he was racing all over the country. I was 19 and he was 27. Neither of us expected it to last long, but I bought a dirt bike anyway. I wasn’t suppose to be riding because if I got hurt, I couldn’t fulfill my scholarship duties. I was 20 when I bought my first bike, a 2004 KTM 125 SX. I didn’t really start riding until a year after I graduated from SMWC (2008). So we (Nolan and I), started going to some of the AMA District 17 races in 2008 and had a blast!! Needless to say I was hooked.
When did you start racing? Did you take to it right away? What series did you race? I had been to a lot of races with Nolan and knew one day I wanted to give it a try but at the time I was riding horses for a living and training students. I always had this thought in my head… if I got hurt, I couldn’t work and feed myself. The horse market was falling apart in early 2008 and I had the opportunity to go work for Marathon Pipe Line so I took it. That’s when I decided I wanted to try this racing thing and ride a bunch. So at that point, I owned a dirt bike for 3 years and only rode it about 6 times. So when I started racing, I tried a 250 XCF, and decided that was the bike I wanted. We decided to race a full year in 2009 of the AMA District 17 where I ended up second for the Women’s class. At the end of that season, I raced the Ironman GNCC in Crawfordsville IN, which is an hour from us, and decided that in 2010 I would go to the national level and race a season in GNCC’s.
It seems like you have done quite a bit of different riding – what is your preference?… Scrambles, Moto – Endurocross? By far my favorite is Endurocross. I have raced as many different things as a person could. I wanted to try it all. I’ve raced GNCC, NEPG, EHSA, EX. I’ve qualified for Loretta’s Regionals multiple times, but have never went. Moto is fun, but not a fav of mine. Local hare scrambles and enduros are a blast. But my go to will always be Endurocross. It takes a lot of talent to do a single lap at EX. So many people won’t even attempt it because its very hard, and the tracks can be very intimidating. But what EX is for me, is how far I can push the envelope. How far I can push myself, and how hard something looks at first, and after a few attempts it’s not so bad. Some of the top athletes have planned on racing Endurocross. Showed up, walked the track, loaded up and went home. EX can be that intimidating that even the best walk away and don’t try. That has always made me want to do it more. Its a humbling sport. It takes more than just being able to twist the throttle to excel at it. The only thing that comes close for me is racing an Extreme Enduro. If its considered extreme, I’m usually in. Its as much as a mental fight as it is physical. From east coast, to west coast, all of the hard and extreme riding I’ve done all comes down to if I believed in myself… I had to believe 100%.
Being a woman in a mostly male dominated sport – did you ever have to deal with people giving you a hard time on the track? Any rough tactics out there? If so – how did you deal with that? You know it really hasn’t been that bad. I was raised on a farm and wasn’t pampered with barbie dolls and tea parties growing up. Guys can get rough on the track, but usually if you get them elbows up, you can bully them around more. I’ve been pushed around by some, and some I was able to bump off the track in retaliation, lol. But once you go out there and show them you are there to race, and you are as good as they are, they usually respect you. That’s one of the good things about racing some local races, everyone gets to know you and respects you. But to be honest, there is nothing more grueling that racing the women’s class in Endurocross. In the past the women have been allowed to race the men’s amateur class to get more track time at EX. I won’t lie, racing the men’s amateur class is nothing in comparison to how intense the women’s is. The guys are all laid back, and easy going. The women will kill you every chance we get lol.
Is there a race or ride in-particular that is super memorable to you?… I kind of have 3, but my most memorable ride would be last summer in Perris, CA and Barstow. It rained while we were out at Colton Haakers track in CA. It was amazing to ride his EX track. But the cool thing was it rained, and they hadn’t seen rain in forever. Everything turned to chocolate cake and everyone wanted to go to the hills and canyons to ride. I was staying with Morgan Tanke, (one of my west coast home away from homes), and we decided to go to Barstow to the canyons. Being an East coaster it was awesome. I’ve ridden a bunch of stuff out west, but Barstow was one of a kind. It was white and crazy technical stuff and just a crazy ride. Then Morgan and I almost died on the way home. It rained so hard off the mountain that the interstate almost washed out, LOL. My 3rd most memorable, is riding the 3/4 mile hot lap on Pro day at the TKO last year. Being brave enough to go down the waterfall section was a highlight of my life. I’ve never ridden anything that technical. If anyone ever says its not that hard, just YouTube it.. It makes most people pucker lol… But it made me realize I have accomplished so much as a rider and my racing career.
What improvements in the industry do you feel need to be made to build more female ridership? I think more series need to pay the pro women. So many Nationals series don’t pay the pro women…as if we don’t put out as much effort as men. But if you think about the industry as a whole, women really have a lot of say. When men go to buy a new dirt bike, who do they ask? Their wife. Women are also most of the time included in deciding if their kids will ride and race. Women do a lot of the shopping when it comes to gear and sometimes even parts. Women have more influence in the industry when it comes to consumables
than people realize. I would think a series that makes money from people buying bikes and bringing them to race would want to pay the Pro women who have as much sponsorship opportunities as the men. Some series pay… National Hare and Hound pays well, the Endurocross used to pay the women and Jason Hooper pays his Pro women class in the Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series. I know the regional series called Crossroads also pays the Pro WXC Women. Series who are putting efforts out like this are refreshing and make more women want to race those series.
What is 406Off Road? 406 Off Road is a
business I started when left my job in 2015 with Marathon Pipeline. 406 has always been my AMA number. I wanted to start something, so 406 Off Road it was. I bought into Tucker Rocky just to help my racing efforts and to be able to help some friends. We have always worked on bikes for others, but never actually had a shop. Three years ago we were going to have a Beta bike dealership but we ended up giving it to a friend of ours that had a shop because we were not in the right position. We never intended on building a shop but here we are, new shop, new showroom, Tucker Rocky and so many other distributors and also getting ready to take on Beta in a few weeks. We built this shop on 100 acres we bought this past winter… Its next to our sawmill and also along a creek that about 30-40 people cruise with ATV’s and UTV’s every weekend in the summer. So we do a little bit of everything, from building fresh race bikes, to fresh UTV’s along with working on vintage and even old ATV’s.
So what got you off of 2 wheels and onto 4? Are you racing UTV’s as well? How is that going? – Its actually going really well. I’ve been on the podium in the Pro men’s class 2/ 7 races. My first race out I was 3rd, which was crazy. I’ve never raced anything with 4 wheels before. This all came about when my hubby decided he wanted to race UTV’s. When I decided to race Endurocross the last 4 years, he decided to retire from professional 2 wheel racing and wrench for me. Nolan has championships and also has had a lot of help from a lot of people over the years racing dirt bikes. He has been the best coach and wrench anyone could ask for but I know he was wanting to do something else with racing. So he found a little 800 UTV and we started driving the crap out of it, along with a little 50” trail UTV my dad had. We had so much fun that we decided to give racing them a try. So we went and bought two 2016 900S models. Its a giant learning curve on just to build them. The cost to build not only 1, but 2 was a little eye opening. Now try to do this while you are also building a shop and inventory and stuff like that.. Its a little nerve racking… lol. You also can’t haul a 900S in the back of a cargo van like a bike so we had to find a truck and trailer to haul 2 of them around. Now we have a 4500 4 door Chevy with a 30 ft trailer on it… We are excited but also back in race mode. Which means we will do what it takes to win championships. Its different working as a team, because we are fielding multiple cars in the same class and that has never happened for us before. We are currently 50% for races vs podiums which is great for a new start in a new form of racing. Funny story, I almost got my 9 stuck a few weeks got at a race. I made a rookie mistake and listened to a spectator about a line. Needless to say I had to swim my way out and end up getting winched out. But it only cost me 7:00 and I ended up 3rd in the Pro of 10 or so… it could have been way worse lol.
You are an riding instructor?…(tell us a little about that) Any girls we should be on the look out for in the near future?!– What a lot of people don’t know about me is I actually went to school and earned a B.S. in Teaching and Instruction with an emphasis on Coaching. I have coached multiple riders to national and reserve national titles on horse back, now I’m working my way to doing this on 2 wheels. I have given lessons and coached since I was 10 years old. I started out in my 4-H group giving horse riding lessons. I gave lessons and broke 2 year olds to ride. That’s how I made money up until I went to college. Now I give lessons on 2 wheels, and love every minute of it. I have kids as young as 4 all the way up to 50 yrs old’s. I have C level riders to A level riders. Its so much fun to see a rider put it together. I’ve always been a believer of leading a student to find the answer instead of giving them the answer. Most coaches can tell a student to go do something and do it this way. But not all riders are the same and everyone has a weakness. I exploit those weakness’s and try to make the student better. But I understand as a women that not all riding styles work for everyone either. For example: most male teachers I’ve had, will tell me to stand up thru a rock section…that is the fastest and correct way thru it. But for my ability, sometimes I sit through them and get through them clean and just as fast as some who stands up. Now, eventually I will stand up through all of them but until then I am doing it the way in which I use less energy and can clean the section. Teaching and coaching for me is awesome. I’ve wanted start a program for years, but haven’t felt like I had adequate enough experience. Someone finally pointed out to me this winter that I have more than enough experience and my racing career is impressive enough to be able to do that. Many people believe that you have to have many national championships in order to be qualified as a good trainer/coach. That may be true… but not all riders who can earn championships can teach.
Is there a female rider/racer that inspires you? – I have had many racers that have influenced me. My first hero was Mandi Mastin. She was really the first lady of off road and I actually got to kind-of team up with her one year for GNCC’s. Its pretty awesome getting to not only meet your hero, but ride with them. My next hero was Maria Forsberg (Hahn). She came out of the west and was the first lady to receive a factory ride for off road with KTM. I got to know her thru Endurocross and GNCC’s and she is really awesome and down to earth. She inspires me still to this day with being a bad ass mom and all the awesome stuff her and her family do. My recent influence is Sandra Gomez. I knew of Sandra and her brother thru racing, and finally got the opportunity to meet her at one of the Endurocross’s early last year. She came over from Spain by herself, a family out west hauled her bike around for her and sometimes she stayed with them. Her and I became awesome friends and would meet up once we both go to what ever hotel we were staying in for EX, and we would always go get dinner. We are on way different time zones and do a lot of Instagram and Facebooking together. Not only is she a bad ass, but she does whatever it takes to win championships. She raced with a broken foot for 4 rounds in a row and didn’t even get to practice at all during the day…yet was able to come out of the gate and win many of those races with a broken foot. I have met some of her friends and family and got to experience food from Spain. Its fun to call ourselves her American family! I never would have thought 2 wheels would gain me friends not only all over the country but also the world!! And don’t forget Morgan Tanke. She inspires me because she is a ginger. Morgan and her family give me a home in CA and there the best 2nd family I could ask for. Morgan is my teammate with Beta. She is short, but has more skill and balance than most people could ever dream, especially in Endurocross. She is willing to do whatever it takes to win championships and her racing career is just starting. Its fun to see what she is capable of!! 🙂
Where would you like to see Veronica Whitesell in 5 years?– I would like to see myself have the opportunity to race a truck in Baja. This a goal of both my hubby and myself and it will be interesting to see if we can achieve it. I have been exploring the idea of building a pro 2 or 4 truck in a few years for short track. We are trying some Short track with the UTV’s this year and will be interesting to see what we can get done. In 5 years I hope we have the right people in place to keep our business running smoothly so we can go on extended trips. Our goal isn’t to sell out and retire, but to put the right people in place and have passive income from our business and be able to have extended stays out west.
Favorite piece of advice you have been given about riding?– My favorite advice would have to be to not compare yourself to the style and ability of another rider. I am so guilty of this myself. I look at how far others have come, or what they are capable of now, and judge myself according to them. Thats not fair. You as a rider can only judge yourself with how far you have come and your own capabilities. There is no way everyone can be a Russell or a Forsberg or Gomez of our time…but we can all have our own style and work hard to improve our ability.
What advice would you give a new rider? My advice would be to always have fun. If ever it becomes not fun, go do something else. There is a fine line between having fun while doing well, and not having fun and not doing well. Most riders do well when they are having fun but also being competitive. Most riders who fall off the fun-wagon are not doing well and are beating themselves up trying to do well. Having fun is going to lead to doing better and becoming a better rider over time. So get going and have fun!!
Some day you’d like to ride… where____________. Some day I still want to race overseas. I have this idea that Baja and Score is where I want to be racing soon, so we will see. But racing outside the USA sounds awesome!!
Anyone you would like to give a shout out to? I would like to give a shout out to my husband Nolan Whitesell who always puts up with me. For trusting me to put this program together and to taking the leap of faith not only in being married but also to owning and running multiple business with me. To packing up everything we own and driving out west for races. To my dad for always believing in me 100% no matter what. My mom for always worrying about my safety and never understanding this racing thing. I’m sorry dirt bikes have caused you not to have grand-kids.
I want to give shout outs to DQ, thanks for hanging with me all the time, and listening to me complain about things, and eating dinner with me and giving me a roommate and flying places with me. Shout out to our buddy Kevin, who is always there whenever we need him. Shout out to Alan Stillwell and all the guys at Stillwell Performance. Thanks for a place to stay and all the advice even if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear!! Thanks to Destry Abbott for all the training and advice.. You are one of the baddest dudes I’ve ever met…keep fighting, we are behind you!!
For all those people who stand behind my racing career and support me now matter how I do. Beta USA, Vee Rubber and all the guys in GA thanks so much for your continued support. Maxima, we have more adventures to go. VP racing fuels, Dirt Tricks, ARC levers, Shades of Gray MX, HBD Motografx, and FMF. Thanks to Tucker Rocky and MSR for always being there when I needed you most… You make my program a success each day from lessons to racing. And to the guys at Rekluse… You guys have always been there for us!! From day 1 to 9 years later. You have always given us a home while in ID and always been super cool to hang with on the road, you guys are like family!!!