Colton Udall is an anomaly, a self-made professional motorcycle racer who lives more than an hour’s drive away from the nearest moto track. The 24 year old from San Clemente is an underlay, which in horse racing terms, means that he is the best value bet for the next 1x champion of Baja. But unlike most of his peers, Udall created his own career single handedly with a hard work ethic and the passion for racing to win. He worked and saved from an early age and created his own racing program. That doesn’t mean that he hasn’t had some help along the way and he recalls 3 different taps on the shoulder he’d gotten over the years that helped him to this point. These opportunities are paying off for a respectful warrior who won’t take anything for granted. In off-road racing, the name Udall is not even a fixture on the map. But all of that is changing. Get ready for Colton.
With repeat wins at the San Felipe 250, Udall again leads the SCORE series over Kendall Norman, this year by a much larger margin. A month later he went 1-1-1 and swept the BIG 6 GP in 29 Palms; He leads the points in that series. He gives notable credit to his Baja teammate Jeff “OX” Kargola, who thrives heavily in FMX and short course truck racing, “He’s working his ass off and is an intense human being. The dude has a lot of skill and he does not like to lose. He surfs big waves over in Hawaii and drops into 20 footers.”
The potential giant awakening in Colton is an indisputable threat to his stable mates at JCR Racing, Kendall Norman and Quinn Cody. The world of off road moto is witnessing one of the most inspiring stories of a kid from the beach who winged it on his own to become a pro, and then was picked up by one the most important racers in the business, his boss Johnny Campbell.
Colton was only about 8 when his folks put him on an XR75 in the sand of Ocotillo Wells. “They laughed about it later”, recalls Colton, “They didn’t want me crashing in the hard-pack.” He didn’t get many opportunities to ride and racing was never on the table. He would ride recco style only a few times a year. A few years later, Colton’s mom Jaleen married speedway racing icon “Rad” Brad Oxley who was bred to be a motorcycle racer and never wished that on any of his kids, including Colton. Therefore if Udall would get into racing it would be on his own initiative and financing. So, off he went. “Colton was out there on a clapped out 125,” Oxley says, “Its not like most every other kid who gets brought into racing, he did it himself because it was his deal.”
His first after-school job was at San Clemente Cyclery and he was a shop tech from day one. Never much for cycling, he did peddle his way to work after school each day. “Everything I made went straight into motorcycle racing”, he fondly recalls. “I’ve always prided myself at keeping a job, being loyal and doing good work.” Those are traits he shrugs off as being more instinctive less than instilled by some outside influence.
Usually it’s the overzealous parents who roust their kids on Sunday morning to go race but not in Colton’s case. “I’d work late at night prepping and loading the bikes and gear and have to wake Brad up outa bed early Sunday mornings to race Glenn Helen.” It was pretty much standard that Colton was taking the family racing.He recalls qualifying to go for his pro card and driving, by himself, to Sacramento with a borrowed KTM in his van. He says it very matter of factly, “There was no one there for me at the finish (of the LCQ), no one in the pits. I was totally alone up there.”
This experience of taking the initiate was and will remain Colton’s trademark. As a budding amateur he was noticed by Billy Nicoll (Nicoll Racing) and was offered a job in Billy’s shop and a basic sponsorship (1st shoulder tap). That resulted in his quitting his job at the bike shop and started working on dirt bikes for money while still racing every weekend possible.
In 2007, he received his invite from Cameron Steele (2nd shoulder tap) to ride on Steele’s class-22 pro team for the BAJA 1000. Steele saw more than just Udall’s speed and proficiency. He saw Colton’s human allure, his competence and likability as a future champion and recognized the warrior in the fellow San Clemente bro and put him on a pro team. “Cameron has had a lot to do with a lot of guys’ careers in this business”, explained Colton, “Without him, some of these guys wouldn’t be where they are today. He’s definitely helped me out along the way with my deal.” He raced on Steele’s bike in Nov. 07 and again in the 2008 San Felipe 250 before getting his most important and lasting (3rd) shoulder tap.
About this time Colton was racing anything and everything he could. Every dime he made went into it and he was self made and self-managed. Then he got the offer of a lifetime: “Johnny (Campbell) offered to fly me to Washington to race a WORCS race on one of their bikes. It was like ‘whoa’ I’m a factory rider.” He remembers this first race as a tough dose of reality to swallow. “I got lapped twice by Caselli and could tell I was in a whole new league.” Despite this rude awakening, Colton kept at it and Johnny let him use the bike for whatever and was later offered a ride on the JCR 2008 BAJA 500 “C” team with Ron Wilson, Bryce Stavron and Justin Seeds. They did okay. Colton still looked like a promising young hopeful in Baja and Johnny offered him a full “support” ride for the following season and it was a no-brainer for Colton. There was one catch though: There would be no salary and only a bike with some support for entries, etc.
“I had to go to Johnny and tell him that I couldn’t be a professional racer and still work 9-5 at Nicoll all week. So he worked something out with me where I could get a salary by working in JCR’s shop and race on the team.” Since then, Colton has been building lots of bikes, mostly for himself and team mate Jeff “OX” Kargola.
“I think one of the things that clinched for me with Johnny was when I asked him if I could build a team for the 24 hours of Glenn Helen. I built the race bike, got the guys out there. I was the team manager, the team racer, all that stuff. He saw I could build a bike without mechanical issues and I poured my heart into it. I got an ’09 contract.”
With such a prestigious position on the elite team of JCR there is a lot of pressure to compete well to maintain a spot on the team. In these tougher economic times, there are only so many seats at this table. So late last year when Colton learned he would be losing one of his mentors and coaches in Timmy Weigand (who would not be resigned for 2011 with JCR), he freaked. “It was a big deal for me when Timmy got cut from JCR. He had so much to do with helping me improve as a rider and a person and it was tough for me to lose him as a team mate.” Despite this setback, and the unfortunate loss of the championship plate at last years BAJA 1000, Udall is fired up and poised to be the next big thing in off road as well as the likely champion of the BAJA Peninsula.
Last year, Colton and Ox were on track to win the SCORE championship and 1x plate but the breakthrough 2010 season was not meant to be the year for them after the Baja 1000 went wrong. A devastating crash late in the race by replacement team mate Justin Imhoff on the 8x meant that the JCR B team would lose the chance to own the 1x plate. Regarding Imhof’s youthfulness and inexperience in BAJA, Udall defends the decision to have Imhof replace “OX” in that fateful race. Colton explains, “Justin was qualified to be out there. He Ironman’d 6 hrs straight and pretty much hung with Kendall and Qunin. The kids amazing, he’s an amazing racer. He’s blown by me in the desert on his 2-stroke. He already had desert championships and who puts that kind of energy and focus into racing at 17?” Despite the reeling setback and his team mate’s difficult recovery, Colton is more determined than ever at his stated goal.
Colton describes what he’s doing and what matters most to him professionally: “Right now my goal is 1x. It was that way last year and it was in my hands, just bobblin around.”
“I’m racing at 100% now. I’m going for everything, race for race I’m going 100%. I don’t want it to be like last year when ‘all we gotta do is get 2nd‘ to win the 1x plate. There was times when I asked Johnny If he was ever in that position where you were winning by points and ‘what would you do?’ He said ‘No dude, I won those races’.”
In the middle of a race he could change course though. He says it isn’t out of the question to back it down if it means preserving the shot at the 1x if to sacrifice to a race win against anyone. “That’s a decision that would be made during the race”.
In horse racing, the morning of the race, a track official will print the morning line based on the way in which he or she thinks the public will bet. Many things are considered but that morning’s line is based on public perception, or the line maker’s best guess of it. In off road racing, the general consensus puts Kendall Norman and Cody as the hands down best shot at repeating a championship in BAJA SCORE and or one could easily overlook most of Udall’s mojo, not the least of which may include some of his recent split times versus his stable mates.
As fans get familiarized with the name Colton Udall, they will also get acquainted with the persona that comes with the name. He is likable and approachable, humble yet confident, serious but not uptight. The secret behind Colton is that he’s doing it his way because it’s his show. He credits the big three with their respective parts in moving him up the ladder but he will also tell you that he has done the work, put in the time and paid his dues. Don’t be surprised if you see him at Enduro Cross or the X-Games. The time for Colton Udall is here. It’s happening right now.
More info on Colton at JCR http://jcrhonda.com/