SPANNER:Billy Felts

In 2004, Nick Wey will race a factory Suzuki RM250 prepared by veteran mechanic Billy Felts. “Bad Billy” is one of our favorite tuners because he’s always got something interesting or funny to say, and his new pairing with NYK should produce some truly comedic moments. A former top SoCal pro, Felts also had a career as a car racer before becoming one of the sport’s premier wrenches.

You’re a former racer-turned-mechanic. How did you become a mechanic? Did you go to MMI or answer one of those “Become a motorcycle mechanic” ads in the back of Motocross Action?

I might as well have answered one of those ads (laughs). I was a test rider for the R&D department at Kawasaki for a while, but then they needed a shop monkey, so I went over there and helped Norm Bigalow and Joel Albrecht sweep up the shop and paint poles and build cabinets. I would stock the semi; whatever. Basically, I learned the ropes from the bottom up. I had some common mechanical sense and knowledge going in, but I did learn a lot by starting at the bottom. My first rider was Robbie Skaggs of the Fast by Ferracci Husqvarna team in 1999, then I wrenched for Larry Ward at Kawi in ’00. From ’01 to this year, I worked for Danny Smith at Suzuki.

A mechanic is part time wrench, part-time psychiatrist and part-time cheerleader. What role do you enjoy most?

Cheerleader, for sure, because I’ve got team spirit! I don’t like the psychiatrist part at all, that’s for sure. As far as working on the bike goes, I like doing engines more than chassis stuff. Now, I ain’t naming names, but sometimes a rider can get real finicky–Larry Ward–and drive you in circles. They think they know more than they really know, and that can drive you insane.

What is the crappiest part of being a factory mechanic?

The crappiest part is traveling and having to answer dumb questions like, “Where is Travis?” every single weekend. Eating at McDonald’s because I don’t have time for any thing good also sucks.

What is the best thing? Do you pull some pro hos on the side?

Shit! I am not pro ho material. I know the ladies wanna get with me, but I am married and I have a baby on the way. Free swag, running elbows with high-profile people and racing for the win is what makes my job enjoyable. Winning is the best.

Nick Wey is a funny guy, but he turns into a clam when a camera or voice recorder is pointed his way. How are you going to turn him into a media darling?

You know what? I don’t know. That is a true statement. I don’t know how I am gonna get him to open up. Maybe I should wave some pink pom-poms around when he is getting interviewed. The kid is as funny as can be when you know him, but point a camera at him and he turns into Tom Cruise with a serious, strong jaw line!