By Brendan Lutes
With a fan base that could rival some of the most popular riders in the sport, there are only a few riders as popular as Nick Wey . Last year, though, NYK suffered what many riders would consider a career-ending injury when he was violently ejected off his bike in the treacherous Millville sand whoops, breaking his back, dislocating a hip, and breaking multiple ribs. Since then, he has been on the road to recovery and doing all he can to get back on the bike, which he did less than a month ago. With a couple months until the outdoors begin at Hangtown, Nick has been getting back up to speed in preparation for a return to action. We caught up with him to see how things have been and what his plans are for the upcoming outdoor series.
Take us back to the big injury that you went through at Millville last year.
Last year, I did a partial schedule for the Nationals. But I had some tough luck at the races that I went to, and I wasn't 100 percent healthy. Then there were two races in a row—Red Bud and Millville—and at Red Bud I crashed in both motos and didn't do as well as I wanted. After that, Millville was going to be my last race of the year, so I was super motivated to have a good day. I came around the track on the third lap, and in sand whoops I must have hit a hole or something, because it was one of those things where I didn't even have time to save it—I just got thrown over the bars and ejected off my bike. I ended up breaking my back in three places, dislocating my hip, and breaking some ribs. It definitely was a long set back. It has been eight months now, and I'm just now starting to ride a little more seriously and getting back to where I can be pretty close to 100 percent. I'm looking forward to getting back out there come Hangtown.
When that crash happened, did it ever cross your mind to retire from racing?
No. Ever since the economy hit the skids, it has been super tough. You get on a team and there are certain downfalls to where you can't perform at the level that you want to. And last year at the end of Supercross, I saw some pretty good gains in my speed, so I was excited to move forward through outdoors and into this year's Supercross season. I was basically just trying to take care of some obligations for some sponsors outdoors, and have some good races, but I wasn't 100 percent. It never crossed my mind, though, to not race anymore. I think that I'm probably the only guy that was on the couch with a broken back that thought it would be a good idea to go buy a Freightliner (laughs).
What's your plan for the outdoors this year?
I'll be back at Hangtown, and the Mafia Moto Crew will be my title sponsor, plus I'm working with some other people that I've worked with in the past to finish up some sponsorship stuff. I have a super professional set up; I've bought a Freightliner garage coach, which has the same awning as one of the semis plus a shop with all the cabinetry to work on the bike. It's just not an 18-wheeler—it's a 10-wheeler.
Do you really need an 18-wheeler, though? Are you going to be the only rider?
I really don't think that those extra eight wheels would help me on my lap times anyways (laughs).
So you're going to be running the full schedule for outdoors, correct?
Yeah for sure, and then I'll be back in 2014 running the full Supercross and outdoor series. From there, I'll reassess what my plans are. For this year, gearing up for the Nationals after such a tough injury has been really motivating for me to get back out there. I have Mandingo Pickles on board and Big Nasty is going to be turning wrenches for me.
What has it been like getting back on the bike? You've only really been riding for about a month.
Yeah, it's really only been about three weeks since I've been on a 450 again. Before that, I was just casually riding a two-stroke that I had, which was super fun. I was just gradually getting stronger to the point where I could push it, and now I'm to the point to where I'm at about 85 percent. I'm not too worried about the strength in my back anymore, and I just need to continue with my therapy to get my back stronger. I for sure have some work to do in order to get to where I need to be, but I'm at the point now that I can ride fast enough to test parts and get my bike a little more set up. I think we have 10 more weeks until Hangtown, and I'm going to use every day to prepare to be as competitive as I can be. The 450 class is going to be the most competitive it has been in years, and some 250 guys are going to be jumping up to the 450, making it even deeper. I'm excited for the challenge, though, and excited to have the Mafia Moto Crew out there representing.
The Mafia Moto Crew has really taken off. Didn't it just start as you and some friends before Tucker Rocky picked it up and started selling it?
MSR has been a long-time support of mine, and obviously Tucker Rocky owns them, so Tucker Rocky was nice enough to start distributing my stuff on a limited basis. It ended up doing super well for them, so we've been with them full-time now. I'm going to get exposure doing the outdoors for the Mafia Moto Crew, and I'll try to do some other stuff when I have time to help spread the word and give back as much as I can. I want to get as much exposure as I can for the brand, and put together a website where people can purchase the product on if they can't go down to their local Tucker Rocky dealer.
It's still really early to speculate, but when the gate drops at Hangtown, where do you want to see yourself?
I've been off the bike for a super long time, so it's tough. Everyone knows how physically demanding it is and how much practice it takes, but I've been training for a long time, and riding for almost a month now. My goal is to be top-10 from the beginning, and then try to focus on getting into the top-five. Hopefully I can push for my ultimate goal of a podium. My best finish outdoors has been a fourth, and I've done that multiple times. I feel like I really want to try and bring a trophy home, and I think that's attainable, but it's going to take a lot of work. I'm really going to start digging in.