Modern professional racers have become training machines, and one key tool to being prepared for the races is spinning a lot of laps on their practice tracks. Some have private tracks at their houses, and some ride at facilities like The Nest and the Bakers Factory, but one thing has become fairly common: If you want a great track that looks like a piece of art when it’s finished, call Jason Baker of Dream Traxx. Baker has been in the game for a while, and his client list shows it. We recently sat down with him to talk all things track building and see how he got to where he’s at.
How long have you been at this track building game?
Dreamtraxx started in 2003. I did my first two tracks as totally a track builder only; prior to that I was racing and doing some track work. That year I quit racing and built Tim Ferry's outdoor track and back when Donnie McGourty was still racing I built him a Supercross track. This September marks 14 years.
What was the initial appeal to it?
It's funny, I've always really enjoyed art. Being a rider, having that artistic side every track I was at I would be like, 'Oh man, you could do this! Or you could do that!' I had a track at my house and that's really what kicked it off. Being able to constantly change the track and try new things, and of course that helped me as a rider. I was doing things at the time to try to improve my skill there, but I really developed a passion for the track building side of things. Guys would come to the house, ride the track, and be like, 'Who built this track?' I would be like, 'I did.' So that's how I literally started doing little side jobs when I was still racing. From there, it's just become a passion.
Are you from this area in Florida?
Yeah, I was born and raised down in Lakeland, Florida –central Florida area. A lot of guys would come down and ride my track when I was still racing. Chad [Reed], James [ Stewart], Timmy [ Ferry], back then Chisholm rode a lot with me. So I kind of had a foot in the door with those guys, and then things just progressed. I constantly wanted to come up with new ways and ideas to help evolve the racer and make tracks safer, and again just come up with neat and creative things. Not just the standard protocol things, make it so you're developing and helping the rider advance and at the same time doing things to keep it interesting.
Is that the biggest challenge when it comes to building a track out? Keeping it fun?
Yeah…but I'm blessed and fortunate that I do get to work with the top athletes, so it's been a good thing for me; it's kept me on my toes, kept me bringing my a-game. These guys, they're not going to slack off and just settle, you have to do things to keep them interested. Safe, but challenging. Every job I do for these pro athletes, I have to bring it because someone else will easily step in and fill my shoes if I don't. I enjoy that challenge of working for these guys and keeping them happy.
You're currently building a Supercross track and mentioned your busiest season of the year is just beginning. Explain that a little.
Yeah, you know these guys re going into their off season. That kicks off my season –I have to be thinking about Supercross tracks, and I wish I had a magic wand but I don't. When you're building as many tracks as I do, you have to schedule it out. Mix in a few events in there like Straight Rhythm and the Aus X Open –I'm going down there to do that event this year. Getting as many tracks done as I can and keeping everyone happy, because everyone wants it done at the same time, it definitely becomes a juggling and balancing act. My slow time is really kind of through the summer where I'm doing maintenance. The Supercross season is over, everyone's outdoor tracks are already rebuilt. That's when I try to catch up on some of the amateur stuff and then I get right back into it.
How does the track build process begin?
Really, the neat part about doing what I do is that a lot of these tracks that I do, I do over and over again. So as far as dimensions and all of that I do not have to put a new footprint down, and I know the dirt, and I know what we're going to have to do. The guess work with the repeat customers I have, that goes away. One thing that we always have to consider when doing these outdoor tracks at a facility is that it has to last the whole year. And drainage, a lot of these facilities are right here in Florida and we get a lot of rain here. I probably more focus on the durability of the track, and of course it will have really cool elements and features, and that's more the easy part. Its the durability, drainage, and build integrity that will make it last all season.
And jumps like triples are generally the same distance, right? What are they, 70 feet?
Yeah, typically around 65 feet. And rhythm sections will be between 24 and 28 feet spacing, depending on the obstacles. I try to throw some stuff in to mix it up, something that maybe they wouldn't see at the race but that goes back to the fun factor; it keeps them entertained.
As far as equipment, have you just acquired a handful of machines over the years?
Yeah, down here at this facility we have the equipment we need here. Out at the test tracks I keep the equipment we need out there for the tracks that I take care of out there. Honda, KTM, and Husqvarna, they're factory test tracks so I've go equipment in different areas where I need it. Any of the one-off stuff we just rent the equipment. That's the easiest, because when you travel so much renting is the way to go.
Your client list has grown a bunch, and you've created a handful of the influx of Florida facilities right?
Yeah, I would say I do a vast majority. Here at the Nest we have Kenny, Adam, Cole, Christian, Chase, and those guys all riding down here. We take care of the Bakers Factory and do all the builds for them and that crew. We did Blake Baggett's Supercross track for him this year. We take care of Tim Ferry's training facility down there in Dade City. We've definitely got our hand in the cookie jar. [Laughs]
Hard-earned though, you guys have been at it for a while. If someone were to reach out about a track at their own property, is that something you do?
Yeah, we're very obtainable. If people want us to do their track we work with any budget, within reason and reality. You're dealing with heavy equipment –bulldozers, skidsteers, loaders, excavators, all that type of stuff. If you rent four machines on a job its easy to have 12 thousand dollars wrapped up in equipment alone. So when I say within reason, you're not going to build a track for $5000 –that doesn't even cover machines. But we enjoy it, and that's the heart and soul of Dreamtraxx. That's how we got our start, and we love going to build a PW50 track for a kid that's never ridden before and seeing that smile when he takes his helmet off after the first few laps. That is what we really live for. That's why we got into it, and I still look forward to those moments and working with not just the pros. It's great for us to be able to do both. Of course, my time is limited but we still manage to pump out 8-10 amateur tracks a year as well on top of everything else we're doing.
How big of a team does it take for this type of operation?
Right now at this point I've got a guy that runs this facility we're at. I've got two other operators that work with me full-time travelling and doing other stuff. I have a full-time guy out in California that handles all the test tracks. Then I have another handful of other guys for big events or jobs that I can rely on that come in a sub-contract for me. I've got a pretty good crew of guys, and it really takes someone special. You have to understand the sport, understand the riding, and it takes more than just the standard machine operator. You really have to understand what you're building and why, and I'm blessed that I've got some really good guys.
I'll let you get back to building, thanks Jason.