Rough Around The Edges And A Force On The Track, Weston Peick Is The Sport's Latest, Greatest Success.
As published in the August issue of TransWorld Motocross
Photos by Antonovich & Maeda
Video by Powell
A few years back, Weston Peick would race practically anywhere that offered a lucrative payout and chance at victory. A local Oregon track on the Thursday night before the Washougal National? Weston went there and took the win after a come-from-behind ride. A winter "Supercross" held inside a hockey stadium in Finland? He went there and won, too. Every dollar earned in these far-off adventures went back into the privateer's program, keeping the dream of racing alive for another week. "It's not like I have my own personal funds and then racing funds," he told us in late 2012. "It all goes in and out of one account."
Those days are over. He now works for one of the biggest teams in the pit area, with a set schedule that includes every round of both American championships and a few lucrative offseason races. And they foot the bill for everything. It's taken a while for everything to work out in Weston's favor, but he's making up for the lost time.
Weston Peick's early career contrasts with the sport's norms. Sure, he grew up in the center of Southern California's action and elected to spend the final years of school in an accelerated learning program, but this didn't automatically make him a standout amateur prodigy. In fact, he relishes missing those years. "I grew up doing a lot more than just motocross—normal life things rather than wasting away years doing amateur motocross," he states proudly. "It was nice to have that opportunity. I grew up with a normal life, so I don't have to walk around acting like my shit doesn't stink." He turned professional in 2009, then scored incredible ninth place overall finishes at both the Glen Helen outdoor opener and Freestone Raceway stop, yet this wasn't enough to grab the attention of the team managers.
For whatever reasons, Peick was forced to plug through the next years on his own. In fact, it was like teams did all they could to distance themselves from the wild man from Wildomar. But during this time he became a people's champion of sorts, someone the average guy who worked through the week just to afford riding on the weekend could relate to. Being fast as hell helped, especially since he routinely bested high-profile racers that were lucky enough to have every amenity and advantage while riding a well-worn Suzuki. Things finally took a turn about two years ago, when he scored a then career-best fourth overall finish at the 2013 Utah National moments after bump-starting the bike behind the gate, battled through the 2014 Supercross season, and finally received a long overdue phone call from RCH.
"It was more or less one of their riders had gotten hurt and then something happened with the other rider," he recalls. "They needed someone to fill in, and I ended up being the rider for those guys for the entire outdoor series." Peick made the most of his 12-race time with the team by scoring points in 22 of the 24 motos and finishing the season ranked eighth overall in the point standings, statistics that had many expecting a full-time deal for 2015. And one did come, just not from RCH.
After reported influence from Yamaha, the Joe Gibbs Racing team became highly interested in Peick. The North Carolina team had already inked a high-profile deal with Justin Barcia and had Phil Nicoletti in a unique fill-in role, but was in need of another rider. Talks between the rider's small circle (which is pretty much just his father, Louie) and the team continued through the summer, with the deal quietly getting agreed on in early August. "I started talking with JGR about halfway through the outdoor series, just trying to get a foot in the door," he says. "We ended up signing a contract around Unadilla, and everything fell into place from there."
JGR is the perfect home for Weston Peick. The bikes are cutting edge, crafted from a mix of parts from factory Yamaha, industry-leading brands, and even the team's NASCAR race shop. "If there is anything we need or something to change with engineering, we have probably a hundred guys that can design a part to help with the bike," he jokes. Off the bike, but just as important, is the vibe in the pit area. Peick's dry sense of humor fits in perfectly with every member of the staff—from team founder Coy Gibbs to manager Jeremy Albrecht to mechanic Patrick Barker—even if his comments can be a bit blunt at times.
"I don't like to have a filter, but there are some things that have to have one for," he admits. "Our PR lady will text or yell at me about what I posted wrong, but for the most part I think fans get sick and tired of hearing the same whiny interviews about things that are so stagnant. People want to hear something different, not the same thing as what the other 45 riders said." And this is exactly why people are fans of Peick. He isn't afraid to speak his mind on matters, be it good or bad, in a sport filled with podium speeches that rarely deviate from sponsor call-outs. He's aware that it's caused him issues in the past, maybe even a reason it took so long for him to get a top-tier ride, but these things are moot points now. "Maybe it's because I look mean or whatever, but you can't believe everything you hear," he insists. "Everyone has seen what I can do now that I've been given an opportunity from a full factory team like JGR."
Finally, he can turn his full attention to one thing: becoming the best racer possible. "It's a huge stress relief. Now I strictly focus on racing, training, and the things I need to instead of racing around different cities for money or the other bull crap that I needed to worry," he states. "It's been a huge game changer to just focus strictly on what I need to do." He's able to practice on a Yamaha YZ450F that's identical to the race bike, while his garage is now stocked with replacement parts. "I'm stoked to do this because it is a life-changing thing for me to get on a program where you just show up and don't need to worry about things like waiting on parts. If you need something, it's in their hands. At my house I have two of everything, so if something breaks, I can change it whenever I need to."
It didn't take long for Peick to put together results, something that caught people off guard but was exactly what he and the JGR team anticipated at the start of the 2015 season. "That's what I expected, what we worked all offseason for. We want to be on the podium because that's what we all bust our asses and test for," he adds. "The goals were to be on the podium." He was en route to a third-place finish at Phoenix until a late-race miscue that resulted in a foot injury. He made a valiant attempt to push through the pain at Anaheim II, but one hard landing caused even more damage. Luckily, connections by Coach Joe Gibbs had him on the road to recovery in no time. "I flew back to North Carolina and had a second surgery. It was pretty nice to have Joe be able to call a local doctor in North Carolina and say, 'We need to get Weston in on Monday morning.' It's awesome that he can make things like that happen."
Once his foot and stamina finally recovered, Peick tore through the final rounds of the series by taking heat race wins and a pair of main event podium finishes. It was enough to convince the sport that Weston will be a contender for years to come. Joe Gibbs Racing thinks so at least, because they've signed a contract extension that will keep Peick under their awning through 2016. "I wanted to sign a two-year deal coming in, but it was more or less about how I did, and we went from there," he explains. "We talked about re-signing halfway through Supercross but held off until things fell into place. It's been talked about for the last few months, and we finally came to an agreement."
Through it all, Peick's circle has stayed close. "Everyone that is backing me has worked as hard as I have to get to this point, from my dad to my trainer to all the people along the way. This is all stuff we made goals for and now it's paying off," Peick says.
Arenacross icon Buddy Antunez serves as his trainer and riding coach, a partnership struck up through years of seeing each other at the track. "About three years ago we were at the track, and I didn't have a trainer at the time, was just out there struggling, and we decided to give each other a shot," he explains. "Everything clicked, and we work really well together, from the way he works with me to things on the bike."
Although though their day-to-day racing duties are much different now, Peick's father, Louie, is alongside for almost every event. "It's a father-son relationship, so it has ups and downs," Weston says, "and we butt heads sometimes or don't agree on some things, but we come to conclusions on things.
"It's good to have him around because he's been here since the start, and if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be racing today," he continues. "It's nice to have him there, and he's not the typical Alessi dad that relies on everything the son does. We have our own lives outside of racing dirt bikes—go home to the family and hang out."
These next few years are crucial for Weston Peick and his career. Everything is in place for success, and he's already shown great improvement over last year. Early rounds of the 2015 Nationals have had him in the front pack, a far cry from his inconsistent results just a few years ago, and Peick can tell the difference: "With JGR stepping on board and how good their stuff is, they've allowed me to be confident in myself and know I can win on the bike that we have. That's what is good, that they have everything we can try to win." Can this boost in confidence take him to the next level? He certainly seems to think so, and it's evident in his expectations for the next season. "I want to be here for most of my career, as long as we can come to terms and be comfortable with each other. I want to be in championship contention next year."