A Conversation with a Champion
Getting to know Joel Hetrick.
Sunstar’s Joel Hetrick is having a very good year. The 29-year-old superstar had a series of good showings, including a win at High Point MX. And in August, he locked up the ATV MX title at the 2022 Loretta Lynn's Amateur National Championship – his third pro championship of his career. We sat down with Joel to talk about his big wins, his team, and the future ahead.
Sunstar: How did you get into ATV motocross?
Hetrick: I started racing when I was five years old and hung with it until this day. I’ve been very fortunate, having won more than 10 youth and amateur titles, two QXON’s and three pro championships.
Sunstar: Your road to the ATV MX championship involved a motor home, we hear.
Hetrick: Yeah. That’s right. My family and I went to The Decker Training Facility in Fountain, Florida from December till March. We stayed in a motor home the entire trip. I promise you, with two kids under the age of three, that’s not easy. But my wife Carlie was such a huge help, taking care of the kids, giving me the time I needed to get my work done, and providing me the motivation to keep pushing.
Sunstar: Winning it all - it had to have been an emotional day.
Hetrick: It didn’t hit me until the podium when the referee was announcing to me about the number one plate and congratulating me. At that moment, I got the chills and shed a few tears. It’s just such an emotional ride from having lost a championship at Loretta’s in 2018 by one point and then to win both motos this year plus the championship. It was unreal. I was so proud to hold that #1 plate and it just felt like everything I did all offseason and during season really worked.
Sunstar: You credit a lot of your success to your team. Tell us about them.
Hetrick: Phoenix Racing has my Yamaha dialed in really good right now. Our motor program is really stout too, putting everything together and also tuning on the quad. Also the support of my fans and family is huge to me.
Sunstar: The season was really a success from start to finish, right?
Hetrick: It really was. My first race was at Daytona, a place where in the past I’ve just had awful luck. But this year was different--- I won the main event on a one-lined muddy track. After that, I went on to win the next three rounds with all 1-1 finishes. I finished every race with a 1st or 2nd overall for 10 rounds, with six wins and four seconds.
Sunstar: What’s up next?
Hetrick: We’re heading to the Czech Republic, September 24th and 25th for the Quad Cross of Nations Race. My strategy is to start up front and control the race, pull a gap if possible and maintain it. The competition is stacked. With Ireland winning in 2021, I’m sure they’re pushing for another victory.
Sunstar: Talk about your relationship with Sunstar.
Hetrick: I connected with Sunstar about five years ago. We were searching for the best sprocket set up for our needs. They have supported the Phoenix Racing Team for years now and I’m happy to be a part of it.
Sunstar: What do you like about their products?
Hetrick: Durability is a big reason I like the Sunstar products so much. Quads on a sand track normally form these ruts we call a train track. You’re basically digging with your tires but the swingarm brake caliper and chain and sprockets are digging into that sand in the center. It causes major wear on the rear sprocket.
Sunstar: What products do you use?
Hetrick: I use a 14 font Sunstar sprocket and a 38 steel Sunstar rear sprocket. I use these products based on the track, but typically, every race we go with this set up. It seems to perform the best with the motor package I am using, I use the steel rear sprocket for durability and confidence in my mind that I am gonna be fine no matter the track conditions.
Sunstar: Any tips for young riders out there?
Hetrick: The biggest tip I could give younger racers would be to watch your favorite pro as much as possible, whether it’s on YouTube or in person. Study the body positions, listen to the machine to see where they are on and off the gas, and try to apply that to your riding when you are at the practice track. Also, practice as much as possible.
Sunstar: Anything you’d like to say to your fans?
Hetrick: Thank you to my fans who interact with me through all my social media platforms as well as in person. I have gotten a ton of support the past few years and it is just super cool. I really appreciate all love.