Benny Bloss | Free Agent
There was only one bike under the Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM rig at the 2019 Monster Energy Cup and it wasn’t for Blake Baggett or Justin Bogle, the team’s picks for the 2020 season. Instead, it was for Benny Bloss, a rider that had spent the past four seasons with the factory-supported crew but did not get his contract re-upped for the fifth year. It was an interesting thing to see, especially after the lengthy decision-making process that leaves Bloss without any sort of confirmed support for next year. Late in the afternoon, between qualifying practice and the night show, I sat down with Bloss to discuss how it came together and what the future holds for the free agent.
“I got married in the offseason and the night before we left for Cancun, Forrest (Butler, team owner) called and told me that Blake and Justin were not going to race the Monster Cup and that no matter what happened with the decision for 2020, they wanted me to ride,” Bloss recalled of the conversation that happened prior to the team’s pick of Bogle. “I thought about it and talked it over with my family when we were in Mexico, so when I came back, I told them I was in and put in a solid three weeks to be ready for it.” Even though it was later determined that Bloss would be let go for 2020, the two stayed together for the weekend in a deal kept a bike on the track and allowed the rider a chance to show his talent to the industry one more time. “It was a good chance to come race Supercross because I hadn’t raced one since the Las Vegas round 2018. Last year I had knee surgery six days before the Monster Energy Cup and rode practice but didn’t race and then I got hurt before the 2019 year. It was a good opportunity to race a good bike and hopefully, it allows me to turn some heads. It is a bummer, but it is what it is in the sport.”
A look at Bloss’s results indicates that there’s plenty of potential in the relatively young rider (he’s 22 years old), as he took Supercross Rookie of the Year honors for the 450 class in 2018 and has ranked near the top of the point standings outdoors on multiple occasions. But serious injuries and long recoveries have kept him from racing entire seasons, like the shoulder in 2017 and a knee this past year, and he’s had to work to find his form after each return. “Everyone expects you to come back and be what you were before, but it’s really hard, especially with a knee injury like that,” he notes. “It would be one thing if it was a little injury that puts you out for a few weeks, but I got hurt on Christmas Eve and was off the bike all the way until June. That’s a long time to be off of a dirt bike. I pushed as hard as I could and ended up riding a month earlier than what I was originally supposed to, but I finished out the season strong.”
It takes a lot to sideline Benny. Remember his struggles at the early part of the 2018 Supercross season, when he was out of sorts at the opening round in Anaheim crashed hard in the night’s LCQ? “The week of Thanksgiving I broke both of my hips, collapsed my lung, got a concussion, broke some ribs, broke my sternum. It was a bad crash but I still raced Anaheim,” he explained. How did he race with such a serious hip injury? He didn’t know. “it was a really big problem that the first hospital missed. I raced Anaheim and then went to a different hospital and they said, ‘Have you had any hip problems in the past month? Because you have displaced fractures.’ I couldn’t walk for two weeks (after the crash) and that completely explained it. I still have hip problems because I jumped right back into the leg workouts and stuff.”
One has to wonder if the seriousness of certain injuries is due to Bloss’ size, as his six-foot-plus stature is not the norm in motocross. “My body hurts, but I’d like to think that everyone else has the same issues going on. Unfortunately, I don’t know what it’s like to be small. I’ve never been short in my life. In eighth grade when I was 14 years old, I was 6 feet 11 inches tall and the next tallest kid was like 5 feet 8 inches tall. When I was 13 and 14, I was getting on a 125 while most of the kids my age were on the little wheel 85s [Laughs].”
But back to the current situation that Bloss finds himself in, where the close friend he recommended to fill his place for the Supercross season has taken the spot full-time. “It was a tough phone call, but I had been expecting it,” he said of a second separate conversation when Butler broke the news of the team’s future plan. “I had heard a little bit of stuff from people, but I wasn’t sure what to believe.” The Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM team gave Bloss every opportunity possible to succeed, like the initial ride in 2016, the 250 program they created in 2017, and continued support each year after, all of which he acknowledges and appreciates. “I had four incredible seasons here and can’t thank these guys enough, because they took a chance on me when I was a rookie. My first race was terrible, I think I crashed 11 times [Laughs]. I went over the bars in the whoops twice, two laps in a row, and didn’t even make the Main Event but they said we were going to try again the next week.”
Which led us to one of the common misconceptions about Bloss’s career: that his father, Jeff, paid for his place. The family owns Truck Central LLC, a Missouri company that specializes in big rigs and fleet vehicles, and previously had a sponsor logo on the side of the race rig. When I asked Benny to explain the details of this, he opened up and stated that although there was a “pay to play” program in the past, that’s no longer the case and it’s not something he aims to exploit in the future. “I’d say for my first couple of races, there was some sort of deal there, but after that, it ended. And in this situation, I wouldn’t let my dad do that now. I’d rather buy my own dirt bike and do it that way than pay for a spot. There has been a lot of stuff on social media over the years that said how I just paid for my spot, but that’s not true.”
What comes next? One option is Team Tedder Racing, which would put Bloss on a KTM 450 SX-F that’s identical to the bike he had at RM ATV-MC, but nothing was confirmed at the Monster Energy Cup. Benny knows it’s not wise to put all of his hopes on one ride and explained that he’ll show up at Anaheim One on a bike that he bought if necessary. “The plan is still to figure out a plan. I’ve talked to a few different people and have tried to get something figured out, but if I can’t, I’ll buy a bike and show up to Anaheim. By the end of the year, some team always needs a fill-in guy, so if I can be at every round we’ll see. I’m trying to stay positive and getting something figured out.” Butler has told Bloss he can keep one of the RM ATV-MC practice bikes for the time being so that he can stay sharp for whatever comes next.
One thing that I’ve noticed through all of the articles or social media posts about Bloss’s exit from the team is how much support he has from fans, especially for a rider that has never won a Main Event or Moto. It’s something that caught him by surprise, too. “When they posted everything, I fully expected everyone to say things like, ‘Good for them because Benny sucks,’” he admitted. “I have 30,000 followers on Instagram so it’s not like I’m super popular and I’m not exactly sure how to change that. I was expecting a lot of negative stuff towards me, but honestly, there was only a handful of negative things and everyone else was so for me. Knowing that is a confidence booster for sure, especially when you think that no one knows you or wants you to succeed.”