Rider Spotlight: Dane Westby
NEWS July 5, 2012
Photo by Brian J Nelson
AMAP: Where are you from?
DW: I’m from Tulsa, Oklahoma. I’ve lived here my whole life.
AMAP: Danny Eslick is from Oklahoma too.. Do you get to do any motorcycle riding with him when you’re not at the track?
DW: Danny’s from Broken Arrow. It’s about 15 minutes from here. We sometimes get to ride together, but his schedule’s pretty different from mine. We don’t hang out together as much as you’d think. We definitely get together and bang handlebars.. when you go riding with Danny, you’re giving it 100%.
I bought a used dirtbike with my Suzuki contingency card. In Oklahoma, there are places with sand, rock and different types of terrain. You can pretty much ride anything you want if you’re willing to drive. Everything’s only a short while away. I try to stay on my dirtbike as much as possible. I have this theory about your reaction time. Kind of like you touching a hot stove. The faster the time it takes your spine and muscles to react before your brain, it would save your hand. When used in a race setting, that can help prevent you from high siding, crashing or avoiding an incident. When you’re on the dirt, things are always moving around on you, and you’re losing traction all the time. Those movements that take only milliseconds are then used to the road racing side of things.
AMAP: How’d you get into riding motorcycles?
DW: My dad has always been into motorcycles. He was a sport rider in the '80s. He was getting out of it when I was born. I don’t remember much that far back, but he had that passion for motorcycles. My grandfather did too.. he rode motorcycles in the Middle East to find oil. I’ve been in motorcycles my whole life since I could remember. I started on a PW-50. My dad wouldn’t even let me start it up the first time. He made me push it down the driveway and push it back up. That was how bad I wanted to do ride. The first time I got to ride it with the engine running, I ran it into the garage. There’s still a mark in the garage. It was easy for me to fall into motorcycling, and since then, I’ve found my own way and my own passion.
AMAP: How do you feel like you’ve progressed as a rider with Team M4 Suzuki in AMA Pro?
DW: I’m trying to learn something from every race. There’s always something you didn’t know. You can always improve. No matter how skilled or crafty you are, there’s always something you can improve on and get better at, no matter how well you’ve done at a racetrack in the past. I’m really proud to be on the M4 Suzuki team. They’ve really helped a lot of aspiring riders get to where they are, and John really seems to have a plan for me. It’s encouraging that he sees something in me. You tend to not see that when you’re the guy riding the bike. It’s nice to have the backing of the team behind me. It’s really good to see the progression lately. Not only have we been learning from every race, but I’ve been going to a couple schools. They’ve been helping me ride the bike differently. At first, it felt weird, but now it’s really helping. I’ve had no formal training or a background in motorcycle racing. Many of the guys I race with have some type of background, but it’s good because I see the things they’re doing and use it to make me a better rider.
AMAP: Mid-Ohio is right around the corner. That was the racetrack where you got your first win. Give us your thoughts on returning to the track. Anything you’ll be using from last year to apply this year?
DW: Last season, it was interesting how the race went down, because I fell back in the beginning of the race and made a charge towards the end of the race. I conserved my tires in the beginning and turned on the faucet in the end. Once it was one, I really couldn’t turn it off. I had to fend up in the front of the pack for a few more laps than I would’ve liked, but I didn’t really get a choice. I’ve learned to be calm and make my moves late in the race. I’ve been taking things away from Martin, and it’s helped. I have a lot of respect for Martin having the most Daytona SportBike wins. I try to learn from him. That’s one of the lessons he’s learned, so I’m going to take after that. I’m excited to go back, as I’ve learned a lot since then and there’s some new competition that’s really fresh. I’ve won before, so I just need to be calm, make my moves when I’m comfortable towards the end.
AMAP: Like you said, there’s some really good competition in the GoPro Daytona SportBike class. What are your thoughts on racing with young energetic riders older, more experienced riders on the same track?
DW: I have a lot of respect for the more experienced riders like Jake Zemke, Jason DiSalvo, Martin Cardenas and Tommy Hayden. I’ve heard there names for a long time. Some of the younger riders are really on a terror, like Cameron Beaubier. He says he’s not in it for the championship, but if he keeps getting those race wins, he’ll be moving up. He’s got a lot of momentum and is a very talented rider. Martin is also someone I’m seeing is a very tough competitor. It’s really cool knowing that they’re some really amazing riders that I get to take it deep into the turns with.
AMAP: If we remember correctly, you have some college years under your belt?
DW: Yeah, I have about three years accumulated. I would be a junior, but I changed my major so many times that I would have to go back for a solid two years to graduate. I really enjoyed my time there, but it wasn’t the best time. Back then, I was in a department that had a lot of lab work, and you can’t make that up on the road. I was missing too much class.
AMAP: What draws you to the sport? The thrill, competition or the speed?
DW: It’s a thing that I’ve found that I like the most is being able to run with some guys that are good. There are some things in my life.. I’m not a boxer, wrestler or baseball player. Motorcycle racing is something that I can do. It’s a confidence booster to be able to run with some guys that are some of the best around. Motorcycles are a big thing to me in my life. I enjoy riding them and going fast, but my favorite part of motorcycle racing having that good battle going back and forth. Obviously, taking a first is what I want to do, and nobody wants to get second or third, but it is the thrill of racing. You have to have the ability and work for it at the same time. It being a spec series, when you win, it’s because of you and your team.
AMAP: Where did the nickname Dane “The Wolverine” Westby come from?
DW: Scott Russell actually gave it to me. He was announcing our race I think at Daytona. I have the sideburns, and he thought I was attacking ferociously and not giving up… like a wolverine. I think it had a lot to do with both of those things. The sideburns gave him the idea and then my attacking the field added to it. Since then, it’s really spiraled off and become bigger to where people are now calling me that.
AMAP: What are your expectations for the rest of the 2012 season?
DW: Last season, I got a couple zeros. I don’t want to get any zeros. I want to get as many points as I possibly can. We’ve been trying really hard to put together the best package, and with me going to those schools to work on my speed, I think it’s really helped. I think my goals have changed in the past month or two. I wanted to be top-five in all the races to now being on the podium every weekend. I have to do that to have a shot at the championship. A #1 plate would elevate me to the next level. Martin has one, Jason has one, I need one.
AMAP: Who would you say is your racing hero?
DW: When I was a kid, I didn’t watch that much racing. I didn’t have many racing heroes. Having met many of the legends in our sport, I think Scott Russell is my guy. I haven’t really looked into his accomplishments, but I hear all the stories about him… How he crashed at Daytona, picked the bike up and still won. Scott’s my guy because I know him, can associate him and he’s had some impressive accomplishments. Some people walk through the pits like they’re too cool for school, but Scott is such a friendly person.
Dane wants to give a big shout out to his crew, M4 Suzuki, including Chuck Giachetto, Lee Vaughan, Arai, GEICO, Lucas, Speedcell, Vortex, Hotbodies, RS Taichi, Alpinestars, SportbikeTrackGear.com
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