Industry Insider: Tyler Keefe
As one of the youngest team managers in the business, Troy Lee Designs Tyler Keefe has a lot to prove. Not only did he take over for one of the most liked personalities in the sport in David Pingree, but he’s got his hands on the reins of one of the hottest up and coming young teams in the sport. However, with the decision to bring up Jessy Nelson and the return of Christian Craig this weekend at RedBud, Keefe looks to be on a roll. Now all he needs to focus on is getting Seely back for another run at a Supercross title in 2013. We had the fortune of sitting down with Tyler prior to RedBud to get his take on each member of his team, starting with the return of Christian Craig.
You guys seem to have a lot of big news this season. But the big news now is the return of Christian Craig at RedBud. How are things coming along and what are your expectations of him moving forward?
It’s going good. It’s been a slow road for sure with the wrist injury. It’s kind of a bummer for him because he was at Southwick and he should have been ready at Anaheim. He ended up having some pain from the first surgery but he was still begging to ride A1. We tried to let him get through it but a hard landing would jar it. At that point there was no point in moving on and we decided to get it fixed. The doctor did a pretty good job with it. It’s been longer than expected but now he’s been riding for about a month and a half. He recently went up to Mammoth for some pre race preparation. He struggled a little bit getting back into racing but the second day he looked pretty good coming from 25th to 2nd. I would be happy with top 15 finishes at RedBud. The idea is to get a few rounds out of the way and then really do some damage at the final few rounds. Hopefully he comes out and surprises us all like he usually does.
Jessy Nelson has been impressive to say the least. What did you see in him to make the decision to bump him up for a full season?
It was totally unplanned to be honest with you. Salt Lake was a horrible race. I lost two guys in about an hour of practice. Jessy called that night while I was up watching the race and I told him to get down to Southern California ASAP. I wanted him there that next Monday. My vision was to just see where he was at and see if it was even possible to bring him in for a full outdoor season. He came out and was just flying. We were still about three weeks out and I ended up putting him on Cole’s bike and took him out to Glen Helen and he just killed it. Watching him, he just has raw speed. I brought him in after the first week and asked him what he thought about doing a full outdoor season? He had his sights set on Loretta’s at the time I think, so he wasn’t really happy about it. I told him to keep it in the back of his head and we just kept working at it. The week before Hangtown I told him that I believed he could ride top 10. He was already signed with us for next year so there was no pressure. He actually sent me a picture of him and his dad on a pw 50 from back in the day and just said, “let’s do this.” I think he made the right decision. I truly think we had a good two weeks off and that he’s going to be strong these next three rounds.
Where is he mentally now compared to the opening round at Hangtown?
When you watch him practice now compared to two or three weeks before the outdoors is a huge difference. Before he was fast, but would make little mistakes here and there. Now he’s even more solid. He’s putting in the time and he seems really happy. I told him the other day that he needs to keep working, that he could consistently ride out the top 10, but on a good day I think he could top five.
Touch on Cole Seely and his recovery process? When will he be back?
He’s still just kind of letting his organs rest. I doubt he’ll be able to race any outdoors. We’re likely going to look for a solid supercross season out of him next year. We want him to come out hungry and ready to win A1 again. The plan now is Lites West Coast and depending on how it goes we may put him on a 450 for outdoors. It all depends, really.
He is the guy who could potentially bring you your first championship. That has to be the goal, right? Do feel like more of a player for the title next year?
Cole is unbelievably talented and he’s made some huge strides mentally over the years. I think he’s going to come in next year even hungrier after missing the whole outdoor season. I feel that Cole has what it takes to win. We just need to keep it fun for him along the way.
Let’s go over one more of your guys. Travis Baker. Recap his outdoor season so far and clue us in on some of the goals and aspirations you have for him as his Team Manager.
T-Bake is a super solid kid. He’s so much fun to have on the team. This year there are a couple of groups. You have the top four, then you have fifth, then you have six - 10. He’s been on the verge of the final grouping this year. He’s in super shape, now we’re just working on trying to get a little more speed out of him. The kid knows what he wants and he’s going to keep working for it. I feel he could be right there with Jessy in that six-10 area.
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