Things are happening fast at JGRMX Suzuki. After nine years fielding Yamahas, Joe Gibbs Racing’s motocross (and Supercross) team switched to Suzuki in 2017 and just a year later became the brand’s official factory entry.
While all this was happening, there was unplanned change inside the squad with team founder Coy Gibbs being asked to take a larger role on the NASCAR side of racing operations after his older brother J.D. Gibbs was forced to step back from day-to-day running of the team to deal with health issues.
JGRMX leaned on veteran team manager Jeremy Albrecht to handle more responsibilities within the operation and five-time AMA Arenacross champion Buddy Antunez was brought on board to be the assistant team manager and rider coach.
Heading into the 2019 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season the pressure is on for JGRMX (officially known as Autotrader/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing Team). In the past, the JGRMX scored premier class Supercross victories with Josh Grant and James Stewart as an independent squad, but now as the full-fledged factory Suzuki team more consistent results and winning are expected with its riders aboard the familiar Suzuki RM-Z450.
JGRMX is pegging much of its hopes on 23-year-old Justin Hill. This season will be the first for Hill riding a 450 bike full time.
Hill won’t be a rank beginner on the 450s. Last year in Tampa, the 2017 250 West Supercross champ made an impressive Supercross 450 class debut on one of his off weekends away from the 250 West Series. He clocked the fourth-fastest qualifying time, scored a heat race victory and topped it off by battling for the lead before a tip over and a bent brake lever put him in sixth at the finish.
That impressive ride on the 450 means the team is expecting big things out of Hill.
“That was real eye-opening,” said JGRMX media manager John Basher. “Since coming to the team he’s been telling us he was better on a 450. He sure showed his ability on the bigger bike. So, with Justin, the expectations this year are that he can win.”
Hill was scheduled to team with veteran Weston Peick, but Peick was seriously injured in a crash while racing in Europe in mid-November. He was not expected to be healthy in time for the Supercross season.
Peick suffered severe facial injuries and underwent the first of several scheduled surgeries prior to Thanksgiving.
The surgery was to to repair multiple nose, eye and other facial fractures, including two breaks in his jaw. Doctors confirmed that Peick did not suffer brain injuries and is expected to make a full recovery, though, it will take time.
As a result, the big question is whether or not Supercross racing legend Chad Reed will be part of the team.
While it appeared Reed would need to come up with sponsorship to be part of a three-rider 450 effort, but as of early November, Peick’s injury could pave the way for Reed to join the team full time.
Details had not been released by press time.
If they can swing a deal, Reed will bring a lot to the table for JGRMX, even though realistically at age 36 (37 in March), he will likely not be contending for championships. Yet Reed’s sheer popularity with the fans would bring a major benefit of exposure to the team, plus his ability to help develop a motorcycle with his vast experience and feedback could be the missing link to help JGRMX building a championship-winning machine.
“Everything is tracking forward for that to happen,” Suzuki’s motocross manager Chris Wheeler told SPEED SPORT. “He’s operating as if he’s part of the team. He’s testing, he’s training and he’s down there with JGR quite a bit with the team. The goal is to get him included as well.”