Glendale Team Solitaire makes small budget work in Monster Energy AMA Supercross

Team Solitaire rider Robbie Wageman sits on his bike throughout media day earlier than Round 5 of the current 2022 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship season in Glendale. Even the Glendale-based impartial staff is smaller, it doesn’t imply it may possibly’t be aggressive and have an effect on the game. (Photo by Nicholas Hodell/Cronkite News)

GLENDALE – Some groups are actually higher outfitted to succeed in the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship than others in the collection.
Factory groups backed by the game’s seven grime bike producers – corporations similar to Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha – get pleasure from greater budgets and higher riders than groups with out manufacturing unit help.
But that doesn’t imply that impartial racing groups like Glendale-based Team Solitaire can’t be aggressive and have an effect on the game.
That’s what introduced Team Solitaire co-owners Chris Elliott and Ryan Clark collectively. The two met whereas Elliott, a digital advertising and marketing skilled, was working for a Supercross 250SX staff and the pair related over a typical trigger.
“We noticed an avenue to assist riders whereas staying (financially) viable in a sport the place factories are spending thousands and thousands,” Elliott stated.
Supercross is dirt-bike racing on programs constructed with varied jumps and sharp turns. Unlike motocross, the game that Supercross is derived from, Supercross races are usually held in soccer and baseball stadiums throughout the nation. The sport consists of two classifications, the 450SX class, which options heavier, sooner bikes, and the 250SX class, with riders using much less highly effective, however extra nimble bikes.
One of the most important benefits the manufacturing unit groups have in the game are their bikes – and the newest elements for them. Kawasaki’s 2022 450SR bike, for instance, features a new cylinder head, a brand new exhaust system and new shocks and clamps, amongst different enhancements.
The alternative to journey manufacturing unit bikes supported by huge budgets attracts the perfect riders, which all provides as much as dominance by manufacturing unit groups. They have received each race in each the 450SX class and the 250SX class thus far in 2022, with races remaining in Foxborough, Massachusetts and Denver together with the 2022 Supercross World Championship in Salt Lake City on May 7.
Team Solitaire doesn’t profit from any of the benefits a manufacturing unit staff enjoys. Despite enchancment in races resulting in enchancment in the season-long standings, the staff just isn’t a critical contender for a season-long championship.
Yet, nobody at Team Solitaire is concentrated on successful season championships. Instead, Team Solitaire is doing issues otherwise behind the scenes to stay financially viable whereas offering a proving floor for up-and-coming riders in the 250SX West classification.
Not a lot about Team Solitaire is typical in Supercross, together with the way in which the staff advanced.
Team Solitaire’s Phoenix Suns-inspired bike, right here sitting in the staff’s pits simply outdoors Glendale’s State Farm Stadium, is an instance of the group’s creativity. (Photo by Nicholas Hodell/Cronkite News)
Early partnership
Elliott’s ardour for bikes was evident at a younger age. The ardour started to blossom when his dad obtained him a motorbike. According to Elliott, he and his dad would spend their spare time engaged on the bike and race in the course of the weekends.
He remembers the sights and sounds of going to Supercross races yearly when the collection went to Minneapolis, which the collection first visited in 1994.
“Supercross particularly was at all times so interesting from a visible standpoint, all the brand new gear, shiny bikes. And the present itself was so mesmerizing,” Elliott stated by way of e-mail.
His advertising and marketing expertise and his ardour for bikes got here full circle when signed a advertising and marketing contract with a Supercross 250SX staff. While engaged on that deal, he met Clark.
The partnership blossomed, and in 2016 Elliott and Clark determined to reincarnate Team Solitaire, which Elliott had initially began in the early 2000s. The new model of the staff started its first Supercross season in 2017.
Clark, who has lived in Arizona for the previous 20 years, calls Team Solitaire his “ardour challenge.”
And the fervour isn’t simply in regards to the love for bikes and Supercross. It’s additionally about leveraging Elliott’s digital advertising and marketing background to introduce folks to the game in a cheap method.
“We’re attempting to do these VIP issues and these single-race partnerships that we really feel is likely to be slightly bit extra reasonably priced for folks, after which simply get them out, get a style of it,” Clark stated.
During race day, that advertising and marketing technique involves life with particular paint schemes, such because the staff’s Phoenix Suns-inspired scheme used in Glendale this yr. The technique has been in place for a number of years, as proven by the staff’s Arizona Cardinals-inspired outfit used in the 2020 Supercross occasion in Arizona. Team Solitaire featured a particular Cardinals-themed bike in the pits earlier than that yr’s race with a rider’s helmet modeled after the Cardinals headgear and a racing swimsuit original in honor of former Cardinals star Larry Fitzgerald.
The staff additionally makes use of themes impressed by its present main accomplice Nuclear Blast, a heavy steel document label.
(Data visualization courtesy of
Making it work
Team Solitaire isn’t just distinctive by their advertising and marketing methods and paint schemes at varied Supercross races. It’s additionally distinctive in that everybody has their very own different duties outdoors of the staff.
Clark works at Stacy and Witbeck, a building contractor. Elliott works as an actual property agent.
Team Solitaire’s two mechanics, Eric Angelski and Colin Burgh, work at Crank Works in Tempe as machinists. Crank Works is a restore store that specializes in crankshaft providers for a wide range of autos, together with bike work that’s useful for work in Supercross. The firm additionally works on ATVs, watercraft, snowmobiles and off-road utility autos.
This makes getting everybody collectively to work on team-related initiatives difficult as a result of they stay in completely different areas of the Valley.
“The very last thing they wish to do is drive additional west out to my home to do it, so we simply work at no matter makes sense,” Clark stated.
Just like their job constructing the staff’s bikes, Team Solitaire’s mechanics constructed the answer to the staff’s location drawback.
All of the staff’s mechanical work is completed in Angelski and Burgh’s storage in Maricopa, the place they share a home. According to Angelski, they renovated their storage to make an area the place they’ve all the pieces they should work on the staff’s Yamaha bikes.
“It feels extra like a store and extra of a workspace,” Angelski stated. “Because we have now such lengthy hours, it looks as if that works out doing it that manner the perfect moderately than having a location and having to go there after which drive dwelling and go to work and do all of that.”
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After they’re performed with their 8-to-5 job at Crank Works, they go dwelling and work on Team Solitaire’s bikes properly into the evening. Angelski estimates that he works greater than 100 hours per week between his two jobs, evaluating his workload to “two full-time jobs and a part-time job.”
During a mean season, Angelski and Burgh construct eight to 10 bikes. According to Angelski, every bike takes two to 3 days to finish.
Even on race weekends, the staff’s prep work is nowhere close to completed with the staff using completely different advertising and marketing schemes on a race-to-race foundation, Angelski stated.
“We often present up on Friday on the races and we have now to put in graphics, plastics and seat covers onto the bike,” Angelski stated. “Most groups have already got that performed all through the center of the week or so as a result of their scheme doesn’t actually change.”
Working greater than 12 hours a day at completely different jobs can take a toll. However, Angelski stated his work for Team Solitaire just isn’t about him or his private targets.
“You’re prepared to do something to assist your rider obtain their purpose and get to the following stage,” he stated.
Luckily for everybody concerned at Team Solitaire, they get help from their common employers.
When Supercross got here to Glendale in January, Clark particularly felt the love from Stacy and Witbeck. According to Clark, the vp of the corporate and his challenge supervisor got here to the Glendale occasion to help Clark’s staff.
At Crank Works, Angelski stated he’s allowed to take Fridays off in the course of the season. Having that time without work, although, just isn’t the one profit he will get from the corporate. He additionally cherishes what he learns from his bosses.
“Being capable of assist us out with the data that the proprietor, Phil Schaefer, has about this trade and have the ability to assist us in loads of different elements is phenomenal,” Angelski stated.
Wageman showcases his abilities at Glendale’s State Farm Stadium earlier than competitors in the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship season. (Photo by Nicholas Hodell/Cronkite News)
Team development
Working a full-time job after which taking a second job could also be performed out of necessity for some. Those folks could not really feel the influence of their work outdoors of revenue coming in.
At Team Solitaire, although, each member of the staff feels rewarded in some facet.
“The rewarding half actually finally ends up being the inventive outlet I’ve with the staff,” Elliott stated.
For Clark, seeing his staff develop evokes him to maintain going. This development is seen with one rider in explicit.
Robbie Wageman has been with the staff since 2020. He completed simply inside the highest 20 in the 250SX West season standings throughout his first two seasons, then made a giant soar this yr into the highest 10.
“He’s grown tremendously and so, for us, that’s actually fulfilling and that’s what fuels us,” Clark stated. “This yr, we introduced on Ryan Surratt, who’s simply in the infancy of our relationship with him and we hope to create that very same sort of development curve with him.”
Angelski concurs with Clark. From the mechanic’s perspective, he sees his hours and hours of work come to fruition when a rider succeeds on the bikes he builds. It makes the grind of a season that lasts from January via May value it, regardless of the opposite duties.
“We all work so extremely laborious, and we all know we’re working more durable than a whole lot of different folks in this trade,” Angelski stated. “With a full-time job and all the pieces, it’s tremendous rewarding, particularly when we have now a very good consequence.”

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