Flashback to midway through the 2003 ATV MX National season...just as the sport as a whole seemed to be on the rise the once-mighty Nac's Racing team was on its way out. The powerhouse squad was coming off of a brief stint as a factory team, and its riders were enjoying unprecedented support for both pro and amateur racers. Rather than reaping the rewards of bringing the factories back to the sport, Team Nac's was ironically on its last leg, facing a slew of legal problems stemming from Cannondale's bankruptcy, effectively making '03 its last season. The team's pro riders would certainly land on their feet, but the amateurs could sense the impending doom. Among the soon-to-be-ride-less roster were Zac Willett, Kyle Taylor and Jorge Cuartas. As the season progressed, the outlook seemed grim and the trio prepared for the worst. Going from the prestige of Team Nac's back to the struggles of privateer life wasn't appealing. "Dude, let's start our own thing, but make it punk rock and anti-corporate," suggested Willett while sitting in a Pennsylvania Applebee's restaurant with Cuartas, Taylor and Mark Kendall. At first, the idea seemed ridiculous, but as the season's end drew closer, talk of the new "anti-team" grew in frequency and seriousness.
"We had to show the racing...
"We had to show the racing community that fancy trucks don't win races, heart does."
2007 WPSA Champion Danny Cooper...
2007 WPSA Champion Danny Cooper takes home the tough B-class win at historic High Point Raceway.
Just a couple of months later the "anti-team," aka Media Allstars, had become a reality, sort of. Armed with the remnants of Nac's sponsors (and amateur roster, for that matter) and a handful of personal supporters, the Media Allstars decided to make a run at this team thing. Sponsors didn't really know what to make of the plan; after all, unlike any other team on the circuit, the Media Allstars were a team for team's sake. There was no actual Media Allstars business, product or shop to speak of. In essence, all the team was built to promote were its riders and sponsors. And promote the team did, a barrage of full-page team ads flooded the series' event programs, while the team members themselves sought out as much press as possible through the enthusiast websites, TV shows and magazines. In the inaugural season, Kendall, Cuartas and Willett were joined by Josh Upperman, Hollie Shartzer, Jamie and Lee Rentz, John and Leslie Ragon and a Godsend by the name of Jeremiah Jones (JJ). JJ's title sponsor had backed out on him at the eleventh hour, and as a result he agreed to run the Media Allstars graphics, which brought the start-up team some much-needed credibility.
At the end of '04, Jeremiah went to factory Suzuki, taking with him Jamie Rentz (his future bride) and John Ragon. Coming into '05 the Media Allstars pulled off a miracle by landing FMF as a title sponsor, the deal including use of FMF's team 18-wheeler. Mind you, in '05 there were two big rigs at the races, factory Suzuki and the business-less, pro-less Media Allstars amateur team. The ad campaign intensified, and the roster grew in size and prestige. Joining the team were Angela Moore, Casey and Patton Thompson, Hunter Johnson and Rob Baumsteiger. That season Upperman and Kendall dominated the Pro Am class with Upperman eventually landing the team its first championship (Pro Am Unlimited). The peak of dominance came in '05 at High Point, where the entire team went undefeated on the weekend, winning every single moto they entered. Presence, results, advertising and championships all combined to make the second year an overwhelming success. Sponsors were now actively pursuing the team, instead of vice versa, and literally hundreds of rsums poured in from riders wanting a spot on the roster
During the off-season, the sponsors and roster once again changed as team cofounder Mark Kendall was given the opportunity of a lifetime, along with No. 1 plate holder Josh Upperman, to ride for Tim Farr's upstart MotoSport Outlet/Baldwin Motorsports/FRE/Honda team. Also leaving the Allstars were the Thompson brothers, thus making space for Caleb Moore and Nathan Commer to come aboard. The team managed to land the first major outside sponsor for ATV MX racing with the Kellogg's brand, once again raising the bar for pros and amateurs alike and leading to the formation of a mini team (Brittany and Brenden Snider, Jay Corey and Jake Brattain) to help promote the Kellogg's brand. Armed with a powerhouse team and the biggest sponsors the sport had seen at that point, '06 looked to be a banner year for the Allstars and the sport in general. The team itself was enjoying unprecedented success, with Nathan Commer and Angela Butler dominating various classes at both the ATV MX Nationals and new ESPN2/WPSA series. Unfortunately for everyone involved, supporting the WPSA series led to backlash from their competition leaving both FMF and the Media Allstars in the crossfire. With only four rounds to go, the team lost its title sponsor as well as its 18-wheeler. Utterly disgusted by the turn of luck, the team's resolve only grew stronger and each remaining race was attacked with a newfound motivation.
"We had to show the racing community that fancy trucks don't win races, heart does. And we had way more fire in our hearts at that time than anyone," team manager Jorge Cuartas said. "At that point Commer was nearly unstoppable, and we were banking on championships to show our sponsors that we could turn heads regardless of what we drove to the races." Commer's A-class championships and Angela's double Women's championships turned heads, and the bad cards dealt to the team led to the support of a handful of industry insiders, chief among them Hinson Racing's Wayne Hinson, Yoshimura USA's Brant Russell and Suzuki's Rod Lopusnak. "Those three guys pretty much saved us, regardless of the fact that we [the team] were aboard Hondas and competing against their guys week in and week out."
Not surprisingly, in '07 the team switched to Suzukis with help from yet another powerhouse, Jeff Cernic, and contested the WPSA series full time. In another industry shocker, the team was picked up by Tucker Rocky Distributing to represent various proprietary brands. As had become the norm, roster changes ensued, this time with Angela Butler and Jay Corey leaving to start up a team of their own. Aaron Meyer, Cody Grant, Casey Martin, Austin Wilson, Chad Sumner and Bobby Ross all joined the Cernic's Suzuki-backed Pro Am team, while Chase Cunningham, Danny Cooper, Jordan Digby and DJ Spurling joined the amateur team. Armed with confidence and the best equipment money could buy, the '07 Media Allstars were poised for its best season yet. Unfortunately, during a preseason international warm-up race, the team's number one prospect Nathan Commer was injured.
"Commer's injury pretty much took the wind out of our sails, seeing our best rider in that bad of shape wreaked havoc on morale, and it was downhill from there," lamented Cuartas. "That kid's winning attitude was infectious; he not only made you believe he could win, he made you believe you might have a shot."
Devastated by the loss of the team's spiritual leader, the team struggled through the first half of the season. Switching brands was another factor, adapting to the new LT-R seemed to take longer than expected. On the bright side, Caleb Moore, who dabbled a bit in freestyle, decided to start backflipping his ATV on a regular basis which put him in every magazine, video and website in 2007 leading to a barrage of coverage for the team. Danny Cooper and Jordan Digby also added a pair of No. 1 plates to the team's trophy case, salvaging the results and carrying the weight of the team. As the season came to a close, the expected roster downsizing took place. Caleb's newfound celebrity led to a lucrative Polaris freestyle-only contract, while Casey Martin, Bobby Ross and Chad Sumner all left as well.
Aaron Meyer sailing through...
Aaron Meyer sailing through Loretta Lynn's personal airspace.
Entering 2008, the Media Allstars once again made serious sponsor and roster changes, opting to downsize for the first time since the team's inception. "It was just way too much at that point; my wife was pregnant with twins, and weeding out the complainers and whiners was necessary for my sanity," admitted Cuartas when recalling the decision. "I needed to delegate a bit of the responsibilities, and decided to farm out or franchise a couple of smaller teams that would absorb our existing riders, leaving me with just the core of Pro Am, A, B and Women to deal with."
The Media Allstars split into multiple teams, including a side-by-side effort, youth effort and support rider effort, all being managed independently of the core or original team. The only additions to the core team were Dale Batson and Mario Diangelo, who assumed support roles. Each team enjoyed different levels of success and adversity depending on how heavily vested they were in the WPSA series. The GNCC side-by-side effort took off as Josh Starrett and Dustin Shuler earned early point leads in their respective classes and as of this writing seem poised to win championships. On the MX side, the untimely demise of the WPSA left everyone scrambling; despite the scramble, the Pro Am MX duo of Aaron Meyer and Cody Grant put in a strong showing taking wins and nearly the championship. Chase Cunningham and Jordan Digby managed to bring home three championships for the team, thus salvaging the roller-coaster ride of a season. The youth and support teams didn't fare as well, as neither recovered from the series switch.
Two-time champion and prodigy...
Two-time champion and prodigy Jordan Digby has more poise and talent in his six-year-old body than most full-grown racers. Can you say, "2018 Pro Class Champion"?
As of this writing, the 2009 incarnation of the Media Allstars team is still in the planning stages. A rough economy coupled with high gas prices has led to cutbacks in support and major holes in the racing budgets of the industry. When asked where they were headed in '09, Cuartas had only this to say, "Despite the obstacles, rest assured that if there's a National-caliber ATV MX series, there will be a Media Allstars team. The sport as a whole is in a better place, and the amateurs have stepped it up to the point where it's hard to distinguish them from the pros. It's funny that the 'anti-team' inadvertently set the bar for professionalism and sponsor representation."