Gary is a lot of things: Montana nomad, EnduroCross contender, WORCS racer, oil-field veteran and single dad. Off-road racing in the U.S. is now entering a new era, a return to grass roots where guys like Gary is becoming more and more common. The big semis are fading away, replaced by pick-ups, trailers and the occasional baby pin. Gary Sutherlin is currently running up front in the WORCS Pro-class points. If he had done that in 2004, he would be working out of a factory big rig with a trained mechanic and an entourage of supporters. But in today’s less-extravagant economic landscape, he feels lucky to have one completely devoted supporter: his 19-month-old daughter Emerie.
Gary Sutherlin and his number one fan, Emerie Sutherlin
The Sutherlin express: a nearly stock 2011 YZ450
“I bring her with me because I don’t have anyone else,” he says. “But I like it this way. I want her to grow up enjoying our weekends at the track. Someday, I might be on the sidelines holding a pit board for her.
“The hardest part about being a single dad is juggling everything on a day-to-day basis,” he says. “I get up early, get Em ready—food, bath, all that stuff—and then off to day care so I can work, train, ride, get groceries and do laundry.” It probably isn’t the lifestyle that Gary envisioned when he was younger and dreamed of being one of the top off-road racers in the country. But he doesn’t complain, especially not about being a dad. “She’s everything to me, and having her in my life is more rewarding than racing or anything else.”
Gary’s attitude is generally upbeat, mostly optimistic and always friendly. But things haven’t always gone smoothly for him. In 2012, he got his first WORCS podium finish at the Primm round, almost winning the second moto. He then backed it up with two more podiums, but the second half of the season was riddled with personal problems that resulted in mixed results. The low point was the death of his close friend P.J. Marquez. It happened at the Denver EnduroCross where P.J. was doing all of Gary’s mechanic duties. As the main event was staging, P.J. doubled over with a pain in his chest. He passed away at the arena from a heart attack. The rest of the season was a blur of injuries and legal battles dealing with the custody of his child. When it was all over, Gary went back to Montana to regroup and try to figure out his life. He decided that two things were more important than anything: his daughter and his racing. That’s what is driving him this year. When he can, he runs #324—that was P.J.’s number.
Gary’s race program consists of a 2011 Yamaha YZ450 that he financed through John Burr Cycles, and two leftover 2012 KX250Fs that are set up for EnduroCross. He has no contracts or commitments to ride any particular make; he just races what he can keep running. His only real financial support comes from Wes, his boss at his old oil-field job. But, he also has help from Zip-Ty Racing, Focus Apparel and a handful of others. He plans on racing WORCS, EnduroCross, West Coast Hare Scrambles and the Global X Games. His goal? He just wants to do well enough to keep doing what he loves.