After a three-year hiatus from his racing career, Blake Wharton is returning to Supercross and will compete in the 2018 Monster Energy 250SX East series geared up with O’Neal.
“My intention just two weeks ago was to be on the line at the season opener for the East series February 17 in Arlington, but we’ve been pushed back a round or two because I had practice crash that’s put me behind a bit,”
Wharton said. Wharton says he’s hoping to be ready for the second round in Tampa February 24, but he may not be 100 percent until the third round in Atlanta March 3.
“Obviously, I don’t plan to contend for the East title this year, so if I have to miss a round or two to make sure I’m healthy enough to race that’s OK with the team. If we get seven rounds in with some decent finishes as the season progresses we’ll count that as a victory and start focusing on building the effort for 2019.”
Wharton, a former Rockstar Energy Suzuki and Geico Honda team member, has more than a dozen career podiums in the 250SX East series, including three wins to his credit. Wharton earned five top-five overall season finishes during his career. At 26, he wants to return to the sport to complete some unfinished business.
“I left the sport after a bout with Epstein Barr in 2013 and a knee injury in 2014. After dedicating my entire life to racing, the circumstances of my early departure were less than ideal to say the least,”
Wharton said. Wharton, who is based in Pilot Point, TX, believes he is more prepared mentally for a return to the sport he loves.
“I’m not suffering from any delusions about my return,” It’s not easy jumping back into a sport as competitive as Supercross after a three-year layoff. I don’t have a factory bike, but I do have outstanding support from the guys at Munn Racing and all my other sponsors. They’re behind me 100 percent and our early goal is simply to put it in the main and do the best we can. We’ll see how it shapes up from there and take it week-by-week.”
While managing his own expectations, Wharton does expect to return to top-five form by the end of the season. Wharton’s not thinking simply short-term. Ultimately, he’d like to find a place in the action sports industry once he’s done racing and he believes building on his previous racing success will help him better prepare for that.
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“At the end of the day, we all know Supercross is a dangerous sport and I’ve considered my motivation for returning carefully,” he said. “A return wouldn’t be a viable option for me five years from now.”
Since beginning his hiatus, Wharton has remained active in the industry and on the track, penning several features for RacerX Illustrated, conducting motocross schools in the United States and in places as far flung as Africa and Ecuador. He’s also made progress on his education, studying marketing communications at The University of North Texas. He’s even managed to publish four songs, which are available for download in Apple iTunes.
“I think all of my experiences over the past three years have helped me mature personally and as a professional athlete. I’ve got a few good years left to put all this together on the race track with an eye toward my future and now is the time to do that.”
All images by Courtney Nagore