For many fans of dirt bike racing, just competing on the highest level would be a dream come true. For Dustin Pipes, that dream is a reality. Beyond his ability to ride in the top 450 Class of the Monster Energy Supercross Series, Pipes is also the team owner.
All of this according to Pipes is a “Dream Come True” and a “Special Opportunity”, but what happens when this “Dream and Opportunity” end? That’s where college begins for Pipes.
Juggling a full season of supercross, being team owner and being in school is a massive undertaking but one that Pipes has taken head on well self described success and failures, but he would not change it at all.
For most riders, higher education or any form for education is put on hold until their career in racing is over. Pipes has gone an entirely different direction going to college now.
“A couple of years ago, I was in a place in my life where I was not sure where I was at with racing in my life,” said Pipes. “I did not want to only have one avenue in life. I never gave school and higher education any second thought. All I knew was racing. Racing is and was life. My family was a strong proponent of schooling however. Many family members had done a lot of schooling, some were principals and teachers, so the value of education was always present. There finally came a point in my life where I listed to them and decided that having another avenue in life would benefit me. That is how I got the drive to go back to college.
“It was definitely a reality check going back for my first day of school. After not being in a classroom in years to then being in one all the time was a culture shock for me. I think the cool thing with riding is that the same core values of riding such as dedication and persistence to your craft through practice, and the drive to always be the best translates to how one should approach education in their lives. There will be days that you don’t want to train and that the motivation is not there, but at the end of the day if you want to have success in whatever you are pursuing you have to train or make actions happen to achieve that success even when the motivation is lacking. That translates to education and schooling in how you can find it within yourself to push through the hard or even the simple tasks to achieve your goals.”
Professional athletes across traditional and even non-traditional sports, education is rarely made a priority or valued.
Pipes spoke on why education is rarely made a core value or priority in life.
“I think it is just because you don’t have to go to college to go professional in racing. There is no school program or college that centers on racing. There are no after school programs for racing. You don’t even need to have good grades to race. When you are young and building a name for yourself as a racer, you travel all over the country racing and working on getting sponsored. I don’t think it is in your core beliefs that you need to do go in school to be able to race. The two will never be in the same value structure.”
If you look closer at what it takes to build a brand and to become a sponsored rider, there are lessons to be found. Components of business management, marketing and public relations are all taught to you as an athlete in any sport as you begin to compete on higher levels whether you realize it or not.
Pipes realized this and chose to study finance for his higher education.
“I have always wanted to be an agent or a lawyer and the route I can take through finance will add other skills and knowledge I need to have to make me more well rounded. My education has gone slower than I have wanted to, but trying to go to college and race at the same time is a lot so I have to take a lighter course load, but it’s going and as long as you are pushing in the direction of your goal, it doesn’t matter how long it takes to get there what matters is that you got there.”
Being a privateer racer on the circuit can be challenging in itself. With the addition of college, for many riders that combo would be pushing the limits.
For Pipes, college and racing just wasn’t enough and when an opportunity came to partner with Joe Gibbs Racing to form a team for the 2018 Monster Energy Supercross season he took it and became team owner.
“Being team owner was not my original thought process. I was doing an intro for Suzuki with Joe Gibbs and I met all the guys over there at the factory and the opportunity was born from there. We talked through several things and it just happened. It wasn’t something I was actively searching for, but the right pieces fell into place and so HEP Motorsports FXR Suzuki Racing was created.
The logistics however of riding and running the team have been a challenge.
“Honestly the first two weeks have been a major struggle. These first two weeks have taught me so many lessons on what things I am good at but really I have learned where I lack in areas. I cannot do it all by myself as much as I think I can or have a desire to do so. Teamwork is such a critical component to success and allowing the members of my team to thrive with their personal skill sets is my number one goal as owner.”
With so many items on the plate of Pipes, one can imagine that achieving each and every benchmark in racing and schooling would be difficult. Pipes however looks at it realistically and has set goals for he and the team that with the hard work and dedication he instills in the team, each can be achieved.
“One of the awesome things we have as a team are our personal team goals. In the first two weeks, other riders on the team met theirs but I fell short so I have some catching up to do. My goal for Anaheim is to qualify in the top 22 and to make the main events. With running the team and being responsible for three other riders I have realized that I was behind with my bike and personal preparation. Being able to understand where I lack personally and where we lack, as a team is hard to digest at first. Nobody enjoys discovering where they come up short. But I you want to be successful, going through those moments, then learning from them and finding ways to improve and make them a strength is the only path to success. As a team each week if we represent our sponsors well and continue to improve in our racing that means that we are achieving our goals of leading with professionalism. For me personally I want to be a top-15 rider consistently. As long as I continue to improve and get better I will have achieved my goals.”