JG Offroad’s Wednesday Wrench: Steve Stiller
Steve Stiller, owner and promoter of the American Woods Racing Championship Series since 2009, said his main mission with the series is to give back as much as possible to the riders. Read this week’s Wednesday Wrench to see how Stiller is making the AWRCS series like no other.
When did you first get involved with AWRCS? I used to help sponsor it in early 2000 and in 2009 I basically bought it from Chuck Greenlee.
Why did you decide to buy the series? Motorcycle racing has always been my whole life. I’ve been riding since I was 3, so for 42 plus years I have been riding. I own Stiller Motorsports, a 5 franchise dealership, and we wanted to give back to the racers. We’ll never make a living from AWRCS.
If you’re not going to make a living from it, then why did you decide to take on the series? Well, I have Stiller Motorsports to make my living from. Do I want to make some money? Yes. But I wanted to give back to the racers, because nobody is giving anything to the racers right now. After all the years I raced AMA, GNCC, CRA, and District 5 it feels good to give something back.
I was talking to Brian Wolf earlier and he said he’s never seen a series give away so much product. What is it that you give back to the riders? We give out laptops for our Back to School race, I’ve given out mountain bikes…every race I’m buying something to give back to our riders. VP Fuels donates and we give out tires, too. Every race we give out $500 in gas cards, and we’ll give so many out to youth and adults each day of racing. Another thing is our awards banquet; we always have it the week after the INDY show. I go out there and spend $15,000 for stuff to give back to our racers. SCOTT gives us discounts. They know we’re giving back to the series, and it’s not ending up in my shelf at the store. We’ll get 300-400 pair of goggles, gear, boots, and that’s just one vendor. We gave away Pirelli tires at the last round. Another thing is the venues. It’s a fun family series. We’re focused on family. We get more and more motorhomes coming in each weekend, so we get venues with creeks in them for kids to play in.
What helps you stay focused on families at the races? I’m focusing on the motorcycle industry as a whole and that starts with the mini kids. If you don’t start them on minis they won’t get on motorcycles as kids and adults. I want to get the kids out of the TV or game room and get them outside. I’ve had a bike since I was 3. I started on an Easy Rider trike in ’71. I’ve also found that families that rode together, stayed together, and life was better for whatever reason. It helps to keep kids off drugs and the street if they race. The discipline that comes with racing is a good thing.
It sounds like your family was also supportive of you racing. They claim my first words growing up were, “motorcycle man.” Growing up we had 500 acres of off road riding behind us. I was 3 years old, and my parents put me on a Bonnevile street bike and tried to scare me. I remember my dad went over 100 miles an hour. I remember it still… after that day they never tried to convince me otherwise. My grandmother hated motorcycles, but she actually funded it for me. It cost a lot of money to ride then, but from 1977 on, I had 1-2-3 bikes a year.
And then you came into your own racing series. What surprised you about running a race series? Well, I used to work with the Coombs family for years so I cut in a lot of trail with Big Dave back in the 80s on and into the 90s. I basically was there to do labor, but I knew everything going on there, and knew the family atmosphere they had at the races. It just takes a lot of money to get it started is what I found out. People don’t think about the insurance, paying for port-a-johns, getting ambulances out there… We put a couple hundred thousand dollars in the series. Since we’ve owned it, we’ve increased it over 100 percent. We’re averaging 370-400 riders each round. We have 21 employees and we’re doing it out of love. That’s why it goes so smoothly at AWRCS. It’s a well-oiled machine and it’s mostly families that work. The kids are there anyways, so they’ll help out.
What other special events do you do besides all of these giveaways? Unfortunately we’ve been hit pretty hard as a family of racers. We have a 13 year old with leukemia that we’re doing fundraising for and for other riders who’ve gotten hurt. We always do a race in October for Breast Cancer Awareness
What do you think AWRCS has that other series don’t have? We have better race tracks- point blank. We try to keep them more tight and technical. We don’t have worn out tracks. The series itself, it’s the family atmosphere. Even if Brian [Wolf] doesn’t race, he shows up to hang out, and that’s really what it’s about. The families are all old racers, who raced in the 80s and 90s, and now we have families and the kids start to race. We’re also very personal, and have a lot of family of racers that work. We’re so well organized. Everyone that tries us, they keep coming back. People do complain no matter what, but next week they’ll be back. That’s what we take pride in. Our racers defend us and we listen to our racers. We start on time, maybe 5 minutes off sometimes but not an hour and a half late starts like other series.
Is your family, your wife and daughter, involved in the series as well? We are all involved. We started late in life, but all three of us are involved. My wife Amy does everything in-house. She does tremendous work. Everyone that works is family to us. I’m adopted so I feel like everyone at AWRCS is adopted and we’re one big family. We go out to eat on Saturdays together.
Is your daughter going to be the next racer in the family? She’s six and she has a lot of friends that ride minis. Just last week, she said, ‘Dad, I want a quad. I’m going to race the next round.” I said, ‘Shouldn’t you practice?’ She said, ‘Nah, I’m just going to pull the holeshot and win.’ If she wants to be a racer, she can. She’s definitely into the industry. We’ve taken her to the races since she was an infant.
What is your own race history? I grew up racing the 100 miler with Dave Coombs, and I raced GNCCs. I grew up in District 5 and did some motocross. Harescrambles by far were my favorite. I was an A rider, and I never went pro. I was considered a solid B rider, but won overall B rider one year. I beat Barry Hawk when he switched over from quads to bikes. He fell a lot that first year. After that he figured it out. (Laughs)
What’s your favorite thing about running AWRCS? I would say giving back to the racers. I was a racer for so long that we never got anything. The family atmosphere is what’s keeping me. We’re having such a good time with it.
What do you think is the biggest challenge? Probably finding land. We try to mix it up and not go to the same places all the time. With National Gas leasing, they won’t let people on your property because they want to put a well on it. The gas companies put pressure on them not to let us race. There are some unique people that we find property from. The landowners come out and watch. They love watching the kids. It’s not about the money for them. Four or 5 years ago it was, now every landowner has signed for gas rights so it’s not about the money anymore.
Alright, Steve, before we’re done is there anyone you’d like to thank? I want to thank the workers, volunteers, and the racers… basically the whole family of AWRCS. Without them I couldn’t do it. It’s a full time job and I have the store, so I wouldn’t be able to do it without all the racers and volunteers Even though there’s only 10 races a year, it’s a full time job.