Q&A: Always Evolving Nissan’s Bryan Heitkotter after PWC Utah double

Photo: NISMO

Bryan Heitkotter, the 2011 Nissan GT Academy USA winner, took his first two overall wins in Pirelli World Challenge at Utah Motorsports Campus in mid-August. He took five GTA class wins last year before graduating from the amateur class into the full pro ranks in mid-2015.

We caught up with the driver of the No. 05 Always Evolving Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 after his double win at Utah on how he’s advanced throughout his career, what the weekend meant to him and how he’ll look ahead to the final two race weekends of the year at Sonoma Raceway in September and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in October.

MotorSportsTalk: Reflecting back on the wins, what do they mean to you now?

Bryan Heitkotter: “It’s part of what I’ve been wanting to do is prove to myself that I can run with these guys, and earn their respect. That’s been one of my goals since started racing. That felt really good. Rick (Kulach, Nissan North America motorsports manager) said to me after my first win on Saturday, ‘Look at all the guys behind you,’ and that was a pretty special moment. A lot of guys have years or decades of experience on me. So to run up front with these guys and Nissan is a dream come true.”

MST: Either in race one when there was the early race restart or race two when it ran caution-free, how concerned were you about the competition behind? 

BH: “I was actually very concerned when I saw Ryan Eversley in the Acura behind me after the Cooper/Parente incident. He’s made amazing starts all season… particularly this summer. So when he launched as well as he did it was a surprise… and it got me a little bit worried! But it worked out in the end. There’s good power for us in the long straights and it’s one of the rare tracks on the calendar with a long run down to Turn 1. So I was able to get the advantage.

MST: How did the team rally despite the looming suspension assessed to JD Davison going into weekend? 

BH: To be honest it was actually a really good dynamic. James was there for the team all weekend; he came out and did some driver coaching and spotting for us. Everyone was really looking forward to have a good weekend. Good to have Craig Dolby; he has a different perspective in Europe, having driven the 2015 model of these cars (the AE team uses the 2014 model). He brought a fresh perspective.”

MST: Races like Mid-Ohio last year when you podiumed or COTA this year have occurred where you were so close to winning before it went away. How did those fuel you? 

BH: “Those ones I came close, ran up front and couldn’t quite seal the deal just motivated even more. It made me hungrier for a win. When I qualified third for race one, knowing there’s a long run to Turn 1, I thought, ‘This is a really good opportunity to win it if you play it right, play it smart.’ We didn’t know everyone else’s race pace. Last year was pretty solid. This year we’re not too bad.”

MST: Considering the number of overall program cutbacks Nissan had this offseason, did you have any concerns about your own role within the Always Evolving Nissan program?

BH: “The offseason is never a fun time for a driver. You never know… you always have your doubts. You wonder, is the budget gonna be there? Have you done enough as a driver and as a representative? You never know. I never expected such a cut of drivers across the globe as we saw. We figured it could come, but it came massively and suddenly. But it was kind of surprising; I was very pleased to have survived it and keep going with the GT-Rs. It’s the best program I could have imagined.”

MST: Describe a bit how the combination of Always Evolving, AIM Autosport and Nissan all work together to make this program work.

BH: “It’s just one of those situations where everything kind of gels. It was a last-minute deal at the beginning of last year. It came together last minute, but to be honest, I think that started us off on the right foot. We gelled early and it has been a tremendous partnership ever since. The AIM Autosport guys have been together a while. They work together very seamlessly. That helps us get up to speed. Everyone’s been very professional. We work together well; it’s an amazing partnership.”

MST: How have all the different variations of Nissan’s you’ve driven (Altimas, 370Zs, two GT-Rs) helped your annual progression?

BH: “It’s been a pretty good time to get some different experience in different cars. You learn on the fly. I remember one weekend… three or four years ago, I got called up to run a GT-R in World Challenge for CRP Racing at Sonoma. I literally missed all the practice sessions, never drove with any kind of downforce, and got in the car Saturday morning. I qualified 11th and was P5 end of first lap, and then some little custom piece broke in rear suspension. So I lasted a lap and a half.

“But it ended up being a good experience. I think that’s one of my strengths as a driver is get up to speed quickly. The variety of Nissan has only helped. They’re broadly similar, but with unique characteristics.

MST: Two more race weekends to go at Sonoma and Monterey, which don’t quite suit the Nissan as well as Utah did. How do you press forward on those type weekends?

BH: “We do the best we can anyway. You have to look at a season as a whole. Last year Sonoma and Laguna were a bit of a challenge, so we’ll look to do a bit better this year.

“But they’re fun. They’re basically my home races with a lot of friends, family and support. From Fresno, I’m about 3.5 hours from Sonoma, and 2.5 from Laguna.”

MST: You know how far you’ve come since winning GT Academy. Did you envision it becoming this successful, this soon?

BH: “This is what I wanted to do since I was a little kid. I entered the academy – knowing this is my best opportunity –and won that. But it doesn’t guarantee you a whole lot. I’ve always been naturally motivated to make the most of every opportunity. You never know where things will go, but getting here was a natural goal.”

Vicki Golden and 805 Beer tell a unique story from an Inverted Perspective


Vicki Golden has earned a career worthy of a thousand stories and 805 Beer tells at least one of them, as “Inverted Perspective” premiered March 30 on the company’s website and YouTube channel.

Golden did more to break the glass ceiling in SuperMotocross than she ever thought possible. She knows this because riders have never felt the need to explain any of her accomplishments with the disclaimer, “for a girl”. 

At this point in Golden’s career, she’s been the first woman to finish top 10 in AMA Arenacross Lites, the first woman to qualify in the Fast 40 in Monster Energy AMA Supercross and the first woman to compete in freestyle Moto X competition, earning a bronze medal by doing so.

Her love for moto came from childhood while she watched her dad and brother ride. By seven she was on her bike and making waves throughout Southern California. 

Golden, 30, is still madly in love with the sport and has no plans on moving away but her career is already one to talk about. 805 Beer’s film series wanted to do exactly that.

“I’m taken aback by it all,” Golden told NBC Sports about the documentary. “It’s just crazy to see your story, it’s one thing to live your life and battle everything that comes about but it’s another to just sit there and talk about it.”

805 approached Golden about the feature by asking, “Do you even realize that what you do, and your story is special?”

Golden took the question as a blank canvas to map out the highs and lows of her career and life. 

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The title “Inverted Perspective” came from a brainstorming session with Dominick Russo and it highlights Golden’s outlook on the sport of SuperMotocross and her life in general. 

“My whole life, my whole career was thinking differently and looking at things that shouldn’t be done and aren’t there, while being able to make a place for myself, where no one thought there should be a place,” Golden said.  “It’s inspiring someone to think in different ways. It sums up my life.”

Vicki Golden is not “fast for a girl”; she’s just fast. – 805 Beer

While Golden is no stranger to the spotlight, this was the first time she’s been fully involved with the storytelling and creation of a feature about herself. 

“It’s not like a full new experience,” Golden said. “Obviously, you get your standard questions about your upbringing and accomplishments, but I’ve never really put into perspective things that happened in my past with my dad and putting that to light. Also, certain other things that maybe got overlooked in previous interviews or films. I wanted to touch on these and Dom wanted to create a story. It’s just cool to see it come to light, it’s a nearly impossible thing to tell somebody’s life story in 40 minutes.”

Golden’s father was left paralyzed after an ATV accident, robbing him the opportunity to ride again. This happened a few months before the father-daughter duo was set to compete in the Loretta Lynn’s Amateur Nationals when Vicki was 12. While she might have been unable to grasp the severity at the time, it’s something she carries with her. Golden continues to ride in his honor.

Years later, an accident in 2018 nearly sidelined the then 25-year-old Vicki when a freestyle accident almost resulted in the amputation of her lower leg. 

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Golden 805 Beer
Vicki Golden has ridden a variety of disciplines in SuperMotocross, which gives her a unique perspective. – 805 Beer

“Inverted Perspective” highlights her father’s diligence in helping Vicki continue with her career and the kindness and strength he carried while fighting his own battle. 

“My dad was the entire reason that I started riding in the first place,” Golden said. “So, to honor his memory and to honor what we went through and how hard he pushed to keep our dream alive and keep everything going – in that sense then, it was really special to be able to honor him and talk about him.”

The 40-minute feature was filmed entirely in black and white, a stark contrast from the oversaturated world of motocross where the brighter the suit the easier it is for fans to find their rider and follow him in the race. By filming in monochrome Russo and Golden had the chance to focus on the race and track from a different perspective. 

“It was cool to be able to film it differently,” Golden said. “It created a challenge in the sense of what was going to be more visually impactful for the film.

“I couldn’t be here without the companies that back me but at the same time, it’s not like the logos or colors disappeared, it’s just different lights shed on different spots. It’s just a cool way to do it and to take color away and still be impactful. When you think of black and white, you think of old school, the OG way of doing things.”