In the Monster Energy Supercross season opener at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California a pair of Team Next Level riders advanced into the Main, which counts as a tangible success for this unified group of privateer races with a unique outlook on the sport. Instead of counting the number of podium finishes and the zeroes at the end of the check at the end of the weekend, team owner and manager Kris Fagala has built a program in which faith and family features heavily in the team philosophy – and he has surrounded himself with riders that share his worldview.
In a sport with superstars in their late teens and early 20s, where 30 is considered old and major league careers are over in the blink of an eye, the team’s goal is to create well-rounded men. It should come as no surprise that their goals don’t completely align with many other teams.
Factory riders are the ones measured by podiums earned and their position in the points. Simply making the night show, (being among the 40 fastest in qualification that allows riders to race in one of two heats), counts as success for privateers.
At Anaheim, Kevin Moranz and Hunter Schlosser smothered their meat and potatoes with gravy. Finishing second in the 450 Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Moranz hopes to improve on the nine Mains he started in 2022.
Finishing third in the 250 LCQ, Schlosser is well on the way matching or improving on the three Mains he rode last year.
Making the mains is the goal of the riders, but it’s not the promise of the team. Schlosser is new to Team Next Level Racing after riding for his own team as often as possible in 2022. The cost of getting to all of the races last year was too much for a single person to invest, so one of the greatest benefits of this organization is the transportation logistics provided by Next Level.
With that worry off his shoulders, Schlosser could concentrate on his riding. He made an aggressive pass to successfully secure his 250 transfer spot and then finished 21st in the Main.
“My riding was great,” Schlosser told NBC Sports afterward. “The team was awesome. It’s exactly how Kris said it was going to be. There’s a bunch of good dudes on the team, and they’re there for us when we need them. No one’s pushing anyone to do anything they don’t want to do, or they don’t feel like doing. But there’s also accountability, which is a pretty fine line.”
Moranz finished 20th in the 450 Main. Schlosser was 21st in the 250.
Another way to gauge success
But where one finishes is only part of the story.
The promise from Fagala and Team Next Level Racing is not tangible success, but in helping riders learn to value the intangibles.
“Success is having fun to me,” Moranz told NBC Sports. “It’s not necessarily results based. Obviously, there’s a portion of it that goes to results, but as long as I enjoy what I’m doing, having fun. With (our social media manager) Seder [Martin] on board, we’re doing the vlog, we’re getting a lot of fan interaction, which then brings more partners and more funding to my program.
“As long as I’m having fun and I’m able to not lose money, and then build for the future, that’s really all I’m concerned with. The results will come. Hope to be better: better results potentially a full factory ride at some point.”
In 2022, while riding for Team Next Level, Moranz had a lot of success. He made more than half of the A-Mains in the Supercross series – and he’s leveraged that into more sponsorship in 2023 and a successful Patreon page that allows him to interact with his fan base named the Moranz Mafia.
He is also the racer Kris takes to the line, where they go over last-minute thoughts on how the racing line has changed and say a prayer for safety.
In the season opener, Next Level Racing’s Tristan Lane did not make the Main, but he already claimed success before the race began.
After several years racing the outdoor season only, Lane made the move to Supercross last year. His 2022 season was strong enough to earn a two-digit national number, something that separates him from the riders on the outer edge of the paddock.
“I jumped into the 450 class and I was really nervous, so to even to make the night show was really my goal – to get that experience – so to make three Mains was good,” Lane told NBC Sports under the massive Team Next Level Racing awning before Anaheim 1. “We want more of course. It’s human nature, you want to do better and better. But considering what I thought was capable of, I surpassed a lot of those expectations already. I’m just trying to build off of that.
“Was last year was a success? Yes, absolutely. I earned a national plate. I’m able to be ranked now. In the past I was a three-digit privateer who kind of got pushed under the rug. To now be on the No. 90, I feel like I’ve earned my stripes a little bit.”
Like Moranz, Lane simply wants to improve and make more Main events than last year.
“Perspective is everything,” Lane continued. “In our sport, especially being a privateer like I am, it’s hard because there’s this gray area where people, if you’re not winning or in the top three, they can forget about you quickly. But what I ‘m trying to remind myself where I came from, what equipment I have, the resources I’m able to receive.
“What I’m doing is already exceeding a lot of what I have. If you look at it from that point of view, I’m technically winning each time I race, but if you asked someone like [Eli] Tomac, maybe he would think that would never be acceptable.
“[Next Level] wants to spread positivity across the pits. If you get good results while doing that, it’s a plus.”
The hope is that Team Next Level Racing will spread their view of success outside of their pit. That philosophy was a huge contributing factor to bringing Schlosser over.
“The team, it’s like very positive professional environment,” Schlosser said before Anaheim 1. “I’ve known Chris since the residency year (2021) and we’re both Christians, so we definitely, like right off the bat, bonded in that way.”