Jul 5, 2014, 9:29 AM EDT
When Fredrik Noren’s van arrives at the track one final time this weekend at RedBud, he will officially be stepping into a whole new life – a life which may have seemed like a pipe dream until a few weeks ago.
Seeing a top rider sidelined for the season is always unfortunate, but sometimes it opens up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a hard-working, deserving rider. Such is the case for Noren, the privateer from Sweden who was signed by the Honda Muscle Milk team this week to fill in for Justin Barcia for the rest of the season.
If you’ve been following the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship closely this season, Noren’s promotion shouldn’t come as much of a shock. He has easily been the top privateer in the 450 Class, continually knocking on the door of the top-ten despite the lack of funding or factory support. Noren’s results have long been notable, but this year he is stronger than ever.
Noren opted to leave Sweden to come to the United States in 2011 and attempt to make a career for himself here but had to do so as a privateer, funding his own travel and expenses for nearly four full years.
“It’s been good,” Noren said of his privateer days. This year he has been traveling cross-country in a van to all the races. “I get to see a lot of the country. Not just the tracks.”
At the track, Noren, like most privateers, has been responsible for everything but has had one other important member on his team. He’s been receiving assistance in the pits over the years from his girlfriend, Amy.
“She knows how I work,” Noren said of Amy. “It’s nice, I feel really comfortable with her.”
Among Amy’s responsibilities at the track were packing Noren’s line at the starting gate, getting his goggles and washing the bike. On the mechanical side, Noren says he’s been fortunate not to have really had any major issues with the bike.
This past year, Noren took the time to ride his bike in the winter for the first time – a factor that he attributes his improved results to. He also claims he had more power in his bike this season after making a switch to KTM.
Despite some struggles in the Supercross season, Noren came out strong once the outdoor season began. Ever since a 29th-place finish in the opening moto of the season, he has scored points in all nine motos since then, highlighted by 12-13 moto results at Hangtown and 14-13 moto scores at High Point.
By the time High Point had wrapped up, Noren had caught the eye of the Honda Muscle Milk team, which was down a rider after Justin Barcia was ruled out for the remainder of the season with foot and ankle injuries.
“We started talking a little bit after High Point,” Noren recalled, “and obviously they were looking for a rider – everyone knew that. They asked me if I was interested, and I said ‘Heck yeah!’”
During the downtime between High Point and Tennessee, Noren had the opportunity to test the bike. “They wanted me to come try the bike out first, see how it worked,” Noren said. “So they flew me out to California.”
Although he had been on a KTM this season, Noren saw the Honda as a great fit for him. “I like the Hondas a lot,” he said. “It’s a bike that I liked in the past, it’s a really good bike and the people on the team are really cool people too. They’re really friendly.”
With the contract signed, Noren will officially join the team on Saturday. No more driving cross-country in a van, no more setting up his own bike after that – something that comes as a relief to the 22-year-old. “I can just kind of show up and race and don’t have to worry about my suspension being right or washing or driving or anything like that,” he said.
It’s tempting to set sky-high expectations for this year’s Cinderella story, but Noren knows that the first order of business is to get comfortable on the new bike. “This weekend now at RedBud, I haven’t really been riding the bike before now,” he said. “I hope that I’ll be where I’m at on my KTM, same spot. After that, I hope to be top-ten, but I don’t know. We’ll see what happens.”
There are seven rounds left in the season, and top-ten finishes would not only be a great result for the Muscle Milk Honda team, they would also help the future prospects of Noren, who admits that he hasn’t really thought much about 2015 yet but knows that he wants to race the 450 Class in both Supercross and the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.
“I don’t think it would be hard going back to the van life,” he said. “But it would be nice if I wouldn’t have to.”
To find out how Noren performs in his first opportunity with a factory team, tune in to the Red Bull RedBud National today. Coverage starts at 10:30 A.M. ET with the second practice session, followed by the pre-race show at 12:15 P.M. ET. Both are airing online exclusively on ProMotocross.com and NBC Sports Live Extra. Live coverage of all four motos begins at 1 P.M. ET with the first moto in the 450 Class. Click here to watch the Live Extra stream.
NBC will also carry live television coverage of the final 450 Class moto at 3 P.M. ET. NBCSN will pick up the action at 4 P.M. ET with the final 250 Class moto.
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