By Ryan Fennell
Wall – His resume includes 3 national championship titles, Rider of the Year, and a nomination for Athlete of the Year by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) – and that was just in 2012.
17-year-old Nick Gennusa, of Wall Township, is considered one of the best amateur ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle) riders in the country and that amateur status is about to be shed this upcoming season as Gennusa enters the ProAm ranks in March.
And, he won’t be doing it alone.
Gennusa recently agreed to a sponsorship package to ride for Can-Am BRP, an industry leader in motocross sports based in Canada.
As a part of the Can-Am team, Gennusa will receive the necessary support that all motor sports athletes seek.
“I’m now on a team where they’re helping me out,” Gennusa said. “I think it’s great that they picked me up after what I accomplished this year. In this following year I’m going to come on to the Can-Am team and represent their team.
“I achieved everything I wanted this year, but I want more,” Gennusa said. “There’s always more out there. There’s always improvement. There are always accomplishments. I think I have a great opportunity for the upcoming years. I think that’s why Can-Am picked me up. With Can-Am behind me I can only accomplish more.”
As an amateur Gennusa was a privateer, or a self-funded rider, and received a tremendous amount of support from his family as well as local sponsors.
Finding a major sponsor in Can-Am is what is allowing Gennusa to take his racing abilities to the Pro level.
“Any motor sport is all about getting sponsors, trying to get money for the sport whether it’s parts, apparel, equipment and then just support money to get to and from races,” said Gennusa’s father, Andrew Gennusa, owner of Biagio Wood Fired Pizza on Broad Street in Red Bank. “We’re always looking for more sponsors.”
In a racing season that runs from March through August, Andrew Gennusa estimates that his family travels 25 thousand miles per year getting to and from racing events around the country.
“It takes the same level of commitment of any other sport,” Andrew Gennusa said, noting that Nick’s parents and three sisters travel to approximately half of the races together throughout the season.
“I’ve got tot thank my family,” Gennusa said. “It’s all about the people behind you. It’s not done at all without them. At the end of the day I have the easy part. All I have to do is ride.”
Gennusa was introduced to ATV riding when he was 3-years-old by his father, Andrew, who has ridden his whole life. At the age of 8, Nick and his father decided that Nick might be suited for competitive racing. Two years later, Gennusa was participating in the ATVA National racing series.
In 2007, at age 11, Gennusa was named Rider of the Year and was featured on a pullout poster in Quad Magazine, and in 2010 he won the ATVA National Super Mini Championship.
After an injury shortened 2011 season, Gennusa came back for 2012 to compete in three Class A divisions and won the national championship in all three.
“Usually two (divisions) is a lot for somebody, but I thought I could take on three,” Gennusa said.
Once again Gennusa was named Rider of the Year for 2012 and was nominated for the ATV Athlete of the Year award, the winner of which will be announced at the AMA banquet in Ohio on Jan. 16.
Gennusa trains by riding with former national champion Travis Spader of Point Pleasant, owner of Key 2 Sports Training, also in Point Pleasant.
Gennusa also does cardio and strength training three times per week with a personal trainer.
“It’s mostly endurance,” Gennusa said of what it takes to race competitively. “It’s only 20 minute races and a lot of people say how do you get tired in 20 minutes. You could have the energy but your arms get tired. Can your arms handle the 20 minutes without taking a break? If you take a break, you get beat.
“You’d be surprised by the vibration that goes through your arms, and it just comes from years of riding,” Gennusa said. “I think the best training is riding. You can do as much as you want at the gym, but when it comes to riding, that’s what’s going to give you the best exercise. It’s a different kind of fit.”
ATV racing also takes a tremendous amount of focus Gennusa said.
“There’s a million things going through your mind. I think the hardest part is the start. Whoever has the reflex, the jump to get that launch ahead of everyone else.”
Racing on a dirt track also presents it challenges since the conditions can change every lap.
“You’re trying to hit one turn and you’re relying on this one bank of dirt to hold up and you come around the next lap and somebody blew the turn and messed up the whole thing,” Gennusa said. “It comes at you fast and you can’t slow down or you’re getting passed and that’s the best part.”
Along with a changing track with every lap, riders have to negotiate gaps and jumps of different lengths and heights all along the course and according to Gennusa there’s really no way of intellectualizing your way through a race.
“It’s nothing more than experience to know how fast or how high because all dirt is different,” he said. “It’s 50-percent just go for it. As my father says, we’re wired differently.”
Having reached the pinnacle of the amateur circuit this past season, Gennusa looks forward to his career as a Pro in the years to come and one of his new challenges will be much longer races and a higher level of competition.
Up until now Gennusa’s races have been 5 laps flat, but at the ProAm level the races last 15 minutes plus 2 laps. Depending on the speed of the race, the length could almost triple for Gennusa this upcoming season, but Gennusa believes he is ready.
“That’s what I train for,” he said. “I’m excited to have the endurance to be ahead of everybody in that kind of race.”
For more information on Nick Gennusa, including his resume of past performances or to follow his progress as he enters the ProAm ranks visit nickgennusa.com.