6 Things: The T-Dog Squad Elite Athlete Program Season Recap

It’s hard to believe it, but the 2024 season will mark the fourth season of the Troy Dog Squad Elite Athlete Program. Do you ever find yourself watching the broadcast of the race and see a pineapple sticker on a rider’s helmet, or even a logo on a jersey? Sometimes you can catch a glimpse. Those are members of the squad and what started with one rider has now turned into a full team of athletes.

The Squad is who you turn to when you want a lot of exposure. We provide more than enough news reporting and we also help market the athletes and help build their fan bases as well. Look at our first official athlete: Grant Harlan. We had Jason Weigandt calling him Har Dog on the broadcast this year! We can help you reach your goals too. Also, these guys are living on the road for most of the year, so if something bad happens we help raise money for them and we do giveaways for those that help. Each year we hand pick each rider based on their personality, what they want to accomplish, among other things, and we put together a plan of execution. The rider has to be 100% invested into the program. The more involved these guys are the better I can cover them and help them on their journey. They are all at different levels of their career and each rider has different needs. Each one has a different game plan and I’m here to help in any way that I can. This is the season recap for the Squad. We’re in deep negotiations for the 2024 team now, so we’ll have the team announced soon!

Grant Harlan 

Justin, TX

450SX – 18th Overall

450MX – 10th Overall

450SMX – 15th Overall

Where do I even begin? Hawaii’s own Har Dog was the first athlete in the Squad and since early 2021 we’ve been driving the hype train. Last year he even listed me as one of his title sponsors during the Pro Motocross Championship. Having Grant on the team has been great for the both of us. Coming into 2023 and stepping up to the 450 class was a big decision for the Harlan camp, however I wasn’t sweating it. He’s always had the speed and for some reason he has always ridden a 450 better. When he made the main at Anaheim 1 I wasn’t shocked, nor was I surprised that he finished 7th overall at Fox Raceway, or any other time he made the top ten this season. It wouldn’t have shocked me if he made the podium. It was truly a remarkable year for Harlan to prove himself to the industry. The fans have latched onto him now and he’s a fantasy favorite as well. He’s going to give you his all every race, especially in those last five minutes of the second moto. Harlan is taking his talents over to France this weekend to race the MXoN for Team Guam in the MXGP class. Then he will finish up the year racing WSX before gearing up for Anaheim 1 once again. It’s been a long season for Har Dog, but the grind doesn’t stop. Next year will be crucial in his development. He needs to back this performance up to prove to teams that this wasn’t a fluke year. The 22-year-old just earned #23 for 2024 and we will be there to support him every step of the way. His hard work paid off. 

Ashton Bloxom 

Terrell, TX

Ah, my most outspoken athlete. Ashton has been on the Squad since Loretta Lynn’s 2021, which makes him my second longest tenured rider. Loretta’s that season was pretty much the last time he’s raced a dirt bike, until earlier this spring. Bloxom had been fighting through some very bad shoulder injuries during that time including a couple of surgeries. That’s all in the past. The coolest part about Ash Dog was that he never gave up his dream to race the Pro Motocross Championship. He signed up and attempted to qualify for all of them, achieving his goal of lining up on a 40 man gate at Thunder Valley. He went on to finish 31st overall in Colorado with his entire family in attendance. Talk about the feels on that one! Ashton just missed qualifying at Ironman by a tenth of a second, which shows you how difficult the 250 class is. Results aside I’m proud of my guy for never giving up after so many intricate injuries. He’ll be sitting SX out and will be back to make every moto in 2024 250MX on the Squad. 

Justin Starling

Deland, FL

450SX – 17th Overall

450SMX – 29th Overall

My dude Star Dog has had one heck of a year! He’s gotten engaged, married, and now has a little Star Pup on the way! It’s weird to say that he’s a veteran,  he is 30 now, but I’d say he’s getting better as the years go by. He fought through a knee injury early this season in SX and put in some redemption rides in the last three rounds going 11-10-8 to finish off the series. Then he took the Summer off to get married and came back to try and make some money in the SMX Playoffs. It didn’t go to plan, but give my rider a break alright? The good news is that Starling doesn’t plan to stop racing anytime soon. JSR Motorsports now has Honda support, which is new for 2024 and Starling has made several changes to his team. You can listen to those changes on the Vurbmoto Podcast Network later this week!

Derek Kelley

Riverside, CA

250SX West – 9th Overall

250MX – 24th Overall

250SMX – 24th Overall

I added DK to the team at the end of the Pro Motocross Championship last year. So, his first full season has just come to a close on the Squad. Derek had his best Supercross season of his career with a ninth overall in the standings even after two DNFs. He accomplished a career high 6th place at the Glendale Triple Crown. Going outdoors, DK had spent time in the hospital after a really bad deal at the season finale in Salt Lake City when he got landed on. He finished the race and then started urinating blood. He bruised his kidney as well. That put him behind for outdoors and he had to race himself into shape. DK went 23-14 to end the year on a high note at Ironman. The 14th and closer to the top ten is around where he knows he can be all summer. It was a year of overall ups and downs for our guy DK, but those SX results were special especially in the stacked West Region. Look for DK to return to his normal form in 2024. 

Hunter Yoder

Menifee, CA

250SX West – 14th Overall

250SMX – 26th Overall

Yoder joined the Squad for WSX, yet we haven’t been able to truly pursue our game plan yet. We have some good stuff in store for the future though. I was impressed with Yoder this SX season. HE was a great pickup by Julien Perrier on the Partzilla PRMX team. Training at South of the Border everyday truly did a lot of good for Yoder and it showed him that he still loves the sport. After his rookie season with TiLube Honda he wasn’t sure that he even wanted to race again. He impressed me in 2023 and his progression was there. The West Region was stacked and he made seven main events. I know another strong offseason will give the kid all of the ingredients to raise his game to the next level. 

Shane McElrath

Canton, NC

450SX – 11th Overall

450MX – 28th Overall

450SMX – 16th Overall

I claimed McElrath for the Ironman National and then he took me to the SMX Playoffs with him! Who would have thought that would have happened considering that Shane and I had never met prior to the Indy SX this year? Somewhere along the way we hit it off and it was enough for him to take me with him on his helmets. McElrath is a former 250SX main event winner, who was even a title contender on Star Racing a few years ago. Now he’s trying to find his bearings in the 450 class with minimal support. He did have a strong SX season with the help of HEP Suzuki. He finished 11th overall in the series points and led some laps in Denver with a career best 5th on the night. I can’t claim those results, I’m just saying that Shane has shown potential as a player in the 450SX class. He’s building and he’s getting there. He believes his best days are ahead of him and I agree. We’ll see where Mac Dog ends up in 2024 and whether or not I’ll be with him remains to be seen. All I know is that I enjoy the vibe of his crew and I’ll be there if he wants me to. 

Starling and Harlan Photo Courtesy of Jessica Reed
McElrath Photo Courtesy of Foggy Llama Films

Written by Troy Dog

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