MARCH 2015 / MOTOCROSS ACTION 103
EVERYONE REMEMBERS YOUR TWO 125
NATIONAL TITLES, BUT YOU FIRST MADE YOUR
MARK IN THE 500 CLASS. Actually, it was a Yamaha
YZ360 that I rode in the 500 class. That’s what the
factory Yamaha guys were racing on way back in 1989. I
had just finished racing at Loretta Lynn’s, so I decided to
race the last couple Nationals in the 500 class. The next
year I signed with Team Peak Pro Circuit to race the
125. I moved to factory Suzuki in 1992, and then to
factory Honda in 1993 through 1998. That’s where I had
my greatest success.
YOU REALLY SEEMED TO CLICK ON THE
FACTORY HONDA CR125, ALTHOUGH YOU HAD
TO OVERCOME A MAJOR POINTS DEFICIT TO
WIN YOUR FIRST OUTDOOR TITLE. I failed to
finish a moto at the first outdoor round in Gainesville,
and then I got injured at the next Supercross race [note:
back when the Gainesville, Florida, National was held in
the middle of the Supercross series]. I missed one or two
of the next Nationals and was about 60 points down;
however, I eventually caught up in the points chase at
the very last round and won the title. Then, in 1996, I
won my second 125 National Championship.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE RACING AT THE 1996
MOTOCROSS DES NATIONS IN SPAIN? TEAM
USA DOMINATED THAT DAY. That was a very
interesting race. It was really good for me, because I was
coming off of winning the 125 National Championship. I
had a lot of confidence and momentum going into that
race. I won the combined 125/500 moto, which was
a big deal. I started out in about fifth or sixth place
and worked my way through to the lead. The last guy
I passed was Jeff Emig on his Kawasaki KX500. The
jumps were pretty big, and there was a giant quad
coming down a hill. Most of the European guys were
afraid to even look at it, but I was doing heel clickers off
of it. That was definitely one of my best memories from
my racing career!
FOR MOST OF YOUR CAREER YOU WERE
TEAMMATES WITH JEREMY McGRATH. DID
YOU EVER FEEL OVERSHADOWED BY HIM?
It was fine. I knew that he was on another level in
Supercross, because he was so naturally talented.
Everyone seems to have his weak points and strong
points. My strength was outdoors, where Jeremy kind of
struggled, but he was excellent at Supercross, where I
THE FIRST-GENERATION ALUMINUM-FRAMED HONDA CR250 WASN’T THAT GOOD,
WAS IT? We tested that bike in the preproduction stage
almost a year before it came out. Jeremy McGrath rode
the aluminum-framed CR250 and said that it was great.
I thought it was great, too. When the actual production
bike came over, it wasn’t even close to being the same
bike. It was way too stiff!
THE 1997 SUPERCROSS OPENER PROVIDED
CONTROVERSY, WITH YOU AND FORMER
TEAMMATE JEREMY MCGRATH GETTING INTO
IT. WHAT WAS THE REAL STORY? Everything got
so blown out of proportion because Jeremy [McGrath]
left factory Honda at the last minute before the 1997
season. There were all these rumors circulating after the
opening Supercross round at the Los Angeles Coliseum
that Honda paid me to take out Jeremy. People thought
that I tried to initially take him out in the first turn, but it
was a couple of corners later when we crashed together.
We got up dead last and started going. He was
screaming at me, using a lot of bad language [laughter].
Then he jumped close to me and almost hit my head.
It was really pretty bad, and the whole ordeal caused a
lot of controversy. We eventually talked and worked it
out, and later in our careers we were teamed up at the
Mazda Chaparral Yamaha team.
YOU NEVER SEEMED AT EASE ON THE MAZDA
CHAPARRAL YAMAHA. That’s true. I don’t know if
I just didn’t blend with the bike or what it was. Jeremy
did great, and he was on a full factory Yamaha race bike
while I was on a production bike. Things just didn’t work
out for me that season. It was a tough time in my career.
HOWEVER, THE FOLLOWING YEAR YOU
RETURNED TO THE HONDA CR125. THE 2000
125 NATIONALS STARTED OFF WELL FOR YOU.
PLEASE TALK ABOUT THAT EXPERIENCE. I took
a third at the Glen Helen opener in the 125 class and
then won the overall at Hangtown. I actually held the
points lead for a while. I put my own deal together that
year. I hired a mechanic and bought a fun-mover. Honda
was supporting me with bikes and good equipment. I
really just threw that deal together at the last minute.
I had gotten injured the year before and lost my ride. I
was even considering retirement, but I kept on going. I
was glad that I did. I grew up in northern California, and
Hangtown was always a very special race for me.
WHY DIDN’T YOU FIND AS MUCH SUCCESS
IN THE 250 CLASS AS YOU DID ON A 125? I had
a couple of good 250 races, but I never felt as good as
I did on the smaller bike. I absolutely loved that Honda
CR125. Winning the Hangtown National in 2000 opened
up some doors for me. I signed a two-year deal to race
for the Husqvarna team. It just wasn’t the same, though.
I was paid well and wanted to do well for the team, but
it just wasn’t the same.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE TRANSITIONING TO A
TEAM MANAGER ROLE? The switch came in 2007
with the MDK Honda team with David Vuillemin and
Nick Wey. By that time in their careers they were already
established and set in their ways. I was pretty nervous
at first, because when I came into that position, my
management skills were pretty fresh. Fortunately, I was
able to adapt to the team pretty quickly.
YOU SEEMED TO HIT A GOLD MINE WITH
JEREMY MARTIN AND COOPER WEBB ON THE
STAR RACING TEAM. WHAT’S IT LIKE WORKING
WITH THEM? Jeremy Martin and Cooper Webb were
already very smart for riders being so young, and they
respected what I brought to the table. They are both
very self-motivated, and to be honest with you, they don’t
need to be told what to do. They both do their own thing
and are 100 percent dedicated to their careers. I try to go
to the track with them during the week to film them and
offer suggestions, but I don’t really treat them differently
than I did David Vuillemin or Nick Wey back in the day.
These kids are truly great to work with!