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Jeremy McGrath during the Anaheim stop of the 2016 SX season.
NEWS

Shine On

Nov 102016

If you’re going to track someone down to get a read on the past, present and future of supercross, there is no better a barometer that Jeremy McGrath. As the Monster Energy Supercross Series Media Guide now illustrates oh so clearly, the Californian posted up seven supercross championships and seventy-two main event wins during his seventeen-year-long career. Interestingly, and what is perhaps every bit as impressive about what McGrath accomplished in the sport as he ran the table, a decade after his final AMA supercross (San Diego on February 11, 2006), he star power still shines every bit as brightly as it did back in the day. Just follow him around a bit at a local supercross near you and watch the fans and racers and industry members flock to him and you’ll see what we mean. Now a hard working brand ambassador for Kawasaki Motors Corp., USA, McGrath is still fast at it, riding his motorcycle, making new friends and living life as one of the true folk heroes of our sport. As he prepared to head on down the 10 East to Palm Springs for the 2017 Kawasaki dealer show, we pulled the King aside and asked him what’s been happening in his ever evolving moto life.

Q & A

Jeremy, what happening brother?

Well, this week is the Kawasaki dealer show so I’m heading to Palm Springs for that. It’s going to be really fun actually. Sometimes those things are a little bit boring, but for Kawasaki it’s the fiftieth anniversary this year and I’m psyched because I get to host a little bit of it and introduce a few of the legends along the way that Kawasaki has had along the way. Namely Eddie Lawson and Jeff Ward and of course the great Ricky Carmichael. So we’re going to have some fun. Other than that, a few weeks back I did a big Kawasaki dealer ride out at my ranch. We had over a hundred dealers there and had an awesome time. We probably had over forty bikes riding at once. It was awesome.

How long have you been working with Kawasaki now?

This is the second year. I’m almost at the end of the second year now.

From what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard from a number of people involved in the sport, you’ve really embraced that Kawasaki brand ambassador role and it’s been a win/win for all involved.

I just love that the relationship is reciprocal. I’m enjoying so much of it. I love the staff there and all the fun stuff that we get to do and all the great ideas that come up. I’m also really enjoying meeting and being around the Team Green side of things. It’s one of those things that as you get a little older you kind of - not to say you ever took the relationships you had when you were younger for granted – but you kind of respect the fact that you get to work for a company that really likes what you do and I really like what they do.

I was walking around the pits and parking lots with you at the recent Monster Energy Cup and it was amazing to see how many fans, young and old fans, light up when they see you. I’m not trying to embarrass you here, but it’s like you star power shines as brightly as it ever has.

Well, I’m always thankful that my image, or however you want to put that, is still so bright in the industry. The number one thing that I focus on is the industry itself and I also realize all this has come because of my motorcycle. It’s enjoyable. It’s funny because I think the kids are so stoked on me when they see me is because their parents have done a really good job of explaining who Jeremy McGrath is – or was! One thing I’ve never shied away from is the fans. They are the reason that we all get to race and we get to do the things we like. It’s always fun to get out there at some of the races and see all these people that you’ve seen along the way and these people who have, really, just grown up with you. For me, getting out to the races is always a really fun time.

Well, you also made racing and being a professional supercross rider look fun. Throughout your entire career you always looked you were enjoying yourself and leading this really cool life. Be it the racing, the play riding, the videos, the successes, it just all looked fun. I’ve always thought the fans really picked up on that. What do you think?

I think for me one of the things that I’ve always thought is that it’s just better to embrace it all than shy away from it. It’s one of my favorite parts of it, you know, getting to meet new people and see new people and really enjoy the kids and their reactions. It is amazing, though, the attention that I bring I guess when I come around. For that I’m super-grateful. That stuff never gets old. But again, my motorcycle is my passion and it’s what has given me this great life and I will never turn my back on it.

Does the sport have the same verve it had a decade ago? Is it to professional now? Do you think it’s too uptight? It seems kind of cold right now.

It’s a double edge sword, right because you want the sport to grow and be more professional and be one of the top sports in the world like Formula 1 or MotoGP, however we lived through the hay day of when you could actually have a little bit of a good time and still get the racing job done. I’m sure they guys before I even raced would look at us and say, “Man, those guys have trainers now and this stuff!” They probably thought the same thing that we’re thinking about the group of guys now. Everything now is elevated so much better and the fitness is so much better. These guys are awesome, but you’re right, it has gotten just a little bit stale just because these guys are so serious. That’s just kind of how sports go. Everyone gets more evolved and more serious and that’s just the way it goes. I think the guy that had a good time and wasn’t afraid to go out and do whatever, but still made sure they got their job done in the old school, today would probably not be the top guy because there are too many guys that are too fit and too strong.

What did you make of the racing this summer?

I thought the racing was good. I thought Roczen was really strong. I thought Eli had some great runs. I’m really excited about this 2017 season because we saw Roczen on his new bike and he’s riding really good. We saw Eli get the job done and win the Monster Cup when Roczen made the little mistake there, but I ‘m hopeful Eli has a breakthrough, you know? Last year in ’16 when he started the series, he really started the series sort of under the gun because of his double shoulder surgery. I just had shoulder surgery two months ago, so for him to do what he did was pretty incredible to say the least. But that injury he had takes a lot longer than a couple months to heal. He started off the year with some pretty severe trauma to his body. I’m hopeful this year in ’17 that he’s going to come out strong and be ready to battle with Roczen. I know Roczen will be strong. We’ll see what happens.

How do you think Ken Roczen will adapt to his new Honda when it comes time to run out the seventeen rounds of the 2017 Monster Energy Supercross Series?

You know I think when you’re young like Ken I don’t think the adaption is as hard. When you get a little older and set in your ways a little bit more, it becomes a little bit different. But someone at his age, I don’t think he’s going to have a problem with it. I think now that Eli is coming into his second year at Kawasaki, he’s going to be much, much better off. From what we’ve seen so far from Roczen, he’s been pretty good adapting. I think with Honda and his new team, they have a lot options and they’re going to work until they get it figured out. You saw him at Monster Cup. I mean he was fast. If I were the other guys I might be a little bit worried about it.

So who do you see really being in it next year? You’ve got Roczen and Tomac and the ever-steady Dungey; you’ve got Barcia on a new Suzuki…

I think Dungey is going to be strong. He always is. He’s proven over the years that he’s going to be strong and you can never count him out. I think Marvin Musquin is going to be pretty strong this year. He’s training with Dungey. And Anderson will be there. So Anderson, Dungey and Musquin are all training at the same facility with the same trainer. Those three guys are going to be strong. Eli will be strong. Roczen will be strong. I’m sure you’ll see some flashes of brilliance from Barcia. It just depends on how they get the bike working, but I don’t think it’s a bad situation for him. I think he’ll do good.

Cooper Webb?

Cooper Webb, well I think as tough as he is and as strong as he is, I think he’s going to work hard to figure it out. In the beginning it’s not going to be easy. There are a lot of guys that have been in there for a while now. It’s nothing easy. I think Cole Seeley is going to do good. It’ll be interesting to see how Trey Canard does. I don’t know how that’s going to work out. Hopefully he can have a breakthrough year and not get hurt. That would be good. It would be nice to see Chad Reed up there too.

Q & A

There has been some talk of imminent change in the sport. I’m sure you’ve heard the talk about potential format changes and the supercross series running a few points paying races overseas in the not too distant future. What do you think?

Change is always interesting, I guess. At first it’s always a little bit strange, right? I think change is good. It’s been the same for a while. You know what I think would be good? I think they need to throw in a couple of these changes everyone is talking about implementing and try them at a couple different races and just see how it goes. Rather than committing to a change for a year or whatever, let’s throw that format in for a couple of races and see how it goes.

Like the Monster Cup format?

Yeah, maybe like the Monster Cup format. I don’t know what else they have in mind, but just do something different. That would be kind of cool. The fans would enjoy seeing the top riders ride a little more, which would be great for all of us.

How about those international races?

Like having some flyaway races?

Exactly

Listen, I think the idea sounds really cool on paper, but anywhere you go outside of the U.S., supercross is really like Arenacross. To me, when those guys from MotoGP come over here to race, they race Austin. One of the best tracks ever. When we go race supercross, you’re not going to find an Anaheim stadium anywhere in the world except for Anaheim, California. The U.S. has all the sweet places to race and all the good tracks. I’m not against going over and doing something different. I think that having a  world schedule is probably not a bad idea, but they tried that a while go when we went to Germany and all these other places and it always turns out that supercross turns out to be like Arenacross when you do that. To me, that’s a drop down from the level it’s at now. There are probably venues around the world now are like an Anaheim or other American stadiums. Again, I think it’s probably something they should try. I don’t know about throwing it on a schedule for ’17, ’18 or ’19 or whatever they are going to do. If they can have a big enough place and a big enough track, then it’s probably okay idea. But going over somewhere else and racing indoors at a place that’s half the size of a supercross track? I don’t agree with that. It’s got to be real.

Did you watch the Motocross of Nations?

I followed it. I did follow it. Cooper Webb caught all the way up and then he had a crash at the end where it knocked him out of the title? That’s kind of what happened?

Yes.

I thought it was okay. I didn’t follow it too closely, to be honest. Motocross des Nations is always pretty big. I started watching some of the TV, but their TV program sucked so bad that I was like, “I don’t want to watch it.” I just followed it through the Internet. I wasn’t that into it.

Anaheim is but two months away. What do you think?

I think the 450 class is looking good and strong. For some reason there are so many good Lites riders now and the level of the sport has gone up. It almost seems like they might be ready for one 250 series. You know what I mean? Not The East/West stuff. If they did that then you should be able to choose what class you race. You can go wherever. It keeps guys working and doesn’t funnel guys out of the sport so quickly. I’m looking forward to Anaheim. As always, there is always a lot of hype around Anaheim 1, but I think as far as we know, it’ll be the same sort of crew as last year that was competitive. They’ll all be shooting for the win. Cole Seely, Anderson, Dungey, Musquin, Roczen, Tomac reed. All these guys are all going to be strong. I’m more interested to see what’s happening this weekend for the Australian Supercross.

Oh yeah. What’s your take on that thing?

I don’t know. It’s going to be interesting to see how Villopoto does. I know he’s been out riding and I heard he’s been going pretty good. It’ll be fun to see what happens.

Hey, Cooper Webb has that number 2 affixed to his bike now. Does it look good on there?

I think Cooper Webb is a good candidate for the number. Of course it’s always interesting to see who has it. I think he’s candidate for number 2. Obviously I don’t own the number. Apparently word on the street is that he called Villopoto about using the number 2. I think he would probably agree that Cooper Webb is a good candidate for number two. I don’t know. I don’t really have an opinion. I just hope he keeps riding strong.

Did he call you?

No, no. I’m way out of the loop for that deal. He didn’t call me. But Villopoto did years ago, so I think as you pass the torch along maybe you call the most current guy, I guess.

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