1. YOUR LIFE STORY IS VERY INTERESTING, AND YOU’RE ONLY 17 YEARS OLD.
I guess that you could say that. I grew up in the small town of Monroe, New York. My family lived there for about ten years as I was growing up. That’s where I learned how to ride motocross. Every day after school I would go with my dad to a local track and ride as much as I could. When I started getting better my family and I looked at how I could progress even further. That’s where Millsaps Training Facility (MTF) comes in. We moved down to Georgia where MTF is located and lived out of a motorhome for two years. It wasn’t easy, and the motorhome was pretty small, but we did what we had to do in order for me to get to the next level. Thankfully, since then we got a house right by MTF that my family and I have lived in.
2. BEING A PROFESSIONAL RACER HAS ITS PERKS, BUT IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU MISS ABOUT BEING AN AMATEUR?
The only thing that was better about being an amateur was that it kept my family close together. We’re still all very close, but when we used to drive for days on end in order to get to every race we were always together. Now it’s different. I fly every weekend to the races, and I don’t get as much family time. What’s difficult about being a pro is the flying. It seems like every single time I fly somewhere, the flight gets delayed or there’s some other issue that I have to deal with.
3. IS IT A CAKEWALK BEING A PRO?
No, it’s actually pretty tough. People think that it’s a walk in the park. The constant training and riding is tough on your body, and flying around the country isn’t easy. For all the young kids out there who want to be pro racers, it’s not as easy as it looks. I don’t want to
sound like I’m complaining, because I love getting on a motorcycle, racing and doing what I want for a living.
4. IN A TIME WHERE IT’S DIFFICULT TO GET A TOP-LEVEL RIDE, YOU’VE BEEN FARMED OUT OF THE AMATEUR RANKS BY THE
GEICO/HONDA TEAM AND ARE IN A GREAT POSITION. THAT HAS TO FEEL PRETTY GOOD.
Definitely. It doesn’t hurt that I’m on a great team. I can’t thank Geico Powersports/Honda enough for giving me the opportunity, because I know how big of a chance that it really is. It’s super cool to have Mike LaRocco as a team manager and the teammates that I have.
5. WERE YOU SATISFIED WITH YOUR ABRIDGED ROOKIE AMA PRO SEASON?
I am happy with how things went overall. Looking back, it would have been great to have done better at a few more of the AMA Nationals. Still, I finished fifth overall in the point standings, and I won at Southwick. I also finished on the podium at a few rounds. I learned so much by racing with the top riders. It was truly an eye-opening experience. I really didn’t have any goals going into the Nationals. I just wanted to do well, but I was definitely happy to win a race! For a first-year effort, I was pumped.
6. WHAT EXACTLY DID YOU LEARN FROM RIDERS LIKE RYAN DUNGEY AND CHRISTOPHE POURCEL?
I need to be a lot more consistent in order to win a championship. I also need to be a lot tougher as a racer. The biggest thing that I took away from my first season as a professional was experience, both on and off the track. There’s no substitute for racing on the pro scene. I’m ready to do it again!
7. EARLY ON IN THE 250 NATIONALS, YOU SEEMED TO BE UP FRONT, BUT THEN WOULD FADE. WAS IT A FITNESS ISSUE?
I wouldn’t say that I had a fitness issue. It was more a problem of keeping myself together for an entire moto. Riding out front was great, but then I’d make a series of mistakes that slowed me down. By the end of the Nationals I started to figure things out.
8. PIT PUNDITS AND MEDIA OUTLETS, INCLUDING MXA, FIGURED THAT YOU WOULD WIN A NATIONAL IN YOUR ROOKIE SEASON. DID YOU FEEL THE PRESSURE TO WIN?
I didn’t let it bother me. Of course I would have liked to have it happen sooner, but better late than never, I guess! I was itching the whole season to get a win, but it was worth the wait. Southwick has always been one of my favorite places to ride and race, so to win my first 250
National there was awesome.
9. SOME RIDERS CLAIM THAT THEY GET INTO THE ZONE AND CAN’T BE BEATEN, WHILE OTHER RIDERS ARE SHOCKED AT THE FACT THAT THEY WIN. WHAT CATEGORY DID YOU BELONG IN AT SOUTHWICK?
I felt like I was on that weekend. Some weekends I feel great, and then others I don’t. At Southwick, it was just one of those days. The weather was weird, because it rained a lot. In timed practice, I held the fastest lap until the very end of the session when I got edged out. In the motos, I made really quick passes, and at those moments I thought to myself that it could be my weekend. When I was atop the podium, I was ecstatic. There’s no better feeling in the world than winning a race. It had been so long since I had even won a race, dating back to the amateur ranks, so to finally win again was a huge achievement.
10. YOU DIDN’T MAKE THINGS EASY ON YOURSELF IN THE SECOND MOTO.
The second moto was a nightmare! I got stuck in the gate right off the bat because the rider next to me mistimed the gate and slammed into it, which made my gate stay up. I had to fight my way from pretty much last place to third. It was a crazy moto, and I had to pass the best
guys. I couldn’t even keep up with Pourcel or Dungey for most of the season, but at Southwick I passed them.
11. HOW IS IT BEING TEAMMATES WITH A SEASONED VETERAN LIKE KEVIN WINDHAM?
It’s great! What’s crazy is that I was only born in 1992, so when I was two years old he had already turned pro. He’s been at it a long time, and to ride with him is amazing. Although I don’t get a whole lot of opportunities to ride with him, he’s already taught me things that I haven’t ever thought about.
12. WAS KEVIN WINDHAM YOUR FAVORITE RACER GROWING UP?
He’s up there, but I really looked up to Ricky Carmichael. That’s probably a common response for anyone my age, just because the guy was so dominant. He was super aggressive, and while he didn’t have the best style on a bike, he made it work. Carmichael would never quit, and that’s what I liked best about him.
13. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT WHEN YOU’RE RACING?
I don’t think about anything except line choice. I kind of get scatterbrained because I try to go so fast that my mind goes every which way. One mistake and it’s over, so I try to concentrate on my lines. To get in a certain frame of mind is an incredible feeling. It’s not easy to do.
14. THE MOST OBVIOUS CHARACTERISTIC OF YOUR RIDING STYLE, OTHER THAN BEING FAST, IS YOUR AGGRESSIVE NATURE ON A BIKE. WHERE DID YOU LEARN THAT FROM?
I have a different style than most guys. That’s how I’ve been forever, and it’s what feels comfortable to me. I’ve heard people say that my style is weird, but that’s just how I ride. When I first started racing as a little kid I was scared to jump, but then I warmed up to it and have loved to jump ever since. People have also said that when I ride around a track sometimes it looks like I’m playing a video game. I wish that’s how it felt when I was riding!
15. DOES IT FEEL LIKE YOU’VE HAD TO GROW UP FASTER NOW THAT YOU’RE MAKING A LIVING AS A PROFESSIONAL RACER?
People want me to grow up faster now that I’m a pro, but I realize that I’m still just a kid. I play video games, and I like to hang out with my friends. I have noticed that I’m more mature than I was before I turned pro, but really it’s that I’ve matured as a racer. As an amateur I only had to do four-lap motos, which was much easier than racing 40-minute motos. When I first started racing those long motos, my brain would start going crazy. I am a super-hyper kid, and my mind would get bored after about 20 minutes. I’ve adapted, and now I can go the distance for 40 minutes on a motocross track or for 15 laps on a Supercross track.
16. DESCRIBE YOURSELF.
When I’m at the races, I’m pretty chill and relaxed. When I’m home, I kick back with my friends and have fun. I find that it’s hard to be myself when I’m riding in front of thousands of people. I get nervous around big groups of people, but lately I’ve been focusing on trying to work on hat.
17. WAS IT DIFFICULT ADAPTING TO SUPERCROSS?
No, it actually wasn’t too hard for me. Having ridden at Millsaps Training Facility (MTF) since I was in the 80 class, I’ve been able to ride their numerous Supercross tracks. It helped me learn Supercross, and now I feel really comfortable riding on a Supercross track. While I’m sure it will be a learning process, I’m looking forward to the challenge of racing Supercross.
18. WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THIS YEAR?
I want to stay healthy the whole year and be safe. It would be great to podium every race. Winning a championship would be absolutely amazing! I know that I can do it, but it’s going to be tough in my first year of racing Supercross. As for the AMA 250 Nationals, I’m aiming for the title. I could have done it in 2009, but I had my share of problems. I’m just going to do the best that I can and go for the win.
19. WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST WEAKNESS?
I really like to eat bad food. I definitely love to eat. I’m like a human garbage can, because I’ll eat whatever I can get my hands on. It’s hard for a kid my age to eat healthy, but I’m doing a lot better than how I was even a year ago. I have my own trainer, and my mom cooks for me. I don’t have too many bad habits apart from eating junk food.
20. IF YOU COULD DO ANYTHING FOR A DAY, ASIDE FROM RACING, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I would love to go fishing. My dad and I absolutely love to fish. After Southwick, Honda gave me a nice bonus for the win, so I went out and bought an ocean boat. during the off season my father and I did a ton of bass fishing at the lake that we live on. It’s just really great
to go out on the lake or ocean, be out on the water, and fish.
Originally published in the March 2010 issue of Motocross Action