When the King speaks, we listen
When the King speaks, we listen
(Excerpt from the Feb 22nd Pulpmx Show)
SM: What’s going on with you? How’s everything? How’s the Kawi thing?
MC: Everything’s good. Just riding a little bit here and there. I got to ride some supercross two weeks back, which was pretty awesome. A little bit scary at first but it was good. I was a little nervous to go out to the track but after a few minutes it worked out pretty good. I feel all right. I did a little bit of that. Obviously the races are still in town, so it was good to go to the track and check some racing out. I’m just cruising along.
SM: At the Kawi track, it was RV, MC, Nick Wey, Wil Hahn, and Eli Tomac out there one day I guess. That would have been pretty cool.
MC: It’s pretty intimidating going out there and riding with Eli, Wil and even Nick.
SM: What do you think of the series so far? Ryan Dungey, talking to him a little bit and talking to Aldon Baker, they’ve really emphasized getting a great start and sprinting early on and getting away from everybody. He comes out first every single practice. He didn’t used to do that. He’s trying to get by guys right away. It’s kind of a changing strategy. When Aldon was telling me that I’m like, there was another guy that did that a lot for 72 times. He’s really trying to lay down sprinting laps. Right now, Jeremy, the field is awesome, but this thing is getting away from all of them, and Dungey’s on another level right now.
MC: It’s amazing because a few years back we would look at Dungey and go, all right, he’s an amazing rider. Ever since KTM came out with that new bike last year I think it was his speed and his whole package. It is just like you said, he’s on another level. You just want him to get a bad start. I’m not sure it would really matter. He’s trying so hard and putting in the huge effort in the beginning laps, making passes where some of the other guys would never make a pass. He’s just being aggressive getting to the front. I’m blown away every time I see it. The guy keeps getting better. As a fan, it’s really fun to watch. Obviously we’d like to see a little tighter race, but the kid is on fire right now. It’s awesome.
SM: It honestly reminded me a little bit of Jeremy McGrath. This is what’s going on where he’s kind of putting a dagger in these guys right away in the beginning. Seely kept him honest this weekend. Good job by Cole, it was a slippery track. I feel like Dungey probably could have stepped it up had he needed to. I feel like he’s just like, “I’m getting out. See you guys later.” Everybody else is like, “oh shit.”
MC: You’re right; Cole rode really well this weekend. I’m really impressed by his riding this year. It’s been awesome. But you’re right, I think Dungey pushes super hard in the beginning and then he watches the gap. He probably has another level of speed if he wants it towards the end of the race. I don’t know about you guys, but his last laps, like the last five laps, are what’s blowing me away. Even if he’s near anyone or having to catch up, the guy just pours all his speed out on the last 20 laps. That’s not easy to do.
MC can still ride a bike in case you’re wondering…
This is the Dungey everybody wished would show up when Villopoto was racing, when they were battling. That would have been one hell of a battle if these two had met, these two little different eras here.
MC: I think watching Dungey ride this year and last year, I think he’s every bit as fast as Villopoto was. I think he’s gotten faster.
The problem is, and Jeremy you can speak to this, there can’t be two people like that. It’s a mental game at some point, it might last a few rounds but then one of them figures out the other guy starts winning and it’s over. I remember watching Jeremy roll into the tunnel after I would finish with the 125 race and just the look in his eyes and his swagger walking up to the line was like, “got ‘em smoked,” before he even starts his bike. It’s like, yeah, this is over. What he was talking about, that mojo, that’s just everything and Ryan’s got it right now.
MC: There’s no doubt. I know how I felt. I know Ryan’s a very humble guy. Obviously right now what we’re seeing is the best we’ve ever seen of him for sure and it’s just incredible he does it week after week. But I think you’ve got to be right. He’s going to the line inside going, I’m the man, I’m going to stomp these guys. I think you guys as well as me probably thought Roczen would be a little bit better at this point. Probably Tomac we would have thought would be a little bit better at this point. He’s had a couple of races where he’s pretty good, but he’s not been getting the starts. Dungey’s starts, like you said, are consistent but they’re consistently great. He’s starting out in front pretty much every moto. Those guys, even Anderson, Cole, and any of those guys, they can’t compete with that.
DS: He’s just doing everything. One of my favorite Jeremy stories is back when he first started winning his first season, in 250s. Him and I end up in the same rental car. He was driving. I think I caught a ride back with him I think from Orlando or Tampa, back to the hotel. I remember I’m in the passenger seat, I look over at Jeremy and I’m like, man, what are you doing? How are you doing this, dude? I was just kicking your ass like a year ago. And Jeremy just looks at me and goes, “Denny, I have no idea.” He goes, “It’s so easy. I’m just riding.”
SM: That’s the race. Talk about the bad starts though. The one race Dungey got a bad start was Glendale and he was 11th or 12th coming around that second or third turn. Tomac was great for the first half. To catch Tomac and drop him like he did and make up that time on Kenny – yeah, again, Kenny was probably marking him and Kenny could have pushed a little bit. I was more impressed with Glendale than maybe any other race this year where I’m like, uh oh, everyone’s in trouble. That dude just started 11th. If that’s me I’m like, oh man, this thing’s getting out of hand.
MC: You know what’s funny is even when he started 11th in like three laps he was like 4th. His ability to be aggressive early in the race is different than we’ve seen from him or anyone really this year or for a long time. It’s cool to watch. You can’t help but like what he’s doing. His whole program is just really tightened up right now.
DS: We were just talking about Eli and Trey and how Eli just got locked in behind Trey and followed him… he didn’t follow him, he tried to pass him but he got stuck in that pace for basically 20 laps. That was something that Dungey used to do all the time; get stuck behind a guy and be stuck behind him for five, six, seven, ten laps. And we watched the race again today on TV, Bud and I, and in that heat race I think Ryan got out fifth or something and within two or three laps he was leading. There was no hesitation. He came up on a guy, passed him like, “I’m going by this guy, I’m going by this guy, I’m going by this guy.” Never got stuck behind him at all. Always in a different line, never followed. And I think the way he’s not diving and cutting down, what everybody else is doing, he’s flowing and just keeping that momentum and just slingshots right by them and goes by the next guy, while the other guy’s trying to slingshot and cut corners. You’d know more about that, Jeremy. How do you go from the mentality of following to not following and just pulling away?
MC: You guys know, when you start staring at a guy you all of a sudden start going his speed. This weekend I was watching him come out of the first turn there and he was working that inside line. He must have passed a lot of guys. He was just hugging the inside of the first turn, and then he would be on he inside in that rhythm section and he would just make more speed out of that corner. Then all of a sudden going into the next right-hander he was ahead of the guy. Obviously he’s looking through these guys. He’s looking past them like they’re not even there and doing his own kind of style to get in front, his own deal, minding his own business and getting around those guys. As you said earlier how Trey and Eli were kind of locked together, Anderson came up at the end there. Even though the races have been, he’s been winning all of them, it’s still been fun to watch.
SM: Since you guys are all old racers, let’s go back a little bit. Jeremy, 1990, you were number 125 on the Kawi. You win Vegas. It’s kind of your first supercross win. Denny is dominating the east. You guys meet up in Oklahoma. We just watched Denny face plant in Oklahoma. But besides that, what did you think Jeremy when you saw Denny? Denny, you were one race away from sweeping the series. This only happened once before. Jeremy, what did you remember about Denny and Factory Suzuki and just killing everybody? Were you thinking, “Man, I hope I can do that one day. I hope I can win?”
MC: Denny was basically one year ahead of me sort of in the graduating style of how that went back in the day. By the way, that Oklahoma track was one of the gnarliest ones we’ve ever raced, even now. The track was crazy.
DS: it was crazy. The fact that it was outdoors, it had plenty of dirt, the jumps were gigantic…
MC: I thought it was good. I liked it. I just remember how hot it was and how crazy the jumps were.
DS: It was just rock hard. It was kind of like the Kawi track on a summer day with no water.
MC: So for me, that was ’90. I was on Team Green so I was kind of the lower level Team Green kid actually at that point. There were other guys at the time. Swink was there, Brian O was there, and Emig was of course there. So I was kind of low man on the totem pole at that time, just still trying to figure out if I was going to be able to get a ride or be able to race or whatever. So Denny was a factory rider at the time, which was obviously one step above where I was at. We were all friends at the time. We knew each other. We hung out in Reche Canyon before that.
DS: We had raced against each other the year before in ’89 during some of those Ultracross’ and stuff. I lived with Chicken and back when I lived with Fro…
SM: You should have moved in with Jeremy instead of Chicken.
MC: I didn’t even have a house then, so he couldn’t live with me.
DS: it was a good era. It used to be the time when we’d all go to Club Rubber on a Tuesday night or Monday night and one limo would be full of MC and all of his buddies. The other limo would be me and Fro and all of his buddies. Fro and MC would kind of not really talk much to each other, but everybody else would hang out. Then everybody would get back in their limos and go home.
MC: That was so funny because all our group of friends were all the same but he and I so didn’t get along for most of a couple of those years.
SM: So Denny when you saw Jeremy 125 on a Kawi win Vegas that year, what did you think? Were you like, this kid’s got it?
DS: The first memory I really have of him is I think you were on a Honda at Seattle.
MC: Yeah, I was on a Honda at Seattle. That was just like me and my dad drove up there in the truck and I got second.
DS: I remember that. That was ’89 because I was riding a 250 because it was a west round. I was just out there riding a 250 and hanging out.
MC: I think Larry Ward won and Lance Smail was third. Chicken was there.
DS: I just remember thinking this kid was really smooth and just nailing all the jumps. He was probably on a privateer bike, obviously. And the 125 class back then was pretty obviously considerably different than the 250 is today.
SM: If you jumped both triples you were pretty good.
MC: It seems like now there’s a whole bunch of factory 250 guys and back in the day 125, we were all still pretty green at that time.
DS: Didn’t have tracks to practice on really. You showed up in a van with your dad. That’s how I raced, pretty much. I don’t know, that’s why I asked him that time in the rental car. All of a sudden he’s just dominating Stanton and all these guys. I’m like, what happened?
MC: Honestly in ’90 when I rode for Team Green I had a pretty good year. Ty Davis won the title. I got second.
DS: You won two or three rounds that year?
MC: I just won one round. That was the year I won my first supercross in Las Vegas. The funny thing is, even that year it didn’t really click in. At least from my point of view, I wouldn’t have imagined someone going, “Hey, this kid’s going to be pretty good here. You got to watch him” or whatever. I sucked at Loretta’s. That year I was pretty good at Ponca City. I won Ponca City that year. But at Loretta’s I was terrible. I was always terrible there, for that matter. I won that Vegas round which was cool, but I don’t think even with that anyone would have saw what came to be in ’91. I think when I got the Honda ride it just gave me this extra confidence. Of course I was riding with Stanton and Bayle and these guys that we all looked up to. Eventually I was going as fast as they were and I was like, sheesh, I guess I can do this if I’m going to go their speed. So the confidence level in me grew a lot through that process.
“Of course I was riding with Stanton and Bayle and these guys that we all looked up to. Eventually I was going as fast as they were and I was like, sheesh, I guess I can do this if I’m going to go their speed. So the confidence level in me grew a lot through that process.”
DS: Then I remember the passing of the torch in Anaheim when you jumped past Stanton to win your first 250 and everybody’s like, oh shit, the kid just arrived.
MC: No one really saw that one either because the two rounds before that I got fourth at the first race in Orlando, and then Houston was the next race and then I got fifth. And then Anaheim came and then I finally won, which I don’t think anyone would have expected that because Stanton was the champ. He was the A rider on Team Honda. I was like the B rider and then it all started to happen.
SM: Ping, what do you remember from MC?
DP: The peak stuff was kind of before I really was coming around. I was still on 80s and stuff, but I was at Anaheim when he won his first 250 race. At about that time the next year I started having Randy Lawrence as my mechanic and I was living with him. We’d go down and ride with Jeremy once in a while at his track. It was kind of like Denny – what does this guy do? How is he so good? He’s so confident and he helped me with starts. I don’t know if you remember that, Jeremy, at your parent’s place.
MC: When you came over and you were hanging out here with us we all got to ride together. That was good. We had a lot of time out there riding, actually.
DP: Something that sticks in my head, we were living in Binghamton. This was probably ’95 and I was dating Randy’s sister. He wasn’t happy about it, more so because he knew it wasn’t good for my career. Not even so much that it was his sister, I don’t even think he cared about that. He’s like, “dude, you need to focus on what we’re doing.” I’m like, “no, it’s cool.” But it wasn’t really cool and it was screwing me up. I don’t know if he had said something to you but I got a ride back to the hotel from you and you were like, “dude, why do you have a girlfriend? You could be riding hoes all over this series. Why don’t you just have fun and do your racing and whatever?” I was like, “that makes a lot of sense, man, I don’t know. What am I doing?” I don’t know why that conversation sticks in my head.
MC: Randy (Lawrence) must have put me up to giving you a pep talk.
SM: I want to ask you, who was one guy from the ‘90s era that should have been better, should have had a better career than what he did? Is there a guy that stands out?
DP: Craig Decker.
DS: Craig was good.
DP: He broke his back in Vegas when his shock broke and I just think he would have been really good.
DS: How about Ty Davis? I always like bringing up the fact that Ty won the 1990 West Coast, as Jeremy alluded to. It was probably the most talented, deepest field of 125 guys in history. He won that year and he beat Jeremy, he beat Craig, he beat Ryno, he beat Bud, he beat Factory, he beat Button.
DP: What happened? Did he make someone mad at Honda?
SM: He must have. I think he was in off-road like literally two years later.
DS: That’s probably it. Then there’s other guys, like we were talking about young guys today that just come on the scene and then disappear just as fast. Just to have a career in this sport is pretty amazing and pretty lucky for all of us. We’ve all achieved different successes. We can’t all be Jeremy.
MC: The bummer thing about that is, there’s often the standout guy or whatever and then the rest of the guys, but the pay scale is so off. There should be a lot of people being able to make a great living off of what they’re doing. In today’s day in age and even back then the 10th place guy or the 12th place guy, they don’t make any money.
Jeremy thinks that Damon Bradshaw should’ve been so much better
DP: You tended to put down significantly faster laps than most people but a lot of times there’s not a lot of time separating the guy getting first and the guy getting 8th, 9th, or 10th. It’s a second a lap or less.
DS: The opening round, the difference between first and 12th was one second.
DP: Well there you go. But the pay scale, like you said, is so different.
SM: Like Chisholm is 12th, 13th and he’s barely making enough money to get by. MC, who is one guy that you thought should have been better? Should have made more money, won more titles.
MC: My answer is Damon Bradshaw.
SM: He was pretty good though.
MC: Damon Bradshaw was pretty good but I think we didn’t even get to see how good he really could have been. I think that he was his own worst enemy. There were times when he was lightning fast and way better than everybody else, but there was so many other times he would make mistakes and spaz out and do whatever he did.
SM: You didn’t help either in ’93.
MC: I might have helped that part of it. But I totally expected to be racing with that guy, and then when I got there he fell off the map.
DP: What was that from? Was that just family pressure that he’d always had or was he too hard on himself?
MC: I don’t know. You guys can agree or not agree but I’m a firm believer that regardless of the age that you start and you start having those pressures of having a factory ride and all that, there’s really literally like a ten-year window. I think Bradshaw was just too good too early, because by the time I got there… He’s younger than me. It was funny. We were doing that Monster shoot like a month ago and I got to hang out with him and chat with him about some of that stuff. It’s funny, I really loved Bradshaw and he’s younger than me. I looked up to him a lot. You really wouldn’t think that Bradshaw would be younger than me. So I just think that 10 to 12 year window is if you’re too good too young, when you get to like 24 you’re just zapped, you’re done.
DP: That’s a really good point. He was a superstar when he was on minibikes, so he did start really young.
DS: I think you have to have fun, and he was not having fun.
SM: Look at Mike Alessi, look at Davi Millsaps, even look at Stew. Stew’s had a great career and won a shit ton of races but you could make a case that James has left stuff on the table. Millsaps, Alessi, some of the greatest amateur racers ever have not had a pro career.
DS: My first year at Ponca was 1982 and I raced the 7-11 novice class against Damon. Damon was 9, I was 11. We were at the start. We were tied going into the finals, stock and mod. I think we went 1-1 in each of our divisions, went in the final tied. And I am shitting bricks. First big race, first time I’ve ever been to an amateur national. Damon’s about three spots down and might even have been the next one. Laying on his crossbar… I’m like, man, he’s already been doing this for ten years.
My dad’s even over there talking to him. After the race and stuff he’s telling my dad how he’s basically a Factory Yamaha rider at this time at 9. He’d been testing that week with Glover and the Yamaha factory team and stuff. I think he never felt like he made it because he already felt like he had already made it. At 16 he won Japan and beat RJ. I heard that somebody said that might have been his worse curse ever because now that’s what he expected himself every time, and that’s what everybody around him expected every time.
MC: I think you’re right but we’ve also heard some of the family pressures and stuff he had from his dad and the relationship struggles and all that. That probably has to play a part of it. But look at Dowd, look how good Dowd was and he started later. I started later. Dowd got to retire a little bit later because I think it’s the ten-year window. Henry was the same way. I think it all just matters kind of when you start to get really good and have some of those pressures. In a way I just feel real fortunate that I really wasn’t that serious or didn’t get to be that good until I was like 20, and then I had basically 20 to 30.
DP: That’s your best years probably physically and mentally.
DS: What do you think about Cooper Webb? I’ve known Coop since he was a little kid. He’s from North Carolina. The way he rides with his passion and his anger in his eyes, I think he’s Damon, a reincarnation of the Beast from the East. But now we’re seeing his fuck ups and his anger and his passion almost get in his way, like it did Damon. It’s almost repeating itself. Do you think that that could eventually be… it’s too soon, but Coop’s career, is that a downfall possibly? With some of his anger issues and his passion?
MC: I suppose my opinion of Webb is he’s super tenacious. He wants it bad. Sometimes I worry a little bit about his sort of etiquette, but obviously he’s not worried about it too much. If we’re comparing it to Damon, it seems like he’s not as squirrelly. I think he’s pretty smooth. He’s not as wild looking. Sometimes Damon was more hanging out. I think Webb has all the tools to maybe come up right through some of these guys that we have that are stars right now. I think that all the big bike guys are probably looking at him like, we better get it in gear or this kid’s going to come and kick our asses real soon. I know that Yamaha’s kind of banking on that too.
DP: I got a question for you. We were talking about that back half of the pack that doesn’t make enough money. You’ve kind of been in this conversation at times, going back to the night in Vegas where everything kind of shut off. What do you think needs to happen? Is it possible that there would ever be a riders union? Do you think that’s something that needs to happen?
MC: I don’t think it’s something that needs to happen. I don’t know where that whole deal came from, back in the day. Roy Jansen thought it was me like in charge of that whole thing. I had nothing to do with any of that. The reason why it will never happen is because there are three parties involved. There are the riders as one party, then there’s the AMA as the second party, and then there’s the factory teams that are the third party. You can never get three people to line up when it comes to that, to make a union. If the riders wanted it held out, they want to be firm against the AMA then the factory teams are not going to let them because they’re going to say, “Look, we pay you to go race, you got to go race.” So I think it’s a moot point, really. I don’t know, what would you accomplish by doing that? Maybe (put in) a higher pay scale for your mediocre, medium pack riders? I think there’s got to be a way to do that without stirring up the hornet’s nest and trying to start some union or something like that.
For the amount of years that the sport’s been involved, it seems like the AMA has typically not worked on the pay scale, as far as winnings go. I think that the first place riders, because money is so low for the first place guys, they usually get 10 grand to win, I think the factory guys would be okay with taking a little less and spreading it out through the middle and the back, is what I would think. And then it would be a little more fair for those guys. When you’re Ryan Dungey and you’re making whatever you’re making, two, three, four million, whatever you’re doing, having an extra five grand in your pocket from the winnings is not going to make or break you.
DS: Racer X did an interview with Mitch and they were asking Mitch about that. Mitch was talking about instead of being… Because he thinks the purses, it’s hard to advertise anybody and bring in outside sponsorship when you’re going, “oh yeah, the winner wins $10,000.” He was saying in the interview that maybe if the manufacturers, now that there’s six of them, each pitched in a million dollars so they weren’t on the hook for a million dollars for a championship necessarily, into a pot, and then the AMA matched it another million or Feld, they’ve got seven million dollars in a purse for the season. Break that down, guys would be busting their ass to win $200,000, $1,000 win each week, and it would go deeper into the field as well. And then they wouldn’t have to maybe pay out that million-dollar bonus at the end of the year or something. I don’t know the way he explained it.
MC: The right guys are still going to win the race. It doesn’t matter. If they did it that way, the cream is still going to rise to the top. Whether Dungey gets it now or later or whatever, if he wins the race it doesn’t matter.
DS: What do you think about them if they went to a chase format in Supercross? Reset it with six races to go or something? Do you think that’s foolish? Keep 16 races a championship or what’s your opinion on that?
MC: As a guy who won a lot of races, I would think that I wouldn’t be too happy with that. Look at Dungey right now; he’s sitting on a nice points lead. He’d be pissed if that kind of went into play. From the fans perspective, do you guys see some other guy… Say we started the chase right now. It’s five races in. I don’t see some other guy coming up and making a difference. So I don’t see how that would really help.
DP: I don’t think there’s any upside to it, but there’s a big potential downside. Dungey’s still going to be the guy in the last five, six, ten races, whatever you do, but if he has a mechanical… Now you take the guy who was clearly dominating the series and he’s down 25 points with five races to run? I think it just sucks.
DS: As a fan of NASCAR and even Arenacross, I have to pay more attention now with five races to go and it’s a reset. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan every weekend of supercross as we all are but, if you’re an outside fan and Dungey’s got a 50 point lead with five races left and all of a sudden they go okay, everyone’s back to damn near zero, where only the top ten guys are battling out, do you think they’re going to all of a sudden go boom, let’s get into this?
“Honestly, I enjoy doing TV stuff it’s super fun. I wouldn’t mind doing it again but I don’t really want to travel that much. I’m probably going to go to St. Louis though, so I’m excited to do that.”
Caller: Let’s get to the real topic: what’s your best Factory Phil story?
MC: I got a story for you. I have a couple Factory Phil stories. One, Ping you remember back in the day up in Belmont there was a big jump out by the chicken ranch. There was a huge, huge jump and this story I remember, me and Phil went out there and we were shitting our pants because we were like, man, we got to hit this jump. And I jumped it and made it. And then Phil went for it, and cased it and bounced off his bike and crashed pretty hard, knocked himself out. We finally got him back sitting up and then we rode to his house. And then we all went to the movies that night, and we had a whole night of activities. The next day Phil didn’t remember anything. That story is just kind of one of the stories that stick out. I had another story where we were riding my track and trying to do something crazy or whatever and he fell over there. Phil and I rode together a lot, so some of the crashes stand out to me.
In Orlando ’96 when he came in second to you, I know you were pumped. You guys all grew up together and the stories are circulated over the years, 20+ years ago. That had to be pretty cool for you guys as a family and as a team to come together.
MC: Phil was amazing that year. He had some great races.
DS: On a stock 250 with a Pro Circuit pipe and suspension.
SM: MC, you going to be in the booth at all? Any plans?
MC: Shoot, I would love to but they’re just kind of sticking with what they got. Honestly, I enjoy doing TV stuff it’s super fun. I wouldn’t mind doing it again but I don’t really want to travel that much. I’m probably going to go to St. Louis though, so I’m excited to do that.
SM: Did Christian Craig winning make you feel old, like it did me?
MC: Yeah, kind of. I’m remembering him when he was a little kid, a little tiny guy. But it sure is fun to watch that kid ride. He’s pretty awesome.
SM: He is. I don’t think he necessarily grew up with Mike, mostly his mom Joanna, but there’s no denying where that skill came from. Mike Craig was also that good and so smooth.