There were the highs and now it’s time for the lows in the life and times of Chad Reed
There were the highs and now it’s time for the lows in the life and times of Chad Reed
Mud, Sweat and Gears Part 2- The Lows
By Tony Blazier
In life, it is often the challenges we face that define us. It is how we react when the chips are down that shows our true character. No matter whether you are a steel worker in Pittsburg, or a star athlete in Dade City, there are going to be times when life throws you a curve ball.
In the course of his remarkable ten year career, Chad Reed has shown himself to be incredibly resilient at bouncing back from these pitfalls. Time and time again, he has pulled himself up by the bootstraps and found a way to succeed. In a sport where so many are chewed up and spit out, Chad Reed has endured.
In this installment of Chad’s journey, we are going to look back at the minor and major setbacks that have kept things interesting for the three-time National champ. Just like last time, I am going to break it down into ten significant moments and milestones. In motocross, it’s not always pretty, so brace yourself, and let’s get counting.
|While Reed killed it at Supercross in 2002, his results outdoors were less stellar. The Yamaha of Troy rider would run into the buzz saw that was James Stewart, and spend the entire season watching the Chevy Trucks Kawasaki KX125 wheelie off into the sunset. Photo courtesy of US Motocross.com|
#1 Low- Cat And Mouse-Unadilla Style
Going into the 2002 125 Outdoor National season, the big news was the anticipated showdown between rookie sensation James “Bubba” Stewart and Chad “Skippy” Reed. With Bubba winning the most West Coast SX races and Reed winning the East Coast SX championship, many people thought it would be a fight to the finish for the 125 Outdoor title. Unfortunately, the 16 year-old Kawasaki hot shoe turned out to be too much for Reed, and he spent the entire season riding in the 125 Kawasaki’s vapor trail.
Although Chad was able to score a 125 National win at Mt. Morris, the majority of the season proved to be a frustrating experience for the 20 year-old Australian. The low point of this trying season had to be the Unadilla round in July, where Stewart engaged in what can only be described as a childish game of cat and mouse. By this point in the series, it was already very apparent that Stewart had the entire field covered. James, perhaps trying to add insult to injury, decided he would try and make Chad look stupid by toying with the Yamaha of Troy rider. With Stewart in the lead, and Reed in second, James checked up coming out of Gravity Cavity and virtually pulled over to let Chad by. Once Reed was in the lead, the number 259 pored it on, and within half a lap had reeled Chad in and moved back into the lead. It was a definite slap-in-the-face to Reed, and a rather unsportsmanlike maneuver by Stewart.
As it would turn out, this would only be the first in many exchanges between these two intense rivals. With many encounters ending much less civilly than this one-often with one, or both competitors, on the ground. Even a decade later, Reed vs. Stewart is still one the best rivalries in the sport.
|Chad would spend four long, frustrating years trying to capture motocross glory, before deciding to take the summers off in 2007. While Reed was blazing fast outdoors, he was never quite able to best RC or Stewart on the rough, high-speed, outdoor circuits. Photo by Donn Maeda|
#2 Low – The Outdoor Nationals 2002-2006
In another similarity between Reed and McGrath, his first few years in the Outdoor Motocross Nationals were, let’s say, a bit of a “challenge”. Chad contested the Outdoor Nationals from 2002 thru 2006, first in the 125 class, then later, in the 250’s. Unfortunately, at every point along the way, Chad was in the shadow of faster outdoor riders. Although he did have occasional flashes of brilliance, for the most part, Chad’s first go around in the Great Outdoors was a less than joyful experience.
In his four years of trying, he would finish second countless times, but only win one round overall. Although always competitive, Chad was never quite able to beat rivals James Stewart and Ricky Carmichael on the high-speed outdoor circuits. His best overall series finish would be a second in the 2004. His worst would be a eighth in 2005 and a sixth in 2006. As Chad’s Outdoor results continued to deteriorate, it became clear he was ready for a change.
In 2007, that change would come with Chad’s move to the new L&M San Manuel Yamaha team. With his new team being a “Supercross only” operation, his adventure in the Outdoor Nationals would conveniently go on a two-year hiatus. Chad would suffer a good deal of public criticism for his decision to go Supercross only in ‘07. Many fans felt he had turned his back on the “core” elements of the sport and certainly let him know about it. Ironically, those same fans would welcome him back with open arms only a few years later.
|Both Reed and teammate David Vuillemen would be caught up in a fuel controversy toward the end of the ’04 season. Trace elements of lead would be found in the Factory Yamaha team’s fuel, and lead to a stripping of the riders’ points at the Dallas event. Luckily for Reed, his points lead was great enough that the penalty did not cost him the 2004 Supercross title. Photo courtesy of TWMX|
#3 Low- “Fuel Gate” 2004
For many fans, the 2004 season is best remembered as the one that Ricky Carmichael sat out due to injury. That is unfortunate, as it was an exciting season in its own right, highlighted by a yearlong battle between the new kid Reed, and the grizzly vet Kevin Windham (yes, even 10 years ago K-Dub was a grizzled veteran). As it turned out, however, the final standings made the championship fight look way closer than it really was.
At round fourteen in Irving, Texas, the series got thrown a curve ball by the ill-conceived AMA-FIM alliance. After the main event, seven bikes were selected by the AMA for fuel testing (as a result of the AMA’s adoption of the FIM fuel requirements, lead fuel had been banned in AMA competition), one of them being the YZ250 of main event winner Chad Reed. The Factory Yamaha’s of Chad and teammate David Vuillemen were found out of compliance, and as a result, both were penalized 25 points. This meant that Chad, who was set to clinch his first title the following week in Salt Lake City (and had already arranged to have his family in attendance, all the way from Australia), would have to wait at least one more week to seal the deal.
In the end, Chad took care of business and brought home the crown with a solid second in Las Vegas. It was a huge accomplishment for the Aussie, but the whole fuel fiasco made it a sour end to a spectacular season (made even more so in hindsight, by the AMA backing down in a similar situation with Carmichael only two years later).
|The 2005 Anaheim season opener was billed as the “Perfect Storm”. At least they got the storm part right. The colossal quagmire would claim many a victim this night, including the defending series champ who would struggle to finish. Photo courtesy of Racer X|
#4 Low –Anaheim 1 January 8, 2005 “The Mud Bog”
Going into the 2005 Supercross season opener, the hype machine was reaching critical mass. Reed was coming off his first Supercross title, and 2003 champ Ricky Carmichael was making his return from injury. When you added 250 rookie James Stewart to the mix, anticipation was at an all-time high. The new season was being billed as “The Perfect Storm”, and no amount of reason was going to slow down the hyperbolic fervor.
Unfortunately, it would be Mother Nature, not the “The Perfect Storm”, which would steal the story at A1. On this Southern California night, the skies would open up and turn the normally hard-packed surface into a giant mud pie. The rain would come down hard all night, and by main event time, make the track nearly impassible. With these conditions, whoever was going to win the season opener would need equal parts luck and skill.
At the start of the main event, it would be the big yellow number four that would shoot into the lead. RC was on rails for the first few laps, pulling out a huge gap over the field. While RC was out front, his main competitors would be back in the pack having troubles. Stewart would crash in the slop and end up at the back of the pack. Even worse, would be the fate of the defending champ. Mid-way through the main, Chad’s front brake would jam with mud, locking it up and sending him to the murky turf.
With RC up front, it looked like a total disaster for Reed, but the treacherous track would jump up and bite the Suzuki rider. In a set of rollers, RC would cross-rut and drop his RM. It would take Carmichael nearly a minute to get his bike going again, and then he would ride his RM250 nearly a hundred feetbackward on the track (an act that should have gotten Carmichael disqualified). RC would eventually get going, and salvage a hard earned third place.
With so much talk about Reed, RC and Stewart, many pundits seem to forget about 2004’s runner up, Kevin Windham. While everyone else was floundering, Kevin would ride a smooth controlled race and cruise home to the upset win. Like RC, Stewart would salvage the night, rebounding from an early fall to finish fifth. Reed, however, would see his 2005 title hopes take a massive hit with a sixteenth place finish.
The Anaheim race would put the defending champ in a hole right from the start, a hole he would never recover from. The mud would claim Chad’s title hopes as a victim that January night, and land him at number four on the list.
|If there was ever a photo that embodied the old Wide World of Sports cliché “the agony of defeat”, this one is it. After rocketing to an early lead and completely smoking the field in biblically bad conditions, Reeds YZ450F would give up the ghost with only yards to go to the finish. Motocross can be a cruel mistress, and this night she had it out for Chad Reed. A Guy B Photo|
#5 Low- Daytona Mud Bog (yet again)
By the midpoint of the 2008 Supercross series, Chad Reed was riding a wave of momentum on his L&M San Manuel Yamaha. After James Stewart had dropped out of the series at round three, the championship had been blown wide open for Reed. He had won six of the nine races run and opened up a commanding lead going into Daytona.
Daytona has always been a unique event, and in 2008, that unique nature led to one of the craziest mud races in history. Unlike any other Supercross event, the track in Daytona actually digs down into the soil to create rolling obstacles. Normally this is not an issue, but on this March night, torrential rains would turn the sandy Ricky Carmichael designed circuit into an absolute swamp. Massive four-foot deep ruts and bike swallowing holes would litter the Daytona track. Because there was little place for the water to run off, standing water would cover the track and make the race more akin to the Blackwater 100 than a traditional Supercross event.
At the drop of the gate for the main event, Reed’s number twenty-two would rocket out into the lead. Throwing caution to the wind, Chad would pin the throttle on his YZ450F and blast around the rain soaked track like he was out for a play ride. On lap three, Reed would cross rut and stall his YZ450F, opening the window forhis closest competitor for the title. Thankfully for Reed, the big thumper would re-fire within a few kicks, but by then, Kevin Windham had shot into the lead. It would only take Reed another lap to retake the lead from Windham, with the two dicing for a short time, but eventually Chad would pull out to a comfortable lead.
Chad would maintain his aggressive pace for the remainder of the event and continue to attack the track with abandon. Even faced with several feet of standing water, Reed would show no reservations plowing through the deep. With half a lap to go, it would all come apart for the points leader. Blasting through some of the deepest water on the track, Reed’s bike would start to smoke, before belching a massive flame out the exhaust. Seconds afterward, the YZ450F would crawl to a halt on the side of the Daytona circuit. Reed would continue to kick the YZ for several minutes, but the big thumper had ridden its last rodeo. In the end, a dejected Reed would have to make his way back to the truck on foot.
Thankfully for Chad, he had lapped up to seventh place, so even though technically he scored a DNF, he was awarded seventh place points in the event. With his closest rival Windham scoring the victory, Chad’s seventh place would prove important in the title chase. It would be Chad’s first narrow escape of the season, but it would not be his last.
|Reed’s 2008 season was as much about playing as racing for the Yamaha veteran. Once Stewart pulled out of the series at round three, Reed was left with little competition for the title, and spent the majority of the year on cruise control. Unfortunately, that lack of focus nearly cost him the title on several occasions. Photo by Lissimore|
#6 Low –Detroit Supercross April, 12th,2008
After the Daytona debacle, Chad had gotten back on track in Toronto and Dallas, scoring commanding wins both nights. Going into the home stretch, he was still in the driver’s seat for the title. While he had suffered a few off nights, and some costly mistakes, his closest rivals for the title had not been able to take maximum advantage of his unforced errors. For Reed, the Detroit Supercross would offer his toughest challenge yet in the quest for a second Supercross title.
As practice went off for the Detroit event, Chad would rocket into the lead in the first whoop section on the far side of the track. He would lay down some blazing laps and set the pace early on. His practice session would only last five laps, however. In a tricky table-to-table rhythm section, Chad’s YZ450F would bog as he left the first plateau, sending his front wheel right into the face of the second obstacle. The YZ would lawn-dart Chad to the ground and continue flipping down the track minus its rider. Chad would break his shoulder in the crash, and spend the next four hours at an emergency room coughing up blood. Certainly not the way you want to start a day of racing.
Amazingly, Chad would get a release from the doctor and make his way back to the stadium only a short time before the night show was set to begin. In his heat race, Chad would only make three laps, before pulling out of the race. Knowing he could use a “provisional”, Chad only needed to start the LCQ to make it into the main (When the AMA first removed the semi races, they introduced the idea of a “provisional” that a rider in the top ten could use to get into the main if he did not qualify in the heat or LCQ. The rule has since been rescinded, which is the reason RV could not use one in Jacksonville 2011.). Chad’s use of the provisional would save his season, as he could avoid the extra wear and tear of the qualifying heats and concentrate on the main event. If the Detroit crash occurred in 2012, Reed might have lost the title right then and there, but in 2008, the rules were in his favor. The questions on everyone’s mind would be, could Reed hang on for twenty laps on a grueling Supercross track to preserve his points lead, and could Windham take advantage of Reed’s error to close up the title chase?
At the start of the main event, it would be the Frenchman Eric Sorby who would pull the holeshot, followed by Tommy Hahn and Davi Millsaps. For Chad, the start could not have gotten any worse, as his last place gate pic relegated him to a poor spot and a crash in the first corner. Chad would remount in last, and begin his charge to the front as the leaders checked out. Thankfully for Reed, Windham would also suffer a bad start, and have to make his way through the pack as well. Out front, Millsaps would make quick work of Sorby and pull away to his second win of the season. At the checkers, third would be the best that Windham could manage (saving valuable points for Reed), while Chad would gut out an impressive twelfth place finish.
The twelfth place finish for Reed would prove tremendous in terms of the overall title chase. Reed would end up wining the series by only thirteen points, and the points he scored in Detroit could easily have been different As they say, you win the titles on your off nights, and April 12th, 2008 was certainly one of those.
|This was certainly a rare sight in 2010, Chad Reed on a Monster Kawasaki. Reed never looked comfortable on his KX450F and would only make the second round before injury would end his Supercross season. Lissimore photo|
#7 Low- 2010- The Forgotten Year
After Chad’s championship winning seasons in 2008 and 2009, he would amazingly find himself unemployed once again going into 2010. This time, it would be Monster Kawasaki that would come to the reigning 450 Outdoor champ’s rescue. Speedy Reedy would be partnered with 450 rookie Ryan Villopoto on the green team, a situation many felt would lead to tension down the road. As it turned out, the pundits needn’t have worried.
Reed’s season would go south from the very first drop of the gate. On the first lap of the season opener, Reed would tangle bikes with Austin Stroupe and end up with a broken front wheel for his trouble. Chad would make it all of a half a lap before pulling off and scoring a demoralizing DNF to open the 2010 campaign. At the next week in Phoenix, things would go from bad to worse for the 2008 SX champ. On lap six, in a right-hander before the finish, Reed and his old nemesis, Stewart, would tangle bikes and end up in a heap (stop me if you have heard this before). The crash would leave Reed with a broken hand, and no chance of reclaiming his Supercross title.
Reed would sit out the majority of the Supercross series, and watch as his teammate and rookie sensation Ryan Dungy battled for the 2010 title. In the end, it would be the Suzuki superstar who would outlast a charging (and eventually injured) RV for the crown. For Reed, he would have to wait for the Great Outdoors to exact his revenge.
|Pic #8 At round one in Hangtown, Reed would come out of the gate guns blazing and pull away to an easy win. The victory would turn out to be a mirage,however, as bike issues and illness would turn the defending champ’s season from a dream to a nightmare within a few rounds. A Stone Man photo|
At the season opener in Sacramento, Chad would silence his doubters by roosting away to a domination win in the first moto of the year. Sporting a big red number one on the front of his Kawasaki, it looked like the 2009 champ was back up to speed and ready to claim a second straight Outdoor title. Reed would get beat by a surprising Alessi in the second moto, but claim the overall for the day with a 1-3 score. Reed would follow up his Hangtown victory with a solid second the following week in Texas, and hold the points lead going into round three in Mount Morris , PA.
At High Point, the wheels would come off the truck for the defending champ, however. Reed would suffer through a terrible day in PA, finishing with 13-33 scores for eighteenth overall. The High Point debacle would cost Chad the points lead, and put a major damper on his 2010 title hopes.
Reed would rebound with a third at Budds Creek and a second at Red Bud, but a nineth at Colorado would put him even farther behind the consistent Dungy in the title chase. For Chad, the turning point would come at Millville, where he would injure himself in practice and pull out of the first moto. Reed would not even start the second heat, and in effect, surrender any chance he had a retaining the number one plate.
After the Spring Creek event, Chad would pull out of the season entirely,as a result of complications from the Epstein Barr virus. Chad would state in an open letter to the fans, that he had been struggling with fatigue all season and searching for answers. With the confirmation of his illness, it would be best for him to sit out the rest of the season to recuperate and come back even stronger in 2011.
Unfortunately, in a business as cynical as motocross, many people would whisper that the illness was just an excuse for Chad to get out of riding the rest of the season. While only Chad and his doctor know the truth, the perception certainly did him no favors, and may in fact have cost him his ride at Kawasaki. For most Chad Reed fans (myself included), 2010 has gone down as the year that never happened.
|After a decade of riding on factory equipment, Chad found himself without a ride for the 2011 season. His terrible 2010 results and his salary demands made hiring him a tough gamble in 2011. In the end, Reed would put his own money on the line to race one more year on a Pro Circuit Honda. Ironically, on the TwoTwo Motorsports Honda, Chad would enjoy one of the best seasons of his career. Photo by Lissimore|
#8 Low No ride for 2011
At the end of the season, Chad would part ways with both Kawasaki and long time sponsor Thor (whether he quit, was fired, or they just mutually agreed to part company, is still a matter of some speculation). This would leave the three-time champ without a ride for the third year in a row. With his options quickly narrowing, and coming off by far the worst season of his career, Chad would have to dig deep if he was going to pull off yet another amazing come back in 2011.
As the clock continued to tick toward the season opener in January, it actually started to look like Supercross fans everywhere might indeed have seen the last of Chad Reed. There was talk of retirement and car racing deals, as well as discussions with some of the teams. Chad had left on good terms with Suzuki, but they had Dungy, and monetary issues that made another high paid rider unlikely. Honda looked like a good fit, but again Chad’s salary demands made signing him difficult after his sub-par 2010.
Most industry insiders put Chad’s chances of riding in 2011 at a 50/50 proposition at best. As November gave way to December, things began to look bleak for team Reed. If he were going to make a move, it would have to be fast to give him any chance at all of being competitive.
Incredibly, Chad would bet it all on himself, and create TwoTwo Motorsports with only weeks to go in the off-season. His new team would be made up of experienced industry personnel and feature a Pro Circuit modified Honda under the tent. It would be a bold gamble for Reed, but one that would once again prove the kid from Kurri Kurri has more lives than a Cheshire cat.
|Pic #11 The Crash heard around the world. A HoppenWorld Photo|
With his incredible career resurrection, Chad probably scored more fans in 2011 that at any other point in his illustrious career. Everyone loves a comeback, and the personality and approachability Chad showed in 2011 made him the darling of the public and press alike. He was friendly, honest, and the exact antithesis of the cocky punk that had first showed up here in 1999. In short, Chad Reed version 2.0 was a media darling.
This popularity carried over into the outdoors in 2011, as Reed scored one improbable win after another. If anything, the crusty old vet was faster now than he had ever been in his youth, and his weekly lessons to the young bucks of the sport were becoming the thing of legend (remember Hi Ryan?).
Going into the home stretch of the season, Chad had won four of six events and was holding a comfortable lead in the 450 National series points. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the old dog was set to score one last victory before riding off into the sunset. Then Millville happened…
Going into the second moto at the Spring Creek track, Chad was riding a huge wave of confidence. He had roosted away for a dominating win in the first moto and looked to be about to put a stranglehold on the championship. At the beginning of the second moto, Chad would grab the start right behind his title rival Ryan Villopoto. In the infamous Millville whoops, Chad would hold it on longer and rocket into the lead. With that statement pass, it looked like the number twenty-two was ready to slam the door on the competition, but the Moto Gods would have other ideas.
Coming up the face of a super-fast tabletop jump, Chad’s CRF would get a slight headshake and rip his hands off the bars. As Reed’s bike would leave the takeoff, it would eject its pilot skyward in what can only be described as one of the most spectacular get-offs in motocross history. Reed would seem to hang in the air for an eternity, looking for a suitable landing area. In an incredible stroke of luck, Chad would miss the dozer parked on the side of the track and land perfectly on the downslope of the massive jump. While it was a terrible hit, it could have been a thousand times worse, and Reed was lucky to get off with no broken bones.
In perhaps the most remarkable part of the whole event, Chad would actually remount his Honda and reenter the race. Battered and beaten, he would solider on to a fourteenth place and salvage fifth overall on the day. While this would seem to have saved Chad’s season, in truth, it was over the second the Honda rider hit the eject button. He would be haunted by the crash the remainder of the season (helped in no small part by the crash becoming a YouTube sensation). Never able to recapture the pre-crash intensity that had made him a title threat, he would limp home to the series conclusion in September. While this one has to rank as one of the all-time lows of Reed’s career, the mere fact that he was able to walk away has to count as one of the biggest strokes of luck in the history of the sport. If your counting, that is definitely one more life down, meow.
#10 Low- Dallas, TX February 16th, 2012 -The Crash That Crushed Reed Nation
After suffering through the end of the 2011 season, Team TwoTwo shook off the funk that had haunted them for months and took Team Australia to its first ever podium at the MXoN. It was a big accomplishment for Reed, and the signal that 2011 was truly behind him. Going into 2012, many wondered if Kid Comeback could do it one more time.
Reed answered his critics early, with a second in the season opener, and a win at round three in LA. At round four, he would once again score a second and take over the points lead going into round five. Reed would score a second and a third in the next two events, leaving him six points off the leader going into the seventh round in Dallas.
As the season was taking shape, it was becoming more and more clear that the alpha dog of the 450 class was the 2011 defending champ Ryan Villopoto. RV had taken three of the six events run and pulled out to a small lead in the title. Just as apparent, was the fact that the one one guy who seemed to be able to run with RV was 29-year-old Chad Reed. Reed was one of the few riders who had shown the raw speed to run with the number one, and in Dallas the two riders put on a clinic.
RV ripped the holeshot to start the main event with the big number twenty-two right in tow. For the first few laps, Reed would stalk RV, never more than a few feet apart. Reed would go inside, then outside, showing Villo a wheel in nearly every corner. Chad definitely seemed to be faster this night and looked to be biding his time to make a pass. On the fourth lap, with Villopoto in his sights, CR22 would misjudge a small seat-bounce jump entering the sand section and be thrown into a nosedive. Unfortunately for Reed, he would not be able to separate himself from the flipping Honda and be pile-driven into the sand rollers. The result of the crash would be a torn ACL, broken ribs, a broken leg and a broken T6 vertebrae.
|I don’t think I have ever been more depressed watching a motocross event than I was this Dallas night. So much promise seemed to slip away that February evening that I was in shock the whole next day. For Reed fans everywhere, a dream died that night. Photo courtesy of Simon Cudby/Racer X|
The crash would put an end to yet another promising Supercross season for Reed. He had once again put himself in position to capture a Supercross title, only to have a tiny miscalculation bring it all crashing down. For Reed Nation, the crash was grounds for a national day of mourning, as Twitter and Moto message boards exploded with the laments of another season gone wrong (I for one, was in a total funk for days).
For true fans, the scars of the “crash” of 2012 will not fully heal until our man once again sprays the champagne of victory. With 2013 fast approaching, all of us who consider ourselves Chad Reed fans are holding our collective breath to see if the Aussie still has a little bit of magic in that hat. Either way, it has been one hell of an adventure, and I for one, want to thank Chad for letting us all come along for the ride.
Go get ‘em Skippy!