Interview: AMA Supercross Champion Jeremy McGrath
What is a typical day like for you when you are not riding?
This morning I did an interview with ‘Mens Fitness Magazine’, then we did a photo shoot for that, then I worked out at the gym. After that I went to the Troy Lee Design offices in Corona (California) to discuss some business issues including design of a new truck we are doing with Mazda. Together we went over some business plans, and then we worked on helmet designs and painting. After that, I drove to Oceanside to do a two hour live chat on my personal web-site, Nac-Nac.com (http://www.nacnac.com).
When did you start riding?
I started riding when I was five years old. My first race was at Perris Raceway (California) in 1986, at age 14.
Do you still learn new things when you ride?
Yes, definitely! Gotta’ keep up with the ‘Jones’ (laughs). I’m always learning new things when I ride.
What advice do you have for kids, and their parents that are involved in racing?
Well, first off, it can be a great family sport. As for advice to kids …. be patient, take your time. For the parents, it’s important to not burn your kids out, and have you want to do it more than the kids. I’ve seen a lot of kids get burned out on riding because their parents did things in a ‘commando’ style all the time, always pushing their kids. That’s not what motorcycling is all about. It needs to be fun. Motorcycling can be a great environment for the entire family …. that’s what’s important.
Would you consider racing a 4-stroke in the future?
No. I’ve never considered racing the 4-stroke. I personally love the YZ 250, and I don’t want to change something that’s been very good to me. Like they say, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’!
What is the key to your success?
There are a lot of ingredients that go into success. One of the most important that I’ve had is the support of my family. But if I were to name one key to my success, it would be the passion that I have for the sport. I love motocross racing …. I have a deep passion for it, and that’s the key to my success.
Who do you see replacing you as the next dominant supercross rider?
If you would of asked me a few years ago, I could name quite a few riders. However, right now, I don’t see anyone coming on the horizon that can even approach the level of a Kevin Windham or an Ezra Lusk. Too many young riders are being distracted in other areas to reach the level that the top riders are in today. So, I don’t see anyone being dominant in the near future. Even I have a hard time keeping up with what I’ve accomplished.
Let’s hear about failure. Everyone thinks you live a charmed life (which you do to a certain extent) but everyone has failure in their lives. What has failure taught you?
It makes you a much more rounded person. It teaches you so much. Early in my career, I had so much success, with very few setbacks. Then in 1997, I didn’t acheive the results I had done in the past, and it was a real slap in the face. It actually turned out great because I learned a lot, and I’m a better person now because of those failures. I didn’t have to be a ‘person’ before, all I had to do was be a racer. That year when I didn’t win, I had to learn a lot about being a regular person. That was a great experience for me.
Have you ever raced in Canada?
Yes, in Toronto. It was in the Skydome …. I believe it was in 1989.
Are you going to do any overseas races this year?
Yes. I won’t be doing any over the summer, but just like I did in the fall and winter of 1999, I’ll have the same type of schedule.
Outdoor motocross. Your schedule for this past season was talked about a lot, what are your plans for 2000?
I’ll probably do the Glen Helen and Sacramento Nationals, and then take a break over the summer.
How is your newest version of your computer/video game coming along?
It’s progressing really well. It’ll be out in March.
Will you be giving motocross schools when you retire?
I personally don’t think I have the patience (laughs). I don’t see anything like mx schools in the future. I love the fans, and hanging out with them, but I don’t have the patience required to do schools. However, I will be coming out with an instructional line of videos to help riders.
What are your plans after racing motorcycles professionally?
I don’t have any set ideas in mind, but I do want to be a successful business man with my No Fear MX line of clothing and gear, along with other business interests I have.
Will you go to another form of motorsports racing after your supercross career is over?
I have given a lot of thought to car racing, and I’ve had some opportunities to do something like that. But I really don’t know right now …. I can’t answer that until I’m done racing motocross. If you take energy and effort out of what you are trying to do well, and start trying to do other things, you can lose focus. And that applies to me and motocross racing. To be my best in motocross, I have to concentrate on that.
I could be a regular racer along with doing other stuff, but then I wouldn’t be my best in racing. I want to do the very best I can in racing. Right now I need to focus on supercross.
Do you ride BMX?
Yes, I ride my BMX bike quite a lot. It’s probably something I’ll never give up …. until I’m too old for it! (laughs) I love it.
Who’s faster on a downhill mountain bike, your mechanic Randy Lawrence (who is a professional bicycle rider) or you?
Probably Randy, because I’ve never done it!
Who’s better in BMX, you or Randy?
I think I’m faster.
Were you at the Formula 1 GP in Malaysia?
No, I’ve never been to a Formula 1 GP …. yet.
Were you at a supercross race in Santiago, Chile this past season?
Yes, I really like South America. The people there are great. I’ve always had a good time there.
If you could accomplish one more thing in your career, what would it be?
I don’t have any other needs to accomplish. Of course I do have short-term goals, which is to win races and hopefully win another supercross championship. I’m totally happy, and would not complain if I didn’t win another championship. Although my plan is to win more.
What is your shoe size?
Whether they like it or not, people in the spotlight such as yourself are role models. What do you think about the Jeff Emig “incident”?
It was a bad deal for kids, and a bad timing for Jeff. Our sport is just like any other sport, and sometimes people like to have a ‘good time’. Unfortunately for Jeff, he picked a bad time. I’m not commending his actions, but if Jeff would of been dominating the racing scene at the time, there would of been no professional repurcussions. That I’m sure of. That’s how competive sports is today. It would of been ‘hush-hush’ and not a public incident. Again, I’m not saying he did the right thing, but I am saying how professional sports are run today.
I personally would never, ever do anything like that. But if that would of happened to me, at this point in my career, I think it would be dealt with more ‘under the table’, and not something you hear about publicly. It would be done privately. That’s just how competitive the sports world is today. You see it all the time with other sports such as baseball, basketball, football, and more. Again, I’m not commending anyone’s actions, just stating a fact about corporate sports today.
Jeff was having a bad season, and it came back to bite him. However, with that said, I think that Jeff is probably a better person after all of this has happened to him.
You look very relaxed no matter how much pressure is on you. How do you prepare for that?
First and foremost, I put a lot of pressure on myself. There is pressure that comes from within and without our industry, but it’s not pressure that weighs on my shoulders. I expect to perform well …. I expect that of myself.
Your training regimen, is it different from the past?
This year I’m more and better prepared than I’ve been since 1995. I have Gary Semics back out here in California training me. He’s been helping me my entire career. He’s been at my house now for a month. I’m more than ready!
Rick Johnson, Jeremy McGrath
Did you have a favorite rider while you were growing up?
Yes, my favorite rider was Rick Johnson. He was my idol. I did follow all the top riders as I was growing up ….. I watched David Bailey, Johnny O’Mara, Broc Glover,ÃŠ and Jeff Ward. But RJ was my all-time favorite.
Do you have any pets?
No. I don’t have the time right now to have any pets because I’m not home enough. I really want to have a dog, but I’m going to have to wait a little while for that.
How long will you continue racing motorcycles?
Well, I have a contract thru 2000, but I don’t see myself stopping then, I think I’ll keep going.
Freestyle motocross, will you ever do that?
No. I never imagined that years ago when I started doing ‘nac-nacs’ that it would turn into this!
I like freestyle motocross. I like the idea. I like the tricks that are performed … it’s very cool. The thing I’m worried about the most are some of the personalities. So many people have worked so hard to give motorcycling a better name … to help promote the sport to the general public. We want to take the sport to an even higher level in the future. We’ve spent years trying to get rid of the ‘biker’ image. A few, and it’s a very few, are giving motorcycling a bad name because of the perceived image problem. I love freestyle, it’s just a few personalities that I’d like to see develop a more mature attitude about the growth of the sport.
Is there a woman in your life?
Of course! Her name is Kim. We’ve been together now for two years. It’s the longest I’ve ever been with a girlfriend (laughs). Kim is a great person. She is a quality person. She is not into Jeremy McGrath ‘the racer’, she’s more into Jeremy McGrath ‘the person’. She’s very level-headed, beautiful, and a tremendous person!