Interview: Jeremy McGrath
RJ: First things first, which one of the Village People do you like most? The Indian, The G.I. dude, Biker/Leatherman, The Construction Worker, The Cop, or The Cowboy?
Jeremy: I think I’ll go with the Indian. Yeah, I like the Indian.
RJ: OK, at least we have something in common – I like the Indian too.
RJ: What do you feel would make the sport better in the future?
Jeremy: I believe one thing that would make the sport bigger and more recognizable is more purse money. And that’s because everyone recognizes that. Not that I want any more purse money, but more people take notice when there is a lot to win. And an improved TV package. Live TV on Saturday night would be great wouldn’t it? If the networks treated supercross like they do football or baseball …. supercross is way more exciting! ; )
RJ: How did you become involved with Bud Light?
Jeremy: I talked with Scott Sepkovic first, and I had a lot of help from him. I talked with a few others and my attorney. Our team wanted some assistance, and improved PR. I went and had a meeting with Scott. He made a beautiful package, and we sent it out to a few select people. Tony at Bud Light took notice, and that is how the ball got rolling.
Then Scott, Greg, and I flew out to St. Louis (headquarters of Budweiser) and we went from there.
RJ: Supercross in 2003, various promoters, sanctioning bodies, etc., what do you think?
Jeremy: Right now, I just don’t have enough info to make any kind of decision for 2003. I’ve had a long relationship with Clear Channel, and I’ve had a long relationship with the AMA. I’m neutral.
RJ: Your trainer Todd said it best – this (2002) could be the last year for a unified title.
Jeremy: This could be the most difficult year of my professional career. Todd said it correctly – this could be the last year for a ‘real’ supercross championship because there could be two series starting in 2003. To win the championship in 2002 means everything at this point.
RJ: What is the first thing you’d change about supercross?
Jeremy: I’d like to add a four-stroke class to the racing on Saturday nights. Although there is a lot of racing, I think there could be more.
RJ: What type of track obstacle are you best at?
Jeremy: Definitely the whoops.
RJ: What area are you weakest on?
Jeremy: Corners. Definitely corners. With a capital ‘C’. (Laughs)
I’m OK on the hard-packed corners. Sometimes I’m not as good in the rutted corners. Being from California, we don’t get a lot of those.
RJ: Do you have a most memorable moment in your racing career?
Jeremy: One of the coolest things for me was passing and beating Jeff Stanton at Anaheim 1993. It wasn’t even so much winning the race. Stanton was the man at that time. I was a just a young kid, and me beating him …. it just sticks out in my mind. And beating you at Perris. (Laughs)
RJ: I should of taken you out! By the way, what was up with that ‘RJ who’ on your pants a few years ago?
Jeremy: Oh ….. you know how it is. (Laughs)
RJ: No! I don’t know how it is! I didn’t throw stones at Hannah when I broke his record!
Jeremy: Hannah brake checked you though.
RJ: You are right ……… what do you like best about the sport?
Jeremy: I like riding. I like being on the tracks. That’s why I got involved in the first place. I love what I do.
There are other things that come with it …. money, opportunities, ‘fame’. But my favorite time is when I put on my helmet and ride.
RJ: Forget about the bike for a minute …. what’s a ‘perfect’ day for you?
Jeremy: Waking up about 9am, heading out to a pancake breakfast with Kim (fiancee), riding a little bit, maybe playing some tennis, ride my bicycle, and then a little relaxing time. Lately though, I don’t get much time for relaxing.
RJ: What’s ‘reality’ like though? What’s a typical day like for you?
Jeremy: It’s non-stop towards racing. Get up, go riding, work out on the bicycle …. non-stop all day physically. Once the racing season starts, I can back off a little bit because you need at least one day to rest.
RJ: Your bike for 2002, how is it different?
Jeremy: It’s completely new and different. We have changed everything on the bike. A tremendous new engine package …. very different from what we had before. A totally new suspension package …. we really have a good program on that too.
We’ve had a jump on things, as we’ve been testing for five months now. I think we’ve dialed in the bike more than we’ve ever had.
RJ: How do you say ‘No’ to people when they’ve been waiting in line for your autograph at the races? I know it’s your ‘job’, and you have to concentrate first on racing, but many fans do not know that. What do you want to tell them?
Jeremy: It definitely hurts sometimes to be in that position. I wish I could stand there for hours and hours and sign to make sure everyone gets their autograph request. But I can’t forget – that is my work day.
During the day-time, when we take a lunch break is when I sign autographs. A lot of people are bummed because they can’t get an autograph at that time. I completely love their support and feel for everyone waiting in line. The thing we try to tell them is I will sign again after the races are over.
RJ: How many phone calls do you get in a day?
Jeremy: I’ve had the same cell phone number for about two years. It had 30,000 minutes of accumulated time on it if that helps answer that. I get about 35 messages a day on the cell. Maybe around 20 messages at home. I just changed my cell phone number.
RJ: Can I get that number from you?
Jeremy: I’ll give you my office number. Maybe you can talk to the office manager or our team manager. (Laughs)
RJ: Your family is a big part of what you do. Tell me about them.
Jeremy: My mom (Ann), my dad (Jack), my sister (Tracy) are not only behind me 100%, and are my family, but they are my biggest fans. Plus they’ve helped me manage my career. They are with me no matter what I choose to do. Fortunately, we have such a great relationship …. the family part hasn’t crossed over into the business part. We definitely try to keep that separate.
When big things need to be decided, I always include them.
RJ: What’s up with your physical conditioning so far for 2002?
Jeremy: I think I’m in the best shape of my life. We did things right. The desire to win is there more than ever. I have a goal. That goal is to win again.
RJ: What are you doing different for 2002?
Jeremy: Todd and I have talked a lot. We’ve talked about the mental aspects of many various things. And then we’ve put those things to work.
RJ: Are you still golfing at all?
Jeremy: I don’t get to golf that much these days. I played three or four times over the summer. I shoot in the mid-80’s.
RJ: Besides the actual riding and racing, what else do you do for McGrath Racing?
Jeremy: Larry and I talk a lot about the team and it’s responsibilities, but I try to delegate most of it to Larry. Especially for this season, I try to let most of it roll off of my back. Larry is involved in those things full time, so I don’t have to be. My main thing is to prepare for racing and winning races in 2002.
RJ: How old were you when you got your first motorcycle, and how old when you did your first race?
Jeremy: I was five or six when I got my first bike. My first race was when I was 14.
RJ: What are some of the benefits of being a top pro rider?
Jeremy: I get to hang out with you! (Laughs)
Free stuff, money, fame, popularity, opportunity.
RJ: What are some of the drawbacks?
Jeremy: Everyone wanting something. Trying to manage your time.
One of the biggest things that many people don’t realize is the time management aspect.
RJ: With your first Bud Light press conference, you’ve gotten a small taste of the huge amount of corporate pressure that will now come your way. Some of the other sponsors in the past like 1 800-COLLECT, Mazda, and others did great things with you, but they were not as pressure-cooked as the situation with Bud Light will be. Obviously you are seeing that Bud Light does things on a huge corporate scale.
Their corporate way requires a lot of commitment on your part, along with learning various educational programs on how to communicate to kids on drinking and driving. Is it what you thought it would be?
Jeremy: I believe that everyone elevates in life. They are always moving up, trying more, doing more. Same in any business endeavor. In the past, I’ve been lucky to have so much control over my schedule and what I wanted to do. When you go to the next level as we have with Bud Light, there will be more time commitments, and possibly at times it will be strenuous.
However, this is a great opportunity for me, my family, and the McGrath Racing team. I have to take the bull by the horns so to speak. I can’t shy away from it. I have to learn to accept some things as they are, and try to roll with the punches. I can make it a positive instead of a negative. Everyone has that same opportunity with whatever choices they make in life. They can make it a positive, or they can make it a negative. I want to make it a positive. That’s how I am, and that’s what I will do.
I’m actually looking forward to it, and it will be good.
RJ: I heard you are pretty stoked. Anheuser-Busch was talking with “Little E” (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and he said “Jeremy is THE MAN!”
Jeremy: I was really excited when I heard that! I watch him on TV, and he’s a tremendous competitor. I’m looking forward to meeting him and building our friendship. Hopefully I can check out a few of his races, and we can get him to a few of our races.