Ryan Dungey has left his mark on American Supercross and Motocross for 2010, winning both the premiere 450 Supercross title earlier this year and clinching the AMA 450 Motocross Nationals championship last Saturday in Southwick, Massachusetts, with two rounds remaining in the series.
Ryan will also captain Team USA at the upcoming Motocross of Nations at Thunder Valley just outside of Denver in Lakewood, CO on September 25 & 26. Ryan’s team-mates will be Andrew Short & Trey Canard. Team Manager will be Roger De Coster.
Ryan has had an amazing season. A dream season. First winning the Supercross Championship, and now winning the 450 Motocross Championship. I got to talk with Ryan right after he clinched the 450 MX championship on his Suzuki, and here is what he had to say:
Amanda: Ryan, congratulations on winning the 2010 AMA 450 Motocross Championship. I can tell you are happy, relaxed, and you’ve accomplished another goal in life. What does it take to win championships like this?
Ryan Dungey: It really takes a full time commitment, a 7-days-a-week commitment, from a lot of people.
It’s not just me on the track. I do my training and riding and all the things I can do to make myself mentally and physically the best I can be. I want to be as ready as possible when I show up to the track. I do my ‘homework’ during the week, and try to come out on the weekends and wins races.
That’s our goal as an entire team – to win races and championships. But remember, there really is an entire team in winning championships. Let’s just start with support – there is Suzuki, Rockstar, Makita and there is huge support from my family too. There is a lot that goes on, and to have a great family like I have behind me is great. A big help.
What else does it take? It’s almost hard to put into words. It takes a lot of sacrifice. Again, by so many people. It’s an all around team effort – you’ve got your inner circle, your team, your family. And then I have to do all the things required of me to be the best I can on the motorcycle.
When you have all these facets working well and spot on, everything seems to click just a bit easier on race day.
We all try now not to settle for second best. No matter how much you accomplish, it seems like it’s never enough (as far as racing and championships). We have to keep pushing for more.
You already won the 450 Supercross title earlier this year, now the 450 MX Championship – what’s the difference in how you feel about the two?
Obviously Supercross is important. Bigger cities, stadiums, more fans.
Motocross is important, too. For MX, I’m still based in Florida, and things have just gone very smoothly this season. Very mellow.
For motocross, it’s good to be back in Florida for training. It’s hot and humid. We usually start work around 10, 10:30am. Around 1 or 2 o’clock, it really starts to warm up. It’ll get up into the 90’s during the day, with high humidity. We’ll usually get a thunderstorm late afternoon and that cools things down a bit. But we’ll finish with our training around 2 – at the peak of the heat. The first few weeks were tough – you have to get used to it – it’s so hot and humid, but your body gets a little adapted as time goes by, and it gets better.
As far as winning this outdoor title – it’s been a long road. We started this season back in January. This feels good though (winning this championship.) We’ve always had the mindset of just taking one race at a time, trying to win, and then the championship is the bigger goal.
I was studying some video of you from 2007 and 2008. Obviously back then you were a professional, on Team Suzuki, and had top speed. You’ve won these two big, big championships now this year. What’s the difference between now and then?
There are a lot of changes in a professional racer’s career. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. When I came into the pro ranks … everything was new. You come from being an amateur to being a professional. It’s actually a very big difference.
And as I said, when you turn pro, everything is new and different. It’s a big change.
Then I remember when I won my first supercross as a pro. It was a great accomplishment. It was a big goal of mine. It was a stepping stone to move onto another goal in my career. That’s when I realized that so much comes about in racing professionally – the training, the preparation, the pressure, the money, so many things you have to deal with that you’ve never dealt with before. So many different things come into your life. I think most people would be surprised. It’s not just racing on the weekends!
It can become overwhelming at first. I know it was for me. But as the years go on, you learn. And try to keep learning. You figure some things out. You learn what works for you best.
For me now, I just try to keep learning, and apply that to the future, and years to come too. As you achieve success, you also learn to not settle for your own ‘second best’. You keep pushing. Improving. Getting better. Doing the right things.
You know as well as anyone that the Motocross of Nations is coming up in late September. You are the ‘captain’ of the team for USA. Do you feel any pressure, or extra pressure with not only being the captain, and it being in the USA, but also being the defending champions?
Well Amanda, I did learn something from you – it’s only the third time the event has been held in the USA in it’s 60-plus year history!
Going into any Motocross des Nations, there is pressure. What I try to do is make it like any other race – I want to go there and do the best job possible. So, really it’s both. It’s different and unique and pressure packed, but we try to go in as competitors and make it like any other race with our preparation.
I’ll tell you what’s really cool about this. It’s in our home country. We have our own country’s fans on hand. You have your whole country behind you! I was at Budds Creek in 2007 (last time the event was held in the USA) and I got a glimpse of it, and it’s pretty darn amazing. I don’t know if any rider, especially winning in his home country, can put it into words.
If we do our homework and preparation, do all we can to be the best we can, and ride like we are capable, we’ll be in a great situation. It’s great to have your country behind you, but it’s also a great honor to represent your country. We’ve got Roger (De Coster) and Mitch (Payton) and a long list of other people behind us and helping. We have a lot of knowledge and experience behind us. I know for me, last year in Italy at the Nations, that was a big help.
With Andrew (Short) and Trey (Canard) coming on board, we’ve got a solid team. I think we can get the job done. We’ll prepare like any other race, work hard, try to enjoy the experience as much as possible, and try to get the job done for Team USA.
You have sponsors of the team (Suzuki, Rockstar, Makita, etc), and you have personal sponsors (Nike, Target, etc). It’s a business. Maybe a part of the business that casual supercross and motocross fans don’t know about. Do sponsors ever dictate things that you have to do on or off the motorcycle?
I probably would describe it as a ‘two-way street’. Your sponsors are definitely behind you and support you. And they know what comes first – racing. But let’s say you want to do something fun on a rare day off – like snowboarding or another sport for fun – it’s tough. You don’t want to take the chance of doing something stupid or getting hurt. I don’t think any of them would like that.
What’s cool is that really the sponsors are behind you, and they want what’s best for you. We all want the same goal – To win. With winning comes some good things for sponsors. It gets the bike out there. It gets the sponsors names out there. It gets everyone’s logo out there. We want to give everyone their props!
How about time commitment. How much of a time commitment comes with having those sponsors and advertisers?
Along with everyone’s support, and them being behind you, there comes … let’s say with Suzuki – we do some autograph signing sessions. We do that more for the fans. It’s good for us, it’s good for the fans.
With others, you could say we get pulled in different directions, but I like it. I’ve never been one to ‘lay low’ at the house. I’ve been keeping busy. We do a lot of appearances, “meet and greet” with company CEO’s, it’s actually pretty cool.
One thing we can always count on, whether it’s life, or motorcycle racing – there is always change. Change is constant. Looking at the changes both supercross and motocross have made over the decades, the sport is now truly global. So, if we can look into a ‘crystal ball’, and see where the sport is going in five or ten years, what do you see, whether good or bad?
I’m probably like most people – sometimes change is good. There are times to move on. Sometimes things get stale. I don’t think I control any big changes in the industry or sport, so it’s not something I look at closely. However, if there are changes, I hope they are all for the betterment of the sport.
Flying (as much as a professional racer does) is tough, but if we had to do a race once a year in Asia, then let’s do it. (Editor’s note – does anyone remember all the big supercross races that used to be held in Japan during the American off-season, so the top supercross racers could perform in the home country of the Japanese manufacturers?)
There will always be something new. There will always be change. I think we’ll need to look at those as new challenges and new opportunities. It could turn out to be really cool for us riders, and for the fans. But the main thing is to have change for the better. For everyone, whether inside the industry or outside the industry. I think change can be good.
You are the ‘boss’ on the entire sport. King Ryan. You get to make all the decisions. Whatever you like or don’t like – make the change. Or would you keep it the same?
I think we have enough races during the year. For Supercross, I’d like to see us race in more places … more fun and or unique places. The entire Supercross Series is great. We travel to big cities primarily. That’s good. None of us have time to see much in the cities, but I like the travel, and I like going to all the races. But I also like the idea of going to new places. New York is a good example. That would be a great place to have a Supercross event.
I’m all for helping the sport out, so whatever we can do to make it bigger and better, and to grow, I’m all for it. I’d like to see a little more ‘fun’ involved. Maybe something where it’s not necessarily racing, but something for two days for the fans to come out and watch something and have fun. Maybe some sort of formatting change of the entire program. I’m open to new ideas for sure. Let’s not only show the fans how much fun this is, but let’s make it fun for them! Whatever that might be to make that happen.
You work with Ricky Carmichael sometimes. What has Ricky added to your arsenal of racing professionally that you didn’t have before? Is there anything where you went “Aha!” and had a big revelation?
Since I moved to Florida, and being able to work with Ricky, I’ve been very fortunate. In 2006 I turned pro. Roger De Coster and Ricky Carmichael were associated with the Suzuki team, and they can certainly be considered the two best ever in this sport. When you are able to work with people like that … I’m really, really blessed and thankful.
Ricky was a guy that I looked up since I was a kid. Now being in Florida, and getting to know him besides being team-mates, he just has so much knowledge. He’s won so many races and championship! He knows how to win championships, which is what it’s all about at this level now. I get to see what goes on inside a champion. I get to see what he’s done and what he does.
Growing up, what inspired me was Ricky’s motivation. He’s totally driven. And he worked really hard to develop that drive and motivation. Really hard. Having a work ethic like that doesn’t come naturally.
It’s great when he can come out to the track now. He’s got car racing going on, and he’s really busy. But when he is out there – it’s amazing. It’s not necessarily anything really big, but a bunch of little things that add up. Not many people can see all the little things that go on out there on the track, but with him it’s amazing. He’s a great friend and person too.
I’ve been lucky enough to do TV work all over the world. I love Supercross.com and the work we do here. I’ve interviewed a lot of different people. I’ve been very lucky and blessed and love what I do. I know you feel the same.
So many younger riders, so many of the privateers, and so many others that I talk to want what you have – the top factory ride. I know it’s not once you get the factory ride, it’s a “piece of cake”. There is some pressure. And now all of next year you’ll have that number 1 plate on your bike, and that number 1 on the back of your jersey. What’s it like being in that top position?
When I was growing up, and a guy on the outside looking in, I definitely thought it was just once you made it, then it was ‘big time’. Easy. Fun. Glamour. Your with a factory ride. Your stylin’. All good.
I can tell you now though, being in this position, it’s not all you think it is! When you are a little kid, you think it’s going to be great. But at this level, whether you put it on yourself, or you let others put it on you, there is a tremendous amount of responsibility and pressure.
For me, I’m always putting pressure on myself to perform well. Of course your team wants you to perform well too. Your sponsors want you to perform. Again, the way we’ve gone about it as a team is to take each race, be as prepared and consistent as possible, and see what comes.
Going back to when I was a kid, I raced sometimes six times in a year. Now, at this level, we are racing big time races at least 30 times per year. Each race has it’s own goal – being prepared, being consistent, and trying to win.
Not only all that, but at this level, with the pressure and back to back weekends of racing, there is definitely ‘wear and tear’ – physically, mentally … you get pulled in so many different directions with all the responsibilities. It can be a tough schedule at times – flying here at a certain time, being at a location at a certain time. It’s not just time on the bike.
I think I’ve learned to grow every year, and be able to take on more every year. Of course there are certain times where you get stressed out, but that’s when you have to realize what you do for a living … you get to do something you love for a living. So when I get stressed, I just try to stop and slow down and think about what I get to do, and how fortunate we all are that get to do this – something we love. I get to go race a dirt bike! And it’s fun!
Sometimes those outside things get going so fast, you really don’t have time to think, and you can get a little scatter-brained. But I also look at some of the hard things involved, and realize those are some of the things you need to go thru to improve. It makes you grow. It makes you a stronger person. And I still get to do something I love for a living – race dirt bikes!
You have so many fans on Supercross.com. They write us and say “More Ryan Dungey!” “Interview Ryan Dungey!” “More photos of Ryan Dungey!” And we get all kinds of people that write and want personal messages from you … I’m sure you get it everywhere you go.
What do you want to communicate to all those fans?
First I’d like to thank everyone. I appreciate that you are behind me, and with me thru all that I go thru – the good and the bad over the years. It’s so cool to see all the fans everywhere I go. I wish I could do more for them, but at the races, it’s tough sometimes, because that’s our ‘work’ environment. We have a job to do.
But I am so thankful to all the fans. It’s neat, and I really want them to know that, and that I appreciate them.
For those of you that are young, remember to have fun, and enjoy it. That’s key when you are young, because you can never get that time back. If your dream is to become a professional, I still say have fun and enjoy it, because that’s what can take you the furthest in your dreams.
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