Where Are They Now: Phil Lawrence

March 23, 2006 6:37am


Phil Lawrence in 1992
photo: Racer X Archives
If you followed motocross in the 1990s, then you know all about “Factory” Phil Lawrence. The lanky rider from Cherry Valley, CA, was one of the hottest young stars in the sport from the time he began racing professionally in 1989. His career took off when he was hired by Team Suzuki in 1993: Phil won the Seattle 125 Supercross and led the West Region championship, but a first-turn crash in San Jose left him with a broken clutch lever. Even though he still charged back to fifth, the points he lost to Pro Circuit’s Jimmy Gaddis would prove costly. Gaddis won the championship by a slim margin that year.

“Man, that first-lap crash cost me,” Lawrence says. “I felt like I was definitely a little faster but Gaddis was just really consistent. I came back to fifth that race; I was still jumping the triples on my 125 with no clutch. But I was a few points short at the end of the series.”

Lawrence rode the 250 class at the outdoor nationals in ‘93 and proved that he was just as good on a fast motocross track as he was in the stadiums. In fact, he finished third in Gainesville and at the Glen Helen rounds and rode consistently all summer. But the following year was disappointing for Phil. Injuries and mechanical DNFs took their toll on his results and he was dropped from the factory team at the conclusion of the season. He got back on Kawasakis through a support ride from Kawasaki of Mexico and Tecate in 1995, then joined the infamous Great Western Bank team in 1996. Phil started the ‘96 AMA Supercross Series by finishing second to Jeremy McGrath at the season opener in Orlando!

Lawrence rode with the Tecate Kawasaki team
photo: Racer X Archives
“That was such a great start to the season,” Phil says, looking back at the team he shared with Buddy Antunez, Denny Stephenson, and Davey Castillo. “We tried different bike setups but I ended up riding a bone-stock Kawasaki with a Pro Circuit pipe. That thing ripped! I thought I would be able to get some type of ride the next year after getting fourth in the series and beating a lot of factory guys, but it never happened. It was a bummer.”

Lawrence continued riding impressively and finished the series in fourth—one of the best finishes ever for a privateer. But after so-so stints at Chaparral and Moto XXX, Phil decided to get out of the sport. He purchased a landscaping company from a friend and worked hard for the next couple of years. He was picked up several different times as a fill-in and a full-time arenacross rider for Suzuki’s arenacross teams during that time. He then sold the landscaping business and bought a lot-sweeping company.

Lawrence now owns and operates that company in Temecula, California. He still rides on a regular basis and, not surprisingly, still goes very fast. If you’ve seen any of our bike tests or shootouts, you’ve probably seen Phil, as he is one of our regular test riders here at Racer X Online. (On a personal note, not only does Phil live less than one mile from me, but he also married my wife’s sister, making us brothers-in-law!)

“I have great memories of my career,” Phil says. “You know, there are some things I wish I would’ve done differently, but I don’t dwell on those. At one time or another I have beaten the best riders in the world. Those are good times to me.”

Phil in '92