Interview with Teddy MaierWednesday, February 7, 2007 | 8:15 PM
AURORA, Ill., (Feb. 7, 2007) – This past weekend in Springfield, Ill., Iowan Teddy Maier became the ninth different racer to win an AMA Arenacross class main event this year on the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series.
Never before in the history of the sport has the competition level been so high and the talent spread so deep. Maier’s run to excellence on Friday at Springfield’s Prairie Capital Convention Center, Round Eight of the 2006-’07 Toyota AMA Arenacross Series, was really not that spectacular, according Maier himself. In fact, it didn’t come as that much of a surprise to industry insiders either as Maier had been in a position a couple other times to win an AMA Arenacross class main event this season.
Maier’s rise to the top of the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series hierarchy began at a fairground in Ft. Dodge, Iowa. There, at the impressionable age of five, Maier, now 21, was witness to the beginning of the Chad “Swap” Pederson legend and continued to be influenced by his Ft. Dodge neighbor and former arenacross great through his PW50 years on into his teens.
Qualifying for the AMA Amateur MX National Championships at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn., every year for the better part of a decade (sans one year when he was out with two broken arms), Maier created a blip on the factory’s talent radar in 2002 when he finished 2nd in the 125 Stock B class.
In 2003 Maier turned pro, competed at his first MX National at Millville (Minn.) where he made the Saturday afternoon program, but not the main. He then followed that up in the coming weeks with two successful campaigns at Binghamton (N.Y.) and Steel City (Pa.) and his career took off.
Up until this year Maier had been a Kawasaki rider. Literally about to sign on the dotted line for Richmond/Kawasaki this year, Maier received a call from Billy Whitley saying Kawasaki was canceling its support with the Richmond team in order to focus on supercross.
Maier turned to longtime friend Joe Murphy with TiLube and the company that’s backed him since he was a kid, Storm Lake Honda, and connected up with the TiLube/StormLakeHonda.com program. A solid team, good support and running the highly competitive Honda CRF450Rs, Maier looked to be set.
Just one minor problem…Maier had never ridden a 450 four stroke.
Toyota AMA Arenacross Series: So just to set the record straight, rumor has it you showed up to Des Moines (Iowa) for the 2006-07 Toyota AMA Arenacross Series opener having spent less than two weeks riding a 450.
Teddy Maier: “I had zero experience on a 450 indoors. I wanted to ride the 250 (two stroke) and knew I still could, but it’s all about the starts in arenacross. So I figured the 450 would be the best bet.”
Toyota AMA Arenacross Series: That had to be tough, basically practicing and adapting in combat situations with the best arenacross racers in the world.
Maier: “Yeah, you can’t ride a 450 like you do a 250 where you’re pretty much pinned all the time and throwing it around and stuff. You kind of have to let the 450 do the work, especially indoors. Like this weekend, we were rutted down to the cement in some corners and the 450 allowed me to choose some different lines, charge hard in areas where I couldn’t have on a 250 and that ended up helping me out a lot.”
Toyota AMA Arenacross Series: Was there any sort of turning point this year when things really started to click with you?
Maier: “I actually felt comfortable to start the season in Des Moines. The first night went pretty good, I got 2nd on the 450. That next night (Saturday) I got a horrible start and just worked my way up towards the front, until I ended up colliding with (Brock) Sellards. I went down pretty hard and that kind of messed me up a little bit, took some time to get going again. Then, at the second round in Albany (N.Y.) I got the holeshot and led for like six laps until I got T-boned by Kevin Johnson. So I guess my season has pretty much been up and down a lot. I’ve struggled with some suspension settings, only recently got that figured out. It’s tough when you start the season late, but I’m comfortable on the bike and want to finish the season strong.”
Toyota AMA Arenacross Series: How have things gone with the TiLube/StormLakeHonda.com team?
Maier: “I used to ride Hondas for the Storm Lake guys early in my career, up to 1999. In 2000 I got Team Green (Kawasaki) support and had that up to this year. So I was excited to get back with the Storm Lake guys - their shop’s only an hour from my house. And Joe Murphy’s helped me out with TiLube before. Again, I really didn’t have a ride until two weeks before the season started. So I picked up a 450 Honda and just started riding. Called Joe and hopped on board with those guys and did the series.”
Toyota AMA Arenacross Series: Talk about the competition this year on the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series tour.
Maier: “There’s a TON of fast people and it’s all about the start. And you line up for the main event and you don’t know who will win. This year whoever got the start and stayed smooth would win. It’s cool because you don’t want to see somebody go out there and win every race. Personally, I wish I would have been more consistent, but there’s always another race and another year.”
Toyota AMA Arenacross Series: So will you be back to race the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series in 2007-’08?
Maier: “Not sure what I’m doing just yet. We’ll just have see. I definitely want to continue to race arenacross again, then supercross. Race a few Nationals, Millville, Steel City – pretty much as many as I can afford to do.”
Toyota AMA Arenacross Series: This past weekend was huge for you – winning your first-ever arenacross main event. You had to be pumped.
Maier: “I won the lites class in Grand Rapids earlier this year, but it’s nothing like winning the AMA Arenacross class. I wanted the win to be with all the fast guys. I definitely knew I could do it, but I wasn’t comfortable on the bike yet. Now I’m feeling good. And it’s definitely a good feeling to finally get one – and I’d like to get some more. Things seemed so easy, got a start and rode like I know how. With the lead I just couldn’t believe it - wasn’t challenged at all. I tried gapping those guys as quickly as I could so I could pick the lines and they couldn’t get underneath me. No pressure working up from third to first, which was kind of weird. I was just riding.”
Toyota AMA Arenacross Series: What’s your plan for the Eastern AMA Supercross Lites Division rounds of the Amp’d Mobile AMA Supercross Series beginning in Atlanta (Feb. 24th)?
Maier: “I’ll do supercross on a Honda with TiLube, traveling out of a little sprinter that Joe Murphy owns. Looks like a UPS truck, but gets like 25 miles per gallon. Just me and my mechanic, Ryan Reynolds. He just started with me this year and does a good job. Ryan went to MMI (Motorcycle Mechanics Institute) in Phoenix, graduated from there. He grew up in Iowa, so it’s working out really good. I’m really excited about racing supercross Lites. I’ve got a Honda 250F that I bought. Won on it up in Grand Rapids, but that’s the only chance I got to race it. Storm Lake Honda’s helping with the bike.”
Thanks for the time, Teddy. Good luck this weekend in Saginaw (Mich.).
Maier: “You bet. Thanks.”
For more information regarding the racing coming to Saginaw, Mich., and Wheeling, W.Va., this weekend, the current series’ point standings and results, or the latest news on the series are all available at www.arenacross.com.