What sticks in my mind from the 2006 Arenacross series was seeing Chad Johnson emerge out of the frozen north of Rhinelander, Wisconsin to take the Championship. The success that the hard working married father of two was one of the “feel good” stories of the year. Johnson would later go on to compete in the 2006 East Coast Supercross Lites series as a member of the Motoworld Racing Yamaha team - although he was never really able to recapture the same success he had in Arenacross earlier that year. Now after an injury filled 2007, the unassuming 25 year old is back battling for yet another Arenacross Championship. With a slim points lead over the Monster Energy/Babbitt’s/Kawasaki dynamic duo of Kelly Smith and Brock Sellards, I got Chad’s take on things.
Chad Johnson: It’s been going pretty well Jim; my Bad Boy Energy Drink/Tuf/Thor/Honda has been working awesome for me. We had a couple things not go our way in the beginning of the series, but for the most part everything’s gone great. I’ve been staying at Underground MX down in Kemp, Texas (an hour southeast of Dallas) training and riding a whole bunch getting ready for the series; being there has been a huge help. Now after the Christmas and New Years break, I’m getting back into it - hopefully I can keep this points lead I got.
How have things changed since you won the Arenacross Championship a few years ago?
You know, in that series Junior Jackson and I worked together; Junior’s a great mechanic, and we did a lot of good things together. We went onto team up the next year, but I ended up having an injury, so it didn’t turn out so well – but it was going fine until I got hurt. Unfortunately we ultimately had to go our separate ways, but everything works out for a reason. I’m with Tuf Racing now, and it definitely feels excellent to be up front again.
Yes, after I won the championship, I went and did some East Coast Supercross Lites for Motoworld. It didn’t go quite as well as I would have liked it to; but then that following fall, Junior and I went back out again and did our own thing with Suzuki. We later went to the McGrath Invitational, and ended up sixth there. A week later we went to the US Open and I finished with an eighth in the 450 class. So I was definitely happy with those results being that it was my first big bike supercrosses I ever raced. We then went on and ran the 2006/2007 Arenacross series, and were second place behind Danny (Smith). We were closing the point’s gap a bit, but then I ended up getting hurt - so that finished my season right there (in spite of his late season injury Chad would eventually finish the series in third).
Expand on what you said about Supercross not going as well; what was different about supercross versus Arenacross?
In Supercross I didn’t have the testing that I needed to have before I went in there. I actually rode my race bike for the first time at the opening round - not really the way to go out and do well right away. In retrospect I think that trying to focus on Arenacross and not getting the proper test time before Supercross started really didn’t help me much. That next fall when I went to run the Supercrosses on the 450, we had been testing for a good month or so before; we were ready and the bikes were good - everything was just going right for me then.
Probably because my parents worked so much [laughs] and took me anywhere that I needed to go. They sent me to Florida in the winter-time; anywhere there wasn’t snow so that I could ride - they were always driving me everywhere. They often drove all night to get me where I needed to go; they just pretty much pinned it around the clock. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here right now!
As we know, you’re the point’s leader now; what’s the key to winning this title?
Definitely good starts Jim; you need a good start in Arenacross; there’s not a whole bunch of passing room. They stepped up the main events this year; instead of twenty laps, they’re twenty five, so that helps out a little if you’re not up front right away. Being in good shape, and getting good starts are really important, but in the end consistency’s key.
Honestly, I’m probably going to go home and go to work! My parents own a company, and I worked for them all this past summer actually. They’re in the concrete business; they manufacture burial vaults and septic tanks, sell landscaping products, run forklifts, drive big trucks, and make concrete block deliveries. From the time I got hurt until September, I didn’t ride - I threw my leg over a dirt bike one time and that was it. I just figured I’d better go do some work - I’ve got a wife and two kids and had to pay some bills. My parents are great people, and they’ve got a good business they run; I enjoyed working with them for the summer. If this opportunity to race Arenacross again comes around next year, and it makes sense for me, I’ll do it. If not, I’ve got another job [laughs]; so it’s kind of whatever works out the best.
With that said Chad, who do you want to give thanks to?
For sure Bad Boy Energy Drinks, Tuf, Thor, Honda, and definitely MX Underground - it’s the place where I train and stay at. They’ve got a great supercross track and outdoor track; they water it and they keep everything prepped very nice – it’s just a great place to train and be. They work very hard around there, and I believe that surrounding yourself with good people is the thing to do!