5 Minutes with ... Jeremy McGrath

March 6, 2008 6:40am

Jeremy McGrath has decided to do a big U-turn on his asphalt-based NASCAR Late Model stock car racing plans to return to his roots—roots planted firmly in terra firma. McGrath, the greatest supercross racer in the sport’s history, will return to the sport that made him a household name for the energy drink generation when he suits up for the inaugural ESPN Moto X World Championship on April 12-13. Two weeks later, McGrath will turn in his factory Honda CRF450R motocross bike for a 4,200-pound, 800-horsepower wonder truck as he prepares to make a run at the 2008 Championship Off Road Racing Series P2 Championship. On the 15 freeway between Temecula and San Diego with a little bit of time on is hands, McGrath rang us up to let us in on his best laid plans.

Racer X: Jeremy, what made you leave the asphalt wrinkling NASCAR Late Model world in you rearview mirror?
Jeremy McGrath: The way that I look at the Late Model stuff I did is that I enjoyed it. I think I did pretty good for not having a coach or anything. I would just show up and drive. I had limited support and it was all sort of a tryout session. I raced in six races and enjoyed it. The thing I came to realize is that my whole life is in California. I wasn’t going to pick my family up and move to Charlotte to race stock cars. I knew it was going to be a steep learning curve. I also figured out that I wasn’t really looking for a second career. I mean if I was going to travel and put all this time in, I may as well have been racing supercross and making some money. I enjoyed the cars a lot, but geographically, it just didn’t fit in my life.

But CORR has…
Exactly. I knew CORR was what I wanted to do. I had raced before and it came really easy to me. (McGrath placed second in the P2 class at Round 7 of the 2007 CORR series in Antelope Valley, California). Everything that I have earned on my motocross bike I have been able to apply to the CORR truck. A program came together for 2008 and I knew all the races would be on the West Coast. It was an easy choice.

Who will you be driving for?
I’m going to drive for Team Baldwin. I’ll race in the P2 class, which is the two-wheel drive class. It’s going to be my first full-time season and I’m really excited about it. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to get to drive a lot in the next eight or nine weeks and that will give me a lot of seat time before our first race at the end of April. In fact, I’ll start testing next week. My practice truck will be out here in a week. I’ve already proven that I have the potential to do well. I have just had a lack of time in the truck itself and I don’t now the limits of the truck yet. So I’m going to build my own track on some property I have in San Diego and practice at least two days a week. I’m going to go out and use the track and drive as much as I can.

P2 is the most competitive classification on the CORR roster, isn’t it?
P2 is, like, The Class. Comparing the P2 class to the P4 class is not like comparing the 125cc class to the 250cc class in motocross. Yeah, P4 is more truck and the trucks are badass, but P2 is the really competitive class. It’s only February and already 32 trucks are signed-up to race this year.

Is Team Baldwin an elite outfit in the CORR pits?
For sure. We’re like a Hendrick or Roush in NASCAR. We get the A+ stuff. We’ll do anything we can to win. And with the first race two months away and with the truck out here for me to practice with, I’ll have a solid month of practice and testing under my belt. I’ll be a lot better off. In the past I just went to the race and when the races actually started, I was still learning. With all this seat time I’ll be able to get in a good groove.

You make it sound as if a 220-pound motocross bike has a lot in common with a 4200-pound truck. In what ways?
The throttle and the brake are all the same stuff. It’s mostly knowing the lines — knowing smooth lines and the rough lines. Most of the stuff on the truck is exactly like a motocross bike except it’s only wider. It isn’t like the Late Model stock car stuff I did. You don’t wait for the car to come to you. You can really make stuff happen in the truck.

With your motocross background, what may give you an advantage over the truck guys?
Some guys don’t jump so good and some aren’t too good at working the throttle.

Can you win?
I really feel I can win. I don’t feel I’m close to reaching my potential. I want to be in the mix for the championship. I hope I can do it in my first year.

And the word on the street is that you’re going to return to supercross, as well.
Yes. I just signed on to compete in the Moto X World Championship. I’m going to race Supercross and I’ll compete in Step Up. I may also race SuperMoto, but I’m not 100% sure yet. It depends on Honda. I’m not out to race an AMA Supercross. This kind of event is fun and, so far, I’ve done a good job of keeping my face and name out there, so this will be a lot of fun for me. The TV time scheduled for this event is really good. I’ve been riding a bunch of supercross. I’m going to put effort into this. I’m not showing up to just be Jeremy McGrath.

Did you know that Ricky Carmichael has signed up to compete in the ESPN Moto X World Championship Step Up competition?
I did not hear that. That’s interesting. I’m surprised he’d fly all the way out here just to do Step Up.

Is Step Up a difficult discipline to master?
Well, I got my ass handed to me at Summer X! It was weird. I felt good in practice, but with the way they put the bar up, it’s always a crapshoot. I think it takes practice. I don’t know… I’m going to practice. Step Up is an awesome event. It’s something really cool and it’s perfect for TV. Even people that do anything about the sport can tune-in and understand what’s going on. It’s like high jump with motocross bikes.

So, you’re about to begin racing both bikes and trucks. Sounds like you’re coming out of retirement…
I guess so. I’ll be preparing for both of them. I’m really happy about all this. It’ll be a good reason to get in shape and it’ll be good to get back in a routine of working out. All that goes by the wayside when you have no goals. Obviously, sitting around and playing golf and stuff is fun, but after you’ve done it for a couple of weeks in a row, it gets old quick. It’ll be great to be focused again.