Last season wasn’t very kind to 1999 Supercross West Coast Lites Champ Nathan Ramsey. Early struggles in Supercross, coupled with his season-ending crash (breaking both wrists) had the likeable 33-year-old seriously considering retirement. Yet with the support of family and friends, Nate Dawg decided he was not done. Now having a great season, and currently just outside the top five in points, I caught up with the 2002 Pontiac Supercross winner in the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Yamaha pits to see what’s up.
San Manuel Yamaha's Nathan Ramsey.
Nathan Ramsey: You know Jim, it’s been pretty fun for me. I didn’t really even know if I was going to be here this year. I showed up at Anaheim and just slowly have been trying to get faster, and more confident. Each race seems to bring a little bit more of that, and I feel like I’m climbing in the right direction and that I’ve got more to go – so I’m excited! I just want to continue to get good starts; by getting good starts, and putting in the time during the week, it will begin to show on the weekends.
San Manuel Yamaha's Nathan Ramsey.
How close were you to calling it quits?
I definitely was considering not racing. I just didn’t know if I could physically ride. My wrists were really sore when I first began trying to ride. It just didn’t seem possible that I could continue. I had a couple of numb fingers that I didn’t think were going to go away. So I was just thinking, “Man, I don’t think I’m really going to have a choice here.” It was tough to be faced with that, and getting to the point where I’m thinking, “Okay, what am I going to do now? What career do I want after motocross?” But I gave it some more time, listened to my family and friends, and respected the injury. I’m an older rider, so I know you have to be patient, but still, as a racer and as a competitor, you feel like, “Man I’m losing so much ground.” It really forced me to build into the season the way that I should, rather than being head-over-heels during the off-season. Now, I’ve really had a good upslope into the season. My goal this year is just to make it to every round, and hopefully build from that the whole way.
Definitely, it’s the recovery thing that you have to respect. There are definitely some positives with being older, like learning, and having experience. But at the same time, it’s all about having the right recovery. The older I get the longer it takes me to recover, so I’ve got to be smarter to be ready on the weekends. What counts is the weekend. It doesn’t matter if I’m the fastest guy during the week. My trainer, Jeff Spencer, is definitely a guru here. He’s kind of the king of that domain, and he’s taught me a lot. We continue to work together every week, and try to make the best decisions to put me at my best level of competition for the weekends.
You mentioned that your goal is “to make it through every round.” But you took fifth in Atlanta, and you’re currently sixth in points – does this change your goal?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that once you start doing better, you start expecting more of yourself. But this is one of those moments where I must use my experience, and try to just stay focused on really what matters, and that’s getting good starts, riding the way I can, and making it through every race. If I can do that, then I believe that things will work out well. It’s when I start reaching for things a little too early, or maybe thinking that I should be doing better; when things could end up badly. Maybe a certain track doesn’t fit me, and I go out on a limb, away from my comfort level; that’s what you don’t want to happen. I think I’ve been through enough in my career to learn that you know you’ve got to respect the process. Obviously, every time I’m on the track I’m giving it 100 percent, but at the same time I want to use my head, and be smart to get through the season.
Everybody’s been cool, and it’s really neat. I appreciate your words saying that I am a nice guy and all that; that’s really cool to say. You know, I want to be the guy that everybody looks at as always happy. I’ve got God in my life, who I believe is number one, and I want it to show through when I’m either on or off the track. I believe everybody thought, “Oh man, I’m surprised he’s coming back,” and “What’s going to happen?” I don’t think anybody would wish any bad things on me, but were maybe kind of concerned. Now that things have been going pretty well, it seems like everyone is genuinely happy for me – that makes me feel good. When even your competitors are pretty happy that you can get up there and race, you know that you’ve given a little back to the sport – and been around enough and respected enough by the industry to really fit in and have a place. I feel like that’s my place, and I’m glad to be there.
At this point, what are your thoughts about doing any outdoor nationals? Or, even thinking further ahead, what about 2009?
Definitely all those talks are starting to spark up! I feel like I want to race, but definitely supercross only – I think my outdoor days are done. Motocross was always a bit more of a struggle for me, and I think that if I do want to continue for a couple more years, I’ve got to limit my exposure to certain things. I want to do the stuff that comes natural for me, which is supercross. So, with that being said, I am going to push it, and try to ride another year or so, and see what happens. My plan is that you’ll see me on the supercross track in 2009.
You know what? I never say never! I would have never even guessed that the thought of winning would really run through my head at this point, but the class is pretty open. There are some guys out now, and things can happen – I think it is a possibility. If I end up in that situation I’m obviously going to go for it; try to take it to another level and capitalize on it – just the way that I did in Pontiac in 2002. That was a very memorable and exciting race for me, and something that I’ll never forget, that’s for sure.
Learn more about Nathan Ramsey over at www.sanmanuelracing.com.