5 Minutes with ... Heath Voss

“I really love supercross,” says Heath Voss. “It’s the king of all motorsports. I love the challenge. It gives me a purpose to get up every day. It can be kind of tough, but would I rather be sitting in a cubicle with no window?”
       Heath didn’t have to answer his own question. Heath Voss has been at supercross since 1996. And along the way he has come full circle, riding as a full on privateer (Team Great Lakes Aviation), a support rider (Mach 1 Yamaha) and a factory rider (Team Yamaha). In 2007, Voss went back to being a privateer. And in 2008, while still being a privateer (working with the Wonder Warthog team), Voss has the unique pleasure of being sponsored by two very cool entities: MasterCraft ski boats and the U.S. Air Force — both sponsors Voss found and has cultivated himself. T
       he 2008 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series has been replete with ups-and-downs for Voss. Bouncing back from a bad crash at Anaheim III has taken longer than he thought, but a recent sixth at
Creature From the Black Lagoon-like Daytona Supercross has seen him move up the AMA scoring sheets and into a position to make a run at being the top privateer in the ’08 series. A few days short of his hometown supercross in Minnesota, Racer X spoke with ever friendly, upbeat Voss.

Racer X: Heath, what do you have going today?
Heath Voss: Well, just before you caught me, I was heading back out to do some more riding. It’s perfect here today, so I’ve been riding supercross all day.

After your bad crash at Anaheim III, how have you been feeling?
The last five weeks have bee really tough. I was knocked out for three or four minutes at Anaheim. At first I thought I was all right, but I ended up separating my clavicle from my sternum. I hurt myself pretty bad. I used to pride myself on the number of push-ups I could do, but now I have to do them on my knees because my shoulder is so bruised up. I also bruised my brain. I feel terrible, still. I even got strep throat before Indy. I’ve been sleeping a lot. It’s been boring.

We heard you were feeling so bad before Daytona that you almost turned around and went home…
I wasn’t going to go to the race, but I went to the doctor and he gave me a shot of antibiotics and the swelling in my throat went down. I went to the race, but had no energy. It’s been really disappointing. I really enjoy training and I take pride in training hard. I felt really good and really strong before I got hurt, so it’s disappointing I that can’t do the things I feel I can do right now.

Craig Rood of No Fear told me that before the main event at Daytona you told him riding mud races wasn’t that difficult and that you just had to hang on looser…
Well, I don’t remember saying that. He was standing with me behind the starting gate under an umbrella because it was pouring. I know I did walk up to Ryan Dungey and said: “enjoy it while you can. Riding a factory bike in this stuff makes life a lot easier.” When I was a kid, I used to see what kind of hills I could climb and things like that. Before that race in Daytona, I was like, “I’m going to see what I can do here.” After they had dug out the course all the holes that were there were filled with water. I didn’t know what was going to happen. When you’re on a factory bike, you can go out and destroy it and go home and not worry about it. In my heat race I got a great start and was in second or third and went over this jump and into a corner and the front end washed out. I fell and went COMPLETELY under water.

Even your head went under?
Yes! I’ve water skied most of my life and I have never gotten that wet. After the race my bike was destroyed. We had to redo the throttle and go over the entire bike to get the water and muck out of it.

You placed an excellent sixth in the main. How did the race go for you?
I didn’t really know where I was at during the race. People were everywhere and getting stuck. I didn’t get the greatest start and was out there in my own little world. I just knew I didn’t want to get stuck. I knew to gas it through everything and to get the front wheel up and over the waterholes. I knew the bike would not keep running if I got water in it. On the last lap I crashed in a rut at the finish line. There was a Honda billboard there and I got stuck between the board and the jump. I got stuck and went form fourth place to sixth place.

Were you still pleased with the result?
Yeah, I was real happy with myself. Mentally, I was 100 percent happy because I had made good decisions. The result didn’t matter too me, but I was disappointed that my pile up on the last lap cost me fourth. But, I did as best as I could.

You’re thirteenth in the 2008 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship point standings and certainly in the hunt to be the first privateer. Despite the injury, a good season for you?
Well, I’m just 20 points behind [Paul] Carpenter. In my heat race at Anaheim III, I was riding the best I had in three years (Note: Voss finished a close fourth behind Mike Alessi). I was doing better and getting the results. Then I got knocked out in the main and that really set me back. Afterward, mentally, I really hit a low point. With all the training and hard work I have done, I can win that privateer deal. I mean that was definitely the goal going into the season.

The Wonder Warthog organization you’re on the road with has really grown into an impressive effort. Has working with them in 2008 been a good experience?
The Wonder Warthog guys are really good people. I really enjoy working with them and they definitely have a pretty cool program. I see them as the backbone of the sport. The way I look at it is if Scott Kandel and Jon Kandel can help a guy who is working hard get a better result at a certain race, they’ll try and help him out. They want to see guys have a good time and enjoy the races.

Heath, you’ve worked hard to seek out and find some greats sponsors in MasterCraft Boats and the U.S Air Force. Are things going well with them?
They’re all really good people. I used to compete in water-ski tournaments and always had MasterCraft boats in front of me. I see them as the Ferrari of ski boats. I’ve had a relationship with them for four or five years and it’s built into a great relationship. They have a great reputation and representing them means a lot to me. And with the Air Force, I’m real good friends with a couple of colonels. Every weekend I do a track walk with MasterCraft people and we’ll always take a along some Air Force personnel.

So are the Air Force people supercross fans?
Oh yeah! All the fighter pilots are. I mean all the people who like the planes and mechanical stuff love supercross. They see it as the king of motorsports. I have a great, great program. If I can get a little better results, it’ll all be perfect.

You were born and raised in Minnesota. Are you excited to compete in your home race in the Metrodome this Saturday night?
I’m pretty excited. It’s a huge family deal for us and we’ll have a couple suites. It’s like a holiday for us. And then on Sunday we’ll all get together for a big lunch.

What’s your goal for the Minneapolis round?
Right now, if I can ride at the races like I do in practice and get a good start, I’d like to be in the top five.

Word has it that you’ll compete at the ESPN Moto X World Championships on April 12-13 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
Yeah, I want to race SuperMoto and Moto X, but the SuperMoto race is on Saturday, so I’ll most likely just compete in Moto X Racing. (Note: Voss will compete in the Detroit Supercross on Saturday night, April 12 before taking a red eye flight to San Diego).

Will you compete in the Nationals this summer?
I’d like to do the outdoors. I’m trying to get together a deal to race the whole season. A lot of teams are up in the air right now because the costs are pretty high.

Well, Heath, best of luck in Minneapolis and good luck at making a run at being the top privateer…
Thanks, Eric. I’ll get it. I’ll get it. I’ve been doing so good at everything and the bike is so good, I just expect a lot more out of myself. At San Francisco and Anaheim III I was going around David Vuillemin like he was standing still. Then at Indy, after I got hurt, David would go by me like I was standing still. Being hurt and sick has been disappointing. I’d like to be all ripped and feeling bad ass where I could tumble down concrete and be fine instead of worrying about landing on my shoulder or hitting my head and pussyfooting around. But I’ll get there.