Racer X: So it seemed like everything was going your way out there. You were out front, and Chad Reed was down in the first turn, then what happened? Kevin Windham: Well, man, I heard the crowd cheering, and I was like, “Man, this is great! They’re really into the big ol’ one-four.” Then, the next thing I know, I go over the triple and I see Chad dusting himself off. I was like, “Holy crap! This is what I’ve been wanting and needing. There are endless possibilities. Am I going to come out of here down by two or three, or a push, or what? What’s going to happen?! How bad did he go down? How bad’s his shoulder?”
So all of this is running through your head, and you’re still pulling away?
Well, yeah! I mean, once you start riding, it’s autopilot. I mean, when people talk to me about winning a race, sometimes they’re talking about ’98, or ’96, or stuff like that, so I’ve been doing it long enough that, yeah, it’s kind of like autopilot now.
But then I got a little close to the side... That was a track where with all of the rocks, sometimes you get a little offline and you had to sort of ride from bale to bale, and that’s what I was doing, but I kind of got a little too close to the bales, and the thing sucked up into my rear wheel, and as I was coming out into the first rhythm section, the thing just completely bogged, and I almost killed myself. It didn’t kill the engine, but I just had the presence of mind that I knew there was know way that I could ride with that thing in my rear wheel. I was just like, “I’ve got to try to get this thing out. That’s my only shot.” I was kind of surprised that I had the presence of mind to do that, to be honest with you. I stopped, got off the bike, worked the thing out.
I was really thinking, “Man, this might be the whole championship. What if I can’t get this thing out of my rear wheel?” It was just two extremes of emotion in four laps, and then to get back after it again, I was wondering, “Can I catch these guys? [Timmy] Ferry’s up there, and there are two Hondas up front, so I’m stoked about that.” I figured if I could get into position, it would be nice to Honda-sweep it and put some bikes between me and Chad. But I had a lot of things that I needed to accomplish before I got to that point.
As I was going, I was looking at Chad, and I was watching him pick them off one by one, and it was a bummer. These three-point weekends, they’re not going to get it for me. You do the math, and we’d need like a 25-race series (laughs). It just isn’t working right now.
I don’t know. It’s been fun. It’s been a great ride.
But you’re doing your job, it’s just that Chad isn’t cooperating.
I am, and tonight wasn’t BS. I want the championship, and tonight was probably one of the best opportunities to get it. But tonight was one of those nights that this is what racing is about. It was a great night of racing, and I could really hear the fans and I could feel the fans, and I think this is a race that’s going to be talked about for some time – both with Chad coming through the pack, and that bale. I mean, when was the last time you saw somebody come back to win a race after getting off and digging a bale out of his rear wheel? It was a crazy race, and fun to be a part of.
That might have been the most aggressive ride I’ve seen you have in years.
I had one thought – I didn’t think about lappers, I didn’t think about the competition that was in front of me – I just wanted to get to the front. I didn’t know if I could do it, and I didn’t really care, I just knew that’s what I had to do, and that’s what I wanted to do, and I was going to give it my all. I really didn’t put any thought into what was going on. I just kept plugging away, and I got closer and closer, and I was like, “Man, this thing can happen.”
Does it bum you out a little bit that maybe if you didn’t have to pull off with the haybale cover in your rear wheel, that maybe Andrew Short and Davi Millsaps could’ve latched onto your lines and maybe stayed ahead of Reed?
Oh yeah. What can I get? A meteorite falling on him? I don’t know... Something to slow him down! (Laughs.) Yeah, of course, I want as many people between him and I... I want 10 points! Actually, I need 11 points, because he’s won more races. So I need 11 points. How I get them, I’ll be honest, I don’t really care at this point! (Laughs.) I don’t wish anything bad on Chad, and I really wanted to bury the hatchet tonight, and I pulled over to say, “Good ride. Dude, you came from last to second, and that’s a great ride by any measure,” but apparently he was ticked off about how many Hondas were up in the front, and thinking there were team tactics going. I’m like, “Dude, you got second.”
Shorty did torpedo him pretty hard on the last lap, though.
Did he? Not hard enough, I don’t guess. (Laughs.) You know, I’m joking. I’m just joking in my sadness. It’s a great opportunity for me to try to get this thing done, and it just doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. But there’s a chance, and as long as there’s a chance, we’ll go to Vegas and we’ll fight it out. It’s been nice either way.
Well, with you winning Vegas, and him getting seventh or worse, you win the title. That’s the math.
Has he done that yet? Finished seventh?
Yeah, a couple of times. After he was penalized in Daytona, he was credited with seventh, and a week after that in Minneapolis, when he went down in the whoops and was sick, he got seventh there, too.
Well, good deal then! Let’s go! I’m ready! Let’s go to Vegas right now. I’m ready right now. Let’s go.
Do you have a rabbit’s foot or anything that I can borrow?
No way. I’m an impartial journalist, plus I’m not the luckiest guy around.
Hey, it’s been fun. It’s been a lot of fun. I’m able to joke about it now, but if I come up short, it’s going to be tough to stomach in Vegas. But what the hell? It’s way better than my ’07 season, and I really appreciate my team and my sponsors and my fans for appreciating what I needed to do this year in order to focus and not do the outdoors. I’m going to do some, I’d imagine, and I’m working on getting that done right now, but a lot of people wanted to know why I had to do it, and I told them why: I was really unhappy with my racing, and unhappy with where I was in life. To do this, it’s been a pleasure, and to be honest with you, I’m 16 races in, going into the 17th, and I’m chomping at the bit to get there. That’s a great feeling, and that’s what everyone deserves, from a local rider to a guy like me; you deserve to enjoy what you’re doing, and I appreciate everyone for helping me to achieve that goal. It’s been a lot of fun. I’m on Cloud Nine. I’ve got a lot of years left ahead of me, I think, and Jeff Spencer’s been working hard with me, and he’s got me believing that 30’s the new 20. Onward and upward from here, you know?