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Monday Conversation I: Chad Reed

San Manuel Yamaha’s Chad Reed is the 2008 Monster Energy/AMA Supercross Champion. Along the way, he broke his hands, he broke his shoulder blade, and he broke the spirits of almost all of his competitors. And perhaps the weirdest twist of all is that as of today, he is officially unemployed. We talked to Reed after he clinched his second AMA Supercross Championship.

Racer X: It had to cross your mind as you caught up to Andrew Short that maybe you should just stay behind him, right?
Chad Reed: I was really, honestly just content to stay in fourth, and then when Davi [Millsaps] went down, I was third, and I was like, “You know what? This will be cool. I’ll just get on the podium and have a chance of holding the number one up.” I didn’t really think about winning until I saw that Kevin [Windham] wasn’t really riding away. I didn’t know what he was doing, or what his gameplan was, but I felt really confident from the Heat that I had a lot more speed than him. It seemed like any time, I could just pull up right alongside of him, and I was stronger in the whoops. Then we made some changes to the bike to make it easier on me, and I just came out in the main event and knew I could ride a fast pace if I had to. Shorty [Andrew Short], I really didn’t know what to do. I was like, “Should I sit behind him? Should I not?” We were kind of fluctuating with Kevin, and I knew the pace was really slow, so I was just like, “Do I ride this thing out? Or do I go for a win?” I just tried to put myself in a position where he couldn’t take a shot back at me, and I put my head down and started chipping away at Kevin. Then he made a big mistake before the finish line, and I basically just jumped right back up on him. All respect to him, he’s rode an awesome season, and the last two races, he’s been really, really strong, but tonight I just felt that it was Kevin from old. He wasn’t aggressive, he just seemed like maybe he was a little deflated that I wasn’t in seventh or something like that. I don’t know. But he just didn’t seem like his normal self from 2008.

This is now the longest gap between two championships for one guy in the history of supercross – the four years from 2004 to 2008. What does it say about you that you have this kind of staying power? You were second or third every season, basically, so it’s not like you fell off the map for those few years...
I was second, and then I tied with James for second... But either way you look at it, I was third (laughs). Dang it! I just think that, what I’m about to say, people take it the wrong way, but I know where I stand. I know my competitors. I know where they’re strong. I know where they’re weak. People take that wrong, but it is what it is. I call a spade a spade. That’s it. Coming into the season, I knew I could be strong, and I knew that it was a race between James [Stewart] and I, and Kevin – I never underestimate Kevin – and even Red Dog [Timmy Ferry]. I’m probably more surprised that Davi [Millsaps] stepped up and won, and Josh [Hill] stepping up to win. Kevin’s amazing. He’s one of the four guys that have won races in almost the last 10 years, up until the two kids this year. I mean, it’s either been RC [Ricky Carmichael], me or James, or Kevin. I don’t count him out. But once James went out, the season got really tough. I think I lost focus. Winning became really easy.

Because you were focused previously on that adversary in James Stewart, right?

Yeah, I mean, you’ve got your head down, you’re working your butt off... You’re not thinking about him, but you know there’s going to be a gnarly battle on the weekend, so that just drives you to a whole new level – week-in and week-out. I was bummed out on my performance in Phoenix, and I was looking forward to getting back out strong at A2, and then he hurt his knee and had to get well so he could salvage the 2008 season in the Nationals. It’s racing, and anything can happen – and it did. I was on a roll, and a lot of people were talking about, “Can he win out?” and I really felt that I could’ve. I felt like I was on a roll, and no one was going to beat me. I just got too content. It was just becoming kind of easy, and I made mistakes. A good friend of mine, RJ [Rick Johnson] just told me some experience that he had when [David] Bailey got hurt and what he went through in his head, and that really helped me a lot. That got me through the rest of the season, really.

What’s funny about the confidence that you show, and saying that a lot of people don’t like it, is that Muhammed Ali would constantly talk about how he had the other fighters covered and whatnot, and he was loved for it.
You go through ups and downs with the whole love and hate. In ’02, Ricky [Carmichael] couldn’t do anything right. He was getting booed all the time, and then people latched onto me in 2003. A lot of people said I reminded them of Jeremy [McGrath], and everybody loved Jeremy, and I don’t know if it was the 22, or the style, or the bike, but I had a lot of fans. I wouldn’t complain for a second, and I wouldn’t say that I’ve been disrespected or anything. People just love you and hate you, and I’ve definitely seen both sides, with me stepping away from the Nationals, and people want to see me and James battle there. I’m not there to do that, and people kind of frown on that, but you’ve got to do what’s best for you. When this is all said and done and you close that chapter of your life, you’ve got to be proud and happy with the decisions you made. I can honestly say that I can walk away and be extremely happy with the decisions I made. Coming back to the National thing, a lot of people questioned whether I was in shape, and at the Motocross of Nations, guys were in fat suits, and I think that’s awesome. I partied my ass off in the summer and had a great time and lived my life to the fullest.

And it’s not like you got smoked at the Budds Creek National...

If people knew how much I rode before I went out and got third at Budds Creek... I got a second in the first moto at the Motocross of Nations, and then broke a bike in the second moto. It just comes down to knowing your competitors and knowing what they do, what their weaknesses and strengths are. People take that the wrong way.

Now that you’ve got this championship done, is it more of a relief, or something that drives you even more for next year?

Next year’s a long way away, and there’s a lot of stuff that needs to happen between now and then. Right now, I’m unemployed, and pretty much a bum, so I’m lucky I’ve got this championship to get me through.

Yeah, that little bonus might be able to stretch through the summer...

Yeah, that bonus is nice! But I want to put my head down and just enjoy the experience. It’s been a rough season, and there have been a lot of ups and downs.

It seems like you can’t take it the easy way, though. Almost every season, you come in hurt, and you set up obstacles that you probably don’t need.

I don’t know what’s up with the shoulders... Anybody who ever questions how hurt I was in Detroit, man, take it back, because it was gnarly. I was really scared. I had a lot of blood coming, and I went to the hospital and got hooked up to a bunch of machines and got tests done. I broke my scapula – I swear on my mom and dad’s lives – and it was gnarly. I’m a lot better now, but I still had to be careful, and it’s the experience. I’ve been there before, unfortunately. I broke my scapula before, and I knew that I needed to get through those first two weekends, and then I’d be a lot stronger. Yeah, it still hurts today, but you know what? It doesn’t hurt right now. The pains gone from within. I just want to thank everybody. Hat’s off to Kevin – he rode an amazing season, and the best one that I’ve ever seen him ride...

I’m sorry to interrupt you, but you were talking about being a bum, and it just occurred to me: Are you saying that you might not show up to race next year and try to defend your title?

There’s always a possibility. You never count anything out. I’m motivated, and I’m feeling good on the bike, and enjoying riding, but who knows? I have a huge passion for cars, and I definitely want to transition that way whether it’s here in the U.S. or back home in Australia. With the ups and downs, and what I’ve experienced, it really made me realize that this sport isn’t my life. It’s been my life for so long, and I’ve lived for it, and I know that there are always going to be people who love you and who hate you, but I can honestly say that I don’t live my life for motocross. I do it because I love it and I enjoy riding, and working hard and training is something that I have a passion for. It’s not something that I need to really push myself for, and I think that’s the difference. You either have it inside you or you don’t. But when I’m at home, hanging out and riding jet skis, I don’t feel guilty that I’m not at the Nationals anymore. Last year, I honestly thought I was being a little run down by people who didn’t know why I chose to step away. This year, I don’t feel it at all. I’m ready to go and have a great time, and get well, and get happy, and maybe do some Nationals at the end and get ready to represent my green and gold colors at the Motocross of Nations. 

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