Buddy Antunez has been a fixture in American motocross for longer than most young racers have been alive. That includes his current pupil, Nico Izzi, whom Buddy has been training and coaching since earlier this spring. Antunez went from minibike superstar to 125 supercross and national motocross title contender to five-time arenacross champion to team manager to trainer all in a quick thirty-or-so years. But the Bud Man spends most of his free time now watching So You Think You Can Dance.
Racer X: What have you been up to?
Buddy Antunez: Well, I’ve been training kids, mostly. I’m working with Nico Izzi on the pro level and then also working with Nick Paluzzi, Dylan Schmoke, Tristan Miller and Carsten Forbes on the amateur level. I’ve been keeping busy.
You spent the last two years as a team manager for the Rockstar Suzuki satellite team. Were you enjoying that or are you happy to move on?
It was a lot of work, for sure. I thought it was something I could settle into for a few years. The year before that I was working as a trainer with Nathan Ramsey. So, I had left that behind to follow the team manager thing. With the things that happened with the team, I don’t blame Suzuki for what they had to do. It wasn’t a success and moneywise. I don’t think it was adding up for them.
Yeah, I enjoy it. I can work the hours I did when I rode and I don’t have to travel. So, home life is a lot more fun when I can spend time with the family.
So, your wife Shelly basically told you this is what you had to do?
Ha! Come on, Ping, that’s not how it is.
It’s okay, Bud, I’m married too. Are you still working with Eli Tomac?
Yeah, I still get together with him a couple times a year when he’s out here or when I go to Colorado. I was out there once this year. I started working with him when he was eight years old. That little sucker is so fast now that it’s fun to watch him evolve.
Pretty soon he’ll be teaching you?
Yeah, he probably already could.
He doesn’t need a lot of training tips; his dad seems to have a pretty good grasp on all that.
No, Johnny is the man on all that stuff. I just work with him on his riding technique. We’ll just work on one or two things specifically when he’s out here. His dad has everything else covered for him. He is a big asset for Eli.
Izzi has been your main guy this year and, coincidentally, he came on strong when you guys started working together.
Yeah, thanks for saying that. We started together in May and it’s been one of those things where we all know he can go fast on a motorcycle. We have just focused on putting together a regimen to put in a solid season together during a long summer.
Do you have a big off-season plan for him?
Yeah, that is going to be our big building block. You can only do so much when a guy is in the middle of the season. If you push him too hard he’ll go backwards. Nicco didn’t have a big fitness base when we got started. We are going to build that base this off-season and round him out a little more.
Have you considered picking up a 450 guy also?
It is something that I would consider. Nico has been really good to me and I wouldn’t do anything that he wasn’t comfortable with. I don’t know if I could do another guy without taking away from him. The two riders would have to click together and do a lot of their training together.
Is he locked in with Suzuki for a while?
Yeah, he’s got a couple more years with them.
Earlier this year my dad’s health took a turn for the worse and I was spending a lot of time taking care of him. He actually moved in with us and it was strange coming full circle like that and taking care of my parents. It wasn’t looking good for him for a while but he has moved in with my sister in Utah and he’s doing a lot better now. Also, my daughter Bailey has been in competitive dance now for a couple years and she is doing great with it. Going to dance competitions is a totally different experience for a motocross racer. I’ve actually enjoyed it. I’ve been going to musical plays with my wife in Hollywood and, surprisingly, I like it. My little boy just turned seven and he’s into soccer now. One thing you learn when they grow up is that it’s not about you anymore... It’s about the kids.
Are you going to teach Boston to ride?
He rides a little bit. I took him to 80 night a couple weeks ago and while he was out riding some kid crashed pretty hard and was laying on the track. Boston called me over to him and he said,
“See that kid over there, Daddy? That’s why I don’t want to race motorcycles.” So, he’s smarter than I was when I was his age. I would love to go riding with him some day out in the hills or at Ocotillo Wells or something. That’s all I want out of it.
In the meantime you’ll get to watch lots of Stomp the Yard and stuff like that?
Step Up, Step Up 2 and all of them; we’re big So You Think You Can Dance fans.
Have you been riding lately?
I just rode on Friday. I need to ride some more, though. I get mad when I get on the bike and I can’t make it do what I want it to do. Now that I have some amateur kids I’m thinking about doing Loretta Lynn’s next year. I think I’ve got something for the Plus 35 class now, Ping.
It’s all you, Bud Man. Maybe you can help us with our shootouts now too.
Yeah, those are always a blast. Let me know.
How are your love handles? Flabbier than mine?
Yeah, they fluctuate a lot. I’m still eating ice cream at night and I don’t think I’ll ever stop. I’ll get on the road bike a bunch with Nicco this fall and it’ll come off. I hope.