Monday Conversation II: Damon Bradshaw

Many times touted as the fastest rider never to win an AMA National title, the legendary Damon Bradshaw made a comeback of sorts at the U.S. Open, dominating a two-person grudge match against former rival Jeff Matiasevich. He trained for only about six weeks for the event, and previous to that hadn’t been on a motocross track in about two and a half years, yet by the U.S. Open, he had faster laptimes than some guys who are regulars in supercross mains. On top of that, it was the first time he had ridden supercross on a four-stroke, as his entire racing career previously was on two-strokes. We sat down with the Beast from the East after his win.

Racer X: You said you’ve been training for this for six weeks. While that seems like a short time, it must’ve seemed pretty long for you with everything else you had going on, didn’t it?

Damon Bradshaw: Yeah, it did. It took me kind of a while to get a bike, and I was kind of getting worried. I was going, “Shit, man, I haven’t been on a bike in two and a half years! Then, when I was on one, I was on it for a short amount of time.” But once I got the bike and got to ride, I was like, “Okay, I’m not as bad as I really thought I was going to be.” So, everything just came together, and I actually didn’t feel too bad for only riding a month and a few weeks. Then, you think, “Well, if I keep riding, will I get better or just maintain where I’m at?” It was a lot of fun getting ready for it.

It seemed like there was even a pretty big difference between last night and tonight as far as your speed is concerned. Did it feel like that to you?
It did. I didn’t feel that good in practice – it was sticky and since I hadn’t been riding, I was kind of stiff after last night. So, I didn’t feel that well in practice, but in the race, I felt really good. I’ve noticed on the tracks I’ve been riding that every time I go out, I try something different, and it’s not something that I used to do a long time ago, it’s just with it being a four-stroke and all of that, that I would find something that works here or there that would make me a little faster. I was even figuring that out tonight in three laps. It’s weird how some stuff comes back, but then there’s some new stuff because it’s a new bike.

So you sound like you were legitimately nervous about this race, and about riding in general. Were you?
I was, I was. I think the last time I raced was like 2002 or 2003, and then I tried to come back and ride and broke my leg again my first time out, so I was like, “Okay, that’s it.” I didn’t do anything for several years. I did a little bit of trail riding here and there, but before this deal, I didn’t even have a bike, so I was really worried because, you know, shit, I’m 36 years old. I don’t think that’s old, and I don’t call myself an old man, but being away from a motorcycle, it’s like, “All right, what am I going to feel like?” I was nervous. And then, I was even nervous coming to the race, because any time you’re getting ready for something, there’s the anticipation of what the other guy’s doing, and how well-prepared he’s going to be. I hate to say it, but I thought he [Jeff Matiasevich] would’ve been better prepared than what he was. I don’t know. It was kind of weird for me, really, but I almost got to the point where I felt sorry because either he didn’t have the time, or just the will or the want to go and do it, so it was like, I didn’t even want to talk shit; I just wanted to do the race. I had more fun riding the track than doing the race.

What did you think of your style and how it suits the four-stroke on a track like this?
I hadn’t ever rode a four-stroke on supercross now that I think about it, because in Arenacross, I rode a two-stroke 250, which was probably the best 250 I’d ever rode. But it was definitely different. I was telling Doug [Dubach, who helped Bradshaw out with his bike] that on a two-stroke you would pop the clutch a lot of times just to jump stuff, but with this thing, you don’t have to pop the clutch, you just roll on the throttle, so it took me three or four weeks of riding to where I would finally get to the point where I would just use the throttle instead of the clutch, and it seemed to carburete better when you do that instead of always popping it so hard. So I was figuring stuff like that out last night and tonight, and I’m still learning. You never quit learning.

How much did you miss it in the last couple of years?
You know? When you go out and you feel good kind of like I did tonight in the race... I missed riding, period. In the beginning, I didn’t miss the supercross stuff, like going out two weeks ago and riding supercross. I was like, “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” because the track I was riding on was ten times tougher than this one, and there were still some rhythm sections that I just didn’t do, because I was like, “You know what? I don’t need to do that.” I would just do the ones I was comfortable with, and I didn’t want to get hurt, because we had already planned this deal, and if I would’ve hurt a knee or a wrist or something and it doesn’t happen, it’s going to be stupid. I took it real easy and took it smart, and I didn’t push it, and I’m glad I did it that way, because it all worked out.
Now that you’ve done it, though, do you have the itch again?

I don’t know what I would want to do. The thing is, if I don’t feel like I could be a part of the race, I don’t want to be involved, and I don’t know what you would call being part of the race anymore. I mean, obviously, the top five guys or even the top ten guys, or whatever that number is, I wouldn’t say they’re light years ahead – I mean, the top five guys for sure are – but it’s easy to wonder in the back of your mind where you would go. But then again, you also think to yourself, “You know, I really like being healthy.” I was talking to a kid out here a little bit ago, and he said, “Hey, I’m going to Germany to race a few supercrosses. Why don’t you go?” That could be something that would be kind of fun, to go over and make some money and have the people appreciate it, it would be fun. It’s like this deal; I was able to put together a couple of little deals to come and do it, and I don’t get that opportunity very much anymore with motorcycles, so that was pretty cool.

What about the possibility of maybe doing Loretta Lynn’s again?
Those guys have called me about coming there, and with my Monster Jam stuff... I wanted to go to Mt. Morris this year, but I was in Europe that whole month, and at Steel City I was gone. My schedule with the Monster Truck stuff conflicts with a lot of that, and I really like doing that, so I didn’t want to jeopardize that to go ride a motorcycle. I even thought about that racing here because I’ve got a show in a couple of weekends in Barcelona, and I’m thinking, “I can’t get hurt. I’ve got to go do my other job.”

Your mechanic raced Loretta’s last year...
Yeah, that’s right, Doctor D. I don’t know if I want to go race against that old sucker. He still hauls ass. It would actually be fun because we used to ride together so much in supercross and outdoors, and I know how he rides, and I trust the way he rides, so we could really get close to one another. We used to do a ton of testing and practicing like that, so it would actually be fun. I’m not quite as old as he is yet, so I’m sure he could still come down and ride one of my younger classes [laughs].

Do you think he’d drop a class to spite you?
I’m sure he would, and I know I’d have to work my ass off for it, so... But it would be fun to go back and race with him. We had a lot of good memories as teammates. It was really cool for him to come and bring his motorhome and his trailer and build me a good bike. It worked out really good.