5 Minutes with...Kevin Windham

“We need to catch up on a few things,” said Kevin Windham while walking into the entrance of the MGM Grand Garden Arena for the opening night of the 2008 Rockstar Energy U.S. Open. He had it right. Nobody had heard much or seen much of the 2008 AMA Supercross series runner-up as he had gone into hiatus mode following the final supercross of 2008 in Las Vegas last May. While word out of Centreville, Mississippi, in early spring had Windham interested in competing in hand-picked, if not all, the AMA Toyota Motocross Nationals in 2008, a program never manifested itself and the 14-year veteran of American motocross and supercross ultimately wound up sitting the summer out. Yet here he was in Las Vegas, though not to race against Stewart, Reed, Dungey, Short and others. Instead, he was there to dot the i’s, cross the t’s and put ink to paper on a new multi-year deal forged by Honda and the GEICO Powersports race team. Happy to have the deal done and now poised to begin testing in earnest for the 2009 AMA Supercross Series, Windham sat down with Racer X on Tuesday afternoon and the 30-year-old set us straight on just what he’ll have going on in 2009 and beyond.

Racer X: Kevin, did you make it out of Las Vegas in one piece?
Kevin Windham: Yeah, I made it out of Vegas perfectly even. Nothing gained and nothing lost.

  • Dottie and Kevin Windham
Okay, we saw you over there, but what actually brought you out to Las Vegas?
First, I was interested in the race. It was a race I wanted to do, but it wasn’t in the cards. It took a little longer to get our deals done and they were actually coming together pretty much that weekend, so it was a pretty good time for us to meet with everybody and get a lot of our stuff done and behind us and start moving on and getting ready for 2009 supercross.

Real quickly, what did you think of the racing in Las Vegas, and in particular, what did you think of Reed and Stewart on their new bikes?
It’s hard to tell from the MGM because, obviously, it’s a lot different than then what we’re going to be racing on. But I think that Stewart and Reed are very talented riders and are going to be good on anything they ride. I was really impressed with [Andrew] Short on night one, as he was able to keep up with Chad. I was also impressed with Chad being able to keep Bubba at bay on night two until he made the crash. James was doing one section on the track a little bit different than the other guys, but still, I think they were all pretty competitive. That’s good. I think the sport needs that and hopefully I fit somewhere right up there in that mix.

It’s pretty quiet on your front since the end of the SX series. Were you actually interested in doing the nationals in some capacity over the summer?
Yeah, I was, but it just got to a point where things didn’t come together. The testing hadn’t been done and it was just going to be too much just to go do one race. I didn’t want to go out there on a bike I hadn’t tested. I felt that jumping into a series at mid-season was going to be really tough and there wasn’t any point in going out and doing it if I couldn’t put my best foot forward. I was off a lot this year. It was kind of what I wanted to do, to be honest with you. I wanted to see how much I liked it and I think that next year I’ll probably be looking at doing more races. I know they’re changing things around for that schedule and stuff. I’m interested in everything at that this point, but it’s too early to make a call on what we’re doing this year.

So, did you get your Honda deal done and if so, how did it all go?
Yeah, it’s all done. It was tough this year to get things done. The economy has just been a wreck right now and people are really uncertain of the future. Really, we weren’t hanging up on money, but more on longevity. I wanted to get this thing done and behind me and be able to move forward with the team. We were able to get that done, so it feels great. I wanted the deal for longevity. I want to be where I am at. I want to quit having to worry about this year after year and wondering where I’m going and what’s going on. My team has worked really well with me and I’m happy with my environment, so we wanted to get it behind us. I still want to be with GEICO Powersports and Factory Connection and Honda. I’m excited about it, you know? It’s a new bike this year, but a lot of people are doing a lot of changing and a lot of moving around and I feel really comfortable and confident where I’m at and being able to forward from this point and being ready for 2009.

  • Windham has re-signed with the GEICO Powersports Honda team for 2009 and beyond
Can you tell us a little about your new deal and how it’s structured?
It’s a multi-year deal and with extensions and everything and it’s going to reach us out to three years. We were trying to work on all that. We worked on some extensions and some performance-based things and we were able to move forward for a longer period of time in these uncertain times with everything. They stood behind me and we’re moving forward. So, yeah, parts of the contract are upwards of three years.

Will you have a teammate or is it still too early to tell?
Well, I know they were really focused on trying to get my deal done. I know that there is some potential for a teammate if we can maybe land another sponsor, but right now it’s going to be tough with the added expense of more personnel and more trucks and more riders and all that stuff. I think it would be tough to try and do that right now. I try not to really get involved with that side of it on what our team is doing. At this point, I’m getting my deal done. But at times this year, as I was getting really close to having the championship come my way, it would have been really nice to have some help and have a teammate. I think there are certain aspects and parts of the sport that are conducive to having a teammate. I think it would be nice. And as I get older and older and I have this three-year deal, they really need to start thinking about who is next. Who is after me? Who is going to fill my spot as I slide into the [Mike] LaRocco spot? Who is going to be after me? That is something they should start thinking about in the years to come.

Have you been on the bike much?
I just started riding this week. I went straight from the MGM out to California. I’ve been at home and riding a little bit on the 2008, but that’s obviously a thing of the past, so at this point we’ve kind of tucked that away and started moving to the future. We know we’re going to be racing a 2009 bike and it’s a new bike, so we need to start really focusing. It’s a ground-up change to the 2009 Honda and we’re up to the challenge, so from here on it’s all systems go and being focused on doing what we need to do to insure that we’re race-ready come January.

Will you be competing in the Paris-Bercy Supercross on November 7-9, 2008?
Yes, we are planning to do Paris-Bercy.

Do you feel you have enough time to be ready both physically and mentally for Anaheim come January and do you feel that you have enough time to have your machinery sorted-out for the race?
Yeah, we’ll be ready. I’m not worried about that at all. In fact I’ve been training for some time now. I want to polish up a little bit and be ready for Anaheim in January. I feel that we're where we need to be and I feel like I’m where I need to be. Time is on my side. I’m not fighting it and I’m not against it. And as far as the testing goes, I know they’ll give me something that’s more than capable of being able to win. These guys at our shop are incredible. They never sleep and they never quit thinking of ways to make the bike better. Their job is never done, but Irest assured knowing that we’ll be ready to race and they’ll have something for me that can win come January.

At the press conference before the opening round at Anaheim last January we did an interview together. During it you mentioned that you were surprised that not many people had talked with you at the function — kind of like it was as if everyone had already counted you out of it. However, you started the season off with a fifth-place finish. A week later you really caught fire and started reeling off a series of top three finishes. How did you feel about your 2008 supercross season? Did you feel good right from the start?
Yeah, I don’t know if you recall that fifth, but it was one of my worst performances, and it was done with going down in the first turn, so I was really excited with the way the way the year started out. And when I look back on 2007 and it really wasn’t that good, so I can understand where people were coming from. In our sport, you’re only as good as your last race. I want to ride that momentum right now. I really feel that I was onto something good last year. A few more minor things and a few minor details and I possibly could have been the champion. I got a lot of hope from that. I hope to be a serious threat this year. It was awesome. It was a great time last year. The biggest thing for me was to regain my consistency. 2007 was the best consistency I ever had. It paid off. We were there in the end. I had some amazing support from sponsors and fans and it was great. It was one of the best years of my life.

How did it feel to win again? You won four races in 2008…
It was unbelievable. So much work goes into it. So many hours go into trying to win and that’s basically why anybody does this. And when you’re not winning, it gets to feeling like work real quick because so many people put so much time and effort in. So when I win, it’s for so many people and I feel the excitement of everyone involved. I also feel the excitement of the crowd and the fans and all that. When you put all that together, it’s an amazing feeling.

In 1994, you were named the AMA Motocross Rookie of the Year. It’s now 14 years later. Do you feel as fast and strong as you ever have?
I do. Riding today, I really feel like I'm in a good position. Things are well and I’m motivated. I’ve had time off and my batteries are recharged. I think I’m really at that really happy medium where, yeah, I’m older than most of my competition, but my priorities have changed with what I want to do in life. I’m very clear on that and I think I’m walking the fine line of experience and wisdom while I still have the enthusiasm and ambition for what I’m doing, so when all these things come together I feel like that’s a good thing for me. I’m not over the hill yet. Don’t count me out.

What’s your goal this year?
I’d like to continue my consistency. I’d like to get top fives and podiums, really. And I think to win six races right now would definitely be a fair share. I mean there are obviously five people — give or take a few more — that should be able to win races. If I could sneak away with six of them that would certainly be above average. The biggest thing is consistency. You need to get out of the gate, get a good start and try to find that box. Other than that it would be really cool to win six races. That would be more races that I’d ever won in a single year in my career.

As far as your personal sponsors such as clothing or helmets or goggles or boots, are all your sponsorship deals done?
There are going to be some considerable changes in my look for next year, but none of that is completely finalized at this point. We wanted to get the big ones behind us and start to work on the rest of the stuff. But, yeah, there will be some changes for me for sure in 2009.

And as far as the outdoor nationals and racing after supercross in 2009, do you know what you want to do yet?
Yeah, somewhere different from where I was this year and where I was in 2007. I learned some things that I liked and I learned some things about my family that I didn’t know about to this point. It’s been a very positive off-season for me and my family, but at the same time, I feel like I can stand to do a little bit more racing. We’ll see how it goes. I’m totally respectful of the fans’ concerns of wanting people to not turn their backs on the outdoors. But then there is the family requirements and everything, so… I understand that they’re trying to make changes to the nationals and make it more appealing for us and I appreciate that. At this point, it’s a consideration. The first thing I want to do is get everything done for supercross and start moving forward on that and then readdress the national situation as we get a little bit closer.
At the end of the 2007 season you almost retired. Now you have a new three-year deal in front of you. Do you feel good about everything?
Yeah, I feel that I’m right where I need to be. I think that in 2007 I kind of lost sight of being able to do what I wanted to do and now I feel like I’m in a position mentally and physically, and I’m working with Dr. Jeff Spencer and everything, that it’s all brought me to another level. That’s the biggest difference. If you give yourself a chance, this is the best job in the world. If you’re not giving yourself a chance, it can quite possibly be the worst job. I’m happy where I am at. I can’t see myself doing anything else. I’m not going to leave just yet, man. I love what I do and it was a lot of fun this year and to lose that part of my life would be tough.

Okay, Kevin, great to see you and thanks for your time.
Thanks, E.J. We’ll see you soon.