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Between the Motos: Josh Hansen

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In the month that followed his Gold Medal-winning performance in the Summer X Games 14 Moto X Racing main event, a number of rumors swirled around Josh Hansen and just whom he’d be riding for in 2009. For not only had the X Games result been something of a shock to the U.S. motocross system, to a certain degree, it also helped breathe life back into Hansen’s career, which had, to be perfectly honest, started to flag. Word on the streets and highways of Southern California had Hansen riding for Pro Circuit, Factory Connection and Troy Lee Designs in 2009. However, Hansen managed to do an end-around on everyone when he showed up at the U.S. Open as a member of Carey Hart’s upstart Rockstar Energy/Hart & Huntington team. Certainly more iconoclastic and brazen than your average race team, in the span of just one year, Hart and crew have managed to not only create a full-on, high-end race effort, they’ve also done it their own way, almost redefining what a race team can be in the modern era of American racing. And for these very reasons, Josh Hansen just might be the last part needed to get the team where it really wants to be — up and onto the podium.

Racer X: Josh, what are you up to today?

Josh Hansen: Actually, nothing. I’m just here at the race shop playing a little ping-pong.

So you’re at the Hart & Huntington shop over in Las Vegas?
Yeah, I’m in Vegas right now.

I’ve heard a lot about the shop. How is it?
The shop is cool. It’s a big old building and right now I’m listening to [Team Manager] Kenny Watson run his mouth and talk crap all day. Kenny actually makes most of the race shop. That’s Watson.

So are you living in Las Vegas now?
Yeah, I just got a two-bedroom condo right now and I’m just hanging out. I’m out here and I start with a trainer this coming Monday and I’ll get going. I’ll be going back-and-forth between here and California, but the trainer and everything will be out here.

Okay, the reason why I wanted to speak with you is that I showed up at the U.S. Open on Friday morning, walked into the pits, and there you were standing beneath the Hart & Huntington awning with a H & H hat on. It was a pleasant surprise, as I had no idea that you had joined the team. How did you end up there?
Yeah, the thing is, actually, I don’t think anybody knew. I just showed up there. I did my deal the night before. It was kind of like one of those things that I was going to show up at the race without anyone really knowing about it. That’s the way ended up. I went in there and did my deal the night before the race. It was kind of cool just because we’d been talking about it for a little while and then finally everything made sense and the offer looked really good for me so I ended up doing the deal.

The last time I watched you race was when you won the Summer X Games 14 Moto X Racing Gold Medal. I ran into you the following Monday at Troy Lee Designs and things really appeared to be taking off for you. In fact, not long after, we heard rumors that the Pro Circuit and Factory Connection teams were also interested in obtaining your services for 2009. Did you actually have some people knocking on your door?
Yeah, actually, you know, I was really pushing on trying to get on Mitch’s program. Mitch was really interested in doing something at one point. I guess, from what I understand, Kawasaki shut it down. They didn’t want a fifth guy and a supercross-only guy. So it didn’t end up working out. So, yeah, I was talking with Jeff Majkrzak of Factory Connection a little bit and I was really trying to push to get on that team and there wasn’t a “no,” but there were just some things that had to happen for it to go down. I had to wait quite a while to find out, and I was kind of scared that if I waited too long and it didn’t go through, that it was going to kind of mess me up on some other opportunities. I kind of had a date on my contract of when I had to sign by for the whole Hart thing and between them and Factory Connection and Troy Lee, I needed some answers and they couldn’t give them to me, so I had to go ahead and do the Hart deal. The Hart deal was cool, though. The main thing was that if I was going to do the 125 class, I wanted to be on a good bike to win the championship, and if I felt like that I couldn’t be on a bike that I knew in my heart I could win on, I wanted to be on the big bike class. I didn’t get enough answers from the Lites part of things, so I ended up doing the big-bike thing with Hart.

You really had a breakthrough moment at Summer X with the Troy Lee team. Did things just not work out there for 2009, as well?
The Troy Lee thing was actually an awesome opportunity. They believed in me when I was kind of down and I ended up getting to do good things with them at the X Games by winning. It was cool. Their 450 was amazing. Coming into the whole Lites thing, they just didn’t have some answers that I needed from Honda. It had nothing to do with their program. I just needed some answers and they couldn’t get them. So I ended up sticking with the Hart situation and I knew in my heart that was going to be a better situation for me.

How did the Hart deal come about? Did it come from out of nowhere?

Yeah, Hart actually called me up one day and just asked me, “Hey, would you be interested in riding for me?” I didn’t really know what I wanted to do at the time, but they kind of explained the situation and how things were going to fall. It sounded really good, you know? I was definitely really interested. I get to have a lot of involvement in which way the bikes are going to go and the way we use the parts that we use. I knew in my heart this was a good decision. I feel like I fit in good over here. I’m going to work hard for these guys and I know they’ll do the same for me.

I know the team really takes a lot of pride in its look and overall fit and finish. What do you think about that part if it all? And will Honda be helping supporting the team?
Yeah, they do a good job on their look. It’s cool and I feel like I kind of fit the image over here pretty well. And Hart is kind of the same style as me. And yeah, it was kind of surprising. It’s cool that Honda really, really likes Hart’s deal and is going to be backing it and be helping me out. They’re going to have a really good program next year and I’m excited.

The Hart & Huntington team likes to go against the grain. Does that sort of “outside the box” style or vibe fit you well?
Yeah, for sure, it’s definitely a different kind of program over here, but at the same time, I feel like I can be myself. When I do good on this team, I feel like it’ll make me look good, too. We are a privateer team, but we are a good team and there are good people behind the situation. I’m fortunate from my results in the past couple of years to even have a ride. So, for these guys to be behind me and do the things they that they want to do for me, I’m really fortunate and happy.

I watched what you did at the X Games, and you have to know deep down inside that if you want to win, you actually can win. Have you and Carey talked about that?
Yeah, pretty much. The main thing is that I really need to put my head down this year. I think everybody has a lot of talent. I know that myself. Yeah, X Games did go good, but I can’t just hold onto X Games forever. It was a good stepping point for me and something good to carry forward. I just really need to keep my nose down and Hart has hired me a trainer. Yeah, he believes I can be a top runner and so do I. And I’d really like to do it on kind of a team like this that they can help me carry myself up and I feel that I can help them. I think it’s going to be a good situation all the way around. I don’t have pressure and I have it all to gain.

Will you ride the Nationals?
No, I won’t do any outdoors, but I will do all the 450 supercross and the X Games and stuff.

What are your goals for 2009?
I kind of have a good feeling that if I put my nose down that I can do really well. Like I said, I have it all to gain. The team is really behind me. Carey just told me that if I’m doing everything that I can and I’m training during the week and I show that I’m not slacking, I mean what can he say? I know in my heart I can make it happen. And you know what? There are a lot of good people this year. I would definitely like to be a top-10 guy all throughout the year. I really feel that there is the possibility that I can do a lot better, but I think I need to walk the walk before I talk the talk. I would like to just be within the top 10 all year and be a consistent guy and hopefully have some outstanding results.
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