Privateer Profile: James Povolny

November 7, 2008 11:19am
From the mid-nineties on through the 2000s, James Povolny was one of the top privateers in our sport. The Minnesota native kind of fell off the scene in the past few years, but just a few weeks back he turned up at a local race just up the road from the Racer X headquarters at High Point Raceway. Judging from his results, Povolny hasn’t lost any speed, and the 33-year-old has some big plans for 2009; he’s going to contest the AMA Supercross Series with the main goal being to promote the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Motocross Ministry. We talked to Jimmy about it today for our Privateer Profile.

Racer X: Jimmy, we saw you out at High Point few weeks back and I’m curious of what exactly brought you all the way to Pennsylvania?
James Povolny: Well, actually, High Point isn’t too far from me now. My wife and I and the kids moved to Louisville, Kentucky, to work with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Motocross Ministry. So far, it’s been great. There’s a whole lot more money and contingency races in this area. The last two and a half months I’ve been doing those kinds of races every weekend, and they’re all within three, four or five hours.

  • James Povolny came out to High Point a few weeks ago
You were born and raised in Minnesota, right?
Yeah, born and raised and lived up there my whole life.

Has it been tough adjusting to Kentucky?
It actually hasn’t been. It’s been really good. I’m surprised how many people I know down here from over the years of doing camps with the FCA, and people I know just from racing. I kind of wish I lived down here a lot sooner because there’s a lot more going on and it seems like I’m a lot closer to things.

Throughout the ’90s and early 2000s, you were a regular on the pro scene, but the past few years you were off the map. I thought you were retired!
I don’t know, I didn’t really intend to retire, I think it’s just what you call life – being married and then having a couple kids. Living in Minnesota, so far away from everything, I didn’t really have the time to be on the road as much.

How many kids do you have?
I have two boys – James and Eli – who are two and four, and we just found out that we have number three on the way, due in May.

Congratulations! So, I talked to you a bit at High Point, and you mentioned you were racing supercross in 2009, is that right?
Yes, I’m actually working on a race program right now that is kind of going to be a way for us to take the FCA Motocross Ministry and represent it at the national level. We have some of the top guys like Andrew Short and Travis Preston and Kevin Windham helping us out, but nobody really represents the ministry and what we do for the motocross camps at the national level, so that’s what I’m going to use my racing for. We got some local pros down here that I’ve been riding and training with, like Michael and Chris Akaydin and Matt and Luke Vonlinger, and we’re all going to be riding Kawasakis for Gateway Cycles, doing east coast supercross and quite a few of the AMA Nationals. I’ll be riding a 450, and Luke and Michael will be riding the Lites class. I kind of want to keep going with racing as much as I can. I’ve been training and riding a lot, and I feel really good on these Kawasakis. SF Performance have been building some really good stuff for me, so I figure I’m not getting any slower, so why quit trying?

You were on the pro tour for a long time; looking back, what was your most memorable moment?
[Laughs] The one thing that sticks out in my head was patiently awaiting the fax from the AMA in 1995 to see if I got a national number or not, and I ended up getting 99! I held a two-digit number for thirteen years after that, so that was pretty good. Other than that, my most memorable moment was probably Budds Creek in 2004 on my first Father’s Day when I got top privateer and a top-ten overall finish. That was probably my best racing day.

Tell us more about the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Mitch Barnes got the FCA started in 2003. He had a vision of doing a motocross ministry and got the Fellowship of Christian Athletes involved. They do sport-specific ministry camps for all the other stick-and-ball sports, so they’re getting more into motocross. It’s really been a once-a-year motocross church camp. A lot of kids go to church camps, but this one you get to bring your motorcycle and ride dirt bikes all day, so it’s pretty cool.
       This last year, we had four full week-long camps. We introduced a few new places, one being a track up in northern Minnesota. We’re going to have a fifth one up there for next year, and possibly six-week-long camps next year.
       Then we have local FCA teams that represent the ministry and try to bring the church to the races, kind of like they do with Steve Hudson at the supercrosses and nationals. We had ten of those teams across the country last year, and for ’09 we should have about eighteen. So, the ministry just keeps growing, and that’s kind of what I want to use my racing for. My experience and all the people I know, I want to get them involved with the ministry and these teams across the country. Also, with the Akaydins and Vonlingers, I’m going to try take my experience and help them get to the next level in racing. That’s what I love doing – racing – and I want to help others get better.

What’s your official role with FCA?
Actually, as of about a month ago, I’m the elected President of the Kentuckiana team, and the team down here in Louisville is kind of like the lead team. I kind of help direct what we do for fundraising and ministry outreach, and I help to keep everyone organized. But it’s way more than me; we have Mitch Barnes helping, and my wife, Donita, takes care of the camps and she’s a big part. We just all work together as a team.

What’s a typical church camp like for these riders?
You usually get there on Monday afternoon, get your bike unloaded and get your gear into the cabins. The places where we have camps are Christian retreat camps, so there are bunkhouses and showers and a cafeteria – the whole nine yards. We then have an intro night, and then for three days straight the kids are on their bikes for probably six hours a day.
       At the camp in Indiana, Country Lake Christian Retreat, we have a track built there. That’s the biggest camp of the year and we had about 120 kids last year. Our goal is to make the track at the camp bigger so we don’t have to transport bikes. Norm from Dirt Wurx built the track at the camp we have in Ohio, and at the other camps the tracks are all on site.
       Then – depending on when the camp is and who’s available, but – in the past we had Andrew Short or Kevin Windham come. We’ve had Kelly Smith, Ryan Sipes, just a bunch of those guys come out. It’s great for the kids to meet their heroes, and we really appreciate all of those guys helping out.

What if a rider wants to attend one of your camps in 2009? Where can they find more information?
We have a website,, and it has all the camp information on there. We have a few videos on there for what goes on at camp. We just had a new one made from our camp in North Carolina, and that one went really well.

It seems like you’re having a lot of fun.
I am! I’m having a blast. It’s kind of funny, when I was off the scene for a while, I didn’t know if I wanted to keep racing or get into construction with my dad’s company. I prayed about it and looked up to the Lord. If he wants me to race, that’s great; if not, I’m fine with that, too. Then this opportunity came up for me to move to Louisville, Kentucky, but it’s great. There are a lot of great people, a lot of places to ride, and there are races all over the place. Now we’re putting this deal together to go to supercrosses and nationals to represent the ministry. Little pieces here and there just keep falling into place, and it’s a lot of fun.

What’s up with your number?
3:23 is a bible verse. Colossians 3:23. I always said if there comes a time when I don’t have a two-digit number, that’s what I’m going to run.

You have anyone you want to thank, Jimmy?
I really got to thank the guys at SF Performance. They’ve been excellent to work with. Any time I want to try something on my bike, they do it and they help me out huge. Now Gateway Cycles has come on board. And just everybody from the FCA and all of my friends down here in Louisville who really made me feel welcome down here, they’ve all been great.