5 Minutes With... Nathan Ramsey

Nathan Ramsey has been around for a while. At 34 years of age, he was actually a little bit of a late bloomer, but after having a lot of success in the Lites class, then winning a 450cc Supercross, then moving back to the Lites class and having more success before returning to the 450cc class to race alongside Chad Reed on the L&M Racing Yamaha team for the last few years. Ramsey lost out on a ride in the off-season, and he was doing his own thing when along came another Yamaha 450cc team in Joe Gibbs Racing. Last weekend, Ramsey made his JGR debut, and he’ll finish out the season for the team. We talked to him as he left the test track in North Carolina a little earlier this week.

Racer X: The off-season was a little rough for you. You had a ride, then you didn’t, then it was too late... What happened?
Nathan Ramsey: It was just a situation where I ended up thinking I was going to be with a team, and then it just didn’t work out. I put my name in the hat for some other stuff, but it was maybe a little bit late for that stuff. I think not racing any of the nationals, I wasn’t in people’s minds, and the people’s minds that I was in, they already thought I was signed up. It’s just one of those situations that just happened the way it did, and you can’t really change it. I just made a deal with myself that if I didn’t get a good deal like I’ve had for so long now, it just wasn’t worth it for me to be out there just to be out there. I figured if I didn’t get it, I would just move on, and that was where I was about a week and a half ago.
It just kind of worked out that way, but I think it turned out to be the right way for it to work out because JGR called me and got me excited and going again.

You raced in Germany the weekend of the Phoenix SX, right?
Yeah, I did two overseas races – one in November in Spain, and then Germany the same weekend as Phoenix. Those races are a lot of fun to go to, but it’s just not the same racing atmosphere, and the tracks were super-small and simple. It’s a good time, but it’s nowhere near the level that I needed to race at to be ready for this stuff. People were constantly telling me that someone was going to get hurt and that I’d get a deal, but I just think that until this point, it wasn’t right for me. I had people talk to me at different times, but it just wasn’t right. We’re professional athletes, and to be out there just to be out there is a little too risky. I have two kids – I have a family – so unless it’s on good equipment, without sounding like I’m too good or anything, I want to have a good chance to do my job. You don’t see any other professional athletes doing it for free, or on equipment that you’re not convinced is competitive. At this point in my career, what am I going to go out and prove unless I’m going to go out and win.

So now that you’ve gotten the chance to go to JGR and ride and train with the team, what do you think?
There were only certain kinds of teams that I would be excited to be on, and this was one of them. I called Jeremy at one point, once I knew that I was shopping around, and they had already signed up their two guys, so I was a little bit late. But I believed that this team stood for something that fit with where I was in life, and I like all the guys who are involved, so I tried to reach out, but it was a little too late. When this thing popped up, we were having trouble finishing off the deal, and I told the guys, “Let me come out there and we can see if it’s something we both really want to do.” I came out last week, and the first day I was a little rusty, and it started coming around, and we just built the deal throughout the week. People stepped up to help out, like Leatt Brace, the normal team sponsors that JGR already has, X Brand goggles got in there to help me out... Everybody from the JGR side was just really open to getting it to where it needed to be to make it right. When I got here, along the way, I was just blown away by the professionalism that this team has, and their thought process, and their attention to detail... They just really cover their bases. I was really impressed. The more that I’m here, the more impressed I am with what they’re doing. I’m honored to be a part of it, really.

Talk about last weekend.
I had a blast last weekend and got up there and mixed it up, and I still feel the hunger and the drive to try and do good, so that’s what I’m going to try and do for these next six races.

As a guy who had success in the Lites class, then moved up and won a race in the 450cc class, then moved back down to revitalize your career, what do you think of this new AMA rule for Lites eligibility that says 225 total points over three years will move riders up permanently to the 450cc class?
For me, I broke my femur, had a terrible year, and I needed something, and Honda came up with the idea, and it just made sense. You’re right, it did revive my career, and it gave me many more years to tack onto it when there’s a possibility that I would’ve been stuck in the 450cc class and I probably would’ve been done sooner – at least without a ride, maybe not done in my own mind. So what I see are some guys coming up [to the 450cc class] before they’re ready, and there are actually less rides available, so few riders except the very elite are even going to get a ride, if even they do depending on which older guys are still left around. So it turns into a roll of the dice on both sides. These guys aren’t going to be developed, and they’re not going to be ready, but they’ll be forced to do it, and then their career will end. Every decision I’ve made, I’ve made to extend my career. This is a rough sport, and if you can figure out how to make it a little longer, you’re doing pretty good. I see it as making the window for being a professional motocross/supercross athlete so much smaller. What you’ll have is guys who have tons of potential but never get to show it. It’s going to kill a lot of the sport.

Yeah, you end up bouncing people out of the sport constantly.
Yeah! And then maybe the older guys go away quicker, too, obviously. I guess it would just filter guys through quicker, but I don’t understand why you would want that, you know?

Yeah, one of the keys to the success of NASCAR is that drivers are around a long time, so they develop a fan base that sticks with them.
Right. I don’t get some of these ideas that people are coming up with. The first question should be, “How does this help our sport?” I just don’t get it. I don’t understand. What would be the easiest solution – and it’s not like I’m the only one who has thought of this – but why not have a support class. A third class. You have the support class, then the Lites class, then the 450cc class, so you have a real stepping stone into the big leagues. And if we’re talking about TV, maybe the support class doesn’t get on TV, but it would be a great thing to develop riders. Then, once you’re in the Lites class, you’re a full-on professional, so whether you stay in there for a little bit of time, or a long time, you’re a pro. At some point, maybe people should be pushed to move up, but it can’t be so fast that it would kill careers. You have one bad year when you’re injured, and you’re done.

And it’s not like injuries are uncommon in motocross...
Yeah, it’s hard to name one person who hasn’t had a big injury that kept them out a long time. The sport is hard enough, and rules like this make it 10 times harder, if you ask me.