An argument can certainly be made that Josh Grant, of the upstart JGRMX Toyota/Yamaha team, was the breakthrough rider of the year in the 2009 AMA Supercross Series. Beginning with his shock upset win at the opening round of the series at Angel Stadium back in January, the rookie rider followed it up seven days and a five-hour car drive away later with a fine third-place finish inside Phoenix, Arizona’s Chase Field. From that point forward, the Californian was a stalwart in the top five, and when all was said and done and the flames and the fireworks and the casino showgirls put the finishing touches on the series inside the jam-packed Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday night, May 2, Grant found himself fourth overall in the final standings, finishing behind only Stewart, Reed and Andrew Short. Considered by many to be the “third place rider” to the Stewart/Reed spectacle in ’09, it was a hell of a year for Grant and the Gibbs team.
Now, less than two weeks away from the opening round of the 2009 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, California, Grant and the JGRMX outfit have been fast at it, prepping their 450Fs on the team’s test tracks on the outskirts of North Carolina. Certain to be a contender for the title this summer, today Racer X rang up Grant to get his take on his outstanding supercross season as well as the rapidly approaching trans-American natural terrain motocross tour. Here's what he had to say...
Josh Grant: Just doing some outdoor testing here out here in North Carolina to get ready for Glen Helen.
Have you been riding quite a bit since the Las Vegas Supercross or were you able to take a little bit of a breather?
We just took a couple days off after the weekend of Vegas. I started that next week. I was out in California for a couple days and then I came back out here. I’ve just been putting my head down and riding.
Josh, had you guys been concurrently developing the outdoor bike while the supercross series was going on?
We hadn’t done much with the outdoor stuff until pretty much now, or right after Vegas. We were always trying to make the supercross bike better and work on that, so it really didn’t give us much time to focus on an outdoor setup.
Generally speaking, what do you guys have to do to transition the stadium bike to an outdoor bike?
It’s quite a bit of stuff. I mean, you pretty much have to set up your bike completely different. It all really depends on how comfortable you are in the outdoors and where you ride. Of course, softer suspension and stuff like that makes a difference. And the way the chassis is set up is different. It’s not so short because you don’t have to make it for tight turns. Outdoor stuff is wide open with sweeping corners so you have set up your be completely different.
All things considered, do you have a preference between riding supercross or the outdoors?
I like either or. Supercross is really fun for me and I like just being in the stadium and having all the fans going crazy. Outdoors, too. It’s where our sport started and I still love riding outdoors. To me, they’re both about equal.
How do you like testing back in North Carolina, as opposed to, say, the circus we all live in here in Southern California?
Testing here, it’s good sometimes, but you have to dodge a lot of things like weather and stuff. And Glen Helen is coming up and we don’t really don’t have that type of track out here to set up our bike for it. So it’s kind of like we’re going to guess coming into Glen Helen. We’re hoping that our setup we have back here is going to work there.
Yeah, I grew up racing there since I was on 50s and 60s. I don’t know, I’ve always loved Glen Helen. It’s one of my hometown tracks.
I spoke with your dad at the Las Vegas Supercross and he pretty much told me you have not spent much time at all in California thus far in 2009.
Yeah, I’ve been back here most of the time and just trying to build a base out here with Coy [Gibbs] and get a good setup. I like it out here. I like the different atmosphere and how the pace is slower. It’s just a lot more mellow so I think it gives you more time to do stuff during the day. It makes it fun to be here and not have to plan your day around traffic.
Has being based in North Carolina allowed you to focus more?
I don’t know if it’s made me focus any more than I normally do, but I think that just being a part of Gibbs makes you excited to go out and do stuff. Being around everybody on the team just makes it better and I think it makes it more lively that we’re out here.
From people close to you, it’s been said that making the move to the Gibbs team has had a very positive effect on your career. Would you agree?
Yeah, yeah. I think that it was a positive thing for me to come out here. I was a bit worried when I first saw the contract. I was like, “Man, am I going to make the right move? Is this going to be tough? I’ve never really been in this situation before.” I just went with my gut feeling and I said, “You know, if it does work out, it’s going to be a good thing.” And everything has been great and they’ve made me feel at home. It’s a good feeling to be a part of a team that supports you 100 percent.
Downshifting a bit here, your supercross season started off with a win and you pretty much stayed super-consistent from there. Looking back, what do you think of your season?
The opening round was definitely a shock. It was a shock for me and especially for everybody on the team. But the way I was riding all the way back in October and just testing on the bike made me super-pumped on the whole season and ready to go for it. I think that’s what helped me coming into Anaheim — just having that fire beneath me of riding a new bike. I was in a new class. Everything was fresh and it was like a clean start. For me, it was like, “You know what? I’m going to clear my head and run the season and see how it ends up. It’s my rookie year and I’m not going to out to try and kill myself to try and win. I’m going to go out there and give it everything I’ve got.” I feel really pumped about my season that I had this year. I didn’t expect it to be even this good. I was like, “Now that we finished fourth, damn, I’m blown away. I‘m pumped on it.”
Yeah, I think the same thing. I just had three bad races that kind of screwed up my season for a third-place finish [Note: A 20th at San Diego; a 13th at Atlanta; and an 18th at Jacksonville]. I knew I had [Andrew] Short covered all year long. He’s just the more quiet, consistent guy that just goes around and rides. I’m the kind of guy that pins and hopes to get higher and higher and higher. I don’t know, sometimes it bites me, but I have next year and the year after that, and shoot, probably the year after that.
With the exception of Stewart and Reed, did you feel like you had pretty much every other rider out there covered?
Yeah, I think one of the biggest competitors I really thought I was going to have was Ryan [Villopoto]. Of course, he had some good success this year, too. I just feel like the way I ride the bike and how consistent I was this year in top fives, I figured I’d be up there and that’s how the cards fell really.
Okay, the Nationals are almost here. What’s the plan for Glen Helen and who do you see in the mix for the 2009 National Championship?
Of course [Mike] Alessi is a good starter and is good for a good couple of laps. I think he’s going to be up there. Also, you know Ryan won a couple of championships in the Lites and I think he’ll be fast outdoors. But really, it’s just kind of like the supercross season. You’ve got 12 rounds and if you stay consistent and stay healthy all year long, in the end you’re going to be there. I mean someone is going to have bad races. It’s going to be an exciting year, that’s for sure.
You certainly have a shot at the championship. Have you been thinking about that?
Yeah, a little bit, but at the same time, I want to keep a mellow head and stay positive and fun. I don’t want to go out and try and worry about it too much. I just want to do what I do: Ride motorcycles.
What’s the goal for Glen Helen?
Top fives have been the goal all year long and from the beginning I said, “Hey, if I can stay top five in all the races that would be awesome.” I know I’m capable of being on the podium, so I think those would be my goals for every weekend.
Oh yeah, word has it you want to compete in a few disciplines in the X Games this summer. If so, what are they?
I don’t know if I’m confirmed for sure for the X Games, but yeah, that’s what I want to do. I want to be able to do a couple things. I want to be able to do Best Whip, Moto X and I want to do Speed and Style.
Word has it that you bought a YZ250 to practice with.
Oh man! How did that get out already?
I promised I wouldn’t say anything, but your business manager Denny Stephenson told me! You want me to keep this “secret” out of the interview?
No, you can throw it out there. I haven’t gotten it yet. We’re waiting for it to show up from Yamaha. We just ordered it and it should be here this week. that’ll be a big treat.
Okay, my man. thanks for your time and we’ll see you at Glen Helen next week.
Okay, Eric. thanks a lot.