Sitting in front of Mitch Payton’s porting bench at Pro Circuit, to say things had come full circle for Josh Hansen is a gross understatement. Payton, still with safety glasses on his face as he had just put down the dremel tool he was using to perform porting magic on a KX head, began tapping in the numbers that make up Troy Lee’s cell phone number.
“Yeah, you know him,” continued Payton. “He won the X Games for you last year…
“Yeah, Josh Hansen is standing right here in front of me…
“Okay, I’ll tell him to come by on Monday.”
Just as Troy Lee had done last summer with a Honda CRF450R, Mitch Payton was giving Josh Hansen a shot at racing one of his Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasakis at the upcoming Summer X Games. Out in the wilderness the past few months, Hansen was desperate for a chance to line up in the Home Depot Center in a few weeks’ time and defend the Gold Medal he had shockingly won last August for Troy Lee. Payton let Hansen talk him into borrowing a bike, so there we were on Monday, watching Mitch instruct mechanic Paul Perebijnos to begin piecing together an A+ KX450F.
And so Josh Hansen has a Pro Circuit Kawasaki for Summer X Games 15. Will he win again? Can he get on the podium? Can he keep it all glued together and make sure he is ready come Saturday, August 1, 2009 at 4:30 p.m. in the Home Depot Center? That’s what we were trying to find out over in the big white building that Mitch built.
Racer X: Josh, first off, where have you been? What have you been up to?
Honestly, after the [Carey] Hart deal, I ended up stopping riding on February 16 and ever since then I’ve had a bunch of personal issues I really just had to get straight. I wasn’t riding my motorcycle to my capabilities and I took time off – I took probably three and a half months off. Then, about three weeks ago, I got a call from Honda in Australia out of the blue. They wanted me to go down there and ride for the Woodstock Honda team. They were awesome. It was good. It was just good training. I told them before I went, ‘I haven’t been riding. I’m really out of shape.’ But they were like, ‘It would be good publicity for us if you came down and it would be a good way to get you going towards X Games.’
Well, I had nothing going for X Games, but I just knew I wanted to get myself into shape. So I went down there and used Australia to my advantage and really worked hard. After my deal ended, I knew I had two weeks before X Games. I had been talking to Mitch. I really wanted to get any kind of help that possibly could from him, even if it was with any kind of bike parts or anything. He just wanted to make sure I was doing my job and keeping on the straight and stuff. So I came back and sat down in front of him, ‘Hey, I’ve got a Kawasaki sitting in my garage (the bike was given to Hansen by former World Champion surfer Sunny Garcia). Is there any parts you can give me for it or whatever?’ I was sweating. I was sweating a lot. I was a little nervous in front of him!
No, you can’t call him. He doesn’t return calls. I just walked straight in and laid it on the line. I told him, ‘I’ve been doing my stuff. I’ve been doing what I can the last three weeks. Is there anything you can give me? Can you at least give me a pipe and silencer? He said, ‘I’ve got some ideas. Let me give you a call back.’ I had no idea what that meant. All of a sudden I got a call from him one day and he told me to come in on a Friday and have a talk with him. I went in there and somehow I was able to get a team bike from him. I was pretty much in tears. I knew it was something that I’m capable of getting, but I don’t deserve at that this time due to all the results that I’ve had in the past. Man, I really just want my stuff to turn around on a positive note. I’m more than fortunate to have someone like Monster – especially since they’re ones that backed this – backing me with this chance. I just met these guys for the first time. Those guys could have easily shot this down, but Mark Hall, Sam Pontrelli, Vipe Desai and Ash Hodges were all there for me. Same with Parts Unlimited, and especially Mitch and Pro Circuit. It’s just a great opportunity. People like Mike Fisher (Kawasaki team manager) helped me. So many people could have shot it down. I never really thought any of those guys would ever believe in me again and give me the opportunity. It’s the most blessed thing that’s ever happened in my life.
So how did Mitch tell you he was going to give you this opportunity? I’d imagine he didn’t sugarcoat it.
[Laughs] No, no, he doesn’t sugarcoat things. He sat me down and looked at me and goes, ‘I had a meeting with Kawasaki.’
I said, ‘Oh yeah?’ I didn’t know why he had a meeting with Kawasaki. Then he was like, ‘What do you think they said?’
I said, ‘They hate me.’
I said, ‘They dislike me.’
No,” he said, ‘those guys are all in too. You have to thank Monster because those guys are definitely the ones who are going to back this whole deal.’
I was like, ‘Wow!’ I was speechless.. I mean, come on, everybody knows my whole background and the things that maybe gone down the wrong path. For people to have any kind of belief in me amazed me. I was just happy to get a pipe at that time more or less a whole deal. It’s been awesome, man, so far. I can’t wait to ride the bike.
So what exactly is the deal you have with Mitch?
The deal is that I have two weeks to get used to a bike and race X Games. He just told me it was a two-week deal, and that he would let me race X Games for him and that’s that. So I really don’t have anything after that. Hopefully, I want to show him that I work hard and that I’m done with all the bullshit that’s been going on in my life. It’s time to move on. Actions speak louder than words, so I just need to go ahead and put my actions down and hope that I can get some support even after X Games and going into the 2010 season.
That’s exactly what happened last year. You showed up on a Honda and ended up winning and your phone started ringing. Do you think that can happen again?
Yeah, I really do. I’m putting my head down and doing everything I can. I’ll have a little less time for preparation. I have two weeks, but I have enough confidence in the people that are working behind me. I got enough skills on a dirt bike. The only thing that has ever stopped me is not being in shape. I’m now working as hard as I can to fit everything in. That’s all I can do. I just need to be mentally strong and go out there and do what I can do and I think the results will speak for themselves.
James Stewart, Chad Reed, Kevin Windham… There are going to be a number of world class riders on the gate in L.A. Have you thought about that?
Yeah, I have. I think I can do well. It’s up to me, really. Those are the kind of people that you can’t ever put on the backburner. Those guys are the top guys in the world right now and I’m a signed-off person, you know? People signed me off a long time ago. I want to be a spoiler in the whole mix, so yeah, I’m going in there to make things happen.
What happens if you win?
I don’t know. Mitch, he runs a strong program. He told me it was a two-week deal, win or lose. I don’t know. We’ll see what happens. I’m not thinking about afterwards; I’m thinking about what I have to do today or tomorrow. I guess whatever is supposed to happen is going to happen and I’m just going to give it my best and that’s all I can do.
One thing Mitch said to me about you was, ‘If he screws up one time, I told him not to ever look at me or come in my shop again.’ Is that true?
Absolutely. I think that’s fair enough. I think the guy is taking a big chance on me and I don’t disagree with him at all. He’s doing me a favor, honestly. He’s doesn’t need to do this. And he doesn’t need to do X Games. He has championships all over the walls. I guess he has some sort of love for me. I think that mainly it all comes down to me. I just need to carry myself. I just need to stop being a rock star. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I guess it’s all up to me.
So when do you start riding?
I think I start riding sometime this week. I’m chewing on my bar pad to ride. The only bike I have is sitting in my garage and I’ve been riding that bike into the ground.
Yeah, Sunny Garcia gave it to me. I’m really lucky to have Sunny helping me. Sunny Garcia and Chronic Tacos. They’re a taco shop out of Newport Beach. Sunny and Chronic, they both helped me and tried to get me a bike and stuff. Without Sunny, I’d be screwed. I’d be walking rather than riding. And Boost Mobile, I have to thank them. They’ve been behind me the last six years and I have to thank them.
PART 2: Mitch Payton
Racer X: Well…
Mitch Payton: Is it a good idea or a bad idea?
I think it’s a good idea.
What made you decide to give Josh this shot at riding for you at the X Games?
Well, he actually came over a few months ago. He had borrowed a Kawasaki and he wanted to get a pipe for it and wanted to know if I’d help him for X Games. I said it would depend on if it looked like he was being serious about it and if he was riding a lot. I know he went to Australia and rode a couple of races down there. Then when he got back he came by here. The X Games do get a lot of publicity and a lot of TV time and exposure. It makes it look like it’s worthwhile. Having a title sponsor like Monster, it’s a big deal to them because it’s an action sport event and it’s tied together with a lot of their other athletes that are there. You know, from skateboard to BMX. I thought this would be something Monster would appreciate.
I mentioned to Josh that you said that if he screws up before the X Games to not bother to come around here again…
We talked about that. Josh is a kid that we have known since when he rode minibikes and when he was an amateur and stuff. From there it just sort of seemed like he has gone his different ways. He’s probably gone ways I would have thought he would go or do. I think he’s trying to find his way back and maybe this is an opportunity for him. I know he rode there last year and won the race. We’re going to go there and we’re going to do it. We’re doing it for everybody. It’s to give Kawasaki exposure, it’s to give Pro Circuit exposure and it’s to give Monster and all of our other associates exposure at that event.
He’ll have the best equipment that we can put under him and then he gets fired right after the race.
So there are no questions about it, huh?
It’s over after the race. It’s a one-time thing. It’s just maybe for him to try everybody what he could or can do and then he needs to make sense of it for himself.
Can he rise to the occasion?
He’s one of those guys. He has a lot of talent. He always loves Supercross. He always has flashes of brilliance. It’s just whether he’s into it. Like I said, he’s got a lot of work to do between just hopping on a bike and riding a few weeks and going and doing it, but his choices are to have no bike and not do it. I think he’s excited about it. I want him to do well and we’ll just see what happens.