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5 Minutes with... Christian Craig

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This approaching Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. Christian Craig will officially turn professional when he lines up in the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles to compete in Moto X at Summer X Games 15. Craig, aged 18, has eschewed the traditional route of running his last major amateur race at Loretta Lynn’s in Tennessee before immediately heading to the starting gate of his first professional AMA National. The son of former supercross star Mike Craig – who, during his one and only season with the factory Yamaha team, actually won the Tampa Supercross on February 12, 1994 – Christian Craig then plans to run the last four Nationals of the 2009 Luca Oil Pro Motocross Championship in an effort to shine before the big-time team bosses and, subsequently, earn a factory satellite ride for the 2010 season. Can he do it? Can he make it happen? On Monday afternoon before heading off to a practice session, Racer X caught up with the Californian.

  • Christian Craig has been practicing on a supercross track to get ready for X
Christian, it’s Monday and you’re set to turn professional this Saturday at the Summer X Games in the Moto X discipline. Having said that, what do you have going on the next few days?
I might ride a little bit later. I might do a little bit of outdoor riding later on and see how I feel.  I just want to get some riding in before X Games.

You have a lot riding on this X Games debut on Saturday. Are you nervous? Excited?
I’m not nervous at all. I’m excited. I’m looking forward to this. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be good.

Obviously, Loretta Lynn’s starts up the Monday after the X Games. Will you be going there?
No. I might go there to watch, though. I have a couple of friends that are racing.

You’re not turning professional the traditional way. You’re not leaving Loretta Lynn’s to go straight to your first National…
No. It used be that you’d go to Millville , now it’s Unadilla [on Saturday, August 15], but yeah, I’m turning pro at the X Games.

Will you race Unadilla?
I’m hoping to. I want to.

What about the last three Nationals at Budds Creek, Southwick and Steel City? Will you try and his those events?
Yeah, doing the last four would be good.

Who is helping you out in all this?
Fly, Monster, TAG and Dunlop, Oakley, Leatt Brace and Deft Family. Etnies just came on board.

Who are the people that make up your program?
Monster, of course, is helping me. Dan McGranahan, my agent and John Mitcheff, my mechanic, are also helping me.

How do you like working with John? He won a few titles with a guy named Villopoto…
He’s a really cool guy. I met him like a month before. I like him a lot. He does good work and he’s really cool. He really helps me out.

  • Most riders turn pro after Loretta's, but Craig's getting his name out by taking a different route.
Do you have a trainer?
Yeah, his name is Dusty Marks and he works at a gym down in Temecula. Mike Sleeter got me hooked up with him. He’s helping me out a lot right now. I’m road biking and mountain biking a lot. I’m doing a lot of gym work. It’s good.

What kind of feedback have you received from people about turning pro at the X Games?
A couple people don’t like it that I’m doing it. A couple of my friends are like, “Why are you doing that? Why don’t you just wait?” Most of my friends, though, think it’s really cool and that it’s a good thing to do.

Who will you be riding for at the X Games and beyond?
I’ll be riding a Yamaha 450 that Rock River Powersports [of Jefferson, Wisconsin] let me use. They’ve been helping me out all year; during the amateur Nationals, too. And they stepped up and let me use this bike for X Games.

Is your bike graced with and special parts or engineering?
Pro Circuit has helped me out a lot. They’re doing the motor work and giving me some stuff. Enzo will be doing the suspension.

Are you satisfied with the bike?
Yeah, we have the bike tuned now. It’s good to go.

As far as the talent on the gate, you have James, Stewart, Kevin Windham, Josh Hansen, Nick Wey, Jason Lawrence and many others. That’s a pretty wild mix of talent and personality. How do you see yourself in that mix? Are you just going to go out there and see what goes on?
Yeah, I’m just going to go out there. We’ll see.

What’s your goal? What would make you happy coming out of the race?
Top five. In want top three; that’s like my goal, really. I can be top three, for sure. I have the speed.

What are you hearing from the people who have watched you ride supercross during the past few months?
Yeah, some people don’t think I have the speed, but then a lot of people think I’ve got it. You know, on the internet a lot of people talk and they don’t like it, but then most people think I’ve got it and that I’ll be good.

When did this idea of turning pro at the X Games hit you? Did it just sort of come to you somewhere along the way?
No, when Dan [McGranahan] came along, we just put it together. We know we can’t be slow to react. It’s a new deal now. You just can’t be slow to react. I think there are a lot of kids that are coming out of the amateurs now that aren’t going to get rides. We want to get out there and go for it.

  • Christian is hoping to do well this weekend and attract factory team scouts.
How has your last year as an amateur been?
I went pro last year at the Mini Olympics. That was my first “A” National and I won two titles there. I beat Barcia in Supercross. Barcia moved up and didn’t do anymore amateur this year. I did Lake Whitney and Oak Hill and won a title at Oak Hill. I was top three in all my classes there. And at the World Mini, I got a second overall. It’s been really good, actually. I’ve top fived every National I’ve been to.

After the Nationals, will you try and do some overseas races this winter?
Yeah, definitely.

So is the plan to go out and shine and look good in August and September and try and earn a ride for the 2010 season?
Yeah. The plan is to go out and look good now. If you go to Loretta’s and one little thing happens, you’re done. Our plan is to get out there and make some noise now and be ahead of the curve. You can’t wait around.

Guys like Blake Wharton and Justin Barcia have done well in the pro ranks right from the get-go. Can you do the same thing?
Yeah. You get a good bike and a good ride and it can be good.

Your dad had a long professional career. Has he been helpful along the way?
I did a lot of riding. Like riding every day and working hard and just putting the work in and putting a lot of motos in. My dad helped me out a lot. During my whole 80cc career, I couldn’t have done it without my dad.

You haven’t exactly followed a yellow brick road to where you have gotten, have you? You’ve had to overcome quite a bit…
Oh yeah. It’s taken a lot of hard work. My dad yelled at my a lot back when I was on 80s. He would said, “Christian, the hard work will pay off in the long run.” And it has. It’s paying off right now.
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