Racer X: That race at Washougal was easily your most dominant one this year, the way you reeled in the guys in the second moto and that stuff. Talk about what changed for you. Chad Reed: When I made the decision to go race the outdoors, it was all based on what I felt I could do and potentially end up with good results. When I signed up, I wasn’t 100-percent sure that James [Stewart] wasn’t going to be there, and I really didn’t believe that he had it in him to stay away. RV was there, and he has the potential to continue on the legacy of the GOAT. And Alessi – you know, 150 pounds of muscle and eight percent body fat – was there. I was going against some real stiff competition, and I was excited. I came in behind the eight ball, and I wanted to give it all I had.
Coming in behind the eight ball, it wasn’t just bike setup...
No, I mean, at the beginning of the year, the reality is that I was down on testing, and Suzuki has a completely new bike [since ‘08] and they’ve had nobody to test it. It was a new bike after Ricky, and everybody that had ridden it previously was not a seasoned 450 guy, or somebody who was in race shape because Byrner was hurt last year. He had very little time setting up the bike and that kind of stuff. For me, the majority of outdoors is based on your feeling and how you can attack the track. If you’re confident and feeling comfortable, you can go on and give it your all. That’s been my weakest link. Throughout this year, I’ve been working on my outdoor setup and trying to put myself in a position to be able to let it hang out and kind of just pin it without being so technically perfect. I just have been trying to grip it and rip it on the throttle [laughs].
You are still very smooth, though. Is it kind of true that it’s difficult to manufacture speed compared to the more ragged riders? It always occurred to me that Ricky Carmichael could just go faster if he wanted, but smooth riders had to work on upping their speed a lot more.
Yeah, they have that skill of just being able to let it hang out and kind of putting everything to the wayside and just going for it, you know? Ricky had that, as do a few of the other guys. I’m a guy that if everything’s good on the bike, then I feel like I can run their pace comfortably. But for whatever reason everything has to be right so that I can put my best foot forward. It’s probably the biggest thing that I’m critical of myself about. I’m trying to work on that, for sure – just trying to be able to go for it no matter what.
I know you don’t read the message boards, but a lot of people have been making comments about how much you’ve changed and how much more they like you now. Why is that? And what do you have to say about it?
First off, it doesn’t matter what people say because I want to be happy as a person. Anybody that’s happy with themselves and their surroundings is going to be a happy person and it’s going to show. I’m just happy doing what I’m doing and I love the sport greatly. I never lost love for it, but I just felt that it all came to a point where I had to step away, and having those two years away from the sport a little bit, it was good. This weekend, Steve Hudson in the chapel service talked about trying to get away from the garbage, you know? It stinks bad! I think that’s what this industry is. Sometimes, you’ve got to separate yourself away from it and become a living human being and live a normal life. I think you’re love for it and respect for it, and your passion, comes back when you do that. I don’t believe I was ever a bad person and I don’t believe I was that guy that people saw. I just wasn’t happy.
But that’s what happens. It’s just part of life when you’re unhappy that you make the people around you unhappy, too.
In the press conference last weekend, you said something about not knowing what’s going on for the future with your racing or something like that. Can you tell us what you were saying and what this means?
Well, the economic crisis that we’re in right now, it’s tough for everyone, and I’ve been super-fortunate so that I’m in good hand with the guys like Steve Astephan and the guys at WMG, and they’ve put me in a great position. I’ve made great career choices and won a lot of races, so financially, I’m okay. I can call it quits whenever. I’ve invested wisely and hopefully I’ll never have to work a normal job. So, with this economy, I love what I’m doing, but I’m not going to go race for free or take a paycut. It’s just not right. As one of the top guys, you need to set an example, and my example is that it’s dangerous out there, and it’s hard work, and I give it my best, and I’m good for who I represent, and I won’t be out there racing for anything less than what I think I’m worth. If I’m going to do that, I’ll go spend my own money and take on a new adventure. I have a huge desire to go four-wheel racing, and my mom and dad are yelling wanting me to come home, so you never know. You’re not going to see me out there racing for biscuits, that’s for sure.
Do you think you have anything to prove?
I don’t think I have anything to prove. I do it because I love it and the challenge of it, and if a worst-case scenario came around where I couldn’t race next year, I would feel cheated and I would feel that I had to step away maybe at a time when I was at my best and I had a lot more to offer. It would be sad and disappointing to have to step away, but at this point, I’m not worried about it. I talked to Ellie, and we’ve had lots of discussions about what lies ahead for us. We love living here and we love doing what we’re doing, but you have to be realistic and weigh all the options, and right now we’re working hard to try and continue with Suzuki, but if that or something else can’t work, then this may be it. So I need to win this outdoor championship so I can go out on a big note!
I think losing a rider of your caliber at this point in your career would be a big loss for the sport in general, if you wanted to be out there. If you don’t want to be out there, that’s one thing, but if you’re not out there for other reasons, that’s bad for the sport.
I never pictured it to end like this, so it would be real disappointing, and obviously I’m not too pumped on the scenario, but like I said, on the realistic side of it, you have to be a good businessman, and I feel that I’ve made great business choices. I have my Australian supercross thing that’s doing extremely well, I haven’t blown my money on stupid stuff... It’s all gone toward making me a better rider and giving myself and my family the best outcome possible. I’m in a good position. I want Australia to be good. I want it to be something that everybody wants to do, too. But I’m not ready to step away, and I’m having probably more fun than I’ve ever had, and I have more to give than I’ve ever had, and I want revenge, too. I really want to win a 2010 supercross title, and I feel I’ve got that in me. That’s been on my mind for a while. I really, really want to win that.
Well, that’s how the free market works. You have a product – you – and you have a price for it, so if someone’s not willing to pay for it, you don’t sell it.
Yeah, you don’t sell yourself short. I know the industry, I know the market that I’m in, I know the athletes I’m going against, so I’m in a great position. I know what I’m capable of, and I know who’s capable behind me. I feel confident that I still have a great, great shot at this sport and becoming one of the best. I’m not ready to step away, but sometimes you’ve got to be a big man and open your eyes up to the reality of it.
You’re good at putting things into perspective, so what kind of perspective can you put this outdoor championship into?
To put it into perspective, just to touch on what I mentioned earlier, I didn’t believe James would have it in him not to race, I didn’t believe RV would be out by the second race, I didn’t believe Mike Alessi was going to be out by the fourth race, so I signed up thinking I was going to have a huge challenge and go race possibly the best guys available. But I’ve had my tough weekends, too. People want to talk crap and discredit me by saying I’m a fifth- or fourth-place guy. I know what I’m capable of. I know I’m a better outdoor rider than what I’ve shown in the past. I’m strong. I’m there every week. That’s what I’m doing. I came in and gave it everything I had, and at times it was less than what I felt was 100 percent, but I still continued to keep my eye on the prize. I never shied away from it. I was at a point where I felt it wasn’t worth it and I wasn’t doing myself any justice racing because I wasn’t 100 percent, and it was tough to get beat by people I thought I was better than. I had to suck it up and swallow a lot of pride and not take my eye off of that prize. I know what the sport’s about, and I’ve lived it since I was three years old, and here’s what it’s about: You’ve got to be there every weekend. You’ve got to be in it to win it, and if you’re not there, you don’t get a prize. So I’ve got to stay on top of it. I’ve got a 65-point lead and things are looking good!