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Between the Motos: Bill Keefe

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Bill Keefe is the team manager for the Canidae/Motosport Kawasaki team. Their two riders, Tommy Hahn and Kyle Cunningham, scored runner-up finishes in the opening motos at Washougal, only to crash out of moto two. We talked to him this week for Between the Motos...

  • Bill Keefe
Racer X: Your team has had its fair share of troubles in the outdoors, but you’ve had quite a few good finishes as well. What has this rollercoaster been like?
Bill Keefe: So far it has been up and down. We’ve had good motos and some really, really tough motos. We had both at Washougal. Second in the first moto for Tommy Hahn and Kyle Cunningham was a career-best for both of them, but to follow that up with no points for both of them in the second motos, that’s tough. But overall, although we have our ups and downs, our team as a whole is making progress. Our results are improving, and race by race, we are getting better.

So if you were to graph it like the stock market, you would have a couple spikes where Tommy and Kyle had those top finishes, but the overall trend would be upward, too...
Yeah, our 30-day indicator would be trending up [laughs]. It would be trending better if you did a 30-day moving average.

What does it do to you and the team emotionally where you look at the fact that you could be in a position for overall wins, but then second motos like those hit you?
The first moto, everybody’s pumped, and you realize all the hard work and testing, and the days out at the test track, they pay off. The bikes are capable of podium finishes. But even though you think about the overall, our team’s mentality is lap by lap, race by race, and you don’t ever want to get any further ahead than we actually are. Yeah, it’s depressing, and it bums you out when you have a second moto like we did, but in Tommy’s case, it was just circumstances. There was nothing we could do. And then in Kyle’s case, it’s tough because he was close, and given the way everything shook out, a top-five or top-six finish could’ve been really good combined with his second. But we focus on the good and will learn our lessons from the bad.

How do you feel about Kyle Cunningham?
He’s definitely improved a lot. He hooked up with Randy Lawrence as a trainer toward the end of supercross, and then they were making progress before he hit the wall – literally – at Glen Helen the week before the national. That’s when he broke his finger and tore his arm up pretty good, which set him back. There’s nothing you can do. Randy and Kyle have a good partnership going, though, and it’s paying off for Kyle.

  • Hahn as looked very comfortable in the 450 class this season
  • Cunningham was a privateer when picked up mid-season by Canidae Motosport Kawasaki last year
And Tommy Hahn is very talented, and it’s showing. How does it make you feel?
When you see a guy like Tommy who has struggled with attaining consistent results, and results he’s capable of, and you see him finally turn the corner and finally be able to ride and believe in himself and know that he belongs up there, and ride with that intensity and that focus, it’s a great feeling.

He’s so nice, too, so that has to be nice to help a nice guy do well...
Tommy and Wil, they are good kids, and they were raised by good parents, and our sport has a lot of these with Trey Canard, Ryan Dungey... There are plenty of good kids with good attitudes that are positive and clean, and they’re good examples of what a professional motocross athlete should be. You can be a good guy and still be successful. Some come up quickly like Trey, and some are slower coming up like Tommy. He’s still a nice guy and is good to everyone. Our sponsors, Canidae and Motosport, are family-oriented companies, and we want to be a family-oriented team, and there’s no reason why we can’t be.

How do you see this financial thing playing out in our sport?
I think there will be a thinning of the heard to a point. There are some people who have been able to continue on that won’t be able to do it any longer, and then there are those who will dig deep and find a way to keep going. Things aren’t going to be like they have been in the past four or five years, for sure. But I don’t believe it’s going to go away. We will have as good of racing as we’ve ever had, but it’s going to be competitive, and there will be plenty of players, but people are going to do more with less. They’re going to stretch everything as far as they can, and I think you’re going to see guys riding harder than they have in the past four or five years, because now to make money you’ll need results. You won’t be able to get the fat paycheck without delivering results.

So you see more performance-based contracts rather than salary-based contracts?
I think the salaries are going to be reduced and the only way a guy is going to make money is with results, and that’s how it should be. I don’t believe in fat salaries and bonus programs, I believe in a modest salary and then he should earn the bulk of his pay through his bonuses.

That’s how racing is supposed to work – win and make money.
Yes, the riders have a big influence on the outcome, and the guys who work hard will do well. It’s not like car teams where guys in bad cars never have a chance of success. Here, if you work hard, the components are available to put together a bike that can showcase your talent, for sure.

Thanks, Bill.
No problem, Steve.

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