An hour later, Hansen, in his one-off, “one-shot wonder” appearance for Mitch Payton’s Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki outfit, lined up behind the starting gate for the Summer X Games 15 Super X final. When the gate dropped and the pack skated around the Teflon-smooth and slick first corner, Hansen and the big Kawasaki were in fourth place and charging. Soon, Hansen was up to second and giving chase to a flying Kevin Windham. Then it happened. Just short of the halfway mark, Hansen caught Windham, deftly ducked under him and, with the barking Pro Circuit-tuned KX450F motor declaring so, took control of the lead. From that very point forward, Hansen pulled away to score a popular victory in the sold-out Home Depot Center. And for the second time in two years, Hansen had an X Games Gold Medal slung around his neck. For Hansen, the Pro Circuit ride at the X Games was a golden opportunity and one Hansen - perhaps more so than any other race in his career - sunk his entire heart and soul into. Later that night, in a sushi restraint on the 18th floor of a downtown Los Angeles high rise, Josh Hansen, Gold Medal held firmly in his hands, reflected back upon the race that just might put him back on the radar and on the roster of a prolific race team in 2010.
Racer X: Okay my friend, a few hours have now passed since you crossed the finish line back at the Home Depot Center. We’re sitting here in a restaurant overlooking downtown Los Angeles and all is well with the world. What’s going through your mind right now? Josh Hansen: You know what? I’m more than happy. I needed to do business here, but there was also a lot of pressure coming into this because I had the whole “me riding a Mitch bike” thing and all that. So, I’m glad. I think a lot of people thought I’d crack under the pressure or maybe not make the most of things. I’m glad. I’ve really been working hard – if people believe it or not – and I’ve been trying to get my life together. I don’t know. It’s all good, you know? It’s a good point for me and I really, really just want to stay on a positive track from here on out.
A lot of people close to the sport took notice of just how focused you looked all day. In between the heat race and main event you took a short nap on a concrete barrier up in the staging area. Were you sleeping or sort of meditating?
You know what? I was just relaxing. I was just trying to take my mind off shit. I just wanted to be by myself. I just wanted to hang out and be by myself. I was just cruising.
Let me stop you right there: Did you know all along you were going to win?
Yeah, well, I came here to win, for sure. I know [James] Stewart might have crashed or what-not [Note: In Supermoto practice], but I really thought I had a good shot. Maybe if I didn’t beat Stewart, I really felt like maybe I could have done something. I’d have liked to try and put a wheel in there or try to give him a run a run for his money. And somebody like Josh Grant coming off all his wins in the outdoors, I knew it was going to be a tough race. My laptimes and everything throughout the whole weekend were good and I was on point. I think I really deserved it. I was good.
I watched the race alongside Mitch and some of his crew members. Throughout the duration of the main event he didn’t say a single word. Once you won it, he looked over and said, “He earned it.” Can you explain how the race played out?
I got a bad start. I started off around fifth or sixth. I worked it and started capping off riders. I got to a point where I was kind of sitting there in second and could see Windham quite a ways ahead and I know he’s dangerous being in that position because the guy can fit in a good 20 laps. So I just wanted make sure that I could do my job and put in consistent laps and still run a good pace. If that was good enough to beat Windham then great. I just wanted to not worry about other people and ride my own race. And it worked out for the best. I ended up giving pressure to him and then I ended up making a couple of mistakes and ended up catching back up to him.
Could you smell blood when you closed in on that red rear fender?
Yeah, I did. I felt good and then I made the pass and just wanted to get out of town and that’s kind of what happened.
You then proceeded to check out. What was going through your mind those last eight or nine laps? You were just flowing with the bike and track...
You know what? I didn’t really think too much. I was just having fun and I was concentrating. I enjoyed riding my dirt bike today.
You got a great ovation from the crowd upon crossing the finish line and taking a victory lap around the stadium. What were you thinking?
It was relieving. I was happy. I’ve been through a lot of bullshit. It’s just time to move on. It’s easy for everybody to hate on me and what-not and there are very few people that have stood behind me. To have this opportunity and to be able to show people what I could do was great. As much as people have signed me off, that usually ruins a lot of people’s confidence, you know? It’s hard to get that back. To come here and have the pressure of being on Mitch’s program and to be able to pull it off like I did, I’m glad that I could do it for that guy.
During the last three weeks leading into this race, do you think Mitch’s discipline and “tough love” approach was good for you?
Yeah, I would never want to see myself on any other program, if I had to pick. And it was really cool of Monster and THOR and Parts Unlimited and Kawasaki Mike Fisher to let me have the opportunity to do this. There were people who could have definitely just doubted the situation, but these people really stuck behind me and I have to thank them a lot. It’s a dream come true and I just hope to keep building and stay on a good, positive path, and I hope to keep good, positive winning people around me. I think it makes a big difference.
Your dad – the 1982 Supercross Champion – was smiling big after the race. Did that mean a lot to you?
Yeah, I think so. I’ve gotten pretty close with him the last few months. When I stopped racing and stuff I kind of backed it down and I worked on having a good relationship with my parents. I’m kind of just getting a little more straight. It’s a good feeling to have my parents on my side again. I was kind of doing it my own way and as you could see, it didn’t really work out. But it was all good and it was good having them there. And seeing my dad smile is the greatest thing ever. It was sweet.
Did you talk with Mitch after the race?
Yeah, I talked to Mitch afterward. He was just like, “You deserved it. It was one thing how you won last year and everybody hated on that, but it was another thing how you had to work for it tonight and this is why I brought you here this weekend because I wanted to see that.” That was rad.
Before I came over here this evening, I quickly checked out the Internet. I noticed a few items in the chat rooms that essentially said, “For all of you that doubted Hansen, piss off.” What’s different about you now than 365 days ago?
We all make mistakes. I think one thing that is changing is that I’m just trying to grow up. There’s a time and place for everything. I don’t know... I’ve learned it the hard way. All I can do is build. People are always going to hate on me. I don’t know... I’m just glad that I’m out on a motorcycle doing a job that I love to do and to be fortunate enough to win such cool prizes and races. It’s a blessing. I thank everybody. I definitely thank the Lord up above for giving me the opportunity to be able to do this in my lifetime.
I’ve spoken with you about this before. When you’re focused and have your head screwed on straight, you have everything it takes to win any race at any time. Adding to that, when you’re ready and prepared to race, you are REALLY prepared to race. When you’re in that “space,” are you aware of it?
Yeah, when times are good with me, I know it. Obviously, you can’t race everyday being perfect. I’ve kind of let people down, as well as myself. When I am headstrong and when I do try hard, it’s on. I felt like today that it was on. I had a good goal and I had something to prove and I’m glad I got to do it. I think I do have a weird talent. I know I do. But I’m a weird person. I know that I’m not your ordinary, typical motocross kid. I can’t help that. I don’t know, it’s weird. One day I can be so off and some day just be so on. When my head’s in it, I don’t feel like too may people can beat me. So that’s kind of a good feeling.
Could Mitch Payton and the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team help you keep your head in it?
I think so. You know, I might have done this, but this isn’t the icing on the cake. This is just a base. Hopefully, I showed some promise today and, yeah, I would love the opportunity. I would do anything for that. I’d love to win a championship. That would be the icing on the cake.
And you’ve got that Gold Medal in your hands. What are you going to do with that thing?
I’m going to put that bitch on the wall and smile at it every morning! You kidding me? It’s so sweet.