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5 Minutes With... Kevin Windham

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GEICO Powersports Honda’s Kevin Windham is on his way to Unadilla right now to take part in his first MX national of the year, and the first of his career on a 250F. We caught up to him in the airport on his way to the track.

Racer X: So what kind of liquor do you want me to bring in order to do this interview?
Kevin Windham: Well, what kind of answers do you want? Do you want serious answers?

Yeah, I guess so, but I don’t want it to be unfunny, though...
Okay, just bring me some Colt 45 this weekend. Are you coming this weekend?

Yeah, I’m coming, and I’ll bring you some Colt 45.
All right...

So the entry list went up today on the web for Unadilla.
Really? So my cover’s blown?

Your cover’s blown.
All right...

I remember talking to you about this before the outdoor started, that you wanted to ride a 250F. What were your thoughts to decide to do that?
You know, when I ride that bike, I feel good! It’s fun! There’s really no other way to put it. I don’t know if it’s just because it’s new, or because I’m really fat and heavy and can throw that bike around (laughs) or what. It’s just kind of one of those things that I’ve been wanting to try and do. I’ve been wanting to the whole time. I don’t want this decision to reflect on the 450 at all, I just want to do something different. In this situation, in this season, with my inactive status, it just made sense to me. And I guess that’s the reason why I really wanted to try it.

You told me a story before about when you were out at Glen Helen or somewhere and you rode maybe Trey Canard’s bike and were chasing some guys around. Can you tell us that story?
Well, I was testing the 450, and I got on the 250F, and I just rode out of the pits and jumped right on the track behind those guys [Blake Wharton, Tommy Searle, and others], and they were in a pretty good battle. It was a typical practice-day first moto. I just tried to grab a hold of them and the first lap they pulled me, and the second lap I was able to latch onto them, and the third lap I started making time on them. That was the first time I’d ever ridden the bike. Just last week, after the X Games, I went testing on a 450 again, and then I went to ride a couple of laps on Metty’s bike, and his bars were at my knees, and had the long bar-post on it, and all this kind of stuff, and I ran the same laptimes as him on his bike, with literally one warm-up lap, and then going at it. It’s something that I ride and I feel really comfortable and confident with, and I feel like I can carry my speed and momentum on the bike and be fairly fast. My problem is going to be getting this 200 pounds off the line! Most of my competitors are anywhere from the 140 to the 160 range, so if you do the math, I’m giving up a lot of horses. So I’ve got to try to get to the first turn first, and then the rest of the race I think I can be competitive and just have a lot of fun with. And what better place than Unadilla, where I’ve had some success in the past? I’m looking forward to the weekend. I’m on my way there now, actually, for Press Day. I’m anxious and excited, and that’s a good feeling, you know? That’s all the reason I need.

It’s funny, because all of you guys did this in the beginning because it’s fun, but eventually it becomes a job. Do you think this will bring the good time back?
Riding a bike is fun, I can say that. We all love what we do and we try to have a lot of fun at it, like you say, but we’re all racers, so having fun riding is cool, but having fun racing is only fun if you’re successful. No matter how bad a track is, if you go out and win, you’re going to be having a lot of fun, because that’s what it boils down to. If I get a 35th-place start because I’m too heavy, and I’m eating rocks for 35 minutes at Unadilla, I probably won’t be having a lot of fun! But I do know that there’s a difference between riding for fun and racing for fun, and there’s really only one way to race for fun, and that is to be close to the front. Obviously, we’re giving up a little bit in terms of weight, but at Unadilla we’ve got a good downhill right off the start, so I’m going to rev the hell out of it, dump the clutch, and try to get some gravity working in my favor. If I can get up there close to the front, I think I can hold on up there.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I think they took that downhill off of the start out of there. I think it’s mostly flat now. They filled it in.
Well, the good news is that I’ve got a 450 on the truck as well! I was going to ride the 450 at Budds Creek, so if I get there tomorrow on Press Day and it doesn’t look good, I’m going to have to call Davey [Coombs] and re-enter. Is that possible? What’s the deadline to re-enter?

You’re asking the wrong guy. I have no idea.
(Laughs)

The other thing is that Unadilla is typically pretty good for you, and one of the reasons is because it’s so slick and you have such good throttle control. But do you think that maybe being on a 250F takes away a bit of that built-in advantage?
I’m pretty much going to have to leave it cracked to have any chance, so there’s not going to be a lot of controlling going on with the throttle. I don’t know. I think you still have to finesse, though. Any of those bikes can get away from you. Those 250Fs are not slow. It amazes me what they can do on them in supercross. I think there will still be a certain level of finesse going into this race this weekend.

On a more political note, there has been talk behind the scenes for a while about the possibility of doing 350s instead of 450s for the premier class. Having been a guy who has ridden 450s for so long, and has ridden the new 250s, what do you think of a middle-ground bike for the main class?
I guess there could be some advantages to a 350cc class. I think it makes perfect sense at a time when the economy’s screwed up and bike sales are down and the OEMs are hurting, that’s a perfect time to have them redesign a bike since they haven’t even recouped the investment of 450cc and 250cc technology. At the end of the day, this racing thing is about dollars and cents, whether it’s GEICO or Honda or anyone in between. It’s a business for everyone. There were some rules made a while back that carried some pretty heavy weight. For them to just up and change it, I think that’s kind of slapping the OEMs in the face. There might be better ways to make the racing better. I think the 450 is a lot of bike and it does have its ups and downs on the racing side of it – closing times and things like that – but to just change the rules in this day and age, I think those guys [the OEMs] need to tell them how it’s going to be. I don’t think any of those companies have money idle right now to create a 350, other than maybe KTM, who probably had it already going to start with. It seems like they make bikes in 25cc increments anyway!

You wanted to ride all the nationals like Chad Reed did, but the money wasn’t there. And speaking of Reed, he made a comment in a recent interview that he may be retiring at the end of the year because he may not find anyone to pay him what he feels he’s worth. What do you think of that?
Well, I have taken a paycut before, and I might take another one at some point (laughs). No, I’m making light of it. I’m sympathetic to what’s going on. For me to go out there and race, Muscle Milk came on board, which is great. We’re hoping for a future with them past just the X Games and these nationals that I’m riding, and it wasn’t going to take much for me to ride the nationals. I wasn’t hoping for a salary. All I wanted to do was I wanted to go out and if I won, I wanted to get the same bonus as my peers were getting – and not just my Honda peers, but the Kawi, Yamaha, Suzuki guys. I just didn’t feel like in my situation that I had worked my whole life to be eligible for Honda Red Rider Contingency, which is exactly what you would be eligible for if you went out and bought a bike. So I felt that was a little bit of a slap in the face. At the same time, I understand that when the money’s not there, it’s not there. You can’t just grow it.

The other thing is that it’s kind of a compliment, because they figured they would’ve had to pay that money out at some point.
Yeah, when you’re talking about insuring a contract or something, I’m sure mine’s a little more than others. Those guys sit up and read statistics all day long, and that’s a good feeling, but for me, it’s not about going somewhere else or doing something else. I just made a promise to my little girl that I was going to be around for the summer, and I was, so she’s happy about that. So she’s back in school, and that’s why I can do these races without breaking a promise to her. If the dollar was big enough, I might have had to break a little six-year-old’s heart. But it wasn’t. I’m not going anywhere. I plan on racing for a long time. I do have my hands in other things, and I’m very active with opening Planet Fitness gyms in the Baton Rouge area, which is great with their sponsorship and what they’ve been able to do with me on and off the track. The day has come where we have to diversify, and the business we were once in will be back, but I don’t know if it’ll be back in my career. There comes a time when you’ve got to make a business decision, and with what you’re saying about Chad, he has a tough deal on his plate. It’s a decision we all have to make, and whatever that decision is, it’s just reality.

What result would make you happy this weekend?
Uh... Let me think. First, maybe? Something like that? Hey, I’m sitting here looking at the airplane lists trying to find Tampa on the list, because I thought I was going to Tampa, but I’m in Tampa, so that’s why my flight’s not listed, right?

Yeah, I would assume that if you’re in Tampa, that means you’re not going to be able to find Tampa on a list.
I think I’m about to miss my flight!

All right, well I’ll let you go. Good luck catching your flight.
No problem. Did I answer all your questions for you?

You did. You answered them very well, like normal.
Good, good.

I’ll bring you some Colt 45 this weekend.
All right

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