5 Minutes With... Josh Hansen

Plenty of people did double-takes. Plenty of people stopped in their tracks. Plenty of people walked over to make sure they weren’t seeing things. Welcome to the pit area of the 2009 U.S. Open last Friday morning, October 9, 2009. Out front and up on a bike stand sat the bright green #100 Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki KX450F of Josh Hansen. Yes, Josh Hansen, winner of the Super X main event at Summer X Games 15 in Los Angeles last August was back, once again, to ride a Pro Circuit 450 for Mitch Payton. In Vegas to represent the Pro Circuit team, he had just signed a new deal to ride for the outfit in 2010. Hansen suffered a lot of bad luck in Vegas but still showed flashes of his remarkable talent and speed. We checked in with him on Thursday morning.

  • After winning for the second year in a row at the X Games, Hansen has extended his one-day contract.
  • Hansen is a great rider, but his lack of results has left him with a bad rap.
Racer X: Josh, a few weeks before the Summer X Games, Mitch Payton hired you to ride a Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki. Before the race I asked Mitch what would happen if you won, and he said, “He gets fired no matter what.” Then you went out and won the Super X Gold Medal and ended up hanging out around the Pro Circuit race shop. What happened in the weeks that came after Summer X?
Josh Hansen: After winning X Games and being on that good of equipment and seeing what it’s like to be on a real team, I felt like I couldn’t let that pass. So I kept going in there and talking to Mitch. He wasn’t really budging. I didn’t know what he was going to do with me. I knew that he was going to help me, but I didn’t know what the extent of his help would be. I kept on him. I don’t know … he just seems that he can really help me and turn me around. Basically, I was just keeping on him.

When did you realize Mitch might give you a shot at a ride for 2010?
Well, I didn’t really think about anything but that one race and the opportunity I had at the X Games. Actually, I was pretty bummed in the week leading up to the X Games. I was really bummed thinking that I was not going to be able to ride the Pro Circuit bike anymore. I was pretty sad because I didn’t even have an air filter to my name in that week before the race. I was emotional going into that weekend, and everything went good. And when I won, it was so cool, but I was like, “Dang, dude, I’m losing my bike. It’s all gone.” I was back to kind of sitting on the couch again. I was a little bummed out. I would still go talk to Mitch because I just needed to get help.
Either way, no matter what happened, I still wanted to run Pro Circuit. I didn’t really know where it was going towards any kind of team deal. I knew I wanted to run a pipe and silencer for the guy, at least. What happened was that Kawasaki ended up being cool. [Mike] Fisher gave me a call and said that he was going to give me a dirt bike. First off, Mitch actually wanted me to go buy a bike. That was my deal. After X Games, I was supposed to go buy a bike, but Kawasaki ended up giving me a bike, which I was totally stoked on because I don’t really have that much money. I ended up taking it to Mitch, and Mitch was going to do it up, and the thing ended up coming out sick. And it had all of Mitch’s race plastics and graphics on it and that was kind of cool. So I got the bike out of the shop, and I went right back into my team gear from X Games. It was like living a daydream every day, trying to believe I was on the team when I really wasn’t.

All summer long, rumors were flying around about what Mitch was planning for 2010. Was there a specific point in time where he told you he was considering creating a place for you on his team?
I wanted to definitely be on the team and see what he would like from me and what I could do. I didn’t know if there was any interest at all. I told him that I had some other people talking to me and that I really wanted to be a part of his program if possible. He told me to hold off, but he didn’t tell me why. So I did that, but I believe Mitch. I believe he’s a straight-up, honest guy. He’s been behind me since I was an amateur. So I held off for Mitch. Then it basically became a waiting period because of Kawasaki waiting on Reed. That guy kind of pissed me off because everybody was waiting around for him. I was like, “Dude, this guy needs to hurry up and make up his mind, or somebody needs to make up their mind.” I mean, I was sitting there on the fence, and I didn’t have a pot to piss in. Finally, when all that went through, Pro Circuit basically told me that they were really interested and not to sign anything and to hold off. I was like, Wow, this could really be something.

  • Hansen qualified on both nights, but otherwise had a rough weekend.
The morning I arrived home from the Motocross of Nations, one of the first things I heard was that you had signed with Pro Circuit and were already on your way to Las Vegas for the U.S. Open. How did that all shake out?
I had been riding at the Kawasaki test track every day, and Kawasaki was just hounding me. They kept asking, “Are you ready for the U.S. Open?” And I’d say, “I’m not racing the U.S. Open.” So on Wednesday night at 11:30, I’m lying in bed and my phone keeps ringing. So I answer it and Mitch goes, “Well, you’re going to leave tomorrow for Las Vegas to go do this U.S. Open thing.” I was like, “Are you kidding me?” I was kind of scared a little bit because everything was so last-minute. So the boys put a bike together, which was awesome. We got there last-minute.

So did Mitch say you were officially a part the team or did he say, “Ride this race for now and we’ll figure everything out a little later”?
I don’t know. I don’t really know. The guy is too confusing.

In your words, how was your weekend at the U.S. Open?
Mitch goes places to win. It just wasn’t a good weekend all the way around. I had a lot of pressure. Thinking about Mitch scares me. There was a lot of anxiety going on.

What happened the first night?
The first night, I got second in my heat race. I didn’t really ride that good. I didn’t really ride good all weekend. I just felt like a fish out of water on that little track. I was a little frustrated coming off the Kawasaki test track feeling so good and going there and not feeling good at all. I went into the main event. I had a good start and maybe hooked a little bit with [Davi] Millsaps, and I wasn’t going to let off. [James] Stewart came over and I banked off him and half a jump was sticking out on the start straight, and I clipped that with my shoulder and hit the hay bales and it put me down kind of quick. It all happened so quickly. It happened so quick that I didn’t know what was going on. So that kind of ended my night right there.

Second night?
So we go into the second night. Same thing – second place in my heat race. I went into the main event and had a great start from the outside, and I don’t know, I think some guys went in a little too hot and pushed out beyond the bales and hit the cement and went into the curtains and that screwed me up.

Did you leave town bummed?
Yeah, I left town really bummed. I left town stressed out as well as bummed, because I have thoughts in my head and visions of where I should be, and I didn’t meet those goals this weekend, so that really put me down in the dumps. I was a little stressed out over the weekend. I didn’t think I was going to have my girlfriend when I got home [laughs].

  • It's not known yet which class Josh will race, but we wish him luck in 2010.
Did you speak with Mitch when you arrived back in California?
Yeah, I came back home and talked to him. He was actually cool, and he had some good things to say to me. I just took it all in and didn’t really say a whole lot. I’m just going to try and learn from all my mistakes.

So where do you go from here with Mitch?
Yeah, the plan from here is that Mitch is giving me a deal for this whole next year. It’s still up in the air if I’m going to be a 450 or 250 rider. Maybe it’ll be both. I’m on the fence on exactly what I’m doing, but I am riding for Mitch, and I’m totally proud to say that I got a deal with Mitch Payton. It’s the coolest thing ever. Monster Energy helped put it all together. Really, without Monster, there’s no way I would ever have a chance of this going down. I have to thank those guys a lot.

In the pits in Vegas, I overheard some people mention that they were stoked you were on the Pro Circuit team. I also heard some people say, “How the hell did Hansen get that ride with Mitch?” Did you pick up on any of that?
Yeah. It is what it is. I’ve got a few people who hate me. I heard a few different things. It is what it is. It just sucks. I race because I love it - I don’t race for people. I want to be liked, obviously. I want to be one of those guys that are one of the best. That’s what every person wants. I want the same. I want to make as many people happy as I can, but you’re not going to make everybody happy. I just know what my goals are, and that’s what I have to concentrate on and just keep pushing forward.