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Between the Motos: Eddie Babbitt

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With a passion for racing, Eddie Babbitt was not necessarily content to run Babbitt’s Sports Center – a multi-line dealership began by the family 1965 – he wanted to race.  So the saga first began back in 2005 with an initial foray into AMA Supercross.  But it was when he teamed up with Kawasaki and went Arenacross racing in 2006 that the big successes came.  Racking up back-to-back Arenacross Championships with Josh Demuth in 2006, and Darcy Lange in 2007, Babbitt’s Kawasaki became the biggest team in Arenacross.  While a championship may have eluded him in 2008 and 2009, the 2010 season looks bright.  With the desire that Eddie has, the knowledge of Team Manager Denny Bartz, and fast riders Tyler Bowers, Chad Johnson, and Josh Demuth on the bikes, Eddie is hoping that the entire season goes exactly like the recent Des Moines preliminary Arenacross went, where the entire team swept the podium! I caught up with Eddie at his dealership a short time after Des Moines.

  • Eddie Babbitt's riders won Arenacross Championships in 2006 and 2007.
Racer X: Eddie, I have to begin with this: Does it get any better than your finish in Des Moines?
Eddie Babbitt: Are you kidding?  I am still coming down off of that debut... Or trying to come down off of it, actually.  I’ve still got a lot of work to do, but there is a lot of excitement going on around the dealership here and of course with the team.  But, I think I’m actually still buzzing from it. 

Speaking of your team; you’ve worked with Chad, and Josh in the past, but you also have a new rider with Tyler Bowers.  Talk for a minute about how these three riders came together with the team. 
Oh man, that’s a big question.  As you said, Chad and Josh obviously both rode for us before. They, among many others, wanted to ride for us this year, so it was a very difficult process for us to decide who we felt was podium quality, and both Chad and Josh obviously are podium quality.  I guess we just feel that this group was our best option.  We have actually talked with Tyler previously because he wanted to ride for us a year or so ago.  I first met him a couple years ago when Darcy raced for us and won the championship.  Tyler actually gave Darcy the biggest run for his money in the BooKoo Arenacross Series.  We know Tyler. We knew he was fast, so we gave him a pretty good option, and fortunately he took it.  I think the three of them are going to do extremely well.  I know that any one of those guys is capable of winning races. In fact, I think they’ll probably swap back and forth with wins.  I guess that we as a team, as well as our riders, we all have a target on their backs.  There certainly are going to be a lot of other great riders that know what they have to shoot for. 

You mentioned that you had a lot of riders wanting to ride for you, which certainly makes sense based on your success in the past.  But have you seen where the economy has also brought in more riders looking for work?
Well, that’s definitely a problem in this industry, as it is in many industries.  I don’t know, I think there are a lot of guys that want to be recognized at one point or another during their career.  You know, riding Supercross is awesome, but if you’re not making mains, or you’re barely making mains and finishing outside the top 10 or 15, you’re not making any money.  I think it’s been some of the guys that are maybe a little smarter than they are prideful that are the ones calling.  Most of these guys seem to have a hard time going to Supercross, and doing well there; then coming back to Arenacross.  But to me, Arenacross is a great stepping stone, as well as a great place for riders to come back too, and maybe actually obtain a championship to put under their belt instead of just being so stuck on Supercross. 

  • Babbitt’s Sports Center has been in operation since 1965.
Getting back to your finish at Des Moines: I am assuming that the team hadn’t much time to prepare for that race.  So based on your success there, it seems like you should only get better.
Definitely, I think we’re going to get better. In fact, I know we’re going to get better!  But you know that our competition is also going to get a lot better because they know what they have to shoot for.  All our guys went there [Des Moines] on their practice bikes, so we were quite impressed with that, because they were bone stock other than some suspension work.  Josh and Chad did their testing with Merge Racing, who is doing our suspension this year and absolutely loved it, but they only had them done just a few days before Des Moines.  I know that they were in shape, and I know they’ve been training hard - because they all want to win. Tyler only signed with us the week of Des Moines. I actually did a dealer transfer on his practice bike with a dealership out in Fresno, California, to get him a practice bike right away.  He had the bike about a day and a half, borrowed some suspension and drove it out to Des Moines.  Obviously, the results were phenomenal. With somebody getting on a stock, brand new motorcycle and going out and dominating like he did, I would say that actually he’s ready now. 

How will it be having three top guys on one team going for the wins?
 Well, as far as their attitudes and opinions go, it’s been really good so far. They’ve been very supportive of each other.  I am flying down to Texas soon to do a photo shoot, and we’re going to finish some suspension testing, along with some other team things, so I guess I’ll find out a little bit more after that!  As I said, so far it’s been a great team situation. I’m quite impressed.  They’re all very mature people, and I know that the end of the series is going to come, and I’m hoping that all three of them are fighting for one, two and three!  If that’s the case, it’s going to be [laughs] hard to say at the time exactly what will happen. I guess time will tell.  

It does appear like most of the team’s competition will come internally, but what about the others? 
You know, there are 15 other guys out there that are capable of winning, so are we sitting down and thinking this is going to be a cake walk?  Definitely not, because the tables are going to turn here before the first of the year comes around.  I guarantee that there are other riders that are thinking about coming to Arenacross.  I guarantee that Dave [Antolak] from Tuf Racing is working on filling his positions, and you know what? He wants to win.  We want to win, too. It’s going to be the best year for Arenacross spectators than they’ve ever had.

  • Chad Johnson finished 3rd at the Arenacross opener in Des Moines, behind his two teammates.
In the past, your team has done some Supercross rounds, and you’ve even said that you want to go Supercross racing full time. Is that going to happen soon?
Well, it’s definitely going to happen, I just can’t tell you when until this economy turns around, and the sponsor dollars and enthusiasm is there.  One person or one business cannot go do that on their own and be successful.  I’m not planning on going to do Supercross until I can take guys there that can be top 10, and do it consistently, because I want to give back to my sponsors.  I believe the sponsors deserve the recognition. When they put the dollars out there, they deserve as much back for that as they can possibly get.  I don’t believe that outside the Supercross top ten, that there’s a lot of recognition.  I think that the value needs to be able to be had before we can go do it.  I’m not going to do it until I can do it, and do it right. 

We touched on this earlier, but where do you want to be after the final Arenacross of 2010? 
After Des Moines, I’ve got my goals set pretty high.  I mean, everybody wants to win the championship - but the ultimate would be to sweep the podium.  That would be an attention-getter, and also be a very great sponsor-pleaser and crowd-pleaser.  You know, I feel that we’ve got the team to be able to do that, so that’s going to be my goal: to sweep the podium.

That’s a pretty solid way to wrap things up Eddie. Is there anything that I missed?                  
Well, I’d love to let Monster Energy Kawasaki know that we greatly appreciate their support.  Also, we’ve got Moose Gear again this year, and they’ve done a phenomenal job.  Pro Circuit and Maxxis Tires have been very helpful and beneficial to our success. The guys at DeCal Works really busted it out to get the photo shoot graphics set done for us in time.  Vortex is back on board with us, along with Galfer, and Wiseco who have just tons of great products.  Also with Merge Racing, K&N Filters, Motorex Oil, and Spy Goggles this year, we’ve got a great lineup, and I’m really excited. 
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