5 Minutes With... Greg Schnell

December 30, 2009 7:10pm | by:
Greg Schnell is a multi-time winner in AMA Supercross competition, including his last win at the U.S. Open in 2004, where he won both nights in the Lites class. Schnell is now working in Texas at a training facility after having done a year of real work, and just completed an episode of MTV’s “Made”. We talked to him today for this 5 Minutes (or maybe 20 minutes) with...

  • Underground MX
  • Underground MX
Racer X: It’s been a while since we’ve seen you racing. When was the last time you were racing full-time as a pro?
Greg Schnell: Probably 2007 was my last supercross. I haven’t raced Nationals since 2004. I was doing Arenacross in ’07 and really wasn’t enjoying it, coming from a supercross and motocross background. It wasn’t too fun flying in, riding for 20 minutes, then flying back home. It just wasn’t enough for me, so I gave that up and bought some Hondas – I was riding for a Suzuki team at the time – and went back to California and did the privateer thing again in 2007. I think I did the first four rounds, and I was behind the eight ball already. I bought the bikes three weeks before the first round of the east coast, and I wasn’t in such great shape because riding Arenacross, you don’t really have to be in shape. It’s only like a six or seven-lap main event. I lost quite a bit of corner speed while I was doing Arenacross, so my speed was a bit down in supercross, but I knew I’d have fun, so I did it anyway and had a great time. That was the last time I raced. I got hurt at Indianapolis and decided to... I didn’t really hang up the boots (laughs), because I may go buy some bikes and race again, I don’t know! (Laughs) Who knows?! I definitely want to race again. But what? I don’t know.

What have you been doing since then? I know you’ve been training some guys...
What I’m doing now is I moved to Kemp, Texas, and I live here full-time now. I’m a full-time trainer and rider coach at Underground MX, which is owned by Mark Regal, Kyle Regal’s dad, and I have a partner in this business venture named Jeremy Winchester – AKA “T-Bone” – and he’s been a mechanic in the industry for years now. We’re trying to put together a good program for kids to come out and train and be coached down here in Kemp and make the kids go faster!

I talked a little bit to Tommy Hahn about coaching not too long ago, and it’s funny because you guys know how to go fast, but it’s probably pretty tough to tell someone else how to do it, isn’t it? Or are you a natural at it?
I wouldn’t say I’m a natural at it. I think it does take a little bit of time and practice, like anything else. For a racer, it takes a lot of time to get used to teaching people and making them understand what you’re trying to tell them, especially for kids. Sometimes they’re difficult, although sometimes they learn very easily. But as a professional racer, you learn to do it without thinking about it, so it takes a while to learn how and what to teach the riders that I coach. I trained and coached kids in the past even when I was racing, in my off time, so I’ve been doing it for a while. It’s a cool process. It’s cool to go coach or train someone and literally watch them as they get faster. It’s an amazing process. It is pretty difficult at times, but I really enjoy it. This is what I want to do. Over the past year, I went out and got a regular job for a year, and I wanted to experience that because I’ve never had a regular full-time job before. So I did that, and now I made up my mind that this is what I want to do full-time. There are some trainers in our sport whom I don’t think do a particularly great job, so I made up my mind that I want to do it, and do it better, because this is a sport that I love, and this is where I think I can help.

What job did you have for a year?
For a year, I pulled data and phone cables. I was a low-voltage technician.

Did it suck? Did you hate it?
You know, the hours were really hard to get used to. I’d wake up sometimes at three in the morning and drive all over Southern California. The boss that I had, he had a contract with Kroeger, which owns Ralph’s and Food 4 Less grocery stores, so we would go all over Southern California and sometimes Northern California to these stores. We’d be driving all over the place, and there was one time that we had to shut the store down to move all the old cable over to our new cable, and we worked 25 hours straight. That was pretty hard. I enjoyed it, though. It was a good learning experience, and it was something that I had never done before. I’m glad I did it.

  • Schnell and Kyle Regal
With the high level of racing, sometimes that perspective of knowing what a real, high-level job is like, that might do some of these guys some good to know what it’s like to have a real job. It helps people know why it’s important to put forth their best effort and treat their job like a job.
A real job is definitely harder at times, especially for a motocrosser. A lot of the kids, especially for the past three to five years, have had stuff handed to them, and they don’t really know what a real job is, and they don’t really know what they have. I think a real job would do some of these kids pretty damned good!

Yeah, me too.
You know, Steve, a lot of these kids, especially nowadays, they have a lot handed to them. When I first turned pro, I heard guys like Marty Smith or Larry Brooks tell me, “Oh, you have it easy!” At the time, I was like, “I don’t think I have it easy!” But now that I look back, I had it pretty easy, and the guys before me, they didn’t. And now that I’ve been through my career, I can look back and see that they were right, and I didn’t have it nearly as easy as the kids do now. Obviously, the economy is making things tougher, so it’s cutting back, and I think it’s going in the right direction now. Riders have to earn stuff – bonuses for race wins and these things – instead of just getting it handed to them and making a million dollars a year. I think our sport screwed up on that for a few years, but I think it’s better for our sport when they have to earn things instead of just getting handed a million bucks on a silver platter.

That’s what racing’s about: earning. Earning wins. It’s about individual achievement. There’s no real point in having a race if everyone isn’t going to RACE. It’s human nature that if you’re comfortable, you won’t take risks. There are very few Ricky Carmichaels who just won’t accept losing no matter how much or little he’s paid.
Exactly, if a rider’s getting a million bucks right out of the amateurs, they already know they don’t have to do this or that for the money. Make them earn it! They know already when they get to the gate that they don’t want to get hurt, and that if they get hurt, they won’t get paid, so they just have to go out and get top 10 and they’re good. With the economy like this, they have to earn their money, and that’s the way it should be. Before you get paid a million dollars, you’ve got to go out and earn it.

They’re having issues in the NFL right now with a similar issue and are looking at curbing the amount of money that rookies can demand for the same reason. They want people who are proven talents to get money.
I’ll give you a perfect example of this: Kyle Regal. At Unadilla, he was on a pretty much stock bike, and he finished fourth! He was passing guys – I’m not going to name any names, but factory riders – and he did it based on hard work, not because he had better equipment. That’s a perfect example. He wanted to do good. He was passing factory Honda guys, and everyone else. He was charging. He started like 25th or 30th and came through and finished fourth.

I was watching him at Budds Creek, and I remember a kicker on the face of the finish-line jump, and he looked really comfortable over it, whereas the only other guy that looked really comfortable on it was probably Chad Reed. That’s where I noticed he wasn’t just a flash in the pan, that he’s really good and has really great bike skills.
I see Kyle ride almost every day, and it comes straight from his work ethic. He rides so much. Him and his dad have a good program. That’s what I’m saying. They have to work for their money now, and he’s a perfect example of what happens when riders are forced to work for it. I think he’s going to be a champion pretty soon and it’s mainly because of his work ethic. It’s a lot of skill, but the kid works so hard.

  • Alex Martin and Schnell.
I heard you had something going with MTV. What’s going on with that?
Yeah, I just finished filming an MTV show called “Made”. We just finished last weekend. It was a great experience for me. What MTV does for these kids is amazing, especially for the motocross episodes. I got hooked up through Tyler Evans because he had done a previous episode, and it’s amazing. They buy these kids bikes, they get to keep them, they get free gear... It’s just amazing. I want to thank the MTV people for hiring me to do it. It was awesome. James, one of the field producers, and Jason, they were amazing to work with. They did a fantastic job on the show. I want to thank Ryan Holliday at Kawasaki, Jammi at Thor, Brian Fleck at Dunlop, Kurt and Ryan from Pant Saggin Dezign, and all the guys at Pro Circuit. They all helped out through the whole process at the show, and it was just an unbelievable experience. It should debut sometime in the early spring.

So you’re going to be in movies and stuff soon, huh?
(Laughs) I don’t know about movies and whatnot, but the MTV thing, it was just awesome. I had a great time. We filmed for five weeks. It was all about motocross, but it wasn’t just about that for me. From talking with Tyler and his experience with his show, the reason I did it was that I had a chance to help a kid out. He said it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I hope I accomplished my goal of helping a kid out, not only riding and making his dreams come true there, but I went to school a lot and helped him with school stuff and got him going to his classes... It was an amazing thing, and I hope I did my job.

That’s funny. You have a pro motocrosser telling kids to go to school.
(Laughs) Wait until you see the show. Everyone on the show worked their asses off. Hopefully, it shows that we did our part when the show comes out. We really worked hard. It wasn’t just about him riding a motorcycle. My goal was to help the kid out through this time in his life, and hopefully he gets everything done that I asked him to do.

Tyler gets a bad rap a bit because of his tough-guy persona, but he’s actually an incredibly nice guy. I try to tell this to people, and they don’t tend to buy it.
Yeah, Tyler Evans, throughout my racing career, was one of the guys that I liked to hang out with. He was kind of like me, where we had some incidents on the track, but we could have that happen and then get off the track and still be buds. Tyler’s a good guy. He has a big heart. He seems like a bad-ass and everything, and he is, but I think of him almost like a WWE wrestler – he puts on that persona and he rips off his shirt and he’s flexing his muscles, you know? He’s all about the show. He loves to race. I wish nothing but the best for that guy.

Yeah, people don’t buy it. Whenever I’ve had to interview him, it’s like, “Yeah, man, come sit down. It’s cool. What’s up?” and then afterward it’s like, “Do you need anything else? Okay then. See you next week.”
That’s exactly how he is! Just don’t piss him off or he might punch you out! (Laughs) And then you see him race, and he’s knocking people off the track and trying to knock people out, and then he’s back in the pits, and it’s like, “Hey, how are you? You doing okay?” He’s a super-nice guy. He’s a good guy. Just don’t cross him or he’ll punch you (laughs).

So tell everyone how to get in touch with you for training and stuff.
The training facility is at www.undergroundmxpark.com and it’s in Kemp, Texas. I’m down here full-time, and I’ve got riders coming out soon. We’re 45 minutes from Lake Whitney and about an hour and 15 minutes from Oak Hill, and then we have the Dallas and Houston Supercrosses, so if anyone wants to come out, they can email me at SchnellTraining@aol.com and get a hold of me. And they can reach me on Facebook or MySpace – all that good stuff. I’m enjoying myself in Texas so far!