Racer X: (Kevin Windham pulls out an iPhone that looks like it was run over by a tractor.) Dude, can’t you afford a new phone?! Kevin Windham: Yeah, but this one works, so why get another one? (Laughs)
Whatever you say, K-Dub. To the business, coming into the season, a lot of people knew how this was going to go down – or thought they did – and you weren’t even included in the press conference on Thursday before the race. Judging by that, a lot of people weren’t counting on you being a part of this. But here we are, and you were on the box. What does that tell you?
Well, it makes me that much more proud of it. I’ve got to say that I was pretty bummed that I wasn’t in the press conference, but I know why. I didn’t have a good year last year, and you’re only as good as your last race. I’ll be honest with you: We have a stacked field right now, and I have to earn media attention. I’ve been there. I’ve had people wanting to do interviews with me every hour of the day and having to deal with that because I was the new kid on the block, or I was running for [Jeremy] McGrath, or I won a big-bike race when I was a Lites rider, and that sort of stuff. To be honest with you, I understand. It made it sweet, but not just because I wasn’t invited to speak at a press conference, or because the fans or media didn’t think I was going to be on the podium. I’m doing this for me. And to hear their cheers, it’s like they’re cheering now for a different reason. They’re cheering because I’m out there and I’m an old man. Even my dad, he sent me a text saying, “Great ride, old man!” It’s there. It’s a fact. It’s real, and it’s a tough field. I want to be a podium contender, but I realize in this field that might mean getting fifth or sixth. Everyone’s going to have some bumps in the road this year, and it’s not time for me to talk a bunch of crap about how prepared we were for the race – although we were prepared. It could’ve easily gone another direction just because the field’s so stacked. I’m going to take it for what it was and celebrate because you don’t know when the next podium’s going to be. I’d love to say I won, but it kind of felt like I did. It was a good race for me, and nothing was handed to me. I had to come through the pack. That made it feel really, really special and good. Now, I’ve got to put my head down and work just as hard going into round two as I did coming into round one.
Were you skeptical at first about the idea of running basically stock suspension in the 450cc class when they first brought it up to you?
I have a lot of confidence in Rick [Zielfelder] at Factory Connection. He’s done a lot of testing, both with amateurs and all the riders he supports on that level, and then of course with us. I think he made some progress for the outdoors this past year as well, which I wasn’t a part of, so yes and no. I was skeptical a little. I mean, that’s kind of thinking outside the box, you know?
Yeah, you’ve raced your whole life looking at all this trick factory stuff, and using it, and it’s supposed to be better than everything else...
Yeah, and I’m happy with my bike. I didn’t make a change all day. Actually, that’s a lie, I made one clicker change. Even testing this week, we had the coated fork tubes, and I was like, “I don’t like it!” I think my settings are good with the friction from the standard tubes and all that. Obviously, it’s stock components, but those guys get in there and do their valving, and it’s pretty special stuff, and it’s holding up. I’m a bigger rider, and I put loads on it, and I’m totally pumped with it. That’s the hardest thing about where I’m at, and that’s what my team’s good at challenging me to do – both Rick and Mike LaRocco – which is to think outside the box and be open-minded. After 16 seasons, it’s easy to say, “This is what works,” because this is what I’ve been using for that long, but we’re doing things a little bit different this year, from my preparation and the way I work out to the way I practice and the way I think about my equipment.
You’re talking about 16 seasons, you were 16 when you hit the circuit, right? So that makes you 32?
I’ll be 32 in February...
That’s very old, because that’s my age, and I’m pretty old. Do you ever look back at that whole 16 years and think about how quickly it’s gone by? You look back, and you were just thinking about racing, and that’s what you do, but each year stacks up on the previous one, and before you know it...
Steve Hudson did a chapel service this morning about life being a vapor and how fast time goes by, and I can sit here today and say that I believe he’s completely correct because this whole career has gone by so fast! It’s insane to think about what I’ve been through, and what’s happened before tonight, and what happens after tonight, it’s all tricky stuff. It came to me last night in a dream, actually, that my goal is to race until 2014. That’ll be my 20th season, and obviously I’m number 14, so that’s my new goal. Whether or not it comes to fruition is dependant upon our industry and my results.
More your results than anything, probably...
Yeah, well, I hope to stay healthy and have a value to a team and to a sport and to an industry. I just can’t imagine letting it go. So many people ask, “Why are you still doing it?” or, “How long are you going to hang onto it?” I guess my answer is, “As long as I can.” because I enjoy my life. You hear a lot of people talking about how they hate this part of the job or that part of the job, and while I can tell you there are parts I don’t like as much as others, I’m not willing to let any of it bother me to a point where I don’t want to do this. It took me a long time to figure that out, because on top of the 16 years as a professional, I started when I was 3, so there was, what, 13 years before that?
Yeah, that makes this your 29th year as a dirt biker, full time.
Yeah, so that’s a lot of time. That’s a lot of time...
With a good result like this, and with you being happy – I mean, you’re legendary for your ability to win or do well when you’re happy – does this change how you look at this season? Are you more optimistic?
Yeah, I’m cautiously optimistic, and like I said earlier, I can be a podium contender, and I realize that may be a win in one situation, or it may be a third, or it may be a sixth or a seventh, because when you look at the field and all the guys who had some bad luck or this or that, if they all get their ducks in a row, there are going to be some LCQs with two or three big names in there, and somebody’s going to have to sit out. That’s just the way it goes. It’s a rough game, and I feel like I’ve started out on the right foot, which makes me feel awesome about preparation and what the team’s done. But I realize that to keep having podiums every single week is going to be tough. It’s going to be impossible – for me anyway – but I can say that without being down on myself. I’m just being real. I think that being a podium contender doesn’t mean you’re not going to have a sixth-place finish.