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22 Minutes, 22 Seconds with Chad Reed

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Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Chad Reed was one half of the biggest controversy to pop out of the AMA Supercross Series since Ricky Carmichael was docked 25 points for bad fuel back in 2006. Reed and defending champ James Stewart went down together in the main event, and Reed ended up with a broken hand, and with a penalty from the AMA for $5000 and a suspension of one race for shoving James Stewart while they were on the ground. We got in touch with Reed today, two days out of surgery, while he was walking around Babies R Us, to get his side of the incident, for an interview that took exactly (and coincidentally) 22 minutes and 22 seconds to complete.

  • Chad Reed rides off the Phoenix track with his broken left hand at his side.
Racer X: Let’s get down to the nitty gritty... What happened in the main event with you and James Stewart?
Chad Reed: I think it’s no secret that I’ve been having some issues this year, and I’ve been struggling with a few things, and I’ve found myself, on more than one occasion, in the wrong place at the wrong time. Phoenix was no different. I had a horrible start and was just trying to come through. James was in front of me, and obviously he was hurt, but to be honest with you, it was kind of crazy that the hurt guy and the guy who’s struggling – the two favorites – were in the back having their own issues together. We were struggling forward, and I tried to make a pass, and we came together. It was just one of those things, and I wasn’t really mad or upset at the time, because I felt like it was just a racing thing, where he went down the left side of the whoops, and I went down the right side, and we met at the turn. He tried to turn under two guys, and it totally caught me off-guard, and we collided. At that point, I knew something was wrong, because I was in a lot of pain, and James and his bike were on top of me. I now know I had a broken hand, but at the point I was lying there, I just knew it hurt like hell. My immediate reaction was to get James and his bike off of my hand, and that’s where a lot of the drama started, right there – the fact that I pushed James off my broken hand.

Mike Fisher told me while we were standing out in the parking lot at like 3 a.m. or whatever that it looked like his handlebar landed on your arm or hand or something, and that’s probably what broke it. Is that right?
Yeah, I have a lot of marks all over my hand – almost like front-brake or throttle-housing marks – and it’s pretty beat up and bruised up all over my wrist and arm. But I think just how we hit, and the bike landing on me, was just kind of one of those things that happen. It was just a freak thing, and it’s unfortunate, but what do you do? It was a horrible, horrible start to the year, and I kind of went out pretty lame. But at that point, I got back on the bike, and I thought, “Well, it hurts, but don’t be a pussy! Just ride! You can do it!” but I went about half a lap and knew that something was pretty major, and I was a pussy and rode off the side of the track and back to the pits. But seeing the X-Ray immediately after that was kind of telling, that I wasn’t so weak. I jumped some triples and some other jumps with a broken hand. It was pretty stupid.

And it’s the outside metacarpal, right? The bone that runs down to your wrist from your pinky?
Yeah. Right in the outside of my palm, it felt like something gnarly was sticking into my hand. I was just like, “God, this is killing me! I don’t know if I can continue this.” But I made it a half a lap and I was like, “Okay, I’m done...” I mean, it all rushes through your head, and I was already in survival mode, and obviously finishing 19th the week before was going through my head, so pulling off the track two weekends in a row is something that I’ve never, ever done before, and something I’ve never really had to deal with. It was pretty tough to suck it up and have to ride back to the pits for the second weekend in a row.

Part of the problem is when you get bad starts like that, you’re always at risk, because people are going everywhere. At A1, Austin Stroupe hit you and broke your spokes, and then at Phoenix, James was diving under two guys, so you had three guys in the turn in front of you, and you got balled up. It all stems from bad starts. It’s a crowded track and shit happens.
Yeah, I think you summed it up. Shit happens. But I think it was about two or three laps before that, I believe, and James made exactly the same pass on Kevin Windham that I tried to make on James. But when you pass someone, and you put it up the inside of them and surprise them, the immediate, natural reaction is that they will pull away from you to try and stay on two wheels, and James is not programmed like that. James, his brain shuts off and he says, “Who the hell do you think you are trying to pass me?! No one passes me?!” and he stays committed. And normally there’s a collision, and normally it ends up with somebody on the ground, and it seems like I’m the only one that’s not afraid to put it up the inside. On more than one occasion, we’ve collided in situations like that, so it just seemed like déjà vu from a few other times.

In an interview I did with Ricky Johnson that will be up tomorrow, he said there was only one time where you blatantly tried to take out James Stewart, and that was in the main last year in Vegas. I had a hard time coming up with any others myself. The rest were just hard racing.
I think that’s fair. I’ve always raced hard. But to be honest with you, the only other time I tried to take James out was at the Indianapolis Supercross in 2007. I was having a rough year, and James was riding awesome, and he put it up the inside and ran me way wide, and the next turn, I pretty much just tried to clean him out, and I took us both down. It was the same thing, where I put myself in a position to make a pass, and he stayed committed, and we both went down. But in Vegas, I didn’t try to knock him down. I mean, yeah, I was frustrated and whatever, but the pass was more of a, “What’s up, bitch?” more than anything. If I wanted to put him on the ground, I could’ve put him on the ground. To say that I tried to take him out in Vegas, I think, is a little far-fetched, because with the situation the way it happened the week before [in Salt Lake City, when Stewart’s teammate nearly took Reed out after being lapped], and as much as I really, personally wanted to put him on the ground, I felt like I was holding back quite a bit. I felt like that was just a nice, little “rubbin’s racin’” thing. [Laughs]

So then what happened? After you pulled into the pits, did you go straight to the Asterisk Mobile Medical Center?
Actually, I knew I was done for the night, and with Ellie being pregnant, she wasn’t actually in the stadium. She was in the bus, but I knew she was listening to it on the radio. So I didn’t stop at Asterisk [which is located, at Chase Field, at the entrance to the track, at the bottom of a big ramp that leads up to the pits]. I went back to the pits, dropped off my bike, and with a broken hand, I couldn’t put it on a stand, so I leaned it up against a pillar.

  • It just wasn't his day. Reed walks off the track in practice after he had a mechanical issue and his bike wouldn't start.
Yeah, because you’re parked under a bridge, so you leaned it against the pillar that holds up the bridge...
Yeah, so I just leaned the bike against the pillar, and Ellie knew I was out, and she was looking outside the motor home, and I just said, “Hey, I think I broke my hand, so come down to Asterisk with me.” So she helped me take my helmet off and she walked with me down there. The rest of it happened while I wasn’t there, unfortunately. I went to Asterisk, got some pictures taken, and Dr. Bodnar confirmed that I had a broken hand, and he put me in a half-cast and I went back to the pits. Nobody even told me when I walked back through what had happened while I was gone. Everybody was pretty quiet about it, and no one said anything, but I went inside and took a shower, then went to talk to the team a little bit, and that’s when I found out that James had come by and was threatening to kill me, and kicked my bike over, and was knocking on the bus. So, yeah, it was pretty drama-filled, and I’m kind of sad I missed it all, actually. It seems like he wanted a piece of me, and at that point, I think it was a good time to meet and see each other. It was disappointing. I think if you’re throwing it out there that you’re going to kill someone... But, of course, James being the tough guy that he is, he had his helmet on while he was yelling that out. But I’m disappointed I wasn’t there.

Well, you would’ve been one-handed, so that’s not exactly an easy fight to fight someone one-handed...
Well, I had one hand, and he had his helmet on, so I think it would’ve been a pretty fair fight... No, I had him...

It’s not like that’s the first time I’ve ever heard of a racer losing his temper. Steve Matthes has told me a story before of how Ricky Carmichael threatened to kill him after the Salt Lake City Supercross in 2003, when Timmy Ferry and RC almost got into it.
Yeah, I believe it’s best referred to as a “meltdown,” right?

Yeah, you could call it that, but my point is that it happens. It’s not unheard of.
Yeah, we have a lot riding on a title, and I think when the heat’s turned up a little bit, you see the realness in a lot of people. And I think, in James’ situation, he doesn’t have a lot of smart people around him, so it makes it even more difficult to hold your composure.

  • Reed during opening ceremonies.
Well, smart or not, the people were probably still down on the track at the time, so...
Yeah, sure, so I don’t know, I just think it’s disappointing. For me, I was the one hurt, and it was just a racing move. I’ve watched it a thousand times; I’ve watched it on every angle that Speed Channel has; I’ve watched it on the Kawasaki video; I’ve watched it on my own personal video that my bus driver takes; so I’ve seen it from multiple different angles, and there’s truly nothing that could’ve been done. James was trying to make something happen, and I was trying to make something happen, and the two of us collided. I think, at the end of the day, it’s bad track management. Having whoops on an angle going into a turn like that, and coming out of sand, I think the problem really lies in track management and track design. I think that’s something that I’m proud to have achieved in Australia. Having a hands-on thing with Australia, I think the tracks have become extremely safe and a little more race-able. And from my experience with the first two tracks this year, they’ve been quite the opposite. It’s unfortunate, and I think at the end of the day, had it been anybody else, there would’ve been nothing mentioned about it. But because it was James and I, it seems like James and I create quite a buzz.

I actually wrote in 450 Words today for people to think about the exact incident but replace you and James with Kevin Windham and Andrew Short, and then what would you think about it? I think people are reading into it because of who you are, rather than what you did.
Totally, and I think the most disappointing thing that I’m taking out of it is the fact that James and the people around him are trying to make it out like I was trying to threaten James or attack James. I wasn’t trying to do that in any way, which is really disappointing, because when you’ve got a broken hand and somebody’s on top of it, your immediate and natural reaction is, “Get that off of it.” And then the fact that the AMA reacted the way they did is really disappointing, and really quite embarrassing to be a part of it. I have no respect for their decision, and I think Ricky Carmichael summed it up best in 2006, that he was ready to walk away [after losing points due to a fuel violation]. After what happened on the weekend, it makes me count the days – months, really, because I have a two-year deal. I’ll be here for two years, and then I’ll be quite happy to walk away from that pathetic governing body.

But ultimately it did get overturned. Cooler heads prevailed. That doesn’t make it all right, but at least you’re not stuck with the penalty...
Yeah, but when you look at the reality of what really happened, and you judge it for what really happened and nothing else, and you don’t have any personal involvement, I think that’s what the head guy is supposed to do at the AMA. I think the head guy at the AMA acted inappropriately and judged based on a previous situation, and I think he judged the whole situation by who it was and who it involved. If it hadn’t have been James or I, it would’ve never been mentioned, but because it was James and I, and it was going to be on TV, and the people jumped up and down and screamed and yelled, then that’s why it got treated that way. I’m just so stunned and blown away with the fact that they could potentially give me a season-ending penalty, along with a $5000 fine, for something that anybody naturally would do with a broken hand, and a bike, and somebody lying on it. Your immediate reaction is to move them off. If it had been a motorcycle on me, and I was getting burned, what do I do? Do I say, “Oh, my gosh, that’s James Stewart’s motorcycle, so I’d better not touch that aggressively.” At that point, the natural reaction takes over, and you just get that thing off of you. Whether it’s James, or his motorcycle, or his head, at that point, something told me to get it off of me. So I’m disappointed, and maybe in a week or so, I’ll cool down and think otherwise, but at this point, I’m pretty disappointed in the AMA, and I’m not real happy about their decision to penalize me. Remember, this penalty was decided before they even knew I had a broken hand or that I couldn’t race the next race anyway. To potentially take me out of a race for a non-existent violation, I think that’s really inappropriate, and it made them look silly. And they’re consistent at that.

Let’s switch to more happy stuff. As you mentioned, Ellie is pregnant, so does this time off happen to work out where you’ll be able to maybe be off the bike when your first child is born?
You know what? I’m a huge believer that things happen for a reason, and with Ellie being pregnant – she’s 100-percent supportive of me going racing, and she’s traveling with me and whatever, because we’re in this together, so there was no lack of commitment from her or from me to the series – the truth of the matter is that it’s far deeper than just Ellie being pregnant. I wasn’t riding well, I wasn’t feeling well, and a lot of what I dealt with in the outdoors last year was unfortunately coming up again, and I didn’t feel like I was putting my best foot forward, so this gives me a great time where I can step away and get healthy and come back and get 100-percent physically fit, so I can go out and be the rider that I know I can be. I think it opens up an opportunity for me to go home and get fit. And right now, I’m walking around a Babies R Us and doing a baby registry, and it’s actually quite fun and cool. I’ve always been excited to be a dad, and I grew up around a lot of kids, and this is a very cool and special time. So it sucks to be hurt, but I’m one-handed walking around a Babies R Us, and I’m smiling and happy.

Are we going to see you back before the end of the series? Are we going to see you come back to finish out the last month of supercross or something like that?
We’ll see. You’ll see me when I’m healthy. I’m not really putting a timeline on it, because my goal is to be healthy, and the word “healthy” covers much more than just a broken hand with a plate and four screws. I want to be the rider that I know I can be, and I feel that a lot of things have been happening with me over the last year that I’ve been fighting through, and this gives me an opportunity to really get after that. I was committed to the season, and I still believe that I had a shot at winning the title, but I’m a huge believe that things happen for a reason, and this will end up being for the better. I think the outdoor title is a huge priority right now, and supercross for 2010 is over for me. I feel like I have a lot to prove outdoors, and this gives me an amazing opportunity to get healthy and strong and fit and come out swinging at Hangtown.
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