Nearly six months ago to the day, Jeremy Martin had hit rock bottom. His career was in a whirlwind after failing to qualify for his second straight supercross race. Jeremy would lean on his family—brother Alex, mom, and dad—and his team, and by season’s end had won his first career race at the season finale in Las Vegas. It was this that would propel him to five straight moto wins to begin the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, and eventually lead to his first career title. Moments after being crowned the 2014 AMA 250 Motocross Champion—the first major pro title for his Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha team, as well—we caught up with Martin in the pits at the Indiana National.
Racer X: 2014 National Champion Jeremy Martin, how’s that sound?
Jeremy Martin: Sounds pretty good. It was really nice to hear Kevin [Crowther] from the AMA say congratulations and hand the number 1 plate over to me and to raise it above my head. It was a dream come true.
Did you know you won?
Well, I didn’t realize I’d won the championship after the first moto. I crossed the finish line and I was like, “All right, good, solid second, and have a good second moto and hopefully we can wrap it up this weekend.” I’m like strolling over to the podium and everyone’s freaking out, I’m like, “What’s going on? And my team wrote on the pit board 2014 Lites Champion. I was like, “No way. I didn’t get it.”
And for this team, it’s been a long journey. What does it mean to the team and Bobby Regan, even Cooper Webb your teammate? This is a big accomplishment for you guys.
For the whole Star team and even for Yamaha, I think they haven’t won a Lites Championship in maybe over twenty years. It’s a great feeling to be able to deliver Star their first ever championship. They were never quite able to break through until I think last year and this year. So it’s a great feeling, but for me it’s an even better feeling. I really do it for myself. Can’t say it enough; dream come true.
We talked during supercross when you said you were at rock bottom. How did hitting rock bottom help you get here? Did it even help?
No, I think it helped. At the time I didn’t think it helped. But I learned a lot about myself and became a lot stronger as a person.
Is it one of those things, maybe it grounded you a little bit and helped you see that I’ve still got a lot of work to do?
It definitely grounded me. Like I said, I learned a lot about myself. I think the biggest thing is what happens when you don’t do good and battling with yourself personally and seeing what’s going on around you and knowing who’s there for you and stuff. You really learn a lot about it. I learned a lot about myself. No matter what, how I was going to do, I was going to stay humble and be myself.
You really kept that attitude even when you won five straight to begin the year. You would joke with us that now we’re coming to talk to you, or whatever it was. How have you been able to just kind of roll with it? Not get too high, not get too low…
I think it helps remembering where I came from and my mom and dad and stuff like that. They’re there to give me the reality check still and help me. It’s been good.
When you finally figured out you had won, what was going through your head? What kind of emotions were you feeling? Did you choke up a little bit?
Yeah, I definitely choked up. The worst, though, was when I saw my mom and I gave her a hug. She was embarrassing me, making me choke up so much I started to cry!
After Atlanta, the second race you didn’t qualify for, did you ever see this [kind of success] happening?
I don’t think so. I remember after the second supercross round I was so mad. I set my helmet down not very nicely, walked up in the truck, and my brother came over and gave me a hug. I was in full-on tears. It’s pretty cool to be able to see him after the podium here today. It was good.
Alex talked about how determined you were as a little kid. He told a story about you breaking both legs and your arm, and to get back riding you had to go through the woods on this trail or something. Can you tell us what the story was about? He said you crawled most of the way.
I broke my leg and my arm, and they were opposites [sides], so I was stuck in a wheelchair for a long time. My dad, I told him, I said, “I don’t want to race anymore.” Once I started to get better and watch my brother ride during the summer I was like, “I’ve just got to race. I have to. This is what I want to do.” My dad’s like, all right. Once I got better, he’s like, if you can finish this loop that we do here in the woods… It was like six miles and it was gnarly. He says, “If you can finish it in two hours then I’ll let you ride.” I remember it was extremely painful and I got it done. I did it in an hour and fifty-nine minutes, just barely made it. I was able to ride after that. Ever since then I’ve been sticking with it.
So one minute later we may have not seen Jeremy Martin 2014 champ?
Yeah, I would have had to beg my dad!
Talk about when you came here this morning and it was pouring down rain. You only had a couple points left to secure the championship. Did you start getting a little nervous? Anything can happen in the mud.
I was really nervous. I’m pulling in this morning and it’s just down-pouring. I see the track, and they dug it really deep and watered it pretty heavy. When we went out there it was just open and it just soaked right in. It was like, “I wish I had a Yamaha jet ski!” I was nervous. I was like, “This Yamaha’s really strong, but anything can happen in the mud.” I was a little worried about maybe a DNF. But the bike, that Yamaha, it’s truly amazing, and it held together all day, and I was able to get the championship.