Josh Grant is in a much different place than a year ago. At this time last season, Grant was left without a ride and didn’t have plans to race at Anaheim 1. He eventually raced Daytona on his own and finished seventh overall. Due to injury to Wil Hahn, Grant would secure a fill-in ride for the remainder of 2016 with Monster Energy Kawasaki. Lingering ankle injuries, which would require surgery, ended his 2016 season early, but prior to that he secured a deal to stay with Monster Energy Kawasaki for 2017.
We caught up with Grant recently to talk about his double ankle surgery, returning to Monster Energy Kawasaki, when he may retire and much more.
Racer X: How’s the off-season been, Josh?
Josh Grant: Just wide open, man. Getting ready. A couple weeks left.
You getting stoked for Anaheim?
Yeah, I can’t wait.
So last year you’re obviously in a much different place with your whole ride situation. Can you talk about that and what your whole mindset was going into the year? You decided to forego showing up and doing your own program earlier, then you waited until Daytona to race supercross. Was that some type of a strategy that you had? What was your plan with all that?
No, I didn’t. Actually I really wanted to ride coming into the season, but unfortunately the cards didn’t fall my way and I was kind of left without a ride. I still wanted to be on a dirt bike whether it was either racing or out in the hills or free riding or whatever. I had plans to do a lot of other different stuff besides going to the ranch, but my buddies kind of inspired the whole Daytona trip and whatnot. “Let’s go out and do one. Which one would you want to do?” I’m like, “Let’s do Daytona. It’s kind of an outdoor.” I wasn’t riding supercross and I only had a couple bikes, so we spent a couple weeks before Daytona just piecing parts and stuff getting it dialed in to where I felt like I could race it.
The whole ride situation ended up working out in your favor after your good result at Daytona. You got eighth?
That’s right. How did you feel about that? That was obviously great coming off of the couch and jumping in. You then ended up landing the fill in spot for the injured Wil Hahn with Monster Energy Kawasaki shortly after where you will also be for 2017.
Yeah. I didn’t know really what to expect. I hadn’t been riding all year or on race pace and didn't know where anybody was at, too. I wasn’t even really watching the races. I went in with the expectation of I’m going to push for a top 10—I think that would be sick. Just come out on my own on a bike that I put together and get in the top 10. That’s pretty respectable and whatnot, so that was the goal. But to even get seventh it was just a couple extra bonus points for sure.
After that weekend did the phone start ringing? How did that whole Kawi deal come about?
Actually the Kawi deal came about before Daytona even started. We were driving across country, me and my buddy, and we were planning on the Daytona ride. We stopped at whatever dinner place it was and we were watching the race on TV. I think we were in San Antonio or something. We were watching the race live, whatever race it was before that. We saw that Wil got hurt and crashed, and then I think it was one of the JGR guys, I think [Phil] Nicoletti. So right when that happened I got two text messages within five minutes of them getting carted off the track, one from Kawi and one from JGR that said, “Hey, can you come fill in for us?” So I was already on my way to Daytona but I had other obligations with sponsors that kind of helped me as far as getting out there, and wasn’t able to do it. I still ran my normal Daytona program. I stuck to the plan. People that were helping me out that believed in the vision of what we were trying to do and just have fun and whatnot. Once I was out in Daytona the Kawi guys reached out to me and were like, “Hey, what are you doing moving forward for the next couple rounds?” I just said that obviously I’m not ready to go to Toronto which was the next weekend, but I signed a deal with Kawi and finished out the rest of the year for them and the rest is history.
You finished the supercross season and then raced up to High Point outdoors where you decided to sit out to get your ankles fixed. When did that discussion start to come about? The ankles have been bothering you for a while—it wasn’t a crash or anything that happened to your ankles at High Point that made it so you couldn’t ride. They were just kind of bothering you, right?
My ankles have been bothering me for like the last five years. The Kawi guys knew that. Once I was in the truck all weekend or even at the supercross round, they kind of saw what I was dealing with. I was spraining them almost every two rounds and they just weren’t holding up. I was getting through it, putting the bike in the main event for them and trying to get inside the top 10. I had a couple good finishes at the end of supercross. So we went into outdoors and the first couple rounds were sweet. I think I went 8-8 at Hangtown. I went 6-6 at Glen Helen, and then we went to Colorado and I went 4-5, almost got on the podium. I had the podium spot.
You were battling with Canard at Thunder Valley. That was a good race.
We were battling for a podium spot and I was riding really well. I kind of sat down with the team and I said, “Hey, I don’t know what you guys’ plans are for the following year, but I've got to start thinking about it. If it’s something that you guys are willing to do, let me go get my ankles fixed and invest in having a good year from me. I think I can do a lot better than I’m doing.” It was enough for them to say, “I think this is a good idea.” We signed a deal and I told them right after that my last race was going to be High Point because I needed to get both my ankles fixed and to be done in time [for 2017] I need to get it done like this. It’s a six-month deal. So now I’ve been able to ride for the last two months and it’s good.
So how’s everything going?
Everything’s sweet. I’ve been riding quite a bit, been putting in a lot of laps. The bike’s been really good. I’m happy with where I’m at. My ankles have been the best they’ve felt ever. I can’t remember the last time I felt like I could walk around normal. All around just a good feeling whether results or not, just as a human being being able to function normal and chase my kids around and do that kind of stuff is just worth it for me.
Could you talk a little about what kinds of problems you were having with the ankles?
From injuring them from the last five years or whatever I just had no stability. I had no ligaments. Nothing was pretty much put together, so I just had really bad instability. I could roll my ankle on a blade of grass. So the spraining and spraining and constant of that, just having a lot of big issues and bone spurs and all kind of stuff. Either way, I had to go in and get a full ankle reconstruction in both my feet.
So you were on the Kawi before. Do you feel a lot more comfortable having ridden the Kawi with TwoTwo?
Yeah. I rode with Chad and then obviously I was riding the new Kawi [last year]. I rode it a little bit in outdoors and did a lot of testing with those guys. It just made the transition really smooth getting back on the bike, and I was already familiar with the team. We kind of just started where we left off. I think that’s really been a benefit for the last couple months and helping me get back to where I need to be.
How is riding with Eli [Tomac] and being teammates with him?
For me it’s good. That’s the pace that all the top guys are riding. He’s up there with Kenny [Roczen] and [Ryan] Dungey and battling for wins and whatnot. So to have him—he was down at his track for a little while. Now he’s out in California riding. So for me to be able to ride with him has been a benefit, and to know where to gauge my speed and know where I’m at. So I feel pretty good about it.
He’s supposed to be here until the end of February, in California. Do you guys ride and train a lot together? Do you feed off each other? Or do you kind of stick to your own program and just kind of make note of what he’s doing?
We have our own programs. He has his days where he rides and I just kind of have mine. I have a little bit different situation than him. He’s obviously a lot younger. I’m 30 with kids and a lot of other obligations. My schedule is a little bit different. But we’re at the track. Obviously I’m gauging myself off his times and he’s doing the same. For me to be on par with him I feel like I have a good shot at being up there and actually fighting for races.
What’s your goals going into next year?
My goal is to just be a fighter. The last few years I’ve just been surviving and trying to get through each round with whatever injury, mostly my ankles and whatnot. My main goal is to be able to be up there and fight. I’ve always been surviving and trying to get through it. I think this year I just want to go out there and fight with the guys that are on top, whatever that is. I want to try to be on the podium as much as possible. I think that that’s a realistic goal. If I can accomplish that then I think I’ll have the rebirth of my career again.
Is your deal with Kawi one or two year?
It’s just a one-year deal right now. It’s just this year through outdoors and the GPs.
You’d like to stay with the team, obviously?
Yeah, I’d love to finish out my career with them. I’ve had some really good races. We kill it at the GPs. Obviously I would like to leave off where we left outdoors, fighting for the podium spot and stuff. I really think that with the surgery and all the stuff that I’ve done I feel a lot better than I normally have, so looking forward to hopefully doing good.
How much longer do you plan on racing? Do you have a timeline?
I want to beat John Dowd’s career, so whatever his number was. I think he was like 42. I want to be like a 45-year-old racing 18-year-olds in supercross. Can’t wait to get back at it.