The List: Best Interviews in the Sport

The List Best Interviews in the Sport

February 9, 2017 12:30pm

This week, Jason Weigandt threw The List column on my lap. Now, a few weeks ago, I had asked him if I could do The List with the great Tim Ferry about his national wins or something like that, but after Weege finished laughing he said “Really? It’s the week of Anaheim 1 and you want to do a Ferry column? Can you wait a few weeks?” But don’t worry, we WILL get this Ferry List done one day!

Meanwhile, we had Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Justin Hill on the Pulpmx Show recently, and I started thinking about what great interviews he’s been giving. Truthfully, I haven’t talked to Hill that much, because he’s had some injuries and missed a lot of races. When you get him, though, he’s honest and insightful. I started thinking about other riders who give you good interviews in the pits. The paddock is full of interesting people, and it’s always fun to talk to some of these riders about their night or hang out during the day before everything gets real serious.

With that in mind, I thought I’d list some of my favorite riders to interview in the pits. Then I sent some texts out to other media people to see who they enjoyed talking to. None of these are in any particular order.

Steve Matthes – Racer X Editor-at-Large

1. Chad Reed. As the veteran of the series (Kevin Windham was like this before he hung it up), it’s good to talk to Chad about the series and sport itself, as he’s been there, done that, and has an ability to reflect on it and not be wrapped up in his own program. The fact that I was on his team for three years on factory Yamaha probably helps our relationship too. If you ask Reed a question, you’ll get a real answer—although sometimes I’m pretty sure he drops things into interviews he knows others will read to get a point across.

Reed has mastered the media. He appears on nearly every motojourno's list of best interviews.
Reed has mastered the media. He appears on nearly every motojourno's list of best interviews. Jeff Kardas

2. Ken Roczen: Kenny is a good interview for an “elite” guy. He understands the media does want to talk to him and gives us some time, although I’m sure he doesn’t always want to. Aaron Hansel explains below that Kenny’s honesty is sometimes mistaken for excuses, so that sucks for him. Sometimes things happen, and riders explain those things because they’re being honest and telling you what really happened. That’s not an excuse, people, that’s answering the question.

3. Phil Nicoletti: Filthy is awesome. You’re going to get plenty of “I suck” and “Why does this happen to me?” after each race no matter where he finishes. He’ll also throw a dig in at a Martin brother. Nicoletti never, ever, ever shows an ego—in fact, he’s the opposite, and that’s what makes it so great to talk to him.

4. Zach Osborne: Zach is a worldly guy who, remember, almost didn’t “make it” here in America as a rider. When he went to Europe, he had to really rebuild himself to earn a spot over there. He loves off-road riding, raced the ISDE, he’s married with a child, and I think all of those perspectives give him a lot of knowledge. He gives you honest, thoughtful answers about what happened out on the track and not the same old same old.

5. Adam Cianciarulo: Adam is a pretty amazing interview who really shouldn’t be. AC is a homeschooled amateur MX prodigy and should be someone who doesn’t have a ton of personality, but he does. He’s funny, he’s ironic, and he’s been handling his up-and-down career with class and wit. Ask him a question and you’ll get something you didn’t expect. I guarantee it.

honorable mentions: Jake Weimer is right up there with the best. He’s honest about his race and what’s going on in the sport. Mitch Payton is great. He’s very candid about the riders on his team and the sport in general. He’s Mitch Payton and you’re not, you know? Jeremy Albrecht is, at times, too honest about his JGR team and what’s going on. He’ll also never duck out on the media and answers the tough questions. Justin Brayton is always generous with his time and sometimes even asks you a question in his interview.

Jason Weigandt, Racer X Online Editor

1. Chad Reed: This is the most obvious answer ever, and anyone who doesn’t put Chad at the top of this list is an idiot. Chad is the only rider who really knows how to use the media to get a message across, which is sad because athletes and coaches do this all the time in other sports. Part of Chad’s savvy comes from his love of international motorsports like MotoGP and Formula One, where the riders and drivers are much more candid than what we’re used to here. Chad uses interviews to slay rivals or teams, get in the heads of other riders, win fans or get things changed. At Anaheim 1 he told me that going back to a factory team has reintroduced him to an agonizingly slow process of getting changes made to the bike. He used the media to get this message out there! Then when he finally used all of his leverage to get the changes he wanted, he went out of his way to point out that he was right in the Glendale press conference. Yamaha people were in there listening and he knew it. I advise all riders to take notes from Chad on how to use the media to further your own personal agenda. We’ll be glad to help if you give us awesome quotes!

2. Tyler Bowers: If every rider did interviews like The Bear, this sport would be much more popular. Tyler always tells you something. He never goes with empty crap about working on things and learning stuff, he actually tells you what he’s working on and what he learned. Plus, he has a personality and he owns it. Bowers tells you that he doesn’t mind bumping other riders, and tells you he likes the drama. If anyone new to the sport hears a Bowers interview, they’ll learn something interesting about dirt bike racing. That’s what it’s all about.

The Bear likes to talk.
The Bear likes to talk. Jeff Kardas

3. Adam Cianciarulo: You can tell AC is a fan of this sport through and through and would geek out like the rest of us even if he never even swung a leg over a bike. The fact that he’s good enough to have raced at the highest level just gives him even more insight and access than the rest of the fans. You can interview Adam talking only about other riders and he’ll have amazing analysis, and even more impressive, his ideas are never self-serving. A guy like Reed says things based on how it helps or hurts him. AC tells you things as if he’s an outside fan without a dog in the fight. That’s a remarkable level of maturity from someone so young.

4. Justin Brayton: JB knows how to use the media. Not the way Reed does, because he doesn’t have the countless race wins and championships needed to get that kind of leverage and credibility. He’s probably not as opinionated as Chad either, because hardly anyone is! But Brayton knows that by giving you information and interesting answers, he’s going to get more attention and exposure, and that’s going to help his career. You can learn a lot about racing by talking to Justin, be it about tracks, bikes, training, anything. All of these riders have knowledge, Brayton knows how to meter out enough of it to sound interesting but not get in trouble. I have a feeling he’s one of the few guys who actually thinks about what type of persona he wants to put out there in the media. Anyone doing that kind of analysis is bound to be a good interview.

5. Davi Millsaps: I don’t know if any of us in the media truly have Davi figured out. He’s a teddy bear and a stubborn mule all at once. He’s never mean, but he has an opinion on all topics and will never, ever be argued out of it. I’m not just talking about him arguing your opinion on him. Davi has texted me during motos while I’m announcing on TV, telling me if a fact or stat I’ve just said isn’t true. Example: The Thunder Valley National isn’t the only race the riders have done at elevation because the Salt Lake City Supercross is also up in the thin air. Thanks, bro. Best thing is, he doesn’t reserve this for the media. I’ve seen Davi battle for hours with the owners of teams he has ridden for. He does not care! I don’t know if he likes us, respects us or hates us, but I know he never holds back, and that’s all we can ask for. Oh, and if he’s hurt, he’s not covering it up, he’s practically going to search you out to let you know.

Honorable mentions: For some strange reason, Blake Baggett gives me the most ridiculous interviews, but he usually throws some real opinion and info, which I appreciate. I think Cole Seely is an up-and-comer in the media game and might become a Brayton-like source of info as he gets older. Cooper Webb is going to be outspoken like Reed about five years from now. Zach Osborne is also a MX superfan and loves to talk shop. Malcolm Stewart is hilarious. Filthy Phil is Filthy Phil. Justin Hill is pretty amazing in the same mold as Cianciarulo. And we can’t have this discussion without tipping a visor to the interview GOAT, Kevin Windham. Could we just call this the Kevin Windham Memorial Best Interview Award? 

Aaron Hansel, Racer X Editor-at-Large

1. Dean Wilson: Never acts like he has someplace better to be and will always give you the info you're after, even if he just answered the same question 83 times in a row. He's also pretty honest. Remember that time he said he was "Barcia's bitch" on TV?

2. Either of the Martin brothers: Both are super nice guys, and when you're interviewing them, it often feels like more of a casual conversation. And, like with Wilson, they'll give you honest answers. I recently did a Two Tribes with Jeremy Martin and Jimmy Decotis, and when I asked who the most ridiculous person in the pits was, Martin named his old boss, Bobby Regan! 

3. Adam Cianciarulo: Always seems to be in a good mood no matter what, and he'll always give you time. He'll usually work some humor into his interviews too. I remember asking him about that huge triple at Hangtown one year when he was (I think) the only 250 guy to hit it, and he told me, “To be honest with you, I only did it because I feel like I probably gained at least ten fans just from doing it. I swear that was my mindset. I went to the outside because I thought it was faster because they smoothed the corner out, and I was like, ‘You know what? Even if I don’t win this race, people will really enjoy it if I hit this jump.’ So I did it, and the crowd went nuts, and the whole next half lap I had that stoked feeling. The crowd was into it. I had two guys behind me trying to kill me, but I didn’t care.

4. Jimmy Albertson: You might think he's a just a goof, but he's been around this sport for a while at various levels, and he's pretty smart and knows how things work. He will always, always respond to interview requests, and there's plenty to learn from Jimmy if you ask the right questions and listen to what he says. He's also a pretty funny dude. I mean, who else is going to wear red-white-and-blue cowboy boots on track walk?

Jimmy rarely leaves the media hanging and his humor keeps things interesting.
Jimmy rarely leaves the media hanging and his humor keeps things interesting. Jeff Kardas

5. Ken Roczen: Some of the sport's top superstars can be somewhat hard to reach at times, but I've found Roczen to be remarkably accessible as long as you go through the proper channels. He won't just give you lame PR answers either. If you ask him what happened in a race, he'll give you an honest answer and go into detail. Unfortunately, some fans mistake his style as making excuses, but I don't get that impression.

Michael Antonovich, Transworld Motocross Online Editor

1. Zach Osborne: Still in his mid 20s, Zach has gone from amateur standout to struggling pro to American expat and back to US glory, and all of these experiences come through in his personality. He has an appreciation for the numerous disciplines of off-road motorcycle racing and the years of hard work haven’t killed his enthusiasm for riding. His wife and daughter are always at the track, so there’s always a reason for him to be happy and talkative at the truck.

2. Chad Reed: If you’re going to interview Chad, bring your best questions. An international icon of moto, the veteran isn’t afraid to say his true opinion on a topic, and this often results in incredible answers. He and I have had a number of good interviews but also some that I wish never occurred, but these talks have always helped me improve as a reporter. There’s much more to Reed than what the masses see and if you steer the topic to about any sort of motorsport other than motocross, prepare to learn a lot because Chad knows the inside story thanks to his friends that also happen to be elite racers.

3. Adam Cianciarulo: Adam isn’t the typical motocross kid that grew up in the spotlight. Articulate and open-minded, you’d think he spent his days on a college campus instead of the track. He’s spent a lot of time on the sidelines with injuries over the years, but even with things look grim, he’s able to put a positive spin on the situation. It also helps that we’re able to bounce new music back and forth.

4. Davi Millsaps: An interview with Davi can go a million different ways. If you ask him typical questions, you get typical answers. Hit him with a well thought out idea, he’ll tell you everything you want to know and more. Davi has been around the sport for a long time and we often forget some of the things that he’s gone through since turning pro at 16 years old. Back in 2015 we had a long talk about a variety of topics, and it was probably one of the best interviews I had ever put together. But the audio went haywire and it was completely unusable.

5. Malcolm Stewart: I’ve spent hours with Malcolm and his crew over the years, thanks to trips aboard for supercross events in Europe. The personality he puts out when the camera is on is genuine, and he can whip out the same level of disarming charm on anyone. When it’s time to address tough topics, he always gives an honest answer. 

Chase Stallo, Racer X Online Editor 

  1. Jeremy Martin
  2. Alex Martin
  3. Phil Nicoletti
  4. Weston Peick
  5. Ken Roczen

Steve Giberson, VitalMX Content Director

  1. Chad Reed
  2. Ken Roczen
  3. Justin Barcia
  4. Justin Hill
  5. Austin Forkner
  6. Adam Cianciarulo

** Non rider: Roger DeCoster

Donn Maeda, Transworld Motocross Editor-in-Chief

  1. Malcolm Stewart
  2. Dean Wilson
  3. Jason Anderson
  4. Justin Bogle
  5. Jeremy Martin

Kris Keefer, Dirt Rider Magazine Senior Test Editor

  1. Chad Reed
  2. Cooper Webb
  3. Justin Hill
  4. Justin Brayton
  5. Jimmy Albertson

Dan Lamb, 

  1. Malcolm Stewart
  2. Justin Hill
  3. Cooper Webb
  4. Chad Reed
  5. Davi Millsaps