Josh Demuth, an East Coast-based racer, who turned pro in the mid 1990s, made a name for himself as a journeyman privateer, consistently finishing inside the top ten at whatever supercross and outdoor motocross events he could afford to attend. For many years, Demuth duked it out as an Ohio-based privateer, traveling in a van and racing nearly every weekend. But it wasn’t until he started racing arenacross that he really made a name for himself. Along the same time, his family moved to Texas, and Demuth started to come into his own as a racer.
He retired in 2012 while running second in points in the Amsoil Arenacross Championship but suffered a nearly catastrophic injury some six months after retiring while riding with friends. Demuth has faced a long road back to recovery—well over a year in a hospital and over twenty surgeries. With a new year approaching, Demuth is ready to turn over and put the injuries behind him.
Racer X: Josh, what’s going on? What have you been up to since 2012?
Josh Demuth: Well, I retired in November of 2012, and then that following January 1 I went to work for my first real job, with a company that does oil and gas work here in Texas. I worked there full-time up until May 6 . I was training to be a foreman on that path. But then I went riding for the weekend, crashed, and basically spent an entire year in a hospital. It has been a long road. I actually got out a few times, but pretty much each time it was only for few days, and then I was right back in there.
What exactly happened?
I crashed and broke my leg on one side and my foot on the other side. Both were real bad compound fractures. The leg ended up getting infected from being in the dirt right after the crash and basically never really healed. I ended up with a chronic bone infection, which then led to a staff infection. As it got worse and worse, they said they needed to cut my leg off. But first I had a bunch of failed surgeries on it. So they cut it off below the knee, which made things easier for recovery [than being above the knee]. But then shortly after my knee got a staph infection. So they had to go back in and take it off above the knee. It is has been about a year now, and everything seems to be going great.
So you retire from a successful racing career with your health in place and start on the next chapter of life, but within five months, you suffer a major injury. Even though you’re now retired, that had to be an amazingly painful pill to swallow.
It was. But with racing, and by the point I called it quits, I just wasn’t having fun. I got to that point where I was in second place in the points, and it just wasn’t fun at all. I had the other things all lined up with the good job, and I did not know how long I wanted to go with the racing. So I just decided to retire and go into full-time [working]. It was just one of those things, I guess.
Tell me about the recovery. One full year of hospitals is really rough.
It has indeed been a long road. After that one year it has taken me a full year to get my feet back under me. I have had a lot of physical therapy and a lot of fittings for the prosthetic. It has been tough finding the best one to fit me. Some people do not know that I almost lost my left foot as well. That was also a compound break, and they put together as best as they could, but it is still not right. But, yeah, I have basically been just getting comfortable with being on my feet again.
Are the injuries all healed now?
As of now, everything is great. I have my prosthetic, the foot is healed up, and it works. It kind of shattered into a bunch of pieces, and they fused it together, and eventually I will need some bone graphs. But then I had one other set back and I do not think a lot of people know about it. I ended up planning to ride the X Games. I had another guy who was developing a foot setup to lock my foot in; that was pretty dialed. But then a few months before the race I was riding and broke my arm pretty bad. I had some shoulder problems. And now my right arm doesn’t work; it works only about 25 percent of what is supposed to. So I guess it seems like I am starting to fall apart! But that’s ok—I am used to coming back from these things.
Wow, that’s gnarly. I don’t really know what to say!
Yeah. [Laughs] I always thought I was invincible, but now it’s just one of those points where I am trying to get back to normal life. My last three injuries were all helicopter rides. Over my seventeen years of racing as a pro, I have had some bad ones, but I was always able to heal up. But the last three have been really bad.
So what does a normal life look like for Josh Demuth?
Well, the guys who gave me that job have been real cool. They’ve been patient with me, really supportive. So come the new year and the second week of January, I am going to go back with them and do the same thing in the oil and gas industry. The company is called Bobcat Contracting and they’re based in Hillsborough, Texas.
That’s really cool. How did you get hooked up with them?
Well, I had some friends that I grew up racing with. As they got older, most of them quit racing; they were all fast local guys. They didn’t go as far as I did in racing, so they got a jump-start with the company. And basically when I was ready to move on, I talked to them about it and they said they needed some help. Then, when I got to the job site, it turned out my boss and the company owner knew about my racing and used to go out and watch the supercross when it came to town. So they knew what I did. I basically lucked into it.
What about your personal life?
Well, since all this went down, I guess you could say that while it was really tough, it was also a blessing in disguise. When I was racing, I got to travel overseas and all over the country, but I had no time for family. So now, with this time off, and when I was not the in hospital, I got to hang with the kids and my girlfriend Michele. I never had time for that stuff, like going to birthday parties, and whatnot. My sister has some kids as well, and we’ve been basically just hanging out as one big family. So I’ve been spending a lot of time just catching up on family time that I missed. As for my kids, I have four of my own: Devon, my oldest son, is 14. Sutton is my daughter and she is 13. Brody is 8. And the youngest is Bru; he is a toddler and is about fifteen months old.
Three sons? Wow! Do any have the bug to do some riding?
No racing, at least not yet. It seems like they’re into other things. Brody is really into football and basketball, and it’s nice to see something else besides racing. But having said that, they all ride. We sometimes do some trail riding as a family. We also have some friends who have mini-bike tracks, so sometimes we hit those—we just don’t race.
If they wanted to race, would you support it?
Yeah, I think so. I would support it; it’s just tough with all the things I went through. You never want to see your kids go through the same. But you know, they see me struggling and understand what it took to do what I did. They are just blazing their own paths, really. The opportunity is there if they want it, but if not, no biggie—I am good with that.
So where is home now? You were originally from Ohio, but then moved to Texas around 2000, right?
Right now we live in Louisville, Texas, which is a suburb of Fort Worth. I was from Ohio originally, and grew up there until I was around 9. We then moved to York, Pennsylvania. I spent a lot of time there riding with Stevie Herman—he was someone I really looked up to. But then moved back to Marion, Ohio. A few years later, my mom got a good job offer in Texas, and we have all been here ever since.
Soon, after I graduated from high school, my mom got the job offer—she worked as an executive for Verizon, the phone company.
You won four arenacross championships. How was the money for you? I have heard how some guys just cleaned up racing that series!
It was great. Having come from nothing and watching my parents struggle, it was really good. I was able to take the load off my family and pay them back, and it was pretty good for myself. When you can do what you love to do and take care of family, it’s all that you need. I didn’t make enough to retire, and the hospital bills really were rough on what I did save, but I raced for a long time and took care of the family—that was good enough for me.
You actually had a really long career, at least in motocross terms.
Yeah, I guess so. I turned pro in 1995 and raced arenacross through 2012. I was hit and miss on some of the supercross and outdoor stuff. My real last time doing anything other than arenacross was 2010. But I had some good results—I had a fourth in Millville in the 450 Class one year, as well as quite a few top-ten rides in supercross. I finished fourth in the 250 class a few times. In the 450 class I got a fifth in Vegas and a third at the US Open. I had some really good rides over the years. My only regret is that I never actually got a podium [in AMA Supercross and Motocross]. I got as close as you can get, but never got one.
Do you still follow the sport?
Not a whole lot. I still watch most of the professional stuff, but I don’t really follow the amateurs. My buddies and I, we always get together around the time and watch supercross every weekend. And then when Dallas comes to town we will go and watch the races, but that’s about it.
What do you think about the whole Ricky Carmichael Road to Supercross program that arenacross is running?
I think it’s great to have him tied to arenacross, and I also think it’s great to see him give something back to the sport. It’s awesome. I only wish there was more I could do myself.
Well, Josh, thanks for talking to me. You have been through a lot, but you sound positive and I wish you good luck going forward. Do you have anything else you want to say?
Oh, I don’t know—just the typical stuff. I really need to thank all the people for sticking around me. I really want to thank the Hahn Brothers and Boo Koo Greg—they hosted a ride benefit day for me at Oak Hill MX, which allowed me to pay for my prosthetic leg. A little side note to my crash was that I did not have insurance at the time of my accident. The oil and gas company had insurance for me, but I was required to work with them for six months. I had my crash after five months and two weeks. My hospital bills were over a million dollars, and that was really rough. Being in there close to a year, it was about $8,000 per day, and with nearly twenty-two surgeries total by the time I was done, it was not cheap.
Ouch! Man, you are a true warrior. Best of luck with getting back into the 9-5 swing, and I hope you make that foreman gig.
Thanks, I appreciate it and thanks for still thinking of me.