Ronnie Ford is a 43-year-old trying to qualify for a supercross race. If that doesn’t already seem like a tall order, he’s trying to do it on a Husqvarna TC250 a two-stroke. The two-stroke has worked just as Ford had hoped, by bringing him some extra attention that he wouldn't normally get. This might also be a bad thing though as some people don't feel Ford's skills are adequate enough to compete on today's supercross tracks. Whatever your feelings are about Ronnie, you should at least respect the fact that he is going out and fulfilling his lifelong dream of competing in every round of Monster Energy Supercross and making a few night shows along the way
So far he hasn't been able to put his bike in the night show, but his chances of making it in are looking good for Toronto. As of writing, only 41 riders are on the pre-entry list for the race and that includes Ken Roczen who won't be competing. We caught up with Ford earlier this week to find out a little more about his background in racing, his thoughts on the "haters", and his goals for the season now that we're half way through.
Racer X: So let’s start from the beginning. When did you get your pro license?
Ronnie Ford: I got my first pro license, I think in 1995. I made the show in ’96 and then I was doing that and Lorreta’s stuff and everything. I did supercross from then until about 2003-2004, I guess.
When you were racing, were you doing the full circuits or were you just going to the races you could make it to?
Just the races I could afford to get to.
And how many have you qualified for?
I made St. Louis in ’96. In ’99 I made Houston and broke my leg right then. I raced in 2000 and I went to one or two and I don’t think I made it in those. I actually went to several one year and didn’t make it in any of them because of a terribly bad bike setup. A really strange thing happened and I finally called the company and I’m like, “What’s wrong?” They said, “Oh, well our guy didn’t put the right shock spring on your bike because we didn’t have one.” I’m like “Dude! I just spent thousands of dollars going to races and I couldn’t get over obstacles because the back end was too soft and now you tell me this?”
Most of the races if they would have done the timing thing I would’ve made it in to almost every one I ever did back then, but the races you had to qualify into and there just seemed like there was always some kind of stupid thing or crash or whatever I did that caused me to have problems. I made it in Daytona in 2002, I think. I made probably four or five shows.
So you broke you leg, took some time off, and gave it another shot. What was it like when you “retired” for the first time?
Well actually I’ve been through a couple awful divorces and that was one of them right about that time. I still raced and I actually went and raced a lot of fair races up through the middle of the country at that time and won quite a bit of money doing that. Then when I came back and I had met somebody else I decided to get a house and all that. I worked my tail off and developed my own business which is what I still have today. Just a few years later I started riding again. I had been riding a little bit the whole time, but I kept in it enough to stay with it and then I’ve done Loretta’s the past few years … past four years I think, in the old man classes and just kept my speed up enough and really zipping here as of the last couple years and just decided to try it again. [Laughs]
And you’re doing every round of supercross this year! I know you have sponsors and stuff, but how are you making this work financially? It’s got to be tough to take all that time away from your business.
Well I had my mechanic on most of the East Coast, he actually has helped me with my work some. He took my stuff and did my job. I clean exhaust hoods for a living for restaurants and whatnot. He took my stuff and did some jobs and we worked it out to where he made some and I made a little, but at least it was keeping it up. Then I had my sponsors pretty much pay for all of it when I was out in California. The problem is most of that … well all of it is dried up right now. Now I come back from a race, work my tail off and knock out some jobs and try to go to the gym as much as I can and then head back out to another round. So I’m not even getting to practice that much right now during the week. Hopefully I can get some stuff going and everything and get a little more help.
So you’re sitting around at Loretta’s with your buddies and they start saying you should try to qualify for a supercross again? How did that conversation go?
Well I don’t think it was at Loretta’s. Just some talk you know, some of my buddies asked “You gonna do supercross again?” I’m like, “Eehhhh I don’t know.” I had gotten my license for the past couple years and I was gonna do it like three years ago. We were going to Dallas and stopped at Compound 77. I was on a 250 four stroke and busted out most of the stuff [on the track] in just a few minutes. I didn’t have my timing down though and there was one great big triple I was trying to get timed just right and came up short on it and I broke my arm and that was the end that.
So this time I was like … people said stuff and I was like, “Yeah, but if I do I gotta have the money to get out there and train, practice and have some time getting used to stuff on supercross.” My nature is just to go out and do stuff just when I look at it and everything, that’s what everybody knows me like. This year I’ve been trying to go against that and try to let it come to me. The fact that I’ve been on the two-stroke … oh my gosh, with the tracks the way they are these days it’s really been a struggle to say the least.
What made you want to drop everything and just go for it this year?
It was the opportunity of a lifetime basically. I’m getting older and I’ve stayed racing for the past several years, trained my butt off so I’m in really good physical shape still. I just got to talking to a couple people about it, they said yeah we’ll help you out. I got the TSX people involved and before I knew it I had enough sponsors to go out and get going with it. I thought about it and I’m not passing that opportunity up. That’s an opportunity of a lifetime. If I qualify I’m pretty sure I’ll be the oldest guy to ever make the show. It would just be a cool accomplishment for all the years I’ve raced and got hurt and never really panned out or anything. It’s just like … trying to live the dream that you’ve always wanted to do.
What was the process of getting your pro license? Have you had to renew it or anything since you first got it?
A couple years ago [Ronnie said it was the last year before the Road to Supercross program was implemented] … well, some people have really questioned like, “How can a dude go and not get his license?” and all that. Well, I had my license eight years ago or whatever, the big class license—250 supercross. When I went to hit them up, I talked to … I think it was Kevin [Crowther from the AMA], he was like, “Well, we looked it up. I trust what you’re saying, but I don’t see any results for you or anything in AMA races.” He goes, “So what I want you to do is go out and get some Pro Am points and get some stuff and give me some results that show me you can still go in AMA races.” So I did that and got my license. I’ve got my license every year since then just to make sure that when I went to do it again I could get it even if I didn’t run. Because if you let it lapse then that’s when you gotta go through the whole deal again.
And why the two-stroke?
Well, me doing it the way I am I was like, “Well the only way that I’m gonna be able to get the sponsors to help do it is if I’m doing something that is going to catch a ton of attention” and I knew that doing it on a two-stroke would do that. I didn’t realize how much it is [attention] … it’s crazy. I did that and got a couple 250s and started riding them outdoors. It was awesome, I was loving it. I haven’t had that much fun on a bike in years and then when we got into supercross that’s when it became, “Oh! This is a little different now!” [Laughs]
What were your goals coming into this season? Just to make the night show?
Just to get into the night shows at first. I mean, you know, when I’m comfortable I can still rip and that’s why people see me ride around here outdoors they’re like, “Dude you can do it no problem” and I’m like, “Well it’s supercross, it’s not the same.” I hadn’t done it in 20 years almost and it’s just seeing it again and getting out there on it again. Your timing has to be good and everything and I’m kind of a just a ragged go for broke type rider. You have to have a lot more timing and rhythm in supercross and that’s what’s made it a little tougher.
The closest you’ve been to qualifying is 10 seconds off of 40th place, but you are getting closer. Are you starting to feel more comfortable on the tracks now?
Oh absolutely. We’ve been working on our suspension because the bike has been pretty off … it wouldn’t turn very good. So now we’re getting the bike turning better and I’m getting used to the way things look. Just getting the confidence back that the bike will do some of the stuff it was having trouble doing before has really helped.
The last couple weekends I’ve not put everything together and if I would have last weekend [Atlanta], I wouldn’t have made it because there was a lot dudes there and they were fast. You would have had to been riding the track exactly like Dungey, same rhythms and everything. Virtually no one from C Class … I think they bumped a couple guys out of B practice and made it. It was pretty tough. The weekend before [Minneapolis] if I would have put the track together I would have made it because the things I weren’t doing were easily more than 10 seconds. It was just the rhythm. When you jump through a rhythm clean versus not clean, I mean that could be five seconds.
This week in Toronto usually has a pretty low rider entry number. Are you looking forward to this weekend?
Yes, for two reasons. Last weekend I figured out a couple things in my head and it got me over a couple hurdles in my head. So now I’m looking forward to this weekend just to ride on a supercross track more than I have at any other round. Then to boot with I know what the turnout is supposed to be and actually what it looks like right now. I’m really looking forward to it, hope we get it in, and I mean it’ll be insane. [Laughs]
I’m sure you heard people say these or seen it on the message boards, but some people don’t think you belong out there on a supercross track. What do you have to say to that?
You know, there’s gonna be haters out there and everything. In my defense, I know the situation I’m in and it’s taking a little bit coming to me. Like I said, there’s not a question of whether I’ll jump the big jumps, it’s just getting used to the timing on them. If I’m going out there and I’m not going to do a rhythm section because I don’t have it down yet. I know the situation I’m in and I will look and make sure there’s nobody coming. If they do, I just take a slow lap and I roll the stuff on the side of the track so I make sure I’m out of the way. I’m not getting in nobody’s way because I’m trying to get with it and everything, I’m really watching that. And it’s coming back to me. I mean, when it comes back to me a little bit better people won’t say that.
Any sponsors you’d like to thank?
I’d like to thank TXS Productions, Grass Roots Husqvarna, Advanced Automotive, Combs Motorsports, Tim Tarrillion, Lambert’s Café, Fly Racing, Bill’s Pipes, Cyclewerx, Goldentyre DirtTricks, Forma Boots USA, Xbrand Goggles, Streamline Brakes, Mobius, Motoseat, MindFX Schmidt Performance, Stance Socks, Find It Sports, Motul, Acerbis, VP Fuels, Works Connection, Dubya, 719 Designs, RTitanium, Steahly Offroad, and Motostuff.