When news broke that Jeff Stanton was planning a party for the Motocross of Nations at RedBud, we knew it was going to be good. As more details surfaced, it became clear that Jeff was working on an epic bench racing party, and one that would ultimately benefit the Road 2 Recovery Foundation and the Alpinestars Mobile Medical Unit.
Stanton is not the type of guy who takes things lightly, especially when it comes to the Motocross of Nations—or charity events. So when “Six-Time” took to Instagram and started calling out to many of the former riders who represented Team USA and inviting them to join the party, it was game on.
It is worth noting that despite being retired for nearly 25 years, Stanton still has the same fire, determination, and work ethic that carried him to six premier AMA Motocross and Supercross Championships. He is also pretty outspoken for the things he believes in, something that many riders today do their best to avoid, so he also makes for a great interview...
Racer X: How did things wrap up for your big party?
Jeff Stanton: It turned out really awesome. For the way it started, I called a few guys and said, “Let’s do a parade lap,” and that turned into, “If I can get 30 guys to do a parade lap… Let’s get 30 guys together to do a fundraiser.” I didn’t realize the work that was going to be involved, but after it was all said and done, there were 450 people that left my event and I’ll guarantee you for those 450 people, it was the highlight of their weekend.
How much money did you raise?
We still got some money coming in because of the pit bike thing, so we don’t have a final number yet, but we should soon. Rob Buydos put together that whole pit bike thing [Pitbike of Nations], and it will be whatever they made over and above what the guy had into the bikes. But we have a rough idea. As of the night of the event we were at about $156,000. But, I have still a couple thousand in expenses that I am waiting for bills to come in on. The goal was to raise $100,000 and we were over that, which is awesome. We’ll be closer to $120,000, $130,000 when it’s all finalized. There were a few people that were upset at the night of the event that we’ll have to return some money to. We had some riders that backed out on us and some folks were disappointed that they didn’t sit with the riders. But that’s something I can’t control, it was totally out of my control. So, all in all, we beat the goal. So no matter how many hours on the phone I put in, it was all worth it.
Congrats on that. Six figures of charity money is not easy to raise.
It’s not easy to come across. Really I can toot my horn and say I did it, but I didn’t really do it. The 35 riders that spent their money to buy airplane tickets to come back and that paid for their own hotels and volunteered their time, it was an effort from everybody. Yeah, I made all the calls and I did all the asking, and the people that were fortunate enough to be financially secure enough to buy the tickets at $1,500 or $1,000 or $500... They were the ones that really made it happen. It’s really the people and the riders that made it successful.
Some of the guys that came back actually had to pay to come to the event?
I called everybody and asked everybody to come. Half of them said, “Hey, are you going to buy my ticket?” I said, “Listen. I’m not in the business to buy anybody’s ticket or put anybody up. I’m trying to do this to raise money, not buy a ticket and get your rental cars and get your hotels and then have you back out on me the last minute. I would have lost my shorts if that would have been the case.” So all the riders that were there, they paid their own way to get back there.
How many total former Team USA riders showed up?
I think we ended up with 32. We were at 38 and five backed out on me in the last week. So it is what it is. I was super happy to see everybody that came and showed up. What was the cool part, I had three people from the 1970 team. Dick Robbins, Mike Hartwick, Mark Blackwell, and guys like Brad Lackey, Donnie Hansen, they looked up to those guys. Then Rick Johnson and Jeff Ward, they looked up to Brad Lackey and that group. So it was kind of a ladder system of people that each rider looked up to. I looked up to Rick Johnson, Jeff Ward, Ron Lechien, and then Jeremy McGrath looked up to us. It was cool to hear the stories from each guy over the years that they raced. It was awesome. The interviews were awesome. We kind of paired up guys for the interviews. We had Ricky [Carmichael] interviewing Fro [Jeff Emig] and Fro interviewing Ricky. They were a hoot. So the whole night, once we got everybody seated and got everybody dinner, and the interviews started, it was phenomenal.
What would you say the biggest highlight for you was?
The highlight was just the interviews. I was going a million miles an hour trying to get people seated. When you’re dealing with riders and getting everybody coordinated in one area… I wanted everything to go smooth. The whole day was a highlight for me, to be able to put on an event like that to raise money for the Alpinestars Mobile Medical Unit and Road 2 Recovery. The whole thing was a success. And seeing everybody from the past, that was the cool part. Guys like Billy Liles. And I’ve never met Steve Stackable. Gary Semics was there. You know, just going back and seeing all those guys, seeing what they’re up to now, if they’re not involved with the racing or whatever, it didn’t matter. It was super cool.
Anyone you want or need to thank who was behind the scenes?
The other thing that I wanted to bring up is our motorcycle community. We auctioned off tickets. People bought tickets and spent a lot of money for it. So everybody that came, I wanted them to have something cool. So I reached out to Fly Racing, Fox, 100%, Oakley, Spy, Renthal, and Parts Unlimited. The support they gave was huge. I wanted everybody that attended that event to have a backpack with $500, $600, $700 worth of product in it. So everybody that came—Oakley sent me 300 pairs of sunglasses. Spy sent me 100 pairs of sunglasses. Parts Unlimited and 100%, backpacks. Fly had t-shirts and hats and water bottles. So, it’s one thing to raise $150,000, but to have your motorcycle community, your motorcycle family donate $200,000 worth of product just to give away for that event, it was as impressive as raising $160,000. Everybody got behind it. I worked my butt off to try to put on a quality event. Like I said, there were some people that were a little pissed off because they didn’t sit where they wanted to sit. At some point, things are a little bit out of my control. I did the best I could. So if I got to give back ten seats, if ten people are pissed at me for the $450, so be it.
You can’t make everyone happy, especially when you’re dealing with 400 plus people.
The people that were pissed, they really pissed me off because I didn’t raise the money for myself. It all went to motocross charity. You got a $600 backpack and MotoTees made me an event shirt. You got everything you wanted and now you want your money back? It is what it is. You can’t make them happy. If you want your money back, send me that backpack back and I’ll give it somebody who appreciates it. Not to dwell on the negative because it was all positive. The riders were super pumped. It was a great event. Really, for the youth of our sport the money that I raised is going for the Alpinestars Mobile Medical Unit. None of us can capitalize on that. I hope the youth appreciates and will read this article and appreciate what we—myself and the other 30 riders—did for them. They all visit that Alpinestars Mobile Medical Unit at some point. Hopefully none of them need Road 2 Recovery, but there’s guys that are currently racing that are on that receiving end of that Road 2 Recovery thing. So I hope at some point they will thank each and every rider that was there and myself for raising the money for them.
You are really setting an example as a former champ and for giving something back to the sport, while also giving something to the future as well.
Thanks. I just wanted to give something back to the sport. I spear-headed it and everybody says they’d love to do a project, but until you got to get in there and make all them phone calls… I called every one of the manufacturers multiple times. “Hey, can you help donate?” They probably got tired of hearing from me! As it goes, I don’t like calling and begging and asking for stuff, but I wanted it to be a first-class event.
Switching gears here, what is your position on the actual racing results from Team USA and the event?
The event was through the roof. I feel bad for Tim and Amy (Ritchie, event promoters) because the weather, but that’s out of our control. I was nervous and excited like I was racing. Standing above the start line watching Justin [Barcia] and Eli [Tomac] start, my heart was pounding through my chest. Just the excitement was tremendous. Yeah, I would have loved to see them win and do better. We can’t control that. Can we make things better for the future there as a race team? For sure. But as far as the whole event, between my event, the pit bike race that Buydos put on, and what the Ritchies did, it was awesome. It was through the roof. I don’t think anybody left there disappointed, other than having muddy vehicles!
What do you think our guys need to do to be a little more competitive in the future?
Those European guys race outdoors 365 days a year. We take supercross so super serious. We need to step up our speed outdoors and step up our starts. Supercross is our livelihood here unfortunately, so more emphasis is put on that. And no, we can’t have a Supercross of Nations. We just got to step it up, get better starts, and whether it’s dry or muddy you still got to race it. Everybody’s got to race the same thing. Been there, done it. You just got to dig a little deeper and make it happen if you want to win.
Now that the event is over, what do have planned for the winter?
My life is good here in Michigan. I got a couple businesses that we run. We’re happy. My kids are good, we are just getting them through college. My wife, being in the medical field, she’s is busy, and super awesome. Our farm is busy. My whitetail deer business is busy. My wedding venue is busy. I’ve got no complaints and am really enjoying life. I ride dirt bikes all the time, and I ride my bicycle every day, so I keep in good shape. Would I like to be a part of the industry a little more? Yeah, sure, but am I going to go out of my way to move somewhere and live somewhere to do something different? Absolutely not. My family is healthy and good, so I got no complaints.