Fort Dodge, Iowa’s Gavin Faith has eight 250SX top 10 finishes—three of those being top five finishes—to his credit, as well as two Amsoil Arenacross championships, two Australian Supercross Championships, and a life-time worth of memories. After a crash in 2018 left him with a broken back, Faith has decided to call it a career and retire from professional racing. We caught up with him earlier this week to give him an opportunity to reflect on his career, shed some light on his injury, discuss his future, and more.
Racer X: You just announced your retirement from professional racing on social media. You want to talk about your career a little bit and what led to that decision?
Gavin Faith: As a professional racer, you never really know how long your career is going to last. I was definitely hoping before my injury to go quite a few more years, but unfortunately I had that crash and got injured. It’s a pretty scary injury. [I] just kind of took it day by day. My back’s not really progressing as well as I thought it was going to, and still bothering me in some day-to-day life. I kind of had to take a step back and look at what’s best for me and my whole life, not just right now and racing dirt bikes. Then I got the news that arenacross was not going to be any longer next year, so that definitely made it a little bit easier of a decision for sure. At the end of the day, I think I still would have made this decision whether arenacross was here or not. It’s just a tough injury. I’m thankful it wasn’t worse—just happy to be walking. [I’m] probably going to have back troubles for a while [laughs], but had a great career. It is what it is. It’s alright. I’m happy with the decision.
For fans reading this who may not know, are you comfortable talking a little bit about the injury itself? Do you want to talk about that, what happened?
I was in Nampa, Idaho, in qualifying practice at arenacross. I just kind of messed up on the take-off of a triple in and went over the bars and landed into the fourth [jump] pretty much on my back. I actually ended up—it was probably not a very smart move, but I ended up walking off the track thinking I was alright. I ended up being in the hospital for five days, and was borderline needing surgery or not, and decided to not get the surgery. I got a couple different opinions from different doctors and ended up not getting the surgery. I’m going to kind of run this path and see how it turns out and see how well I can get my back. I broke my T4, that was the main one. I broke T3, 4, and 5 as well with a couple ribs. It’s a pretty serious injury. Like I said, I’m lucky for it to not be worse.
You were able to walk off the track with that severe of a back injury? That’s pretty gnarly.
[Laughs] My mindset, when I crashed, I was like, “It’s alright. I’m good.” Even though you’re hurting really bad, your adrenaline is going and stuff. But about halfway to walking to the stretcher, I was like, this is not a good idea. I should not be walking right now. It was not my best decision. I try to be a tough guy, but it’s not the smartest decision always.
Let’s talk about some highs a little bit. Before we get to arenacross, obviously you’ve got the two championships there, but eight top-ten finishes in supercross and three of those top tens being top fives. How do those results feel when you look back at the end of the day?
I had a decent supercross career, like you said. Three top fives in Lites. I always wanted to get on the podium. That was a goal of mine obviously, but I came up just a little bit short a couple times. But it was good. Obviously I wanted to be on a factory team and I wanted to be on the podium, but it didn’t quite work out. I kind of resorted to arenacross. My whole career I kind of struggled with endurance a little bit. I think anybody who watched me race has kind of known that. That’s where I kind of struggled a little bit in supercross, the longer main events whether it’s 15 in the Lites class or 20 in the 450. I felt like that always kind of held me back just a little bit. But I was thankful to go over to arenacross and be very successful there, along with Australian Supercross. I raced over there for seven years and won a couple titles. Definitely threw a couple away along the way. It’s been an awesome run. Just thankful for every step of the way.
I talk to arenacross guys and they sometimes reference, “I went down to arenacross.” So when you take your top fives and your top tens in supercross, and then you look at your championships in arenacross, do you kind of hold them on the same level a little bit, or is there always kind of an asterisk next to the arenacross championships?
Initially it was honestly a tough decision to go to arenacross because my lifelong dream, I wanted to race supercross, get on the podium, maybe go for a championship someday. So it’s kind of a pretty big pill to swallow to go to arenacross, but at the end of the day, I had to sit back and realize I love racing dirt bikes, but I don’t do it for a charity. I do it to make a living. I’ve invested so much time and money and energy into it that I didn’t want to just be a guy racing privateer forever. When I had an opportunity to go to arenacross and make good money, it honestly came down to financially what I could do to support myself and try to maybe set myself up for the future. But winning the arenacross championships, I was glad I went there. I’d rank my two arenacross championships higher than top fives in supercross. Even if I got on the podium I think I still would have been more proud of the arenacross titles. It was a pretty big deal. There was a lot of good guys, too. It’s not like there wasn’t anybody racing. There was a lot of pretty fast top guys from supercross too that came down. It definitely wasn’t easy. It made it a much bigger deal to me to win it with some tough competition rather than just walking away with a title.
You mentioned Australia. Let’s talk about that a little bit. You won a number of races and won some championships over there as well. Talk about how your career went down there?
Actually before I even turned professional in America, my rookie season in 2011 I went to Australia. A guy named Yarrive Konsky—same guy I rode for for seven years—was at Millsaps Training Facility where I was at. He watched me ride and gave me a shot. He got pretty criticized for it at first because I was kind of a nobody going over there, but I ended up second in the championship the first year. That just kind of led from there. I think the next year I ended up winning. I went there for a total of seven years. In the beginning it was honestly pretty beneficial financially just because in America I was making decent money the first year I rode for a couple fill-in rides and then privateer on my own a little bit. But for the money I was spending to what I was making wasn’t really adding up. So that definitely helped me out a lot, and also going to Germany and racing over there helped out a lot too. I was always kind of a hustler. Tried to race overseas races and make a living riding a dirt bike, not just chasing the dream here in America.
Let’s set the injuries aside for a second. Do you have any regrets in your career? Anything you wish you would have done different, or overall can you look back and say you’re happy?
I definitely don’t have any regrets. Obviously, there are a couple of moments in Australia where I did some kind of dumb things and threw a couple championships away, but at the end of the day, it is what it is. I was the type of guy too I would like to have a little bit of fun after the races and stuff. Looking back on it now, I don’t regret any of that. I definitely wasn’t doing anything before the races, but arenacross we’d have fun after the races. I probably got a little bit of criticism for it. The last couple years racing arenacross were probably the most fun years of racing in my life. Training out at the GOAT Farm and just going to the races every weekend and having a solid team, getting good results and having a good time doing it. I had a lot of good people in my corner. I definitely don’t look back on anything and wish anything was different. Obviously the last injury sucks. It sucks to go out of the sport like that, but like I said it could be worse. I could be dead. It was a good run and I’m thankful for how it ended up.
I covered arenacross for the last two years of its life. I can attest that you arenacross dudes know how to have fun after the races.
Yeah [laughs]. It’s not like we’re riding outdoor motocross. We put in the work during the week and still did our motos and trained and everything. My motto is you’re not going to be able to do this forever, so you might as well have a good time while you’re doing it. At the same time, I was getting good results too. If I was a tenth-place guy or something I probably wouldn’t have quite the same mentality. I was doing well and putting in a lot of work during the week too. I don’t think it was too horrible to loosen up a little bit on the weekends, but I don’t recommend that for everybody.
What are some lessons that racing has taught you?
I feel like racing as taught more than what you’d almost learn in a lot of college degrees, just whether it’s meeting people, dealing with sponsors, putting together the whole training side of things or racing side of things, mental toughness. There’s just so many things that kind of play hand in hand with racing that can help you in real life, especially determination and hard work. I feel like if you have those two things you can do just about anything in the real world. So I think that’s an awesome thing as most racers are known to work hard and have a lot of determination. Those qualities will take you a long way in life, on or off the track, whatever you decide to do next.
What’s some of the best advice you’ve received in your career? Or something that someone said to you that just really stuck with you and you kind of built your career around that?
That’s a tough one. I don’t really have a specific quote from anybody that they said something, but just towards the end of my career just realizing that you’re doing what you love and just started enjoying it at the races. The first couple of seasons pro and stuff I was almost so nervous I wasn’t looking forward to racing kind of, just because it was so nerve-racking. But later on I learned to kind of enjoy it a little bit more instead of being so nervous about it. I feel like that helped me with mental toughness, with championships and everything like that. Just kind of enjoying it more than having so much pressure on your shoulders to where it’s not enjoyable.
Is that kind of the same advice you would give to other amateurs coming up?
Yeah, I’d say so. There’s a lot to life after racing dirt bikes. It’s not the whole world. As long as you’re having a good time, it’s the best years of your life, pretty much. Sometimes it’s not the best thing to take it too serious and make it not fun.
What’s next for you? I know you are involved in real estate with your family. Is that kind of where you’re going next, or maybe when you get healed up some off-road racing?
I’m not real sure yet, honestly. I haven’t really made up my mind. I feel like I’ve been really smart from the money I’ve earned through racing. I invested in numerous rental properties back in Iowa, so I’m grateful for doing that. Every summer I had off because I would just run the arenacross and supercross series, so now that I’m injured and kind of retired I have those rental properties to fall back on. I kind of have a steady income coming in now. I don’t exactly know. I like real estate. At the same time, I want to stay involved in the sport. It’s been my whole life since I was a little kid and I love it. The only bad thing is it’s hard to make a lot of money in the industry. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s tough to do. I would like to maybe do a little bit of both would be ideal. As far as right now, I’m not real sure yet. I’m trying to figure out a couple things. Probably a mixture of those two would be ideal.
Obviously, it’s probably going to be a while yet before your back heals up, but I would have to assume that your days of actually riding a dirt bike aren’t over, correct? Or is this it? Will you be able to ride for fun eventually, or you don’t know?
I’m not real sure yet. I actually rode once but only for three or four laps. It hurt a little bit, but that was—I don’t want to say early into my injury—I was decently healed up, but it just takes so long with the back injury. Just kind of going off how I feel. Obviously I’d like to ride and stuff, but if it causes me pain or whatever it wouldn’t be worth it. I love it at the end of the day and it would be cool to ride. I don’t know if I want to be hitting a supercross track or whatnot, but just riding around with some buddies and having some fun would be good.
Was the decision to retire from racing doctor influenced? Or was it a culmination of family and yourself and doctors both?
The doctor said I can, but he was like it’s not going to be good for you and you might have some problems down the road earlier. So just kind of with that, and like I said before, arenacross being done helps out a lot. Even before that, I never got a salary racing arenacross. It’s not like I have a big salary waiting for me. If I was [Ken] Roczen or somebody making millions a year, coming back might be worth it. I might be able to retire or whatever. But to me, the risk to reward just wouldn’t be there. So I kind of look at it like that. Hopefully I live for a lot longer. The least amount of pain to have would be nice. Kind of looking at that too. [Laughs]
Overall, sum up your career the best you can.
Honestly for a small-town kid from Iowa I probably never would have guessed I’d be racing dirt bikes professionally, so to do it professionally and actually to make a decent living doing it, I kind of had to pinch myself there for a while. But to be able to have the amount of success I have… I went down to MTF but I graduated high school first and went through that, so it wasn’t like I was a touted amateur or anything like that. It was kind of always a battle for me to get to the top. So it was pretty stressful to win those arenacross championships and the ones in Australia and everything like that. I don’t really know how to sum it up. Just grateful to be able to accomplish what I have. I made a lot of great friends in the industry. It sucks to get taken out by an injury, but like I said before, it could be worse.
Gavin would like to say thanks to Storm Lake Honda for being behind him throughout his whole career, as well as his friends and family, and numerous amount of sponsors who helped him out along the way.