For several years, Josh Cartwright was known as the supercross racer who also attended college full-time. Those days are finally over, because Josh has graduated from Florida State University and now has time to put his efforts solely on racing.
The last few years of his life have been tough. College is similar to racing professional supercross in a way, in the sense that to be good at it a person needs to be have discipline, dedication, a proper work ethic, talent, and resources to succeed. Whereas a majority reading this understand the stress, trials, tribulations, and all around gnarliness that life as a college student can bring, few can relate to what professional racers put themselves through on a daily basis, and even fewer have decided that combining the two could be a healthy idea. We caught up with Josh to chat about this milestone in his life.
Racer X: You’re a fresh graduate of college. How’s that feel? Congrats.
Josh Cartwright: Thank you so much. It’s definitely a weight off my shoulders. Finally can just relax and not have to worry about what I have for school the next day.
How were you able to balance going to college full-time and racing supercross full-time? Talk about the balance a little bit.
Definitely I give a lot of my preparedness to my school I went to before college, my high school in Memphis [Tennessee], Saint Benedict. They prepared me really well for school. Once I got to college, I put down a schedule and I told myself, school is going to come first and as long as I’m doing that well, I’ll be able to do my motocross. So I put in a schedule to where I went to school in the morning and I rode during the afternoon around 11:00 to about 2:00, and then I went back to school in the evening. Always just had to keep my head down and make sure I focused on the work. I’ve always been a pretty busy person. I’ve always liked being busy, so I didn’t mind having work after work after work. It kept me out of trouble also, living alone here in Tallahassee. So that was definitely a plus.
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I am now officially a COLLEGE GRADUATE from Florida State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in IT, Information Technology, with Honors in my major! This journey has been such a learning experience and I can’t thank my family enough for everything they have done for me! This has been my dream school for my entire life and I am going to miss it dearly. I am thinking about going back to pursue my master’s degree, but first it is time to accomplish my next goal in racing Supercross/Motocross full time! Thank you again to my family, friends, and everyone who has supported me through this journey! And thank you to @ebr_performance and @altusmotorsports for the graduation present ?? @floridastateuniversity • • #FloridaStateUniversity #FSU #College #Graduate #InformationTechnology #IT #Major
Was there ever a time where school would conflict with racing where you couldn’t travel or train as much because you had finals or a big test going on?
It hurt me a little bit on my training because sometimes I would have to study throughout the whole entire day and I would either have to skip going to the gym or I’d either sometimes even have to skip a whole day of riding just so I could focus on a test the next day. I’d sometimes have to text Jeannie [Carmichael] at the farm and say, “Hey, I’m not going to be able to make it today. I’m literally studying all day in the library.” She’d be completely okay with it. She knew that my school was important to me. But my teachers were also very helpful because I always told them in the beginning of the semester who I am and what I do. They were always okay with it, as long as I stayed on top of my work. If I had a conflict with a test on a Friday that I had to fly out, they’d sometimes let me take it either early or when I got back. As long as I had good grades, they were always okay with it. I always had good grades, so that helped. If I would have been a bad student, I’m sure they wouldn’t have helped as much, but I always made sure to keep my grades up so they were okay with me maybe having to miss a class or two to fly out [to the races] on Fridays. But a lot of it was I would skip riding just to do my schoolwork, or I would be at the hotel Friday night working on my schoolwork that day.
There was never an issue where the Carmichaels were like, “Your training is kind of sucking here?” It was always school came first? They were always pretty cool and on board with that?
Yeah. When we decided to go there we told them, “Look, I am 100 percent into motocross and I do want to train as hard as I can, but if a conflict comes up with school, I’m going to have to put the school above it just because that’s my main focus right now.” I always made sure that my scheduled didn’t conflict too much. I always made the classes to where I didn’t have to overlap them. The only thing that was big was the schoolwork if I had a test the next day. But Ricky [Carmichael] and Jeannie were always supportive of me with my schoolwork and always understood that if I was not there, they knew I was probably in the library hard in the books.
Was there ever a time where you were in the stands at a supercross doing homework in-between practices?
[Laughs] I don’t think I’ve ever actually done it in-between practices at the race, but I definitely have done it Friday night at the race, and sometimes I would actually be [studying] at the track [while] training. Once in-between motos I actually told the guys, “I’m going to have to go into my truck. I have a test today. I’m going to study in my truck. Come let me know when our next motos are, because I’ve got to study.” So I would literally do motos, training, and then go in my truck, have my flash cards, study. They’d come get me and say, “Hey, we got to go riding.” Alright. Go do the motos and then right after the motos go back into my truck and study. That definitely would have been a funny thing to see of me in the stands studying, but race day I always made sure that I was focused on Saturday at race day. I know my sponsors are wanting me to be completely focused, at least on race day.
What exactly was your major?
My major was information technology, so IT.
What do you plan on doing with that now that you’ve graduated?
Right now I’m going to start focusing on racing for these next couple years, and try to make it as a racer. I’m also going to be going to probably job interviews maybe this summer or just looking at the jobs just so I can have a good perspective on what I want to do. The thing about IT is that it is just a broad spectrum from the bottom works of coding to just taking care of computers for someone that needs it at home or anything like that. Going to Florida State, they gave me a huge spectrum of learning. I’ve studied Java programming, C++, Python, and even just to building computers. So I can go into anything I want from that perspective. I like the database point of it. I did three different database classes. I have a teacher at the school that taught Introduction to Database and then Intermediate Database and then Advanced Database, three different classes to progress into it. I really loved those. I’m probably going to look into jobs in that regard. Last year when Fox Sports 1 did the interview on me, actually I had a lot of people reach out to me on my LinkedIn and had a couple people from a database company. I definitely want to hook up with them maybe and see what I’m going to do with that. But definitely going to start focusing on motocross just this coming up year to see if I can have a clear mind and try to make it in this. But I’m going to start looking at some more job offers and job interviews coming in the near future.
As far as a course load goes, did you have to double up so you could graduate early, or did you graduate on time? Where are you at on your scheduled as far as are you ahead of the curve, right where you should have been?
I took the right amount of classes. I graduated in the right amount of time, four years. I also took classes in the summer just to kind of get ahead just in case something did happen and I had to take a certain amount of classes just if I would have gotten behind, but I didn’t get behind and had those on lock. With college, there’s not just the two semesters that people normally take. People also take the summer classes to bust out more classes to get ahead. I did that a couple semesters just to kind of get ahead of the curve and try to get done as quick as possible. But I did it in about four years.
Now that you have the summers off and you won’t have to study and take classes and stuff, does that mean that you can kind of transition more into not just a supercross guy but do outdoors also?
Yeah. I actually really want to do outdoors. I’m really hoping I can get some support for this year for the outdoors, or maybe go up to Canada and do something out there. In 2014 I did the last round of the Canadian series and actually had an opportunity to do the series in the next coming year, but I had to get surgery on my shoulder that year and that fell through. So I’m really hoping maybe this year I can maybe either do the American outdoors or the Canadian outdoors. I’ve always loved racing outdoors just because it’s the heart and soul of our sport. I’m really hoping to have the opportunity to do that this year.
You mentioned that between school and studying and working and racing and stuff it kind of kept you out of trouble. Everyone knows that FSU is a big party school. Were you able to ever use being a professional supercross racer to your advantage with the ladies at all?
[Laughs] Definitely helped with the ladies in some regard. FSU is a party school, but I actually am not a partier at all. I’m not a big drinker. I’ve never been a fan of drinking. I’ve never been a fan of going out to the clubs, really. I just kind of lay low. But if I was on campus and I met a cute girl, I definitely wasn’t shy to throw out the professional supercross racer aspect of it!
You just happen to have YouTube queued up on your phone whenever you met one, right? “Hey, look. This is what I do.”
For sure. I’ve got the screen saver. Here’s this, if you ever want to come to a supercross let me know. We can get you some tickets maybe. You never know.
Did it ever work out for you that way?
It did work out sometimes. I got some dates. Definitely didn’t hurt me in any aspect.
Did the fact that you wanted to graduate and do well in school motivate you to work harder on and off the track, to keep your stuff together more or less?
Yeah. When I moved down here for training and for school, my parents told me—they were like, “Look. We’re giving you this opportunity to go to school and to train to be a professional racer. You get one chance. If we ever get a call from the principal, the cops, or anything like that, we’re pulling the plug. You come back home and you’re done with racing.” So I’ve always tried to stay on the straight and narrow and keep out of trouble and definitely keep my grades up. I’ve always been an A/B student my whole entire life, so I definitely kept that up. Working hard in school also helps me work hard in the racing aspect of it because that was my other outrageous goal was to make it as a supercross/motocross racer, and it helped me pursue trying to get sponsors and helped me with that aspect because college helped with my speech and all that. Even just to go up to random people and say, “Hey, my name is Josh Cartwright. How are you doing? I’m going to school. I’m doing really well in racing as well. How would you like to sponsor me to help me support me to go through my racing career?” It definitely helped me just keep at it and keep on the straight and narrow.
It’s got to be less stressful now, right? Do you feel like now that you have the college part out of your way, you should be able to take your racing to the next level where you feel like you should be?
I really do. I think a lot of my head space is going to be a lot more freed up now, just because even when I’m at the track training, I’ll be thinking about what do I have today for homework? Or what to do tomorrow? Even at the race in supercross, even though I needed to focus, there was always that thing in the back of my head of, “Man, I have a test on Monday. I got to get home. I got to study on the plane,” or anything like this. Now that I have a freed up mind and I can only focus on my training and my riding aspect and riding technique that I can just get better and better. I’ve even talked to Ricky a couple times and he’s even told me just this year I’ve looked even better than I was last year, just because he thinks I have a freed up mind and I don’t have to worry about anything else. So hopefully this coming up year is going to be my breakout year. I’ve been working super hard. I have my trainer, Drew Whitehead. He’s been helping me get in shape. I’m in probably the best shape I’ve ever been in, and I’m ready for the season.
Was there ever a moment where you were like, “I can’t do both. I just need to focus on school and get that done, and not go racing?”
There definitely were a few times where it got pretty hard. A lot of people have asked me that and they’re like, “Have you ever just kind of broke down or anything like that?” Just like every college student, we all have our breakdowns. We have those moments where you’re like, “I’m done. This is it. I can’t do it anymore.” But that’s when the real Josh kind of pushed through because I’ve never been the one to give up. I always just pushed through, studied my heart out, always made sure just to focus on the one thing that I was focusing on at that point that was giving me the troubles. To push through it and to make sure to not think about the negatives, always think about the positives. But there were a couple times—definitely one of the hardest moments and most stressful times probably of my life, especially the senior year when getting into graduation. I took on one extra class this semester than I normally did so I could graduate this semester, so I didn’t have any school for the season. It definitely got stressful, but I pushed through it and I aced the exam that I was actually stressing about. I was super happy that I didn’t give up.
Let’s talk about 2019 a little bit. What’s supercross looking like for you? What kind of deal you got lined up? What coast are you going to be riding?
I’ll be racing East Coast again in the 250 Class. I’ll be working with EBR Performance and Altus Motorsports again this year. They’re still working out deals to make up the team for this year. Their premier sponsor is Tucker Powersports. They’re working on getting a team built up with that. So hopefully this year is going to be my best year with them. I had been with them for the past two years in professional, and I was with EBR also as my amateur days when I won Loretta’s in College B/C. [Note: It sure is fitting that Cartwright won a championship at Loretta Lynn’s in a class labeled as “College B/C.”] So it’s definitely a relationship that’s been building throughout the years. I think it’s going to help me do my best breakout year this year in 2019. My goal is to be not only just to make it to the main events, but to put my mark in and get top tens this year.
Still training at the GOAT Farm?
I’ll be staying in Tallahassee. I’ll be at the GOAT Farm with Ricky Carmichael and Jeannie Carmichael. They’ve been a huge part in my career. I’m really hoping that this year is going to be a good year because they have been pushing me hard and they really see the potential in me. I’m hoping to have a long relationship with them as well.
Do you want to give a shout out to those who helped you get to this point? It’s kind of a milestone in your life.
Definitely want to thank my parents, first and foremost. They’ve been my biggest supporters my whole entire life and I wouldn’t be here without them. Definitely Jeannie and Ricky Carmichael out at the GOAT Farm. EBR Performance, Josh Rogers, Altus Motorsports, Tucker Powersports, MX Culture with Dave Deringer, TXS Productions. They helped me out a lot last year. Ankle Savers, Atlas Brace, 100%, Answer Racing, Bill’s Pipes, Pro Taper, VP Racing, Gaerne, Rekluse, Dunlop, Drew Whitehead with my training, and everyone who has supported me throughout this whole entire career. Also, a big shout out to my mechanic Bret Hooper for always helping me with my bikes and stuff. I hope to have an even further career with all those people.