The AMA record books credit Steve Lamson with two 125cc outdoor National Championships and a total of 21 career wins. Lamson was known most for his prowess on a 125cc two-stroke, and his two championships in that division represent his skills aboard a small bore.
But the Northern California native was much more than that—he was an accomplished athlete who humbly went about his racing without much fanfare or drama. Lamson secured rides with several top factory teams and represented the United States at the prestigious Motocross des Nations (where he became the first rider to ever win a MXoN moto overall on a 125). He had countless podium finishes during his 20-year racing career and eventually hung up his leathers in 2007.
After his riding days were over, Lamson moved onto coaching and team management. The two-time champ was a familiar sight in the paddock, running Bobby Reagan’s Star Racing program just as it found its stride—winning titles with Jeremy Martin and Cooper Webb. He also helped out with the Tedder family’s program. Somewhere along the way, Lamson disappeared from the week to week grind in the paddock and has been keeping a lower profile.
Racer X: Steve, last time we spoke was 2014! What have you been doing with yourself?
Steve Lamson: Well, right at this very moment, I am on the road and headed back from Arizona to Southern California. I was working out there for the last week and a half or so doing some personalized training.
Do you still live in Southern California?
No, not full-time. I’m just going down to see my kids and take them to a local supercross. Then I might go back up North—or I’ll head back over to Arizona. Not too sure right now!
You stepped away from the weekly ritual of traveling to the races several years ago, but you still are involved in full-time coaching, right?
Actually for the last three years, pretty much right after I got done with Star Racing and then worked at Team Tedder for a bit, I had an opportunity to go work doing some training for the Special Forces. And it pretty much took off. So, basically I am just an instructor/trainer and teaching some of the military’s elite off-road skills. We teach them in the platforms they’re going to be deployed in. So it’s been a pretty cool gig for me.
Wasn’t Goat Breker doing something along those lines?
I was with Goat. I was up there for about two and a half years, but that deal kinda changed around. I was kind of in limbo for the last five months until now, and then someone else got the contract. It got moved further out in the desert and I was fortunate to do a good job and have a good reputation, so they kept me onboard. But now I’m with a different person, they just called me up a couple weeks ago and asked what I had going on and if I wanted to come up to work for him. That’s where I just came from just now, actually.
When you said you were coaching, I thought you were speaking about just working with kids or some pro-am riders or something. I didn’t realize you were working with the military! Isn’t RJ [Rick Johnson] doing some of the same stuff as well or is that a different deal?
I know he had been doing some stuff. I think before I was up there he had something to do with Goat as well, but I’m not totally sure. I think he’s still doing some sort of it, maybe back East? I would like to tell you more about what we do, but honestly, it’s very confidential. But I can say we are working to help train some of the most elite military fighters there are through a very structured program.
Absolutely. We don’t want to jeopardize anything you guys are doing. RJ told me in a past interview, maybe eight months ago, he was doing something in North Carolina. Either way, that’s very cool that you guys are running that program with our troops.
I love it. It’s pretty rewarding to be involved and have that opportunity to do it. I put pretty much everything into it. It’s a great job. The money is decent. You get out of it and what you’re giving out. You get some guys that have really no experience operating a motorized vehicle in the dirt, so it’s good. It’s really cool, because I thought I was going to be unemployed. I was back up in Northern California and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with that deal. Luckily the new contract came back, but I was about ready to just go get a normal job up there. I have my dad’s place out in Arizona as well. I’ve been kind of on and off up there, then up in Northern California staying at a buddy’s place.
What about coaching some dedicated motocross riders again?
I’m still thinking about and working on putting a motocross school type of deal together. I am looking at maybe doing it once a month with Rodney Smith. I talk to him a lot. We’ve been talking about this for six months but we haven’t pulled the trigger, mainly because we are both so busy with our individual programs. But we want to try to do something where it’s a bigger class, maybe 20 people or so. Maybe a two-day course. Not so much just on a moto track, but maybe just off-road, like Rodney’s experience and his following and my background. We’re going to throw Donnie Cantaloupi in there for the mix, so we’ll have three qualified instructors. It will make it fun as well! It is going to happen, just not sure when, or how soon.
That’s cool. It seems like the whole training program these days is going all toward the Aldon Baker method with the entire diet, mental, and 24/7 approach. But not everyone wants or needs that all-in approach. Sometimes weekend riders, just the basics.
Yeah. We want to go to an off-road race and advertise. Not so much just like, “Hey, let’s go to the track, we’ll have 10 guys and just stand out there telling them what to do.” No. We wanted to do it where we go to different off-road areas and off-road parks. For me, I never dealt with off-road riding that much, but it would be cool to get back into the woods and go fast. You get 10 guys or so, and you all go out. Actually, Rodney has a decent format already—he takes them riding and it is fun. And then when we get to a technical spot, we’ll ride for a little bit and then we’re going to work on some stuff here and there, hill climbs or whatever. It could be pretty cool and very fun.
Are you planning on going to any other supercrosses or nationals this year?
I doubt it—it’s kind of weird with being in the industry so long. I just stepped out and I was pretty much gone. But I loved everything about it. I kind of got burnt out on the traveling and all that stuff. I just needed a good change and it was perfect timing to get into what I’m doing now with the military. But I don’t go to the races now. I try to watch them on TV and keep up on everything. People are kind of like, “I can’t believe you don’t keep up on it more.” I do, but I don’t go to the races, hardly. Since I was out of it, I’ve only been probably twice. This will be my maybe second or third time in maybe three years.
Understandable, sometimes you just need to make a clean break.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love everything about it. It was good. I look back at it and I had a good career. But recently I have had a lot of personal stuff. I don’t mind talking about it. My dad passed away. He had been through hell and committed suicide. It’s been a little bit rough for me, honestly. My dad was always the type of guy that kept us all close. My sister, myself, and my parents, we were always close. We would always be hanging out. But he was the type of guy he goes, “When I’m ready to go, I’m going to do it myself.” He was into guns and gun collector. When you tell somebody that he did that, that he shot himself, people are probably sitting there going, “Wow, man. That guy was nuts, or that family’s crazy or something.” But not at all. My dad was normal. He was fighting an illness. Not like life-ending, but he just wasn’t feeling good all the time. I ended up finding him. I had a feeling. I had to drive all the way up to Arizona because I couldn’t get a hold of any neighbors or anything. He had left me a message in the middle of the night. He didn’t call anybody else, my sister or my girlfriend or anybody. They would have answered. They would have woken up and answered, but my dad knows that I probably didn’t have my phone on. He got my voicemail and then he left a message, all chill. He was depressed once my mom passed, which was eight years before he did what he did. It’s been two years now since my dad passed away. But yeah, he just left me a real calm message one night and said, “You need to get up here and get the dog.” But it was a four-hour drive for me, and I get this at 7:00 in the morning. I just pretty much shit my pants.
You knew it was the real deal?
Yeah. It was mind-boggling. I don’t even know how I drove up there, how I got through it. He lives in a nice area up in Bullhead City by Laughlin, Nevada. Got some great neighbors as friends. I have all their numbers. I know them all. Just happened to be that I couldn’t get a hold of anybody the whole time. Right about then was when I called 911 because I knew something was up. A neighbor finally got there, minutes before I got there. I said, “Don’t even go in because I know what’s up. Just knock on the door and see if anybody answers.” The dog’s barking like crazy. He just went in the garage and did it. So it was something everyone wouldn’t want to see, but then again, my dad did what he wanted to do. He didn’t want to be around anymore. I don’t hold that against him at all. People are like, “I can’t believe he did that to you and made you do that.” It doesn’t matter. It’s my dad. Most people would be pretty messed up over it and confused. I’m not messed up from it, but I think about it every day. Just something that will never go away. I kind of just got over it. I knew my dad wanted it to be that way, so I dealt with it.
Your dad was a long-time fixture in the Northern California motocross scene, and operated Lamson Porting, right?
Oh, yeah. My dad was the coolest guy. Always joking around, laughing, bringing up old stories. He had Lamson Porting for years. Once the four-strokes came about he just kind of like let it go. He didn’t want to get into four-strokes. He liked porting two-strokes. That’s about when he moved to Arizona as well. Him and my mom got a place out there 2003 or 2004. Then my mom passed away in 2008, and my pops never really got over that. But we always did stuff together. We’d all go camping, along with my sister. He would come down to my house when I was down in SoCal. I’d take my boys up there and we’d just do all kinds of dirt toys and have some fun.
I appreciate you bringing that up and can only imagine how difficult it’s been to kind of get through that and to move forward. It’s tough. Going forward, what do you see for yourself for the next few years? What are you looking to do?
Basically to keep building on the military program and doing a good job there. Then on the in-between time, I just want to get settled in somewhere, be it back in Northern California or in Arizona. I would love to get back into doing motocross schools or off-road, but I don’t want to be over-consumed with it, which can be easy to do. But I still need to work—I know it sounds crazy, but I don’t have a ton of money from my racing days. Racing didn’t pay as much back then, and then going through a divorce when I was younger, as well as making some wrong decisions cost me. My dad was smart with what I did put aside, and I have some resources. I got a house that’s paid off. I have beautiful kids. I’m not scared to work, so I’m just going to keep on rolling and just try to get comfortable and live life.
Your place is in Bullhead City, Arizona?
Yeah. I just recently got moved out here. I had so much stuff in a storage unit up in Northern California. I kept a ton of gear and trophies from over the years. I just never even realized how much I had. So just six months ago decided to go through all that shit. My goal is just to get fully moved up into Arizona and my dad’s place there and have my trophy room. I would like to get a little more into riding. Since I got done racing I haven’t had the desire to ride that much for fun, but now it’s kind of coming back. I had a shoulder replacement and stuff like that, but it’s all healed up now.
Who are you still in touch with from your racing days?
This is kind of crazy, but not too many people. It’s weird. I don’t know if it was just with my personal life and what went on with my life and my dad and other stuff. I just kind of drew myself away and didn’t really keep in very good contact. Within the industry, I still talk to a lot of people but not as many as you’d think. Mike Gosselaar, I stay in touch with him. When you’re done racing and you’re out of the limelight and all that stuff, I was able to manage the team and pulled off my best years of not riding, but instead as being involved in running a team and winning championships. But now I guess I am just an ordinary guy.
You’re not an ordinary guy, you are a two-time national champion.
You know what got me? All my life I’ve been humble in whatever I’ve done and I still am to this day. You kind of just forget about it in a way, or you just get used to being who you are. Like Cantaloupi—he’s a crazy guy but he’s one of my good friends. Man, he used to be wild. Everybody’s like, “I can’t believe you’re hanging out with that guy. You guys are opposites.” Donnie’s got his wild era at times, but he’s always been one of those guys that has always stayed in touch no matter what I was doing. If I was out of the picture or whatever. Same with Gosselaar. There’s other people within the industry that I still talk to a little bit. But true friends like Gosselaar and Cantaloupi are rare.
I need to wrap this up, but anyone you want to thank?
My biggest thing is I just appreciate the people, and they know who they are, that are my true friends. When times are tough and things aren’t good, those people are always there for you. It’s pretty cool. I appreciate just doing this interview. Makes me feel kind of cool that I’m still around. I look at myself now and whatever has happened in life, deaths of people and family members and stuff like that, that’s all over with. I’ve got two beautiful 12 and 14-year-old boys and I’ve got two daughters that are 18 and 21. I’m closer now to all of them, especially my daughters, more so than I’ve ever been in my life. So it’s pretty cool.