First of all, Jeremy McGrath is as cool as cool gets. He’s also still fiercely competitive, so while the seven-time AMA Supercross Champion is transitioning out of a full-time career racing short course off-road trucks (Jeremy won the 2017 Pro 2wd Championship in the Lucas Oil Off-Road Series) he still has goals, and that included competing in the 2019 Red Bull Crandon World Cup, considered the biggest event in short-course off-road truck racing. The race in Crandon, Wisconsin was celebrating its 50th year, which led to more hype, more trucks, more fans, and more competition, with many drivers declaring it the biggest race in the history of the sport.
And there was Jeremy, the King of Supercross, dueling for the win. He ended up third in the Pro 2wd World Championship race, then ran second for most of the Crandon World Cup race, which pits two and four-wheel-drive trucks against each other. Late in the game, four-wheel drive racer RJ Anderson was able to come from the back and take the lead, pushing MC back to third. Still, it was a solid podium run for the King.
We talked to him after the event.
Racer X: Hey, I was actually here to announce the race, but now I get to justify being at an off-road truck race for Racer X, because Jeremy McGrath raced it. But you didn’t just race it—you battled for the win! You had not raced your truck all year. Did you surprise yourself or did you know that even not having raced all year you could come in and battle for the win?
Jeremy McGrath: You know what? I don’t know, I just felt like I could win this race. I came to win the race and I felt like we could win the race. We struggled a little bit on Saturday, but we kind of used Saturday’s race as a test day. I felt like if things went right, I could win the race on Sunday. That’s what we came to do. So to finish on the podium, I’m really stoked. We’re only racing once this year, this weekend.
That’s crazy. So are you paring down? You won a championship in this sport before, but you’re starting to pare down the racing on the trucks?
Yeah. I don’t race full-time anymore. I just decided to get the truck ready for here, and I just do different events and different stuff. I’ll keep the truck and mess with it and shoot video for social media. Pretty soon I’ll put my daughter in it probably. Let her drive it a little bit. I sold my 18-wheeler, so I’m definitely not racing full-time. I just came to this race because it’s Crandon. It’s the big one.
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#jm2 made it to @crandonoffroad for the 50th Anniversary of the biggest shortcourse Offroad race in the world. The truck is ready. This is going to be fun. Tune in on Saturday and Sunday for the live feed on CrandonLive.com thanks @maxxistires @maxxismike @ivdsuspension @vic_hill_race_engines and the rest of my crew. ? @bluemedia480
Explain that for motocross people. They’re probably like, Wisconsin? Why is this race so big? But even for you, you could have raced some local races in California, but no. This is the one you picked.
Right. Lucas [Oil] Series is the one that’s out West. It’s near us, but I don’t want to race that [much] anymore. I kind of just figured I raced enough. So my kids race a little bit. I take them racing. I just wanted to come to this one. This is like the Super Bowl of motocross for off-road. There was thirty, forty thousand, maybe fifty thousand people here today, maybe. Maybe more. In that race that we just got third in, it was 29 trucks on that line. That’s huge.
They’re thinking that could be the biggest, craziest field ever.
It was a really, really stacked field and to be able to come out, like you said, battling for the win… I was right on his ass [race leader Keegan Kinkaid] for the win for a long time. I thought I had a little something for him there. In the middle we kind of got close and then lost a little time. At the end of the day I didn’t want to do anything stupid and throw away a podium. We were challenging for the lead, so that was cool.
What was impressive was there were a lot of fast trucks, but so much carnage. I think your first race on Saturday you got ino a little bit of it, but in the races that counted, you probably kept it cleaner than anybody.
Yeah. My truck was really fast off the start line, which was good. I was getting clean starts.
Yeah! Like MC getting holeshots in supercross!
[Laughs] Yeah! This morning I had the holeshot and I led a bunch of laps in that one. Then I came out second in the [final] Cup race. I almost got in the lead but Keegan went around me and just barely got me. Keegan Kincaid, he’s a local guy. His house is right here. He has more laps around here than anybody, so I figured I’d better just tuck in behind him and just follow him and do what he can do. I learned a lot. I learned a lot about the track. Up to this morning’s race, I only had ten laps.
Because you didn’t really have practice.
Ten laps on this track in like ten years. We didn’t have any practice or anything. So all in all, pretty stoked.
To do this, this truck thing you’ve done, you can’t make money at this, can you? Or is it just like, I got racing Jones I want to get out of my system?
Yeah. A lot of it’s that. Maxxis being the great partner they are, they support some of it. I already have the assets. I own the truck and all the stuff. We tag-team it a little bit. They brought my truck here. I don’t have an 18-wheeler, so Maxxis brought my stuff. So that really helped. And then I’m teamed up with a couple other sponsors like Icon, my suspension sponsor, and just a couple people like that. It really makes it doable.
But you are essentially doing this because you want to? This is not a business venture, necessarily?
No, I don’t have to be here. This is not a business proposition.
I know every athlete has got the problem of at one point your whole life is based around winning, and you’ve had to go through the entire transition. Does this all help? Now you’re in your forties and you can keep doing it.
Yeah. I think it definitely gives you the racing bug. I think the thing you’ve got to be careful about is what happened to me. I got into off-road, drove for somebody else, didn’t like it. I said “Okay, I’ve got to go do this by myself, do my own team.” Then you kind of go all-in. At first I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to keep it like a hobby. Then next thing you know, I’m racing off-road for eight years in short course and it took me the whole eight years to finally win the championship. But I guess I can say, “Cool. I’m champion in two different sports.” It’s pretty cool. But you can find yourself going past the hobby part if you’re not careful. Now I just do it because I have the truck, and it is fun. I’m not going to go racing supercross or anything, but racing trucks is pretty cool. You’ve got a seat belt and a roll cage. It’s nice.
You got back in the supercross conversation recently. I don’t know if you got to see anything this week, because no one has service here, but Lars [Lindstrom, Honda mechanic] got your old 2006 race bike out of mothballs and Ken Roczen is going to ride it at Straight Rhythm. Have you still not even gotten to see the video?
No! I’m bummed because we’re here at the track and I can’t get enough service to watch the video yet! I’ve heard about it and got a lot of texts about it, well, only some texts because the phones don’t work up here. I’m excited to get some service so I can finally see the video. It’s pretty cool. I’m a fan of Ken’s. It’s pretty flattering when he wants to ride my old bikes. It’s kind of a neat situation. It’s cool for Honda, cool for him, and cool for me. Last video he rode my ’96 bike and now he’s riding my ’06 bike. Pretty cool.
I think people forget that ’05-’06 era. I was talking to you yesterday about this. So, today everybody wonders, what if Dunge or Villopoto came back right now? How well would they do? But we actually saw it. In ’05-’06, you had retired and you came back and you didn’t embarrass yourself. You were a fourth-place guy. It was impressive, really.
Well, I came back and raced a couple races and at one point I finished fourth two weeks in a row, got the last holeshot ever on a two-stroke. I don’t know if that could actually happen now. I didn’t know how other guys would do. It seems like it’s probably a little bit more competitive than it was probably even then. Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know. Certainly it was Reed, Carmichael and Stewart that were ahead of me in those years, so that’s pretty stacked. These days it feels pretty deep. It would be interesting to see. I think the twenty-minute time limit would have something to do with it these days. Twenty laps, which I had to do back then, is a little less than twenty-minutes or whatever, plus two, that they do now. I don’t know. Some of that stuff is way better left in fantasy. I was just dumb enough to go try it, I guess!
Did you know in December ’04, this is going to go well? Were you riding well enough to try it, or were you like, “I’m going to try it and I don’t know how it’s going to go?”
No, I was riding well enough to try it. That’s kind of what got me to go try racing.
So you knew it wouldn’t be bad.
Yeah. I knew I was a good starter, right? So I was like, if I get some starts, I can run the pace. How long? I don’t know. But at the time I was doing a lot of testing for Factory Honda. I was riding with those guys all week long and putting the same times in as they were. So I was like, “All right. Cool. I’ll just go have some fun and try it.” There was a few of them there that didn’t go well. Anaheim 1 were Stewart took me out. Then one of them was a mud race. I think I raced San Francisco once. I was like, why did I sign up for this? I don’t want to race in the mud. There were a couple that didn’t go well, but a couple went well. So it was kind of to be expected, really.
You’re doing a good job now. You’re with Kawi and you’re racing some races still. This Roczen thing will keep your name out there. I don’t want to remind you, but it’s been 20 years almost since a supercross title. So you’ve almost got to keep your name out there. There are a lot of kids that didn’t even get to watch you race.
Yeah, I know. It really is pretty amazing, and it’s flattering. Thankfully, Kawi and I have teamed up well. We keep the Jeremy brand alive and keep it out there in the forefront with the Science of Supercross and different TV shows like that. Then when these extra little bonuses come along with Roczen doing this stuff or whatever, it’s cool. I’m really surprised that I’ve been able to keep my brand alive so long in the sport, but I think it’s due to making great relationships. People know that I love the sport. I love riding my dirt bike, and I know the situation has provided me a great life. There’s nothing that I’d rather be doing than watching supercross or riding supercross or being involved. So that really helps.
You had a happy ending to your career. You didn’t retire because you were burned out and negative and you weren’t super beat up. Injury-wise, you were saying besides your knee you’re actually still pretty good.
Yeah. Injury-wise I’m doing really well. You’re right. I think due to some of the races that I got to race part-time, really helped ease the pain of going from hero to zero. I’m still amazed that I guess Carmichael stopped pretty abruptly. He won all those races and then he stopped. It’s pretty amazing. I think some of this truck racing, bike racing part-time here and there has really kind of just eased some of the racing bug on me. I’m able to enjoy it whether it’s good or bad these days and have a good time. I still love my dirt bike. I raced Mammoth in June and won the 40 pro class, so that was cool too.
Last thing, you even got a new bike that you just bought, right? An old new bike.
Yeah. This is real. Over there, that’s a 29-year-old KX125 that I just bought. Some of you might know, over the summer I built that KX500 and rode it at Mammoth. Now I’m going to build this 125 and build it up like my very first bike I ever won a supercross on in Vegas 1990. So stay tuned for some of that. We’re going to have some fun with it.