Team FXR/Chaparral Honda Racing had a pretty good second year in existence this past season. Coty Schock was the shock (thank you, I’ll be here all week) of the series in 450MX and had a solid 250SX season as well. Carson Mumford led some laps in the 250MX series, got into the top ten a few times and acquitted himself quite well for a second full pro season. It’s with this news that we heard Michael Lindsey, the team owner, is shutting the squad down. We caught up to him recently to ask him why and what’s next.
You can hear the whole interview on the Privateer Island show.
Racer X: What’s up, man? How are you doing (since the announcement the team is ceasing).
Michael Lindsey: I’m all right. The stress levels are slowly dropping, but I’m literally in the middle of just unloading the semi, organizing shop, just cleaning out my life.
Ironic that you’re going through the same thing that the guys at GEICO were going through at the end of Pala last year, and you were in touch with them to see what you could get and see what you could buy and everything else. Now you’re in those shoes. You’ve announced the team as over. Is it hard to untangle something like that?
Yes and no. I could imagine that for, like, JGR there were so many more people. At least, that’s one thing I’m thankful for. All the team wasn’t like, “Oh, my God. What are we going to do? All these people need places to go and stuff.” Luckily it looks like within the next week everybody is pretty much going to have a home, for the most part. So, that’s good. So, the personnel part isn’t as bad of a stress, I guess as probably those guys had to deal with. Parts, yeah, a few things because there’s stuff you’re sitting on that you’re paying for. So, you’re just trying to get stuff out, getting stuff ready to go out the door pretty much as quick as possible so you can move on to the next chapter.
Have you heard from teams and things about what you’re selling and what you got and all that?
A couple people. Of course, we’re hunted. A few people have asked about the car, the truck, a couple items like that. Nothing I would say too crazy. Not getting inundated with requests. But a few guys have reached out and asked about some stuff they’ve seen in our area before. “Hey, has anybody already claimed this?” Or, “Are you selling this?”
If things were great, you’d keep it rolling. Coty Schock certainly crushed it. Mumford had some great rides for you. Ultimately, with the team shutting down, I’m guessing the decision came to what the decisions comes for all these teams that go under, and its money.
Yeah. Basically, at the end of the day, is it financially viable to continue? There were some options to continue, but none of them were… I wouldn’t call them financially great ideas for my personal life. What I was saying about the personnel is number one. If we kept going, I kind of knew the path we were going to go down, hiring a little bit more people, just trying to continue to do a better job. It was just going to keep dragging on. We have X amount in the budget we’ll make next year, but then the next year is going to roll over and need more. Without somebody really big involved or something, it will be a continuing spiral. So, that just weighed everything. It’s our sponsorship – I don't want to say the word faulty, but there’s a lot of stuff you’re pitching that’s B to B, and you’re selling something helping them with another brand. Some of it is branding on the racing side, but you’re doing a lot of legwork to keep things moving. At the end of the day, a big chunk of that has nothing to do with even going racing. So, you’re really doing it from a passion point of, let’s just try to find money so guys can go race. Then you weigh everything and you’re like, we’re getting paid to go racing, but all of it’s really there when we’re having to sell our souls to make it all viable.
So, for you personally, you went into debt for your team, I’m guessing, the last couple years?
Pretty much. The start of the year a little bit because there was stuff I had to buy, but overall, it wasn’t, I would say, a huge loss. Overall budget versus what we operated on wasn’t bad, but there was stuff I had to buy. So, I spent a good chunk of my savings there. Then you roll that over. We went bigger with hiring staff. I had to cover a bunch of stuff in the off-season. Then people are slow to pay or don’t take care of their end of the deals, and you’re still covering their end. Then by the end of the year, you’re like, there’s not really anything left here. This kind of sucks.
Did you run into non-paying sponsors?
A little bit last year. Some people that are supposedly going to give us coverage, but just some people have been dragging it along longer than it would need to be, I would think. It just makes it really tough because you’re covering there until it gets covered. Like I said, there was a path to continue but I had to weigh everything. If you want to just put your head to the ground and go, we’re going to racing! We can keep doing this. Same thing. If one or two things go wrong, other sponsors and stuff, it just continues to roll down a hill.
Did you have a more successful year one, and then year two, you hired some better staff and you had to step up a little bit? Was year two more expensive than you expected? Or was year one and year two about the same?
Year two was more than double what we spent in year one. A lot more. But year two, one of the biggest ticket items, summer – I’m sure you experienced it booking flights and stuff. Summer travel was really expensive. Rental cars, some rounds we couldn’t get them. Travel was kind of a nightmare this year. Pretty much everybody I talked to said it was by far the most expensive travel budget year they’ve ever has. So, even with a smaller group, I joked with a few people, “You should have started in a van, or this or that. The semi…” Just the travel for a small team costs way more than it does to operate that truck.
I know you talked about keeping it going. Was it an easy decision, or did you toss and turn deciding to pull the plug?
I would say it was a fairly quick decision. It was over the course of about 24 hours. I was mulling everything over. Not easy. Man, crying a lot. Just not wanting to pick up the phone. The first couple calls I’m literally bawling my eyes out. I feel like an asshole. So, that doesn’t help. I really thought up until a few days before Pala we were going to continue, and then a couple things just became more apparent. Like, this is going to be quite the feat to pull off again. I had a few people that reached out even after I pulled the plug and even with what they offered; I just didn’t want to… At one point it was like, do we pull the plug or not? Do we drag it out through Pala, through Hangtown trying to find ways to Band-Aid it, or is it better to just call it and let everybody start getting their stuff together? It’s late in the season, but at the same time, it was better than last year, the season ran long for a lot of guys, and it was the last round. So, if I could at least get it done a little bit earlier the guys have some room to figure out what they’re doing.
Ultimately, how does it feel? You failed. We’ll touch on your successes, but ultimately, you failed. You had two years and you had to close. Or are you able to hold your head high with all the results of Coty?
I can’t say I wouldn’t call myself a very prideful person. A lot of it I just feel like a failure. A lot of people go, “Man, you guys did this, you did that. This is great.” Yeah, it makes me feel better. I’m like, “Yeah, that is cool,” but I don’t want that to override what I feel like. So, yes, on one end, I’m thankful for what we did, but otherwise team-wise and stuff, I think we did a lot, especially in year two. A lot to hopefully continue Carson’s career and to basically help Coty put himself on the map. That’s good. I’m happy with that. Our sponsors were super happy with the presence we had, how we did it. So, that’s good. But, still these people, even if it’s like, hey, this dollar amount covers this year, you still feel like they’ve invested in you in the long-term, so you’re bummed for some of the brands you’re really close with. I feel like pretty much almost every brand that we dealt with with the team was in some way a personal friendship of mine. I’m bummed because I know they’ve put a lot in. So, I feel bad that we’re not continuing this road and continuing to promote them and market them for what they’ve done for us.
It sucks, man. The last thing the sport needs is another team going away. For the way you ran it, do you want to give our listeners a bit of a ballpark on what it cost?
The way we did it, two guys indoors, outdoors, we were a little over the half a million-dollar range.
That’s not staying in the greatest hotels every weekend, but also not slumming it at Motel 6. That’s like a mid-range thing?
Most of the time name brand, decent hotels. We’re a small enough group, we only have one or two rental cars. It does add up, though. I’d say biggest thing, bikes. Four or five motors in rotation for each of the guys, four sets of suspension, building as good equipment as our budget allows. Really trying to make sure there’s enough stuff to rotate. That was one of our biggest focuses to step up. We got really great compliments from Honda and their guys who were watching. The guys did a build schedule of what we were running through. We were taking all that super serious and trying to do as much as we could to replicate the big guys. Just trying to give the guys the best stuff we could every weekend. So, that was a big part of it. Ultimately at the end, there was stuff we were as tight with budget as we could be on other items, just trying not to be wasteful.
Do you think those SX residencies cost about the same?
Yes, your travel expense to get there was less, but you were there so many more days in a hotel and there’s so much… At least for me, mechanics on per-diem and stuff. Just trying to make sure they’re taking care of food. And the big one was some of the rounds had expensive rental cars and you’d get rental cars for ten or eleven days and it just kind of came out to about the same. It didn’t really save anything. I thought it was going to, but not so much. Salt Lake wasn’t bad last year because a lot of us drove up there and had our own vehicle. It was late in the summer. I thought most Airbnb’s were cheap. Salt Lake worked out. Pretty much in the residencies everywhere else this year did not work out cheaper.
You were driving the truck?
Yeah. For outdoor, most part of it I was. Just the way situation-wise things worked out. So, I got to throw that job on the old resume for a little while! That was actually stressful as hell, and really fun at the same time. A lot of the teams, I thought coming from media over to racing, more of the teams would be weird towards me. Honestly, everybody was actually more of a family and more helpful than I expected. Particularly the drivers were just super helpful. Those guys all really look out for each other and take care of each other. So, that was cool to experience.
FXR is a big part of your team. How were they? They got some good publicity this summer, care of Coty Schock.
Andy [White, at FXR] was bummed. I would say he was one of the biggest ones throwing Hail Mary’s trying to help. Even the day after I said I’m done, he’s like, “Come on!” He was egging me on there for a little bit. I was teasing him at one point, because I think I even said to him, “Dude, I just got mentally good with this decision. Let me do it. You’re pulling me back in!” There were like two or three people. Some of the guys from Honda. They didn’t want to see us go away and they wanted to help. I think I’ve made the right decision, but they would throw a couple things my way and I’m like, "Okay, we could make this work. Let’s see if we can turn the lights back on." Then I’d get off the phone and I’d be like, "Oh, my God, what am I doing?"