"I Will Never Put a Blue Rag in an Air Box Again" | Kade O'Grady on the Worst Weekend of His Career

Kade O'Grady tells us about getting his start in the industry and what happened at Houston SX in 2018.

How many times have we heard the question, “How does someone get in the industry and get to be a part of a team”? More often than not the answer is you have to be willing to work long, difficult hours for basically free. You have to be willing to ‘grind’. For many of the mechanics under the tents that’s exactly what they did. Kade O’Grady is no different. He recently got brought on to the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team and worked for Dean Wilson. But he didn’t start there.

         For the full interview, check out the YouTube video right here. If you're interested in the condensed written version, scroll down just a bit further.

  Jamie Guida

Jamie Guida - Vital MX: Your career has been on an upward trajectory since we met in 2018. You just finished wrenching for Dean Wilson for outdoors. Tell us about that.

Kade O’Grady: It was rad. It was really cool working for Dean and then just being with the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna crew. It's been awesome.

Vital MX: How did that come about? I think last year you were working with Max Miller, right?

Kade: Yes, but when Nate Ramsey made the switch from Orange Brigade KTM to Rockstar, he got in contact with me after supercross was over and said he had a job for me with Rockstar. I wasn't sure who I was going to be working with, but I started off just as a floater helping out wherever around the shop and on practice days. And then they didn't have a guy for Dean when he came back off of injury and I lucked out.

Vital MX: Let’s get into your background so people can get to know where you started from. 

Kade: It's been crazy. I've definitely lucked into a lot of positions, and I've put in a lot of long hours, a lot of sleepless nights getting here. But I attended the Pro SX/MX School in Morgantown, West Virginia, taught by Scott Adkins in 2017 and ’18. It was about an eight-month long program. And when I met you, we were at St. Louis Supercross and I was there handing out resumes, just talking to people, trying to get my foot in the door because I had zero race experience besides local stuff. I talked to you, and you had set me up with Travis Delnicki, and that was the first race I'd ever worked. I literally went from handing out resumes to 30 minutes later, being on the floor of my first supercross race, wrenching for him.

Vital MX: So I am the key to your success.

Kade: Haha, sure.

Vital MX: It's really cool to see how things have gone for you. I believe it was at Houston a couple of years ago I saw you and you had a panic situation.

Kade: Oh, you had to bring up Houston. So, 2019, I was working for JMC Husqvarna. The rider was Chris Howell that year. Yeah, it was pretty chaotic. Chris and I were building the engines. I don't know what I was thinking. I got in a rush after washing the bike and I left the blue paper towel in the air box and I came back to the truck, fired the thing up and sucked a rag into the motor. I think everybody's done it, but it's really bad when you're out supercross racing. So full panic mode, ripped the engine out, sent Chris off running around to other guys looking for a valve spring compressor because we didn't have one. We got the head torn off, got the valves ripped out of it and luckily none of the valves were damaged. We were able to shut it off in time, but there was a good 2 hours of me sitting there with a pick, trying to pick all the little pieces of blue paper towel out of that cylinder head. It was not fun. But we made it made it into the main events. It was a Triple Crown that night, so we made it and raced all three rounds. That was the same night AC crashed off the over/under bridge and Chris ran into the back of him and went over the bars. When he did that, he snapped both sides of the subframe and being a privateer team, we didn't have spare subframes, so it was safety wire and zip ties to try to hold that thing together. He stood up for all three main events because the subframe was broken. That was probably one of the worst weekends of my career. 

Vital MX: That was a character-building moment. You probably needed that. I’m sure almost every mechanic on the line has had something similar happen.

Kade: Luckily Toolie (Tim McAdams) from the AMA came up to me and he patted me on the back that same day and he goes, “Hey, I've been there, I've done it. 90% of these other mechanics in this field have done it. It's what you take from it and what you've learned and how you move on afterwards”. And so, if you look, I will never put a blue rag in an air box again. If I put anything, it's a yellow microfiber because it cannot get sucked into the throttle body. 

Vital MX: I asked Dean how he liked working with you and he said you were really good. How was it working with his as a rider?

Kade: At first he told me he was definitely a little nervous, which is totally understandable. He has no idea who I am, and I'm just another guy showing up saying I can work on a dirt bike. But working with Dean was awesome. He is so down to earth and he's like most of these guys. He's just another dude that just happens to be really fast on a dirt bike. It was just really fun working with him.

TJ Smith – MotoXpod Show: Coming up wrenching, were you building motors and everything? And how was it switching to a team where you didn’t have to do all that?

Kade: It's been a big switch going from the Miller program, who I was with before to Rockstar Husky. With the Millers, I was doing basically everything motorcycle related, minus the suspension. I was doing all the chassis stuff, I'd show up to Twisted Development, I'd build our practice and race engines. I would go into the dyno room with Jamie (Ellis) while he was messing with stuff, and I'd swap parts trying to find power and all that. Now with Rockstar, we have a suspension guy. He walks in and hands me a set of suspension. Our engine guys wheel over engines and set them on my bench. Now my sole focus is the chassis, which is nice. Parts of it are less stressful, but now it's trying to develop the chassis better to where before I didn't have as much time. So now it's solely to figure out this chassis, try to make changes, see what's going on, listen to what your rider’s comments are, make notes of it, and then being a factory team, I have to relay this information to my managers. Then they have to relay it to their managers. So yeah, it's been a big change.

Vital MX: You posted on you IG about wrenching for Thad Duvall at a GNCC. How did that go? 

Kade: So, when I signed on with Rockstar, I was hired on to be an off-road mechanic, but the Moto Supercross team needed a guy just for the outdoor season. So luckily my manager Anthony from Off Road was kind enough to lend me to the moto side for three months. I was able to work with Dean. But now that the outdoor season is over, I'm going to be full time on the off-road side. This weekend was my first GNCC with Thad. And sure enough, I walked into a podium finish this weekend, so it was pretty cool.

TJ: How does it differ going from a top-level moto team to a top-level off-road team?

Kade: We do basically the same stuff. On the off-road side we don't have the oversized tanks yet for the ‘23 models, so we're still having to use the 2022 models. I'm bouncing back and forth between two completely different chassis. Everything from setting changes to how you route your wiring harness to parts, everything is 100% different. The new bike was built from the ground up with basically nothing fitting from the old bike. I'm having to memorize two completely different bikes and be able to do everything on them. the off-road setup is completely different. We have solid rotors from drilled and slotted. We have the big, oversized fuel tank. We're running different brake pads, so they last longer and then skid plates that cover the linkage and just a bunch of stuff that's really foreign to me because I come from a motocross/supercross background. So, it's been another really steep learning curve these past two weeks. But so far, this last weekend I've really enjoyed it. It's a completely different scene from the moto side, but it's really fun.

TJ: How different is the scene day of race?

Kade: The day of the event, the pits are just open to everybody. And I don't think I had a single person ask me for anything. All they wanted to do was say “hi”, shake my hand, ask a couple of questions about Thad or the bike or different things. But it's completely open pits. You've got motorcycle riders, you've got quad riders, they have an E mountain bike series that races that whole thing. So, you have three different groups of people coming together that are all just focused on an off-road event. Everybody's likeminded, but we all have a little bit different goals in there. And then the biggest thing for me is we race on Sundays now, so that threw a whole ‘nother curve.

Vital MX: Do you think there's any chance you'll be back on the moto side in ‘23, or are you definitely off-road for the full year?

Kade: I'm definitely off-road for the full year. I'm going to run this next year and just see how it goes. I'm really enjoying it so I could just stick with it. I'm not sure yet. I'm going to get a year under my belt and learn a lot and see how I like it and then make a decision from there. 


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