Jeremy McGrath needs no introduction. He’s The King! Easy as that, right? Actually, there’s a lot more to him than his accomplishments. He recently was recognized for not only his racing career, but for being an ambassador to the sport through his friendliness and being so down to Earth. Jeremy came on The MotoXpod Show to discuss the award, racing with his daughter, and a certain personality question.
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 – Vital MX: This past weekend you were out at the Dubya World Vet MX Championships at Glen Helen and received the Edison Dye Award. Your mom, Dad, and sister were there. How cool was that for you?
Jeremy McGrath: Yeah, it was exciting. I was bummed my wife wasn't there, but my younger daughter had a lacrosse tournament. She was in Tucson for that. So, we chased the girls around. It was a really big night. It was a great weekend. I was really stoked. Yeah, the riding, I mean, when I heard I was going to get the award, it was exciting. I was like, “You know, I just need to bring my dirt bike and do some riding”. And boy, after Friday's practice I was like, “Well, I'm not sure that was the right idea”. The track is so gnarly, so gnarly, rough.
Vital MX: I'm glad you said that because I've been getting made fun of for it.
MC: Oh, no, that track was bad. Yeah. Saturday was so bad. It was a great layout. It's just a lot of guys, a lot of riding and no prep. And the track was just hammered. So, it was tough. Sunday was a lot better. But yeah, big weekend. The Edison Dye Award was brought back by Tom White, owner of White Brothers. I think it was ‘89, I was riding for Pro Circuit and was a kid and didn't have a whole lot going on. I was trying to be better, and I was a nobody. So, I wasn't getting the help I thought I needed, you know? I was going to quit Pro Circuit. I met Tom White. And Tom White was the one who took a chance. He decided that he was going to help me, and I was really needing some help in the suspension department. So, he put me together with one of his suspension techs, this guy named John. And, man, we were a great match. I just wish Tom was around to see me accept that award, and I'm just so honored to get it. It was really cool that his daughter Kristin was there and of course son in law John Anderson of Dubya Wheels. So, there was some family there and the award itself had a lot deeper meanings than just getting the award because of my accolades over the years. I had a good connection with White Brothers back in the day. And in fact, I won my first Supercross in Vegas in’ 90 on Team Green, riding the White brother's suspension bike. Tom White was a was a true gentleman. He was a huge ambassador of the sport. And yeah, just it would have been cool to have him see that. So, it was a big night for me.
Vital MX: Unfortunately, I never got a chance to meet Tom. Everything I’ve ever heard about him was, similar to you, no ego. He just really gave back and loved the sport, loved the camaraderie of the sport, and seemed like a wonderful human being.
MC: He was. Absolutely. And, you know, he's passed that down to his daughter. And of course, John is a great guy, too. He was someone that you would want to emulate, someone that you would want to be. He was a great mentor for a lot of us, helped a lot of people. And it was important to him. It wasn't fake. He loved his motorcycle. And the passion exudes from the things that he did. I think he pinched himself every day that he had White Brothers and had such an awesome, successful company. But, you know, he deserved every second of it. Again, it was a special award for me. I have the big glass trophy right up in my hallway looking pretty sweet. It's a story that I'm going to be telling for years to come, I hope.
Vital MX: They put together this really great video, and I sat there and watched some of the footage that I remembered, some of it I'd forgotten. But what I took away was again, your lack of ego and how you were with the fans. You're just a regular guy. You talked about that in your speech. And I think I told you this story when we had you on back on show 100. In 1993, I'm a senior in high school, and I draw a picture of you in art class. And it's not a good picture. It's pretty bad. But I come up to the box van and you're in there getting ready for the night show. And autographs are over, and Skip is standing there, and I say, “Hey man, can you just give this to McGrath? I just want him to have it”. And he's like, “Well, hang on”. And he goes up there and you come out and you take time when you didn't have to and tell me how great it is, even though I know it's really bad. It really stuck with me, you know, all these years. Not only were you The King and changed the sport, but you were just a cool guy. You could have said, “I don't have time for that kid”. But you did.
MC: Well, first of all, thank you. I appreciate it. I take pride when people say those kind of things to me. Honestly, it's not something I try to do. I'm a huge sports fan, right? And I've said this a million times. I love famous athletes and it's super cool. I'm as intrigued with them as maybe some people might be with me. It's a lot harder to be someone that you're not than someone that you are. With the autographs and all the people and the time that people need, within reason, I just try to handle it when it's in front of me. If you're not nice or you go, “I need to do this later, I don’t have time, blah, blah, blah”, I mean, in this case, I would have walked back in the van and said, “Man, I should have just handled it right then. It'd be over”. I always felt like most of the time I could handle all that stuff if it was possible, then it was completely out of my mind. I would never have to think about it again. You're trying to be an athlete and it's kind of your job. And look, there's times when I'm sure that someone can just go, “You know, Jeremy was a dick. He wouldn't take care of this”. I mean, there were times, I'm not innocent for sure. I know that. But I tried to do the best I can with being as normal as possible. I think that was best for me also. I have my parents to thank for that. My dad would slap me in the head if I was acting like an idiot and big headed. And I think that's the way it should be. You need someone to tell you the truth. And my parents weren't afraid to do that.
Vital MX: From the fan perspective, I might have never had another chance to talk to you. That might have been the one time ever I got to see you. And I think you understood that because you just talked about being fans of other athletes. During your speech at GH, you could see how much the fans that were there appreciated who you were as a person, not so much your accomplishments, but who you are as a person.
MC: And I think that's what I want to be remembered more as, you know. I'm just like everybody else. Yeah, I can ride my dirt bike. But the fans, for you for instance, when you drew that picture and you came up you were probably nervous to even talk to Skip, you were nervous to do the whole thing. You're putting in extra effort. So, I need to put extra effort in. These are the fans and all the people that are there and the people that are buying stuff in the industry, the people that are giving me the option to do what I do. It wasn't just Honda, or it wasn't just Yamaha, it was the fans that are buying those bikes, buying that gear, buying that stuff. And I tried to keep it all in check. There's a lot of nice guys in our sport. I take pride in our sport and knowing that we have a lot of cool, cool athletes in our sport. Yeah, there's some dummies in there too. But you know what? For the most part, motocross and Supercross is a cool sport and all the athletes are really cool, you know, we know which ones aren't. And sometimes they can be cool, sometimes not. I think that's another thing that I don't appreciate is someone that's different at times. You know, one time you see them and they're cool and one time you see them and they're not. So those are the things that as a fan of any kind of sports athlete, I don't appreciate, you know what I mean? So anyways, again, it's a great compliment. I appreciate it. And it's served me well. I have a lot of great relationships now that I can call on at any point because of the friendships we've built up over the years. And that's with any team and any manufacturer. It goes a long way and I'm just proud to be in our sport still and having the connections and the relationship I do with the fans and with the industry itself. I pinch myself every day. I'm 51 years old, which is crazy. That's hard to say. But going to be 51 on the 19th of this month. And still willfully employed, I guess.
Scott Thomson – MotoXpod Show: What do you think would need to happen for our sport to get in the limelight again and bring us back to those days where the whole culture was kind of integrated?
MC: Well, listen, I have to give credit to Cheryl Lynch, who was my publicist for years and years. I was the only rider that had a publicist. It seemed like a weird thing to do, but I was so smart looking back at it now. And it happened by chance because when I went on to Suzuki that year, she was working for Suzuki at that time. Suzuki didn't have any riders that she could really promote until I got there. And then basically when I left Suzuki, I brought her with me, and she left Suzuki and started working for me. And that's when DUB magazine, I was interviewed in Playboy, we went on Leno twice. We did all kinds of really cool off the wall stuff that no one really ever was working to do. And it was just one of those things where I thought, “Man, if I could just build my own personal brand, it would create more opportunities”, which it did. We had the Sony PlayStation Supercross ’98, and Supercross 2000. The bad part of it for me was I was pioneering a lot of these things, right? When you're the first guy to do stuff, the deals, they're not always the best deal. Ricky Carmichael came along who unseated me and his deals were. But by nature, that's always how it works. He got some deals that were a little bit bigger than mine, but he did a great job on taking what I did and then parlaying that into something bigger and better. And he had the riding to back it up. I guess what I'm saying is a lot of people at that time didn't reinvest into their personal brand. I don't know where I got the smarts to do that, but it worked. And I had Cheryl as my publicist for at least ten or 12 years. And that's when all that cool stuff happened.
Vital MX: Chiz wants to know, “How bummed were you when you lost at St. Louis in ‘96 when Fro stopped the perfect season”? He says, “I'm just wondering because I was an eight-year-old kid, and I was devastated”.
MC: Listen, it was a lot of pressure going up to that race. It was always like, “oh, can he keep it going”? And without a doubt, I could keep it going. I would have won the race had it been not for LaRocco. You guys remember watching the race. He knocked me off the track. But, you know, in a way, it was kind of a relief. The bad part, I'll tell you the bad part. I didn't particularly like Jeff much. He was really arrogant, and I didn't like that about him. We get along fine now, but I didn't. I hated that back then. I don't like people that act like that. And he was pretty arrogant. I walk the line between confidence and arrogance, but he was just arrogant all the time, I thought. And so, the bad part is he's the one and it wouldn't have mattered if someone else would have beat me. I wouldn't have cared, but I really cared that it was him. You know what I mean? And the other thing I look at is, that night and that race, I made him famous for that. That's the way I see it. I lost the race. But I think that Jeff really parlays that into something. The guy that stopped the streak and all that stuff. I mean, hell, I lost to him by a half a bike length, but I got knocked off the track three different times. So, yeah, I was super bummed. But, boy, it was kind of a relief. The pressure was off. And it was easy to win the next race because there was no more expectation.
Vital MX: Recently, you did the California 300 with your daughter, Rhowan. You were in the car while she was driving?
MC: Yeah, I rode shotgun. Yep.
Vital MX: How cool was that to be able to go race with your daughter?
MC: Yeah, it was neat. We've been really, as a family, enjoying the side-by-side world the last couple of years. Some of you guys might not know, but my girls grew up racing dirt go karts, and I raced short course trucks for a long time, and they had a kid’s class. So, the girls were racing out there. Since I stopped racing trucks, we really got rid of the race car, started doing the side by sides. And then this year we entered a few desert races and I let her drive the Mint 400. The last race was the California 300, and yeah, I just kind of navigated. I rode in the shotgun seat, I prepped the car, and we got the thing ready, and I just put her in the driver's seat. She's been wanting to race, so just trying to give her experience out in the desert. It's my first go at long distance desert races. I'm a track guy, you know, I grew up like that. Me riding in the shotgun seat, I get to experience it on a little bit different level before I get back in the driver's seat. My idea was to race prep the car, I'll ride shotgun, I can navigate, we can learn the ropes together. I think she's got over 700 miles of racing in already with me in the passenger seat. Now I think I can get out of the seat and put someone else in there that can navigate with her and change tires and whatever else might be needed if there's a problem out on the course. And then I have a new Kawasaki KRX1000 being built for my younger daughter, who's 14. I'll probably ride in the passenger seat with her a couple of times this year with the hopes at the end of ‘22 or ‘23 that they'll both have co-drivers and I'll be able to get back in the driver's seat and we'll be able to race against each other as a family.
Vital MX: That's so great. It's come full circle, man.
MC: I feel good about it. Look, the girls learned how to ride their bikes when they're little, and we were all riding, you know, on the weekends and stuff. But they've gotten older, one’s 16, one's 14. I feel good about them being inside of a cage with a seatbelt and stuff like that. We just do it as a family hobby. My kids are doing other sports and as long as their grades are good, we like to go out on the weekends and do some off roading or some racing. Kawasaki coming out with that side by side has been a really cool machine. So, we're having a blast as a family with that stuff and hopefully this next year is going to be more of the same.
Vital MX: My buddy, Ryan Gauld, recreated a picture from Daytona ‘98 with you this weekend. Did you have any idea what was going on? Did he weird you out any?
MC: So, I saw his Instagram. It was cool. He told me the story and he started next to me. No, I thought it was bitchin. I mean, wow, ‘98 all the way till now. You know what's cool about the Vet races? You see so many things like that. So many guys I met this weekend saying, “I saw you back in, whatever, ‘99”, and even guys I raced with. I mean, I wouldn't have known that unless he told me, so it was cool.
Vital MX: This is just a general personality question I ask every once in a while. When you load the toilet paper on the roll, does the paper go over the top or over off the back?
MC: When you're looking at the paper roll, it's coming over the top at you. Whoever brings it underneath is wacky.