Vital MX: Now I want to talk about a few specific races I picked. First up, ‘97 High Point, your very last career win. It was a mudder. You're battling with Ryno and John Dowd and you go at it with Larry Ward. What was it about that day? What do you remember?
Damon: Obviously, that it was very muddy and I had always done well at Mt.Morris regardless, dry or mud. Don't really know why. Other than that, it was close to home. Everybody kind of looked at it as my home track. But it really wasn't. I didn't race there any more times than anybody else because it wasn't a local weekend track. I loved the crowd, and they were good to me. So that was always a huge help. During that year, I mean, you want to win, and I was never good at thinking, “okay, what are we going to get this weekend? You know, we're going to be top five or going to be top ten,” or whatever. I didn't look at it like that. I looked at it as I did my whole career, but it was weird to have myself in that position, that second moto. There are certain parts of my career in certain races that I remember vividly and some that I remember absolutely nothing about whether they were good or bad. This one, I remember a fair amount about it. I was into a position that I didn't realize. I mean, I was trying to win, but the way the moto started out and I had to pull my goggles off super early because I got splashed or something and they were just irreparable. I probably should have stopped and got a pair of goggles. But I was able to just time the puddles and close my eyes. And there was a lot of water, so it was washing my eyes and I just kept digging. The mechanic had on the board where I had go to get the overall. And, you know, things just fell into place. The other day when you asked about races that stood out, that race was definitely one of them for sure.
Vital MX: There was a moment you're chasing Larry Ward, which Larry was having a really good season that year, he had the lead, it was the very last lap and there was basically a river or a pond in the middle of the track. You just blitzed right by him, doubled up the hill, almost cut over on him the way the track funneled, and that was it. You were gone. It was pretty impressive. And I think even he was a little surprised.
Damon: Yeah, like I said, it was super wet, you know, other than muddy, it was just super wet. And sometimes that's, honestly, easier to ride in versus sticky. And, you know, the ruts are knee deep, it was a gnarly deal. Larry was riding good that year and he also was a good mud rider. He grew up in Washington and spent some time in the mud. So, it was definitely a battle. But I think it was one of those things that I was coming from behind. And when you have that drive going, it's really hard for that guy up front. I think he spent a lot of the moto out there. Then you have somebody like me that's pushing through. I'm glad that that happened even then, to look back on it now, to have a little bit of success in that year. We didn't have a great year, but we had some good finishes. I've never looked back on any of those finishes over the years. And when you're asking me those questions, we were driving, coming back from North Carolina, back to Idaho, and my wife got on the Vault, and she was telling me, starting in the early nineties, the finishes that we had in Supercross and outdoor, even 96 and 97, I did have some bad finishes. But I had some really decent finishes for the position that I was in, you know, first year coming back after being off for two years. It's funny, I look at those results that I had then and compare that to some of these guys results now that have really good rides and that are making really good money. And at that time, I just assumed it sucked because I wasn't winning. There were times where I was in the battle, but I wasn't where I wanted to completely be, which I'm very rarely happy unless I'm winning or unless it was one hell of a fight, and I just got my ass kicked type thing. But I look at it now, and in today's time, that was a pretty damn good year. I finished it, I didn't get hurt. Nowadays you've got these guys that can be in the top ten or top 15, and they have pretty decent jobs. It's like, wow, that would get that guy nowhere in those years.
Vital MX: Let's stick with ‘97. Your very last pro race of your career at Broome-Tioga. You went 4-5 for fourth overall. You actually had the lead in Moto 1 for about 10 seconds. What do you remember about your very last pro race? Was it bittersweet?
Damon: At the time, I don't think I knew that it was going to be the last. So, it really wasn't. But, again, I look back on it and it wasn't a bad day. Again, if you get a guy that finished top five at a national, the competition's super thick now. So, that's a pretty damn good accomplishment. I don't remember that race vividly, but I would have probably been pretty excited with a top five with how we got there and how that team came about at the last minute. I'm sure I was pretty happy to finish the year out, obviously you want to win, but wasn't horrible. But I don’t remember the battles much. I wasn't a big fan of that track. But I had some decent finishes there over the years. It just wasn't one of the favorites. And the roost hurt like hell back in the day when they were throwing baseball sized rocks at you for 35, 37 minutes.
Vital MX: I want to jump to ‘92 now. In Vegas in the heat race, your nemesis, you and Chicken get together. You ran into the back of him when he slid out a bit, and you go down, you finish third. Then in the main, you get a bad start. At some point you were on the inside of a left hander, and you crossed over a berm to just go after Chicken and you both go down. We always say if you both go down, it's a bad move.
Damon: Yeah, it for sure was. It was anger, from the bottom of frickin’ anger. It's hard for people in the general public to see what you deal with another rider at the present time. There's always little shit that goes on in practice and it goes on in this moto or that moto, or that qualifier or whatever. It had been going on, and then we had the mishap with him there, and I don't really remember how that went down. If he break checked me or if I ran in on him.
Vital MX: He just slid out a little bit. He broke loose and you were right behind.
Damon: I do remember going over that berm and going after him. And yeah, that was complete anger. And at that point, I didn't care what happened to either one of us. To look back on it, it was not smart. I should have just ridden, went around him and went on about my business. But I was pissed, and he was going to know that I was pissed.
Vital MX: You finished ninth overall. And again, we know how that season ended up, unfortunately. But hey, we're human, right? Everybody has emotions.
Damon: And I had a lot with him for damn sure.
Vital MX: When you go back and watch those races, the tracks were so different. There was no rhythm or symmetry to the whoops. There was some weird dragon's back tabletop obstacle thing. They were not cookie cutter Supercross tracks.
Damon: No. Everybody wants to talk about their era, this track, that track, whatever. But I think a lot of those tracks back then were more raceable tracks. It wasn't a jump contest, and you weren't doing a complete length of the building in three or four hops or three or four rhythms. Now it's like a jumping contest, you know, there's not a whole lot of really good racing. And I understand it’s Supercross, but damn.
Vital MX: That same year in Indianapolis in the Heat race, Larocco and Kiedrowski are going at it and Kiedrowski cases a double. You basically land in the back of him. Do you remember that night and then having to rebuild the bike?
Damon: I don't. If I saw a video, I probably would but I don't. Did we go down?
Vital MX: Yeah, you were laying off the side of the track for a bit. They talked about having to rebuild the whole front of the bike during the broadcast. Then the same night, you come back in the main and you and Stanton are just battling. You're catching him and you go over the bars on the triple and have to hop off.
Damon: I remember the crash with Stanton more than I do the other one. The other one was in the qualifier, I'm assuming. Coming into that race, I was 27 points to the lead, and I think we had two rounds left in the Supercross season. But I was still thinking on winning. I wasn't thinking on padding a championship. To look back on it now, I probably should have thought more about that. Hell, I had 27 points. My goal was to have it completely won going into the last round and not even have to ride if I didn't want to. I wanted to tell the Supercross promoters at the time that I didn't think I wanted to ride because I didn't have to. In the main event I felt really good like I had really all season. And Stanton was riding well. But there was a small double before the triple. And the track was pretty damn rutty. Jeff would come over the double, land on the back side, the suspension would compress, come back up again, and then it would settle into the rut for the triple. I would come off of the double and jump all the way to the face of the triple and land in the rut. And it was just way faster. I was being super cocky that night just because I felt so confident, I wasn't even riding hard to be in that position I was in. So, I guess in a sense I was screwing around. And that was just a section where I’d come off the double, jump into the face, well, I crossed rutted going into the face of the triple. And when I did, it pulled me forward, which dropped the front of the bike in the air. And I think I tried a few times to get it back and couldn't. I either jumped off or just crashed and remember landing somewhere out on the concrete. I think I knocked myself goofy and lost 25 points.
Vital MX: You actually finished. You did get back out there and got 19th.
Damon: Oh, did I? I didn't even remember. So, maybe I didn't lose 25, but I lost a significant amount.
Vital MX: Ok, now 1990 Pontiac. I picked this one because I loved that stadium. It just seemed huge. And you went up in the grandstands, which I thought was really cool. Another fun night racing Stanton. Do you remember that race in particular or just even racing that stadium, going up in the grandstands and how cool that was?
Damon: Yeah, I totally remember. I really liked Pontiac and the dirt. It was always a motivational thing for me going there because we were racing with Stanton that year and I knew that was his hometown, basically Michigan. And I knew it was a lot more pressure when you're racing close to home like that. So, I always, always wanted to really win there. It was always fun going up in the stands. That place was good to me. It was two nights, which was tough. You wouldn’t think two nights of racing would be that tough. But I mean, it was a lot of hours at that track per day. I think it was also good to Bob Hannah. I don't remember how many he won there (9) or how many I did (4 in 250s, 2 in 125s). But that was just always kind of something that I thought about when going there.
Vital MX: So now I want to talk about ‘93 Indy. This is an event won you out of the gate a little bit. You went into a hay bail. Do you remember what was said? What are your memories?
Damon: I'm glad you gave me this opportunity because I'm not sure how long ago it was, but somebody had sent me something and Jeremy set up a little camera to kind of clarify because everybody was asking questions, “Hey, what were you guys talking about that night? And he was sitting in his fancy house in California having coffee and he was videoing while he was doing that, which is pretty cool. It was kind of a neat setting. We don't have that option here. I'm just sitting in my little old log house in the mountains in front of the fireplace having a whiskey. I'm not having coffee right now. So, he told the story really well and pretty much verbatim, but he left out the main reason that I was pissed off that I was talking to him about. And there were hand movements, and I was trying to explain. So, all the other stuff was racing. Nobody likes to have their line taken away. And especially at that position in my career, it was even harder to accept that. But the reason I was pissed that he left out of his story the morning he was having coffee, and I’d like to add that he is older than me, so maybe he's more forgetful than I am. It's not much. But anyways, he left out the portion that he was moving over on me in the air. It's one thing on the ground. And I had that issue with a few guys that we obviously had talked about it, but he was drifting on me in the air and that was what pissed me off and what I was trying to state. I was saying, “All the other shit is racing. We may not like it, or I may not like it, but don't drift in the air. That’s what he left out. So, that simplified that. There was one other good Jeremy moment which I don't get a chance to flip him much shit because I was at the tail end of my career, and he was definitely on the rise. But the ‘97 national at Mount Morris, the one we were just talking about, I will never forget, I remember the exact corner that he was laying on the ground when I was coming around to lap him. He was on Suzuki that year, it was super muddy, and he was having a hard time even picking up his bike in the mud. And so, I just I kind of enjoyed that. And then obviously being able to top the day and be able to get the overall on the Honda that nobody else wanted to ride, we were pretty much a privateer team. So, it was a pretty cool moment. And just seeing him lying on the ground as I was laughing made me feel pretty damn good too.
Vital MX: I think his words after the Heat race were, “Bradshaw gets a little uptight. He has a short temper”.
Damon: Obviously we all do. And again, you know, at that position in your career, there's always somebody somewhere better and it's just always a matter of time. Vital MX: I talked to Jeremy a couple of days ago and got his memory on it, as well as his thoughts on you.
Vital MX: I have the King of Supercross, Jeremy McGrath on the phone to talk a little bit about Damon Bradshaw. What's going on, MC?
Jeremy McGrath: Oh, man, not much. Everything's good. Just running around, chasing my kids, getting ready for them to get out on school break. Obviously, this week's a big school week for them, and Supercross is around the corner. I'm excited.
Vital MX: I want to talk about one of your competitors back in the day. What’s your first memory of Damon?
MC: Damon was one of my favorite riders, if not my favorite rider. When I first started coming in, when I was Team Green in 1989 and 1990, Phil Lawrence and I were super good buddies. We used to ride all the time in Beaumont and Yucca Valley, and then we'd ride Reche Canyon all the time with the Albrechts and Bud Man Antunez, and all these guys. And Phil rode for Yamaha at the time and he was a support rider for Yamaha. And Bradshaw, he was all of our heroes, right? I remember just sitting in the stands at Supercross watching him because when he was first coming in, in the 250 class, he was number 45 that year. And his Fox gear, I mean first of all, his style, his gear, everything about Bradshaw was just so bad ass and we would just sit in the stands on practice days. Because on Fridays you used to be able to practice for Supercross and we would just listen with nobody in the stands. You could hear that Yamaha, the silencer on that thing must have been about four inches long. When he would go to hit jumps, you could just hear that Yamaha bark. It's funny to say, but Bradshaw is one year younger than me. But we definitely idolized him as kids. It was awesome.
Vital MX: Yeah, it's funny. I sort of thought of him as the era before you, but that's not the case. I guess, because he moved to the 250 class so quick it seems like he's the generation before you. But you guys came in right around the same time.
MC: Yeah, we did. He was just in the big class a little bit before me. Because it was ‘87/88, he was riding 125 East Coast. I think maybe even ‘89 is when he moved up. But he was only 16. That didn't really happen a lot. You hear the stories about Ron Lechien and then Ricky Johnson when they came in, they were 15 and 16 riding the big class. But shoot, when I was riding in 125 in ‘90, I was 19. So, I was already older than him and he was in the premier class. Nevertheless, Bradshaw is a legend. Back then we used to run Bradshaw bend bars, the really high look. Back then they were called Alumilite Pro Tapers or whatever. Like super high so we could try to get our elbows up like Bradshaw. And he set the bar high when he came into the sport, he changed it.
Vital MX: I want to touch on this 1993 heat race at Indianapolis. What did he say to you? Do you remember?
MC: Well, look, I was sort of finding my oats too. I'm 22 years old. And, you know, look, I mean, there's a line that crosses on a graph when someone that was your hero becomes your competitor, now becomes someone you want to beat. I remember him and I were friends, acquaintances. We weren't hanging out. There's still that bit inside of me that idolized him for sure and couldn't believe I was racing a guy like him, to be honest. But then I was winning and everything, so things were starting to really happen for me. I remember specifically in that heat, if you guys all remember, I used to love starting in the middle of the starting gate by the box. I always enjoyed that extra couple feet in case I just didn't do it right. I would potentially be able to hang on to the throttle a little bit longer and try to late break people into the corner. And I was pretty good at doing that ff I didn't somehow get a good jump. I was a pretty good starter. But anyway, in this case, Bradshaw was on my side and anyone who knows anything about racing is if you have a little handlebar distance or you have a little lead on guys, you start to lean in, you start to squeeze them out. So anyways, that's what happened. I got a pretty good start, and I squeezed on Bradshaw. Of course, you want to get those guys to shut down. So, at this particular time in my career, Bradshaw's career, I mean, I was taking away from him what everyone thought was going to be his. Because in ‘92 he should have won the title and he didn't. Stanton beat him at the end and that was a pretty crazy series to finish up at LA Coliseum that year. But he came up after the heat race and he was yelling at me like I was supposed to leave him room. And I think it really pissed him off. He was yelling at me, trying to get some sort of authority over me. And I was too confident and too cocky at the time. And I was just being a smart ass. And I told him if he didn't like it, he should retire. And that really got him pissed off. He wasn’t psyched on that. But look, I always give people plenty of respect if they respected me, but he was disrespecting me at the time, and I thought that was a funny thing to say because I thought it would get to him. You race people differently based on what personalities they have. And you learn your competitors and you learn the things that really get them fired up. And as I said, I was a huge Bradshaw fan. He couldn't keep his temper in check. And so, I wanted to say something that would make him really irritated and piss him off. And it worked. His career was on a downward trajectory at that point. Again, I was a huge fan. I mean, there's no cooler photos that were in the magazine than the ones that were of him. Particularly when he was number 45 and when he was number eight. Didn't he win the Japanese Supercross? And there's that sweet picture of him just totally getting flat in one of the magazines from years ago. He was racing Tokyo Supercross, I think, or Osaka or one of those. He was wearing that red and white Fox gear and I mean; he was setting the trends, he was always the one dealing with the big jumps on the track, tripling out of corners, and stuff that even the top guys back then were not doing. He was definitely one of the baddest one’s ever. Me and all my local Menifee, Reche Cannon, all our West Coast kid crew here were always huge Bradshaw fans. We really just wanted to be just like him. Before Bradshaw the style in the sport was not, we changed it to make it a lot more current, you know? And it started with Bradshaw, really.
Vital MX: Damon, how do you respond?
Damon: Like I said, he told the story pretty well. He just left out that one key moment. So, not much more to say other than we get to laugh about it nowadays and flip one another shit about it. And to me that's the fun of it now that it's all over with.
Vital MX: Do you remember him saying that maybe you should retire?
Damon: Vaguely. You know, we were yelling or whatnot, and I can't say that I completely remember him saying that. But it seems about right. It wouldn't matter to me if I was in his position. I'd have probably said the same thing. And I may have to some other rider at some point in my career. Because when you're 16, 17 years old in my position, having to race against guys like Ricky Johnson and Johnny and Jeff. And I was close with R.J. as I was riding minibikes coming up. He and his mechanic would stay at our house, and we'd play football. And, you know, I was probably 13, 14. I'm not sure how much older Ricky is to me. Within three or four years of that I had to race against him. Now all of a sudden, I'm that young 16, 17-year-old prick that's trying to come in and win races. And Ricky was on a hell of a win streak at the time. You kind of go from friends to racing enemies. That was just how I operated with some guys. Now when I get to see RJ or we talk on the phone, or I get to see him at the off-road races that I'm doing down in Baja with the trophy truck stuff I'm always poking him for advice. Because I'm trying to learn this in a very short time, where guys like himself and Larry Roeseler, and the list goes on. They have so much experience. Now that whole role is completely flipped again. And when we race in Baja, we race in the same class. We did the Baja 400 earlier this year and we were in the same class. And you know, RJ and his team won, and we ended up third. So, we'll get to race against each other again. But it's cool because he does offer a lot of advice and the four-wheel industry racing down there is different. I think everybody wants to see everybody have that experience. So, it's a little different than our Supercross mentality.
Vital MX: Now it’s time for some of our Vital MX Forum member questions. The first question is from one of my buddies, Mark Pool, and he wanted me to ask you about your parents driving the bus for a NASCAR driver.
Damon: They drove for Jimmie Johnson's Crew Chief, Chad Knaus, off and on for maybe ten years, 12 years or something. I was able to go to a few races. Literally both mom and dad were retired at the time. My dad, I don't know how many years he'd been retired from the fire department, and somebody reached out to him, and they went and had a meeting with Chad. And then they were there through all the championships. And I don't think Chad was one of the easiest guys to work with around the pits. But, you know, my parents were able to make it work. They had a long career there with him before he moved to a new job. They were contemplating on calling it good. And then I think through a friend of a friend or whatever, Chase Elliott had reached out and they put together that deal. This might be their second year with Chase. I could be off on the years but sounds like they're going to drive for him again next year. I haven't been to any races since they've been driving for Chase. They have told me that he's a lot easier to get along with.
Vital MX: Mark also wants to know; how far did your brother Zach take racing?
Damon: Zach made it into the amateur ranks and raced with Windham, and I think Lusk and some of those guys. He wasn't winning, but he was competitive and had a few injuries. He was kind of the type of rider that if it meant jumping this double or triple or something where you could possibly crash, he just chose not to do it and he was okay with it. And that could be the deciding factor of finishing first or finishing fourth or fifth. And then he did have a couple of injuries, went away and then he came back and rode some local pro class. But no, Zach is a good rider. We do a lot of off-road riding together and he's one of those guys that his weight can fluctuate and doesn't really matter. He can still ride just as good either way.
Vital MX: TheDennisSystem wants to know, how bad did you hurt your knee in ’92?
Damon: That would have been at RedBud during the ‘92 season because we would do some Supercrosses and we'd have to go do a few nationals. At RedBud, again, racing with Stanton. He was jumping up a hill, trying to jump into just some natural whoops and sawdust. And I hung up on it and my weight went forward and endo’d out the front and landed. I knew I'd hurt my knee. That was when I was on the side of the track and Kroger was taking photos of me from far away, and I was throwing rocks at him. Because at that time that was all the pictures they would put of me in their magazine, me laying on the ground.
Vital MX: That was MXA, right?
Damon: Yep, yep. And it had torn my ACL. It wasn't completely in two, but it was pretty much done. I don't remember how the season went, but I mean, I had to ride LA with this knee issue, but it had nothing to do with my finish. Obviously, it was in the back of my mind, but it wasn't the reason that I didn't win the championship. And it sucked, you know, I couldn't straighten my leg out. It had to stay bent. And it was a little weird putting it down. But that was not an excuse for losing the championship. Right after LA, I went and had that reconstructed. They used my patella tendon and repaired my ACL and then it continued to get better and better and better for years literally after that.
Vital MX: ATKpilot99 asks what did he honestly think of the ’97 CR 250 at Manchester Honda?
Damon: You know, it wasn’t a horrible bike. It obviously had some good attributes, but probably more on the not so good side. But it was a major change, it was huge. It was down a little bit of power and the geometry of it wasn't quite right. But, you know, honestly, that year, the thing worked pretty good. It was a little harder to turn than the ‘96 Honda, which was an amazing bike. All in all, it was definitely a different bike to ride than what I had ridden in the past, but it wasn't horrible.
Vital MX: MSP332 wants to know, where do you draw the line on rough riding today? What do you feel is okay? What should be penalized or disqualified for?
Damon: Oh man, that's a hard subject. I mean, I don't know how you would ever come up on a standard like this, because we do need it, right? It's racing. You can't have guys not being aggressive, but they need to be aggressive in the right and the correct way. There were times I was so pissed off at something that went on that I didn't care or think about any of our well being at the time. But then again, I tried to race guys the way they raced with me. That's the reason I could race Stanton, we could race inches apart and feel completely confident about that going on. You have to learn how to race the guy. You go over to Europe, and you go to race somebody that's fast that you never raced against. It's a whole learning process. You have to learn them. You have to learn where they're strong and where they're weak and where you can safely ride. Like riding close to Guy Cooper, you could be on the other side of the track and end up in some of his shrapnel from something happening over there. There needs to be some type of standard because I think whoever's making these decisions, they're incorrect as hell. Things happen and they penalize this guy and then this guy doesn't get penalized, and they put them on probation. It's too gray. I think it almost needs to be a group of riders, whoever they may be. They have to watch those videos and they have to voice their opinions on what they think. And I think there's some other forms of racing that do something similar to that. Guys that are familiar with the situation. Because you can watch video, you can watch this, you can watch that. And they talk about retaliation, but you know what? It doesn't matter. It's racing and these guys want to win. And if they don't want to win, then maybe they shouldn't be there. And you do get anger that comes out sometimes incorrectly. But I think there needs to be more of a standard, so everybody is treated the same. I just think it's too much up in the air. I like to see the aggressive racing. I like to see it done in somewhat of a safe way. And they need to be thinking about that when they build the tracks to where guys have opportunities to pass. Let's just say your top ten and you're a good guy, you don't have time to be nice to everybody if you want to win. I hate to see it when these guys are so nervous about that, and it makes it difficult to race because they're already on probation or whatever that's supposed to mean.
Vital MX: JGriff, he said I'd love to hear stories from the early days in North Carolina, specifically the Metrolina racetrack racing Larry Ward. And stories about riding with your brother.
Damon: As far as riding with my brother, that’s more so nowadays. You know, after, after I was done. We do trail ride a fair amount together, whether it's back east or it's at Loretta's, he tries to go to a few of my events. As far as riding moto, there really wasn't much of that because he was almost five years younger than me. But yeah, the grass roots, Metrolina, literally the place was 20 minutes from my house, and it was a national caliber track. Those times are irreplaceable. All of the great tracks that we have around there. I was just actually back there for, oh, a month or so and did a Fly ride day at the North Carolina Motocross Park. It was pretty cool. I got to see a lot of people from those days. That's the part of my racing that will always be there.
Vital MX: JonesAustin says ask him what his real thoughts were on McGrath when you came back to Supercross after the hiatus. To what extent was McGrath a total surprise and how did you process that at the time?
Damon: It was definitely hard to process. I mean, Jeremy had a lot of confidence and was a great rider. It was great timing. I think he was on a 125 maybe before I left. You watch those guys and know that he was going to be tough. But you never think when you're in that position that a guy will be as successful as he was. And, you know, everybody can go back on some of these guy’s careers and go, “oh, well, it was timing. There was only this many riders that were capable”, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. It can be like that every year. But as a rider, in your age, you don't try to plan those times. “Okay, this looks like this is going to be a good ten year run for me”. But it's hard and I think everybody deals with that. There's always somebody somewhere better. It's just a matter of time. It’s all part of it. But that's the reason I have a ton of respect for these guys like RC. where you retire completely on top. And, yeah, there's some guys chasing you down, but you win those championships that last year and you're going, “You know what? I think I'm out”.
Vital MX: SteveLoyer., I was not going to ask this question, but I got it from multiple people. Would you let Darkside ride your bike again?
Damon: Absolutely. It wouldn't matter. Everything's repairable. I don't know about your body, but the bike is always repairable.
Vital MX: JohnK408, do you remember giving your chest protector to a young lad at Kenworthy back in ‘89 or ‘90? He still has it framed.
Damon: I don't remember it vividly. But I have heard stories like that. And recently I was just down in Florida, and I had people bring me stuff from that year that I had given them to re-sign. And it's just cooler than hell that they still have it or that they didn't buy it from somebody. I always thought back in the day, I never gave two pair of gloves to the same person because I always thought, “Man, if I give him both pair of gloves, he's just going to wear them. He ain't going to hang them up and have something”. So, I'd always give one glove and same with one boot, and then you give a jersey, pair of pants, or whatever. But it is cool when that stuff shows up, and I've been able to travel around doing the Fly ride day stuff. I run into a lot of that. I like the stories and I know I gave a lot of stuff away over the years. If it wasn't for my wife, I probably wouldn't have anything from any of that because I probably would have given it away because I like to do that for people.
Vital MX: KWhite199 posted a ‘93 Yamaha ad where the ad says, “Introducing the Fully Damonized YZ’s”. You're standing in, it looks like some stone washed jeans with your shirt tucked in looking bad as hell. He just wants to know if you remember the ad and what you thought of the shoot.
Damon: Well, this is a deal. It wasn't my idea. They tell you what you're going to do, and you can disagree or go let's tweak it a little bit. Let's do this. And they would take the input. But those ads were kind of fun to go on. I mean, at the time you're busy and you either just finished the season and the new bikes were coming out or whatever, and it was like, ‘Ahhh”, but they made it fun. It was cool to go and do that stuff. And then to have them talk about you being such a big part of a new motorcycle was pretty special.
Vital MX: G-man said, I know there was a lot of bad blood between yourself and Chicken. He wants to know after the crash at Perris MX, when Chicken came to your rescue and gave you a ride, was there a conversation that day or later between you two? How are you guys now?
Damon: No, there hasn't been. We just really haven't crossed paths since then. We were both at Elsinore a couple years later and I was there doing my Fly Ride Day, and I had plans on going and saying something to him about it because I think it was him and his kid. Again, man it's racers and you kick a lot of shit under the rug. So, you know, it's not like we talk on the phone on a regular. But it's no issue if we run into one another to talk to one another. We did even after our deal in ‘08 in Vegas. Regardless of how bad you could hate somebody; you don't want to see anybody get hurt whatsoever. And that day I went out to ride with him just for fun, because I knew there were people there and I knew they would like it. I didn't go out there to fuck with him or run into him or any of that. We were just riding, and bad luck struck.
Vital MX: Shredder says in ‘91 or ‘92, Damon in his convertible Vette with a Bradshaw license plate on it, came into the bike shop that I managed in Charlotte. No shirt on, walks in the front door and exclaims to no one in particular but everyone in general, “I want the most expensive mountain bike you have”. A few minutes later, Brian Lunnis showed up in the box van to supervise the purchase. Damon was buddies with one of my customers who later became a buddy and referred him to our shop. So, I sold him what was an exotic bike at the time, a custom built from the frame up Cannondale. He came back a few weeks later to buy a new heart rate monitor after he threw his old one in the woods when it didn't work. Never saw him again in the shop. And I always wondered how that bike held up and if he totally beat the crap out of it.
Damon: Yeah, I do remember that. I do remember the Cannondale. I don't remember all of the particulars, but I do remember having the bicycle done. And Brian was a big guy on the cycling thing, and it worked really good for years to come and I had it for a really long time. Even after it was far past its time. If I remember, it was red.
Vital MX: Did you really go in with no shirt on?
Damon: I don't know about that. But maybe. Man, I don't think I would have done that, but who knows? Shit, I probably was 17 or 18. You never know. North Carolina in the summertime, it was hot.
Vital MX: Sandusky26 says old timers around my house tell me how Damon almost beat David Bailey at a race at the North Carolina State Fair. Is it true?
Damon: I don't think so. If it was, it was David sandbagging. To make a make a young kid feel good.
Vital MX: nytsmaC asks when Damon shows up to a local track to have fun, do you have to put up with all the local talent trying to put a pass on you for bragging rights?
Damon: Definitely a little bit. But it's all in good fun and I enjoy those challenges. I mean, I’m 50 years old and I love being able to go out and still be able to race around and have fun with younger dudes, whether they're pro riders or intermediate riders.
Vital MX: Benchracer17 asks how modified were your YZ80s in ‘85 and ‘86 compared to stock? And how many bikes did you go through in a year?
Damon: It seemed like back then we were getting four to eight bikes, somewhere in there. Because you could ride stock and modified. And then there was 105 and then there was this and that. I mean, you had to have a lot of bikes just to ride all the classes. We had a pipe and there was a couple of different people doing the engines back then. Bobby Bar at Bar's Competition did the motors. We ran a couple of different pipes, whether it's Pro Circuit or CRF, I think it was back in the day. And suspension and bars, no different than really any other bike. We could not ride cheater bikes for one, which a lot of people did. But we couldn't because Yamaha was a sponsor, and we just knew if a guy got caught riding that stuff it was not going to be cool.
Vital MX: JonesAustin came back with another question. Let me try to paraphrase. How does it feel that you're still at the top of the list and considered one of the best, even though you didn't win a premier class championship?
Damon: Oh, definitely, it still makes you feel good to think about that you were a part of racing moto and Supercross during that time, and that people still remember you. I don't feel like I work super hard as some to still stay relative. I just still do my job with Fly Racing, and I enjoy it because now it's a whole different level. I didn't do the whole retirement tour thing. So, the last four or five years for me traveling around and getting to ride in these different areas and have the time to talk to people that were either fans back then or their customers or whatever has been like that. When we have a ride day, I’m there to ride. But if I miss a practice session or whatever, it's not a big deal. That's all part of what I do. You know, a lot of people, whether they liked or disliked you from an attitude at a race during your time, I don't think they understand the amount of pressure and whether you came across good, bad or indifferent at the time. But then later on, like now they run into you, and they go, “I would never have thought you were the person that you are now”. Well, I was pretty much the same then, but I was racing, and I was at work. Now my work is completely different. I've had fans come around and they've tried to have a second with a rider nowadays, and the rider was an asshole, whatever, whoever is right or wrong. But I try to explain to them the position that rider is in at the track. Again, it’s part of their job to give back, but you've got to think about the pressure that they're going through and they're sitting there signing autographs, whether it's 30 or 45 minutes, knowing what's coming. You know, to try to get their brain wrapped around what they have to go and do. So, I've tried to explain that to some people and I think it has made sense to them.
Vital MX: Beamer comes back with, there's a picture of you on an aluminum framed YZ250 in the early nineties. I'm guessing 10 to 12 years before Yamaha actually produced one. Would be curious to know what some of the work stuff you saw that stuck out. Things you probably couldn't run due to the production rule.
Damon: Pretty much the whole motorcycle. And that perimeter frame bike was well before even Honda did that. The bike was in Japan. I forget what they called it. A YZM something. But no, the whole bike was a complete works bike. Wheels, chassis, tank, the entire bike. And I never got to ride a works bike because that rule changed right before I was in the position to ride a works bike. So that was really cool. We took our motors because at the time that bike was built around a Japanese rider and they're riding style, where they raced, and what they liked. The power wasn't good for me. But then we put our motors in and then it was a very fun bike to ride. Super light and nimble. And it was just kind of another one of those things in my career that I can actually say I truly got to ride a works bike and it was only that one time.