In this week's Industry Insights we talk to the marketing and event specialist at 100%, Dave Ginolfi. Ginolfi has been around the industry most of his life starting as a racer and winning a couple of 250 Arenacross championships, and eventually becoming an important part of the 100% family.
For the full interview, check out the Vital MX podcast right here. If you're interested in the condensed written version, scroll down just a bit further.
Jamie Guida – Vital MX: You grew up on the East Coast, right? What were your first memories of dirt bikes and racing on the East Coast?
Dave Ginolfi: Yep. New Jersey. My first memory of dirt bikes was somehow I got ahold of the VHS tape, Spills, Chills, and Thrills. I don't know the scene, but they mentioned they were racing at Giant Stadium. At this point, I played football and wrestling. Dirt bikes didn't exist in my family. So, I told my dad, "Oh my God, dirt bikes are so cool. I want to do this." He looked into it, and in New Jersey, the law at the time was that you had to be ten to race, and I was probably six when I saw this. So, I was like, "Okay, dirt bikes are not in our future till ten." I didn't even get a bike or learn how to ride one. It was like, "All right, we're just going to wait till you're ten." So, I got a bike at ten, and two weeks later, I was racing it, not knowing what I was doing.
Vital MX: Were you a fan of stick and ball sports? Are you still into other sports?
Ginolfi: No. I always tell myself, "This is the year." I say to my wife, "Let's watch some football." We start, and then it never comes up again. So no, I follow it, but I couldn't tell you anything. In the 80s, I could. I still reference dudes on the Giants from 1989, but that's about as much as I know. I did watch the Quarterbacks thing on Netflix, though. It was pretty good.
Vital MX: You said you got the bike, and a couple of weeks later, you're riding. I'm wondering, do you have the proper gear? Do you know what you need, or do you go in jeans and tennis shoes?
Ginolfi: We were one step away from jeans and tennis shoes. We did show up with the bike dirty because my dad thought that would intimidate some people. No, we borrowed some gear. During the two weeks that I was practicing, or whatever you want to call it, I had a motorcycle helmet with a shield, and it would always fog up. I would just lift it. For the race, we got the right stuff. It was Englishtown, and it was raining. Englishtown was a tough track. Anyway, it was raining, and it was a state championship. So, I had all these things against me, and I remember there was this big thing they called the Staircase or the Elevator that was two corners out of the start. I got stuck on it in the mud and sat there for the rest of the race. I think that's where it ended. My first race was in June when I turned ten, my birthday is in June, so the goal for the rest of that year was to try and just do four laps.
Vital MX: The fact that you weren't dejected, didn't stop racing, and went back is awesome.
Ginolfi: If we ever do talk about that stuff, my dad says, "I honestly can't believe that you still wanted to do it. You still asked, 'When's the next race?' I thought we were done and going back to football and wrestling."
Vital MX: A kid that age normally would give up, especially if your dad was not into it. Being brand new and discovering it from Spills, Chills, and Thrills, that's fantastic.
Ginolfi: I never thought about it, but it is pretty funny.
Vital MX: What was the race scene like on the East Coast at that time in your area? You said you're close to Englishtown, so I would assume it was a pretty good scene.
Ginolfi: Yeah, that first year, we didn't even know you could race outside the state. So, it was probably just Englishtown for a year and a half. By year two or three, Broome-Tioga was not far, and there were a couple of other tracks in that area. Eventually, we'd go to Budds Creek, and we often hit Unadilla. There used to be this series called the Northeast Classic, and you could race on the actual Unadilla track, so we would have Unadilla, Broome, Englishtown, and a couple of others. As I said, Budds Creek was six hours away, so we would do that pretty often.
Vital MX: Did you also discover Supercross and motocross on TV? It was a lot harder to find back then. Do you get into the professional side at all?
Ginolfi: Not at all. I remember when the highlights would come on ESPN, and Jeremy McGrath was winning. This is maybe '93, but I never even went to a pro race until I raced pro. We didn't know about it. My dad wasn't a fan of the sport, so he's not following it. He's just supporting me with what I wanted to do.
Vital MX: You just mentioned your first pro race, but early on, I'm guessing you aren't even thinking about a career in moto. Since you don't know it's a thing.
Ginolfi: Correct. We were getting better locally, and people started saying, "Oh, you should go to the New York State Championship." So, we go there. Then, "How about the regional?" So, we start the whole Loretta's and Mini O's thing, and then that whole deal.
Vital MX: It's so interesting that at no point do you discover that these guys race professionally on TV. You love it already; you love doing it yourself. The fact that you're not picking up a Motocross Action or Transworld magazine and not discovering the sport's history is wild.
Ginolfi: My dad played football, and he was a football coach. I have a sister who was good at softball, and he was also a softball coach. So, he understood the sports side of it and set me up with Tony DiStefano. Tony used to have some motocross schools, and I went to those. So, I kind of understood Tony D's era, but not really. Eventually, he hooked me up with Marty Smith, and I would fly out to California and stay with Marty. At that point, I'm around 17.
Vital MX: What age were you when you did your first pro national at Broome?
Ginolfi: I had just graduated high school, so 17 or 18, something like that.
Vital MX: You got 33rd in the 125 class. What was that experience like compared to what you'd been used to? How mind-blowing and eye-opening was it?
Ginolfi: It was exciting, for sure. I qualified badly out of the Saturday qualifier that got you to Sunday, but then I qualified good Sunday to get into the motos. I remember in that qualifier running into Andrew Short's back wheel off one of those hills and saying, "Dude, let's go. What are we doing?" I did know Broome well. That was my track, for sure. Then in the motos, I didn't get a great start, and I was riding my balls off and not making any moves on anyone, not even knowing who these guys were. Halfway through, I was mentally defeated, which turned into being physically defeated. I never really had the confidence. I always qualified well Sunday going into the motos, and in practice, I was fast, but then I never had that confidence in the mains. I never thought I was going to last the moto. It's not easy when you're lining up for a gate drop, and you don't even think you're in good enough shape to finish. I have a lot of regrets. I wish I could go back. I would do it way differently.
Vital MX: You raced outdoors from 2000 consistently through 2005, and then you did one in 2010 at High Point. During this time, what are you doing for a living? What are you thinking is going to be your career path?
Ginolfi: My dad owns a gas station and car repair shop. In New Jersey, you can't pump your own gas, so you need gas attendants, and that's what I did from the time I was 14 until my 20s. The plan was maybe to take over his gas station one day. There was no "I'm going to be a pro racer." That wasn't a thing. Racing's just what we did because it was fun.
Vital MX: Did you do any Supercross before you went to the Arenacross?
Ginolfi: Yep, I did. Here and there. I was good at practicing Supercross. Eventually, I went down and lived at GPF (Georgia Pacific Facility), and people like Josh Grant, Sean Hamblin, and Grant Langston would come through. I always felt right there with those guys during the week, but I didn't know how to properly train at the time or understand how to race Supercross. So, I only made one main event at Orlando in 2005.
Vital MX: I mentioned you raced outdoors consistently from 2002 to 2005. Then you did another one in 2010 and were doing Arenacross in between. Why the gap between nationals?
Ginolfi: I think I was 22 then, and my dad supported me and took me to the races. He was my right-hand man doing everything for me. At 22, it started to feel like, I wasn't embarrassed, but I was like, "Come on. My dad's still with me all the time. I need to start doing this on my own." I regret that too. I don't know why I was thinking that, maybe because some of my friends, like Ryan Mills, who was a factory rider. I had a bunch of factory rider friends, and they had mechanics and this and that. Here I am still in the motorhome with my family, which was the best time of my life. At that moment, I felt I needed to spread my wings a little bit. That's when I decided I wanted to do Supercross. I moved down to GPF to start training for the winter. That's 2005. I do Supercross, and things are starting to come together at the end of that year. In 2006, I decided I would do the West Coast Supercross on a 250 and East Coast on a 450, but a week before the first round, I tore my ACL in California. So, Supercross didn't happen in '06. Then I tore my achilles right after returning from my ACL, which put me into 2007 getting ready for some local races down south. Josh Woods approached me because he needed someone to fill in on their Arenacross team. I said, "Yeah, sure, whatever." I do a bunch of Arenacross races, and now I'm in my mid-20s. I say, "Now I understand how to train and prepare for a series. I want to try outdoors again." This is that 2010 question you asked. During Arenacross, I found this old result sheet of mine from a Budds Creek practice, I think. I qualified; well, it wasn't qualifying. They took times, and they didn't count for anything, but people were still trying. I qualified around sixth then, and I was like, "You know what? I did have some outdoor speed. Maybe now, with my newfound training and understanding of everything, I can do an outdoor." So, in 2010, I got a KTM 450. It wasn't the good one yet. It wasn't a bad one, but it was still before they really revamped everything, and yeah, I went to Mt. Morris and qualified 40th and realized that this was still not for me.
Vital MX: That's an ego check, isn't it?
Ginolfi: Yeah. That's where I was like, "Nope, that was cool, but we're good."
Vital MX: You won two separate regional Arenacross Championships. One in 2009 and again in 2015. What stands out the most from those years?
Ginolfi: It was fun. I still worked a regular job and was fortunate enough to have people sponsor me to help me get to the races and that whole deal. I would have gone anyway, but it was nice that people helped financially. My job paid for my bills, and then anything I made in Arenacross was extra, and I'd throw it into a savings account. It felt rewarding to have some money, fight for podiums, and feel like you're in the mix. I got addicted to that feeling and felt like that was my place, even though Arenacross wasn't really what I was into. I might not have been a top 20 guy, but I still loved the outdoors. So, I stuck around Arenacross for a while, and I got that championship in 2009, which was fun, but I still at this point was kind of winging it. Once I got that, I said, "All right, I want to be one of the guys in Arenacross, so I need to figure this out." I went to Georgia in September of that year for a head start on training. At that time, Ezra Lusk was making his comeback to do the US Open, and he was just 30 minutes away. He and I linked up to start pushing each other, which to me, Ezra Lusk, was such a badass. The fact that I even had his phone number, and he was texting me, felt like I just won life. That was amazing. He would text me, "Hey, Dave, where are we riding today? What do you want to do? Motos or sections?" I thought, "This is unreal." I was beside myself in that whole situation, but that's where I think I learned the importance of it all. It was great to have him keep me accountable. If we're riding together, I need to push him so he has someone to chase and that whole kind of thing. That stands out. I made a difference that year in my results. I was battling Brock Sellards, Kelly Smith, and all these other guys with very successful careers. I was one of their peers, and that was rewarding.
Vital MX: That's something you'll always have. We all enjoy making fun of Daniel Blair, who won the other coast about being an old man and beating up the kids, but dude, it's an AMA championship.
Ginolfi: I poke fun at Daniel, too, because he was good. He was a fill-in at Geico Honda. He has some real achievements where I felt racing was no different from a dude who likes to go mountain bike. He's going to go race mountain bikes. It doesn't matter his age or what class. That's how it was for me. I like to race dirt bikes, and this was the class where I was in my career. I wasn't trying to get a factory ride at 30 years old. I decided, "Yeah, I'm going to go race Arenacross, and these are the classes that I'm allowed to race. I'm going to go race these classes."
Vital MX: During this time, I'm sure you're also having the thoughts, "Hey, this isn't sustainable as a career for me. I'm going to have to figure something out post-racing career." I believe at that time you were married.
Ginolfi: Yep, and about to have our first kid. As I said, I didn't know what I wanted to do for a career. I knew I wasn't a mechanic. I wouldn't be the mechanic at my dad's car shop. Maybe I was going to run it on the business side, but I wasn't into it, and he knew that, and it wasn't a big deal. It just wasn't what I was into. I can't learn anything if I'm not into it. I didn't know much about the business or fixing cars. So yeah, I never really knew what I was going to do. I thought, maybe I'll get a certification to be a personal trainer away from racing. UPS drivers sounded intriguing to me at that time. I thought about it because I don't mind driving. I like drinking coffee, and I like listening to the radio. Actually, I went to apply for UPS, and they sent me to the wrong HR and the HR lady said, "What are you doing here? You're at the wrong one." I'm like, "Yeah, I thought this one was too far, but this is where they told me to go." So, I left, and my career was done. I never went back to try and figure it out. Anyway, to your question, John Knowles from Scott USA, back in 2012 or so, let me know about a position they were hiring for. At that time, I wasn't ready for that. Then in '15, he told me, "That position is open again if you're interested." I thought, "Maybe I am." I still planned on racing, even though I was about to have our first child, and I'm married, and all that kind of stuff. I was like, "I can keep racing until I figure out what I want to do," but then I thought about it, and I thought maybe this is my shot to get back into the industry that I love and have a career in it. I talked about it with my wife, and it was a super low salary, I mean $30,000 or so. My wife quit her job, and we moved from New Jersey to Salt Lake City with a four-month-old for $30,000. Luckily, my money from racing Arenacross allowed us to do it. For the first year or two, I just watched my savings drop to pay all the bills. Later, raises kicked in, my wife got a job, and it all worked out. We bought a house two years ago, and it has worked out, and it's awesome.
Vital MX: That's a keeper. If your wife was willing to quit her job and move across the country for $30,000 a year like that, that's some big-time support.
Ginolfi: Oh, yeah. Even now, you know, with all the races I have to go to. She's amazing.
Vital MX: What did you learn at Scott USA that surprised you? It was your first office-type, real job other than working for your dad. What did you learn?
Ginolfi: That first week or two, I was so tired when I would get home, just from sitting in an office and looking at a computer. I would have headaches and stuff, and I wondered, "How am I so tired from not doing anything?" That was an eye-opener, and having to learn everyone's name in the office. I never thought I would remember who anyone was. That was tough. You know, dealing with so many different personalities and office drama was all new to me. So, all that non-moto, real-world office job stuff was definitely eye-opening.
Vital MX: A few years down the road, you get an opportunity to go to 100%. I think Charles Castloo was still there but maybe about to leave. What brought the transition on?
Ginolfi: I was with Scott for seven years, eight seasons, or something like that. They approached me about a position, and I kind of shrugged it off. I thought, "No way, man. You guys are the enemy. I can't work for 100%." That's how I was brought into the job at Scott; these are the guys you stay away from.
Vital MX: Does any other part of the industry have more of the "You're the enemy" than the goggle guys?
Ginolfi: I think it's the goggles guys, and I don't know why. I think it's because the ones who started that used to work together, but it's silly. So, yeah, I didn't really think about it. Then I got asked a couple more times and thought about it and where I wanted to go with my career. 100% the brand had some cool things they were doing outside of moto that were intriguing. It was a tough decision, but eventually, I decided for myself, my family, and my career, and learning that this was the right move. So, that's how it happened. I met with Charles and chatted with him, and he wanted to hire me, but in the same breath, he told me he was leaving. We didn't ever work together. They let me stay remote, which is awesome, but I fly down there sometimes. So, that first day I went there to get my computer and that whole deal, he was already gone.
Vital MX: 100% seems to have a huge marketing budget and campaign. You have many riders, including Jett Lawrence, Cooper Webb, and all the Star Yamaha guys. It feels as though every time you watch a race on the podium, someone has 100% goggles on. What do you believe sets 100% apart from the rest?
Ginolfi: I think the passion that they have for it. Anytime I'm in that office, we're talking moto. Five o'clock comes, and people are still sticking around, playing foosball or whatever and bench racing. It's refreshing that as successful as they are and as big as they are, they're still very moto and love it. I mean, they are fans from sunup to sundown. It doesn't matter the position someone works at in the company. They're pretty in tune with what's happening. I'm usually impressed when I go visit.
Vital MX: What is your day-to-day role, and what is your role on race day?
Ginolfi: Day to day at this point in the season, it's filling athlete orders, and I'm the point of contact for a lot of the media. Such as, what we do with Vital MX, Racer X, and I work with our digital team to ensure we're on the deadlines. I do anything athlete-wise with orders, which is a lot because we have amateurs, the pro guys, a lot of Dakar guys, and European stuff. We have a European office that handles a lot of that, but I still feel half of it gets funneled through the US.
Vital MX: I've heard you say that 100% operates like a committee, and everybody has a little say. Everybody shares some roles when needed at 100%.
Ginolfi: Yeah, exactly. As you mentioned, we have a lot of riders right now and a lot of high-profile riders. (John) Kuzo handles pretty much everyone at the races. I've handled Jett (Lawerence) throughout the summer, and we just tag team the whole deal.
Vital MX: As far as the product line 100% has, for the most part, they've stuck with goggles and eyewear. You do some mountain bike gear, but not much outside of eye protection. The Armega is your top-level, elite goggle. Then you have the Strata 2 at a lower price point. How do sales compare between the two? Do you think the average weekend warrior is favoring one over the other?
Ginolfi: I don't know the sales that well, but I do know, in general, the moto market is usually that lower price point. Anyone who's serious enough and people who line up at the gate will always go for that higher-end goggle. There's still a lot of recreational riding out there, and those people will go for that entry-level price point.
Vital MX: What's next for 100%? What's the next big innovation you see coming?
Ginolfi: I don't know. You'll always see some things tweaked, but I think goggle technology has come so far. You don't want to overengineer it. I think it's really good with how easy our lens is to change, our sweat channel, and the injected molded lens. Feedback from riders is amazing. So, we're always listening and always seeing how we can improve. I don't see any huge changes coming.
Vital MX: I want to wrap up with Loretta's talk. How many championships did you guys end up with? Do you even know? How did that week go with the weather conditions? That was some of the most demanding torture tests for goggles.
Ginolfi: It was good. I believe there are 29 classes, and we got 15 championships. So, that was good for that. We were on the podium a lot. I think we swept maybe three classes, and there were a lot of seconds and thirds that we didn't win. We had an awesome year from that standpoint. The weather was brutal. I mean, that rain was coming down all day, and I was probably one of the only people crossing my fingers that we would keep getting delayed because I just didn't want to deal with it. Every time it was delayed and lightning struck, I said, "Oh yeah, another 30 minutes." There's only so much you can do when it's that bad. Water can come from under your helmet; at that point, it's game over.
Vital MX: That brings up another question. Obviously, you don't have to give specifics or names, but have you been chewed out? Have you had any riders that are pissy about something that's really out of your hands?
Ginolfi: No, not yet. I've learned that if it's a bad moto for someone, you don't want to be the first person there and be like, "How was it?" Because they'll be like, "Oh, the fucking goggles suck." I haven't had any goggles issues. Knock on wood. Even when other companies have it, or when we've had it in the past, I stay quiet because it can happen to anyone. That's just a karma thing I stay away from.