Industry Insights | Marshall Plumb 1

Marshall Plumb talks about his time with Ross Pederson, Guy Cooper, Brian Swink, going to work at Dunlop, his dream of running his own team, and more in this installment of Industry Insights.

In this week's Industry Insights we talk to former factory mechanic and current Dunlop technician about coming to the U.S. with Ross 'Rollerball' Pederson, winning a championship with Guy Cooper and Brian Swink, working for Dunlop, and more.

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 in Canada. What was your introduction to racing up there?

Marshall Plumb: Getting into racing for me was like any young kid. You saw a motorcycle, and you wanted to go forward and do different things. It was exciting. So, I wanted a bike, and my dad got me one. We got into riding first and then started racing in 1974. I had an XR75, one of the first years that came out, which I think was '75. I got one of the first versions and raced for a couple of years on the little bikes and then got into the big bikes. I never had that aspiration of wanting to be a factory-type mechanic, but I just grew up loving motorcycles.

Vital MX: You raced a bit as an amateur career, but eventually, you became a professional mechanic. Was that to help a buddy?

Marshall: Yeah, I had a good friend that took me to the races. His dad owned a dealership that sold cars, as well as Husqvarnas. I think even Penton motorcycles, if I remember correctly. I was hanging out with him, and I would help his dad work on the bikes. It was fun. It was something like a hobby. One thing led to another, and in 1985, one of the young up-and-coming Canadian riders named Kevin Moore became a Honda rider. Honda and he had contacted me to be a mechanic for them, and that's kind of where it all started. It was my first paid job as a mechanic, and at the end of 1985, the economy was starting to kick in a little tight for some companies. So, Honda withdrew from all racing in Canada. At that time, we had a Canadian champion by the name of Ross Pedersen, who had won a bunch of championships. He was looking for a mechanic, and he was switching to Yamaha, and it all kind of came together for me to work with him. That led to a relationship between us that has gone on forever. We came down to the U.S. and put our name on the map by consistently finishing fifth to 10th at the U.S. nationals and even overall in points. We were always very close to the top ten, and that was a big thing back in the day. We were basically on stock equipment compared to what the American riders had at the time. You had David Bailey, Ricky Johnson, Jeff Ward, and Ron Lechien. There were a lot of good riders, and we were very competitive in that group. Let me go back a little. In 1985, Bob Hannah came up to Canada to race a Honda, and one of my assignments was to make sure they were taken care of at any of the races since I worked for Honda Canada. I built that relationship with Bob and Jeff Hicks, and little did I know when, in 1989, I got a phone call from Bob wanting to hire me as a mechanic for Suzuki. That's how everything got started in the U.S. for me. Bob took that chance in 1989 and hired me, and we were fortunate in 1990 to come out and win a national championship with Guy Cooper. 

Marshall Plumb

Vital MX: When you came to the U.S. with Rollerball, was that a bucket list item? Did you dream of making it to the U.S. scene? 

Marshall: Not really. I grew up in Canada, and I thought maybe I would be there forever. The motocross scene was slowly diminishing in Canada at that time and picking up in the U.S. You don't realize what your potential is as a mechanic. Still, to this day, I don't. I'm just a normal person who knows how to turn a wrench. I don't consider myself any better than anybody else, but there was no more room to go in Canada. If I wanted to stay in the motorcycle aspect of it, I had to go to the U.S., and it just all came together.

Vital MX: That Guy Cooper championship was pretty tight, as I recall. I think he won it by one point over Mike Kiedrowski. How was it working with him? He was known as a guy who was somewhat out of control sometimes, but we loved him for that.

Marshall: It's interesting to look back at that. Working with Ross Pederson a couple of years before, we always knew who Guy Cooper was. The opportunity to work with Guy was a last-minute decision by Suzuki because they hired him late. He'd discovered he didn't have a ride at Honda and went shopping at Suzuki. Bob heard that they could get him and figured, with my experience, they would hook us up. You talk about Guy being a little crazy. I used to have to have three or four sets of handlebars ready to go every weekend because we'd go through them. As a mechanic, that was a big thing because he was given 100%, which you wanted as a technician.

Vital MX: So, you win the 125 Outdoor Championship with him, and two years later, you're working with Brian Swink. With him, you get a 125 Supercross championship. Swinkster had so much talent, and I don't think he lived up to his potential once he moved to the 250s. 

Marshall: That was a tough moment because Suzuki had come and said that they were taking me away from Guy, and we still had some unfinished business. I thought that we could have won another championship there, but they had that belief in me that I would be the guy to take Brian to the next level. I even thought possibly I might have had that myself. It just didn't materialize; you know what I mean? It was one of those situations where we said, "Okay, we'll do it." Brian, I, and his family had an unbelievable relationship and, even to this day, still have a relationship with his family. I always tell people many people in our sport have talent who never got to showcase it. Whether that be the equipment, their confidence in themselves, or other things held them back. When I look at a kid like Jett Lawrence today, that could have been Brian Swink back in the day. It just never was. We spent five good years together. We didn't win a lot of races after leaving Suzuki, but we were always in the top ten, and that was important as well.

Marshall Plumb

Vital MX: Not everybody is cut out to be successful, no matter how much talent they have.

Marshall: I think for people with talent, things come very easy for them, and you, they don't always have to work hard at it, but eventually you do. If you want any goal in life, it's not given to you. You have to work at it. It's hard for somebody who's never had to dig deep, to then dig real deep to get what they wanted. Sometimes, that leads to bad attitudes, and I had a saying back then, "Your attitude controls your altitude." Sometimes, his attitude was very negative, and I believe negativity hurts you. When you take a kid like Jett Lawrence, there's no negativity. It's always positive, and then you look at his results, they're positive. It goes hand in hand.

Vital MX: You were in the industry during the box van days. You were on the road with Skip Norfolk, Jeremy Albrecht, and guys like that. I've heard so many cool stories. Are you thankful that was the era that you were on the road?

Marshall: Without a doubt. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would. I would like to do that. I don't know if I could do it, but those were the times of our lives. I look at the young kids today who fly in, and they look at it as glamorous because they get to fly. Man, the time that we spent bonding together was great. I ran into Steve Butler at the L.A. Coliseum, who I worked with at Yamaha. We traveled a lot together, and we could sit around for days and days and talk about endless stories.

Vital MX: If the mechanics got together, the book you guys could write would be almost unpublishable.

Marshall: I would like to write a book, but it might affect me and what I do today. We didn't have social media. Some things happened that nobody ever knew happened. Today, if it happens, somebody is posting a video of it two minutes later. We're living in a different era and different environment. There's that song, "The best days of your life." Those were some good times and memories that I'll never forget. 

Marshall Plumb

Vital MX: You also got to enjoy some incredible rivalries between guys such as Ricky Johnson and David Bailey, RJ and Jeff Ward, Jeremy McGrath and Jeff Emig, Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart, and Ryan Villopoto and Ryan Dungey. You've been at the races for all the history.

Marshall: 100%. I've been in this sport long enough that I've seen the heirs of Marty Smith, Broc Glover, Bob Hannah, Ricky Johnson, David Bailey, James Stewart, Ryan Villopoto, Ryan Dungey, and now Jett Lawrence. When Ryan Dungey was an amateur, we did his suspension through our shop for a while. The same with Justin Bogle, Colt Nichols, and a lot of those guys. I'm fortunate to see all those riders grow up and have great battles. I remember, I think it was 1990 Atlanta. We were part of a pretty epic battle. There was a seven-rider battle at one time. There was Ricky Johnson, Jeff Ward, Guy Cooper, Damon Bradshaw, Jeff Stanton, and somebody else. Cooper was near the front and was in the battle the whole time. I tell people this story, and I'm not ashamed to tell it, that I almost think I might have cost us the race that night because, as a mechanic, you were more into the race than you were into your rider at times on the track because it was so exciting. Coop had withstood everybody, and all of a sudden, here comes Jeff Ward out of nowhere. I didn't think he was in the picture anymore. He comes out of nowhere and passes us with maybe five corners to go, and we lose the race. I thought, "Wow, what just happened there?" You know what I mean? I don't know if Coop would have seen the board and knew he was coming. Jeff was like a snake who snuck up and caught us and won. It was one that I always felt got away from us. That was ours to win. 

Vital MX: In 1999, you stepped away from racing to start your own business, Marshall's Racing. What was the decision behind that?

Marshall: The honest answer would be selfishness. I was fortunate in my career to be near the front, win races, and be part of the action. Near the end, I didn't have that feeling anymore. I still wanted to give 110%, and if my guys only put 50% or 60%, I didn't want to do it anymore. Looking back now, I've learned there are a lot of mechanics out there who work hard, just as hard as I do every day, and never once get to lead a race, win a race, or be part of the competition of the race, but they still work very hard. So, I lost that feeling, and it was not fun anymore. To me, winning was fun, and we weren't winning and had no chance to win. I figured it was time to get off the road. Going back to what I said earlier, you start to get that attitude, and if it becomes negative. Then it's time to not do it. At that time, I was working with Mike Craig at Honda of Troy. He broke his femur, and I got to go home for a little bit. I just wanted to be off the road. At the time, Eric Kehoe was running the show, and he said, "We'll pay you until the end of the year. Just come when we need you." Then, they switched to Yamaha of Troy. Many people didn't know this then, but Ernest Fonseca was the next up-and-coming rider, and he'd contacted me and wanted me to be his mechanic. He offered to make things even better for me if I stayed around and was his mechanic, but I would have had to move to California. I didn't want to do that, and I said, "It's time to go home." I didn't know what I wanted to do, and that's when we started Marshall's Racing. There was nobody here that did something like that. I took that gamble. I had a good career at Suzuki with them. We won a lot of races and some championships. At the time, Shane Nalley, who was Mike Kiedrowski's mechanic at Kawasaki for a long time, had gone to Suzuki to be an off-road mechanic. He contacted me and said, "I might have a perfect gig for you if you're getting off the road." It was to be an off-road mechanic for the GNCC team. It was working for Paul Edmondson, and we had the summer off, and we raced every other weekend. So, it was an insurance policy for me if Marshall's Racing never took off. I did that for four years, and eventually, that part of the Suzuki program went away. It was interesting and fun, and I built some close relationships with some off-road people. It was a laid-back version of motocross. When that fell apart, the Dunlop thing fell into place. 

Marshall Plumb

Vital MX: How did that come about? Because that was originally temporary, I believe.

Marshall: I'd had a relationship with a lot of the companies that we had used. They became friends, and I was loyal to those companies. There's a handful of them, including Dunlop Renthal, Oakley, Maxima, and some others. There was another guy who had worked at Dunlop named Frank Stacy. I'd help him out, even back into 1985 and '86, when they needed a hand at a race like in Florida; I'd go down and help him at some of these amateur events. In 2000, a guy named Brian Fleck took over the racing program, and Broc Glover became the manager for the motocross and off-road stuff. I'd known Brian for a long time, and his boy got very sick. He was going to miss some races. They didn't know how many races he would miss, but they needed somebody to fill in temporarily. Mike Buckley, who is still a V.P. of racing at Dunlop, contacted me and asked if I would be willing to help. I went and did that for four or five weeks. When he returned, Supercross was ending, and the outdoors was starting. I got a phone call from Brian, who asked if I'd help out at the first outdoor, which was at Hangtown. The first race of every series is very busy for everybody. When I arrived, one of the guys working with them broke his back and neck at amateur day racing, and they needed somebody. Twenty-plus years later, I'm still here.

Vial MX: It's funny you stepped away to get off the road, but you're right back to it. It just draws you back in.

Marshall: I was wired differently because I spend likely 45 weekends a year at a racetrack, if not more. A weekend off is when I get to sit at home at the pool or something, and it's very few and far between. Racing is in my blood, and it's a passion. It's a love of the sport and helping people achieve their dreams. With Marshal's Racing, one of the biggest things is we get to help a lot of amateur people make it through the weekend by having parts for their bikes or being able to fix their bikes. 

Marshall Plumb

Vital MX: What's the future look like for Marshall's Racing? 

Marshall: We're all getting older, and you kind of want to step away from it, but I don't ever see me not being involved with racing. I've always had a passion for running my team. In the 90s, when we were a mechanic, it was our team. It's not like today, where you have five or six people doing a job on the team. We did it all back then, which makes me want to go out and try to have a satellite team like what Mitch (Payton) does. That's where you can showcase your talent. Looking back at the Pro Circuit team, the Factory Connection team, the Geico team, and even Star Yamaha today, when you can go out and be competitive against the factory teams, it shows that you've got something going on there. I want to do that. We've become a Beta dealer, and looking a couple of years down the road, I'd like to put a couple of guys on a Beta and see if we can be competitive. I know we can be competitive with our technical background and everything we have. That's an aspiration I want to look at, and to keep growing Marshall's Racing. 

Marshall Plumb



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