Chad Reed is ready for the 2010 Supercross season after coming off a championship year in 2009 by claiming a title in Australian Super X and AMA Motocross.
Nobody raised more headlines over the past few months than Chad Reed. The Australian transplant signed on for the outdoor motocross series at the last minute leaving no time for testing and far too late for budgeting. Some creative and confident negotiations, along with an iron work ethic and amazing talent, put Reed in a position to win the outdoor title and give Rockstar Makita Suzuki a motocross sweep. Right after that stunning display of speed and keen business sense, Reedy landed another huge deal with Monster Energy Kawasaki for the Aussie to race two years of Supercross and motocross in the US. To get things started with a bang, CR put his new KX450F out front in the Australasian Supercross Championship and collected that title for the second year running. Racing correspondent, Shan Moore, put Reedy on the spot about his new situation.
Why the change from Suzuki to Kawasaki?
From the beginning of the year to the middle of the year, I was really happy with the changes to the Suzuki. And I was really happy there. I’m not someone that likes to jump around and go to different teams and try to gel with a whole new package and team year after year. So I was kind of planning on being at Suzuki for the rest of my career. But budget issues were getting louder and louder and clearer and clearer each week, so it just seemed like the shift started around the outdoor series. I actually went for a few meetings with Monster about the Super X Series back here in Australia, and I got to talk to them and they seemed like a bunch of great guys and the relationship kind of grew from that. The next thing I knew, I was talking to them from a personal point of view and they were just really, really supportive of my program – not only of Supercross back here in Australia but of my racing career. So we just started talking and I got a chance to ride the bike, and it’s all good. I’m really excited – the guys are great guys, and I think I’m gelling with the team. It all came together kind of late and fast, but it’s all turned out for the good.
You got a late start going into the outdoor series. And if I remember right, you had a Supercross-only deal with Suzuki.
Yeah, I had a Supercross-only deal that I signed, but as the year went on, I was having a good time on the bike and enjoying being around the team. And the thought of riding outdoors kind of kept popping up in my head. I think the craziest and strangest part of the deal was when I signed the contract, I don’t think Roger [DeCoster] was at all happy with me riding Supercross only, and I think he had it in the back of his head to try and convince me to ride outdoors. And it seemed the question of me riding outdoors never came up, it was always me begging him for the chance to ride the outdoors, but the budget was becoming such a big issue with the team. In my contract, I had a clause in there that I could go race outdoors if I wanted to. But it wasn’t quite as easy as that; I had to give up a lot of things on my part and work with them to try to get race bikes and the program together so I could go race outdoors. So, showing up at Glen Helen, it was a lot harder than just saying, “Hey, I want to go racing.” It was a real last-minute thing, which I think was okay. I came in fresh with an open mind and ready to go racing.
Let’s get into the contract a little. There’s a lot of talk about an insurance policy that you and Suzuki took out, which ended up paying you if you won the outdoor championship.
My contract with Suzuki, my base salary… I had a great sign-on and a great deal. The thing was, there wasn’t any money in the budget for the outdoor series, so we got creative and worked out some incentive things with Lloyds of London. It was all based around me winning the title. I felt like I took a pretty good gamble on myself, and I put myself in good position to capitalize if I won. It was definitely tough early on, not from a racing point of view but from a personal standpoint, because at one point I felt my gamble wasn’t going to pay off. But that’s part of gambling, I guess.
You mentioned that you got a late start for the outdoor series, and you obviously struggled in the beginning.
Reed worked his way up after a slow start by chasing down the outdoor regulars like Ivan Tedesco (9). The title proved to be more difficult than expected with a mysterious illness and little testing preparation.
Yes. There’s a big difference between indoor and outdoor. Although it’s not the ideal choice, I could get on a stock bike and be comfortable riding indoors. For some reason, indoors has always come to me more naturally. Riding a Supercross track is like second nature to me, where riding an outdoor course, with the racing and letting it hang out, has always been something that’s been difficult for me. So therefore, I need that comfort level and I need the bike to do what I’m expecting it to do at that time. We had to work pretty hard, but this year, working with all the guys was pretty fun and it all came around. We came in kind of behind the eight ball and the suspension was a huge battle – both front and rear. It seemed when we made headway with the front, we had to compensate with the rear. And when we got the rear right, we had to work with the front. It seemed like it was an ongoing battle, all the way to Motocross of Nations. We were making major changes to the bike at Motocross of Nations, trying to get it right, so it was difficult this year.
Was part of it the fact that you hadn’t raced outdoors in a long while?
Yeah, I think that played a role. With every weekend that went by and every month that went by, I felt that I got stronger and adapted more and more to outdoor racing. This year was the first time I’ve ever put that much time into outdoor racing. I didn’t ride Supercross from Vegas, right to the time I started testing with Kawasaki, the week before the U.S. Open. And that’s by far the longest time since I was 12 years old that I’ve not ridden a Supercross track. So I think with every weekend I was getting stronger and my confidence level was going up for outdoor racing. I was developing, and so the bike needed to develop with me, and that was the ongoing struggle.
You also had to deal with a nagging stomach problem.
Yeah, that’s something that still, unfortunately, shows its face from time to time. Early on, it was difficult just to deal with it, and it wasn’t a lot of fun. If you’re out of shape, you can wrap your hands around it and you can say, “Okay, I’m not in shape,” and then you can do something about it. There’s no one else to blame but you. But when I was dealing with the stomach issue, it was quite difficult to swallow because I felt it was out of my hands and I was trying everything I knew, tying to make it better and feel comfortable so I could give it my all. But many times I wasn’t able to do that. But in those times, you just try to wrap your head around it as quick as possible and try to find a solution to make it easier to go racing. It was difficult, but we found some things that helped.
Quitting wasn’t an option for Reed as he worked for position in the Freestone race. Despite his pain he managed a 5th and 2nd in each moto taking a third overall for the round.
You had told me at Texas that you actually almost pulled off and quit because of the stomach problem.
Yeah, I was ready. Texas was probably one of the most difficult races of the year. I was hurting in the first race and in the second race. And I guess for me, more than anything, the fact that it hurts your pride so much to not be able to race for the lead or battle for positions you feel that you and the team worked hard to battle for. That was the hardest thing to swallow. My teammate at the time, Mike Alessi, was getting good starts and riding really well. And I felt that I had enough in me to go racing and battle and beat him, and it wasn’t happening the way I envisioned it and I felt I was behind the eight ball and not able to put my best foot forward. He was kind of getting quite cocky inside the truck, so I wanted to be the guy to go out there and kind of cut him down, and I wasn’t able to and it was getting frustrating.
It had to be an emotional victory for you, winning the championship after such a bad start.
It just felt awesome to win a motocross championship, and never in my career have I won an outdoor championship – not in Australia, Europe or the U.S. So I felt hugely fulfilled. I was really happy within and I felt completed as a rider. Somewhere along the line, I started out as a motocross rider, and along the line I veered off into a Supercross rider and I wasn’t able to be successful outdoors, so to finally win it, especially being away from the series for two years – that
felt good. And then you had the haters and the doubters. The fact that I was winning when Villopoto and Alessi were hurt and James [Stewart] elected not to ride, I think that was all the more rewarding for me. Deep within, I knew I had a lot of ups and downs and a lot of struggles, and through all that we were able to stay consistent week in and week out and get the job done. I felt I gained a lot of respect and a lot of fans through the outdoor season which was rewarding. And you always want to have the fans on your side. Maybe I’ve been taken the wrong way, maybe I’ve had the wrong attitude, but this year I turned it all around and I saw racing from a different point of view. I think Roger [DeCoster] and Goose [Mike Gosselaar] had a lot to do with that. Being around Goose this year, I think I learned a lot, just the way he approaches racing, and I think it was fun to be at the races this year.
Did the changes that MX Sports made to the series help in that regard – the move to a one-day program?
Yeah, I think it did. I enjoyed the series a lot. More than anything, it seemed the promoters were willing to listen to the riders on a more consistent basis than they had in the past. In the past, if the riders had a different perspective, it was like we were just the stupid athlete. It seemed that this year they had a more open mind and it seemed like if any of us had something to say, they worked more closely with the riders.
The Supercross season is beginning to start, and I know that you and James don’t have the best relationship and this last season didn’t end on the best of terms between the two of you. Is that a motivating factor for you?
Reed shows his frustration at Salt Lake after Stewart’s teammate almost took him down during a lapping pass.
It’s always a motivating factor, but I don’t think that’s sustainable. You just end up being mad all the time. I think that will all kind of get old, and I’ve kind of been down that road. I’ve been there, where I didn’t really like Ricky [Carmichael] and I wanted to beat him so damn bad that it seemed the more I wanted to beat him, the further I got from beating him. So I’m not going to get wrapped up in that. I felt that racing with James this year… I respect his ability as a rider, but as a competitor I kind of lost respect for him this year. What him and his team tried to pull in Salt Lake City was kind of unconscionable. I think it’s going to be a long year, and I think it’s going to be tough and he’s gonna be competitive week in and week out.
The thing I’ve got to concentrate on is my weaknesses, and that means basically trying to let it hang out a little more and try and step it up. I think switching over to the Kawasaki has helped a little bit. I think the window is a little bigger over at Kawasaki. I’ve been feeling pretty good in Supercross right now and I think, overall, the package and how I feel on the bike is really coming around.
It’s gonna be a long Supercross season. I think Villopoto is steppin’ it up; J.G. [Josh Grant] is steppin’ it up; we’ve got [Ryan] Dungey coming in. So a lot of fast guys are coming in, and I think at the end of the year it will boil down to who is there week in and week out. You gotta win races, and that’s really what held me back this year. I was in position to win races early on and never got it done. So that’s something I want to change this year and come out swinging.