Racing since he was six, AMA Pro SuperBike
rider Josh Herrin has tasted success at every level he’s competed. He won the 2004 USGPRU 125 title at age 14. The next year he would add the WERA 600 National Championship to his resume. In 2006, at the age of 16, riding for the Graves Motorsports Yamaha Team, he made his professional debut in the AMA Pro SuperSport class. A year later he won his first pro race at Laguna Seca, and in 2010 he won the premiere American motorcycle road race, the Daytona 200. In 2012, Herrin made the jump up to the AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike series and finished fourth in the standings. This AMA Pro SuperBike season, he won the first race of the season and led the series in points after the first weekend of racing in Daytona. Now Josh is embroiled in a three-way battle for the title between Monster Energy Graves Yamaha teammate Josh Hayes and Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s Martin Cardenas. We recently had the pleasure of talking to Herrin about racing, about his Graves Yamaha teammate and about his plans for the future.
Motorcycle USA: Tell us a little about your background, what it was like growing up.
I played basketball, baseball, and soccer until I was about 12 or 13, and raced at the same time. I grew up at the track obviously. I raced from when I was six. We moved out to Georgia when I was like 13-years-old. My dad bought some property out here so we could put a dirtbike track on it and train a little bit more. That was kind of when racing got really serious, when I was 13. When I was 15 we started racing 600s and it led on from there with Yamaha. So ever since then, it’s been pretty much AMA stuff with Yamaha and Graves.
What did your dad race?
My dad raced mainly Willow Springs pretty much forever and did all the AFM stuff on the West Coast. He did like, I think, two or three AMA rounds in the late ‘90s, early 2000. When I was younger, my grandma kind of did my sports kind of stuff, because I was really into baseball and basketball. My parents put everything they had to get us to the race track, whether it was pawning stuff off or being late on bills, they always got us to the race track. I remember, I guess you could say like a football dad, I didn’t get forced into racing. I quit for actually a year when I was 10 to play travel league baseball and basketball. It was never forced on me or anything, it was always a choice, but if we were in it, we were in it 120%, it was never any lazy way about it. It’s something always to be grateful for.
Tell us how it felt to come out of the first round in Daytona as the points leader.
Umm, I mean it felt really good just because it was the first time that I had led the points and it was the first time I won a race (in the SuperBike class). But like I said before, there’s always luck in racing and you want luck on your side but
Josh Herrin was all smiles after his getting his first AMA Pro SuperBike victory in Race 1 at Daytona this year.
Josh got a DNF two races and so I got pretty luck with it. It was a little bit of extra motivation when I knew I had a lot of hard work ahead of me and if you follow the series, you know that it hasn’t been easy, we haven’t followed it up with a win yet. It’s been pretty consistent except for one bad race that we had. I think right now we’re only like 13 points out, so the top three are separated by 13 points, so it’s been pretty tight.
You had to be stoked to get your first Pro Superbike victory.
Oh yeah, it was definitely up there as far as emotional moments go. The 200 was pretty awesome because I earned that 100%, but it was definitely cool knowing that all the classes I’ve entered, I’ve won at SuperSport, Daytona SportBike and then SuperBikes. To me, that’s the coolest thing, I’ve won a race in all the fields of AMA that we’ve done.
What’s it gonna take to beat Hayes this year?
Just training. I have the speed. I know I can do it just as fast as him, I know I’m on the same bike so there’s no excuses, but it’s just going to take commitment at home. That’s the biggest thing. The past three days, I came home Monday and every day we’ve been out working real hard so I know it’s going to pay off. We have a couple weeks until Mid-Ohio so I think that’s the biggest thing. It’s the only thing I have going negative for me right now.
What’s the relationship between you and teammate Hayes like? Is it stormy like Mladin/Spies, do you have a curtain up like Rossi/Lorenzo?
Yeah, teammates are always teammates, they always want to beat each other and they’re always going to have negativity towards each other I think, but we have a pretty good one. He thinks like I do. If you’re going to beat somebody, you’re going to beat somebody, it doesn’t matter what help you get. If somebody here is going to beat me, they’re going to have to outride me that day or have more talent than I do or work harder at home than I am because I’m going to give it everything I have.
You’re both racing YZF-R1s, but do you have access to the same technology?
Oh yeah. If I want to I can come in and get all Hayes’ data and stuff. I try not to because I want to learn to set-up the bike by myself. If it’s the day before a race and we’re struggling, we definitely look and we can overlay and compare everything, so that helps out a lot. And Josh is real helpful. If I have any questions, he usually is more than willing to help out and answer. After the race, he’s real helpful letting me know what he saw during the race.
It’s the same bike, but when we show up at the track, everything’s different on our bikes. It’s based on what our set-up was at the last race or what it was the last year on that track. Our tanks have different shapes to them. I have a pad on my seat and I sit back on the bike a little bit further. He’s got a taller seat foam than me so he’s a little bit higher in the back and he’s got a little hole in the front where his seat meets his tank, so just the positioning of our bikes will make our bikes act a little bit different.
Do you have a favorite track on the AMA circuit?
I like Barber a lot. That’s usually one of my favorites. It’s my home track whenever Road Atlanta’s not on the schedule. I really like going to Laguna. I never really seem to win there, I’ve won there once since I was 16. It’s one of my favorite tracks and we always seem to get on the podium and just the atmosphere. Since I’ve been going there, since I started racing with AMA, MotoGP has been there.
What was it like for a 16-year-old to turn pro and race in the AMA Pro SuperSport class?
It was weird and cool, but it was something I had been looking forward to for a few years. I was home schooled so it would have been a little bit different if I was in high school because I think I’d be missing my friends and stuff. But it just wasn’t an option for me, with my dad driving to all the races. But it was a dream come true because like I told you before, there was always my family driving around to races and it was always a big family thing. When I turned pro, it was like, my family was just there to support me, that was the only thing they were there to do because all of a sudden there were semi-trucks bringing the bikes to the races and a full team of people doing stuff and my pops and me just flying to the races. It was so much different and surreal, but it was cool.
You’ve had a long history with Graves Yamaha. How’s that relationship been for you?
It’s been great. I’ve been with them since the end of ’04, so that’s right around nine years or something. It’s been a long time, my whole pro career and actually half my career of racing. They’ve been nothing but the best and they’re always there to support me. Chuck is like family to me and it’s always been great with those guys. Hopefully I never have to ride with any other manufacturer. It’s really easy to go to
Josh Herrin lights 'em up after his 1-2 performance to start the AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike season opener at Daytona.
Herrin's chief rival this year happens to be his Monster Energy Graves Yamaha teammate, Josh Hayes. The three-time champion and Herrin have an amicable relationship though, Hayes going as far as offering up advice to Herrin after races.
the track and just concentrate on racing because there’s never any new people, it’s always like “Hey, Keith,” “Hey Chuck, good to see you again.” Over winter break, it’s really just missing the team, that’s all.
Tell me a little bit about your training regimen.
Normally it’s not that great, but Specialized sponsors me with bicycles so I try to ride them. The last couple of months I’ve been really into bicycling pretty hard. After this weekend, I’m realizing my training isn’t as great as I always thought it was. So we’re trying to hit the bikes every day since I’ve been home from Barber and trying to replicate what it would be like on a track. Get your heart rate real high and then letting it drop, then have it get high again, doing intervals like that. Hopefully we stick with it. I’m the kind of guy, I need somebody there with me doing it to make me be committed to it all the time and I think one of my buddies is going to stay out here and help me out this summer until I get on a good program where I can solidly do it by myself. I hope it works out really well because I think that’s what I’m lacking right now, good, strong endurance. A little gym stuff because just riding the R1 as much as we do, we get enough strength to do it when we do 23 laps in a row.
I know you had right forearm surgery for ‘arm-pump’ back in March after Daytona. Has that continued to bother you?
Yeah, it’s bothering me, but once again, one of the big things about training is also feeding your body the right stuff. I think I’ve been trying to eat real healthy and I think if you do that, it’s kind of a big package. If you’re going to train, then you need to eat well, you need to stay hydrated all the time and a big part of the arm-pump is that (conditioning). And also just trying to relax on the bike. The more prepared I am for the race and more physically fit, the less I’m going to hang off the bike because I’m stressed out, then I’m not going to make it to the end. I think it will all come together in these next couple of rounds.
I saw that you’ve been running a Supermoto Camp at Middle Georgia Kart Track. Are you going to do that again this year after the season’s over?
Yeah, probably. We had two before this season started and then we had a few at the end. The track here, actually me and my family own the supermoto track. We do the school at the beginning and then every month we also have supermoto races. A couple weeks ago we had one and usually get about 40 people. It’s kind of cool because it keeps me in the sport no matter what. It doesn’t ever turn into a job for me, it’s always fun because I get to hang out with little kids and see my little brothers race.
What are your career goals? MotoGP?
Definitely. Moto2 is something I want to do just so that I can get over there and learn the tracks. Really I want to do GP, I think it’s reachable. I think I’m a good enough rider and have enough experience. One thing though before you go over there is you want to make sure you’re ready. I know that riding-wise, I’m ready, I just need to step up my fitness game and then we’ll be ready to head over there.
What do you like to do away from the track?
A few things. One of the big things I’m into right now is racquetball. And I go play basketball three or four times a week at the gym, we’ve got some pick-up games that we do. We like to go bowling for fun sometimes and stuff like that. I have a supermoto at my house, bicycling is turning into a fun thing for me, stuff that any young guy likes to do.
I hear you like to get in some jet ski action, too.
Yeah, I’ve got a SuperJet that I’m actually going to ride tomorrow. I have a lot of fun on my SuperJet. I did a race, I think it was about a year ago.
Are there similarities between riding on water and land?
It’s actually a lot more difficult to race a stand-up for half an hour than it is to race a superbike. It’s one thing to just go riding around, but once you start racing with 15 other guys and the waves are real huge, it’s a different world. Your body gets so sore, it’s crazy. You do have to be really smooth like you are on a superbike and I just have a lot of fun doing it to take my mind off training.
Are you an adrenaline junkie Josh?
Oh yeah. My fiancé wants me to go skydiving but I’m not quite there yet. Anything on land or water, I’m pretty much in to. I do wakeboarding, stand-ups, all that stuff.