"Hi, I'm Jeremy McGrath" he says when we meet. In my head I'm thinking - duh - but thankfully I become conscious in time to squeeze out a more fitting, "Pleasure meeting you." After all, the most accomplished Supercross racer in history is even recognized in places where dogsleds are the only means of transportation. During his motocross career McGrath collected an unprecedented seven AMA Supercross Championships, one AMA National Motocross Championship, and a total of 72 career Supercross victories.
Watch the Interview with Jeremy McGrath of Stronghold Motorsports Video
Yet, the man that helped to put Supercross on the motorsports menu comes off genuine with his greeting, and for a few minutes I feel like I'm talking racing smack with one of my buds. McGrath looks you square in the eyes when he talks and he has that uncanny knack for making people feel at ease, and as though the time he spends with you matters, even though he's been interviewed 1001 times. McGrath recently made time to film a video with K&N (http://www.knfilters.com/video/JeremyM_2011.htm) in which he discusses his humble beings and his current occupation as Stronghold Motorsports' Pro-2 Truck Racer in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series (LOORRS) in the Pro2 Unlimited class.
Round three and four of the LOORRS series where contested at the completely refurnished Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park this past weekend. I met with McGrath right before he headed out for his five lap practice session on Friday to see if there was anything else he wanted to add regarding winning, and not winning, and what he felt were the biggest differences between Supercross and Pro 2 racing.
Is there one question you've wanted to answer that you've never been asked?
"It's been what, like 20 years with the motorcycles and now the trucks, so it seems pretty obvious, to me anyway, that people know me. I mean, I wrote my own autobiography, and so people just know everything about me. I'm pretty much an open book. So I guess the answer is no."
At the top level of motorsports everyone has talent, so it comes down to what's in your head, what do you feel separates you from the other racers when it's winning time?
Stronghold Motorsports' Pro-2 Truck Racer Jeremy McGrath
"I think for one I just believe it should be me and nobody else, you know? I had great family support and we're really close and that always helps. And, I think as far as me winning and why nobody else, I think it's because it's a part of my nature to be a bit of a showoff. Like I'm really mellow and reserved when it comes to daily things, but when I get on my bike, that's my voice, you know what I mean? My voice was my bike and now it's my truck. So when it's time for the big show, for me, that's when it's time to shine."
With motocross being one of the most physically demanding sports, how would you compare the exertion level to driving your truck?
"Physically, naw, I mean I still ride dirt bikes all the time, I still test for Honda, so I know it's nothing like that. Your hot in there, trust me your hot, especially in these suits and helmets and the engine right up next to ya. You're super hot, but as far as super demanding, it's different. I mean you're just strapped in and there are things you do on a dirt bike that are so different from what you do in a truck."
The power-to-weight ratio must feel pretty close to some degree?
"Yeah, it is pretty similar, but you don't get the chance to use your body like you do on a bike. The toughest part for me was learning how to drive the truck, I mean, I already know how to race, that part is easy out there. I mean as long as no one hits you."
"This sport is high contact, but when you get hit it doesn't hurt like with bikes, which is kinda nice. So there is that element of comfort knowing that you're probably not going to break your leg or something, but one thing I found is that it's very hard here to do the things I did in Supercross. They have a competition yellow in the middle of the race. I mean they want this thing tight, it's just like NASCAR, as far as tightness. They don't want someone pulling away and winning all the time. And the way they do the start, they do the qualifying, you qualify, right, and then they do an inverse, so the fastest guy doesn't always start on the line. So that makes for a damn good race all the time. The fastest guy doesn't win all the time, in fact, rarely does that happen."
I don't think people understand just how much bumping goes on during the races, how does that work, is there an acceptable level of bumping?
Jeremy McGrath's Pro2 Unlimited Truck in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series (LOORRS)
"Yeah, sometimes you come back with no parts, no body panels, your truck is just demolished. I mean some guys just have no etiquette, they're just rude out there, and some guys are cool. And you can rough guys up, as long as you don't keep on them, and spin'em out. As long as you don't hit behind the door, if you hit door-to-door it's all good, but you cannot pit-maneuver anyone or you get a black-flag. But it happens and they don't always catch it, you know. And unlike any other sport, in this sport if you have money you can race with the best dudes in the world, right. On bikes you have to qualify, you have to be good enough to race."
"Some of these guys are kinda squirrely out here, and they don't have a lot of racing experience, but they have a lot of money, so it becomes tough sometimes you know? And you gotta keep away from these guys."
Here's a generic question, what sort of goals have you set for yourself this year, I imagine a championship is always at the top of the list?
"Yeah, I mean, I'm just getting my truck to the point where I feel I can drive it hard. You know we had a pretty tough first weekend in Arizona. Last year I had some pretty good momentum going at the end of the year, and so I just gotta rebound from that first weekend, and yesterday in practice my truck now feels better than it ever has, so I'm real optimistic about this weekend."
So you're now going out to practice some more, and when is qualifying?
"Yeah, going out for a five-lapper and then at 3:15 we'll be qualifying and that will determine our starting position. My goal is to make the inversion today. In Arizona I was ninth, and I wasn't very happy driving my truck, but yesterday it was so bad-ass, so like I said I'm very optimistic about this weekend. And the goal is to give myself a chance on Saturday. If you don't make the inversion during qualifying today, then you'll have a really bad starting spot, and the chances are slim that you're going to get to the front. So I just gotta do good in qualifying today and it will make tomorrow a lot easier."
Have you given any thought to how many more years you want to do this?
"Phew, you can do this forever, these guys aren't really athletes (laughing)."
So would you say you really have an edge here then?
"Well, yeah, maybe. I'd like to think I have an edge. Maybe when it really gets a little hot out there some of these guys will get exhausted, so I hope I can say I have an edge over that."
I'm thinking you might be right, well that and the fact you've won a lot more than anyone else.
"Yeah, and that's really helped me to grow in this sport, you know? It's been a steep learning curve and I get fired-up because I'm not winning. I mean I want to win - that's what I do. You get accustomed to winning so you kinda expect it."
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