Mike Craig: The Stingray Starts Over

At 31-years old, Mike Craig has accomplished a lot in our sport. Hailing from the 619, the former factory Yamaha rider quit his dream job because of the pressures on the factory side, electing instead for the lower pressure life of a privateer . Now, the rider/team manager of the ECC Race Team says he has seen all the sport has to offer as an athlete. Craig has a laid-back attitude nowadays. As an elder statesmen of Supercross, Stingray seems to be settling down a bit and sees a future beyond racing. Read on and find out what he has cooking for ’02.

TransWorld Motocross: What is team ECC?

Mike Craig: It is a new team. Escondido Cycle Center is the biggest shop in Southern California from Temecula to San Diego. We are in a 35,000 square foot building and we carry every brand except Yamaha. The owner wanted to put together a race team. My insurance agent knew the owner and he called me and said he wanted a full-on race team.

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TWMX: Nice rig you guys have!

MC: Yeah, but we did not have it at the first two races so we were working out of the Maxxis rig. It was worth the wait. I am so pumped on it! We just bought Jeff Emig’s Strategic 3 team trailer and the tractor is a brand new Volvo.

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TWMX: Who are the sponsors of the program?

MC: We sat back and said, “This program is all about image.” Instead of going after someone with more money we want to have the stuff that sells and looks the best. The Sponsors of team ECC are Suzuki, Troy Lee Designs, Spy, Alpinestars, Hansen’s beverage, Shoei, Hot Wheels, Maxxis tires, FMF, Twin Air, Rat Fink, 909 handlebars, Wiseco, SunStar, Pro Action suspension, Maxima, N-Style, BC Ethic, Hinson, Cometic Gasket, Jimmy Vasser Chevrolet/Toyota and PPG. As you can see, we wanted to surround our team with the best possible equipment.

TWMX: Who are the riders on team ECC?

MC: The owner told me to go after whoever I want. Obviously I am on the team, but we also have Josh Woods. Josh beat Bubba Stewart every moto last month at the Mini Olyimpics. He will be our East Coast representation. Michael Brandes and Turbo Reif are our West Coast 125 hitters and I race the 250s.

TWMX: What are the goals of the team?

MC: The first year, I just wanted to throw it out there and get noticed. We are not looking to go out and win races right away. We want to be the guys people look at and say “Wow look at that guy? Who is he? His bike is cool!” Every year, my goal is to have that rep. That will always be my goal. I’ve always wanted to race for a team like this. If we get on the podium, great! If we can go out and get our riders in the top five or the top ten, that’s good too. I want to be more realistic. Right now there is no pressure on these guys and I think they will do better because of it.

TWMX: What is your role in the program?

MC: Basically, I put the whole thing together, from the mechanics, the riders the sponsors… everything! I only had four months to do it! During the week I book flights, get hotels and that sort of thing.

TWMX: Do you find it hard to be a professional athlete and then have to run the team, as well?

MC: I want to race and do as good as I can this year. I have been working so hard to be in shape for this season. I want to race. If I do well this year I will race next year. I want to run with the guys I used to run with like Lusk and LaRocco. If I am just getting smoked by these guys, what’s the point? I will see how it goes this year. If I do well, I will continue. If not, I will step back and try to help the team win some 125 races.

TWMX: How long of a commitment has ECC made with you and having a team?

MC: It’s a five-year deal.

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TWMX: Wow! You could do a lot in five years!

MC: It sounds like a long time, but when you think about it most guys are locked into contracts for two and three year deals. Josh and Turbo are both 19 years old and we can work with them and keep them going. Then, when we get some bigger ssponsors we can go after big names. Right now the owner can afford whoever he wants. If we want to go after someone big, we can.

TWMX: Many think your bikes are the best looking Suzukis out there…

MC: I think Troy Lee Designs did an excellent job of putting the whole look of the team together. We are so pumped with the way everything turned out! We have received so much positive feed back. Wait until you see our outdoor series bikes!

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