Catching up With Chad Reed
By Donn Maeda
It was an exciting series opener for defending Supercross Champion Chad Reed. Having topped the field in times qualifying, Reed was poised and ready to race when the gate dropped on the 20-lap main event, and it showed. After stalking rival James Stewart in the early stages of the race, Reed got the crowd on its feet when he dove underneath Stewart and took over the lead. Stewart struck back a couple laps later, but disaster struck when the lead duo collided just before the whoops. While Stewart was struck again by Kevin Windham and eventually walked off the track when his bike would not restart, Reed soldiered on to third place, in spite of having no front brakes. We caught up with the Supercross Champion to get his take on the series opener…
It’s now the day after Anaheim 1, which was arguably the best series opener ever. Looking back on the events of last night, what are your thoughts?
It was a good night! Typically, Anaheim is a slick track and a brutal first round. This year, however, we had perfect dirt; the dirt was tacky, and we had overcast skies throughout the afternoon. The track was long and fast; I think lap times were around a minute long, which is the longest track we’ve had in a long time. I had a good start in the main event and went to the front of the pack right away. James [Stewart] had the holeshot, but he made a mistake and I was able to move around him. From there, I tried my best to put in some good laps and ride my own race, but I made a few little mistakes myself that allowed him to move around me. I think we were getting set to battle, but he missed a shift and I ran straight into the back of him. I had nowhere to go; I was already committed to my line and we both went cartwheeling through the whoops.
What was going through your mind when you were flying through the air?
It happened so fast that I didn’t even know what happened at first. I knew I didn’t cross lines or do anything wrong. I set up for the next turn and accelerated… I was actually going from the left to the right so that I could be on the inside of James in the next corner. Being the second place guy allowed me to take the opposite lines of James, and I was trying to set it up so that I would pass him back through that whoop section. I was kind of crossing lines, but he missed a shift and I hit him hard (laughs). It was pretty gnarly. I hit him so hard that I instantly started flying through the air. I was going upside down and asking myself what the hell just happened? When I got up, I saw him two whoops ahead up me all upside down. I was just thinking about getting back on the bike as fast as possible, and I was able to remount. I bent my front rotor. My front brake pads were rubbing, so I tried pumping them, but they would just lock up every time I went off a jump. I had a few close encounters with that, and I hit my head pretty good, so I was a little dazed the whole time. It took me a while to get my focus, plus I had to learn how to ride the bike without a front brake. I started down shifting into first gear to get the engine breaking working so that I didn’t have to totally rely on my rear brakes. The last five laps I started riding a lot better and was catching [Andrew] Short at the end. It sucks, though, because even if I did catch up to Shorty I wouldn’t have been able to pass him.
We all know that hitting your rear brake in the air drops the front end, but what the heck does the bike do when your front wheel locks up over a jump?
(Laughs) Dude. It drops a hell of a lot faster in the air, that’s for sure! It gives the bike this feeling of dead weight, and you have no control over it. When you go off the finish line jump, you lean to the right to setup for the next turn. Well, my front end locked up going over the finish line jump, and it freaked me out. I was also freaking out a little because I saw that I was in third, but Ivan [Tedesco] was right on me and Tim Ferry was right there, as was Ryan Villopoto. I knew those guys were hard charges and weren’t going to give up, so I put my head down and tried to learn how to ride my bike by down shifting and all that stuff. Eventually, though, I was able to pull away from those guys and focus on Shorty instead of the guys behind me. Overall, I felt like I had a good pace and a good 20 laps in me. I was ready for a good battle, and who knows what would have happened if James and I didn’t come together. I think I had some really good lines, and I had a good feel for the bike; I felt like I had a win in me.
Aside from the bike being a different color, you look like an entirely different rider on the bike. When you and James were battling, you appeared to be in control and you weren’t hanging it out at all. Has your riding style changed now that you’re on the Suzuki?
I am tired of comparing one thing to another (laughs). I think all of the bikes are so close, but I find that the RM-Z450 really suits my riding style. I feel very comfortable on the bike, and I love the way it turns and handles. It’s by far the best four-stroke I’ve ever ridden. It really feels like my 250 two-stroke days because I have the feeling that I’m able to turn anywhere I want to. I can grab a hand full of throttle and know that the bike is going to go exactly when I need it to go. All of those things inspire me to go riding every single day. My bike is consistent, and I believe that we can continue to build and build and build. The entire package just fits me really well, and I think I’ve gelled with the team really well. We’ve only had two races in the United States, and both of those races we’ve had issues with cartwheeling and losing brakes. Hopefully, though, we have the brake issues out of the way (laughs).
How important is it to set the fastest lap time in the final practice session? Does it give you an advantage when you line up knowing that you’ve posted the fastest lap time of the day?
It’s obvious that lap times come from feeling comfortable with the track and your bike. If you don’t feel comfortable, you don’t go fast. In the first practice session, I struggled with some of the changes that we made to the bike prior to Anaheim 1. The track was kind of fast and got pretty rough, so we had to make some changes to the bike so that it would feel better out there. Either way, the track was tough, but the sand section was fun and the dirt was awesome. We made some good changes before that second practice, and I put together some solid laps and ended the practice session with the fastest lap time.
Have you spoken with James since the race?
No. I actually walked by their semi after I left the podium and I saw his dad. I asked Big James where he was and he told me he was in the bus. I wanted to make sure he was okay. I hit the ground pretty hard myself, and I know James went two whoops further than I did. I know when I got up off the ground that he wasn’t looking too good, but I hope he is doing okay. I just want to battle; I want to be in that battle. I want to step it up and race with the guy and take this thing all the way to Vegas; may the best man win. We have a rivalry, but I think it’s going to be a good one this year. We both want to win and we both work really hard, and that’s what racing is all about.
Your tangle with Bubba reminded me of your tangle with LaRacco at Anaheim a few years ago.
(Laughs) Yeah. I guess so. That was really wild. James and I were setting a good pace, and I dipped down in the 59-second range, and James dipped down into the 59-second range as well. I think we were just getting into our groove, and I think we were going to have a really good race. I felt like I was in control and my lines were really good. The whole crash really was a shame. The race was live on the Speed Channel, and we need to have good battles and excitement. We had the excitement, but the battle ended a bit early (laughs).
In closing, how badass is your new gear?
(Laughs) I love my gear. Thor did an awesome job. I had their graphic designer, Mo, send me the different styles and that was the one I selected. We also worked on the helmet a lot. They wanted to go in one direction while I wanted to go in a different direction, but I was pumped because I got my own way (laughs). I think it turned out well! A lot of people were complimenting me on the gear. It’s fun to be the lead guy in Thor and have some cool things. I have two more one off sets that I’ll have later on in the year. They’ll have some more Rockstar flavor to them. I’m excited to spice it up a little bit.
Thanks for the time, Chad.
No problem, see you next week!