At 22 years of age, Danny Smith has been found to grow up a lot in the last month. Danny’s brother, Kip, lost his life in a freak construction accident, one week before the Southwick round of the AMA National series. Although most would have understood if Danny wanted to take the week off to try to make some sense of what had happened, Danny decided to go racing. After all, it would have been what his brother would have wanted him to do.
We gave Danny a call on his cell phone to see how life has been treating him since his big win. We found out that he is staying with KTM Red Bull racer, Brock Sellards, in Sherrodsville Ohio. As Danny walked up and down the isles of Wal-Mart with his cell phone in hand, this is what we talked about…
TransWorld Motocross: You are currently fifth in 125cc points. Do you think you’ll break into the top three?
Danny Smith: Oh yeah, I am pretty sure I will end up running in the top three. That is what I want anyway. I am close enough to do it, even though I have a couple of DNFs. My bike is running great, and I am riding better every week. Hopefully, I will keep it up.
TWMX: Are you looking to stay with Suzuki for 2003?
DS: Yes I am. I don’t have it all finalized yet, but there’s a 95 percent chance that is what I am going to be doing. The paperwork has not gone through all of the channels. That’s the only thing I am waiting on.
TWMX: Do you know what Suzuki is doing with the 125 factory team for 2003? There have been talks, that Suzuki is spinning it off to a satellite team in 2003.
DS: My deal will pretty much be the same as this year. I will have the same mechanic and the same bike. As far as the team, I am sure Suzuki will be releasing information on what they are going to do for the 2003 125 team soon.
TWMX: Did you grow up in Idaho?
DS: Yeah. I have lived in Idaho since 1984.
TWMX: When I think of motocross I don’t think of Idaho. Can you describe the scene in Idaho, as far as MX is concerned?
DS: Idaho is actually a great place for off-road motorcycles. The racing scene is getting bigger every year. When I am there, we go out in the hills and make our own tracks out of the natural terrain. There are about four or five good race tracks in Idaho too. In the summertime, it is a lot like California. It gets hot and dry. The fall/winter time is when you get the best riding weather. It stays nice until around the middle of December.
TWMX: Does the winter get harsh up there?
DS: It’s not as bad as you would think. I have actually ridden on Christmas day before. You can almost ride year round, but it gets a little cold in January. January and February are the coldest months in Idaho, but if you had to, you could rough it out. Nowadays, I stay down in California from mid October on, for testing and the start of the SX season.
TWMX: Was Southwick your first win as a professional?
DS: Yes it was. I have gotten a lot of seconds and thirds, but I have never won a professional race before. That win felt so awesome. I needed that win to help me breakthrough to the next level. Now that I have done it, I know the feeling, and I want to win more. I know I can do it. I have learned a lot of little stuff about what it takes to win.
TWMX: Did you dedicate that win to your late brother?
DS: It all came together really nice for us. It was almost perfect for me to win that race. It made the whole family feel a lot better too. It was cool.
TWMX: Was James Stewart waving you on for the win, when his bike broke?
DS: He’s a cool guy. I have really gotten to know him well this year. I never really talked to him before we started racing each other this year. When his bike blew up, I was actually hanging with him. We started to pull away from the rest of the pack, and his bike started smoking. Then, with one lap left, he was waving me into the finish. It was a good feeling having my competition pulling for me like that. WWe always race each other fair and square. He’s obviously a great rider, and he is making the rest of the class work harder. Making the racing better is what it’s all about when it comes down to it. That weekend was great for me. I don’t really think about it too much, but the way it all fit together for me was great. I could not have asked for anything more, it was cool. It will be different for me from now on, but I am learning everyday.
TWMX: What do you think of the 125cc class this year?
DS: The 125cc class has had some good racing for the last couple of years. I guess since Ricky is doing so well over in the 250cc class, the fans want to watch some racing. There is always a race going on in our class. In the front mid pack or in the back there are riders fighting for position. I think that the fans appreciate that. I’m having a good time.
TWMX: Do you have a good relationship with your teammates?
DS: I like my team a lot. Everyone gets along really well. I think Branden is a great guy, and I really like having Buddy Antunez around to. He’s older, and brings a lot of experience with him. It’s much more fun to go to the races every weekend, when you’re around people that you like. Usually, on teams there is a guy that drags everyone down. Not on this team! Everybody pulls their weight. The atmosphere in our pit is awesome. Everyone works together toward a common goal. That’s the main thing. We all want to see each other do well. When I come in from a good race, everybody is pumped. I am just as happy as Branden is when he does well. Our bikes are getting better every week. Don’t get me wrong they were great when we started, but they are so fine tuned right now. Sometimes, during the long hot summer months, people start to slack off. That is not happening on our team. In fact, just the opposite is happening. I think that is showing now.
TWMX: Has Roger DeCoster been contributing a lot to the 125 team?
DS: He sure has. He’s great to have around, because he can see a lot of things before they happen. Roger has been through a lot in his career. His wisdom in certain situations is incomparable. There’s always something that I am thinking about changing, and Roger will always give me good advice. Having him in my corner gives me confidence.
TWMX: Is there anyone that you would like to thank?
DS: Obviously, my season was down before it was up. I want to thank everyone who believed in me from the beginning. My trainer, Jeff Spencer, who has done wonders for me. And of course all my sponsors; American Suzuki, O’Neal, RG3 suspension, Fly helmets, Alpinestars, Scott goggles, and my family. Without them I wouldn’t be here today.