As arguably the most popular rider of the sport’s history, Jeremy McGrath has be able to do many things his peers will never have the chance to attempt. McGrath has recently rejoined the ranks as team owner with former partner Larry Brooks and has become one of the figureheads to the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, thanks in part to his marketability and fan reception. This week, the LOORS comes to the all new Lake Elsinore facility and McGrath has helped the series gain traction to the moto demographic with appearances at Pole Position karting and his own poker tournament at Pechanga Casino. We spoke to McGrath to see how things are going for his many endeavors and to learn more about his event.
How has your new role of team owner and team manager gone so far?
(Laughs) Well, I am definitely not a team manager. I am more in the support group is how I look at it. Being a team owner, it certainly seems like there have been more downs than ups this year, but we are trying to straighten it out.
How much different is it to own a team in 2012 than to own a team in the early 2000's?
The difference between then and what is going on now is that I was the rider and I was winning. It is certainly a lot different trying to realize some of these goals with me not doing it myself. Things are a lot more expensive now. Cost and inflation has gone up and riders are more expensive, so getting a title sponsor is much harder.
It had been rumored for a while that a team was being pieced together between yourself and Larry Brooks. Was it a long and difficult process, or did it come together easily?
It is difficult, no matter what anyone says. And then to try and keep it together is another whole plan, so there is no easy way. These guys that do private teams, the way Larry has in the past, and after experiencing what we have this year, they get a lot more respect in my book.
There is talk of what has gone down with the race team and its future. Will the team contest these last rounds of Supercross and the coming Nationals?
We hope so. We have obviously experienced some setbacks and right now Andrew is riding out of the Honda truck. Honda has really stepped up to help us in that way and we are trying to regroup now.
You have an impressive relationship with Honda, and even though you haven't raced in years, you are still the face of the brand and do testing for them. Obviously, that relationship played a part in getting Andrew a factory bike…
My relationship with them is awesome. In my retirement, I always knew that my greatest years of racing came aboard a Honda and I knew in the end I would always be with Honda. We have grown this relationship and it is something that has been great for both of us. With this private team effort, there is no way I would have done it with someone else. It is great to have them as my friends and my partners.
After coaching Honda riders in the past, how is it to focus now on just Andrew?
I love Andrew and I have so much respect for him, because he is a great guy, a great rider, and a huge fan favorite. It is a bummer that he got hurt and that we as a team have had our setbacks. I don't want to assert myself to the team as a coach or anything like that, unless he has questions or needs to bounce something off someone that has a little more experience than he does, and then that is what I am there for. I have a hard time instructing a guy that is a professional and already knows how to ride. I tread lightly on that with him.
That is something you probably experienced in your career, people trying to get in your head by telling you their way of doing things when you had set your way already.
My biggest attribute can be my experience to draw from and helping them with their starts. That part of it, I feel I can give good instruction on because these guys all ride a lot faster than I ever did. I'm not sure that I can add to any of that.
How is it to work with Larry again after all these years?
It is great. We have had a lot of success and been friends forever, and through the circumstances that were going on, it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. We have given it a good effort and it is unfortunate to be in the regrouping stage, but all we can do is keep working for it and keep going.
Does running a business together put any pressure on your friendship?
No, it hasn't. Certainly you have to make some tough decisions, but I don't ever let business get in the way, because it is not about that for me.
How do you feel your transition to truck racing has gone and was it something you followed before racing it?
Short course as a whole has just taken off in the last five or six years, so no, I didn't really follow it. I knew who the sport's stars were, but I didn't follow it much. Lucas Oil is doing a great job with it and there is a great group of drivers racing in it now. It is a great spot later on for the guys that are racing motocross now. Fortunately for me, I took a lot of opportunities in my career to drive and ride a bunch of other things. It wasn't super hard to figure out how to race the truck and my dirt bike experience comes in traffic and in the race situation. But I have had to work on my driving and on driving the truck to its potential, which has been the hardest part.
How did the idea for the Jeremy McGrath Poker Tournament come about? Are you an avid player yourself and wanted to use that as a way be around your friends and racers?
I am a poker player, but I don't play it that much. I like poker and we get together for games at home every now and then, and it is really fun. With the Lucas Oil off-road race this weekend in Lake Elsinore, there was no better to get all of my friends together to play poker. We decided to have a tournament that is open to the public at Pechanga this Thursday night, April 19th, and it is all to build awareness for the race and get everyone together to have some fun.
We thought about having it benefit the Road To Recovery or other situations, and in the future we will be doing that. But for now we wanted to see if could get it off the ground first (Laughs). We had about 14 days to have it come together, so we had to work on that before deciding on the other things. The next one will benefit a group for sure.
From the time that your career started in the early 90's to where it is now, your popularity never suffered, even when you retired. You have had toys, video games, and now have an RC truck now for your racing. Is that something you expected after you retired?
No, because I didn't know what to expect when I retired. I like to keep myself out there and do fun things with the Jeremy McGrath brand, and I have made many great relationships and a lot of great friends, and I kept in touch with the fans. I think that is what has allowed me to have this longevity, and that I still do it. I still ride, still drive, still test for Honda, and I love my motorcycle so much. It keeps me out there and it has been amazing to be retired for such long time and still be working (Laughs).