After winning a 125 national title, two titles each in supercross, 250cc outdoor and 500cc outdoor…not to mention being a member of seven MXdN teams, you could call that a pretty good career and kick back, right?
Not if you’re Jeff Ward.
After retiring in 1992, he moved on to four wheels, first driving in the Indy Lights series, then later moving to the ovals-only IRL series. He was ’97 Rookie of the Year at Indy, and has had a handful of top five finishes at the Brickyard. He’s driven for heavyweight owners like A.J. Foyt and Chip Ganassi, and best of all, took his first IRL win this season at the blindingly fast Texas Speedway.
While he still spends plenty of his weekends at over 200 MPH, he hasn’t forgotten his roots, and as we saw when he holeshot the second moto at the Fast Masters which ran alongside the World Cup of Motocross, he’s still plenty fast on two wheels.
We talked to Jeff at the Vet Worlds at Glen Helen, where he was aboard one very trick-looking Honda CRF450.
TransWorld Motocross: Hey, Jeff it’s cool to see you riding. What’s the motivation to come back out here?
Jeff Ward: “This is where all my friends are. I grew up in motorcycles since I was a kid. I love coming out and going riding. I know I can’t ride like I used to ride, but as long as I can go have fun, it’s good.
“I’ve been riding quite a bit, so I feel a lot more comfortable on the bike. Not so scared that I’m going to go down at any second and get hurt. It just keeps me in shape and sharp. I’m still pumping up a lot, but my cardiovascular’s pretty good.”
TWMX: That was really cool when you grabbed the holeshot in the second moto at the World Cup.
JW: “Yeah, I wanted to stay out front for longer than half a lap. Hopefully if I get to where I don’t pump up, I can.”
TWMX: What’s the plan for next year’s racing?
JW: “I’m still working on a Ganassi deal, and having a lot of fun.”
TWMX: How good was it getting your first IRL win this season?
JW: “Good. Finally I don’t have worry about that anymore. I just need to get better motors. We didn’t have any good motors last year, so it really hurts. But next year the Toyotas are good, if I can get on a team with Toyota.”
TWMX: Do you drive shifter karts for practice?
JW: “No, I don’t do much of that, since we race ovals. I go out and have fun, but I’d rather ride the motocross bike because I get a lot better workout. Some guys can’t ride a motocross bike because they’re not good enough to get a workout, or have any fun at it. I have less chance of getting hurt riding the motorcycles than I do at anything else…BMX, mountain bikes, or jet skiing.”
TWMX: After winning so many championships with Kawasaki, a lot of people were surprised to see you on a Honda at the World Cup of Motocross.
JW: “I wanted a four-stroke, and Motoworld gave me some bikes. I’d ridden Troy Lee’s 450 and had a blast on it. Nothing against Kawasaki, but it’s just a good bike. It’s fast, fun, and you get good starts on it. If Kawasaki makes a good four-stroke, I’ll be getting one of those.”