In the world of extreme sports, one name rises above the rest: Shaun Palmer. World Champion snowboarder, mountain bike hero, X-Games Champion¿you name it, he’s won it. In a unique promotional agreement, American Honda has signed on as one of Palmer’s personal sponsors in 2001, meaning that the Generation X hero will fly the Honda wing in all the sports in which he participates. In return, Palmer was granted a full-factory ride at the first two 250cc Nationals of the year. TWMX caught up with Palmer soon after he qualified with ease for the main National motos, an accomplishment in itself… TWMX: What are your goals for the Glen Helen weekend?
SP: Well, my first goal was to qualify, and I did that on Thursday, then again on Sunday morning. I am trying to keep this fun and do the best that I can without getting upset at myself, but at the same time I am a champion and I have that competitive spirit. I need to stay relaxed and ride as good as I can, and hopefully finish up front to mid-pack. We’ll see.
TWMX: How is your speed now, compared to your average speed over the past few years?
SP: I am definitely faster right now, but that is mostly because I have been able to ride a lot. I can definitely go fast for a lot longer period of time. I wouldn’t say that I am lightning fast compared to before, but I am definitely faster than I have ever been.
TWMX: We understand that you spent some time training at Carmichael’s house…
SP: Yeah, I was there for one-and-a-half to two months, training and riding my ass off. It was like MX boot camp.
TWMX: We heard that Jeannie RC’s mom was busting your ass…
SP: Oh yeah! Everyone was¿Jeannie, RC, Aldon. It was fun¿it was a good experience and I think I found a good family to hang out with for the rest of my life.
TWMX: Ricky’s training program is pretty intense…
SP: Yeah, it is. I can definitely see why his whole career has gone the way it has. He is built to win. His personality and work ethic are perfect for motocross.
TWMX: How does the pressure of this race compare to that of other sports?
SP: It’s different, you know? I don’t get paid to race motocross and the pressure that I feel is all self-inflicted. This is the toughest sport in the world and I think that people don’t realize how hard that it is. Guys in snowboarding and mountain biking hear that I am gonna race motocross and they say, “Palm is gonna race?” And they will expect me to win. As far as pressure from other people go, I don’t deal with that. Like I said, this is the toughest sport in the world and I am happy just to have qualified for the National.
TWMX: The guys at TransWorld Snowboarding are expecting you to finish inside the top 10. They say, “If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s not to bet against Palmer.” What is it about you that allows you to be successful at everything you do?
SP: (Laughs) Well, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I get sick of things fast.
TWMX: You look a lot fitter than we’ve seen you in the past…
SP: Yeah, I’ve been training hard and eating right. No beer!
TWMX: We understand that you have done some local races to tune up for the National…
SP: Yeah I did a lot of local races in Georgia and I won most of those.
TWMX: We also heard that you kicked the shit out of your ice chest…
SP: Man, that was bullshit. I was pissed off because I got beat by some old vet racer, and I hit my gallon of water when I got back to the pits. Then I read on the Internet that I kicked the hell out of my ice chest. That was a lie. Damn, they might as well have said that I axed my truck!
At the start of the first 250cc National Championship moto of the season, Palmer gated well but was run off the track in the second turn. Along with several other racers, Palmer crashed into the chain link fence that lined the track and ripped the fingernail off his pinky finger. Bloodied and upset, he was forced to retire only one lap intoo his National debut and seek medical attention. At press time, Palmer hoped to return to action at the Mt. Morris round of the series.
Even though Palmer failed to score points or finish a moto, his speed and dedication in qualifying was impressive. Where do we predict that the rebel racer would have finished? Probably inside the top 20. Never bet against Shaun Palmer.