Chad Reed’s return to the track is one of the major stories coming into the opening round of the 2014 Monster Energy Supercross season. The last two years of the veteran’s career have been saddled with knee injuries and issues with the all-new Honda, but Reed’s position as a team owner allowed him the chance to find a bike that better fit his traditional style. He and the staff of the America’s Tire/TwoTwo Motorsports team tested every production bike, chose the Kawasaki, and started preparing for the new year. An extraordinary effort went into making 2014’s fresh start, and the work will payoff when the gate drops on Saturday evening…
A lot gets made every year about the press day, but you always come in, say what you need to say at the conference, and do your laps. It's no big deal, but Saturday night will be...
It's not like I blow it off, but it is a different experience. When you are younger, it seems like your whole life is depending on this day, and it's so far from it. The first race I think is the hardest race of the year, but beyond that, it seems like everyone gets into a rhythm and there becomes an area where everyone fits in and you know what is going on. Right now everybody's hopes are high and like us, we are coming off of a bad season and I feel like I am in better shape and have a better bike. It's all of the things you hear everybody else saying. I'm not ripping on it or discounting it, but it is the reality.
Ten years ago you were a fresh kid from Australia riding for Factory Yamaha, and now you are a father of two kids and own a team. After all of that, do you still get the butterfly feeling?
Still, when we are going down to the stadium or just showing up for the press conference, in the first question you get asked or the first words you have to speak. That excitement is there still and is what keeps you coming back. I think when the excitement and the fun factor is not there, you have to bail.
After this past year, where you experienced things with the team trying to get the support and in your personal life with your children, does it bring things into perspective and make you think about how much you love riding?
I think so. I got that realization three years ago when we started the team. It has been a fun experience, but 2013 was a long, hard year. There are many reports about the bike and that kind of stuff, but for me personally, I absolutely did not love the bike. The bike wasn't the problem, really, because Barcia and Canard did well on it and they will do well this year. I came into the season not right, not healthy and strong, and needing more surgery. But I just didn't have it. I had sponsors relying on me and I was a single-rider guy, so it was tough. You don't have the million-dollar contract where you think, "Oh, well there is security." This team and sponsors mean a lot to me because we all work hard, and I didn't want to bitch out. I rode it out, and sometimes that is really hard, swallowing your pride and know that going into the weekend you don't have a shot at winning, especially outdoors. Outdoors was a drag and it was so hard to bounce back, let alone for the second motos. In the first motos on the rare occasion that I could finish in the top-ten, I was smoked for the second. But it is what it is, and you just try to learn and become stronger so you don't make the same mistakes as before.
How difficult were the past four months?
The last four months have been alright. Everything that what we were doing I had a good understanding of, other than the bike. As far as sponsors, though I didn't have signed contracts and in any aspect of life you don't count on something unless it is signed, sealed, and delivered, I had a good understanding of where I was going to be with the team sponsors and personnel. The effort was solely put into picking a bike and then progressing with it to get to this point. It is a long story, but basically we started out riding production bikes and I rode them all. Some I liked and thought had potential, but the way it turned out with the Kawi was it felt really good, fit my style, the modifications that we did seemed small yet made improvements. I felt that bike was the better choice at this point in time, so we went down this route. My relationship with Mitch is really good, so we have access to a lot of his knowledge and help, and the fast-forwards the whole process for us. I'm thankful for Mitch and the Kawi guys for helping with whatever they could, and to my guys for grinding away. It has been a busy last five months for us, because it was basically since August when we drove the semi out as the second moto went off at Utah. I drove out of there in the bus and thought, "A lot of shit has to happen. This is not the feeling I want, and I'm not doing the team or myself any justice." I was aware that the changes needed to happen, and I hopefully made the right choice.
Was there ever any thought when you were leaving of, "Shit, this might be the end?" or more, "I can't go out like this."
Not at all. It was never even about "going out," because I knew the facts. I feel like I have always been able to bounce back from those bad years because I feel like I am good at understanding the reality of the situation. Sometimes it's hard to deny the facts, and the facts in this matter wholly weighed on me. I wasn't in shape and prepared at all, then dealt with a bad knee and then issues in the summertime. At that point you look in one direction, and I pulled off in the first moto at Utah, told the team sorry, and shed a few tears because it was emotional. It's so hard to quit, honestly. You hear people say, "Oh, it's easy to quit." It's f'ing hard to quit. You're letting a group of guys down and a bunch of sponsors down, so it was hard to sit out the last National and know we had a lot of work ahead of us.
When you come in Saturday morning, it will be a fresh start...
Hopefully I will be back where I need to be, which is a podium guy, winning races, and contending for a title. I honestly feel like I can be that. The pace is high and the kids are going to push it every weekend, but I feel like it will still be the same old thing where you have to be there every week and win races. It will be a fight all the way to the end and I will need to do my thing. If I can do what I've always been able to do, we will be fine. I think back to when I was at my best, which is when I crashed in Dallas, and I don't think there has been a lot of change since then. There were a lot of gaps filled, but in my opinion, that's all there has been.