It wasn’t the start to his year that he was looking for, but Christian Craig doesn’t seem worried in the slightest. An offseason injury to his thumb ended up requiring surgery, forcing him to reevaluate and set his sights on racing the 250 SX East Region. However, he’s been attending the opening rounds of the West Region and paying close attention to how things are playing out in that series. We wanted to get his take on the racing so far, and also learned more about the approach Craig is taking to get himself in the right state of mind for his first gate drop of the year in Minneapolis.
I know you just had surgery not too long ago and are now getting ready for Minneapolis, is everything all good?
Yeah, everything’s going in the right direction. For a while there I was stressing because I had surgery just a few weeks ago and I still have pins in there. I won’t have a lot of time on the bike before the race, but I don’t think that’s an excuse. My offseason work was done before I got hurt, so I’m not stressed about that. I’m in a good spot with my bike and my training. It’s mainly just going to be about getting back on the bike to make sure that my thumb is fine. I’ll take the pins out and then have about two weeks on the bike and that should be plenty of time.
It’s got to help that it’s the same team, the same bike, and everything’s familiar.
Yeah, and like I said, a lot of testing got done before I got hurt. We made huge improvements with the suspension, the chassis, and the motor. The whole bike is completely different from what I raced last year. Everything was pointing in the right direction, and it still is, but we had to push it to the East Coast. I’m fine with that, though. On either coast I think I’m a championship threat and I expect to be up front.
You’ve been at these last few races, and you’re in a position where you get to watch how things are shaking out in the West. What has your take been so far on that class?
It’s been about what you’d expect so far, with craziness from the first round. There are people that you didn’t see winning right away who won. Nichols obviously has the potential and he got the start and checked out. Our guys have looked good and are just outside the box. I’m here and I’ve been bringing my kid with me and we enjoy it, but I also look at it as a learning opportunity. I’m not just here to walk around and sign autographs, I’m here to learn from the other racers’ mistakes. I can sit in the stands and figure out how someone feels in practice and point out right away who’s going to have a good night or an off night. I think that’s going to help me in the long run. It’s all about how you think about it. I’m a fan, but I’m learning. I’m also based on the West Coast, so it’s easy for me to come to these races. I’m just trying to better myself mentally while I can ride.
How much of a difference does it make to be here in person as opposed to sitting at home watching on TV?
Oh, it’s huge. You rarely see what is going on behind the scenes. They have practice online, but you only see the riding and nothing of what goes on in the rigs or what someone’s mentality is while they’re sitting in the staging area. You can see someone’s confidence before they even hit the track. It’s huge, you have to experience it live to get a real feel for it. You also get those pre-race jitters even though you’re not lining up. I’ve been sitting in the stands just getting that hyped up feeling like I was almost racing even though I wasn’t. That’s what I wanted to do. It’s like I’m getting those early season jitters out of the way before I’ve even raced, so by Minneapolis, I should be solid and ready to go. It’s cool. I’m getting a different perspective of it and even though my plan was to be here racing, those things got thrown out the window when I broke my thumb. That’s my fault and I just have to take it to the East Coast now.
Another thing that I’m sure has added excitement and a little stress to your life is Jagger getting into riding now.
It’s been cool. He’s had his PW for a few years now and it’s been sitting in the garage collecting dust. Until he asked me about it, I wasn’t going to take him. Recently, he started asking me to go to the track, so we geared him up and brought him there, and right away he impressed me. I’m turning into a moto dad now, but I’m just enjoying it. I’m just letting him go ride and do as many laps as he wants. He’s had some crashes and he just gets right back up and keeps going. It’s keeping me busy while I’m injured and keeps my mind focused on something other than my thumb healing. I have to leave that stuff to the doctor and until then I’ll take the kid riding [laughs].
Did you expect that he would get into riding, or was there a time where you thought he might not take interest in it?
No, I knew he was going to learn to ride a dirt bike sooner or later. I wasn’t into it this seriously until I was 10. My dad always had a bike, but I wasn’t into it until I was older and that’s when I wanted to start racing. He’s way ahead of that, he’s only four now and that’s all he talks about. Who knows where it goes, I’m not going to push it, but if he wants to race a year from now, I’ll let him line up and race. I’d for sure have picked golf so that he could take care of me when I’m older [laughs], but motocross is cool, it’s a good family sport and I had fun growing up racing and I’ll try to take him through the same stuff and teach him what I learned.