It's been a turnaround season for the boys in red, but unfortunately for the factory Honda team, they're forced to end the Supercross season with an empty nest. The recently injured Trey Canard was forced to join fellow team member Josh Grant on the sidelines after fracturing his femur before Seattle. With both its factory racers injured, no one expected to see the Honda Racing rigs in the pits last weekend in Seattle, but team manager Erik Kehoe explained why the rider-less team still decided to roll out to Qwest Field. Not only did they show up - in a bold move for the typically conservative manufacturer, the Honda team took it a step further and opened up the pit area, allowing fans to come in and get an up-close look at the factory race bikes of Canard and Grant (not race replicas, but the real deal).
In between chatting up fans, taking pictures and answering questions in the pits at Seattle, Kehoe also talked to us about the possibility of bringing in an alternate to race out of the factory Honda rig, and when Canard and Grant expect to be back in commission.
The factory Honda team is riderless at this point, but the team has committed to still show up to the remaining rounds of the Supercross series.
Why is that? We thought about it this week and we thought coming up here we really wanted to be here to support the other Honda teams. Chad Reed's in the hunt for the championship as well as Eli [Tomac] in Lites, and there's K-Dub [Kevin Windham]. We wanted to be here to support them as well as, we have all our equipment, everything's here.
What about opening up the Honda pits to the fans? What inspired that? We thought, 'Well, why not open up a bit?' Things aren't quite as time-constrained for us now, so we're allowing people to come in and touch the bikes, sit on them, maybe take a picture with a full-factory bike. I know if I was 12 years old, I'd love to come in and sit on Trey Canard's bike.Do you have any plans to bring in an alternate rider for the remaining rounds of the season?Well... we do. Probably for the start of the Nationals. Right now, this late in the Supercross series, no. We probably won't. We had a couple ideas we were kicking around. As of right now we're going to be here to support the other Honda teams and we'll probably be ready to go at Hangtown with another rider we're talking to. Trey and Josh should both be back early for the National series. I'm not sure whether it's going to be around round three, round four, but they're going to be back early in the series.
Who might that rider be? Kevin Windham is one of them we're talking to. I think everybody knows that he helped us out last year. He did a great job. So he's got other things and other plans that he had, but we're talking about the possibility so we'll see what works out.
There's no chance of one of the Lites East GEICO Honda riders racing one of the remaining Supercross rounds? Unfortunately right now, if you look at each one individually... Justin Barcia is in the hunt for that championship. We don't really want to risk that right now. I think he could do really well, but just for two rounds, I don't think we'd want to do that. He's gotta stay focused on that championship. We did talk to Blake Wharton about doing some races. This week was too soon for him to be ready for this race. For him to get on the bike and ride it for one week and be ready for next week was a little tough, too. He's also had some shoulder injuries he's been dealing with. So I think it would be tough to do, although we thought about it, the timing's just not right for either of them.Up until this point, it's been a good turn-around season for you.
How has it felt to get Honda back on the podium? Aw, it's awesome! It's been a great year. We're really proud to have Trey part of our team. I think he's good for the sport. He's a great role model for the kids. We're truly proud of that. Josh Grant has been kind of under the radar here. He started off the season during testing was riding really well and unfortunately he got injured early in the series. We're really looking for good things from him, too. We're excited about the team this year. Chad Reed's doing an awesome job with TwoTwo Racing over there and Kevin Windham and Eli and Justin Barcia, we're just all around the map here on the Honda guys are doing a great job. We're excited about it. There's definitely excitement this year back at Honda.