He's one of the most well-liked and most well-respected riders in Supercross, he's among the most seasoned of veterans, and he's heading into an unprecedented 16th season of pro racing this year. Kevin Windham of the Factory Connection GEICO Powersports Honda team ended the season last year with a bit of a question mark. With the current economic hardship continuing to take its toll, the team wasn't certain if they'd still have room for their lone 450-class rider in 2010. But Windham is back with the same team and a new manager - none other than the recently-retired Mike LaRocco.We talked to Windham about changes to his program and what to expect this season from the GEICO Honda team.
You’re back! How did it all come together?
Well, like you hear over and over again, the economy is playin' fits for us. We lost some sponsors and stuff and it’s hard to race without it. Honda stepped up and gave us the support. GEICO Powersports is still on board, so we got a good bike and a good title [sponsor] so we’re off to the races.
MSR and DVS and all the guys that have stayed with me, the biggest thing was just trying to decide if they were going to continue to support us. We’re really thankful for that and we’re looking forward to a good showing. We’ve made a lot of progress on the bike this year compared to last year where it was the inaugural season on the new machine. I’m looking forward to good things.
There's no end in sight for you, is there?
I just love this! I love what I do and you’re going to have to run me outta here. I want to stick around a lot longer and start my 16th season as a pro. I don’t really want to look to the end. I don’t know when it will be and I really hope it’s under my terms, though, and not having to quit unexpectedly. Things are good and I’m glad to be a part of it.
The new Honda 450 (that came out last year) is more compact in its dimensions – has that been a challenge for you as a bigger guy?
I’m really happy with the bike. Just having a year to try new things and new ideas and stuff is awesome. When we’re racing we push the limits and we try to do everything we can to get an advantage. We kinda used more of the [stock] platform this year - really not doing over-the-top stuff. My bike is pretty basic and it seems to be working really well on different tracks lik anywhere from my house and to Georgia and out here in California. I think we have a good all-around bike that should be good for tracks from coast to coast.
Hopefully we can get some momentum built and just have a good showing. It’s easy to be ruled out. A lot of young guys come in and those guys are riding really well, and I’ve been around a long time. So I hope that I can use my experience and have some good showings and find the podium.
What are your expectations for this season?
I think podiums are great. I think just being in the position. Obviously James is willing to take risks and go fast. He’s got an incredible record with the fact that he either wins or crashes. So that says a lot for him and where he’s willing to take his riding. Being an older guy, you kinda loose that sometimes. You want to be more slow and safe. It’s tough for me to continue to push the bar year after year, but this year for whatever reason, I’m going fast – a lot faster than I was last year – so I’m excited about that.
We gotta wait until A1 plays out and see where we fit in and continue to make steps throughout the season to try to get where we want to be. But I don’t see any reason with the level of competition that we can’t find the podium.
You have a new team manager (Mike LaRocco). What’s that like having him behind you – a guy you used to race against only a few years ago?
It’s funny, you know, because we’ve had our discussions about how things are and how things used to be and he’s done a lot for the sport. I respect him. It’s kinda funny because while I’ve been around a long time, I haven’t been around as long as him. He’s got even more experience than me. It’s good to have him; it’s good to talk to him. I gotta respect him. It’s my job. He’s my manager and what he says goes.
He’s been challenging me a lot this year, changed a few things in my riding style, trying to get better and better, so it’s been good. No matter how long you’ve been around, you have to be willing to change a few things and try to adapt. He’s challenged me a lot this year already and I’m looking forward to a good season and I’m glad to have him on the team.
After 15 seasons of doing things your way, is it hard to make changes?
Yeah, I think it is. And I think it takes someone you respect to challenge you to really think outside the box. It’s easy to get complacent and think, ‘Well I’ve been around so long – I’ve seen almost every situation and I’ve done almost everything there is to do on a bike so there’s no reason to learn,’ and that’s so far from the truth.
Every time you ride there’s a certain level of learning that’s involved and a new way to gain. We’re really splitting hairs. I mean, that tenth of a second that you’re trying to find out there by the end of the season makes a huge difference. It’s been good for me to have him and not get complacent with the same old style that I’ve had year after year.