Catching Up With Davi Millsaps

Kit Palmer | January 21, 2011

After the first two rounds of the 2011 AMA Supercross Series, Davi Millsaps has yet to crack the top 10. Finishing 19th at Anaheim I and 11th at Phoenix isn’t what the seasoned veteran had expected, but when you consider what the Georgian has been through the last seventh months, it’s easy to cut him some slack. Since June of last year, he’s lost a kidney, joined a new team, switched motorcycles, moved back to the east coast, and is recovering from a recent back issue – a pinched sciatic nerve, and you probably know what that’s like.Through it all, however, Millsaps, now riding for JGR/Muscle Milk Yamaha alongside teammate Justin Brayton, is determined to get back on the right track again after five years with Team Honda, and he says he’s already heading in that direction and is hoping to really turns things around tomorrow at the Los Angeles Supercross.

Anaheim I was your first race since June, since crashing and injuring your kidney. How would you describe your first two races back?The first two rounds went horrible. You can sit there and pick out every single thing that went wrong, but the bottom line is that it was mainly just me. I haven’t raced since June when I got hurt really bad, and it’s been hard to get back in the swing of things – a new team, a new bike, a new everything when we came to Anaheim I. I wasn’t used to anything yet, but, really, there is no real excuse, it’s just me not riding like myself.Talk about Anaheim I, your first race in over six months.I’m trying to forget that race. I went down on the fifth lap and ended up on the side of the track. I got up and had my front brake [lever] all the way down, my wheel was twisted, and my hands were full of mud from [crashing] on the side of the track, basically I was a mess after that. But I stayed out there for the entire 20 laps and did the best I could.What about Phoenix?Phoenix went a lot better, but I went down with two laps to go! I went from like eighth to 11th, but it was a starting point to where I can work from, not like Anaheim where I couldn’t work off anything.How do you like your new team?It’s a good atmosphere there; I really like the team and really enjoy being over there and being back on the east coast. I have nothing to complain about, we’re getting the bike dialed in. It’s different from practicing to racing, with suspension and bike set up and everything like that. We’re just learning everything and taking it one step at a time.You’ve ridden Hondas for the last five years, how are you adapting to the Yamaha?The Yamaha is a lot different from the Honda. I like it, I enjoy riding it, it’s really fast and handles good – when I have it set up right. When you’re going our speeds – if you’re someone off the streets, the bike is great, but when you’re going our speeds, you have to have it set up for us and everything, and we’re working on that, getting it better every weekend.

You’re now back living on the east coast. How do you like that?I’m from Georgia and the Florida area, so I don’t mind being back there [North Carolina] at all. That was the first question they had – “do you mind moving back here?” And I was, “No, I’ll move back in a heartbeat.” I have my house here in California, but I love being back there – there’s nothing to do, you’re away from everything, the only thing you can do is ride, so I like it, it was a good opportunity.Healthwise, you’ve been through quite a lot the last six months. Are you 100 percent healthy again?I believe I am. I have to do another checkup for my kidney and see if anything has happened to it since four or five months ago, so as soon as I get the okay from that, then there is basically nothing else we can do. [The kidney] doesn’t really bother me, I don’t notice that it’s gone. I lost 80 percent of my kidney and the 20 percent that’s there, basically doesn’t really do anything for you. It can grow and regenerate, and if it grows 50 percent, then it can run my body, if it doesn’t, then it’s just there, just for looks. When I crashed at Budds Creek [in June], I broke the main artery that goes inside the kidney, it severed it, so when that happened, your kidney splits into two sections, and I destroyed the upper part, which was 80 percent of it. The kidney doesn’t do anything other than filter out liquid, so it doesn’t really bother me in any way, shape or form, it was a hard crash, and it’s hard to think like, “wow, I just lost an internal organ,” especially one that, if you lose the other one, you can’t really survive. I hoping for the best and hopefully it won’t happen again.


You’ve been bothered by your back lately, what’s going on with that?About a month and a half ago, I pinched the sciatic nerve, and that’s been big. Everyday we’re working on it, stretching it, trying to get everything loosened up so it unpinches itself. Otherwise, I feel great, I’ve been working really hard. Yogi [Ezra Lusk] has been helping me out a lot; he’s been writing my training programs for me. I’ve disappointed him the last two weekends, so hopefully I can make it up the next ones.Mentally, how do you feel going into the next round?I hadn’t really had the fire to go out there and do fast laps, so I’m hoping to go out there and start off with fast laps. My goal is to be up there for 20 laps – if I can be up there with those guys for a decent amount of laps, at least that’s a starting point for me, so I can just keep working off of that. I’m looking for consistency and fast laps.

You’ve been through a lot of changes lately. How are you dealing with all of that?It’s been a lot to take, but you do what you can and make the best of it. I’ve been trying to make the best of the situation, and Jeremy [Albrecht, team manager] and Coy [Gibbs, team owner] have been behind me every weekend, they haven’t really gotten mad at me because they know. They hired me to do one thing – and they know I’m capable of doing it. I just have to put my head down and do the best I can for them. It’s been nice and comforting knowing that they’re not there just reaming down my throat, they’re actually trying to push me to do better and motivate me and not to knock me down. It’s been cool. No pressure. They’re awesome guys.We also spoke with Jeremy Albrecht about Davi and the start to the Supercross season.Jeremy Albrecht:How’s it been having Davi on the team and, from you own observation, how has he been adapting?With Davi coming here, it’s been really good. He’s a pretty funny guy and we have a good time. As far as him adapting to everything, it doesn’t look like he’s fully comfortable yet. I don’t know if it’s just so many changes, just being around a whole different team, different trainer, like everything is different in his life right now, really. He’s living in a different place and everything is just completely different for him, so I think it’s just trying to figure all that out, and me figuring out how to work with him and him working with me. It’s takes a little bit to get all that figured out, so we’re still working on that. I think with Davi, it’s only going to get better and better and hopefully start getting some wins like he has in the past. It’s always takes him a little bit to get started; everyone tells me that this is the way he starts out, so we’re just trying to help each other.How did Davi take to the Yamaha after riding Hondas for so long?Originally, when we first started testing, he felt comfortable on the bike right away. He said that it turned really good, he had a lot of positive things to say, then he hurt his back a little bit and didn’t ride for a while, then we started back riding and it seems like he never got his momentum going. At Anaheim I, we made a lot of changes to the bike and he just didn’t feel comfortable – a lot of weird things like bar positioning and stuff like that, but nothing that’s the bike, really. We’re still working on things making him comfortable. Last weekend was a lot better, not as many changes, and he’s getting better and better. I think it’s just getting confidence at what you’re doing, riding the same bike, getting out here and riding with these guys, riding the track and getting the speed up. Overall, he’s comfortable with the bike, it’s just little fine-tuning things is what we’re working on.What about Justin Brayton? He’s been riding really well and won the first heat race of the year.That was a good surprise, Justin was riding awesome. I figured Davi would be riding better than he is – and I feel like he will – and Brayton is riding better than I expected, so that’s a good surprise. He’s really confident, he’s really worked on the mental side, he’s happy with his bike, he’s had a whole year on it, his starts are killer, and he’s feeling like he’s going to do really well, so I’m excited for him. It’s cool to see him get some momentum and kind of be the guy that nobody talks about, the only way to get people talking about you is to go out there and put in some results and I think he’ll do that.



Kit Palmer | Off-Road Editor

Kit Palmer started his career at Cycle News in 1984 and he’s been testing dirt and streetbikes every since – plus covering any event that uses some form of a knobby tire. He’s also our resident motorcycle mileage man with a commute of 120 miles a day.