Empire Of Dirt

Steve Cox | September 20, 2017

COLUMN

Let Reed Race

I first met Chad Reed at Anaheim 1 in 2002, the year he came to the USA to race full-time for Yamaha of Troy. I was starting my third year working at Cycle News and had just begun writing some things for the magazine, in a step up from my role as a proofreader alone. I started actually working with Reed as a reporter in 2003, when he took on Ricky Carmichael for the 250cc Supercross Championship. It was a fantastic battle. Reedy gave RC everything he could handle and then some.

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Chad Reed still has the fire burning inside of him. It’d be a shame to let that go to waste. Let Reed race!

Over the years since, I’ve worked with Reed quite a bit, including shooting his poster photos in the past couple years since he returned to Yamaha. I think I know Chad Reed pretty well. We aren’t “friends” per se—he’s never invited me to dinner or anything—but I like him. I always did. Even when he’s a total pain in the ass. And that does happen on occasion.

Chad Reed is a human being just like me, you, and everybody else. He has his ups and his downs, but I think he’s often misunderstood. In some ways, maybe this is part of why I like Chad Reed so much.

I also really like Monster Energy/Yamalube/Chaparral Yamaha team manager, Jimmy Perry. Perry has been around at least as long as me in this industry, and he’s smart, honest, and I trust his take on just about anything. But he’s a very different person from Chad Reed.

Perry got understandably upset early in the 2017 Supercross Series when Reed got his first podium of the season in Arizona, because Reed expressed frustration with his performance to that point, and seemed to blame the team for it.

“In May, I knew what needed changing, and we just sat on our hands the whole off-season,” Reed said after the race.

“You work way too hard,” Reed also said. “My performance is there, my fitness is there. You’re only as good as what you’ve got to work with. Glad that we’re in the window now. I’d like to thank everybody at Monster and Yamaha for helping that.”

I know Perry, and probably a lot of other people at Yamaha, took offense to this type of rhetoric coming from their legendary racer, and I think it has a lot to do with why Reed has had a tough time coming up with a team to ride for 2018. I think Perry and Yamaha were more than justified to take offense to it as well.

Racers have to believe that they are capable of beating everyone else on the starting line. It’s a prerequisite without which they probably shouldn’t even be lining up. Racers at Chad Reed’s level often have major trouble admitting (especially to themselves) that they, themselves, are the reason they aren’t winning. That means that if they’re not doing well, and they want to point fingers at the reason, they’ll usually point at their motorcycle and/or team. But in today’s racing environment, most racers know they’re not allowed to do that, so they swallow it and usually lay out some platitudes like, “We’re working hard, and we’ll get there. We just have to keep plugging away.”

The thing is, even when racers don’t say the problem is their bike or team (because they’re paid by their motorcycle’s manufacturer), they usually still think it. And sometimes they’re right. We saw what happened at that same race in Arizona when Eli Tomac got his bike’s settings sorted out; he killed them. And we watched how good Blake Baggett was this year on his KTM, too. One of the reasons, we now know, why he wasn’t so good on his Suzukis was that his team apparently didn’t trust his choices during testing, so he wasn’t given much leeway to find his happy spot with chassis settings. This actually happens quite a bit, where teams don’t trust their riders’ testing abilities, especially in the 250cc class (but in the 450cc class, too).

But here’s the thing about Chad Reed: He’s not always right, but he’s usually honest. That night in Phoenix, Reed almost looked like he was going to cry. Not “boo hoo” cry, but out of frustration. I understood it when I saw it. Reed is the ultimate competitor. The guy swore many years ago that he wouldn’t race past 30 years old. He’s 35 now, and he’s still hauling ass. The frustration in Arizona was because he still wants to win so bad it kills him when he doesn’t. So, while I suspect he was wrong about the effort his team put in on his behalf, I still think he was speaking his mind. He was being honest. I think that’s how he felt at that time.

Reed’s sarcasm gets him into trouble, too, sometimes. But it’s the thing I like the most about him, actually. I’ve always loved dry humor of the sort we get mainly from the UK and Australians. Reed delivers. He has a subtle humor that I bet a lot of Americans actually miss. The only reason I don’t is because I’m a dry-humor aficionado, and part-time practitioner. A lot of my American friends and family don’t get my humor, either. They just think I’m an ass. I think Reed suffers from this as well.

What I’m getting at here is that I really hope Chad Reed gets a ride for 2018, and maybe even beyond if that’s what he wants. He has a chance to pass Mike LaRocco’s all-time Supercross-main-event record this coming season (about halfway through the season, the mark should be his), and frankly I think the guy’s awesome to have around. There’s nobody else like him in the pits anymore, and I think, frankly, that we need him.

There are rumors about him with KTM, either as a third racer on the official Red Bull KTM team, or in a semi of his own. Husqvarna, as a sister brand with a lot of similarities, could be another fantastic fit. It seems likely that Yamaha doesn’t want him anymore after he criticized the bike/team, and the same can be said of Honda and Kawasaki, probably. That leaves JGR Suzuki (which shares Reed’s current Monster Energy sponsorship) or the options I just detailed above.

Personally, I hope he ends up on one of the steel-framed bikes out of Austria, since he’s already won races on all four Japanese motorcycles, and he definitely likes steel frames (at least in his two-stroke days). It could be cool for him to win on a fifth brand.

Yeah, he has a temper. Yeah, he can rub you the wrong way (even when he’s just joking). Yeah, he speaks his mind, which sometimes can offend his employers, fans, or press. Yeah, he’ll turn 36 around the time that he passes LaRocco’s record. But I bet he can still win, if things go right for him, and he can definitely put a motorcycle that he believes in on the box.

In the end, though, I just want to see him back out there. CN

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Steve Cox

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