Jason Anderson might’ve flown under the radar going into the 2018 supercross series, but he was flying high when it was all over.
Coming into the 2018 season, Jason Anderson was rarely touted as the likely champion by the end of the series. That rhetoric was reserved primarily for Marvin Musquin and Eli Tomac. That’s not to say that nobody thought he’d be a contender, but he wasn’t the likely pick.
But after just two races, it all changed. At round one, he snatched second place after Tomac crashed out of the lead and then pulled out of the race. Musquin took the win. At round two in Houston, Musquin followed suit, crashing out of the race during the second heat. Tomac did not suit up, still feeling the effects of his crash the weekend before. Anderson went on to win the main event. By the time the gate dropped for round three, back at Anaheim, the two favorites to win the title had scored a total of three DNFs between them, and Anderson had the red plate. He would never relinquish it.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROB COY, SIMON CUDBY AND KIT PALMER
“Those first two rounds, I was able to kind of put myself in the spot to be a title contender right away,” Anderson said. “I was able to carry it through the season. I did have less wins than people and stuff like that, but at the same time, as far as the whole season went or even once those guys got healthy, they never really closed in on points on me until we got to Salt Lake and I had that front-wheel issue [he went down in turn one and had to change out his front wheel at the penultimate round, ending up outside the top 15 on the night]. I feel like the whole season, even towards the end like Seattle and Minneapolis—I led the main at Seattle, and then would’ve won at Minneapolis. If I wouldn’t have gotten docked [by the AMA], I would have won the overall there. So I’m definitely an underdog and people still see me that way, but it’s cool with me. My goal is just to go out there and be consistent and try my best every time.”
Anderson has had his share of run-ins with the AMA. At Minneapolis, he was docked in the second of the three main events for “being on the throttle off the track” which he thinks cost him the overall win. He won the final main that night. Based on history, it would seem to an outsider that Anderson is treated a little tougher than some of the other racers by the AMA/FIM.
“For some reason, I’ve had a little bit of issues with run-ins and stuff like that as far as getting together with people or jumping on yellows or whatever it is, but for some reason, anything I do seems to get looked at really closely,” Anderson says. “Even like last year at Minneapolis; I got in trouble for going around the track when I got pushed off the track. I guess I just need to get [the FIM’s] John Gallagher a few more Christmas presents or something this year and maybe he’ll be cool to me for once. Until then, we’ll just keep rolling how we roll; I don’t know what it is. We try and still get it done even though that stuff happens.
“It’s crazy that it’s kind of that way; I’d be cool if I got docked as long as everyone else got the same treatment. It’s not very neutral, I feel, but that’s just my opinion. I’ve definitely gone through some instances, but that Vince Friese one [from Anaheim 2 in 2017, which got Anderson DQ’d from the event after appearing to have punched Friese as the pair rode out of the stadium], I definitely learned from that one. Honestly, it was a shitty situation and I shouldn’t have done what I did, but at the same time I have learned from it and I’m probably better because of how harsh the rule was on me.”
Still The Underdog?
With Tomac now the two-time defending 450cc National Champion and the winner of the Monster Energy Cup, and with Musquin in top form, it’s entirely possible that Anderson is still considered the underdog for 2019 even though he’s running the number-one on his motorcycle now.
“I still kind of feel like an underdog because people don’t even expect me to win next year, which is cool with me,” Anderson says.
In 2018, considering the early-season trouble for both Musquin and Tomac (and Cole Seely, Justin Barcia, and others), Anderson had a chance to clinch the title one round early in Salt Lake City. All he had to do was finish fifth place or better and he’d have the title. Instead, he went down in the first turn, damaged his front wheel, and had to pit. He ended up 17th.
“You put yourself in your position. It was on me. I understood that,” Anderson said. “It was not the best week after that. It was pretty miserable, but, at the same time, I really felt the pressure of that championship situation coming down to the wire. Even though I still didn’t really have to do amazing, I still had to perform somewhat at Vegas. I think that situation was good because I really felt the world coming down on me. I think that will prepare me for future situations like that. So it was kind of crazy. All I had to do was get fifth to wrap it up, which wouldn’t have been a big stretch with how my results were so far in the whole season.
“Honestly, pressure doesn’t really bother me too much; I always go out there and try my best and whatever happens, happens,” Anderson says. “But after Salt Lake, I had some pressure. Before that, I feel like if you think about it too much you just kind of stress yourself out. I don’t really stress too much just naturally. Just kind of my demeanor, I guess you could say. After Salt Lake, I was stressing, but before that I was just going to go out there and try and do my best and see how it went. It didn’t go very good.”
However, Anderson says that maintaining a big points lead is probably more stressful than have a small one.
“Honestly, it was kind of crazy because I entered maybe the eighth round with a really big points lead,” Anderson says. “So, from then on out, it was kind of hard for me to really push that edge and keep pushing and keep my performances going, because you’re so nervous about maybe not blowing it. You’ve got a lot to lose. It happens so quick. I feel like it would almost be easier if you were closer to people because the only thing you have to do is you have to perform. That’s all you can do. When you have so much to lose, it’s a little bit harder. You have to be very good with decision-making about when it’s good to take a chance and not good to take a chance.”
Now A Champion
But in the end, the title went to Anderson. And he’s very proud of it.
“In the moment, it’s just crazy because you can’t believe what you’ve accomplished just because as a kid, very few are able to achieve their dreams in this motocross world, because it’s so hard to reach that peak level to where you’re able to win the World Supercross Championship. We’ve seen so many greats in our sport win that championship and we’ve looked up to them and just kind of wanted to be them. It’s just unreal. You think about all the stuff you’ve gone through and everything you’ve worked for to get there, and, honestly, it’s a 20-year process to really be able to be a supercross champ for me. It’s kind of crazy that you work 20 years to reach this one goal, and then you reach that goal and you get it and you’re like, ‘Damn. What’s next?’ So that’s kind of been the weird part is feeling like, ‘what’s next?’ But I’m going to look back on it and be forever grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had and been able to pull off. It’s just unreal. For the future, hopefully I’ll be able to be a multi-time champ and really be able to pull that off and be a little bit legendary, I guess you could say.”
Big 1 For Husqvarna
Not only was this Anderson’s first supercross title, but Husqvarna’s, as well. And on the more personal level, Anderson won the title racing for the same team that signed him coming out of the amateur ranks. He started out with the team, owned by Bobby Hewitt, on Suzukis, then raced KTMs for the team, and then moved to Husqvarna for his first year in the 450cc class with the same personnel. Essentially, he’s been with the same team his entire pro career.
“It’s unreal. For them and me; it’s kind of cool because I stepped into the 450 class on Husqvarna,” Anderson said. “It’s kind of a partner of KTM group, but it’s still kind of cool to be the first for that actual brand to be able to pull off the supercross championship. Another crazy thing is to be able to pull it off with the same group of people that I’ve been around for so long, because most of the people that are on the team I’ve worked with for six, seven years. So it’s kind of unreal. They’ve seen every bit of me in the rawest form. They’ve seen me go through shitty times. They’ve seen me go through good times, highs, lows, and just a young kid trying to figure out life and figure out this whole world. Going from living with your parents to being pro and becoming a champion, they’ve seen it all. It’s kind of cool.”
Goals: Keeping It Fun
When Anderson first became a pro, he didn’t train off the bike basically at all. Then, when he moved up to the pros, he got a rude awakening when it came to training. It was a tough transition for him.
“There was a steep learning curve,” Anderson said. “It was hard because a lot of these guys, when I was younger, like Barcia and a lot of them, they were training in the winter at MTF [Millsaps Training Facility]. They were kind of in the deal really early on in their careers as amateurs. Honestly for me, for a long time, I would just stay at home [in New Mexico] and if there was snow on the ground we weren’t really riding. Then I would kind of do pretty good at the amateur nationals. Then I got a pro ride and I was just going to do the same thing, and then it didn’t really work out that way. But luckily for me, those hard times kind of really made me learn and kind of respect what you had to do to be prepared to race. So I think it kind of turned me into a hard worker, but naturally I don’t think I’m a very hard worker. I’m mellow and I like to have a good time, but I love riding dirt bikes and I’m going to do whatever it takes to be able to have that as my job and my career as long as I can. I enjoy that part of it a lot. I don’t enjoy working out, but I enjoy the dirt bikes and stuff, more than a lot of people, I think.”
But in the end, it’s possible that Anderson’s career could last longer since he hasn’t been training since he was a child. It could prevent burnout. Still, his goal is to make sure the fun is always the point in racing, which is a good thing for most kids racing today (and their parents) to understand.
“I would say my biggest goal is I would like motocross to be a little bit less serious and results-driven,” Anderson said. “I would like people to just try their best and have a good time at it. I feel like some of these guys put so much hours of work in and really maybe sometimes they’re not even happy with a third. But really in the grand scheme of things, you’re one of the third-best guys in the world that night and you should be proud of yourself for that. It doesn’t go that way a lot. I’m even a victim of it. I feel like it should be a little bit more lighthearted. That’s the biggest thing I would like to try and preach. Just enjoy it because you only live life once.
“My parents are the most mellow,” Anderson says. “My dad never pushed me, nothing. Didn’t care, anything. Even when I was doing bad he was like, ‘Well, I guess we’ll figure something out.’ It’s not like it was do-or-die. If I wanted to be successful it was on me and I could try my hardest and he’ll support me. I feel like that’s how it should be more often.”
It’s no secret that Anderson suffers from altitude sickness, which comes into a play at certain races, such as the Denver outdoor Nationals and the Salt Lake Supercross. But he’s found ways to cope with it in recent years.
“The altitude hasn’t really affected me [lately], because, over the past few years, we’ve been able to figure it out. Me and [trainer] Aldon [Baker] have worked together to figure out a way for me to perform better [in altitude]. I just have a hard time. It’s kind of hard to explain, but it’s real. It’s tough. A lot of people don’t understand how it feels, but it’s very hard to explain. It’s hard to perform at the top level for me, but the last two times I’ve been up there, what me and Aldon have been doing, working on, has worked. I’ve been able to perform to my best ability. So I think we’re just going to keep doing that and helpfully it works out.”
One of the ways he beats altitude sickness is to arrive at the track as late as possible and leave as quick as possible.
“I’ve flown in late,” Anderson said. “I even have chartered a flight to fly in the morning. That’s just what we got to do. Sometimes you spend a little bit more money than you would want to get to those races as late as possible, but it’s worth it in the end to get top performance.”
The Glen Helen Crash
After winning the supercross championship, Anderson didn’t get a chance to try for the outdoor title when a freak midweek crash after round two ended his year prematurely. He and another rider collided while off the track.
“Basically, [the other rider] was just pulling off the track,” Anderson said. “Honestly, we were not going that fast. He didn’t notice that I was on the left of him. He just kind of connected. My foot literally just got crushed in-between the bikes going super slow. It was kind of a crazy situation. Man, it really ruined my summer, that’s for sure.”
But, focusing on the positive, at least he got some time off.
“The time off was cool, but for about three days and then I was over it,” Anderson says. “At the beginning I was like, ‘Cool, I get a couple days off!’ A couple days would have been cool for me, but we can’t really do that. I was really bummed because I really have never been able to show my true potential outdoors. I really felt like I could have won a couple races this outdoor season and I could have been pretty successful, and I wanted to get picked to go to des Nations. That was a big goal of mine. I really like that race. It’s a fun one. So I was bummed, but basically I spent a month and a half in a wheelchair, and then as soon as I got out of that wheelchair I rode for six days on the bike and went straight to Budds Creek. I was out of shape but was able to do one moto halfway decent, and then tried to go the next weekend and it was super muddy. That was kind of the end of that.”
Anderson is well down the road to recovery and has already won a few races overseas during the off-season. Come Anaheim I you can bet Anderson won’t be flying under the radar.CN
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