Five Minutes with ... Jeff Stanton
MARCH 14, 2007
Stanton has a lot to offer to Factory Honda's riders.
Rex Backman photo
By Steve Matthes
I met Jeff when I was working for Nick Wey in 2002. He was more then hospitable to me when we stayed there and he has a great wife and kids. I remember that Jason Thomas was riding with us and had some brake problems, so Jeff took his whole brake off and insisted that JT take it with him that weekend for a spare. The dry wit he has comes through when you hang out with him a little bit. I never would have imagined that when he scowled at me when I asked him for a jersey back in 1993. A six-time supercross and national champion that calls it as he sees it, we sat down at Atlanta for this quick interview.
RXC: Jeff, are you happy to be back now that Honda is getting some riders racing?
Jeff Stanton: Yeah it's good to be back, it's been a long off-season for me. Well, actually it's been a fun off-season for me as well. I got to spend time with the family, but I also sit at home missing it, missing the people, so it's also great to be back.
This is something I am curious about, in your time here, do you feel that the younger guys listen to your advice? Or are they just letting it go in one ear and out the other?
If they didn't listen to me, I wouldn't be here. I told American Honda that from the get-go. If they didn't take my advice, I'd have no reason to be here and I would go home. We have always had a good group of kids. Sure there have been some that wouldn't listen, but for the most part we have had good riders and great staff here.
I read the article in RacerX about when its time to hang up the boots, and was blown away by what you said. Was it really one crash that made you decide to pack it in?
For me, I knew exactly when it was time. There were actually a multitude of things that made me decide. The bottom line was that I raced so much for about six years; it's not like nowadays where you just do the supercrosses and nationals. I would go over and race twenty races in Europe, because honestly, the money was so good. It was guaranteed money and in twenty races I could make more than my base salary in the states. You go over there for thirty, forty thousand a night, and race three or four nights in a week. For me, I couldn't turn it down. In hindsight, sure it might have burned me out, doing fifty or sixty races a year. It was much different then and it hurt me, but it's taking care of me now.
Here is something else I was wondering, I was around at the end of your career and there was talk that Jeff Spencer, your trainer had you lose too much weight, you wore down and worked too much?
Yes, absolutely, I did. I did work too hard, no doubt about it. Everybody around you can see it, they all tell you that you need to eat more, you need to do this, you need to do that, but when you're winning, you don't want to change, you just keep working harder. I agree 100 percent with that theory; all I wanted to do was train and ride. I was my own worst enemy later on, because the training was fun, and the winning was fun, but you get to a level where it goes backwards.
What do you think about these guys in the Lites class? You hear the stories, watch them try to take each other out on the track, what are your thoughts on the current young guys?
Unfortunately, it's society today really. Look at what's out there for these guys to get into trouble with, watch TV, and look at the way the girls dress today. It's today's world, sorry to say it, but it is. The money doesn't help for sure, and being young with that money. In ten years, when they are broke and don't have anything but all the girls they have taken care of, and how much fun they had, when that's all they have to look back on because they pissed all of the money away, it will be different. I raise my kids a lot differently than a lot of people these days.
What was the best bike you raced?
Hmmm, the best bike I have ever ridden was probably the 1989/1990 Honda 250. I won a lot on that bike and it seemed like I could do anything I wanted on that thing. I was watching some videos and man, that bike looked awesome.
What about one race that stands out?
Probably the Motocross des Nations, the years that I did it. On that bike, the first year in Germany, I was on the second row off the start, and I almost pulled the holeshot. The track was like concrete, hard as a rock, and the bike worked awesome, I had a great race. In Sweden the year after, same thing but we had some bad luck, we pushed through and won them both. Those MXdN races were awesome.
What about you and JMB? Was it as bad as the magazines made it out to be?
No, not really. The biggest thing there was the language barrier, when he first came over. I remember him sitting down on a cooler at Budds Creek trying to learn the language. It was blown out of proportion by the European press more then anything. Yeah, I was jealous of him sometimes because I would look over and he was sitting on the bumper eating Kit-Kat bars. He would go out and kick my ass; I would be sitting there drinking water thinking, 'Man would I like to have that Kit-Kat!' In reality, I could have, in hindsight, I could have eaten one. But yeah, I was jealous of the things he could do. I am at the Honda supercross track, pounding out twenty lappers after twenty lappers and he's on the side of the hill carving out the initials “JMB”. Looking back on these things, you laugh now. When I see him, we talk. There's no problem with us at all.
I have been to your house and saw your incredibly cool trophy case; in there is a story on you racing the GP in Japan. Did Mike Healy really punch you after the race?
The bottom line is that I cost him the championship, because I went there with a job to do and I did it. I wasn't going there to get in between Trampas Parker and him, that wasn't my job. It was in my contract that I had to be there; I had to do two supercrosses and one national in Japan. They wanted me to go to Suzuka and I wanted to go, the Japanese always treated me very well and I had heard about the track. It was another contracted race, I got huge bonuses to win also, and that's what I went to do. He got the holeshot and I followed him for a few laps, I passed him and won and Trampas got the title and he was pissed off. I got off my bike right by the podium and it was hot. Dude, it was probably one of the hottest, toughest races I have ever done. I remember walking up to the podium and all I can remember was getting cold-cocked in the back of the head. I was brought up not to fight, that's what my dad always taught me. So I just lay there and made him make an idiot of himself. I remember the president of Honda coming up to me and telling me I was a gentleman of the sport for not fighting back. I'm sure he regretted it; he just thought I was there to help Trampas but it was in my contract to go over there.
How come we never see you racing Loretta Lynn's or anything else?
What have I got to prove by going out there? Seriously, what do I have to prove? RC and I have talked about it before, some other people and I have spoken about it. I have nothing to prove. Some people in Michigan get the opportunity to see me ride every now and then, my son is racing now. I sneak into Red Bud and get to a race every now and then, also there is a track called Log Road that I ride every now and then. I'm not going to show up at Loretta's or a vet national, no reason to.
Being from Racer X Canada, can you give us a Rollerball story?
I was first introduced to him at the Florida winter nationals; I was young then. I was a senior in high school and would go down there to race the series. He was a professional and I was just a young kid, pretty naive really. I remember him being super-aggressive really, and not afraid to go in there and rough you up, bump you around. That was his thing, he was aggressive. If you went into a corner with him, chances are you weren't coming out! He was … but you weren't! I remember talking to him back then, but when we reached the supercrosses and nationals he was on his way out and I was faster. He struggled with supercross a little bit, I think.