It may not be the perfect picture of beach-baked babes, “stoked” surfers and skateboarders, or silver screen celebrities, but the Inland Empire here in Southern California is perhaps one of the greatest spots to be if you’re a fan of short-course off-road racing. The predominant sanctioning body, that being the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series (LOORRS), picked up where Championship Off Road Racing (CORR) left off back in 2009 and has continued to evolve into a landmark event all across the southwestern United States.
And here in the I.E., we’ll be getting the lion’s share of the action as 2015 holds four of the nine events locally in Lake Elsinore and Glen Helen. Already proving to be a force to be reckoned with this year is Jeremy McGrath, the “King of Supercross” with a record setting seven premier-class Supercross championships turned truck racer who secured a podium finish at the Lake Elsinore Shootout back in mid-March.
In more ways than one, McGrath is facing challenges with confidence as he gears up to take on the rest of the season. He’ll be on his game yet again with the forthcoming race in Chandler, Arizona, taking place April 24-25 at the Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. Meanwhile, his supporters, including the team’s latest sponsor, AIRAID, will be there to have him covered every step of the way.
With less than 12 miles separating the ORX office and the JMM shop, we decided to call up Lawrence “Lew” Lewis, McGrath’s team manager, and coordinate an interview with McGrath to get a sense of where he was at during this “downtime” between events. Little did we know what we would find when we finally entered the building.
With most of the crew out to lunch during our visit, the shop was all but completely empty. But with that emptiness came a cleanliness that showcased just how tightly ran the operation was. This isn’t to say the place was without its fun little eccentricities–a cutout of Jeremy poking out of a window on the loft, a pair of Razor Crazy Karts sitting in a corner–but we couldn’t help but notice how well-kept everything appeared.
Something else that caught our eye were the mats of EasyTurf (another sponsor) used in the break area and upper loft, the latter of which featured a putting “green” for R&R time. After we had exchanged pleasantries and been taken around on a tour, we sat down on the picnic table in the break area and started the interview.
Off Road Xtreme: So what do you like best about short-course off-road racing?
Jeremy McGrath: “With my background, you know, I’m a moto guy, I’ve ridden tracks my whole life. For me, short-course is awesome because it’s very close racing, just a bunch of guys on a track. It’s kind of what I’ve done my whole life. I mean, obviously, being able to jump a truck 50 feet in the air, that’s very appealing to me. And who doesn’t like to drive 800 horsepower, you know?”
ORX: How do you perceive racing trucks versus racing motorcycles?
JM: “I think the competition aspect is very similar. You’re driving in traffic, you’re close to one another, but with a bike, you can control a lot of what happens through bodily motion: leaning, standing, and sitting. Whereas in a truck, you’re tied in there with a super-tight, five-point harness that constricts bodily motion, not to mention the weight-to-weight ratio of person and vehicle, so there’s nothing you can do with your body to make corrections other than steering and footwork. In the beginning with trucks, that was the most difficult part to get over. Nowadays, I’m really comfortable with it.”
ORX: How did it feel to take a podium finish at Lake Elsinore?
JM: “It was awesome. We’ve done a lot of off-season homework, and I think we, as a team, showed some speed this year. I’m hoping it will be the start of good things. We busted our butts before the season started, and to have a podium on that first weekend was a big payoff in our book.”
ORX: We understand that AIRAID recently came on to sponsor you. How have they benefitted your racing efforts?
JM: “They’re a brand new sponsor of ours, and we take pride with who we partner up with. It’s great to have them on board. I think for me, I want to show that I’m worthy of these partnerships, and I think we’re doing everything we can do to be up front. I’m used to being up front, and I don’t want to race if I don’t have a chance at being up front. With having someone on board like AIRAID, they’re going to help us get there.”
JM: “We’ve done all of our preparations, actually. My truck’s getting ready, we’ve already done some testing with different parts–converters, gearing, et cetera. We’ve got good speed, and we’re ready. I can’t wait!”
A great support team, top-shelf sponsors, a fast truck, and a healthy dose of confidence are all going to come into play as the year proceeds and the races get more and more nail-biting. For the time being, we’ll just have to see how things pan out in Arizona, but we don’t think McGrath will be pushed away that easily.
Keep an eye out for him and his #2 Pro 2 and Pro Lite trucks this season, and keep it locked right here on Off Road Xtreme for more rip-roaring off-road action!