Unorthodox, The Jason Anderson Feature
This article was originally printed in our August 2018 issue of TransWorld Motocross.
Jason Anderson Won The 2018 Monster Energy Supercross Championship His Own Way
By Donn Maeda | Photos by Mike Emery
Jason Anderson is not your typical motocross champion. Though he has certainly earned millions, you might not guess it by the way he lives. "I moved down to Pacific Beach in San Diego to get away from the motocross community up in the Inland Empire," Anderson told us early in the 2018 season. "The pace is slower down there. Plus, I've really been trying to embrace public transportation and there is a train station nearby." No one could ever accuse Anderson of soaking in the limelight or attention that comes along with being a winning racer at the top of the sport. "I love riding my dirt bike and hanging with my friends," Anderson said. "Signing autographs and being looked at like a star is what makes me uncomfortable." Perhaps that's why the cover photo shoot of the magazine you now hold in your hands took so long to get. After Anderson won the second race of the season and took over the championship points lead, we invited him to shoot for the cover of the March issue. After enthusiastically agreeing, Jason called me back the following day and said that he'd have to decline. "My mechanic, C-Lo, is superstitious about jinxing our chances at the championship," Anderson said casually. "Something about David Vuillemin crashing out of the points lead during a photo shoot 10 years ago? I'll just have to win this thing, and we can do it then."
And win it he did. After taking possession of the red plate at Houston, Anderson was never headed as he rode with exceptional speed, calculation, and control en route to his and Husqvarna's first 450-class Supercross Championship. Things got a little exciting at the penultimate round when he suffered a broken wheel in a first-turn crash, but aside from that incident, Anderson enjoyed a very casual ride to the title. We caught up with El Hombre a few days after the fog had cleared on his well-deserved championship celebrations, and as usual, he was an excellent interview with candid, honest answers.
Coming into the season, did you feel like you had a legit shot at winning the title? There were reports that you were not gelling well with the new FC 450.
Coming into the 2018 season, we began riding a hybrid bike that I wasn't too fond of. I was used to riding my old bike and liked that bike a lot more, so I got a little nervous for the new season and new bike when I raced Monster Cup on the hybrid model. The hybrid model just felt off. When we got the new model with all the redesigned parts, I wasn’t completely sold on it at first because of my thoughts about the hybrid model. I had to ride the new bike and my old bike back and forth because we were racing Geneva SX on the older model, but everything clicked once we got the new model dialed in. Once we reached December, I was crazy comfortable on the new bike and starting ripping. Ever since then, I felt at my best on the bike. However, back in October and November I was struggling a hundred percent.
Touching on that, I've heard that you are the reason we have the Rockstar Edition FC 450.
Yes, I feel like I am definitely the reason for that bike. When we first signed with Husqvarna, I was racing a bike that was a year older than the bike Ryan Dungey and the KTM guys were on. I remember riding my old bike and struggling to find motivation to get good results, simply because I felt like I was thrown the eight ball as far as the equipment and bike went. Mentally, it was tough to race that year, so I told myself I wouldn’t go through another year like that. I pushed so hard to get that new bike, and Husqvarna was awesome in the sense that they heard me out and did everything they had to do to provide us with a new bike. I was very fortunate to have everyone at Husqvarna react the way they did.
When Dungey retired, was it, "Oh shit, the title is up for grabs!" or was it business as usual or you?
It was business as usual. I feel like I really wanted to win a championship, so I think regardless if Dungey was or wasn’t there, I was still going to fight to the end for everything. At the end of the day, you do get a little more motivation when that spot is open and the dude who has been dominating isn’t racing. It definitely helped my motivation out, but I was going to put in the same amount of work, regardless.
“It was business as usual. I feel like I really wanted to win a championship, so I think regardless if Dungey was or wasn’t there, I was still going to fight to the end for everything. At the end of the day, you do get a little more motivation when that spot is open and the dude who has been dominating isn’t racing.”
I feel like Marvin Musquin changed a little bit when Dungey retired, as far as putting pressure on himself to fill Dungey's shoes...
Yeah, I think the dynamic of the whole group changed when Dungey retired. I think Marvin knew that he was the guy Red Bull KTM expected to be the next Dungey, in a sense. I think the dynamic between the whole crew at Aldon's changed because we all wanted to win, and it's hard to hang out with your competition. Especially when there is as much hard work and money on the line, we have all worked towards this since we were young and all want the same end goal. At the end of the day, I still respect Marvin, but it's a gnarly competitive sport that we are in.
This year, it seemed like you took a different approach to racing. You appeared much more in control and also willing to take what you could get on each given night instead of trying to push it and risk crashing.
My attitude towards each race and having a little more self-control on the bike was a conscious decision that I made, but I think my experience in the class helped make it come a little easier this year. I've experienced a lot of nights where I sort of blew it, so I think I did not know what to do. It's hard to change the type of rider that you are, but I put a lot of pressure on myself to do so during the off-season. I think the type of racer I became this season is what won me the championship.
Backing it up a few years, many people were in shock when it was announced that you would be training at Aldon's. However, I think you really embraced the change in lifestyle and put the old Jason on pause.
Yes, I did [laughs]. It's tough for me to be regimented--I really enjoy doing what I want to do and going out and having fun. It's tough, but at the same time I feel like I've gotten better at it. The people around me understand who I am as I person, so that's helped a little bit, too. I do think I have matured as a person and grown out of the stuff that I used to enjoy, but that old part of me is still in there [laughs]. It is what it is, and I'm really blessed and grateful for the opportunities that I have, so I want to make the best of them while they’re here. Another thing is I enjoy racing my dirt bike and want to race as long as I can.
You're obviously in great shape. At your level of fitness, can you cut loose on a weekend here and there, or can you really feel it on Monday if you have some beers on Saturday?
Wait. Is this for the interview?
[Laughs] Yeah, why not?
I mean, you can feel it for sure. However, it's mind over matter, man. Push through it [laughs]!
The season, you took control of the red plate at round two. At what point did you realize you had a shot at the championship, and did you ever go into conserve mode?
I feel like I started conserving after Minneapolis. I should have won that night and it would have been my fifth win of the season, but the AMA docked me. I realized I had nearly 40 points over second place going into the last few rounds, so I was pretty conservative. Once I got to Foxborough, I told myself, "All right, let's bring this thing in." And then Salt Lake was just a crazy incident!
“Well, I hopped on a plane home and I was about to go off the deep end and order a ton of drinks, but I only had one drink [laughs]. When I got home I couldn’t sleep. It was one of the most miserable weeks of my life. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it.”
Is racing conservatively actually more dangerous? It seems like things can happen when you're not giving it 100 percent.
It's hard to say whether racing conservatively can be more dangerous or not, because I made no mistakes in Vegas and rode great. But at the same time, Salt Lake was just a crazy incident. It's hard to go to the line and tell yourself to calm down and be chill when you’re usually telling yourself to grab the holeshot and win. Riding conservatively is a feeling that is so weird to me, and I've never really experienced that mindset. It was honestly harder to approach the start of a race with a conservative mindset, rather than an all-out holeshot to race and win mindset.
Okay, let's talk about Salt Lake. What went through your head as you were going down, and what did you think when you realized your front wheel was messed up?
When I hit the ground, I just accepted it and told myself to get up and get through the pack. I really wasn’t too panicked after the crash. And then as I was riding I could see my wheel wobbling in the air. I realized a couple spokes were broken and got a little worried. Then I went through the whoops and felt more spokes break! You could say I was flustered at that point. I went into the pits to get a wheel change, which took longer than I expected, and all I could think about was my points lead decreasing. I couldn’t believe it! Once the new wheel was on, I told myself to put my head down and get past as many people as possible. Luckily, I was able to get up to seventeenth, which still put me in a great position going into Vegas. However, it was definitely an emotional weekend, and I don’t think I've ever been more pissed in my life.
What were you thinking when you were watching them change your wheel?
I went in, put the bike on the stand, and I just yelled, "Fucking hurry!" I remember when I was leaving, I saw Dean [Wilson] roll into the pits and asked him to please stay in the pit area [laughs]. He didn’t hear me because we were rolling by, but I was so eager for each and every point at that moment.
What were those six days between Salt Lake and Las Vegas like?
Well, I hopped on a plane home and I was about to go off the deep end and order a ton of drinks, but I only had one drink [laughs]. When I got home I couldn’t sleep. It was one of the most miserable weeks of my life. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. During the middle of the week, I got to the point where I didn’t even care about the championship and I just wanted the miserable feeling to go away. I got to Vegas, rode press day, and felt a little better about the whole situation. Then I ate something bad and threw up all Friday night and woke up Saturday morning feeling so sick. My dad and I were sitting in the lobby, and I remember telling him that I had never felt so sick. I almost wanted to go to the hospital. We ended up going to CVS and bought like three bottles of Pedialyte because we can’t get IVs before a race. I chugged those Pedialytes and tried to manage it as much as I could throughout the day. I was throwing up in the semi, all low-key, because I didn’t really want to tell anyone. Once the night show came, I started telling everyone I felt good and just lying to myself. I felt like shit the whole night and luckily had some adrenaline to pull it off, because I went straight to the hospital after the race.
It's surprising that you had the energy to race, since you couldn’t hold anything down.
I didn't eat from dinner on Friday night until around three in the morning after I got out of the hospital. I felt better when I got back to my hotel around two a.m., so I went to eat breakfast. While I was eating, my buddy Shirk walked in with a wristband to the Monster Party and I went straight to the party. You only win your first premier Supercross title once, so you have to make the best of it. My parents always raised me to work hard and play hard [laughs].
How hard is it right now to reset and get ready for the outdoors after accomplishing this dream goal?
It is tough to reset after such a big accomplishment, especially after how much stress I went through to get through that season. Right now, I still have goals that I want to fulfill. I have never won a National, and this year I really want to win some races and be on the podium. This year, I feel like I have the opportunity to do better than I ever have in the outdoors. I have four years of racing outdoors until my contract is up and renegotiable, and it would be huge to win a 450 Motocross championship inside those four years. I might not win it this year, but I still want to progress and become a better rider in the outdoors. I won motos last year, and I want to win races this year.
Supercross is something that's introduced to riders when they turn pro. Why do you think Supercross clicked for you so quickly, or rather, why is motocross tougher for you when you grew up riding and racing outdoors?
I think outdoors is so gritty, and I feel that I'm just not that type of rider. However, I'm trying to become better at that type of racing. Racing motocross as an amateur wasn’t as gnarly as racing two 30-minute motos in the heat. I feel like I've gotten better, but I'm definitely not the best Jason Anderson in the outdoors that you’ll see. I have room to improve, and that's what I’m going to do. Also, I think Supercross takes a certain type of skill that comes easier to some riders than others.
With the humidity and warm motos in the outdoors, are you going to shave your head and clean up the face?
I'll be cleaning up the face and trimming the hair, not buzz-cutting it, though [laughs]!
“I don’t like to buy a bunch of materialistic stuff. If I’m spending money, it'll be on a good time with my friends. I have a truck that Chevy gives me, which gets me from point A to point B, and maybe sometimes point B includes buying some drinks for my friends and doing some bench racing. I'm not really interested in buying a bunch of stuff. If I'm buying anything, it's an investment or something to better my future.”
There's been lots of reflection on the year Bobby Hewitt benched you early in your career when you were teammates with my "son" Nick Paluzzi on the Rockstar Energy Suzuki team. Today, Nick is selling hearing aids and you are the Supercross champion. That said, this sport seems to work out for some people and not for others, why did it work for you?
It's hard to say. I was going through a hard time when I first turned pro because of how tough the jump from the amateur ranks to the pro ranks was. You give up a lot of your childhood and youth to do this. Our college days come when we retire and are 30-plus years old. We have to grow up quickly, and it's hard to sacrifice so much at such a young age. In the end, when you accomplish such a big goal, like what I did this past weekend, it all becomes worth it. It's hard to see that end goal when your friends are out having fun while you’re getting sleep to wake up and train the next day.
It has to make it a little easier when you check your bank account, though.
Oh, for sure. The championship check hasn’t cashed yet, but when it does I'm going to be hyped! I'm not spending anything, though, but I'll still be pumped to see the numbers going up.
Was your family well off, or did they put everything toward your racing?
No, we weren’t hurting because luckily I had a very good amateur program where I was basically a full factory rider from the age of eight. Luckily, my grandpa was retired, so he was able to take me to the races while my parents worked. Without the support from sponsors, I would have probably only raced a few times a year; however, I was pretty fortunate in that aspect.
Is it surreal to think that at 25 years old, dirt bikes have made you a multi-millionaire? And how hard is it to not go out and buy a bunch of cool shit?
I don’t like to buy a bunch of materialistic stuff. If I’m spending money, it'll be on a good time with my friends. I have a truck that Chevy gives me, which gets me from point A to point B, and maybe sometimes point B includes buying some drinks for my friends and doing some bench racing. I'm not really interested in buying a bunch of stuff. If I'm buying anything, it's an investment or something to better my future. I'm not really into cars and stuff like that, but I have one nice car back at home in Florida, but that's literally the only car I own. It's mellow nice, but it's not crazy nice.
So what you're saying is that you bought the top-of-the-line Toyota Prius?
[Laughs] Yes! The Prius Prime! No, I actually got myself a 2015 Audi A7. I got it certified pre-owned, nothing too fancy.
“Yeah, my goal is to make a lot of money racing motocross and use that money to invest back into the sport and make money while being around the people whom I love. I don’t plan on bailing on moto ever. I'm going to ride dirt bikes until the day I die.”
So is your goal to retire from racing and live off of your earnings?
Yeah, my goal is to make a lot of money racing motocross and use that money to invest back into the sport and make money while being around the people whom I love. I don’t plan on bailing on moto ever. I'm going to ride dirt bikes until the day I die. The time I get burnt out will maybe come when I retire, but I'll take a couple weeks off and I'll be back out at the track. I'll be cleaning people out on whatever I'm riding--Husqvarna makes a ton of two-strokes, maybe even that 501 with a headlight [laughs].
How does it feel to be the first guy to bring Husqvarna all its new successes in the 450 class?
It's crazy. I've won the first 450 Supercross Main Event and 450 Supercross Championship for them and it blows my mind. The brand is awesome, and they've always done right by me. Today, we look at pictures of legends like Roger DeCoster back in the day. I'm just hoping that one day in the future there will be a picture of me winning the championship on the wall, and everyone in the photo looks old and vintage. I can’t wait to see that stuff for the rest of my life. It's so kick ass to think that I pioneered something in the sport that I love so much.
In parting, talk about you’re riding style a little bit, it's very distinctive--unorthodox, if you would.
I've always wondered why my style looks the way it does. I never really had a riding coach growing up, so luckily my style is cool. My elbows are kind of down, and it's far from textbook. It would suck to go out there and hear that I look like a goon [laughs].
**Editors Note: Jason is well on his way back to returning to racing after injuring his foot. Follow him to keep up on his progress: @elhombre21