Jeff Crutcher's Working Class Privateer Series From RedBud Notes The Family & Friends That Make MX Great
A few years back at the Baker’s Factory I met Jeff Crutcher. Although we didn’t know it at the time, our Midwest roots were very close through the AMA District 18 region and the Missouri State Series and we had many mutual acquaintances. Quickly we developed a tight friendship thanks to our attendance at rounds of the Monster Energy Supercross Series, me on assignment to cover the races and him to film the “Inside Track” video series. Crutcher is no slouch on a motorcycle, as he was a quick and well-supported amateur that had a few things go awry as he neared the switch to pro racing, which has led to his full-time occupation as a delivery driver for FedEx. Because he still has the speed and passion to race, he decided that a run at select rounds of the 2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on his KTM 250 SX would be a good idea for the summer.
As quick as Crutcher is on the bike, his wit is even faster and he wrote an op-ed about his passion to race and the day spent racing the Southwick round this past weekend. Dude looks and writes a bit like Hunter S. Thompson, but doesn’t have the hardcore drug use, so the story has been left in its pure Gonzo style.
All opinions are Jeff’s, by the way. Not that anything bad is in the article, but you know, I just don’t need to get lit up by anyone that takes offense to this somehow.
I got a text message from a number I didn't have saved in my phone the weekend of High Point. The gist of the conversation went: Hey Crutcher are you doing Red Bud? No, I'm not. Well, you should because it's sick to have old and fast hardcore guys out there still doing it! (I still didn't know who this was, which is a little game I like to play called "figure it out") Jokingly I suggested, "Okay then you pay for it". The number had a 712 area code, one I was familiar with but not 100% on what part of the Midwest. The response: Okay, I'll pay for it at the track tomorrow. I was taken aback. "Okay okay, who is this?" I gave up on my game of guess who. "Cameron" the blue bubble read.
Sometime in the late winter clutches of 2014, my father and I headed south to Wichita to race a Loretta's warm up at Bar2Bar. At the time, my plan was to bulldoze my way into The Ranch on old skill and new bikes. But that also meant I had to pull Excalibur out rusty and dull by lining up for some local gate drops. We nestled into the near-frozen parking lot betwixt a pair of vans whom also were getting preseason motos in, both admonished plates from our neighbors to the north- Nebraska and Missouri. Dad and I had put together a team effort like the old days, two bikes, a pickup and trailer, new gear, and a lofty target set on the homecoming class aka Junior +25. Sipping coffee and warming our hands in front of the space heater while getting suited we invited in our pit neighbors for some warmer air. Cameron McAdoo and his dad Joe, alongside them their buddy Danny Greiner came into my dad's 6×12 Doolittle and we shared warm greetings with propane warmed air while gazing out onto the only sand track in the state.
That chilly day, Cameron, myself, and local veteran Craig Royse raced a barn-burning pace in 250 and 450, while just Craig and I battled in +25. Each of us clicked off various combos of first second and third place finishes. Through our battles on the track, Cam and I shared an admiration of "I used to be you (16 and fast)" and "I hope I'm your speed when I'm old (25)". At the end of the day, we all exchanged phone numbers as Kansas City was the first major town south of McAdoo's native Iowa. A bond through competition was born. Obviously, Cameron went on to land a spot on the elite Geico Honda team, Craig started a plumbing business, and I kept chugging along at FedEx.
I don't care how large your salary is, paying $250 for someone else to race is a hell of a generous thing to do. Cameron and I exchanged some more texts and I asked why he wanted to pay for my entry? He explained how much he enjoyed me going for it again, and that I wasn't asking for handouts because I keep a full-time job. In retrospect, I believe his original intention was to pay for my entry if I wasn't going, so my joke of "if you pay for it" fell right into place. My old iPhone had been zapped to death by a cheap car charger, so that's why I didn't have Cam's number in my phone when he text me about Red Bud. Boy am I glad he still had mine.
My dad aka Jerry C. got a ring from me about the matter, as he follows what McAdoo has been up to through his career. Before I called him I made plans with Gebken to haul my bike up north as I did not have that Friday off, so I knew I'd be flying in last minute once again. Scott tore himself up on the step down before the mechanic’s area at Muddy Creek, so an alternate plan was devised for The Big Show to once again drag my circus act around. My dad asks a LOT of questions any time I come to him with essentially anything, so I had to have a blueprint for him- something that's very hard to do while essentially flying by the seat of my pants. These past three races have reinstated a sense of fluidity in me, something I at times have a difficult time accepting.
Jerry C. hadn't been to Red Bud in nearly 40 years, his last appearance at the track n' trail was also his best performance at an outdoor national way back when everything was uphill both ways. He was on board. Since his recent retirement from Power & Light, he's developed a taste of luxury, but I'm still held accountable for something when big JC is paying. The rental car was my expense for the weekend, a hell of a bargain considering he offered to pay for airfare and hotel.
Friday afternoon I would get off my shift from FedEx at 3pm and heat my shoe en route to the airport just in time to snag a circle-lot parking spot and pass through security to meet my dad at the gate. I want to fully disclose something here: I didn't pay my entry, I didn't pay for my flight, the hotel was paid for, and someone else took my bike to the races. In our sport the end goal is to have another wallet than your own footing the bill. Factory for the weekend is how I'd sum it up.
My favorite part of the weekend was the car ride to the hotel just outside Buchannan from Chicago where we flew in. Jerry C and I discoursed and reminisced all the way back to his days as a pro, to me racing mini bikes around the country and the current state of the nation. My dad, like my grandfather, took the route of the workforce over education and through real-world experiences of a hundred lives they've passed the same work ethic on to me, and just like them, I see the world with a bullshit-detecting perceptive eye. Our midwestern style blue-collar approach to life is where I get my idea of what success is and is not. You've read me ramble on about how fun motocross is and how every waking moment of it should be appreciated, and the car ride with dad reminded me of why I feel so fortunate to be where I am: racing dirt bikes with the fastest in the world, a great life ahead of me, every memory I've ever made racing, a pension and 401k, and perceiving life as something worth doing. My lap times in timed qualifying were not fast enough for me to transfer directly in, but I ended up 52nd overall and 10th in my 450 group B. A crash on the first lap tore off my left shroud and it stuck out like a cactus in Minnesota over every jump. My times, however, were extremely validating, and the closest I've ever been to a qualifying time- something that gave me the feeling of "hey perhaps I do belong here as more than a two-stroke novelty". Regardless of the racing, it was just the quality of father/son experiences as the old times on my white '95 50sx racing out of the Aerostar and tri-rail trailer at Kingsville Saturday night.
Every weekend I've had strangers come up to me and tell me how much they love what I'm doing. Never this spring when calling MXSports about my license did I think I would have a contingent of working-class fans behind me. At times people will (and I want to make it clear I do not mean this in slander) fan-boy to me, which is a surreal feeling. When I watch the cream of the crop nailing corners with flawless technique, just like everyone else I'm blown away at the factory riders immortal skill atop their iron pony. I gallivant through the pits and stare at the gloss of every shiny new piece of equipment under a canopy. Although I'm there to compete, it's still a blast to see the top dogs do things I could never do on a motorcycle. So when people come to me giving respect, it's not because of my skill on the weekend, it's that 7 to 7 grind I give during the week. These good men and women understand the sacrifices made to do this, and they fully "get it" how I'm a total nutjob for racing dirt bikes.
The most respect due are to the dads in motocross who brought us in, gave us the taste of the best sport. Thanks to my dad for teaching me the big picture at 16 when he gave me the keys to my own moto career by telling me I was 100% responsible for every aspect from that day on. It was a blessing in disguise, but at 29 and looking back I'm glad he did. Motocross is more than the competition, it's a lifelong brotherhood you'll make with the people you race against from all over the country. It's an unbreakable bond between the friends/family who gave you moto, almost like a disease that controls every waking thought you have and guides every nuanced decision you make. It's being blessed with a curse to always put motocross first.
Let the legend live on, keep family in motocross.