It took me 25 minutes to dig it out, but there it was at the bottom of a dog-eared cardboard box: Cycle News. Cover date. March 28, 1990. On Saturday morning, May 17, 1990, I climbed into my Volkswagen Jetta and motored out of Redondo Beach, California, up the I-15 North, and onto 7000 East Russel Road and the 32,00-seat Sam Boyd Silver Bowl in Las Vegas, Nevada.
That evening, I sat up in the stands along with 18,196 other supercross fanatics and watched a little-known kid on a Team Green Kawasaki KX125 win that night’s AMA 125cc West Region Supercross Main Event.
“I pressed hard for the first few laps and from then on paced myself,” teenaged McGrath told Cycle News. “It’s so much easier to win from the front.”
31 years removed from the very first of 89 career supercross main events, McGrath nailed down during his extraordinary supercross career. And this week, the greatest stadium motocross racer who ever lived shared his thoughts on the 2021 Monster Energy Supercross Championship, which kicks off tomorrow at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.
Q: This year reminds me of the 1983 Wrangler Supercross Series where David Bailey, Mark Barnett, Bob Hannah, Broc Glover, Jeff Ward, Johnny O’Mara, Ron Lechien, Brian Myerscough, Warren Reid and Mike Bell were lined up against one another. It was the best, most competitive racing ever, and this year looks to be similar.
JEREMY MCGRATH: Exactly. Every single year, with all of the riders, it’s like, “Oh, I’m feeling the best I’ve ever felt! My bike is better than ever! I’m in the best shape! I’ve been riding well!” It’s all the same. We’re never going to get the truth, anyway. That’s the same thing we hear every year. Even today, I was talking with my daughters, and they are going to do a Fantasy Supercross pick, and they’re like, “Dad, what do you think?” I replied, ‘Man, I don’t even know!’
My personal opinion is that I think Adam [Cianciarulo] is going to be much stronger than he was last year. If he can get more consistent, then he should be able to be in the hunt. Ken Roczen. I’m a fan of Ken Roczen and last year he felt like one of the strongest guys, but I’m not sure I feel that way this year. Obviously, I think Eli is going to be good. It’s probably going to take him a few races to get going. That’s normal. That’s the way it goes for him. Cooper Webb, I think he’ll probably start pretty fast. Zach Osborne is another guy that has a lot of confidence after the outdoor series, but I also think that he’s kind of a guy that it’s going to take a little bit to get warmed up. And then you take a guy like Marvin Musquin, who hasn’t been in there for a while and where do you out him? And my other dark horse is, and it feels a little weird to say this, Justin Barcia. I think Justin is going to be strong.
Q: You know who else I believe is a sleeper in the field? Malcolm Stewart.
JMCG: Yeah, I said that to my kids. I said, “You know, Malcolm will be pretty good.” I just worry about his consistency level. He is a great rider. The guy has got some talent, and he is strong. That will suit really well with that Yamaha bike. That’ll help. You know, I think Chas Sexton is going to be strong, too.
Q: I wanted to ask you about Chase. With his role at Honda and the momentum and interest that seems to be building behind him, he reminds me of Jeff Stanton back around 1988 and 1989. When Stanton went to HRC Honda in 1989, well, we all saw what happened.
JMCG: Yeah, Stanton was pretty quiet. I think this kid has a lot of talent. Between with his ability and his talent, and he is on a great team, I think he could be surprising us, you know? I think he could probably battle with AC. It’s the very first race. Man, you just never know!
Q: How dialed-in are the bikes?
JMCG: I know that Kawasaki has been working hard. I think their bikes are pretty good. I think it’s the same for everybody. We haven’t heard much, because it has been really quiet because there hasn’t really been any overseas racing. There hasn’t been anything in the off-season, so it has been pretty quiet. I do think they’ve all been working hard, though.
Q: Everything is an absolute blank canvas. Can any of the racers actually take advantage of this odd situation?
JMCG: Someone like Jason Anderson can probably take advantage of something like this. :ast year, he was, what, fourth in points or something? A distant fourth. He struggled. This could be a bounce-back year for someone like him. But what do I want to see in 2021? I want to see Adam winning. A lot. I don’t know, man. In a weird way, I think it could be a changing of the guard already.
Q: Thoughts on 450cc rookie Dylan Ferrandis?
JMCG: Yeah, he’s the only guy that I hear news about. I heard that he was hurt and then he had surgery. I’m not exactly sure on a scale from 1-to-10 he is starting the series at. That does worry me for a guy like him, but I know that he’s talented and he can sure mix it up. If he’s healthy, I think he can be there.
Q: How about all of the racing equipment? All the teams get to Houston and go out for practice and the bike is off, or something is not working correctly, how do the teams adjust? Everyone is stuck in Houston for a week as three races have to be run.
JMCG: I think for the riders that are way off, it could be a problem. I think the guys that have a pretty good setup will be fine. A lot of times that first race is just sort of about finding out where you’re at and where you belong. I think everyone comes out firing – or at least they should!
Q: That’s a very good point. Who even knows if the entire series will run? Do the guys go out there and try to win and amass as many points as possible in the event the series gets interrupted or even stopped?
JMCG: The outside elements can play a factor in this thing. Let’s say they have an issue and call this thing halfway, if something like that happens, you don’t really have these throwaway races like you would if it was an 18-round series. You’ve got to race like it’s almost a seven or eight round series and go from there.
Q: Let’s say you were able to transport yourself back in time and be behind the starting gate tomorrow night in Houston. How would you be dealing with this 2021 season?
JMCG: Well, I think right away that quarantine leads right into a guy being in great shape and getting a lot of great practice, right? If I was going into this thing, I’d be like, ‘Look, I’ve had plenty of practice. The bike is good. The team has had time to work on the bike.” I think I’d be as ready as ever. In my mind, and as a fan, we’re gong to see some great racing. We’re going to see a lot of good stuff. Pretty crazy!
Q: Who will win on Saturday night?
JMCG: I’m not sure. I would only say that I hope that Adam wins, but there are 10 guys that are going the same seed, so the guy that gets the good start is going to give himself the best chance. My top five: Adam, Cooper, Eli and I’m going to go with Roczen fourth and I’ll go with Barcia fifth. Sexton will be sixth.