In the very last act of his prolific 250SX racing career, Christian Craig did exactly what he needed to do to claim his first AMA Pro Racing title at Rice-Eccles Stadium over the weekend.
Q: You’ve been able to put up with quite a bit of pressure as this 2022 championship started to come into focus for you. Now that you’ve got the job done, can you take us through what you feel like now?
CHRISTIAN CRAIG: It doesn’t feel real, I can tell you that. It feels like a dream for some reason. This all seemed impossible just two years ago. It all seemed so far away and unreachable. I saw so many of my teammates accomplish this. I went through it with Chase [Sexton], Colt [Nichols], and Justin [Cooper]. So many people were like “Your time is coming.” I kept digging, I kept grinding. Yeah, I’m older in the class and what not, but I’m here now. I’m thankful to be in this position. It’s a dream come true for a lot of riders. Obviously, we want to be champions in the 450 class, too, but this is special, and it starts with my family. Going through it, ups and downs, injuries, the FIM situation I had a few years ago. I was ready to hang it up a few years ago just from everything that was going on. But my team believed in me, and we’re here now. I couldn’t be happier.
Q: Can you talk about the nerves you may have felt in Salt Lake City as you closed in on the championship?
CC: I was in a good spot. I had a lot of family come and surprise me, and that could have added pressure, but I was just so calm in my position. I had an 18-point gap and I just needed to get 14th, but so much stuff had to happen in practice just to get to the main. Dylan Ferrandis showed up in the rig and that surprised me. He was like “I’m here for you.” We had fun between practices. He’s been there three times [championships] and I think that kept me calm and confident with myself. I felt like I rode good in the main until I tightened up. I was behind Hunter, Nate blew by me, and it was a cool main event until I tucked the front. Then I kind of freaked out. From there I just rode it out. It’s a crazy feeling, for sure. A lot of pressure the last month, I feel like I handled it pretty well.
Q: Back in 2013 and 2014 you decided to take a break from this sport. When you decided to return to action, in your mind’s eye, could you see a full-time return to supercross?
CC: Yeah, a lot of people know I stepped away because of injuries, got a real job, then I talked my father-in-law into letting me come back because I still had that fire burning. This was kind of the goal. It was “Hey, I can win.” I got people to believe in me and I believed in myself. Seemed like a lot of ups and downs between then, but my family never stopped believing in me and that’s the main reason I’m here. Everything plays a part. My trainer, my team, Bobby Regan taking a chance on me. I wasn’t putting in good results, I don’t know why he took a chance on me, but he saw something. He would say, “We’re going to make you a champion.”
Q: You’re a veteran in the 250SX classification. Having said that, how much did you learn in recent years to be able to finally land this championship?
CC: A lot throughout the years, but mainly it was last year. To win the opener and carry the red plate, it was like “Okay I can do this.” Then Colt and Justin doing it and me training with them every day, it was like “I can do this next year.” It was kind of make or break for me. Deep down I’m ready to go 450 and that was my last 250 race. I bet on myself, make or break, whatever happens.. After last week’s race at Atlanta where I finished third, the team did the math and they were like “You can just ride around and do whips in 14th.” But there’s a lot of stuff in between there. Practice crash, something dumb. Like what happened today with Jett [Lawrence]. You can’t just go around and expect it. I kept that in my head all week, but let’s get through practice and then heat and then we get there. I think that goes back to my mentality now with, I would call him my mentor, Connor Fields. He’s helped me grow into the person I am today and helped me believe in myself.
Q: When you look over your shoulder and reflect back about your career, did you ever think this would happen?
CC: You could say this about a lot of things, but last year we had to pack up and move from California to Florida with three kids. I signed a one-year deal. That was stressful. We moved to Florida on a one-year deal. We were all-in. We moved there, kids go to school in Florida full time. My family believed in me, so let’s go do it. I knew I would be here today, and looking at this now, it was worth all that stress.
I think it’s just being honest with yourself. Yeah, I have a lot of talent and a lot of strengths on the tracks, but I have weaknesses. Sitting down with my trainer, we built a corner track at the GOAT Farm. “Alright, let’s get your corners better.” That was one of my weaknesses. Just building on that stuff. I just can’t thank my team enough. We’re just building off of each other. I’m speechless still! It’s a cool feeling and something I’m going to cherish forever.