Photo by: MotoVerte
“Cooksey’s Hard Truth” presented by Scott Sports is a weekly editorial written by Chris Cooksey. Chris will be diving in and out of controversial subjects and bringing you his hard truth about the racing and the riders from around the world of Supercross and Motocross.
I recently had the opportunity to spend three days with WPS brand ambassador and the original “Beast from the East” motocross and supercross legend, Damon Bradshaw. Damon was in Las Vegas for the Mint 400 representing Sedona, a WPS-owned and premiere tire company. Sedona recently launched their 32″ Rockabilly tires for utility task vehicles (UTV). After working side by side with Damon for three days, I was taken aback by his down to earth mentality. Those of us who witnessed his racing in the 90’s remember a brash, take no prisoners bad ass who would gladly clean out your front wheel and kick your ass in the pits afterward. These days Damon is a principled family man with an unparalleled work ethic. Not only did he complete his 8-5 work shift in the Sedona booth, but he also helped myself and “King” Richard Kelsey [Sedona brand manager] setup and tear down. I have worked with enough celebrities to know that when real work is required, they are usually the first to disappear.
Damon might not have won a premier championship in his racing days, but he certainly left his mark on the sport. He became a factory rider at the tender age of 7 or 8 [he did not remember exactly] when Cliff Lett [world record RC car driver] discovered his talent and signed Damon to his first Yamaha contract. It is mind blowing that riding motorcycles was a job for Damon or anyone at such a young age. I was instantly curious if and how this affected his childhood. Damon recognized there were sacrifices he endured and he would not describe his childhood as typical, but he was also quick to respond with pride, “It’s what I wanted to do.”
From there, I questioned Damon about noticeable differences between the amateur scene now compared to when he was up and coming. The main difference Damon recognized was the current amateur motocross camps. He wished amateur camps existed when he was growing up. Unlike most professional motocross racers, Damon graduated from a public high school. He assumed attending one of these motocross camps could have made life easier, as most offer school classes on campus. Damon moved schools often to meet the demands his career required. Apparently being the new kid at school is difficult, even if you are a motocross star.
Growing up, Damon’s father worked as a firefighter and his mother was employed as a hair dresser. His parent’s professions provided the family flexibility to travel to the races together. Obviously, his mom’s talents influenced the sweet ass mullet he stylishly rocked! Damon clearly appreciates the sacrifices his parents made allowing him to pursue racing, but he and his wife choose a more ordinary upbringing for their two sons. On any given day, the family enjoys motorcycles and trail riding rather than dealing with the constant dangers and pressures of being a professional racer.
Throughout my employment in the motocross industry, I cannot count the many times I have witnessed families mortgage their futures to keep their child racing. I have watched parents quit their jobs and misuse their child as a meal ticket. Luckily, Damon’s parents supported his passion appropriately. Much like spending money on a child’s education, Damon’s parents chalked up the money they expended as costs associated with being parents. Even though Damon had factory support at a young age, his parents still paid a small fortune to keep him racing.
After hanging out with Damon for three days, it is clear he has not lost his competitive edge. When he describes the past races he lost, you can hear the lingering anger in his voice, and he still does not like Jeff Matiasevich! Damon would have done anything to win. At the 1990 Los Angeles Supercross, Jean Michel Bayle was clearly the faster of the two, but as commentator Larry Meyers noted, “[Damon] was a little bit on the dingy side.” JMB had a fast line before the finish and was setting Damon up for a last lap pass. Damon said he just went wide open, knowing he would likely crash. He hoped his momentum would carry him across the finish line first. Damon was completely out of control approaching the finish line which scared JMB, ultimately allowing Damon to take the win.
After the 1993 Supercross season, Damon walked away from a massive contract with Yamaha. He could have easily putted around in 5th place and milked Yamaha for the remainder of his contract. To this day, Damon considers himself a man of character. He decided if he was not going to give Yamaha his full dedication–and he was not–then he did not want their money. Damon returned to the sport from 1995-1997 but never regained the winning form he once held. He tried Arenacross in 2002 with the end goal of running his own team, also knowing he would have to race himself for a couple years to get the required support for a stand-alone team. Damon entered with a three-year plan to build his team. Unfortunately a badly broken leg–which nearly required amputation–ended this dream.
Damon attacks his goals passionately, and this directness has always had his competition intimidated. After his motocross career ended, he found his way into Monster Truck Racing where he became the 2009 World Champion. Even though Damon won the 2009 Championship and was one of the most marketable drivers on the tour, his employer failed to see his value at the end of 2016. Damon is a principled person and expects the same of his employers. Recently, Damon has taken his skills and passion to Western Power Sports. He continues to live life on his terms and is very different from other retired professional racers. Damon doesn’t expect handouts for what he has accomplished in the past. Instead, he is a hard-working southern man who stands by his values.