Oklahoma’s Justin Bogle turned Pro in 2011 as part of Geico Honda–one of the premiere 250 teams in the paddock. In the past five years Bogle has won a 250 East Supercross title, finished runner-up in his title defense, showed incredible speed and swagger, but has also been hampered with injuries. After jumping up to the 450 class in 2016, Justin endured more injuries and missed three rounds of the Supercross. Despite all that, he finished one point out of landing inside the top ten overall.
Our very own Jim Kimball tracked down Bogle recently for an introspective chat about winning, fighting back tears and getting through the dark times.
By Jim Kimball
Obviously similar to most people, my dad raced and got me into motocross. As a young boy I wanted to be like my dad. Then when I started to get into it more, like in 1998, my big hero was Jeremy McGrath. On a local level it was guys like Guy Cooper and Robbie Reynard that I admired. Trey Canard was just a little older than me, so he really wasn’t on that level yet [laughter]. I did somewhat follow Trey through the amateur ranks, and our paths were a lot alike. I had a lot of good examples of who to look up to. Guy Cooper’s “Cooperland” track was close to my house, and I spent a lot of time at his track. It was great to see guys like Guy Cooper, Robbie Reynard and Johnny Marley battling hard back then. I was blessed to watch them. It was pretty cool that later in my career Robbie took Colt Nichols and me under his wing, and coached us through our careers. I’m pretty luck to be a part of this rich Oklahoma motocross history. Having Robbie around me was huge, as it was a make-or-break time for my career when I was nearing the end of my amateur racing. I lived with Robbie for a few years. He not only shaped me as a racer, but also as a person. He is an incredible human being that would do anything for anyone.
You weren’t exactly the top dog in your amateur class, were you?
Yeah, I was never that top amateur phenom coming up. Locally I may have won about everything, along with Colt Nichols. Colt and I battled every single weekend as amateurs. I really didn’t start winning consistently until I was about 17 years old. I peaked at the right time, and skated around the whole burnout deal. I was never home-schooled. As soon as I graduated I focused on riding and training, and that was about the time that I moved in with Robbie. I was fast when I was leaving the amateur ranks, but still nothing like Robbie Reynard or Adam Cianciarulo.
Your first full Pro season was in 2012 with Geico Honda, and the team had supported riders like Eli Tomac, Justin Barcia and Trey Canard. Did you feel much pressure?
Obviously if you are in a situation with a team where they had so many top podium guys, reaching a level of success where you want to be you feel some pressure. However, I put all that pressure on myself. The team did not put any pressure on me. Geico Honda is a championship team that gives you the best equipment, and has the best environment. They are writing your paycheck, so you want to win and get results. I understood that, but I had a lot of good guys to learn from. Wil Hahn is a very good friend of mine and he was on the team back when I started. I learned a lot from him, and he helped me a lot to get better. Wil and I were both moving through the ranks, so it was pretty cool. Plus, it was cool seeing Tomac and Barcia both winning championships. I won some heats and took some podiums that year, but never felt that I reached my potential. I struggled with some injuries, and actually missed most of the Nationals. I hate to beat a dead horse, but it was just learning and learning, getting knocked down, and getting back up!
You had a couple difficult seasons filled with injuries, didn’t you?
I like to try and stay pretty positive, and I believe that the mind is the most powerful thing that there is. If you can look at things, and really try to learn from both the good and the bad, and try not to get too high on the highs and too low on the lows, I think that helps. That is a difficult thing to learn, but you have to try. I felt like I really had a few good things going. I had a lot of momentum early in my career until a few injuries really took their toll. For a while I felt as if I was not living up to my potential of what I thought and what others thought. So I struggled with that for a while, and then started working with my trainer, Ryan Fedora. We worked a lot on the mental side and just getting healthy. When I had my big setback coming into 2014 Supercross I was able to relax and put my head forward. You have to be an island and believe in yourself. A lot of times people even very close to you are not going to believe in you. To truly believe that you can win you have to be very strong mentally. That is difficult when you are often injured.
You still won the 250 East Supercross title in 2014. That had to be an amazing feeling.
That one was very, very sweet. I came into the Supercross season feeling great–probably the best that I ever had. Then I had a big injury with multiple fractures in my back. Thankfully my dad came out and stayed with me for a while. He helped me out a lot while I was lying around on the couch. It was tough, and I don’t really think that anyone around me thought that I was going to make the start of the season, but I was very determined to make it to the opener. I remember one time back then when my trainer, Ryan, and I were mountain biking. He was yelling at me, and I was sitting there with tears streaming down my face thinking that I was not going to make Supercross happen. From that point on it was like a light switch went on. I put my heart and soul into getting ready. So winning that championship was amazing, especially from where I was at. I didn’t think that it could happen!
Last year was also pretty tough, wasn’t it?
It was extremely difficult. I had shoulder surgery just a few weeks before Supercross, and then separated my shoulder at a crash in New Jersey. I skipped the Las Vegas Supercross to help heal for the outdoor series, and then crashed with another rider. It took me out for most of the summer. That was really tough. I had three pretty solid injuries in one year and was just thinking to myself, ‘What do I do here?’ I was in a pretty weird low dark spot for a while this past summer, but luckily I had some good people around me to pull me back out of it. One thing that has helped me a bit with my therapy with injuries is music. I have some friends that are very talented musically, and we like to make some music and enjoy it. It’s fun to be creative and enjoy life. It’s nice to have something to do when you cannot do your real job of racing.
Photo: Brian Converse
Was it hard coming into the 2016 season knowing that you had to move up to the 450 class and were coming off major injuries?
Moving up was in the back of my mind, so that contributed to where I was emotionally this past year. To be injured all those times and then to not have a ride secured made it difficult. It’s just tough knowing what you are capable of and not having everyone else see it. At times I felt like I was the only one who believed in myself. You have to show results. No one knows if you are injured, or cares about any of that. It doesn’t really matter why you are struggling, it just matters that you are putting in results. I did have some good races, and was on the podium, but it didn’t matter because I wasn’t winning. Marvin [Musquin] was the better man last year. I eventually recovered from my injuries and was ready to go for the Nationals. Then one race into the series I was hurt for the summer. When I was coming back I got the opportunity from Honda to race the 450 for the last three Nationals. I wasn’t ready at all, and it didn’t really matter if I did good or bad. I believed that I could do well. I didn’t really get the results, but I think I showed speed and determination. Like we have been talking about, it’s never a good time to be injured, but especially bad when you are looking for a ride. Luckily for me, the guys at Geico and Honda really did me a solid and helped me with the 450 ride. These guys have been with me my entire career. They stand behind the guys that ride for them.
You may have started off a bit behind, but you repaid the team with a string of good 450 Supercross rides.
I have just believed from the beginning that I can be up there every weekend, and I feel as if I still have not shown my true potential on a 450. I didn’t get on the podium in Supercross, but I did have a top five finish. I started to come around and got stronger every weekend, both mentally and physically, since I have been on the 450. From so many things last season I came into the 2016 season behind the curve. I have been improving, and still can improve a lot more. It’s been a bit of a slow grind, but I really feel that I have been showing some potential.
What has the team thought of your performances in the 450 class?
The team has been a little bit happier with the latter part of my Supercross series than they were at the beginning of the series. I don’t think anyone was that happy when we were leaving the first couple Supercross races this year. At the beginning of the season I was just struggling to get in the top 15! We just kept our head up and tried to improve every weekend, which we did. Progress has been the single most important thing for me. I want to be a true contender next year. I just have so much more potential in the 450 class. I feel that I can really do this thing, and that it is going to only get better from here on out. I feel that I have much more in the tank.
Can you share with us what team you may be with in 2017?
At this point I am not really sure of what all my options are. I can say that I have so much love for everyone at Geico Honda. These guys have been behind me since I was an amateur. I’ve got a lot of time logged with these people, and they have had a lot of time and money invested in me. If it was an option to be around here, that would be great! Like I said, I am not sure what all my options are, and I am lucky to have Jimmy Button in my corner for all of that! I believe in what he does, and he is looking out for my best interests. He is good at what he does.