MINI-VIEW: DREW GOSSELAAR

Drew Gosselaar is making a one-race return to the Nationals this weekend in Thunder Valley.

Interview and photos by John Basher

The Gosselaar name is synonymous with motocross. Mike “Goose” Gosselaar has been a mechanic for years, having won numerous titles with the likes of Ricky Carmichael. Mike’s son, Christopher Gosselaar, had a successful racing career and was part of the powerhouse Pro Circuit Kawasaki team in the mid-2000s. Todd Gosselaar has long been involved in the industry, working for American Honda for many years. Todd’s younger brother, Caleb, still works for Honda. The youngest boy, Drew, isn’t really a boy anymore. The 25-year-old has a family, a full-time job with a company that builds custom homes in Beverly Hills, and an itch to go racing. That’s why Drew decided to make a one-race comeback and sign up for the Thunder Valley National this weekend.

MXA caught up with Drew as he was heading out of town with his wife and kids in tow to Lakewood. We wanted to find out what the youngest Gosselaar was up to, what his expectations for Thunder Valley are, what went wrong in a brief and turbulent racing career, and if he has any regrets. What you’ll find out about Drew might surprise you.

Drew’s first Pro race was at Hangtown in 2007. He had top-ten speed, but crashes buried him deep in the standings. It was a sign of things to come for the incredibly fast, but crash-prone rider.

MXA: You’re back!

Drew: Finally! It took a few years. The last National I raced was at Southwick in 2013. I tore my Achilles tendon and called it quits on my racing career. I came home to California and got a job. I am a project manager building custom, high-end homes in the Beverly Hills and Brentwood areas. It’s a very good job, and I kind of lucked into it. The father of one of the kids that I was training owns the company, and he sponsored me to race in 2013. When I told him that I was going to quit racing he offered me a job.

What’s your reasoning behind coming back to race one National?

I love Thunder Valley. I’ve always loved that track. I also got some help from a couple of sponsors, one of them being Unique Energy. I miss racing so much, and now that I have a family and job I realize how much I miss racing. This National is something that I wanted to do for fun. I think I’m also a better rider now than I was when I was racing full-time. This year I’ve only ridden about ten times this year, but I feel better on the bike than when I called it quits. Now I don’t have to stress about riding and training in order to get a paycheck. These days I go to work, ride on the weekends, and spend time with my family. It’s a new transition for me, and motocross is something that I have really grown to enjoy. Racing this weekend is probably the first time since the amateur days that I can honestly say that I’m going to race for fun and not stress about paying bills.

“PEOPLE PROBABLY SAY THAT I NEVER DID ANYTHING AS A PRO. THERE ARE A LOT OF GOOD GUYS THAT COME OUT OF THE AMATEUR RANKS AND END UP GETTING HURT. UNFORTUNATELY THOSE GUYS ARE QUICKLY FORGOTTEN. THAT’S WHAT HAPPENED TO ME.”

You’re Pro career was derailed almost from the start due to injuries. What exactly happened?

I don’t think a lot of people know the severity of my injuries. When I turned Pro in 2007 I was one of the faster guys at the opening rounds of the Nationals. I don’t want to sound conceited, but I truly was fast. Unfortunately I wrecked my shoulder at High Point and ended up needing surgery. Since then I’ve had about 13 surgeries. I never had time to be on the bike and get into shape. It was always a rush to get back on the bike, which translated into rushing into another injury. People probably say that I never did anything as a Pro. There are a lot of good guys that come out of the amateur ranks and end up getting hurt. Unfortunately those guys are quickly forgotten. That’s what happened to me. I never got to do a full season, because I was always hurt. I tried to come back too soon after an injury, which caused another injury. I did that because you have to be racing in order to get the results and get noticed.

The economy probably didn’t help, either, with trying to land a deal with a team.

Exactly. The year I turned Pro was the same year that the U.S. economy took a dive. I had a good ride with MDK Honda. The following year I was signed by factory KTM, but I got let go from there because I had two shoulder surgeries in the same year. The rest is history. Trying to find a ride after that was like hitting the lottery. Unless you were a top ten guy then you weren’t getting a ride.

Gosselaar’s last push as a full-fledged Pro rider came in 2013. He made mains, such as Muddy Creek where this photo was taken, but he snapped his Achilles at Southwick.

What are your expectations for Colorado?

None. I don’t have any. That’s a good thing. I’d like to qualify. Like I said, I’ve probably only ridden ten times this year. Since 2013 at Southwick I didn’t get on a bike until 2014 at the World Two-Stroke Championship. Since then I rode 15 times. It’s kind of funny that I’ve ridden less in two years than some guys ride in a month. My expectations at Thunder Valley are to have fun, and of course it’d be awesome to finish in the top 20 both motos. I think I have the speed, but I’m not so sure I have the stamina. It doesn’t help that I’ve been battling a sinus infection the last two weeks. I’m looking forward to having fun, driving back home, and going to work on Monday in one piece.

Speed was never your problem.

[Laughter] No, I’ve been very fortunate there. Whenever I got hurt or was off the bike for some time, I always seemed to come back and not lose any speed. Fitness was another story, but at least my speed was there. In recent years I’ve matured quite a bit and settled down on the bike, and that’s because I have a full-time job and a family. I don’t want to do something stupid and get hurt again. I used to ride wide open and see where it took me.

“A LOT OF PEOPLE TOLD ME THAT I HAD TO SLOW DOWN TO GO FASTER, AND THAT REALLY TICKED ME OFF. MY RESPONSE WAS ALWAYS, ‘WOULD YOU TELL TIGER WOODS HOW TO SWING A GOLF CLUB? WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME HOW TO RIDE? I KNOW HOW TO RIDE!’”

You were always known as a rider who would twist the throttle as hard as possible and hold on for dear life.

That’s true. It’s why I got hurt a lot. I didn’t know anything different. My Dad was always telling me to slow down. He would say that I was faster than so many other riders, but I had to go slower in order to stay healthy. I didn’t understand him then, but I do now. A lot of people told me that I had to slow down to go faster, and that really ticked me off. My response was always, “Would you tell Tiger Woods how to swing a golf club? Why are you telling me how to ride? I know how to ride!” I should have listened to my Dad a whole lot more, because I would have gone a lot farther in my career. I thought I knew it all, but now I realize that I didn’t know anything. He told me that I should train a lot harder, and that one day I would be thinking back on my opportunities and how I should have done things differently. He was right, because I find myself wondering what could have been.

I spoke with your father at Hangtown about your one-race comback. He told me a funny story about how you send him videos of launching big jumps in the hills, and how he thinks it’s pretty stupid.

[Laughter] It’s true. My Dad is excited to see me race, but he and my Mom don’t want to see me get hurt again. They know that I’ve had a lot of head injuries. They don’t want me to hit my head again. They get really nervous when I ride or race, and my Dad would love to never see me ride a dirt bike again, but he knows how much I enjoy it. I’ll send him a video every now and then of me hitting some big jump, and he always has some smart remark. That’s actually true what he told you. I was jumping some big jump and sent him the video. I thought he was going to be really impressed, but instead he sent me a text back that said “Stupid.”

“MY FAMILY GREW UP RACING. IT’S ONE OF THE BEST SPORTS TO BE INVOLVED IN. MOTOCROSS KEPT MY BROTHERS AND I OUT OF TROUBLE. WE DIDN’T DO DRUGS, DRINK, PARTY OR DO ANYTHING STUPID.”

Drew has never been short on talent or speed. It’ll be good to see the youngest Gosselaar back on the track this weekend.

The Gosselaar name is kind of like royalty in motocross. Your father, Mike, has worked with a lot of great riders. Your brother, Christopher, was an established racer with a long and moderately successful career. Your other brothers are still involved in the sport. That’s cool to see that the Gosselaar’s love motocross.

My Dad being who he is and who he has worked for has helped build our name in the sport. My brother, Christopher, raced for a lot of years and he did well at it. He accomplished a lot, although he never won a race. He’s going to be mad at me when he reads this, because I know that not winning a race as a Pro still haunts him to this day. My family grew up racing. It’s one of the best sports to be involved in. Motocross kept my brothers and I out of trouble. We didn’t do drugs, drink, party or do anything stupid. Of course things didn’t turn out exactly how we wanted them to. Christopher had the most successful career, and I’m a little jealous of that. I had some hard times in racing. Caleb and Todd, my other brothers, also raced. They weren’t super into racing, but they were Honda test riders and they’re still involved in the industry. Motocross is something that we’ll always be a part of.

“I’LL TRY AND GET MY SON TO RIDE, BUT I DON’T THINK I WANT HIM TO RACE. I’D LIKE HIM TO BE GOOD AT ANOTHER SPORT WHERE ATHLETES GET PAID AND DON’T HAVE TO DEAL WITH MANY INJURIES.”

Now you have a step-son and a son. Will you want your boys to ride motocross?

My step-son loves bikes, but I don’t think he wants to ride. He tried a few times and wasn’t into it, which is absolutely fine. I wouldn’t push my kids into doing anything that they don’t want to do. I’ll try and get my son to ride, but I don’t think I want him to race. I’d like him to be good at another sport where athletes get paid and don’t deal with very many injuries. I don’t want him to feel the same effects that I do right now after having so many crashes. I have an arm that’s three inches shorter than the other, and I’ve undergone a bunch of surgeries. What do I have to show for it? So while I’d like my kids to experience the joy of riding, I don’t want them to become professional racers.

drew gosselaarinterviewJOHN BASHERthunder valley