MXA INTERVIEW: GAVIN FAITH ON HIS 2018 TITLE DEFENSE
Already a multi time Australian Supercross Champion, and a two-time AMA Arenacross Champ, Iowa’s Gavin Faith certainly seems to be the man to beat for the 2018 Arenacross Championship! Not only is he the defending 2017 Arenacross Champion, he is also back on the powerful Babbitt’s Monster Energy Kawasaki team. Of course the 2018 series will feature much competition, and Gavin once again is coming into the series with an injury. But the facts don’t lie, and point to Faith and the Babbitt’s Monster Energy Kawasaki as the team to beat. We tracked son Gavin while in Florida getting ready to head to So Cal for his first week of testing.
By Jim Kimball
GAVIN, IT WAS RECENTLY ANNOUNCED THAT YOU RE-SIGNED WITH THE BABBITT’S MONSTER ENERGY KAWASAKI TEAM FOR 2018 ARENACROSS. IT WAS PROBABLY SOMETHING GOOD FOR THE TEAM, AND FOR YOU? Yes, I have been with Babbitt’s for the past few years, and got a couple Arenacross Championships, so it was a no brainer for me to re-sign with them. They have a great bike and a good program. They also have great mechanics, and everything seems to be working, so if it is not broke, don’t fix it. Everything is going really well and I am happy there, so it is a good opportunity, and I am looking forward to continuing the relationship.
IS ARENACROSS SILLY-SEASON AS CRAZY AS SUPERCROSS/MOTOCROSS SILLY SEASON? Not exactly, as it is a little bit tough in Arenacross because there are not a lot of teams like there are in Supercross. But yes, there was a little bit of interest from another team. But the end result was that I ended up staying with Team Babbitt’s Monster Kawasaki.
WILL THIS NEXT SEASON WILL BE YOUR FOURTH WITH THE TEAM? No, it is my third year with the team, but fourth in Arenacross. I am a two-time champion with the team, the first year with the team I did not win, and I finished third in the series.
I WOULD IMAGINE THAT ITS NICE RETURNING TO A TEAM THAT YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH? Yes, it is cool. Pretty much all the same guys are on the team, this year the team is just Jacob Hayes and myself, and no third rider. That is cool as primarily everybody knows everyone, so we are all a little more relaxed than on the Supercross side of things. It is cool, everyone just does their own thing, and there is not quite as much ego as in Supercross. I really seem to enjoy the more laid back atmosphere in Arenacross.
OFTEN YOU HAVE BEEN COMPETING AGAINST YOUR TEAMMATES, FOR THE ARENACROSS CHAMPIONSHIP. IS THAT TOUGH WHEN YOU ARE ON THE SAME TEAM? Yes and no, as all the top guys know each other anyways, and get along fairly well. It seems that if I am not racing with my teammate, I am racing with my buddy Jace Owen, or someone else I know. Arenacross is a lot smaller than Supercross. Here everybody knows everybody, and you are going to be seeing that same person throughout the day several times. So you just get use to being friends with your competition and it is a little bit different in Supercross with how small everything in Arenacross is. It is not really a big deal to be batting with your teammates or friends out there. I feel like I do pretty well with that side of things.
YOU WERE WINNNING THE 250 CLASS IN THE RECENT AUSTRALIAN SUPERCROSS SERIES UNTIL YOU HAD AN INJURY – WHAT HAPPENED? Yes, I had made a trip over there, but unfortunately I had to come home due to breaking my wrist. I came back and got a screw in it, and now I am pretty close to being healed up. I am going out to California next week to start testing. It was a bummer leaving Australia, but I felt like I was just doing more damage to my wrist by trying to keep racing with it broken. So I made the decision to come back early, and get ready for Arenacross, and try to get a little bit of testing in before the series starts.
UNTIL THAT INJURY, YOU WERE WINNING RIGHT? Yes, I actually left Australia with the Red Plate. I raced a couple of rounds with my wrist broken, but it was increasingly getting worse. It was a bummer for sure, especially leaving Australia with the Red Plate. Leaving while I was leading the Championship was pretty tough but you know that is how it goes sometimes. Injury is a part of the sport and there is not that much that you can do about it so it is what it is, but yes, it was definitely a bummer.
I DID NOT REALIZE THAT YOU WERE COMPETING AT SEVERAL OF THE RACES WITH IT BROKEN. Yes it was tough. Like I said, I raced two races with it broken, and it was just getting worse. I think I would have been able to continue, but it just kept getting sorer, and sorer. I did not want to do permanent long-term damage to my wrist. It was not worth doing long-term damage for one Championship. It is a bummer for sure, but like I said, it is what it is. It is part of the sport and everybody deals with that type of stuff. I just moved on, and look forward to Arenacross where hopefully we can have success there.
IN AUSTRALIA YOU WERE TEAM UP WITH FELLOW IOWAN JUST BRAYTON RIGHT? Yes, that was true. It is pretty cool being teamed up with Justin again. Actually, this is my seventh year going back over there on the same Honda Team. I have a really good relationship over there. Last year was Justin’s first year with the team, and he is actually from the same town in Iowa as me, but he moved out of town when I was little so I did not him real well. Is pretty crazy that both of us were racing in Australia for the Honda Team and we are from a small little town in Iowa. It is pretty ironic in that sense, and pretty cool if you think about it like that. Justin’s mechanic was also from Iowa too, so we had three Iowa boys over in Australia.
THE AUSTRALIAN SUPERCROSS SERIES IS BIG, AND GETTING BIGGER, AND ATTRACTING MORE VIEWERS, MORE RIDERS, AND MORE SPONSORSHIP EVERY YEAR IS’NT IT? Yes I think they have an awesome thing going on over there with the whole Australian Supercross Series. It has real cool events where it is indoors and they have a few American guys come over, so that part of it is really cool. As I said it is my seventh year over there. I have done well over there, and won a few championships. I really enjoy going over there every year, and for me it is awesome and it is a good series so I enjoy it.
RACING THE ARENACROSS SERIES HERE AND THE AUSTRALIAN SUPERCROSS SERIES HAS WORKED OUT WELL FOR YOU, AND THEN YOU HAVE THE SUMMER OFF. My whole deal is that I struggle on the fitness side of things with Outdoor Motocross. Outdoors was not really an option for me to do originally when I started my career. I went to Australia for my pro debut, and raced over there. Then I came back here and raced Supercross. I got into doing that year in and year out, taking the summer off, and relaxing and going back home to Iowa. It is a pretty sweet deal to go to Australia, and then a lot of times I would go to Germany and do some races over there. So, I have two or three series that I hit throughout the full winter and spring, and then take the summers off and regroup. I don’t really ride a whole lot during the summer. I just refresh and get excited and start riding in the fall. It is a pretty good little program I have going, and I really enjoy it.
AND YOU HAVE BEEN WORKING WITH RICKY CARMICHAEL RIGHT? Yes, I have been at the farm. This is my third year, so it has been really good. Ricky and Jeannie are good people, along with Big Rick. Everybody there is awesome towards me, and I enjoy riding and training there. It has obviously been working so far, so I hope to continue the success.
JOEY SAVATGY TRAINS THERE, ARE YOU ABLE TO TEST YOUR SPEED AGAINST HIM? Yes, I have ridden with Joey ever since I moved down south about eight years ago, we have always been riding together, and he is super fast. It is good to have somebody there that is quicker than you, so you are always pushing yourself. That has been a big help right there on its own. We are both riding at the farm now, and it has been good. Now Justin Bogle will be here too.
DENNY BARTZ IS THE TEAM MANAGER, AND EDDIE BABBITT IS THE OWNER; HOW DOES THAT WORK? Yes, as you said, Denny is the team manager and Eddie owns the team. I see Eddie a few times throughout the year at a handful of races when he comes to support us. But Eddies owns a big dealership in Michigan, and is super busy. So week in and week out, I talk to Denny Bartz as he is there at every race looking after us.
YOU HAVE RACED SUPERCROSS IN THE PAST, AND WITH YOUR ARENACROSS CHAMPIONSHIPS SOME MAY FEEL IT’S LOGICAL TO RETURN TO THE BIGGER STADIUMS, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT? Yes, I have raced Supercross my first three years as a pro, and it was good. But I feel like I am a little more successful in the Arenacross side. It suits my style a little bit better and I enjoy it more. I am thinking of maybe racing a couple of Supercross rounds this year on the weekends off from Arenacross, but I have not really made up my mind on that quite yet. I am just waiting to see what happens, see how Arenacross is going, and if I have any nagging injuries or whatever. I just want to play it by ear, but it would be cool to line up for a couple of Supercross and see how we do.
WITH YOUR MULTIPLE ARENACROSS TITLES, IT APPEARS THAT YOU COULD DO PRETTY WELL. I have done Arenacross for a living and I am trying to make as much money as I can. In order to make money on the Supercross side of things, I might be able to pull something small as far as salary. But other than that, to make money you have to be on the podium week in and week out, so that is the risk of going to Supercross. If you get fourth place, and I don’t know how every team works, but with most teams, a fourth place does not really pay anything. It is similar with Arenacross too, but I just do a little bit better in Arenacross. I am consistently on the podium making pretty decent money every weekend, so on the financial side of things, it makes a little more sense for me to race Arenacross.
MAYBE THE PODIUM GUYS MAKE A LOT OF MONEY, BUT THEN IT REALLY DROPS OFF FROM THERE. Yes, with a lot of motor sports and racing events, it pays well at the top but once you get down the line a little bit, the money drops pretty quick. It is just how it goes, and how the sport works a little bit. It is a bummer. It would be good if you made more money a little bit more back in the pack, but it seems like that is the way it is.
BUT IN 2018 IT WOULD NOT BE OUT OF THE REALM TO SEE YOU AT A SUPERCROSS? I am not committed to anybody to do Supercross. I just know that there are a few close rounds to where I am living that interest me. Maybe I might line up, maybe not, so just kind of play it by ear, keep on riding and see how I am feeling.
FELD RECENTLY ANNOUNCED SOME SUPERCROSS CHANGES, HOW DO YOU FEEL THE STATE OF ARENACROSS IS? I think it is pretty good. But it seems like every year I have been doing it, they get less and less rounds, so that is a bummer for all of us riders. In Arenacross, we hardly get paid anything for salary, so what we do or how we make money is with bonuses from the weekends. So the fewer races they have, the fewer bonuses we get. So that is a bit a bummer in that sense, but hopefully in the next few years they pick up some more races. You know there for a while, there was close to 20 rounds and I think this year we have 12. But besides that I think Arenacross is in a good spot. People still like to watch it. It is exciting racing and very intense. So I think it is in a fairly good spot, it would be cool to have a few more rounds, but other than that it has been good.
LETS WRAP UP WITH THIS. ARE YOU FEELING GOOD ABOUT A THREE-PEAT IN 2018 ARENACROSS? Yes. I am, I recently saw my doctor about my wrist, and he released me to start riding some. I don’t think I am ready to do full blown Supercross with the whoops, and everything quite yet, but its ok. I will go out to California, and play it by ear and see how it feels. I’ll try to get a little testing in. the past two years I have been hurt in both pre-seasons so I have not been able to test either then either. So it will be cool to be able to get a little bit of track time in to try to see different things and stuff, so we will see how it goes.