MXA INTERVIEW: TED PARKS IS THE HIDDEN HERO OF PRIVATEERS
By Jim Kimball
YOU CHANGED THE NAME FROM “THE PRIVATEER JOURNEY” TO “THE PROFESSIONAL JOURNEY” BACK IN 2018. WHY? The change is due to sponsorships. A lot of big corporations would rather sponsor a company called “The Professional” than “The Privateer.” Of course, as you know, I started this team to help the privateers. In order to pick up the bigger sponsors outside the industry, they were more apt to sponsor a team called The Professional Journey because they are professional athletes who are trying to get to the next level, so that is why we made the change.
WERE YOU INSPIRED BY THE OLD WONDER WARTHOG PROGRAM? No. I started back ago as I watched parents struggle trying to help their kids go racing. That enticed me to put a program together to help the riders as well as the parents. I decided to help the riders get product to go racing to save them money. Most people don’t know about my whole program. They think that I am just a transportation deal to take bikes to the races. In reality, I am not. We furnish everything on a race bike—from tires to fuels to plastics to pistons to cams brakes to clutches to seat covers and filters and lubricants, so my program is to try to help the rider succeed at making a living in the sport.
DO THEY CHOOSE THE BRANDS THEY WANT, OR HOW DOES THAT WORK? Originally, the riders had different products on the bikes, but it has gotten to the level now that I make it mandatory that they run the products of the people in the industry that support my program. For example, Rekluse clutches is a sponsor, so it is mandatory that my riders all use that product to be underneath my setup. And that’s the same thing with Braking, Vertex, Hot Cams, Pivot Works, Cometic Gaskets; I can go on and on.
“MY PROGRAM IS NOT ABOUT TRYING TO MAKE A LIVING. I DON’T OWN A MOTORCYCLE SHOP. I DO THIS STRICTLY TO HELP THE SPORT.“
I also make it mandatory that everybody on my team wears Fly Racing gear, but I don’t make it mandatory for the boots, helmets and goggles. As far suspension and engine work, I also leave that up to the individual rider. As far as the actual bikes, I am involved with dealerships and some of the manufacturers. The last couple of years, I have helped riders get bikes on my program. We do it not just for the manufacturers, but to help support the dealers we get them from. At the end of the season, we return these bikes in better shape than they come off the showroom floor. It is as if the dealer is getting a brand-new bike back, only with all the extras that we put on it. Often the returned bikes are so good that the retail customers have a bidding war on them! One of my sons (Teddy’s) bikes sold for $1000 more than it retailed for.
Although it has been raced, I am not going to turn a bike in that is subject to blowing up on a face of a jump. I just would not sleep at night if I did. These dealers are ecstatic with the way the bikes look when they are turned back in.
THE BIKE BRAND IS UP TO THE RIDER THOUGH? Yes, sir; it is up to the rider. When they come on my team, I haul their bike, toolbox and gear bag, and give them a locker and a pit setup. They bring the brand of bike that they want. Then my sponsors will supply them the product for that bike, regardless of what brand it is. If they have an individual sponsor that helps them pay their flights, motels or entry fees, then I allow those decals to be put on the bike in locations that are not already taken by one of my other sponsors.
DO YOU HELP WITH MORE THAN BIKES AND PARTS? I try to teach the kids that it is not just riding the bike; it is getting up in the morning, thanking God for what you have in life, being appreciative, and putting forth 100-percent effort to become a champion. They have to train. They can’t drink Coca-Cola; they can’t eat ice cream or candy bars. One of my big slogans in life is get up and be appreciative. I watch these young guys, and I can tell if they are not training. I know they are not going to the gym, because I can see it, and I chew them out for it.
NOW THAT TEDDY JR. IS NO LONGER RACING, WHAT IS HE DOING? Teddy had an accident on a job site and hurt one of his eyes. They put a lens in, but at this level it takes a lot to race as a professional. Teddy is still working in construction, as well as training young riders. This year he is going to help 19-year-old James Milson and be involved in the race team. My wife and I might be stepping down, so we want to teach Teddy the ins and outs of the race team. Hopefully he can take it over and continue it.
HOW ARE YOU ABLE TO DO THIS FINANCIALLY? I own a construction company in Texas. Everybody thinks that I am just a manager of the team, but I am the owner of the team. I put everything back into what I do in life. Trust me; I have been in the hole often. My wife does the books and gets mad when we pull money out of our business to support the team.
YOUR PROGRAM IS NEEDED IN THIS SPORT, BUT DON’T YOU HAVE TO DEAL WITH A LOT OF PARENTS? When these kids move from the Amateurs to the Pros, they can’t even make the top 40. Their parents get bent out of shape. I have to sit the family down and tell them, “You are racing the fastest guys in the world. It is hard to come into this level and compete with established riders at the pro level.”
“YOU ARE NOT A ROCK STAR. YOU ARE NOT A CHAMPION. WHEN YOU DO GET ON THAT PODIUM, THAT IS WHEN YOUR JOB REALLY BEGINS.”
I tell the parents to praise their kids and not to knock them down. Most Amateur racers need to go back to the basics. They think that if they can jump big jumps then they will make it, but I tell them that everybody can jump. They need to go back to the drawing board and focus on the rest of the track. Corners are what wins motos, along with endurance. To be able to run a 30-minute-plus-two-lap moto and be able to walk onto the podium and still be able to talk, that’s when you are in good shape.
THIS MUST BE A LABOR OF LOVE FOR YOU. My program is not about trying to make a living. I don’t own a motorcycle shop. I don’t own a product that goes on a bike. I do this strictly to help the sport. My ambition is to have Roger DeCoster, Jeremy Albrecht or other team managers look at my riders. My goal is to get them on a factory team making a big salary.
My wife is often sad because one of the kids who has been with us for three or four years gets a ride and leaves. She wants them to stay, but I let them out of their contract to move to a better team.
WESTON PEICK WAS ONE OF YOUR RIDERS WHO TOOK THAT STEP. Yes. Remember when Weston kicked his bike off the stand in Daytona thinking that he failed to qualify for the main? We had a little “come to Jesus” meeting after that. I told him, “Weston, you have a lot of talent. You are getting faster, and you need to start appreciating who helps you in this sport.”
This is one of the biggest problems I have with some of these guys. They will get to a certain level, and all of a sudden they think they are rock stars. You have to explain to them, “You are not a rock star. You are not a champion. When you do get on that podium, that is when your job really begins. There is only one Champion in motocross, not 40. But, just being on the track with the real rock stars of the sport makes you a champion. He is a champion. He is up racing the fastest guys in the world.”
I am so proud of Weston and where he is today because he dedicated himself. He put his nose to the grindstone, toned his body up and now is riding for the JGR Suzuki team.
YOU WON THE 2015 AMA TEAM MANAGER OF THE YEAR AWARD IN 2015. THAT HAD TO MAKE YOU PROUD. It did, and I did not even expect it. Everyone kept telling me that I needed to go the AMA award presentation. Craig Shoemaker from Western Power Sports/Fly Racing was getting ready to take the rig that he loaned me back to his warehouse in Indiana. I was trying to get the rig cleaned up, detail it and make it immaculate to show my appreciation for him allowing me to use it. He insisted that I take the time to travel to the awards ceremony. All of a sudden, they call me up to the podium and present me the award.
WHAT’S THE FUTURE OF THE PROFESSIONAL JOURNEY TEAM? My wife and I are getting to the age of drawing Social Security. Running the team can be very tiring. At the end of the day, our goal is to help the sport, the dealerships, the sponsors and young racers. I am very thankful for the people who support The Professional Journey, and I cannot thank them enough, so please go to TPJRacing.com and see everybody involved in the program. I don’t want someone to read this and say, “Wow, Ted did not talk about me.”