ONE PHOTO & ONE STORY BY JOHN BASHER
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By John Basher
In the winter of 2005 I traveled to Florida with the intention of covering the Daytona and Orlando Supercross rounds. The time in between was spent driving around the “Sunshine State,” a place my mother refers to as “God’s waiting room,” due to the overwhelming number of retirees. But I digress. A decade ago Florida wasn’t the riding hot spot that it is now. Chad Reed lived there, as did James Stewart and Tim Ferry (two native Floridians). My objective was to jam a bunch of location shoots into a single week before covering the Orlando Supercross and jet-setting back to California. Or at least that’s the idea I sold Jody on. My boss was naturally skeptical, given my immature nature and affection for cruising the beach. He must’ve figured that MXA was footing the bill for my all-inclusive vacation.
I assure you that I delivered. Yes, there might’ve been a morning here or an afternoon there where I sampled the local beaches, but my overall body of work was impressive. I crammed in roughly one riding spot per day. Fortunately in those days I had my older brother, Mike, to keep me on track. He was the primary photographer at MXA, and I was his underling.
We stopped by Chad Reed’s compound and shot photos of him cutting laps on a factory Yamaha (strange that over a decade later Reedy might be back on big blue). Chad and Tim Ferry were teammates back in those days. They also lived a stone’s throw from each other. Tim was very fast in 2005, but injury held him back. It did not put a damper on his personality, evidenced by his willingness to rally race his Cadillac truck through the mud. He kicked the truck’s rear end out and executed a perfect four-wheel drift. It was awesome.
Tried as I could, MXA wasn’t given access to James Stewart’s place in Haines City. It wasn’t much of a surprise when I inquired about visiting Bubba’s pad and heard crickets on the other end of the phone line. Stewart was withdrawn from everyone as he toiled away during his rookie year in the 250 class. Oh, well. No Bubba meant more time at the beach!
Exhausting our options in Florida, we ventured north to Georgia at the invitation of Davi Millsaps. My brother and I were very fond of Millsaps in those days. He was a joker, outgoing and easy to work with. He became more elusive as the years passed and he cycled through teams (notably at Honda), but he’s making his way back to being funny and approachable. Again, I digress. My brother and I pointed the rental car north from Ferry’s place in Florida and spent the night in a seedy hotel outside Cairo, Georgia. The next day we went to Millsaps Training Facility, an impressive place with several manicured tracks as well as a turn track. I watched Colleen Millsaps direct Davi and his buddies–Martin Davalos and Brian Johnson among them–through different riding drills.
“JOSH GRANT WAS NOT A HOUSEHOLD NAME BACK THEN. SURE, HE WAS POPULAR AMONG THOSE WHO FOLLOWED THE SPORT CLOSELY, BUT JOSH WAS LITTLE MORE THAN A RACER WITH CHAMPIONSHIP ASPIRATIONS LIKE SO MANY HIS AGE. HOWEVER, THERE WAS NO DENYING HIS TALENT ON A MOTORCYCLE. HE HAD THAT FLUID STYLE THAT WE ALL DREAM OF HAVING.”
My gaze turned towards the eastern side of the the facility. There was a fence separating Millsaps Training Facility from Josh Woods’s Georgia Practice Facility. I met with Woods, a Michigan transplant and talented rider, who was very welcoming. He gave me carte blanche to his place. It meant a lot for him to open his doors for a young journalist such as myself. Poking my nose around the outdoor track, I looked over in time to see a rider flying around the Supercross track. I immediately recognized the number 35 on the side of the Honda CRF250. It was Josh Grant, the Factory Connection phenom, practicing amidst the 125 East swing. Grant had proven himself exceptional from the beginning of his professional career in 2004. The 2005 season was in full swing, and Grant had finished second at Daytona a few days before. The young Californian was riding a wave of confidence.
Josh Grant was not a household name back then. Sure, he was popular among those who followed the sport closely, but Josh was little more than a racer with championship aspirations like so many his age. However, there was no denying his talent on a motorcycle. He had that fluid style that we all dream of having. I started snapping off photos while he charged around the Supercross track.
I’ll be the first to admit that the photo featured in this “One Photo & One Story” is not nearly the best whip photo ever taken of Grant. In fact, it’s not even close. In my mind’s eye, the pancake he threw jumping over Mt. Whitney at the REM section of Glen Helen’s then-massive National track, captured by Carl Stone, is the epitome of Josh Grant’s supreme style. However, the photo I shot of Grant against a washed-out sky at Georgia Practice Facility was a sign of things to come. I guess I’m a sucker for photos of the young lions; those racers who have not yet reached their full potential. Josh Grant impressed me that day, and he would soon impress many others.