Don’t look now, but the King of Supercross is approaching middle age! That’s right, the legendary Jeremy McGrath will turn 49 later this year, but he’s not slowing down, rather shifting gears in his career path.
It’s been 17 years since McGrath stunned the racing world when he announced his retirement from Supercross racing. The retirement didn’t exactly stick as he came back a few years later and ran select races, but the era was best remembered for his dominant reign during the 1990s and into 2000, when the Californian won a record-setting seven AMA Supercross titles.
McGrath also claimed the premier AMA 250cc Motocross Championship (now the 450cc class) in 1995, in addition to being a two-time FIM World Supercross champ and twice a member of the winning Team USA Motocross des Nations squad.
Following his motorcycle exploits, McGrath fired up a second successful racing career in off-road trucks racing. That chapter of his career culminated in the Pro 2 division championship with the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series in 2017.
McGrath is in another transitional period of his career. At 48, he has scaled back his racing schedule and is gradually turning his focus to business interests. He and wife Kim keep busy raising two active girls. Kim survived a health scare, which put his family through some difficult times.
“Kim is eight or nine years now out of her bone marrow transplant, which is amazing in itself,” McGrath said. “She’s just such a hero, such a trooper, and by far and way tougher than me. That part was a huge, huge challenge.”
Like many long-term motocross racers, McGrath is having to deal with the years of punishment he doled out to his body. He recently had knee-replacement surgery.
We caught up with McGrath in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic during early April. Like everyone else, he was spending a lot of time at home.
“It seems like as the girls get older, they get a little more distant,” McGrath said. “But since we’ve all been stuck in the house, we’ve been able to reconnect. And that’s been a good thing.”
Championships seemingly came easy for McGrath in Supercross, but it took him eight years to win an off-road title. Once he did that, McGrath claims he felt like he’d accomplished his goals in that sport.
“I finally got the championship,” he said. “The next year I just said, ‘I’m not going to race anymore.’ So I stopped racing full time and just raced a few races, like last year I raced two races. So I still have my truck and I still mess with my truck a little bit here and there. I still have a shop and I have some guys working for me. I do some brand ambassadorships for Maxxis tires, so that’s kind of where my off-road connection still comes into play.
“We developed some new motocross tires over the last few years that are really, really, really good. I’m super impressed. I’ve been on Maxxis dirt bike tires for the last five years. They’ve really come out with some good stuff. So I still do a fair amount of dirt bike riding,” McGrath continued. “Now with Kawasaki, of course, I host that show, ‘The Science of Supercross’ during the Supercross program. I’m the host of a lot of those shows. So I’m doing some events and doing some Kawi stuff. I’m kind of the face of all things Kawi. Then this year Kawasaki came out with the new KRX 1000, the side-by-side. So I’m an ambassador for that as well.”
Going through knee replacement was a bigger ordeal than McGrath thought it would be.
“My doctor said, you’ll be good in two months. I was like, ‘OK, cool. Sign me up. Let’s do it. My knee is in such pain, I got to go do it.’ Well, I did the surgery and he was, of course, wrong because it took a lot longer than he said,” McGrath explained. “He thought it would be a breeze. I’ll tell you what. It hurt a lot more. I think I’m pretty tough. I’ve had to deal with a lot of pain, but the pain threshold for that knee surgery was pretty crazy. It hurt like hell.
“But I’m doing really well now,” he added. “In fact, I’m going riding tomorrow. I’m going to go out for the first time. It’s been like five-and- a-half months. It’s definitely the longest I’ve ever been off my bike.”
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