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Kimpex Canada Presents MXP Chatter- Jeff Stanton

Jeff Stanton needs no introduction. The three time MX and three time SX Champion was certainly a force to be reckoned with from 1989-1994. The Michigan born rider rose to fame as Rick Johnson’s side kick, and training partner during the late 1980s. During that time, Stanton was a sponge, learning everything he could from RJ. When Johnson suffered a career ending injury at the 1989 Gatorback National, Stanton was there to keep Honda on the top step of the podium. After that, he was virtually unbeatable, and whenever the conditions were challenging, Stanton always rose to the occasion. This is why it’s no surprise that Stanton won the tough Daytona SX four years in row from 1989-1992. Jeff retired from professional racing in 1994, and since then he’s been busy raising a family, farming, and most recently, hosting an adventure ride in his native Michigan. We caught up with the six-time champion last week at the Triumph TF 250-X media launch in Florida.

MXP: Hey Jeff! I can’t tell you what an honour it was to ride with you today at Gatorback Cycle Park. You were one of my favourite riders back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and I’ve been looking forward to meeting you and chatting with you. You’re an iconic figure in our sport having won multiple titles, both in MX and SX; this is an iconic track, and Triumph is an iconic brand. How did you end up here?

JS: Well, first of all, I appreciate the kind words. I had a good career and it’s nice to be recolonized for it. The Triumph story is a crazy one, and a good one at the same time. I’m from Michigan and we have some incredible riding both in MX, as well as off-road. I love adventure riding, and up in Northern Michigan we have some of the best riding in the USA. So, over the years I wanted to get an adventure riding business going and invite people from all over to experience all that Michigan had to offer. Now, with all my racing success coming on Honda, I’ve always bled red and I wanted to get them involved in this project. Honda has the African Twin model which would be perfect, all I needed was some bikes to use, and then when we’re done, we’ll sell them and both sides up end winning. Unfortunately, Honda wasn’t interested, and honestly I started to give up on the idea.

Then, one day my wife and I were out for a run and my phone rang. On the other end was Triumph saying that they heard I wanted to start an adventure ride business and how could they be involved. They also said that they wanted to sell bikes, and this sounded like a great project to do together. Just like that I was part of the Triumph family and since then everything has been going great. Triumph is made up of an incredible group of people, and I’m constantly pinching myself that I’m a part of what they’re trying to build. I mean, here I am at this famous track riding the new TF 250-X which RC, Tedesco, and all of you great riders that make up the media. 

So, how long have you been part of the Triumph family?

I got the call just over four years ago, so we’ve been at this for a while now. As I said though, this is a group of people and I feel honoured to be working with them. 

The new Triumph TF 250-X is a beautiful thing!

Okay, I’m going to put you on the spot. What are your initial thoughts on the all-new TF 250-X?

Honestly, it’s just incredible what Triumph has been able to accomplish with this bike in the past five years. They’ve been so smart with this project, and bringing in people like RC is just one example of that. Every part on this bike has been tested in every condition imaginable. I first rode it last fall at the LA Coliseum, and that was fun to be back in that stadium. I rode it a lot today, and I’ll be riding it all week as we welcome in media from across the Globe. So far, the bike feels great! I mean, for a first time bike to be this good is pretty remarkable. But, that is Triumph, this is what they do. Going back to my adventure business, we use the Tiger 900, and everyone loves them. I have riders who ride other brands at home, then they come and ride one of the new Triumph’s, and they end up buying one. So yeah, the Triumph motorcycles speak for themselves, and all I tell people is just go and try one and see for yourself. 

As you mentioned, you’re pumped to be here riding these new bikes, last fall you were out in LA at the final SMX round. You also have the Adventure Ride business. It sounds as though life is busy?

Yeah, things are busy, but everything is great. I have an incredible life and I wouldn’t change anything. We still call Michigan home and between farming, riding, our White Tail Deer farm, as well as the wedding business we run, my wife and I are busy, but happy.

That is great to hear. You were a hero to a lot of young riders during your career everyone admired your work ethic, and ability to find success under pressure. When you signed with HRC Honda before the 1989 season, you move out to California to live and train with Rick Johnson. You two became good friends, and you succeeded him as Honda’s top rider after he got injured. What was that time like in your life?

It was a great time to be in the position I was. At the time I was young and hungry, but I knew that there was still a lot to learn. Rick was the top rider at the time, and since we were on the same team, it was decided that we would train together. It ended up helping both of us, as I raised my level of riding, and prior to getting hurt right over there in 1989 (Jeff’s points to the exact spot on the Gatorback track where Danny Storbeck landed on RJ’s wrist- putting him out for the season), Rick was riding better than he ever had. My overall feeling at the time was that if you wanted to be the best, then you needed to train with the best.

You both were on such a high level that year. If RJ hadn’t gotten injured I bet the outdoor series that summer would’ve been epic. Okay, let’s talk about the race that I believe to be the greatest SX race of all time, the 1990 Atlanta SX. What do you remember about that incredible main event?

Oh man! That was a crazy race from start to finish, and I don’t think anyone knew who was going to win until the last lap. That race had like 10 different leaders, until Wardy made the pass for the lead on the final lap. You’re right, that was one of, if not the best SX of all time. I’m not sure if it was the track layout, or the fact that so many riders were going fast that night. But, it was a great race and a fun one to be a part of. 

I’ve watched it so many times on YouTube, it’s the best. You had to battle with several different types of riders during your career. Did you change your approach to how you raced with each rider? For instance, did you try and race Damon Bradshaw differently than say Jean-Michel Bayle?

Most definitely! Each rider raced differently and what worked with one, didn’t work with another rider. Bradshaw was fast and aggressive, and when he was on, he was really on. But, sometimes he made mistakes, so I knew that I had to be patient. Bayle rarely, if ever made mistakes, so with him I knew I had to be more aggressive. But, there was also several other fast riders back then that could win on any given day. I think this is something that is missing with the young riders today. It seems like they just go out and race the same way every time. I don’t know, our era was different in a lot of ways, and looking back I’m glad I was a part of it.

That era was just awesome Jeff! I’m happy that I was able to see it for myself. You were also part of a great group of riders from Michigan, affectionately known as “The Michigan Mafia”. There are too many names to mention, but thru the 1980s and 1990s, Michigan produced a lot of fast riders.

That was a great time for Michigan Motocross and D-14. The tracks were great, and the racing was incredible. We made each other better, and the level of competition was so high that it prepared us for racing at a National level. Again, it was a great time to be part of the sport.

You guys were fun to watch for sure! Jeff, it was a pleasure to ride with you today, and also chat with you. Thank you for doing this and best of luck with everything in the future. If anyone from Canada would like to sign up for one of your adventure rides, how can they do it?

My website is www.jeffstantonadventures.comand all of the information that you need. Yes, it was great to meet you and doing some riding today. It sounds like you, and everyone else enjoyed the new Triumph TF 250-X so that makes me happy. All the best to you and maybe one day soon we’ll see you at one of my adventures rides.

Chris Pomeroy

1989 Rookie-of-the-year and former nationally ranked pro racer who turned into a dirt oriented scribe

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