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But he’s a good guy!
Perhaps you missed it, or perhaps you’re hibernating under a rock in a warm cave for the winter like me… but this past Saturday night gave us yet another chapter in the Vince Friese diaries.
Now, before we get going, let it be known that Vince is a really good guy. Any interaction I have ever had with him has been pleasant, and not in any way, shape, or form did he come off as arrogant or cocky. I saw him at a restaurant one time and we chatted for a bit, and then went on our ways, and again, good dude. This statement goes much further than mine, with numerous people stating and feeling the same.
Sometimes, when the helmet goes on, people change.
One example of that is Mike Brown. Back in 2014/2015, I worked with Brownie for about a year at Factory Husqvarna out of Murrieta, California. Brownie was at (what we thought, haha) the tail end of his career. The 2001 AMA 125 outdoor champ has a very decorated career, racing all over the world for some of the best teams in the sport. He had now settled into the off-road world as he and I predominately raced an ever-growing Endurocross series. That sport is insane, by the way. Brownie is hands down one of the coolest, laid-back, nicest fellers from East Tennessee that has made one hell of a career out of racing a motorcycle. But man, when that helmet slid down on his head the guy transformed into the 20 something-year-old kid that whooped up on anyone and everyone in his path. It was pretty damn cool to see him ride with the same fire that’s burned inside for all those years. But, in saying that, I never witnessed anything close to what we’ve seen from Mr. Friese.
This is going to date me, but it’s one of my all-time favorite movies…
Harry Hogge from Days Of Thunder once said
“no, no, he didn’t slam you, he didn’t bump you, he didn’t nudge you… he *rubbed* you. And rubbin, son, is racin’.”
I grew up in a NASCAR household where we watched every Sunday, and that’s most likely where my love of racing developed. My Dad raced stock cars when I was about 5 or 6 which cemented this passion for racing that still runs deep today. So, it was almost normal for me to see “rough” racing throughout my childhood. To this day, the short tracks of Martinsville and Bristol are my favorite races because it absolutely delivers in the aggressive racing department. I didn’t start racing a dirt bike until I was about 12 years old, but it never really crossed my mind in my early racing career that rough or aggressive racing took place in motocross. I knew what it looked like in a race car but transferring that to a dirt bike seemed sketchy as hell to me! We don’t have a cage, we aren’t strapped into a seat with a 5 point harness, and at the time, we were all new to this dirt bike thing.
Over the years, through my racing and more particularly my mechanic career, I’ve been to some places and seen some things that have allowed me to have a rather deep understanding of what we call rubbin’ or aggressive racing and what the difference is versus dirty racing.
In my opinion, there is absolutely nothing wrong with aggressive racing. But, with the speeds of today’s top pros, and the tracks flowing like hot lava, it’s sometimes the only way to make a pass. There is a fine line that differentiates between rough racing and dirty racing. To me, rough is running it in on a rider, a little bump, a block pass, etc, with minimal contact. It’s actually a pretty unique skill to be able to move guys out of your way as you’re coming through the pack without any major contact. Where it becomes dirty, is when it is unnecessary. By that I mean, is/was putting the rider on the ground, or punting them over the berm needed? Could the rider have gotten around the other rider without doing that? In many instances, yes, but not always. There is an unwritten etiquette that most riders abide by, and that’s just simply being respectful to your competitors by racing hard, but clean.
Now where it really crosses the line for me, is when the intent to injure becomes clear to see. No one is out here to get hurt, and you should absolutely, definitely, 100% not be on the track if you’re out there to hurt someone else. Intentional or not, you are responsible for your actions on track just as you are off the track as a normal citizen. Nine out of ten times no one is trying to hurt anyone, but, every decision made as a rider has a consequence, good or bad. Sometimes those decisions put themselves and/or other riders at risk.
This is where ol Vinny comes into play. This guy has been around for a long, long time. According to the Google machine, his professional career began just over a decade ago. Racing this long, at this level, in this day in age makes me want to believe he has molded himself a successful, solid career, which he has. But, if you go back, to each season and follow along, Friese has used very similar tactics throughout his career. I remember my first year working Supercross in 2012 just being mind blown at what this guy was doing out there. And here we are 10 years later, same song and dance.
So that got me thinking. What the hell is wrong with Vince Friese?! This “good guy” off the track, has been doing the same shit his whole career.
Well, I don’t think there is anything wrong with Vince. This is a 1 million percent assumption or speculation for you “words-in-stone” kind of people, but I think Vince may suffer from some sort of neural divergence.
I am no Doctor, obviously, but I carry a few traits myself where things can become incredibly difficult to complete, such as a certain task a specific way, so I have to do it in a way that makes sense in my head. Or having something planned out a specific way, and one thing gets altered in “my plan” and that can throw the whole ordeal right off the tracks and I am unable to continue without struggle. That my friend is ADHD. Quite common, and incredibly under-diagnosed in today’s world. If you feel like anything like that happens in your world, go see a doctor, it can’t and won’t hurt, and it can potentially change your life. It did for me.
I feel like when I watch Vince, I see he cannot accept being overtaken by another rider. Like, it’s such a strong feeling for him, that mentally he just can’t adapt in the moment and that leads to making incredibly bad decisions. We all know that professional racers have a drive inside them to win or be successful but what happens when that desire or belief turns into putting others in harm’s way? One of the things that began this thought process for me is over the years I’ve watched Vince on the line. Hell, I’ve stood right there and witnessed this myself if my rider and he get a gate beside each other. Now, I’ve spoken about the jitters and nervous twitches of these guys on the line before, but Vince is in a whole other world. He turns his bars all the way to the stops several times, does a few other things, all the way up to the 5-second board. In my head, it’s got to be some sort of OCD-type maneuver that he “has” to do for whatever reason.
Lately, I have been doing a lot of my own research on mental health and what Doctor people call Neurodivergent minds. Long story short, it’s an entirely different thought process and perception in comparison to a neurotypical, or, a normal brain, and it can create issues among many different aspects of daily life. Again, this is purely my assumption, but it all makes me feel like Vince may live somewhere in this vast world of neurodivergent minds. Leading him to make terrible decisions on the track due to an inability to accept the rapidly changing present. What doesn’t make sense to me, is why this has been going on for his whole career and nothing has been done about it. I think I can speak on behalf of most of us in saying I hope this stuff starts to mellow out and he at least tries to figure out the why. Because sometimes it’s just dangerous. Our sport is dangerous enough, we don’t need to add to it with unnecessary riding. Stay aggressive, because you aren’t going to succeed in this world without that but do it responsibly.
In closing, I think Vince is among some of the best riders to race supercross and right now, he is riding great. If he just files the edges a bit he would be collecting some pretty appealing bonus cheques and gaining a little more respect in the paddock. Alright, I’m off to fix the broken record player…