47-year-old John Dowd has been racing at MotoX 338 in Southwick, Mass. for 25 years. Only missing one year since 1987, Dowd returns to the sandy track each year in hopes of holding onto his No. 16 plate another season. We sat down with Dowd to ask him about what drives him to keep going, about how the track in Southwick has changed, and how his hometown race went on Saturday.
Q: Over the years, you've been known to have success at your local race at MotoX 338. But this year, you've proven that you can run well at other difficult tracks on the circuit. What has helped you keep that edge on other tracks?
John Dowd: Well Millville had those sand whoops and I think that helped me there. Sand always helps me. But I have been riding quite a bit this year. My son, Ryan, is really into it so we've been doing a lot of local races. I guess, earlier this season, I decided that I wanted to be in a little better shape this year at Southwick, so I probably put in a little more effort to getting in shape than I have the past few years. I made it through Red Bud and Millville and they were hot. Millville went pretty good. It seemed like a lot of people kept going down and me and Mikey (Brown) kept rolling around. I was happy to make it through both of those.
Q: How long have you been racing at Southwick and how has it changed over the years?
J.D.: I've been racing here a long time. My first race was in 1987. The track is very different from my first race because quite a bit of the track had to be changed. I believe land rights and such forced the changes. Back in the day, the track was really cool. It had what we called “sky hooks” and the infamous “frog pond” that was a steep uphill and downhill thing, which are gone now. The pit area changed from one side of the track to the other. But at the same time it hasn't changed. It has always been Southwick sand.
Q: Have you noticed if the fans change at all?
J.D.: I've been out here for so many years, the faces I used to always see have changed a bit. But I'm always amazed when I show up to a race other than Southwick, like this year I went to Red Bud and Millville, to see the support I get every time I show up. It really makes you feel good. I think in this sport, people are easily forgotten - out of sight out of mind sort of thing. But the motocross fans have been great to me over the years, they were great then and are still great. I love seeing the cheers and waves at the end of the moto, when I need it the most, its a good feeling
Q: What keeps you coming back to the races year after year?
J.D.: I think there are a bunch of reasons. The number thing is one. Ever since they did that deal where you had to get a point to keep your number, and then they raised the bar where you have to get 25 points, that's almost like raising the challenge a little bit. But also it's a little bit of a personal thing to see if I can still go out there and do well. I still love riding. I just don't love riding every single weekend. But that's part of the reason why its fun to come out to one or two. And now my son Ryan is coming up, he's 15 now and next year would be old enough to race pro. We always joke around that I need to stay out here long enough for us both to try and qualify on the same day, it would really be a neat thing. But man, he needs to hurry up, its getting harder each year.
Q: So when you aren't racing on the weekends, what fills up your time?
J.D.: I'm actually pretty busy these days. I own my own construction business, which keeps me busy. I really enjoy it. I raced full time for a lot of years and I totally enjoyed my racing career, but its also neat to run a business. I'm around a little more for my family. My daughter does competitive cheerleading and with me working during the week its a little easier to get to see her events and go to family get togethers. Obviously I spend time with my son, which brings me out to the track and racing, but in many ways I really enjoy having a normal lifestyle.
Q: Talk about your race and getting the 25 points you needed to keep your number.
J.D.: The race was awesome. Obviously, I love Southwick. I love it but I hate it. Its such a gnarly track, but it's my hometown track. We got some rain during the first moto, but it was more of a nuisance than anything. The rain we got yesterday (Friday), that changed the track. The track was little funny compared to normal. It had a lot of inside rut turns and they stayed all day, which made it a little more one-lined than usual. But it's just Southwick. And I just got enough points (to keep No. 16). The second moto was a little hectic. I actually fell twice and stalled the bike. I got up and tried to plug away. I got the points by the skin of my teeth, but I got it. I'm still going to go to Unadilla. I'm already signed up and my son is riding the amateur day, and he's really excited for that. It does take the pressure off and I can go and have some fun.