Brian’s first ride was with the Honda Chaparral team in 1996.


BRIAN, YOU WERE LIVING IN NEBRASKA WHEN YOU WERE FIRST INTRODUCED TO MOTOCROSS, RIGHT? Yes, I had a neighbor move in who was into motocross, so my brother and I just fell in love with it and were intrigued by it. I begged my dad to get me a dirt bike, but he would not buy me one. He was a teacher in the school system and never raced before. I had to get a paper route and earn the money. Then, I bought a Honda 50 for $300.

HOW WAS THE RIDING IN THOSE INITIAL DAYS? I rode in the yard. We had a little bit of property, so I had enough room for a small oval track in my backyard. I would build shovel jumps and just ride for fun. Later, my neighbor took us to the races, and that is when I found this whole new community that I did not know existed.

AND YOU BEGAN RACING AFTER THAT? We went to our first motocross race, which was in Winterset, Iowa. I had an old Yamaha 60, and my brother had an old 1970 Suzuki 80, and we went and raced. Instantly, I fell in love with it all—the competition and the aspects of a different community.


YOUR DAD MADE IT HAPPEN FOR YOU. He was the principal in the school district before going up the ladder and becoming the superintendent of the school system. At the time, he did not make much money, but it was enough so I could get a dirt bike. We had an old van that we drove to the races. We’d leave on a Friday after work, drive all night and sleep in the van. Then, we would race on Saturday or Sunday, usually in Kansas, Oklahoma, or Texas. 

Once I started racing bigger Amateur races, like Loretta’s and Ponca City, I started meeting people from California and realized that I needed to move there. Once I graduated from high school, I loaded up my dirt bikes and drove to California. That is how it started. All I had was a few things that I took with me.

WERE YOU GETTING ANY SUPPORT? Yes. When I headed out, I was on Team Green. I raced my first Pro year on the Team Green Amateur support team. I got bikes and parts and had to pay for everything else. In 1995, I went to a Honda privateer team with Chad Pederson. I did that for a year and had pretty good results. I ran top 10 and ended up getting a deal with Chaparral Honda the next year. They actually paid for everything, but I did not get a salary. They only covered the cost to go to the races. It was still a privateer team. Our Hondas were not as good as the year before, though, and it was a bad year.

Brian in 1998 at the Las Vegas Supercross.

WASN’T THAT WHEN MOTO XXX CAME INTO THE PICTURE? In 1996 I had the Chaparral deal, and by year’s end, I was fed up with the team. They were corporate with too many rules. I was not allowed to do much, and at the end of the day, my bikes were slow. 

That was the era when “Crusty Demons” started, and all the videos were just starting to happen. I got my first true sponsor with Etnies shoes, who paid me a small salary. The whole freestyle movement was just starting. That was when I met Jordan Burns and all the guys from Moto XXX. They were in a punk rock band and huge moto fans.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT? I talked them into doing a race team. At that point, I realized it may be a career killer as far as ever getting a factory ride. I had tried hard to get on a factory team. There were times when I was talking to Mitch Payton about getting a deal, but the problem was that I never grew up riding Supercross. I never had access to Supercross tracks, only motocross tracks. I was good in Supercross, but struggled because I just never rode it. I was always on the verge of getting a factory ride but never actually got one. This was back when you only had four or five factory spots, and the rest of the guys were all privateers.


TALK MORE ABOUT THE EARLY DAYS OF MOTO XXX. My old mechanic, Kenny Watson, was roommates with Jordan. I told them, “Hey, let’s go get a box van. We will get bikes and use the team to promote the band. Let’s do something different. Let’s be the team that is more outgoing and a party-in-the-pits team. Be a little more out of control and have fun.” That is how Moto XXX started.

WAS THE PARTY ATMOSPHERE REAL OR MORE SHOW? The party lifestyle was there, but when you are racing, you can’t actually party. You must train hard and do everything right to be competitive, which I always did. I always worked hard. I got up every morning and ran five miles and then would go work out after.

I never had great equipment, but in 1997 I talked Moto XXX into doing this team. They bought Suzukis at the local dealership, and we got Pro Circuit to work on them. They were okay Supercross bikes. I ended up racing Supercross on them and would do three 20-lap main events a day at my friend’s homemade Supercross track. That led into that L.A. race where everything went down. 

Brian in 1995 racing the 125 West SX series on a privateer Honda where he finished 10th in points.

LET’S HEAR ABOUT THAT RACE. The L.A. Coliseum race was a big deal because I had worked hard at trying to be ready, and it was a back-to-back weekend double-header. The first weekend I jumped a triple in the qualifier, and another guy doubled it right as we were taking off. He crashed and fell into my bike, which ended up compressing a vertebrae in my back, my T-9. I ended up flattening it. It was hard to breathe, and I could not race that night.

THAT’S NOT A PART OF THE STORY THAT MANY PEOPLE KNOW. I was super bummed, because we put all this time and effort into the team. It was such a big deal and the first race of the year. I did not ride all week prior to the second race. I went to the race thinking that at least I could try riding practice. 

I rode practice, and my back still hurt. It took the wind out of me, but I ended up lining up for the race.  I remember on the starting gate, all the good guys were there, including Vuillemin, Windham, Ramsey, and Carmichael; everyone was there. 

THAT’S AN IMPRESSIVE LINEUP.  I remember being on the starting gate, and the clutch was so bad that the bike kept lunging forward. The whole pack pushed out. I went tight around the inside and came out in third or fourth place. I was pumped but also nervous. But I had trained super hard, was in shape, and I was riding well. Then, the next thing you know, I start catching the leaders. Some of the guys were fading bad. I remember catching leader Robbie Reynard and thinking, “I am going to pass him.”

Brian with his son Haiden at his Pro National debut at Fox Raceway in 2022.

WHERE DID YOU PASS REYNARD? I remember coming down the peristyle, right behind him, hitting the triple and passing him in the air. I could hear the crowd go crazy. I can still hear it today! I got into the lead and was trying to focus hard on hitting the lines, doing the jumps, and trying not to think about the fact that I was leading the race. I knew Kevin Windham was behind me and that he was coming. As I headed towards the finish line, I thought, “I don’t know what to do.” If I knew how to backflip at the time, I would have probably tried that! 

YOU FELT THE NEED TO MAKE A BIG STATEMENT? Yes, as I hit the finish jump, I just let go and ghost rode my bike over the finish jump. It landed perfectly, rolled away and fell to the side of the track. The finish line was a big double, not a tabletop. I landed hard on the ground, but I was so pumped that I won I didn’t feel it. It was a big sigh of relief. Then it was just cool because we were the privateer team that no one expected to win. It made a massive statement. 

BUT, IT WAS PRETTY CONTROVERSIAL, AND YOU COULD HAVE BEEN DISQUALIFIED. My mechanic Kenny Watson was running up the finish line as I was finishing, and the bike almost T-boned him. It is true that we did a lot of things that you would not get away with today. The crazy thing is that after we pulled the bike apart, the cylinder nickel plating was coming off and the ring was breaking that last lap, so I got lucky. 

I got back on the bike and rode to the podium. When I was interviewed, I said, “I want to thank my pit crew and my dad for coming out to watch me kick everyone’s [butt].” At the time, it was a very punk interview.

DO PEOPLE STILL ASK YOU ABOUT THAT WIN? To this day, out of everything I have done, that is the one thing that I hear the most from the older guys. I will be at the grocery store, and they will say, “Dude, I was there that night when you ghost rode your bike.” It is crazy how many people were there to see that, and they don’t forget about it because nothing like that had ever been done before or after. 

WHAT DID SUZUKI SAY? I remember Pat Alexander from Suzuki. As I was getting on the podium, he handed me a Suzuki hat. I did not know any better, and I put it on. I was so mad at myself after that. I thought, “Why did I put that Suzuki hat on? They did not give me one single part. They did not help me at all.”

After Brian won his first SX race, he didn’t get any factory help and decided to take a different direction into freestyle, which propelled his career.

DID SUZUKI EVER OFFER YOU ANYTHING? It never happened. I still wanted a factory ride. I felt I deserved a ride. Outdoors, I could run top five or top 10 on a privateer Suzuki bike, which was a pile. I thought, “Man, I deserve a factory ride.”  

Timmy Ferry was on Factory Suzuki in 1997, and when he got hurt, his Suzuki RM125 was sitting under their awning. I thought, this is my chance. I am going to get this bike and race it. So, I talked to Suzuki and said, “I wore your hat. I support your deal. Let me get a shot on the factory bike. Let me ride the bike.”

WHERE WAS MOTO XXX ON THIS? They were not happy about it, and their position was, “We invested all of this in you, and if you leave for the factory team, we will lose all of our deals.” Moving to a factory team went against everything they stood for, because they were the rebel anti-corporate team.

THAT IS A TOUGH POSITION TO BE IN, BUT FACTORY RIDES DON’T COME AROUND VERY OFTEN. My dream was to have a factory ride. That is what I literally prayed about since I was 10 years old.  Every night I would pray that one day I would win a Supercross and get a factory ride. I had it written on my wall of goals. I talked to Suzuki, and they seemed interested in doing a deal and letting me ride the bike until Ferry got back. I figured I would go kick butt on that bike and they would keep me.

The next thing I know, I get a phone call. They said, “We gave Damon Huffman the ride.” My thoughts were, “Damon Huffman is only 15 years old. Why would they give him the ride?”

WAS THAT THE END OF YOUR FACTORY RIDE DREAM? That was the final nail in the coffin. I just decided that I was never going to get a factory ride, so I went full rebel nuclear on the racing. We just went all out nuts at the races, caused a bunch of drama, and made a scene every time we went to a race. We had a good time and did not care whom we offended or how it went down. We did not follow the rules. We just did things our own way, and I had a great time with Moto XXX. But, that molded me into a freestyle rider and got me doing the Moto XXX and Crusty Demons videos. Now, finally, I was getting paid to ride freestyle.

All of Brian’s kids are into racing. Here he is lining up with his youngest son Hudson at the 2019 Anaheim 2 Supercross for the KTM Challenge.

IT WOULD HAVE BEEN GREAT FOR SUZUKI TO AT LEAST HAVE GIVEN YOU A CHANCE. I always wondered why they didn’t help me, but now I understand. If I was who I am today, I would have gotten that ride. Today, I am a different person—more social, more positive and I don’t have a massive chip on my shoulder. I feel like if I had played the game, was in the cool-guy group and had a relationship with the industry guys, I would have been fine. But, at the time, my friends were the guys who were shunned because they were a little out of control. It bit me when it mattered. I blame myself; I don’t totally blame them.

WHAT WERE THE EARLY DAYS OF FREESTYLE LIKE? That started with me, Tommy Clowers, Mike Metzger and Mike Jones, who all began as racers. Then, Travis Pastrana joined. He was the one who had the most to lose. He was a young factory rider who walked away from the sport to do things his way, which I have a ton of respect for. It was a whole new avenue of thinking. We created a whole new world. 

Freestyle motocross was like whoever was the craziest and wanted to do the wildest tricks would be the one who won the events. Suddenly, you realized, “I do not have to train as hard.” You could lead a lot wilder life than when racing yet make money (once ESPN was able to create a contest format and bring it to X Games).

Freestyle grew so quickly. I used to watch Tony Hawk, Dave Mirra, and all those BMX guys. They were big household names and had been at X Games since 1995. We came in 1999, and they were hitting like 20-foot jumps while we were hitting 100-foot jumps. We literally stole the crowd. The whole crowd came running when we started riding. I knew right then it was going to be huge.


WASN’T FREESTYLE OFTEN A GOOD VS. EVIL CONTEST? Yes, Pastrana was the star of the show, and he was the goody two shoes, so it played out well for the Metal Mulisha to be the bad guys. I felt it was better to do it as a group instead of focusing on Brian Deegan. We created that whole group of people who wanted to wear black socks, flat-bill hats, black shirts and black shorts. We created a whole clothing movement. It is funny that it was that powerful.  

WHEN DID YOU START DOING BACKFLIPS? Freestyle had been going on for a few years, and the tricks were very innovative by early 2000. Mike Metzger was the rider who mastered the backflip. He made it look easy. Once Pastrana started doing it, it changed the sport. Your freestyle career was over if you didn’t do it. 

I forced myself to learn it on dirt. It was very difficult to do when you have been a racer your whole life. To hang on to a dirt bike as you are fully looping out and forcing yourself to not let go is difficult.

DIDN’T YOU PIONEER THE 360? Yes. I got sick of getting beat by Pastrana, and I told myself, “Man, I have to innovate something.” The X Games was coming up, and I had seen Pastrana doing something that looked like a 360 on a video. I tried it in a foam pit, and I felt like I got it down quickly. 

I decided, “I am going to do that at X Games.”  Back then, you never did the trick until the actual event. You would wait until the event to do it for the first time and use the energy of the crowd. The ambulances are there. You have the TV coverage. So, if you do crash, at least it will be on TV.  

At the 2003 X Games, I did the 360 at the Coliseum, but the judges said it was after my run time ended. Pastrana went out and did it but crashed, which should have been the end of his run, but they gave him another shot and he landed it.

That was lame, but once again, it was the Pastrana show! I got to claim it, because I was the first one to do it. Later, I went out and won best trick doing it in the Staples Center. That was a cool year. 

Brian ghost rode his bike off the finish line after he won the 1997 L.A Supercross.

FREESTYLE IS VERY DANGEROUS. WHAT WAS YOUR WORST INJURY? I had a few bad injuries, and for one of them I backflipped in the wind, under-rotated, and my handlebars hit me in the stomach, which blew out my kidney and spleen. I almost died that day. I was on the East Coast in Pennsylvania doing the “Viva La Bam” show when I crashed. It took an hour to get to the hospital. The doctor told me before I went under that there was a good chance that I was not going to live because my blood pressure was so low. That was a massive moment, a reality check.  Before I went under, I prayed to God to let me live. That was my turning point of getting a second chance to do things right.

BY THAT TIME YOU WERE MARRIED WITH A FAMILY. At that time I had been married for a while, and my daughter Hailie was about 3. They called my wife, Marissa, and told her that I was probably not going to live. She flew out to the East Coast from California. By the time I woke up from surgery, which was a 12-hour surgery, she was in the waiting room. Marissa was often sick while at the hospital. We found out that she was pregnant with Haiden at the time, which was very crazy, because if I would have died, it would have been an escalating situation.

THAT’S WHEN YOU DECIDED TO GIVE UP FREESTYLE AND RETURN TO RACING. I missed racing badly because freestyle motocross was not racing. The X Games had rally car racing. I saw Pastrana doing it and thought, “I would really like to do that.” I rented a rally car and taught myself how to drive it. I took it super seriously and focused on everything I needed to learn to become the best car racer I could be. It got me back into that competitive mode. I ended up winning X Games in the Rally Car class a few years later. I went on to become one of the winningest off-road drivers in short-course history with six Championships. It was cool to get into a different sport.

DID MOTOCROSS RACING HELP YOU IN THE RALLY CARS? Motocross is the best foundation you can have for racing. Everything about motocross transfers over great for car racing.

WHAT WAS THERE ABOUT YOU THAT MADE YOU EXCEL AT WHATEVER YOU TRIED? There is nothing special about me, where I came from, my family or my connections; I had no advantages. The only thing I had was that I was just driven, not to do people wrong, but to succeed. There are no limits on what you can achieve in America. It is up to you. 

I failed at a lot of things; much more than people know about. I had more than my share of naysayers and negative opinions, but at the end of the day, I really don’t care. I have done everything I wanted to do, and now is the time for me to help my kids be successful. I try my hardest to help them get to where they need to be, and fortunately, they like racing, so selfishly, I have been able to help my kids be competitive at racing. I am pretty normal when it comes to parenting, marriage, kids and family. 

At first, Brian wanted Haiden to go the freestyle route like he did.

IS IT TRUE THAT YOU NEVER WANTED THEM TO GET INTO RACING? Yes, that’s true. When we first had Hailie, I was doing freestyle motocross. She rode on a little pit bike for fun, but I never pursued dirt bike racing for her. Once I started racing cars, they had a Kids’ class, and we thought that was good for her to start, as there is a great future for females in car racing. They are very needed and in very high demand. 

We wanted the best for our daughter. She liked racing cars, so I thought, “The best payoff in the racing world in America is to be a female racer in NASCAR.” There will be a female NASCAR Champion one day, but honestly, I don’t think NASCAR is ready for it yet. NASCAR is a “good ol’ boys” club. They like having a female in the race because it brings more viewers and sponsors, but I don’t think they will allow a girl to win.

HOW ABOUT HAIDEN? HE IS ALREADY A FACTORY MOTOCROSS RIDER. He has always loved dirt bikes. I told him to focus on freestyle when he was young, because I had a bad taste in my mouth from motocross. But when he was six, I finally took him to a motocross race, and he loved it. As far as his career, we try to put him in the best position possible for success. 

WHAT IS THE ONE THING IN YOUR LIFE THAT YOU WOULD PUT ABOVE ALL OTHERS? That is easy. The most important thing I have accomplished is having a family structure that holds together to allow us to raise our kids to have a good message and good morals. That is probably the most successful thing I have ever done. Personal accomplishments are cool, but your legacy is your kids!



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