Photo by Paul Buckley
John Dowd got a late start in racing but has sure made up time collecting fans. The retired pro racer maybe should only be considered 95% retired, since he still races his home track Southwick every year when the National circuit comes by. I thought it would be appropriate to make his first ‘Raiders’ interview about a photo from Southwick. This shot is from Southwick in 1990, when John went 5-9 for 7th overall and got 13th on the season.
THE EVENT: “Southwick is obviously my home track. I grew up racing there. It wasn’t actually my first race ever, but my second race I ever raced was at Southwick. I don’t know how many times ago that was, but it was a quite a few times. I think I raced there first in 1985… It’s my favorite track, and I’ve had good days and I’ve had bad days there, it’s always pretty amazing for me. And I say this quite a bit, but over the years it’s been amazing the fan support that I’ve felt, during the good races and the bad. Even until this day it still blows me away that I show up there and the people still cheer for me… It’s amazing, sometimes I can feel the hair on the back of my neck and the goosebumps just from hearing the crowd out there. It’s just the best feeling in the world… [re: racing only one race each AMA National season, and at one of the most challenging tracks] It’s kind of a weird one, because most of the other racers, I guess, they consider Southwick to be one of the most difficult tracks. To me it’s kind of the opposite. I don’t know if I’m just so used to Southwick from all my years but I go to Southwick and I don’t have to think much and I don’t have to adjust my riding style, it’s just automatic for me. I just know what to do when I’m riding in the sand. I go to a smooth, hardpack track and I have a hard time. I’ll get just as tired on a smooth, hardpack track as I will at Southwick. It’s kinda strange, it’s just I guess my riding style, I’ve just adapted to the sand…. I’m hoping to go race Southwick again this year. I guess at this point, I just feel like I’m going to go out and try to race that race each year as long as I feel like I’m up to it. So far I’m not doing too bad, I’ve been doing a few local races here and there. I don’t feel like a complete slob yet, so I think I’m going to go out and give it a shot. It’s tough, I never know what to expect. I don’t expect to be out front anymore, I’m not that guy anymore, nowadays it’s just getting to the point to see if I can still qualify and, I don’t know, grab a few points or something. That’s what it is for me now… [re: does he pray for rain when the national comes around (in 2009 he got second in moto 2 in the muddy sand)] It’s funny, I don’t necessarily like the rain, and the mud, and all that nasty, but over all the years in my racing career it seems for some reason sometimes I come out good with the nasty conditions. I don’t necessarily pray for rain because I feel like at Southwick I have more of an advantage there than I would at any other tracks anyways just because of the sand. But I don’t mind the mud, it seems that other people struggle more with the mud and the sand. It doesn’t’ really matter to me. The only thing I don’t like about the rain is it’s real messy, man, there’s a whole lot more stuff to clean up the next day.
THE BIKE: “I really liked the bike that year. That was the first year I was on Kawi’s I think and I believe that’s the infamous Buckley Berm… That was my first year I had a Team Green ride. I remember racing locally the NESC organization. There were basically four championships that could be won in the expert class – spring and a fall, 125 and 250, and I remember winning all four of them that year. I loved the bikes, I didn’t even do a lot of work to them. I think we just put a Pro Circuit pipe on and I rode stock the whole way. I felt comfortable on them, I thought they looked cool, it was kind of a, if I remember right, a new year [model], a whole new body style and everything… [This bike in the photo] is stock. If anything we might have had a little porting in the motor, but other than that it was completely stock and had Factory Connection suspension. I’ve been a Factory Connection guy forever, but that wasn’t a factory bike, that was a Team Green bike, basically a stock bike out of the crate and whatever I had done to it.”
THE GEAR: “I remember that gear. It seemed back then that pink was the in thing for a while… Throughout my whole career I was never really one of the fashion-conscious guys, so I’m going to guess that my sponsors, and at the time it was I think Dave Kaiser was the guy I dealt with through Answer and my longtime friend and mechanic Brian Berry, those two would always get together and figure out what it was going to be… I do remember they had put “Homeboy” on the back of my pants, I guess it was just something to the effect of Southwick being my hometrack, but I don’t know if it was really fitting. Everyone thought it was kinda funny at the time… [re: the pink gear] I think when I first saw it I thought, ‘Woah, that’s a little loud,’ but every time I look back at pictures over the years, it’s pretty cool. It’s definitely bright. It’s pretty clean in this shot, and I think you could spot it everywhere around the track.”
TODAY: “I own my own excavation business. I was very fortunate, I had a very good racing career. I didn’t’ make enough money to retire but I was able to buy some land… My son Ryan just turned 15 and he’s starting to take racing pretty seriously. He wants to go to Loretta’s this year. I’ve never really taken him out to any big races so it’s kind of a new thing and I’m sure it’s going to be a little nerve wracking for him, so we’ll see how he can handle himself with some of these bigger qualifiers. We do some local racing for fun, I’ve got a bunch of buddies around here who race, and it’s almost back to the no-stress racing again and it’s fun. We go and camp out and do little overnighters. Unfortunately I’ve kind of turned into a little bit of a fair weather rider these days. If it gets a little rainy or too cold, sometimes I can find something else to do.” Check out John Dowd at www.johndowd.com and check out he riding schools he’s been offering in the New England area. John Dowd’s sponsors today are: Chaplin Kawasaki (www.chaplinkawasaki.com) (local dealer giving him great support), Moose Racing, Shoei helmets, Smith goggles, Leatt, Pirelli, Part Unlimited, Renthal, Pro Circuit, Factory Connection, Moto Master brakes, Twin Air, Works Connection, Alpinestars, and Kenny G’s Performance Tuning. “Kenny Germain used to be Ernesto’s mechanic for all those years. He and grew up in the same town and we still live in the same town now. And his nephew Mikey Germain is kind of my son Ryan’s mechanic.”
PHOTOGRAPHER PAUL BUCKLEY’S SHOT: To order prints of many of Paul Buckley’s classic motocross photos (more are being added all the time), check out www.buckleyphotos.com