- Chris Palmer, ESPN the Magazine
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[Ed.'s Note: The Action Sports Report is a weekly blog that covers sports from skateboarding to snowboarding to FMX.]
Jason Lawrence is many things. Fast. Enigmatic. Controversial. He's known more for his off the track transgressions and brushes with the law than he is for wining the 2008 West Coast Supercross Lites Championship. But he aims to change that. He went a long way toward that goal by putting in what many motocross insiders are calling one of the most memorable rides in history by nearly becoming the second Supercross Lites rider to win a 450 Supercross event last week at Daytona, Supercross' holy grail. (He got second.) The man himself sheds a little light on that historic ride and his rough and tumble rep.
MAG.COM: Some ride man. You were able to lead the whole race until Chad Reed snuck by you at the end.
LAWRENCE: I know but I still have a great feeling from how that weekend went. Daytona is the most prestigious Supercross race of them all and for that to be my introduction to the 450 class was just awesome. I mean motocross has been my entire life and I've seen every Daytona on TV as far back as I can remember. To be able to lead the race until the last few laps was incredible.
You've been racing against guys like Ryan Villipoto and Mike Alessi for years in the amateur ranks and now in the pros you step up to the 450s and blew them off the track.
Yeah, I was feeling it. I just wanted to show people what I can do. You pretty much get to know people's riding style inside and out and learn exactly how to race that person. I just used that on the track.
It seems like the autograph line in the pits coming from your semi is as long as anyone's save for James Stewart. What is it the fans love about you?
I think people just like the fact that there is someone different as opposed to the robotic style of rider they always see. I'm real and they are attracted to that.
Some people consider you a controversial figure in the sport and everyone seems to have an opinion about you. Does that bother you?
It doesn't really matter what people think as long as I'm doing the things that are making me happy. Some people have issues with me but just as many people have my back. There's all kinds of stuff on the Internet and I look at it but I try not to get too caught up in what everyone is saying.
What's the one thing about you that people think, but couldn't be further from the truth?
I'm still thought of as a person that's just doing it on raw talent and that I don't care about the sport or work hard at it. People think I take everything for granted. I've worked my whole life just to be in the professional ranks and I've already won a championship. A lot of people think I'm just a punk kid who doesn't care or realize what I have going for me, but I clearly do.
If you could change one thing about motocross what would it be?
That's tough, but I'd have to say there should be lighter penalties on riders for what they do off the track. (Ed.'s Note: Last season the AMA fined Lawrence $25,000 and put him on probation following an incident with a rental car.) I think it's unfair the way I'm treated. It seems like once get in trouble once you're just kind of screwed for life.
So if people think you are a bad apple is that something you're consciously trying to change?
I just think it's about interacting with fans and showing people how connected I am with it. It's also about having a whole year of no mischief problems or on-track incidents. The situations I get into get so blown up because I've been in trouble before. I'm just living under a big microscope and it's something I'd like to get out from under.
44mMichael C. Wright