CARLSBAD — Rick Johnson finished second to Kent Howerton in last year's Superbikers motorcycling event. This year, Johnson says he's seeking redemption.
But that might not be easy. When today's noon race begins at Carlsbad Raceway, Johnson will be riding what he calls a "no-name bike." Johnson is between contracts, having switched from Yamaha to Honda, so he won't have a motorcycle provided by either of those companies.
"I'm not going to have the best equipment," said Johnson, an El Cajon native. "That might lead to my downfall."
Johnson is one of the top riders entered in the event, which will see riders compete in motocross, road race and dirt track heats. Other top contestants are Bubba Shubert, the 1985 Camel Pro champion, Jeff Ward, the 1985 Supercross champion and Eddie Lawson, who won the Superbikers a year ago. The entrants will be vying for $50,000 in prize money.
Broc Glover, perhaps the best-known rider in Southern California, won't be competing. He is sidelined with a broken wrist. Like Johnson, Glover is from El Cajon and attended Valhalla High School.
Johnson is a good friend of Glover, and can certainly empathize with Glover's injury. Since Johnson, 21, began his professional racing career five years ago, he has suffered:
--A broken collarbone.
--A broken shin bone.
--A broken wrist.
--A dislocated hip.
--A broken finger.
--And "a bunch of scratches."
Despite the fact this profession is clearly hazardous, Johnson can't think of a better way to earn a living.
"It's fun, but a lot of work," he said. "It's a lot more brutal than people realize. Your body takes a pounding--caution doesn't help.
"People ask me, 'When are you gonna get a real job?' There's a lot of training, preparation and planning in this--a lot of people don't see that. We're professional athletes. If you mess up, it's your fault. If you win, it's because you're good."
What's not so good is the constant travel. Johnson's schedule makes it necessary for him to have a suitcase packed at all times.
"Every weekend, you get on a plane, travel to someplace new and stay in a hotel. It gets old--I've been doing it since I was 16. But I love riding."
However, Johnson doesn't love riding enough to do it the rest of his life. He says he plans to retire at 28, then move on to something completely safe, sedate and mundane.
"Racing is in my blood, I guess," Johnson said.
While Johnson sees auto racing in his future, his immediate thoughts center around trying to win the Superbikers on his "no-name" bike.