Mike Brown continues to outrun both his fellow riders and Father Time.
In a sport dominated by 20-somethings, the 41-year-old scored his first ever GEICO EnduroCross victory last Friday night at Las Vegas. It came nearly one year after the Johnson City rider and motocross legend won his first X-Games Gold Medal.
“I’ve finished second a lot, but I had never won one until last week,” Brown said. “But I’ve been riding better this year than I was last year. Hopefully, I can keep going now.”
Brown was fastest throughout the event.
He led qualifying, won his heat race and opened up a nine-second lead in the main event. He ended up winning by two seconds over runner-up Taddy Blazusiak, called by ESPN the best all-around, off-road rider on the planet.
At 41, Brown is nearly twice the age of many rivals. However, he showed plenty of endurance in navigating the obstacle-filled course for 12 grueling laps.
“I still love racing and when I’m out there I still feel like a kid,” Brown said. “I enjoy getting out there, beating the kids and doing my best. This year, I’ve just practiced more on the EnduroCross stuff and so far it’s paid off.”
Another move which has paid off is upgrading the size of his bike. Brown now rides a 350cc KTM machine, instead of the 250cc bike which he competed on last season.
“That’s probably the biggest change I’ve done all year,” Brown said. “I needed the bigger bike. You don’t have to ride it as hard in some areas, and in other areas, it’s too fast. But, overall it’s a better fit for sure.”
Brown has proven to be an extremely versatile rider, the AMA 125cc National Champion back in 2001. He followed notables Ricky Carmichael and Travis Pastrana on that list, and was national champion the year before James “Bubba” Stewart.
He has since added championships in Canada and Japan, and finished in the top three in the world championship standings for two straight years. After finishing seventh in the 2007 Supercross World Championships, he moved over to EnduroCross and won the 2009 WORCS (World Off Road Championship Series).
He followed that up with an X-Games silver medal in 2011. Last year was the gold-medal winning performance, followed by a fourth-place at X-Games Brazil two weeks ago.
His versatility pays off in EnduroCross where no two courses are anywhere near the same.
“The X-Games they have bigger tracks, more open and not as tight,” Brown said. “The courses in America are smaller. It gets a little tight on the 350, but this weekend it was a good fit for me.”
Due to a conflict in schedule, Brown may not be able to compete in the AMA Lucas Oil Pro Motocross National at Muddy Creek Raceway on June 1. A former champion of the Suzuki Top Gun Showdown, Brown hopes he can be part of the action when the Blountville track hosts the first national event in Tennessee since 1977.
“It would be awesome and I know if I can’t make it this year, I will make it next year for sure,” he said. “That’s a dream to have one of the biggest races in your backyard. I will do it before I finish racing for sure.”
Some of his contempories like Carmichael and Pastrana have gone on to race in NASCAR. Brown tried his hand at four wheels as well, running dirt-track cars for one season at Kingsport, Volunteer and Tazewell Speedways.
He had some success, even did well enough at a test session that one of NASCAR’s biggest stars tabbed him for a potential ride.
“One year, I was going to race with Boris Said,” Brown recalled. “Mark Martin was going to start a team and I was going to be a part of the group. I did a couple of tests, but it all fell through. I raced the late model dirt cars for a whole year back in 1993 and I loved it, but it was just so expensive to do it by yourself. If you don’t have a sponsor, it’s not worth it.”
Instead, Brown stays focused on the task at hand. He wants to add the EnduroCross championship to his sparkling list of accomplishments, although it could spell the end of his full-time racing efforts.
“That championship would be great to put on the resume’,” he said. “I don’t know what to do after that. If I win that, I may retire this year and start focusing on helping some of the younger kids coming up in motocross.”