Justin Bogle: "When your back is to the wall, all you can do is start swinging"
By Eric Johnson | RACER magazine and RACER.com editor at large
Oklahoma’s Justin Bogle, the 2014 AMA 250SX East Region Supercross champion and a proven winner on the 450, has been both sabotaged and haunted by injury in recent years – especially in 2018, where as a member of the hard-working Autotrader/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing Team, Bogle only lined up for a handful of races. With all this in mind – and with a hit list of questions I scratched onto the back of a Taco Bell bag (thanks to the lady at the counter who lent me her pen), I started punching digits into my phone.
Q: Hey Justin, how’s it going?
JUSTIN BOGLE: Yeah, man, I’m happy right now. I’m good. I got a lot of things figured out, and mainly I’m just extremely optimistic about the future, which is really cool because there have been times, especially in the last 12 months, that have looked pretty bleak. 2018 is going to be one of those years that hopefully that I look back on and kind of remember as a kind of a dark period, you know? Racing and things on the bike and off the bike… it wasn’t good. So for me, personally, getting to the point where I’m at now is real good. I can’t say much about the situation with the next team just because we have a lot to figure out. It’s really, really nice to be wanted, and just feel like everyone around you is willing to go the extra mile – especially when you’re putting in that time. That makes it a lot more enjoyable. I’m really excited about this year, and the future, and even moving forward past this year. I’m really excited about it. I had a couple of surgeries last year, and a couple concussions, and some other stuff I had to deal with, so I’m back on the bike and I’m feeling stronger than I have. I feel good, man.
Q: Yeah, the injuries in the sport are ubiquitous. Can anything be done to tone things down?
JB: Yeah, it’s one of those things, man. It happens. It’s tough now with how close everybody is and how fast we’re going. The margin for error is super, super small, and I think that if you are not 100 percent focused at all times, it can bite you. A lot of it has to do with comfort with the motorcycle you’re on, your training, and being able to take a hit and keep going. I guess you could look at it like a lot of bad things have happened, and I’ve had more than my fair share of injuries in my career since I turned pro, but at the same time, man, it’s gotten me to where I’m at right now in this moment and I’ve learned more than I ever would have learned.
I’m still young. I get looked at like a veteran, but I only had a couple years on a 450. I’ve learned so much that I think that I’m very optimistic about the future. I’m extremely confident in myself. I don’t know, man… The injury thing is just learning and trying not to make the same mistakes twice, which I’d love to say I’ve never done before, but I definitely have. I’ve got an incredible group around me right now. That’s the biggest thing for me. A couple of these people have pretty much helped turn my life around, so I’m happy. Just having those people around keeping my head on straight, keeping my training right, all that stuff that just comes with being a professional athlete, they help with all the rest of it. It’ll all fall into place. I have a lot of like-minded individuals with me. I have my trainer Cory, and he lets us come and crash on his couch whenever we need to. I have Robbie Reynard and my agent Jimmy Button, who is more than just my agent. He’s a friend and someone we look to for advice. Everyone around right now is really motivated, and I know that they have my best interests in mind. I’m in a good place with the people around me, and that’s the biggest piece of the puzzle, I think.
Q: You alluded to a new race team [Phoenix Racing Honda] that you may be a part of come Angel Stadium in 2019. Can you speak to that?
JB: Yeah, I’m actually very excited. You’re always a little gun shy coming into something new. The unknown is always a bit scary, but Justin Amstutz at the team, I’ve worked with him previously and he’s been extremely helpful with us and he’s done everything he said he was going to do and I’m very excited about what we can do in the future. And like I said, a lot of optimism comes from that situation too. I think there is a lot of opportunity for growth, and if we get the right people involved in it, on top of who we already have, there is a lot of potential for great things to happen. The big thing for me is that I feel like I’m in a place that I feel like they want me, and they want to do anything that it takes to be successful, and back on a color that I have ridden for the majority of my pro career. You know, you have that gut feeling with things. Barring anything weird happening, I’m very confident that we’ll have a good group and a pretty cool situation coming into the new season this year.
Q: Sounds like the new team may be a work-in-progress situation…
EJ: Yeah, there are still some boxes that need to be checked, but a lot of that stuff is out of my hands. You know, after last year, I struggled so much. Even with the team. It wasn’t JGR’s fault that anything happened with me, it’s just that I was hurt. I wasn’t around enough to build a rapport with the team and to make a run at doing anything, I just wasn’t there enough. The vibe right now is very positive. There has been a lot on input with me and Jimmy and everyone involved as well, which is nice too because I’ve done this for a long time myself. I just wanted to do something different. A place like this is where we can do that.
Q: You go out there and perform and get the results, people will find you, huh?
JB: Of course. In all reality, that’s all that matters, right? All that matters is figuring out what it takes for you to get the results that you are capable of. For me, it’s learning, getting in the right situation, having the right people around me, and using what I have learned to figure myself out. Not everything works for everybody, so you have to go through those things and you have to throw darts until one of them hits. I think you can hit pretty close to the bullseye, and then good things start happening. You do good, your team gets more help and more funding, and things work. If you don’t do good, things go opposite most of the time. It’s motivating. It’s super-motivating. A lot of the people involved right now are extremely motivated because a lot of us got the feeling of, ‘Okay, we’re going to pass on you. You’re not good enough now. You don’t got it.’ Honestly, that’s a beautiful thing, because when your back is against the wall, all you can do is start swinging, and I love that position. I’ve felt that a lot in my career, and the times that I’ve done anything worthwhile at all have been at those times. It’s going to be a work-in-progress and it’s not plug-and-play like a factory situation is, but it’s all good.
Q: Here’s the thing, though. You’ve won a 250cc championship and you’ve won motos as well as a National on a 450. You know you can do it. Very few guys who go to the starting line at a race in a stadium or on a natural terrain circuit actually know, down deep, that they can win.
JB: Let’s see how I can say this without coming off wrong. I’ve always know that it’s going to happen. Even growing up, I wasn’t winning championships when I was seven years old, but I just knew it was going to happen. It was just a feeling. It’s a mindset, and I’ve always believed that I’m capable of being great, and right now what that points to is racing a motorcycle. It’s been pretty difficult with injuries and things not really working out, but I have come off the couch and done some things that I could be proud of and move forward with. I have a supercross championship, I won a couple of motos, I won an outdoor in 2017 on a 450 and I think that there is such a small group of people that are even capable of doing that. Not to come off wrong, but there is a small group of people that can even do those things and I think that if you get the ball rolling, it’ll be like a snowball and you’ll start gaining traction and get bigger. It just takes getting the right puzzle pieces to even fit together. That’s the hardest part about this whole thing. I don’t know, man. We all deal with the same stuff. We all have our sack of rocks to carry; it’s just that everyone is different. For me, I have my head down and I don’t have any distractions, you know? I don’t have anything else going on life. This is just a good place for me to be.
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