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By: Robert Janis

A Q&A with Jimmy White Director of the Kawasaki ATV Racing Team

Jimmy White, director of the Kawasaki ATV Racing Team

Jimmy White is the head of the Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team. A racing enthusiast, White was first associated with Kawasaki when he raced for them during the 1980s.

ATVSource: What is your background in ATV racing?
White: I raced three wheelers and four wheelers for Kawasaki in the 1980s.

ATVSource: So you were one of the first to race ATVs?
White: Yes.

ATVSource: How many were racing at the time?
White: There were 500 to 700 entries at every national event back then just as there is now. Then it just kind of went south in 1987 for quite a few years then picked up again gradually. And now with all the factories back involved again it has picked up tremendously, but it is still the same amount of entries as Redalins in 1986 -- about 600 or so. They had a little bit over that this year.

ATVSource: Did you race for anyone else?
White: No.

ATVSource: What series did you race?
White: We had the Mickey Thompson Stadium Series back then and also before the ATVA was formed AMA had a series that turned into the AMA National Motocross Series a few years ago.

ATVSource: How did you become head of the Kawasaki racing team?
White: When it first introduced the new TFX450 in 2007, Kawasaki asked Reid Nordein, who is the head of Team Green, to put together a racing team. Reid and I go way back to when I raced for Kawasaki. He was my mechanic. He took the head of Team Green,one thing led to another, and he called me and asked me if I had any interest in helping to put a team together. It has been a joint venture between the two of us. Itís been a real good mix.

ATVSource: How long has Kawasaki been racing ATVs?
White: The current model that we are racing is a 2008 KFX 450 that was first introduced as a brand new model in February 2007. So 2007 and 2008 are the first two years we have been racing.

ATVSource: When you raced for Kawasaki in the 1980s, did they drop it?
White: In 1987 60 Minutes did a segment on all the lawsuits on three wheelers and at the end of Ď86 Kawasaki, Honda, and Yamaha quit racing and dropped all their support for racing by Ď87.

ATVSource: And Kawasaki came back in 2007?
White: Yes. I donít know when Yamaha came back. Honda is now half-heartedly back into it. They are giving guys bikes, parts, and a little bit of money. However, they donít have a factory team at the races. Kawasaki came back in 2007.

ATVSource: How do you create and develop a team?
White: Iíve been involved with the industry with different tire companies who sponsor racers ever since I quit racing. So I guess itís just knowing who is young and who can be developed into a champion and just trying to bring together all the top and right sponsors to help us out and build from there.

ATVSource: So you have the advantage with sponsors because youíve raced before and they know you?
White: Yes. Most of them do. With most of them Iíve had over 20 years of a relationship with them. Not all of them, but a lot of them.

ATVSource: And that helps you get sponsors you have not had a relationship with?
White: Yes.

ATVSource: In terms of the racers, how do you identify them as the ones you want on your team?
White: Iíve been involved with sponsoring different racers when I was with tire companies. I was with Kenda Tires for five years sponsoring top level professionals and amateur riders. I stayed involved and kind of knew who was up and coming and thatís why we signed Josh Creamer the first year, and heís signed for next year, which will mark his third year with us. He was a first year pro. I think he broke the top 10 a few times, but not consistently, and we helped develop him.

ATVSource: Do you have an amateur program that helps develop racers?
White: Yes, we do. The same as what we have in the Team Green motorcycle division. We have in the ATV Motocross two different levels. Direct support from us where we help racers out with a discounted bike or free bike and parts--thatís the amateur and pro/am level. And we have our Team Green Program/Dealer Support Program that comes through the Kawasaki dealers. If you are interested, you apply with your neighborhood dealer; they send the application into Team Green, and we approve it or we donít. We have a certain number of discounted bikes that we use to help the dealers sell and they go to these racers.

ATVSource: The amateurs are racing for you or the dealer?
White: We want them to promote through the dealer network. If it is through the Team Green/Dealer Support program, itís for the dealers. The factory helps the dealer support local talent or other amateur talent.

ATVSource: And if these guys are good, they graduate to your team?
White: Potentially.

ATVSource: How long have you been doing the amateur program?
White: Everything started in 2007. Now when Kawasaki quit racing in Ď87 they had a support program for GNCC for a few years. And they still do through the dealer support program. I donít know how long it has been going on, but it has been going on for awhile. And thatís more for utility vehicle racing.

ATVSource: In what events will the Kawasaki Team race in 2009?
 White: At the AMA Nationals.

ATVSource: No GNCC or anything like that?
White: No, we donít have a GNCC team. We support that through either our dealersí network or through direct contact supporting different people different ways. But we donít have a Kawasaki team at GNCC.

ATVSource: What about desert racing? Do you get involved with that?
White: No.

ATVSource: Why did you choose the AMA Nationals Motocross to get involved in?
White: It gets the highest participation. But the main reason why is because of the notable recognition the Motocross Series gets. It seems to get the most press, the most mystic, and it is the most competitive. It is just something that leads right up our alley as far as racing against the other manufacturers is concerned.

ATVSource: What model ATVs are you racing?
White: We are using the 2009 KFX 450.

ATVSource: Why that model?
White: We are racing to sell that model. It is a competitive sport vehicle. Itís not race ready out of the box. But itís a recreational sport vehicle thatís as close to an out-of-the-box race bike that we have.

ATVSource: Do you use racers in the Kawasaki R&D program?
White: We will bring them in for certain testing.

ATVSource: Do racers go to other events to promote Kawasaki?
White: Yes, of course. They go to dealer openings. Our sponsors will use them for the Indy Show in February. Just different things that help promote Kawasaki and our sponsors.

ATVSource: So you send them to trade shows and that type of thing?
White: Yes.

ATVSource: And you send them to dealerships?
White: We try to. We try to work it around the schedule in whatever town weíre in if it helps to promote the race, Kawasaki, and the racer.

ATVSource: How can a dealer request a racer appear at his dealership?
White: Through their Kawasaki dealer rep. Thereís paperwork they need to fill out, and that gets sent to us, and we try to work it out in accordance to our schedule.

ATVSource: You said that some of the racing is done through the dealers. If they want to support a race, would you supply racers to do that days in advance of the race?
White: If the dealers request properly through the Kawasaki reps, yes. Weíll send our racers out, at least we try to. As far as what the dealer does with the riders he supports, thatís between them.

ATVSource: What features exist now on Kawasaki ATVs thatís due to the racing program?
White: We have an accessories catalog that is sent to the dealers that pretty much offers what we run on our quads. So you can get an accessory from our dealers or from our sponsors.

ATVSource: If I were a racer and you didnít know about me, is there a way I can alert you about me and get into the process of being chosen for the Kawasaki Team?
White: The best thing is that Iím at every race. I watch the amateurs. I watch every National and I watch all the other classes. So I am aware of anyone who stands out. But the best thing to do is to get a relationship going with your dealer because the dealers have a strong relationship with our bosses. And if they are at the Nationals and they want to race Kawasakis, they just need to come up and talk to me.

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