IMS Press Release: Ten Minutes With Ben Spies

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway public relations office, unquestionably among the best in the world, are hard at it promoting this weekend's Red Bull Indianapolis GP. As part of their efforts, they today issued a press release interview with Yamaha Factory rider Ben Spies. The Texan talks about his season so far, his decision to leave Yamaha, and his interests outside of motorcycle racing. The interview appears below:


INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012 - Yamaha Factory Racing rider Ben Spies is one of five Americans who will compete in MotoGP class at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP on Aug. 17-19 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Spies, 28, from Longview, Texas, is in his third full season in MotoGP. He has recorded two career podium finishes at Indianapolis, placing second in 2010 with Tech 3 Yamaha and third in 2011 with Yamaha Factory Racing. He also won the pole in 2010 at IMS.

Spies was the 2010 MotoGP Rookie of the Year after winning the World Superbike championship in 2009. He won three consecutive AMA Superbike titles in America from 2006-08 before moving to the world stage.

Q: How has your summer break gone? Any time for interesting vacation spots or fun?

BEN SPIES: I have really just been enjoying being back at the house and seeing friends and family and catching up on what I have missed the last few months. I have had a good break so far, and I am ready to get back to racing.

Q: You have won a pole and finished on the podium twice in three career starts at Indy. What about this track suits you riding style or the Yamaha package so well?

SPIES: I think it is a combination, but it also seems to suit my style pretty well. There are a lot of left and right turns where it is pretty physical, and my size helps me out quite a bit. And this year I am looking more forward to it, seeing that Yamaha is a really good bike and we have a lot more power than we have had the last couple of years against the other bikes. We are a lot more competitive and looking forward to a good weekend and trying to get on the podium again.

Q: This season has been a tough one and some weird things have happened: broken sub-frame, broken swingarm, broken helmet visor and food poisoning. Have you ever had a season during your career with so many strange things going on?

SPIES: No. This has definitely been the worst season so far. But it can only go on so long, and we have been putting together some decent results. And when we have been in position, we would have put in some decent results if we hadn't had failures and basically out of anybody's control. Out of the tires, we had a broken seat in the first round and then a swingarm that broke and then the visor problem that I had. It is a lot of problems that are no one's real fault, and it has been a lot of bad luck, and we have also showed good potential, too. So I think when it comes together, we can be right there.

Q: Is it safe to say that you are more relaxed entering Indy than at any race in 2012 because you announced before Laguna that you were leaving Yamaha after this season and because this has been a really good track for you, a good place to turn around your year?

SPIES: I knew before the announcement came out it was a decision that I had made a while ago, and I know change can be good sometimes, and that is what I wanted. I have a few things on the table, but we are waiting to see which is the best option for next year. I wanted to get that out of the way, and I knew I wasn't going to be staying there next year, and I have had good memories and good races with Yamaha, and it is nothing against them. I just didn't think that we have been matching very well or working well together, and I want to be in a good environment for everybody, and that is why I made the decision and got it off my chest. Now I don't have to worry about anything, and I can just go out and get on the bike and ride.

Q: Riders often talk about a boost from racing at home. Do you feel it? Is the sensation even more pronounced at Indy because of the history here?

SPIES: Yes, for sure. Going to Indy, I mean, it's Indianapolis. It has the bricks and everything, and it has all the history. When you go there and it is your home crowd, you always hope your best race is your home race. Sometimes it is not always like that, but you always want to put it on for the fans. You have the fans, and even though there are so many riders out there and so many other riders that they respect, you want yourself up there the most, and you can feel it, for sure. When you are in practice sessions and you pull off the side to do your practice start and all the fans are just jumping and hollering, it gives you that satisfaction, and you want to come through for them.

Q: It seems that the Yamaha M1 has adjusted to the new Bridgestone tires better than the Honda or the Ducati this season. What about the bike has helped it blend better with the tires than your rivals?

SPIES: That is something that no one really knows because there has been so many changes with the tires this year and the 1000cc's. It has just been kind of a shot in the dark, and it seems like our bike is more consistent with them. I wouldn't say it is better, but I would say it is more consistent and it works pretty well. But we have also had our fair share of problems with them, too, and I think everyone has had some trouble.

Q: Do you have a timetable for announcing your 2013 plans?

SPIES: Yes, I know when I will announce something and when I announce it. Everybody will know, and then I am not going to feed any more rumors or get anything started. I am just going to wait on it and keep people wondering a little bit.

Q: You are different than some riders in that you have many outside interests. You own and ride for a pro cycling team. You are an owner of a popular restaurant in Dallas. Did this wider perspective help you feel more comfortable with you decision to leave a factory ride with Yamaha? Your motorcycle racing career is going to continue in 2013, but you also realize there's more to life than motorcycle racing?

SPIES: Motorcycles aren't the only thing. That comes in with not just the property that I do. I have a buddy, and we invest and we build houses. I have a couple restaurants now and with the cycling team and trying to get my hand in a couple of other things. But just realizing that due to family and other things like that, racing is my job, but it's not the first thing, and it is not the most important thing in life. Not many riders realize that until it is almost too late, and they have wasted a lot of what could have been. I have realized that pretty early and taking as much of advantage as I can.

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Everytime Spies opens his mouth about the future it sounds more and more like hes going to sit in the states and race AMA. I know that isnt true but he really does not sound like he enjoys travel. WSBK isnt going to be any better than MotoGP in that regard with their expanded schedule.

But is that one more thing he learned from Mladin? Mat had outside business, though they were bike related. Also, I had always thought Spies came from a working class background. Is this true or did his family, let say, have some extra change in their pockets? That would not change anything. Every time I've met Ben he has ben nothing but a humble person.

Ben's late grandfather, William Bennett, was the co-founder of Willow distributing...the largest Coors beer distributor in the US.

Last presidential election they spoke of John McCain being (by far) the richest member of Congress ($300+mil.) from his wife inheritence of the Coors distributorship in Arizona...and they drink ALOT more beer in Texas!!

Ben is as close to working class as Mitt Romney is.

If I remember correctly from Ben's autobiography...

Ben's grandfather donated his wealth to a charity; one that Ben now openly supports. He was not a man that lavished his wealth on his family. Yearly presents at Christmas that were no more than a couple hundred, and in Ben's case, went directly into his racing expenses. He did not support Ben's racing as he felt that if in doing so Ben got seriously injured or even, God forbid, killed - it would be directly on his own head.

Ben was raised working class and closer to lower class. His mother had tens of thousands on credit cards and worked several jobs to support the family and Ben's career. They did not have, and this has been emphatically stated, any additional financial help from family. His sister bought Ben his first car (he has since repaid that kindness by buying her a very nice car in the past couple years).

Ben's business pursuits have come from his earnings alone or he has arraigned business partnerships. His talents clearly do not stop at the racetrack.

Just because one member of the family is rich it does not mean the money trickles down.

... a little more sense, if there was a family for him to go home to.  I certainly don't know what makes the guy tick, but something obviously got to him.

Whatever makes him happy, I'm sure he'll be good at it.

To you he's just a motocycle racer, but that's like if the only thing that defined you was MotoGP fan. He's an entire person, and he does more than one thing with his life. Besides, family can mean more than offspring.

He isn't willing to be part of the impersonal MotoGP culture (especially at Factory Yamaha) and wants to have some more control over the immediate variables in his racing career. On one hand - good for him - on the other hand it will prevent him from becoming a real "superstar" - but then again everything is relative. Personally I think he does not have the full combination of talent and dedication that the Rossis, Stoners, and Lorenzos of this world have - but there is obviously no problem with that. His WSBK championship run is still one of the most impressive ever - Spies just has different racing DNA

I think the biggest reason for Spies to leave the factory Yamaha team was that he knew that Rossi was coming back and there would be no bike for him to ride. Everything else said by Spies is just to smooth things over.

...most likely the inside story here as Ben is not the type to spill his guts and really, it would not change anything and certainly not hurt Jarvis who has a winner in Jorge so it would only reflect badly on Ben. But there is bad blood between the two I would guess. Not surprising as Jarvis is responsible for the teams performance and Ben was not producing up to expectation. But I do hope the rest of the season goes well for Ben and he leaves MotoGP with something of his reputation restored.

WSBK is a different story (probably better with this 'comfort' dedication) If Tech3 could provide factory spec bikes then Spies and Edwards would probably be there even next environments, circumstances mean a lot for some people and it's good. Sometimes it's not the greatest moment to join even the best teams and if You can't build there immediately a team around You it's a lost game. For this kudos to Lorenzo who is the only person who broke Rossi's fortress and not sunk.
In my opinion in the comfortable team (as factory Ducati and future Suzuki seems to be) Spies would stay in MotoGP for some time.
If he's focused on his private life more, it's also good! There's nothing worse than do the job being at half zone out.

Jarvis on Spies = 2 points, he thought Ben needed more pressure to perform? Ben is a relaxed Texan, and Jarvis basically decided to ride him from the end of the last season.

A team manager needs to ensure that BOTH riders are doing their best, so is Jarvis a winner? Yes, but he's not been a good team manager as half his team underperformed and it was often equipment failure or setup. If JB and Filipo let down Rossi, then what do we say about Jarvis and Ben?

In fact the last time Lorenzo and Rossi were together Jarvis couldn't keep the peace, let's see what happens this time.

And God knows motogp NEEDS international riders, not just southern Europeans. Has Cal got a ride??

And it brings to my mind examples of manager/player relations in other sports. You would think a paid professional athlete can get on with the job he's paid to do without being affected by circumstances but in reality the internal relationship between athlete and organization is key to performance.

I've seen numerous times in professional basketball, (American tackle) football, and baseball were star athletes and whole teams just shut down based on the relationship with the manager. Right now, the Boston Red Sox, one of the highest paid teams in baseball and one of the preseason favorites to make it to the World Series, has completely collapse because of player/manager relationship.

A good manager is a good leader. A good leader knows how to motivate the people under them. What's good for one person may not be good for someone else. Some times a leader needs to use the "foot up the ass" approach to motivate some while others may need a pat on the back. Sounds a bit like a mother or teacher dealing with kids but that's pretty much what it boils down to. Hindsight is 20/20 but it seems that Ben didn't respond while to the added pressure Jarvis put on him and/or the added pressure and/or comments by Jarvis soured the relationship before the season really took off.

From every interview I have seen of Lin Jarvis this year, when he speaks of Spies there seemed to be irritation. A hint of disgust and always very short answers. Something went on behind closed doors. We may never know, but if I could find out I would. Spies does have the talent. Anyone setting Pole Position on a Satellite bike, while they were 800s is fast. Beat everyone but Pedrosa who was on a clearly faster bike. So the talent is there, the focus is not.

Stoner and Spies seem to both echo the same comments in some areas, basically saying, "Hey, I have a life outside of Motogp." Which in some ways is kind of knocking other racers. There are other riders with more family and definitely more life going on than either of them. Maybe not as many business investments, but definitely other commitments to people, (parents, siblings, CHILDREN). Which for Spies situation leads me to believe something happened in the background. Rossi signing seems to have been in the works for some time, and that cannot be discounted as helping Ben along in his decision. But I still think there is more to it than just Rossi signing. Spies dealt with Mladin for YEARS. Making fun of him, calling a coddled mother's boy and anything else he could think of while racing him hard on the track using every trick in the book to win, but Spies did not break. Now on the Factory Yamaha team where he should have broke out he seems to have crumbled, (bad luck aside).

Hope wherever he decides to go suits him better, (hopefully still in Motogp...even though that seems unrealistic to hope for). I would hate to see his talent disappear.

I don't know, if your thoughts are " acing is my job, but it's not the first thing, and it is not the most important thing in life." then maybe you really don't need to be in MotoGP in the first place.

While I'm not a big fan of Jarvis, it's not his job to wipe Bens arse for him - he has his Mom doing that already.

It's clear that Speez doesn't have the minerals to make it in GP, he's not dedicated enough and places GP racing at the bottom of his list of other distractions. It's just a job to fund more interesting longer term projects.

If he wants to be a business man with a varied porfolio of investments, fair enough..just spare us the sob story, man up and vacate whatever seat your'e keeping warm for a hungrier rider. Don't take the money under false pretences. Just move along and turn the pages of a book.

I should imagine Jarvis will feel justified reading this, despite Ben jumping before he was pushed..and I'm certain potential future employers will also be taking note.

The people he has around him who are part of the package, will surely make anyone think twice about taking team #11 on after recent goings on.

Well I just can't wait till he announces his future plans I think the supposed return to WSBK is as good as done but I think he is taking time to announce it. The way he has been treated at Yamaha is disgusting what from a broken seat cracked sub frame and most recently the broken swing arm at his home race. I also want to hear this too Ben dumps his crew chief and the other useless crew members.

The comments Jarvis made during the off season has affected Ben and got into his mind IMO.