GNCC Racing

Toolbox with .... Johnny Gallagher

Tuesday, August 26, 2008 | 12:00 AM

Since news is light at this time of year in the GNCCs, we didn’t have any ideas on who to contact for this weeks’ Tuesday Toolbox. Completely out of options, we bit the bullet and called Johnny Gallagher. Hey, it was the best we could do. The veteran ATV pro from Ohio absolutely lives and breathes this series, and he’s always willing to chat. Plus, this year he’s even back up front in the results, so you could say the interview was due, anyway. Johnny G does it all, from racing on his own, to representing tons of sponsors and companies, to working with fellow Yamaha riders Bill Ballance, Traci Cecco and Brandon Sommers. You name it in GNCC, and Johnny is doing it.

Nobody likes to talk GNCC as much as Johnny G.
Hooper photo What have you been up to, Johnny?
Johnny Gallagher: Since the last race, I went on a vacation, but I’ve also hit a bunch of AWRCS races, some OMAs, basically local races every weekend. I did some testing at Bill’s (Ballance’s), too, just trying to get ready for Snowshoe.

Every racer says the goal is to get some momentum before the summer break. You finished fourth at the last race in Somerset and just missed the podium, so you actually did that.
Yeah! I did, for the first time ever, I think.

What changed? And I only ask because I think that, unlike most racers, you actually have an answer.
Definitely the preparation before it. I rode every day for two weeks before that race. I got a good start, but I made a mistake early and fell way back behind the last place guy. But I never panicked, I just kept clicking guys off. At a national, it usually takes me a half a lap or a lap to get going, because I usually have a few jitters. But this time I was just blowing by guys and it was easy! I don’t know what it was, maybe it was the track, or maybe God just reached down and gave me a pat on the back and said “Here you go, boy.” It was definitely the best race of my life up until the last lap. But I’ll take that momentum and try to move forward.

But was it really just riding for the two weeks before the race that did this, or is it something else?
We made some changes to the bike and it made a big difference. But, and I don’t even know if I should say this because it’s going to sound so cocky, but, the night before the race, I coped an attitude. I kind of got sick and tired of some other guys getting credit when I knew I was on the same level of them speed wise. So I turned to Traci (Cecco) on Friday before that race, and I said ”˜When we leave the track tomorrow, people are going to be talking about me.” And she looked at me like it was a stupid, cocky thing to say, but I meant it, and it helped me in a positive way. I just charged the whole way and it paid off.

Earlier this season you told me you’ve learned to cope with the pain of pushing the pace late in the race, because everyone is going to get tired to some degree. Now it seems like you’ve taken even another step.
I know it sounds hilarious at age 30 to say I’ve learned so much this year, but this year, I put so much effort into my program and so much into my bikes and my training, and when you do that, you start to notice the little things that hold you back. So this year, since I’m so close, I learn more from even the smallest mistakes. Like you said, no matter how much you train, it’s brutal and you’re going to have to fight for it. It was just at Somerset, it was a totally different race. Mentally, I treated that race unlike any other race I’ve been in. Normally, I kind of play the race out in my head before it happens. I think about what place I’m in, or what the bike is doing. In that race I just simply rode every corner as hard as I possibly could. And the last lap I felt just as fresh as the first lap. I’ve never felt that good after a race! I ended up battling with my friend Taylor Kiser and getting him in the last corner, and now Taylor and I have been training and riding together, he’s even coming up to my house before Snowshoe. I told him that I want to do that to him again, but the difference is, we’ll be battling for first and second.

When I first came into this series years ago, hardly any ATV racers trained or practice. Now it seems like everyone is pushing hard. What is happening this year?
I think a couple of years ago you had guys coming in that changed everything. Obviously, you had guys like Bill and Chris that kept a whole bunch of bikes ready all of the time because they were riding the wheels off of their practice bikes, and they were pulling away from everyone. But you also had a guy like Ryan Morphew, who was running up front just because he was training so much more than everyone else. And Brandon Sommers, he was training more than almost anyone, and he was racing the B class. I think a lot of us recognized how much of an impact it could have. Some people that were close to me said, “You need to make decisions if this is something you want to do. If you want to just be a face in the sport, and a liason for the companies you work with, then ride you can ride when you want to ride and eat what you want to eat.” But I knew I had to focus more if I really wanted results. When you don’t give it everything you have, it’s hard to be consistent. You’re so far over your head endurance-wise that you’re taking chances and you’re going to make mistakes and have problems, even if you have speed.

Johnny doesn't just have sponsors. He literally works for each of the companies that support him, and vice versa.
Hooper photo

You mentioned you could have just been a face for the sport. I don’t know anyone who is more into GNCCs than you. Your family is into it, you race and work in the sport, all of your friends are racers”¦
This sport has been my life since I was five years old. It started when I first got a three-wheeler for my fifth birthday, and it was my dream to do this when I first started racing GNCC and won a championship in the Youth Ranks. I wasted a lot of time not putting my whole heart into the riding end of it, but my heart and my mind has always been on GNCC racing in one way or another.

What is your job during the week?
It’s hard to keep it all straight! It’s always focused on GNCC. I have so many hats, and some are wrapped into my sponsorship structure, some aren’t. I’d say PowerMadd, HMF and Fasst Handlebars are the ones I work the most closely with, but PowerMadd is the only one where I have a business card. I’d say there isn’t a second of my day that isn’t involved with ATVs and GNCC Racing.

Where did this connection with Bill and Traci come from?
The connection with Bill came from a guy name Gregg Goad, who was Bill’s teammate back in the late 1990s. Bill was pretty quiet and I was sure he hated my guts. We had a few incidents on the track and he would never even look at me in the pits. I told Greg that and he laughed. He told me that Bill’s just a quiet guy. Back then, he hardly would have a conversation with anyone. So through Greg I got to know Bill better, and we became close friends and have been ever since. Traci came into the picture in the beginning of 2006, because I was working with Bill and Yamaha, Lazurus Sommers at GT Thunder, HMF, all of those companies. She was with them, and I started helping her program.Once I started working with her, it seemed like I was just surrounded by Yamahas! For me, I was always with Suzuki because I was always so close with Jeff Cernic, he’s been a close friend of mine for a long time. But this year, he got a Yamaha dealership, so I was able to get on one. I felt faster on it immediately, and I think that’s a big part of my program this year.

The man friend of the Women's Class must do it all.
Hooper photo

Has all this focus on racing made an impact on the other jobs this year?
Absolutely. I’m a poor time management person. I’ve always been able to do what I’m able to do because I didn’t have a 9-5 job and I’m a single guy and stuff like that. So I have always been able to keep all these things rolling. This year I’ve had to get a lot more organized, to fit in all of that training and practice bike maintenance, to keep working on Traci’s bikes, and to keep up with my other duties.

For someone who is as involved as you are, how cool is it to see how far this sport has come.
Like I said, I’ve lived and breathed this sport, so to see it growing and blossoming and the factory involvement, and the TV coverage, and outside sponsors, and it just doesn’t show signs of slowing down, it’s amazing to me. And then you look at the young kids, like Walker Fowler and other riders in the Youth classes, it’s going to be awesome for them. I remember when I was 16 years old, when I was a B rider, I just wanted to be on that front row getting my named called out with the pros. I never even dreamed of getting on TV, or having so many fans knowing who you are. For someone who loves the sport so much, it’s just great to see that kind of growth.