Joshua Varize had a lot of success last year in the 125cc and Schoolboy classes, going from a trio of 1st place overall finishes at Mammoth Motocross to getting the better of Ryan Villopoto in the 125 Dream Race at the Pro Motocross National at Fox Raceway. The Californian also put in one of the best performances of his career at Loretta Lynn’s in recent memory, winning multiple motos and clinching a pair of 2nd place overalls as a result. The Orange Brigade rider decided to move up to the 250 full-time following Loretta’s and not wasting any time, jumped straight into the A class. Varize had a solid debut at AZ Open and continued to build at various rounds of Supercross Futures on the west coast early in the 2020 season, but was unable to compete in any of the spring events due to a broken collarbone. Nonetheless, he’s back on the bike and putting in the work out in California as he gets ready for racing to resume. We caught up with Josh after a day at the track to see how his collarbone recovery went, what he’s been up to during the recent lockdown, and one crazy day at Supercross Futures in St. Louis.
So, you're just comin' off a collarbone injury at the beginning of this year? What happened there and how'd your recovery go with that?
Yeah, there was a Loretta's Qualifier at ACP (Arizona Cycle Park) and Saturday I did the 250 Pro Sport class and Sunday I did Open Pro Sport. On the first lap of my moto, I hit a slick spot and almost high-sided. It ended up throwin' me over the bars and I landed right on my shoulder and broke my collarbone. I was really hopin' I would be back for Freestone 'cause it would've been a bummer to miss it. It wasn't bad enough where I needed surgery but if I would've gotten surgery I could've been on the bike in two weeks if I wanted to. I usually see Dr. Steve Navarro and he recommended surgery but our medical insurance didn't recommend surgery, but our sports doctor outside of our insurance recommended it. So then they said we could do the surgery if we wanted to because an out of pocket surgery would've been $8,000 or something like that without doing it through our medical insurance. After talking to a couple of people and talking with Nate Ramsey, we just decided to let it heal on its own. It was still connected but it was broken through, you could totally see it, so we did that and I was bummed 'cause that meant for sure I was missing Freestone this year. We started the recovery process and every two weeks I would go to see Steve and after the first two weeks it was looking really good. He was really surprised by how it looked without surgery. So I thought I would've been good for sure in another two weeks to start getting ready for Cal Classic and upcoming Loretta's Qualifiers and then there was all this talk about if Freestone was going to be canceled and what not. I remember being like "No way, that would be crazy!" So I guess my timing couldn't have been any better to get hurt. I guess the timing was pretty good, right? After Freestone got canceled, there was really no rush to get back on the bike but I was itching to ride. We went and saw Steve at four weeks and I was hoping that I was gonna get cleared and we go in and I got told I had two wait two more weeks. I was so bummed out, I wanted to ride so bad! People are like "Oh, well you get a little break off the bike." But my break off the bike is going to the skate park or doing normal stuff in the gym where when you have a broken bone and you're taking a break off the bike, you literally can't do anything. You can't go do something to get your mind off of moto, so it was kind of a bummer to have another two weeks of not being able to do anything. Then that two weeks went by finally and after about a week and a half it was raining and raining. I live right by the Canyon Lake area and I can pretty much just ride right into the hills and I wanted to go so bad. I just went on a little trail ride with a couple of my buddies and I went to see Steve a few days after and I told him "I went trail riding," and he was like "I knew it. I figured you would." I got cleared and after that I was just stoked, I've been riding a lot. I finally got back into my normal schedule with training.
What was the riding situation like for you when you were able to get back on the bike with so many tracks being shut down at that time?
Once I got cleared, I think it was a couple of days after this whole COVID thing really popped off so everything was shut down and it was like a ghost town for a couple of days. I knew that the tracks weren't going to be able to be open so I know a couple of spots in the hills. After I got cleared I rode behind my house once and then I have a couple of other buddies that have hills behind their house, so we'd all kind of just alternate from each other's houses and did that for a while. Once the tracks started opening back up, I finally went to the track and I think I've only ridden an actual track like five times but I've been on the bike for a while. We rode in the hills a lot so it was really refreshing to get back on a moto track just 'cause I was over the trail riding stuff and having to use the clutch a lot, I was just like, I want to flow over jumps.
What were you able to do and what did you do during all the downtime you had when you weren't able to ride? There wasn't even any racing on TV to watch or anything.
Yeah, the first couple of weeks there was Supercross which was awesome and then it got canceled and that was like "Dude, is this really happening?" I go to a CrossFit gym like twenty minutes away from me in Lake Elsinore and I just go there and I take my brother. You know, I'd drive him to the gym and I'd usually just kind of sit on a spin bike and chill. I would still try to stay moving but not do any jogging just because of the up and down, I wasn't sure how that would go. I really did a few miles on a bike, that's for sure. That's really all I did, go to the gym and kind of chill out on the spin bike, and just try to rest as best as possible to get on the bike as fast as possible.
Last year at Loretta's you had some intense battles in the 125 classes and ended up coming away with two 2nd place overalls. Talk about your week down there in Hurricane Mills.
My whole week...it was good. I felt good all week and going from practice day into my first moto it was like a totally different track. I was like "Woah, this is insane" and I went down but still ended up getting 3rd which was still pretty cool. I was pumped to be on the podium. You know, I think the next day I won my moto and I always had good starts the whole week. I was maybe top five every start and once I'd get into the lead, I'd just look forward and go. When you're riding and you're at one point of the track and you can see the other rider out of your peripheral vision and each lap you don't see him anymore, then you see him on another part of the track. You have so much breathing room and after that you just kind of put it on cruise mode. When you put it on cruise mode, you feel like you're not going as fast but you're just so smooth and consistent that you're still running good laps. My very last class, I think it was 125 B/C, I knew I had to beat Gage Linville in the last moto and I think that's all I had to do. Honestly, I don't know what was going on with me in that moto. I just feel like I wasn't able to flow and I think that third moto was really early in the morning, so the track was still sloppy and the lines weren't really developed. I felt like I was doing better in the rougher stuff 'cause whenever it was smooth it was just wide open, like anyone could be up there. I was just really off that morning and I ended up going down actually with two laps to go or something; I was able to get 3rd still in that moto. In the other class, I really messed that one up. I won the first moto and in the second moto, I don't know what made me choose some gate kinda far outside. It was more towards the box but it was just kind of far out there, I got a really bad start, like the worst start I got that week. I had a lot of work to do and I think I caught up to 4th place and I went down on the last lap after the big sand sweeper. By the time I got up, I got passed by like four other guys and I was mad. I came into the impound tent and I was mad like "Dude, there goes my chance to get a championship in that class." I guess the best I can do is just come out 3rd moto and win it. I looked at the results and I noticed I was in 7th, but I thought I got 8th. We came to find out a couple of kids got docked a few positions, so I thought that didn't really change anything for me. After that moto, me and my dad spent the whole rest of the day doing the math like "If this kid gets this place and that kid gets this place..." So if I wanted to win the championship we knew that this exact order had to happen and that third moto came up, I got a really good start. I got into 2nd and I saw who was in 1st and I knew I could get around him, so I was being really patient. I was able to get around him and when I got into the lead, I looked over my shoulder a couple of times and saw that he was pretty far back so I thought I should be good and I'll still win the moto. It's been a good week. I come across the finish line and come up onto the podium and Hope (Stillmock) with KTM was like "You won, you won the championship!" I was like "No way! Are you serious? Please tell me you're being serious." and she's like "Yes!" So I was like "Yes! Holy crap, I can't believe that happened. What needed to happen happened, I cannot believe I just won!" I was just pumped and didn't really even know what to think and I knew if I won, something happened, like one of the top guys fell down. I heard the announcer say "No, wait!" and I was just like "Awwwww, crap!" I think there were three kids battling and Gage Linville was in between them both and Linville ended up going down on the last lap, so Jeremy Ryan got the championship. I remember when they said Linville went down I was like "Dude, he hasn't gone down all week and literally half a lap to go!" He ended up goin' down and I still got two 2nd overalls, but it would've been really nice to get a championship. I feel like I was riding good all week, but I felt good. I'm glad it wasn't like a 3rd overall and an 8th overall, it was two 2nd places and I was like right there. I felt like I was consistent all week but I just had some little mistakes that cost me.
What was your mentality moving up to the A Class straight from 125s heading into the AZ Open?
After Loretta's, I was kind of ready to get on the 250. We were waiting on bikes or whatever and I think it was like a good three weeks and I was like "Dude, okay. I gotta ride, I'm itching to ride." I really didn't feel like riding my 150 which is my practice bike. I was over that thing and I was ready for a 250, so I ended up riding that bike like once or twice and I finally got my 250s and on our way back home from picking them up we swung by Factory Connection and gave 'em my suspension. They were able to get it done in a day and I was so happy; I think we picked up my bikes on Wednesday and I was able to ride on Friday with everything the way I wanted it which was perfect. I was super stoked with that and I was just stoked to be on the 250. I was ready for the electric start and I was just ready for the four-stroke, I was really excited about it. We got a letter in the mail from the AMA that said I pointed out from the B class and I had to go A, so we thought that was weird. We talked to Nate Ramsey about it and I kind of thought it would be cool to go to the A class. Usually, you do the B class first, but if I wanted to stay we would have had to fight it in a way. I just figured Max Miller who I train with -- we train together every time we ride and we're always running identical lap times -- he was moving up to A, so I figured it'd be cool that we'd both be in the same class. We'll be able to push each other and I was kind of excited, I can make some extra cash on the side goin' to local races or something like that. I wasn't really stressing about it, I was kind of excited about it. What I was most excited for is how all the motos are timed, like how you go at 10:00 am or 1:00 pm or however the event is run. I was super stoked about that and going into AZ Open I got super sick, like bad. We drove all the way out to Arizona and I woke up the morning of practice and my mom wanted to turn around and go back home. I was like "No way, dude. We drove all the way out here to race, we're not just turning around 'cause I got the flu or whatever." You know, my throat was killing me and I was just taking Dayquil and stuff like that. After riding practice day, I think I sweated it all out and I was good. On the first day of racing we didn't race; we raced just the last three days. There was timed practice on Friday morning which sucked 'cause it was like 7 in the morning and the sun was in my eyes and super muddy. But I felt like I was pretty relaxed or I wasn't nervous for the first moto, I figured I'd never really raced the 250 on a national level and I figured I'd be happy with whatever place I got. I ended up 5th in my first moto and I was like "Okay, I'm pretty stoked with that." It's not like everyone was there, but there were some heads there. I kind of gauged myself off the top five. They were twenty-minute motos and it was a pretty short track, so we were doing something like thirteen laps. The worst part about everything was for sure how long the motos were. It was tough doing that but I felt good all week, so I kind of gauged myself off that and I knew what I needed to work on. I ended up with a 5th and 6th place overall, so I was somewhat there.
How'd the Supercross Futures end up going for you?
After the AZ Open, me and Max Miller started training on supercross to get ready for Futures and that was super fun getting ready for all that, riding supercross as much as we did. I've never ridden supercross that much in my life. Comin' up to St. Louis I was really excited to get the whole Saturday experience and race on Sunday. Man, I don't know what happened, I don't know if it was the fumes or what, but I got the worst headache I've ever had in my life! I felt my head start hurting and I thought I'll be fine and it got worse and worse and worse as the day went on. I get headaches a lot and if I don't control my headache before it gets too bad then it's too late. I use Excedrin and I didn't have any of those with me which was a dumb move, I take 'em everywhere I go. So I ended up having to deal with a crazy headache all day. I drank a soda 'cause usually caffeine thins your blood or whatever and kind of relaxes you and that still didn't work. I don't know why I never thought about going outside and getting some fresh air, but it just never came across my mind. I had a really stressful day; it was like a four-lap Heat and they only took six people and the start was maybe fifty feet long. You get out of the gate and the turn was right there, so you had to be far inside. So I got a very bad start and I was like "Oh crap, I gotta work my way up there." I got myself up there and I think I was in 4th and someone went down right in front of me in a bowl turn and I got stuck on 'em. I was able to get out of that and I was back in 6th and the track was so short. It was four laps which was insane, it was like a four-minute race. The last lap I messed up in a rhythm, I hit this triple but went too far to the right and I hit the hay bail, almost crashed, and I got passed and got 7th. I was like "Damn, dude. I gotta go to the LCQ," and they only take two out of the LCQ. In the 450 A race, I got the holeshot and won so I knew I could win 'cause everyone was in it was also in the 250 Futures class. In the LCQ, I have this screaming headache and I just tried to fight through it. There were two LCQs and I was supposed to be in the first one and I should've been first gate pick or whatever 'cause I was only one spot out of the transfer. I thought I should've been up already and they hadn't called my number so I go up and I'm looking at the paper and there's no 24 and I look at the second LCQ and there's no number 24; my name isn't in either LCQ. So I asked the guy "What happened?" and he was like "I dunno, lemme find out." The gate drops for the first LCQ, they're already gone and we're still in staging and he doesn't even know what's going on yet. There was another kid in my situation as well; they didn't have either of our names or numbers on the paper. We're both sitting there like if we're gonna go we're in LCQ number two, but they were already loading up into the gate. If you didn't have an inside gate, you were just going to have a bad race and it was four laps! I was stressing, I was freakin' out like "Oh my gosh, dude. There's no way this is happening." So we go through the tunnel and I'm telling the guys that checks everybody's number the whole deal and they're like "Yeah, I dunno." and I see the white flag come out for LCQ number one. So I'm like "I've got thirty seconds to figure out what's going on or I'm missing the gate." He's trying to radio somebody and they're trying to radio him back and the checkered flag comes out, so I put my goggles on not knowing what's about to happen. I see the thirty-second board guy walk out and everyone's revved up, holeshot devices set, and everyone's getting ready. The guy's just like "Go race!" So I was in the way outside gate and barely got my holeshot device set; the gate drops and obviously I get a horrible start 'cause I wouldn't even consider that a start in my opinion. I think I was in 4th and I couldn't believe I went there to get three points and I was going to get zero. First place ended up crashing in the whoops so I was in 3rd and I couldn't do anything from there. There was no way for me to be able to get to 2nd so after I pulled off I was so shook. I got back to where we were pitted and I was talking to my mechanic like "There's no way that just happened. There's no way we can let that pass by." I barely got on the gate and I was supposed to be the first gate pick, so my dad got back to the pit and we're all talking. So we talked to the AMA and after talking with them and protesting the whole deal, they said I could be an alternate and there was actually an open gate. I was pretty stoked about that so I was able to actually race and get three points, so I didn't go out to St. Louis for nothing. I ended up getting three points there and the next weekend was Anaheim II and I ended up getting my points there again. Long story short, I won my Heat there and got like 6th or something in the Main. I was stoked I got my points but the only thing that sucked is that I didn't have the invitation to Monster Energy Cup 'cause in St. Louis they took top three from the Main but in Anaheim they only took top two. I wasn't able to get either of those so we went to Glendale and tried to get top two there. I won my Heat 'cause now I knew what to do. St. Louis was super chaotic the whole day but at Glendale I knew what to expect and if that ever happened again I was going to shut the whole starting gate down and say "Hold on, let's figure out what's going on first and then we'll start the race, you know." (laughs) I went out to Glendale and there’s still a lot of guys there 'cause most people that didn't go to St. Louis went to A2 and Glendale to get their points. It was pretty packed and I think I ended up 3rd in the 250 Futures class. I ended up 4th but someone got docked or something, so I ended up getting 3rd. I didn't get the official invitation to Monster Cup but I wasn't stressin' about that. In 450 A, I think I got 2nd or 3rd or something like that. If I wouldn't have gotten my points in St. Louis, I did get the three points in Glendale so it kind of worked out both ways. It was cool to go out to Glendale 'cause the Futures was pretty fun.
Now that you're in the A class, were you planning on doing some of the Pro Motocross rounds this year?
Yeah, I was actually totally excited for that whole rule where you can do up to three Nationals. I couldn't wait. In March when I was healing from my collarbone injury, it was like the only thing I could think about. I wanted to get ready for Hangtown and get ready for those thirty-five-minute motos then this whole thing happens and everything is postponed and canceled, so I was super bummed. Today I was actually looking at my calendar and I saw Hangtown would actually be tomorrow and I was like "No way! I'd be racing tomorrow at Hangtown if none of this would've ever happened." It's for sure a bummer 'cause I was definitely looking forward to racing Hangtown and Pala 'cause those are two of my home tracks.
Do you know what your timeline is for making the transition to the pros full-time?
That's for sure still up in the air. If everything stayed as scheduled and we had a full year of A and none of this stuff was happening, everything was legit and we got the experience doing the Pro Motocross stuff to gauge where we're at and what we need to work on. With everything postponed and no racing, I would've loved to go pro in 2021 but it was depending on which one...like supercross or motocross. What I wanted to do was go pro at Hangtown in 2021 depending on what the thoughts were leading up to that 'cause usually that's what most people do, they race Freestone and then go to Hangtown. That was my plan in a way, I guess you could say, that's what I would've wanted to plan on. Now with everything being on hold, we'll go to Loretta's and figure out after that. It's for sure going to be crazy when that time comes.