MO Exclusive: Chandler Talks!
With Larry Lawrence
Doug Chandler has been a very tough man to reach the last few days, but MO finally got through to the three-time AMA Superbike champ to find out the real story behind his return to the AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Championships on April 5-7 at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
Chandler, 36, from Salinas, Calif., is one of the all-time greats in AMA racing history. A review of his racing career –
- Was AMA Dirt Track Rookie of the Year in 1983.
- In 1984 began his road racing career to gain more points in the AMA Grand National Championships.
- In 1986 raced a Honda RS500 in AMA Formula One with sponsorship from World Champion Freddie Spencer and SuperTrapp.
- In 1987 switched to Superbikes and earned his first podium (3rd) at the Sears Point national riding a Honda.
- Finished the 1988 season ranked third in the AMA Superbike standings.
- In 1989 won his first AMA Superbike race at Mid-Ohio with Muzzy Kawasaki.
- Finished on the rostrum in every Superbike race, including four wins, and won the 1990 AMA Superbike Championship.
- Shocked the World Superbike regulars by winning a U.S. round of the series at Brainerd, Minn., and won another World Superbike round in Japan later that year.
- From 1991 to 1994 raced in the FIM 500cc Grand Prix World Championships. He never won a GP, but earned a number of podium finishes and earned his highest ranking of fifth in the series in 1992 with Suzuki.
- In 1995 returned to the U.S. to race for Harley-Davidson’s Superbike team. Suffered an injury plagued season and earned only two top-10 finishes.
- In 1996 he rode what many consider the greatest race of his career when he beat Miguel Duhamel in a riveting AMA Superbike finale at Las Vegas to win the AMA Superbike championship.
- In 1997 he won his third AMA Superbike championship tying the record shared by Reg Pridmore and Fred Merkel.
- Continued riding for Kawasaki through the 2001 season.
We reached Chandler Thursday evening (March 21) and he seemed excited (actually, excited is a relative term for the ever-calm Chandler) about getting back on a Superbike for the first time since the Virginia International final last year.
MO – Doug, why didn’t you sign with HMC Ducati over the winter?
Chandler -- We never could come to terms. It just never materialized, but it kind came back to us.
MO – When did HMC first contact you about coming back?
Chandler – I guess it was last weekend – not so much as a replacement (for Picotte). At first it started out about possibly them having a second rider, but then for some reason or another things changed and I ended up being a replacement.
MO – So before the whole Pascal firing thing came out HMC was talking to you?
Chandler – Yeah, about being a second rider.
MO – Have you ridden a Ducati Superbike before?
Chandler – Yeah, in 1993.
MO – In ’93?
Chandler – It was when I was riding for Cagiva in the GPs.
MO – You didn’t actually race a Ducati did you?
Chandler – No, I just did some testing with the factory team.
MO – With 15 rounds still left in the series do you think you still have a chance to get that record fourth title?
Chandler – I don’t know, I’m not even going to think about it right now. You know I just kind of want to get myself up to speed and see where we stand and then go from there.
MO – How much longer would you like to race?
Chandler – I don’t know, until I don’t enjoy it. I still really, really enjoy the competition of racing.
MO – So you could see yourself racing another two or three years?
Chandler – Yeah, at this point I would love to do that.
MO – Are you going to be signing a contract with HMC or is this just a verbal agreement?
Chandler – Supposedly we’re supposed to get a contract put together, yeah.
MO – When are you first going to get to test the bike?
Chandler – Tuesday.
MO – At Laguna?
Chandler – Yeah.
MO – That will be a good place for you to shake down the bike won’t it?
Chandler – Yeah, I’m very familiar with that track so we should be able to see where we stand.
MO – How about the Austin Blue Bayou team, were they talking to you as well?
Chandler – We’d talked with them this winter and at the time the owner didn’t really know a whole lot. Then all of a sudden he found out he could get the bikes and go racing so now they’re trying to put something together.
MO – So they had been talking to you about being the rider?
Chandler – Yeah, that was a possibility, but I had already talked to Mitch and we kind of had our deal halfway rolling.
MO – How do you feel about the whole Pascal thing?
Chandler – I hate getting into the middle of something, because I really don’t know what happened between them. I respect them both – Pascal as a rider and Mitch as a team owner. For some reason or another they were not able to see eye-to-eye.
MO – How long will you get to test before Fontana?
Chandler – Three days. Hopefully we’ll get decent weather.
MO – The fans will be happy to see you racing again.
Chandler – Yeah, I’m looking forward to it.
MO – Well thanks for talking with us Doug and sorry to bother you at dinner.
Chandler – No problem.
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