JD Beach: Double Duty for 2019
James Douglas ‘JD’ Beach is an American road racing champion, a guy with two AMA National Supersport Championships, two Supersport Championship runner-up finishes and 30-plus professional race wins to his name. But as dirt track fans well know, he’s also a world-class flat track racer, with seven professional wins and oval and TT roots that reach deep into his youth and soul.
Like many top-level riders before him, legendary names like Nixon, Roberts, Lawson, Rainey, Graham, Shobert and the Haydens, Beach eventually made a move from flat track to road racing, which for decades has been where much of motorcycling’s money, attention, sponsors and fans had gathered.
Beach, who’s 27, has run the occasional AFT National over the last few years (he ran four races in 2018, ones that didn’t conflict with the MotoAmerica series, finishing as high as second to Jared Mees at Daytona), but being a key member of the Graves Motorsports/Yamaha road racing team took precedence. As a factory rider with factory rider benefits, that’s not a surprise.
Slowly but surely, however, things are changing in professional motorcycle racing in America, both culturally and economically. The mostly one-way trend from dirt track to road racing that’s been prevalent over the last several decades is showing signs of reversing itself, and one need look no further than today’s announcement of Beach’s full-time return to American Flat Track in 2019 with Estenson Racing as proof.
Beach’s plan is to run the entire AFT Twins schedule in 2019 on an Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07, and also continue roadracing, with details of his 2019 effort due to go public this coming Friday. This sort of double duty is not only excruciatingly ambitious for Beach and insanely exciting for fans, it’s also a first-class throwback to the days of the old-school Grand National Championship, when riders had to ride dirt track and road race for a shot at the title. (Think Mert Lawwill in Bruce Brown’s epic On Any Sunday documentary.) The respective series titles are separate these days, of course, but adding Beach’s name to the list of greats who did such double-duty in the same season – Nixon, Roberts, Shobert, etc. – is both notable and highly significant.
Three AFT/MotoAmerica race dates conflict in 2019, and Beach knows that, barring a medical-cloning miracle, he’ll have to choose one or the other. He says he’ll cross that bridge when the time comes, and probably make the decision relative to how he’s sitting in the respective championship series. But whatever he decides, it’s sure to be heck of a ride for Beach and the world’s flat track and road racing fans. We are all going to love watching this thing unfold.
We caught up with Beach at his Philpot, Kentucky home a few days before the big announcement to get a bit more perspective on his upcoming – and immensely ambitious – 2019 season. While JD worked on his Yamaha YZ450F, which he planned to run the following day in a two-hour cross-country woods race, he filled us in on his thoughts about flat track racing, road racing, training, his heroes, the differences between the two disciplines, his excitement level – and anxiousness – about running both series, and where his ‘Jiggy Dog’ nickname came from.
JD Beach, aka 'Jiggy Dog' (the nickname comes from his initials, which are short for James Douglas), will ride the entire AFT season in 2019 for the Estenson Racing squad. He'll also be road racing, which means Beach will be a busy man beginning in March. Photos: Scott Cavalari (lead) and Scott Hunter.
Double duty, eh? Very ambitious. Is this smart or stupid?
[Laughs.] Yeah, it’s going to be a lot of work. But a lot of fun, too! It’s going to be weird in a way. I mean, I’ve been flat tracking pretty much my whole life, but this will be my first full season flat tracking at the professional level. It’s a lot of racing, for sure. The only problem is the conflicting races. I’ll figure out what I’ll do when I get there. I want to do well in both disciplines, and I still have goals in both, so it’ll be a little tricky. I’m excited and anxious and a little worried all at once…probably not a surprise. But it’s going to be cool. Hopefully I can do well in both.
Is it difficult for you to jump back and forth from road racer to flat tracker?
It’s really not. Each helps the other, and it doesn’t take me very long to get back in the swing of things. A couple laps, really, and I’m back in the groove. Obviously, flat track racing helps the road racing, always has, for all the logical reasons. Sliding around, throttle control, all that. Plus, late in a road race, when I have to get around someone, I’m pretty comfortable backing it in if I have to make a hairball pass. But road racing helps my flat tracking, too, especially at the faster races where it helps to keep the wheels in line and where you have to roll through the corners, carry momentum and draft on the straights. It’s really not an issue for me.
You’re joining some pretty elite company: Roberts and Lawwill and Lawson and Rainey and Shobert, to name just a few … What does that say about you?
I don’t put myself with those guys, but it’s cool to be mentioned in the same sentence and have my name brought up in the discussion. At the end of the day, I just love racing motorcycles. It’s cool that I’m in a position to do both disciplines, and I feel fortunate to have the skills and support to do both. I’ll keep trying to push my name up into that level, but I’ve got a ways to go. For a long time it was mostly a one-way street; a lot of guys started out on dirt track, and then moved to road racing. But times have changed. Flat track is making a strong comeback, and I’m really excited to be involved in a major way again.
How did you get connected with the Estenson Racing folks?
It all happened through Kolby [Carlile]. He would come and stay with me and ride and train, and we became friends. When he got his ride with Estenson Racing I got introduced to Tim [Estenson] and the crew, and it was comfortable right away and it worked out. They’re all really great people and wonderful to work with. Tim kept saying he wanted to get me on one of his Twins, and I wanted to do it, and it finally worked out at Minnesota and New Jersey. I’d been riding the G&G Yamahas [at Daytona and Atlanta this year), and they’re great guys, too, but they don’t come to the races. Mikey Rush, who rode their bikes until he filled in on the Harley-Davidson team late in the season, would bring the extra bikes for me to ride early in the season, but he couldn’t later on, so the Estenson thing became a possibility, and we got to talking about it seriously. The [Estenson and G&G] bikes are pretty different… different frames, shocks, forks, etc. Also, the G&G bike I rode was a 700, where the Estenson Yamaha is a 750. They’re both really good motorcycles, but they are pretty different.
Can you tell us what type of Yamaha you’ll be riding in 2019?
Well, we’re not exactly sure right now. We were supposed to test next week, but I’m heading to Spain, so it’ll happen in December. There’s a cradle-frame bike and a lattice-frame bike, both of which I’ve ridden before, and then there’s a bike [Yamaha’s] Keith [McCarty] has been working on, which is really neat. It’s going to be interesting, and I’m sure we’ll end up riding whichever works best at the venue we’re at that weekend.
Beach ran this Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 at the Minnesota and Meadowlands Miles in 2018, though he and the team have three chassis options for 2019.
Tell us about Kolby and what you see ahead of him as he moves to AFT Twins.
He’s a very good rider and a great person, and he’s smart, too, so he’ll pick stuff up quickly. But with Twins there’s always a lot to learn at first. I think he’ll do fine. It’s going to be fun teaming with him and Jake Johnson, who I’ve known since I turned pro. I’m excited about it, and I know I can help Kolby get up to speed.
Tell us about your early riding/racing days?
My first bike was JR50. Just like Kenny Coolbeth! I started racing when I was three and a half or four. My dad Gary raced, and still does a little. I did 60s, 80s, 250s, then a 450. When I was seven I told my dad I wanted to race, and for a job. He went all out for me, really pushed me and supported me. And now I’m here. I started road racing later in life, when I was about 15.
What did you enjoy most about your four races in 2018?
Racing on the dirt is just fun, and as we all know, the Indians have dominated. It was fun to try and fight with those guys. I won races on a 450, but I’m still looking for my first AFT Twins win. It’s going to be exciting this year, for sure. I want to hone my skills, get the bikes dialed and get into the groove. Once I get in a groove it won’t matter what sort of track we’re on. If I feel good on the bike I’ll be good to go. If I’m comfortable it’s easier to ride on the edge, go fast and hopefully be competitive.
Talk about the Indian FTR750. Can you beat it? Ever ridden one?
The Indian is really good all-around, and no, I haven’t ridden one. I’d like to, so I know a little better what I’m up against, but the bike’s results speak loud and clear. From my perspective they’re able to get into the corners really fast, which tells me the frame and geometry is optimum, or close to it. They deliver power pretty linearly and smoothly, which keeps the wheels in line, which allows the riders to drive out of the corners really hard. It’s obviously going to be tough to match that, but it’s a challenge and it’ll be fun to try.
How do you train?
Motocross, bicycling, weights, running, diet, all of it. I own some land and have a motocross track on it, but without any jumps. It’s all turns, and it’s easier to keep prepped that way. I ride on it a lot to keep sharp. I also bicycle and run a lot, do some weight stuff in the gym, and I try to eat really healthy.
Talk 2019 logistics for a moment. Are you already planning travel and such?
I am, and luckily, a lot of the races are reasonably close to home, within 8-10 hours driving time, so I’ll drive to those. I’ll obviously fly to the farther-away races. I like to be home whenever I can so I can ride and train and enjoy my off time. It’s a lot less stressful for me that way, because traveling a lot can be a pain. It’s going to be hard, but I am really excited. But nervous and anxious, too. There are a lot of unknowns.
Any heroes as a kid?
When I was growing up, between four and 10 or thereabouts, I had this dirt track show on VHS. I remember it so well. Dave Despain was the announcer, and I probably watched the thing a thousand times. I knew who won each race, and back then a lot of the time it was Scott Parker. But then I attended an American Supercamp event and met Chris Carr, so when I’d go back and watch again and again, I’d root for Chris, knowing full well that Parker would win this or that race, but it didn’t matter! It was funny. So yeah, Chris was a bit of hero to me.
Who do you enjoy dicing with on track?
Growing up, I was always racing with Brad [Baker]. Every time I want to a national, from 2012 to this year, at Daytona or wherever, it seemed we’d always find each other, whether we were running first or second, or 10th or 11th. I’m a huge Brad fan, so that was always very cool. Riding with Jared [Mees] is also cool; he’s such a great rider, definitely knows what he’s doing.
Beach (95), dicing with 2018 AFT Twins champion Jared Mees at the DAYTONA TT back in March, where he finished a close second to Mees. Beach knows beating the Indians (and especially Mees) will be a huge challenge in 2019, but he's looking forward to the opportunity.
Tell us something we don’t know about you.
I live in Kentucky and have four beautiful Golden Retrievers that I love to play with when I’m not busy. When I’m being a smartass I don’t stutter. I can be boring like an old guy and go to bed at 9:00 pm, or act like a 12-year-old when my buddies are over.
Finally, where does your ‘Jiggy Dog’ nickname come from?
One of the instructors at an American Supercamp gave it to me. JD, my initials for my first and middle names, James Douglas … somehow that became ‘Jiggy Dog’. I guess it stuck!
Best of luck in the off-season and for 2019, and at the hare scramble tomorrow.
JD Beach during practice on the G&G Yamaha at Dixie Speedway near Atlanta back in April. He qualified fastest but suffered a flat tire in his Semi, which denied him a clear shot at his first AFT Twins victory.
Beach is clearly energized to be doing double duty in 2019 despite the pressure and crazy schedules, and feels fortunate he has the opportunity to do this. He's also excited to be with the Estenson Racing squad, which he feels is a good fit.