Most people who ride sport bikes are intimately familiar with the impossible, come-from-nowhere save.
You've probably been there, riding too fast in a slow corner when the back end suddenly and almost simultaneously loses then finds traction, sending you Randy Mamola-like over the fairing and in a nano-second, into the path of an on-coming truck. Cue the violin music. Then, just as you start to flash your life before your eyes, you're kicked back into the saddle and the bike rights itself in an odd physics lottery that you just won. All is well. You actually get to ride home, and not in an in an ambulance with an attendant yelling "Breathe, damnit, breathe!" In your face.
If you're familiar with that situation, then you know just how Jason Pridmore feels tonight.
"Essentially, my season blew up in my face," says the likable son of a Superbike champion and author Reg Pridmore.
Here's how it went: Pridmore rode the Attack Suzuki in 2003 to some very impressive rides, putting the privateer Superbike on the podium in a fairly competitive field. Then Attack left the Suzuki fold and joined up with Kawasaki for 2004. Meanwhile No Limits left the Honda camp for Suzuki and Pridmore-long a Suzuki-man-signed to ride for No Limits in 2004.
Just then, amidst one of the most "vibrant and healthy" seasons on record, factory supported roadrace teams started dropping like anvils tossed from an airplane. No Limits announced that due to unforeseen circumstances, they'd have to cut back, and cut Jason Pridmore loose.
Pridmore tried to re-group and did an admirable job. He had the basic infrastructure to run a race team thanks to his STAR Motorcycle Schools, just not the actual bales of cash needed to sustain said race team.
It only lasted a few rounds, then the rumors started circulating that the next round of the series would be the last for Pridmore in 2004. Bigger rumors had him hanging up his leathers for good, and getting a plum broadcasting job with Speed TV networks.
"I was looking forward to a good year," Pridmore explained. "Then, you know, as I said, it just kind of blew up in our faces. We tried to soldier on, but ... you know, Ohio was supposed to be my last race. We decided that Ohio was probably going to be it. You asked me if that was true at Laguna, and I didn't know what to say. I couldn't even bring myself to talk about it, really."
Just when the entire race team side of Pridmore's operation was going to hang itself in the shower like that guy in An Officer and a Gentleman, Pridmore fell back into the seat and the machine righted itself. All thanks to this really tall fellow he plays golf with on occasion.
"I went to Chicago after Ohio and hung out with MJ (basketball player Michael Jordan). We've become friends. And we were talking one day and he said, 'What this I hear ...?' And I said, yep, we're done. He said, man, you can't just quit in the middle of the season." Pridmore explained that it wasn't a matter of desire to quit that pushed him to where he stood, but instead a lack of desire to have to file for bankruptcy, like several small teams have done in the recent years, is what provoked him into pulling the plug.
Jordan, whose enthusiasm for motorcycle racing is growing in leaps and bounds, offered to fund the remainder of Pridmore's 2004 season. Pridmore accepted. He's currently seventh-fastest in Superstock practice at Atlanta and is just happy to be riding at this point, and grateful to Jordan for helping him out.
"He's a great guy, he really is," Pridmore said. "And he's surrounded by great people. It's amazing, what he's done. I mean, how do you even thank a guy for doing that? I mean, I get choked up when I think about it."
Pridmore's Suzuki now has a Jumpman23.com decal on it; while HJC and Airtrix are flying in a special Carolina-motif helmet for Pridmore to wear tomorrow. (Jordan's alma-matter is North Carolina.)
As some enthusiasts unlucky enough to experience the come-from-nowhere-save are aware, it's good just to be able to ride again after coming so close to disaster.
"It gives me a head rush when I think about it," Pridmore said, laughing. "It's like ... we're cratering, we're finished, we're done ... then we're back! It's amazing.