Lucky 13 Cupcakes and More...posted Jan 21, 2010
Tags: Racing, Interviews All Article Tags
Melissa Paris started showing up on the racing radar in 2007, after only a few years of racing experience in the amateur ranks. Podiums in the WERA national endurance series and a podium in a USGPRU race during the AMA National Superbike weekend placed her in the national spotlight. Outgoing, attractive, and a fierce competitor not afraid of mixing it up with the boys, Melissa is going to go places in the racing world. 2009 was a great year, with a respectable placing in the Daytona 200, and she was able to qualify for the World Supersport round at Miller Motorsports Park, an achievement that would not be possible for many long time professional riders in the US. For 2010, Melissa will be supported by Motion Pro as she competes in the entire AMA Pro Road Racing series, and we look forward to a long and prosperous relationship with this amazing young woman.
Motion Pro: What got you into motorcycles in the first place?
Melissa Paris: I was always pretty fascinated with sportbikes, but growing up I never knew anyone who rode. When I moved to San Diego to go to University, my first boyfriend rode. He used to take me for rides on the back of his bike, and then eventually taught me to ride too!
Was it always road racing, or did you start racing a different way?
Nope… Always road racing. Although we do ride a lot of motocross too… I’m definitely better on the pavement!
Was your family involved in motorcycles?
Growing up, they weren’t. My Dad had some quads when I was in high school but they were more the utility type for doing work around the house. But now my Dad rides and my Mom got her license and rode for a little while too.
I have heard that the presence of your father at the race track makes you go a lot faster. What is that? Magic? Fear?
I’m going to go with magic. Haha.. No but seriously, I always want to make my Dad proud of me…ever since I was a kid playing Little League. You can just tell when your parents are stoked on you. I think I still thrive on that.
People always say starting to race in the dirt in dirt track or motocross is the way to start, and then go to road racing. What do you think?
I think it’s about right. I mean, realistically if you want to start your child out young, its easier to do in dirt track and motocross. There are more opportunities to race at a much less expensive level there. Josh and I talk about it all the time… There is just no replacement for race experience. Once you know how to handle yourself on a bike I think the transition to pavement is probably pretty easy.
What came first? Motorcycle racing or Josh Hayes?
Motorcycle Racing!!! Duh!
How does it feel to be the top female motorcycle racer in the US?
I guess I don’t ever think about it like that. There is no reason a woman can’t compete in this sport at the highest level, so for me, no reason to designate by gender.
Do you think that it is getting easier or harder for women to ride motorcycles and race?
Ummm… That’s a hard question to answer. I think the barriers that hold women back from a lot of activities, (not just racing) are self imposed. I wish I knew why women don’t naturally have the same self confidence that men seem to have, but I like to think its changing. I do think that the more women that do ride and race though, it probably inspires other girls.
Tell me what you think about the social side of it, how do people treat you before/after they find out what you do for a living?
It really depends. Some people think it’s really cool… Other times you get a reaction like, “Yeah, well I have a real job”. Racing or not I don’t ever want to have to consider my occupation a “job”.
There have only been a few national level female professional racers, like Katja Poensgen, Jessica Zalusky, Jessica Snyder and Nichole Cheza. Why do you think women are so underrepresented in racing?
To me, the most reasonable explanation is just that most girls are brought up into “girly” hobbies. I grew up with four brothers and it never occurred to me that sports were either for “boys” or “girls”. That’s the way it should be… I’m very lucky that my family had that outlook.
What do you think the future holds for women in racing in general and for you in particular?
I think for women in general you’re going to see a lot more women at the higher level. There are more and more girls starting out young who will have a lot of opportunities. A lot of what holds me back is that I never even learned to ride until I was 20. I’m going to do my best though to accomplish as much as I can in the time I have.
Is it beneficial to have a professional racer as a spouse, or does he just steal all the attention?
That’s a good one. I get a lot of opportunities because of Josh. I could try to say I’ve done it all on my own but that would be a lie. In some ways it can be hard because there are things you just have to figure out on your own… and Josh wants to be a part of it all. Or other times when people downplay how hard I’ve worked and say I only get anything because of Josh. That hurts for sure… But we know the truth so it’s all good =]
How does it feel, to be in the spotlight, not only married to a prominent racer, but to have that light focused on you and your racing?
It’s good and bad. I like the pressure of knowing people are watching… That always makes me work better. I like high pressure. Sometimes though there are times when it’s hard to remember I better watch my language!
I know you are very focused on training for racing, are you one of those super motivated trainers, or do you have to fight to get off the couch and get it over with? Tell us something about how your routine goes each day.
I’m usually pretty motivated. We’re in one of those sports that you can’t do every day. I spend a LOT of time on a pedal bike. Usually (as in when my leg isn’t broken) we ride a lot of motocross too. I don’t like to sit around. I have a lot of nervous energy, so for me exercise is like much needed medication. Haha…
You have set some pretty high marks in your career so far. First female national road race champion, first American female to qualify for World Supersport, top female finisher in the Daytona 200, there are more, I know. What is the next big thing? What is your ultimate goal?
My ultimate goal is to have an accomplishment to list without the word "female" in it.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment to date?
My proudest accomplishment in road racing was probably qualifying for World Supersport at Miller this year. I was in WAY over my head and to be able to pull it out like that was really cool. I only wish I could have finished my race!
Contrast that with the low point....
I think the lowest points are always when things are out of your hands. I had a rough start to my 250GP season, but rallied midway through. I was in good position to fight for the championship when I broke my leg at VIR. To not be able to finish the season strong was agonizing.
When you are away from the track, do motorcycles still consume your life, or is your non-racing alter ego a different kind of person?
In a lot of ways, yes. Motorcycles do consume my life! But I do have other hobbies… and I really do cherish the time I get to spend with my family and just be a sister, daughter, wife, etc…
Do you have a fan club? Tell us something about your fans.
Not an official one... LOL! But I do have really supportive fans. I get the coolest emails from people and that really encourages me! When I broke my leg I couldn’t believe how many well wishes I got from everyone. It’s really cool. I think my favorite ones are from young girls who are just getting into the sport…
Now for a guest question from road racing legend Bubba Shobert, who wants to know “How you are able to go so darn fast without any balls”...
Tell him that Vicky Jackson Bell says, “Who needs balls?”
What’s your dream Melissa Paris promotional item?
Hostess cupcakes with the number 13 frosted into the top of them. Seriously.
Tell us about one of your pet hates.
Just one?! LOL! I don’t like it when people touch my ears.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a motorcycle racer?
Ummm... I have an accounting degree... So I’d be doing whatever it took to not use that.
This will be your first year working with Motion Pro. What attracted you to want to work with us?
I’ve been racing with USGPRU for the past couple years and Motion Pro has been sponsoring that organization for a long time. I look at USGPRU as kind of the grass roots movement bringing up young road racers here in the US. It’s a lot of parents helping each other out where they can. Not many people have a wheelbarrow of cash to take their kids racing… so it can be really hard. Motion Pro has been doing tool giveaways with USGPRU for a while now, and I’ve always thought it was so cool. They support this sport at the most basic level… That’s the kind of company I like to get involved with!