The FULL Story Behind the Photo | That Time Danny Brault Ripped the Sleeve off Denny Stephenson’s Shirt…
By Billy Rainford
…and Paid the Price is the rest of that title.
Everyone’s got their thing, it seems. You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all got a friend who’s famous for some sort of thing he or she always does and is known for. Well, with Danny Brault it’s ripping sleeves off shirts at functions. Seriously, he’s done it to some of the biggest brass in Motocross and paid the price.
We drove down to Maryland for the 2007 Motocross of Nations at Budds Creek back in 2007 and Danny left his mark at the after party.
This is, literally, one of my favourite photos of all-time. Talk about capturing a moment! Let’s just let him tell the story…
I went, I saw and, yes, I even ripped off the sleeve of 90’s SX legend, Denny Stephenson, at the 2007 Motocross Des Nations at Budds Creek, Maryland. It was quite a time. Here’s some background of how this photo came to be, which was taken at Sunday night’s after-party.
Since I can remember, I’ve always had a big passion towards the Motocross DES Nations and what it stands for. It’s the Olympics of our sport. As a racer nothing means more in your heart than achieving victory for your country against all others — and in most cases proving your individual speed against everyone else in the world. Many things to be proud of when you win at this historic event.
So when it was announced that the 2007 MXDN would be headed to the US, at the infamous Budds Creek track in Maryland, there was no question that I would be attending … and trying my darndest to enjoy it way too much. Even though I was working as an Assistant Editor for Racer X Canada at the time, I requested to have the weekend ‘off’ so I could take it all in without the worry of deadlines. No press pass needed … but yet somehow we ended up in areas where guys without shirts shouldn’t be.
I had traveled down to Budds Creek with ‘Bigwave‘ Billy, Dan Stenning and my drinking partner for the weekend, ‘Crawdaddy’ (Adam Crawford). Billy and Dan stayed clear of Crawdaddy and me like we had the plague (and we probably did for points of the 3-night adventure) as soon we finished setting up camp on Friday afternoon. They had good reason, too, seeing as Crawdaddy and I ripped Dan’s shirt off as soon as we entered the pits. He wasn’t too pumped, since he had just gotten this new black RXC shirt. It did look sharp on him… but we apologized, hugged it out, and then shared a hot dog.
Billy and Dan were focused on getting some epic ‘shots’ from their first MXdN event (Billy had actually been to Unadilla in 1987); while Crawdaddy and I concentrated on getting the most ‘shots’ into us during the event. I believe we succeeded and for a couple of mid-20-year-old Canadians, there wasn’t much we hadn’t done or seen or stolen or crashed from our arrival on Friday morning to the final moto on Sunday. I’m just kidding on the stolen part… but we may have borrowed a golf cart on Saturday evening for a few hours.
As we were trying to decide whether to boogey home or stay one more night and head home first thing Monday, I got a call l from our snuggly friend Steve Matthes, the most prolific journalist in our sport, and like Morgan Freeman in Shawshank Redemption, he can get you anything, anywhere, anytime.
Considering all of what he had on his plate (pardon the pun), Steve took the time to call and invite his 3 lowly, no-name pals from Canada to the after-party. What a nice guy, eh? He is a gem though, really.
I honestly didn’t want to go. Seriously. My mind, body and soul were so damaged from the last three days, I just wanted to get into Billy’s Mizuno van, grab some fast food and drive excessively fast home into Ontario. No more, no more, no more! I had my fill! See you at the races….
I wish I’d stuck to my guns, but with little encouragement from my wingman Crawdaddy, who was dying to bump into Ellie Reed or Chelsea Langston at the party, praying one of them would forget how dangerously cool and fast their husbands are and fall instantaneously in love with this booze-filled, sunburnt super-fan from Havelock, ON. He was like Garth in Wayne’s World, dreaming of the blonde at Makita’s Donuts.
So off we went, like the Wizard of Oz we are off onto the Red Bull / vodka-covered road to meet the wizard … the wizard being Donnie Elmer Jr. ?
Even though I had to dig down deep, struggling to get through my first few, it wasn’t long before Cody Cooper and I were trading swigs of olive oil (initially upon the pouring we thought it was wine… then just went with it) and Ryan Villopoto and Ben Townley were covering the pits in cake, champagne and whatever else could be tossed or thrown without injuring someone…. badly. What a night!
There was a lot to look at that night, especially for this young moto journalist who was witnessing a side he had never seen before of his childhood heroes. World champs, moto wives, A-listers, B-listers, promoters, sponsors — it felt like being backstage at the Motocross Academy Awards or something. Overall, everyone was having a good time, in good humour, and it was cool seeing all these stars from around the globe letting their hair down for a few hours.
Then at some point, I spotted 1990 125 East Coast SX champ, Denny Stephenson. I grew up watching a lot of late 80’s and 90’s Supercross and Stephenson was always in the mix. During his title run, he was battling with guys like Mike Jones, Doug Henry, Jeremy Buehl and even the iron man Barry Carsten!
Stephenson starred in the infamous ‘Crusty Demons of Dirt’ as well, so you know he likes to have fun.
I just had to walk over, say hi, and annoy him with some, “Hey, remember when…” stories from his racing days.
Denny was cool, though, and he seemed to genuinely enjoy my observations of his career. Before long we were talking like long-lost friends. At least that was my perspective at the time as Super Fan Dan; for Denny, he was probably just wanting to go grab another cold one or chat up some pit tootsie. In all seriousness, Denny has been a genuine, down-to-earth and approachable guy to talk to. Did you know he lives in Nebraska and runs his own construction company? Well, you do now.
I’m not sure when or what was said, but suddenly, just like I’m at home drinking with my Douro buddies, I decide it would only add to the occasion to rip off Denny’s shirt sleeve. Before my brain had a chance to catch up, I reached out, grabbed onto Denny’s sleeve and tore it off like the idiot that I am.
Very, very happily, I realize Denny is laughing, not swinging his fist into me, or bear-hugging me to death (which would happen to me about 2 weeks later at the MGM grand when I ripped off Kawasaki Team Manager’s Mike Fisher‘s shirt at the Circle Bar. Yes, I’m a mature one…). Denny thinks it’s funny! Great, what a good dude.
A short time later, after all the sleeve ripping has died down, I excuse myself from the group to go use the washroom, and just as I turn to walk away … snap! In a blink of an eye, I’m standing shirtless and Denny and a crew of jokers are laughing their heads off (pretty sure MX101’s Johnny Grant and Kevin Tyler were in the mix).
“Sorry buddy, but I had to get you back,” said Stephenson while trying not to laugh and hands me back pieces of my RXC tee.
“These are the risks we take in this sport,” I replied. I mean, really, how could I be upset? What’s the price of a shirt compared to ripping a sleeve off one of your SX heroes? And having this tale to take home with me, and share with you fine folk.
It was the perfect ending to our first time at the world’s biggest motocross race. Ironically, almost 10 years later, I ran into Denny on Friday of this year’s event at Red Bud.
We were both up by the vendor area, getting pit passes, and I just had to say hello and see if he recalled our sleeve-ripping introduction from ’07. Ha, he did and even added that it was one of the most memorable races he’s been to.
We’ve got our motor home parked down in Lot B. Feel free to come down anytime with you and your pals,” offered Denny. What a gem, eh?
And it turned out to be a really good thing that my friends and I ran into Denny before the Red Bud party began, because only a few hours later, one of my friends ended up on top of Denny’s motor home in order to get a better view of the stripper putting on a show in Lot B…. but let’s save that story for next time, shall we.
Thanks for taking the time to give us the full story on this, Danny. That was one of the all-time best MXON after parties, for sure.