Standing in the dark pits explaining what had just happened between him and Ryan Dungey in the East/West Shootout, Josh Hill was calm and rationale. Yes, while he had collided with Dungey, got the worst end of it, been forced out with a DNF and seemingly lost a race he very well may have won, Hill knew there were bigger, more important things ahead. Mentally, he had already moved on to them. Hill, just 17, came into the 2007 SX season with high expectations placed upon him. And once he gained a little confidence and hit full stride, he came close to meeting them, placing third overall in the West Region Championship. Now he turns his attention to the 2007 AMA Toyota Motocross Series, which begins next Sunday at Hangtown.
Josh Hill: I was just taking a nap. I’m up at a photo shoot at Castillo Ranch for the 2008 Yamaha brochure and decided to take a quick nap.
I only caught it out of the corner of my eye, but what happened between you and Ryan Dungey in Las Vegas?
I came from sixth place on the start and started passing people and looking for the lead. I felt great. I had the track dialed. I was really fast through the whoops. I came up on Dungey and went to make a pass and didn’t think anything of it. Making the move I did didn’t even phase me; I was just trying to take the lead and I think he just kind of turned into me and maybe didn’t know I was there. Then, something hooked on our bikes and the bikes came to a complete stop. I hit the ground and got up and went to kick my bike. When I kicked it the first time, black smoke came out of the side of the cases and the bike was leaking oil. I think something happened in the crash that punctured the cases.
Were you bummed at what played out?
Yeah, I still am. I was really bummed afterwards. It was just something that happened. Like I said, the pass I made wasn’t even something I thought about. I guess I was just pushing too hard. I just wanted to get by and get going. At that time I didn’t even know Villopoto was out or that guys like Jason Lawrence and Josh Grant were way back. I was thinking, I have to make this happen now. I need to get in the lead and break away. Now, looking back, I think I could have won that race. I think I could have worn Dungey down, but that’s all hindsight. I’m bummed, but I have a lot to look forward to. Now, I’m ready for the outdoors.
Uhm… I’m happy. To tell you the truth, as the season kept going, I don’t think I ended up riding that much better, but the bike got a lot better. After the last break, my starts also got better. Up until then, the one time I came out of the first turn in the top 10, I got third. Whenever I was up there at the start, I was up there in the race. But I can’t complain. I’m looking for bigger and better things next year.
Going back to the outdoors, your first pro national was at Millville last year. How did you feel going into that race?
At Millville I was not nervous. And the race wasn’t an eye opener or anything like that because I never even saw the leaders. In the first moto I was the last guy around the first corner. I worked up to seventh or eighth and ended up colliding with [Ryan] Dungey and hooked my foot in the swingarm and couldn’t get it out. So I dropped back to dead last and then worked my way back up to 19th at the finish. In the next moto I had another bad start and worked my way into the top 10, but then it started pouring. From there I just didn’t put it together in the rain. But I didn’t get down on myself. When I went to Binghamton, I went there with a positive attitude.
And you placed third overall…
I was pretty pumped with that. But the rest of my outdoor experience last season (the last four rounds he competed in following Loretta Lynn’s), it was like I couldn’t put it together. I also don’t think I was physically ready to do two motos. I don’t think the whole program was really ready. Even my team had not had a 125 guy since Kevin Windham a number of years ago.
How do you feel about the 2007 AMA Lites National Championship?
I’m pumped. I’m really pumped on my bike. The bike is awesome. The motor, the chassis — I love it. I loved it as soon as I started testing it. We tested the suspension on it four times and it was killer every time. But when we were through, we went back to the original setting. That was the sweet spot. The motor is also great. We struggled with it a little bit in the middle of the supercross season, but then it really started to come together.
I just rode it for the first time and I love the place. I think it’s already one of my favorite tracks. When I go there to race, my plan will be no different than any other race I’ve ever gone to: To get through the start and ride my bike as fast as I can. I’d like to win it. To tell you the truth, we’re all going into the season even and I want to win the championship. People might think I’m a long shot, but I’ve been working very hard.
Who do you see contending for the Lites Championship?
[Ryan] Villopoto will be the man. [Ben] Townley will be tough. Jason Lawrence, he can show up at a race and be a whole different kid—he can be an animal if he’s ready. Ryan Dungey will be super fast. Josh Grant will be fast. You can’t count anyone out. If I left anyone out here, I don’t mean to because you leave anyone out!
Can you win the championship?
I hope so, man. My family has put a lot into me and I’d just be cheating myself if I don’t put all I have into it.
Best of luck and thanks for your time. We’ll let you get back to napping.
Thanks, Eric. I’m up now. In fact, they’re all pointing at me to come back down and start riding!