Monday Conversation: Chad Johnson

November 5, 2007 1:07pm
It's a sure sign that Toyota AMA Arenacross is serious business when the winner of an opening weekend main event sounds like Travis Pastrana! Chad Johnson was as smooth in his interviews as he was on the track (most of the time). He used good starts to win the Saturday main at the Toyota AMA Arenacross opener in Des Moines and got his season with a new team off to a great start. Johnson has been a bit of an Arenacross lifer, so with new changes coming in for 2007-'08, we asked what he thought about those too.

Racer X: Chad, you won the race. How did you win it?
Chad Johnson: Hey I finally got a start. I haven’t been the greatest starter in my whole life. I shouldn’t say I got the holeshot , since I came out of the whoops in second place. Starting in the top 3 or 4 is definitely good for this race. It’s 25 laps now. My Thor Honda Tuf Racing bike is running awesome. The Hickman motors are running great and so is the Factory Connection suspension. My team owner Dave Antolak, team manager Chris Hunter, mechanic Ed Longacre, Danny Smith; they are all great people to be around. I just like going to the races and being surrounded by good people.
I guess you have this interviewing thing down pretty good.
It’s coming around. I am getting better. I used to be really bad at it.
This is totally a short first turn, isn’t it? 
Yeah this was a short start here this year. They had a start like this I think three years ago here. I don’t know what to say about it. It was definitely not your best opportunity if you are not on the inside. I really struggled to get starts. Fortunately I had some good gate pics, some good starts, and had some good races.
Was this a gnarly track? How would you score it?
It was, and high on the gnarly scale. It had a lot of different technical stuff and the catapult was real big. There were good rhythm section options, the whoops were a decent size, so it was a fun track to be on.
I didn’t see a lot of block passing and takeouts; did this track spread people out a little more?
It was a little bit of follow-the-leader. If you wanted to make passes, there was plenty of room available. You just had to be aggressive. I didn’t make the cleanest passes. It’s a small track so it’s definitely hard to be real clean. You had to do some rubbing.
Were you okay with the first turn going into the whoops?
Yeah, I like the whoops. I usually get through whoops pretty good. I go into them and get out of them pretty clean. If you go into them in the top five and you have some room and you are not running into people’s back tires, you are okay.
You had a championship a season before last, and have been doing this Arenacross thing for a while now. Was this racing like old-school arenacross?
No, it’s definitely new arenacross. Arenacross used to be big bowl turns, triple out of a corner, a catapult, a set of whoops, and a start straight. This track here has got whoops, then a tabletop section where you can have different options to go around. There was a dragon-back set of whoops you can go up then back down in whoops, then you turn right and there is a catapult and you turn left and you are back in the whoops. It definitely has more options, more track, more room to make moves.
Are you cool with the all-Lites format? 
I am heavier so I would rather ride 450s, but they bumped up the laps for us. I like the 25 laps. I work hard at it so the more laps, the better. 
You seemed prepared tonight. How are all the teams, as far as preparation, right now?
Way better. When I first started arenacross years ago, there were a lot of times we would show up at the opener and you haven’t rode your race bike yet. In the last couple years I have had my practice bike for three weeks now. We are definitely way prepared.