Monday Conversation I: Ryan Dungey

January 7, 2008 7:40am

While last year Ryan Dungey was busy proving that he had what it took to win, this year he’s busy proving that last year was no fluke. In his second season on the Rockstar/Makita Suzuki team (and on the circuit, for that matter), Dungey has laid down the gauntlet. For now, the Lites Western Region Championship chase goes through Ryan Dungey.

Racer X: This is your fifth supercross win in only nine attempts. What’s that about?
Ryan Dungey: What do you mean?

That’s a pretty stout statistic you have there...
[Laughs] I know. It’s definitely good to have five under my belt, but it really didn’t even hit me until you said that just now. It’s great, though. I feel like I’ve been putting in the work. This first race, it’s like a weight’s been lifted off of my shoulders. I’m going into the next round with the same strategy. It’s eight races, so we’re going to put it together. I’m trying not to make the same mistakes as I did last year. That wasn’t good.

Do you feel like last year was a good lesson to learn how badly things can turn in racing so that you can try not to let it happen again?
Definitely. Those three races [after the Eastern opener], I was just terrible last year. They were bad, but I learned from them. I was too impatient. I was always in a hurry, and I didn’t let things come to me. This year, I’m stronger mentally and physically, and I’ve been putting in the time on and off the bike. That’s at the top. I’m 100 percent there. I’m just putting it all together. I don’t know how else to say it. I don’t want a DNF. I know we can’t throw away points. We’ve got to be smart with it. Some nights, if we need to take a second, we’ll take a second.

How old are you, 17?
I just turned 18.

At your age, where do you get this mental strength and maturity – the ability to kind of compartmentalize what you need to do, and then go do it?
I think it’s just about realizing what I want. I’ve got great people around me giving me advice, like Johnny O’Mara. That guy has made me into a different person. He’s made me believe in myself more than I ever have. I don’t know where it comes from otherwise, but it’s mental. If you don’t believe in yourself, what are you doing here? I believe in myself. This is what I want in life, but we’ve got to take it one step at a time. It’s not all going to happen overnight. We’ve got eight races, and we’re going to be more consistent, and grabbing that championship will be nice.

I’m going to get way ahead of where you are right now: If you win this championship, the rules state that you’ll only have one more year in the Lites class and then you’ll have to be on 450s by 2010. Have you thought about that?
[Laughs] No, I haven’t. I’m just focused on the Lites championship, but if I get it, yeah, that’s all right. I can’t wait until the day I go race 450s. I’m really looking forward to it. But for now, if I only have a year left, so be it. I can tell you one thing, though – if I get that championship, that ain’t the end. We’re going to keep going and keep pushing and we ain’t stopping.

What was your off-season like?
After Steel City (where Ryan broke his collarbone), we just came home, healed up, did some biking and stuff. I was in California and Florida on and off for the off-season, and I went home for Christmas – that was nice – then came back out here, and before you know it, it’s A1.

Were you working hard the whole time or just chilling out?
We were on it! Bike rides, you name it. We were putting in our time, put it that way. Me and Johnny do mountain-bike rides and all kinds of stuff.

Can you keep up with him on bicycles? He’s a professional...
He’s a strong guy. He’s strong, boy! But it gives me somebody to chase and makes me stronger. We’re always working at getting better in our areas. You can always improve. You’re never good enough.