After two consecutive weeks of Honda dominating the podium in Monster Energy AMA Supercross, Yamaha’s Chad Reed and Josh Hill quickly put a stop to that this past weekend in the final SX event inside Indianapolis’s RCA Dome, as the YZ450F-mounted riders went 1-2. It was Hill’s second runner-up finish this season, and if he continues to ride like he has, it won’t be the last. We gave the Oregon state native a call for this interview.
Racer X: What’s going on, Josh?
Josh Hill: I just got done testing here in California, and now I’m going to go back to my house for a couple minutes and get some food and then go to Ryno’s.
Your results this year read like this: 16-11-2-18-12-6-4-19-2. You have to admit, those aren’t the most consistent scores…
[Laughs] Yeah, it all hasn’t gone that great. The first two races went horrible. Something happened in the first turn in Anaheim, and there was something going on with my clutch and I could hardly even ride and got 16th. And then Phoenix, I don’t even know what I was doing; I just didn’t go fast. I got a dead-last start and didn’t pass anybody till lap 10. And at Anaheim 2 I got second…
Well what changed between Phoenix and Anaheim 2?
Nothing, really. I guess I just stopped being a girl on the first lap and just went for it. [Laughs] It’s not like overnight I just got that much faster. I just put it all together, I got a good start and went for it. I guess that’s just the difference, getting my head in it. Actually, before the year started, I thought it would come easier, really. I thought I had the speed to do it and I’m in good shape. I’m getting in better shape each race.
Is it tough holding on to that factory YZ450F?
Umm, I mean, the thing handles great, so it’s not that bad. It’s really good, actually. It’s a killer bike, but just the fact of racing with the top guys for 20 laps, that’s tough.
No, not at all! Sometimes I got out and I’m super fast in practice and I still get smoked in the main. For me, on a 450 you have to be so much more concentrated on what’s going on and so much more focused. On a 250F, you just survive the first lap—that’s your main goal because everyone is so squirrelly. You just survive it, and if you’re in the top 10 on the first lap of the Lites main, you’re doing all right. In the 450 class, that doesn’t cut it, those guys are just too quick and they’re out of there.
But it’s just a case of putting everything together. Actually, I had the flu for a long time, from San Francisco till Atlanta. In Houston, that was my deal—I think I could’ve been on the podium in Houston, but I just got tired. At Atlanta, I was going really good and I thought I was going to salvage a podium there, but I crashed in the rhythm section and bent my bike up.
What are your thoughts on the East coast tracks, since this is your first time racing on them?
I like them! They’re rutted, so it just adds another element into the mix, because riding on the West Coast you could go fast, but sometimes it’s like slot-car racing and you just pin it. You can totally tell who’s riding loose and who’s not, because if you’re not loose the ruts will bite you, for sure.
Have you found any situations where having a 450 with more power got you out of a jam?
I’m sure. Like, at Anaheim 2, that triple was pretty big and I wouldn’t be having any fun on a 250F. I just like the 450s a lot better. I have so much more fun. To me, no matter what, everyday I ride, it’s like I could still be doing something better because I’m on a 450 and there’s some way you can twist the throttle harder and go faster.
Last year on a 250F, I just got really burned out on riding. We were struggling a little with bikes, and I think I let it get to me more than I should have. And it just made me get burned out and the 450 just added a new life to my riding career. I was like 17 and on my spiral down for a little bit there.
[Laughs] Actually, I’m going to go buy a two-stroke! If Yamaha won’t give me one I’m going to go buy a 250 just to have fun on. But I haven’t stopped having fun on the 450 since I got on it. I think it just fits my style a little better than the 250F.
You’re tied with Windham for having the most second-place finishes this year. That’s pretty cool, since you’ve been looking up to Windham since you were like seven years old, right?
Yeah, Windham is gnarly! We’ve all seen the Terrafirma videos and stuff ever since he was back on Yamahas, and I just always looked up to that guy. He does stuff on dirt bikes that most people can’t do.
What’s going through your mind when you put a block pass on K-Dub? It has to be a little scary…
No, with him, I just think I have a lot more respect for him. I’m just like ‘Man, this is K-Dub and I’m passing him, dude!’ It kind of gets me excited, but it only happened once…. No, it happened twice, because at San Diego I passed him but he got me right back.
So you remember the first time you passed Kevin Windham?
Yeah, the first time I was tripping out on it quite a bit, and the even at Anaheim 2 when he was behind me the whole time I was tripping out. I look up to Chad Reed, too, but when he came on the scene I was like 13. He was one of my heroes then, too, but Kevin has been my hero for as long as I can remember.
What’s it going to take for you to get up there and pass Chad Reed?
This week, it wasn’t happening. With the start and everything there was no way—I didn’t even see him, and I was looking. But it’s just going to take me staying on my program and keep doing what I’m doing. I can’t expect to just wake up one day and be better than him. Right now, he’s at the top of his game.
I remember I did a story with you and Ryan Dungey back when you guys both turned pro at Millville in 2006. Both of your careers kind of went different ways, but you two met again this past weekend. Did it feel good passing him Saturday night?
Oh, for sure! It felt really good! He had a way better year than I did last year, so it felt good to pass him and show people that I’m not just goofing around.
What’s the atmosphere around Team Yamaha?
It’s good. Right now, I’m the only guy, so they’re kind of putting more focus on me because Grant and Hepler are hurt.
You also mentioned on the podium in Indy that maybe with these good results that you hope to get an energy-drink sponsor…
Yeah, I think we’re working on that. Actually, Kyle from Monster is here at my house right now, so I’m going to bug him.
Well, who do you want to thank for helping you out in 2008?
Yamaha, Thor, Parts Unlimited, Alpinestars, Dragon goggles, Boost Mobile, Pro Taper, Vortext, Bridgestone. And my family—my mom, dad, my grandpa—and my girlfriend Vanessa, and Ryan Hughes. I also got to thank my old trainer, Pete, for getting me to this point, too. Just everyone, thanks a lot!
To learn more about Team Yamaha's Josh Hill, check out his bio on the Yamaha website by clicking here.