Monday Conversation II: Jason Lawrence

April 28, 2008 2:12am

There probably aren’t that many “experts” who would’ve picked Boost Mobile/Yamaha of Troy’s Jason Lawrence to win the Lites West SX title before the season started this year. Most money would’ve likely been on Ryan Dungey. However, there’s nothing more objective than racing and tabulating points, and Lawrence proved to be the better man – the best man, actually – out West, and grabbed a long-awaited title, although it was not without its moments of controversy. We got a hold of Lawrence on his cell phone as he was driving home from the airport yesterday.

Racer X: Take me through the break. You grabbed the points lead, and then you had to wait something like nine weeks before you had a chance to wrap up the Lites West title. What was that like, having to wait with all of this hanging in the balance?
Jason Lawrence: It wasn’t really that tough. I mean, I thought about it more at the beginning of the break about how hard it was going to be, and then I kind of forgot about it, riding outdoors so much. Then we got back into supercross about two or three weeks before Seattle, and then it just seemed normal, like we were getting ready for another season. I felt good. I didn’t really have all of my speed back, but it was enough to get it done.

I was wondering when I was watching the race if you were going to make a run at Ryan Dungey, because you seemed to catch up to second pretty quick. But then it seemed like you slowed down a bit. Did you?
I slowed it up a lot. I was super-lucky to have [Broc] Hepler there right behind me, because Yamaha wants a championship and Hepler was willing to help me out. That just made me so much more comfortable with him right behind me as a blocker or whatever it was. But as it turned out, no one caught him, and he didn’t have to do much. That helped to keep me calm during the race, and I didn’t have any intentions of making a run at Dungey because if I was in his position, I would try and do something to put me back behind third, for sure.

That’s what I was thinking, too, but there are incidents where guys have taken that risk, like with Ryan Villopoto at Glen Helen in 2006. He didn’t have to beat Mike Alessi, but he went up and passed him anyway.

Yeah, but I think Ryan, when he won that championship, he was in the zone. He was killing it, so it wasn’t too much of a big deal for him to go do another 30-minute moto and pass Alessi like he did. I wasn’t really in the same position. Dungey had the track dialed, and he was fast.

What does it mean to you as a person, and as a racer, to have that number-one plate? That’s something that no one can ever take away from you, no matter what else you do or don’t do in this sport.
Yeah, I’m happy about that. That’s the goal. I would’ve never thought that I would win the supercross title before I would win the outdoor title, but maybe I’ll get them both in one year...

That’s a good thing to bring up. Now you have a few weeks before the opener, and at last year’s opener, you were put on probation by what a lot of people thought was a questionable call by the AMA because of that incident you and Ryan Villopoto had in practice. Now your probation is going to be up.
Yeah! We’re definitely not going to have any more of that at the opening round. I’ll be happy to get off of my probation and not have to think about that anymore and just be like another guy out there and do what I want.

How often did that enter your mind when you were out there racing?

A little bit, because I’m sure Suzuki would’ve liked to get this title, and they would’ve liked to bring up something like that, which is probably what anyone would do in their position, so I just tried to keep clean all season, and I’m almost at 365 days of clean riding.

Almost! Now, Vegas is coming up, and it’s almost a tradition that the champs don’t win the shootout. Is that a goal of yours, to break tradition there, or does it matter to you at all?
I don’t know. I’m probably just going to see how that race starts out. There are a lot of things that could happen, and in Vegas last year, I had to go to the LCQ, and I was way on the outside and got a horrible start and ended up fourth. I was riding good, so I have some confidence going coming into the race, and I’d like to see a good battle; me, Dungey, [Austin] Stroupe, Hepler, [Trey] Canard, [Josh] Grant and Villopoto. That’ll be awesome. If I’m up in the mix, I might go for it, for sure, but I’m not going to ride over my head and do something stupid to mess up the outdoors, because I’ve already got this one title, and that’s what was important, and I need to try and get one more.

Do you really believe you have what it takes to win that outdoor title?
Yeah, for sure. The only thing I was missing before was my fitness. I would always be fast in the first part of the race. Laptimes were never a problem, it’s just that they would drop off toward the end. Once I’ll be able to hold it steady the whole race, I think I’m going to be good.

You had an opportunity to ride a 450 during the break, like Dungey did, but you didn’t do it. Are you looking forward to that opportunity next year?
Yeah, but it all depends on the situation. I mean, I might want to ride west coast again next year so that I can run the number one, or maybe east coast, but that’s not decided, so I don’t know. I’m not sure.