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Monday Conversation: Phil Nicoletti

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This past weekend was the annual Kawasaki Race of Champions at the famed Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey. Following tradition, Kawasaki brought in its top factory racers Tim Ferry and Ryan Villopoto to sign autographs and debut the 2009 models. Kawasaki also invited some of its top amateur racers to do battle, but it was Honda-mounted Phil Nicoletti topping the Open Pro class yesterday. We gave Phil a call today for our Alpinestars Monday Conversation.

Racer X: Phil, what’s up?
Phil Nicoletti: Oh, just unpacking from the weekend and then I’ll probably go rent a movie or something.

  • Phil Nicoletti
  • Nicoletti was a member of the Motosport Outlet Kawasaki team in 2008
Ah, the life of a pro motocross racer…
[Laughs] Yeah, yeah! It’s not as good as I’d like it to be, but it could be worse.

Well, it looks like you carried your momentum over from the last few nationals to the Kawasaki Race of Champions at Englishtown. Congratulations on taking the win yesterday in the Open Pro class.
Yeah, thank you! It was a good weekend. I figured I’d go there and see all the local people again and hopefully race against some fast guys. It’s kind of tough right now because I’m in between teams right now, waiting for my new bikes to come in. So I borrowed a friend’s bike for the 450 class, so it was good to go 1-1 in that and get out of there safe and sound.

Was it difficult racing a borrowed bike?
No, not really, because it’s a Honda. I still think I’m a Honda guy, because I grew up racing Hondas throughout my amateur career. To get back on a Honda was good, and I’ll be on a Honda again for next year, so it’s pretty exciting. I still rode a Kawi in the Lites class, but it was okay. On the 450 we had a little suspension difficulties, but my friend Paul from RG3 hooked me up, so it was good.

You managed to beat Barry Carsten!
[Laughs] Yeah! Old BC, he's got Englishtown pretty wired. There was a couple fast old veteran guys there. Keith Johnson got a third one moto. It’s cool to see those guys still out there plugging away.

If I’m not mistaken, that isn’t the first time you’ve won the Pro class at Englishtown, right?
No, I won it back two years ago. Chisholm was there that year, and it’s just a good event. It’s almost like a National. It gets rough and rutted and the motos are long.

How long have you been coming to this event?
A long time! I think in ’99 I was there on 60s running that event against Jason Lawrence. Back then I won it too, and I think that’s the last time I beat him! I heard people saying that Jason was going to race there this weekend, but I guess he didn’t. He was there hanging out and it was good to see him. He was in the middle of the track rooting me on and stuff, but I wish he was out on the track racing with us.

Take us through your motos.
The first moto, I was, like, second off the start, and I got punted in the second corner by my friend Adam Blessing. I guess he lost a little control and took me for a little ride. I entered the track in a bad spot and got bumped around a little bit, but I made a few quick passes on the first lap and led the next twelve to the checkered. In the second moto, I got the holeshot and did what I had to do and took the win again.

How was the track?
It was brutal! Englishtown always gets rough, but that’s why I like going there.

Aside from Carsten, who was some of your toughest competition?
You had Lowell Spangler, Taylor Futrell, and Keith Johnson. There was a bunch of guys. I think the East Coast is famous for fast local guys, and they all were riding really well. I think Lowell will step it up next year, and both he and Futrell will be amateur title contenders next year.

Earlier, you mentioned you were waiting on your new bikes. What kind of deal do you have worked out for 2009?
I’m going to be with Ryan Clark’s team. I’m really looking forward to it, and Ryan Clark is a super guy. He’s been around for a long time, so he knows how everything works, and it’ll be good to have a guy like him in your back corner helping out. I think he's saying that he’s going to step back a little bit and just run the team and do selected races. I’m really looking forward to getting back on Hondas too. I can’t thank Kawasaki enough for giving me a chance. Bobby Hewitt and Bill Keefe and Ed Torrance stuck their necks out for me, and I kind of floundered a little bit last year. I didn’t do what I expected to do.

Toward the end of the season, you seemed to find your groove.
Yeah, the last four rounds, I started putting in good motos. It was better late than never and I finally got a top-ten at Steel City. That’s what I was aiming for all year, but I didn’t think it would take that long. I’m just going into supercross hoping for the best and to stay healthy and get some more top-tens and maybe a top-five.

What class will you be racing next year?
I’ll be doing the Lites class in both supercross and outdoors. I don’t know what coast or anything like that yet.

  • Phil Nicoletti went 1-1 in the Open Pro class yesterday at the Kawasaki Race of Champions
  • Nicoletti leads Lowell Spangler
Do you know who you’ll be teamed up with yet?
I don’t know, to be honest. I just know it’s me for right now.

Are you running #58 next year?
I was thinking about running #715, but I think I might stick with #58.

What movie are you going to go rent?
I don’t know, I’ll probably check out the new releases. I’m just relaxing now. I kind of took a header in the 250F class, so I’m a little sore today.

Well, if you hop on our site, there’s a cool video of James on his new Yamaha.
Oh, really? Nice, I’ll have to go do that. How’s he look?

He looks like James!
Yeah, I hear you. I saw that video of Reed on a Suzuki and he looks pretty sick. I can’t wait to watch those guys!

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