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5 Minutes With... Ryan Dungey

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Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey has had quite the year. After winning a bunch of supercrosses in the Lites Western Region, he ended up losing the title before heading outdoors, where he became defending champ Ryan Villopoto’s biggest rival, winning three of the last four Nationals. Then he headed to the U.S. Open to race his RM-Z250 against the 450 stars and managed to come out with a podium finish despite a first-turn crash on night one when he got together with his friend James Stewart. If things continue the way they’ve been going, 2009 is looking really bright for Ryan Dungey.

Racer X: You’re officially in the off-season now. Talk to us a little about what you’re looking forward to in the next season.
Ryan Dungey: I’m really looking forward to preparing for the new season and getting at that. Right now, I’m taking a little break, but starting around November first, I’ll get back in it. I’m just really looking forward to the new year, but this year I’d definitely like to take home some championships. That’s the goal, and to win every race from here on out. The big picture is the championship, though, and enjoying myself.

You debuted the number 10 at the U.S. Open. How did you pick that number?
I’ve been getting lower and lower numbers every year. I went form 142 to 62 to 28, and 28 I really liked, but then I was able to take 10 this year. I felt like it was right to take it and run it.

What’s the difference on the track between racing a 250F against 450s and racing a 450 against 450s?
Obviously, at the U.S. Open I raced a Lites bike against 450s, and I think I had a little bit more of an advantage because the track’s real tight. Obviously, the 450s are faster and stuff, but I think it was a more realistic and closer race. On a regular-size supercross track, though, it would be tough on a little Lites bike. But the 450, if I’m going to race with them again, that’s the bike I’m going to run. For the U.S. Open, it’s just what I felt comfortable on, and the setup was really nice, and I knew it was going to be a challenge with everyone on 450s, but I was up for it.

Next year, they’re going to allow 250Fs to race against 450s in regular supercross races, so guys like you can ride opposite-coast on a 250F if you want to. Have you thought about that?

Yeah, I have, but if I’m going to race the 450s, depending on which coast I do, I’m racing a 450. I’m going to have that power with them. It would be fun to ride a 250, but at the end of the day, I’d rather step up and race on the 450 again. That would be a no-brainer for me.

When you’re racing against Chad Reed and James Stewart, does it matter to you that they’re such established champions? Or do you just want to beat them like anyone else?
For example, being in that Heat race with Stewart, it was good. I really enjoyed it. To be honest, I wasn’t nervous at all. I know their names are big and they’ve been in the sport and made a big name for themselves, but to be honest, it just makes it that much better when I’m winning and makes me want to win that much more and try that much harder to beat them. To be able to battle with them, I get motivation from that and it makes me want to go that much faster and try to beat them even more. To be able to battle with them, and one day beat them, it’s going to be good.

So talk us through that first-turn crash with James Stewart on night one of the U.S. Open. And how mad were you after that?
I was definitely bummed. I had the holeshot, and I came into the corner really hot and I wanted to stick to the inside, but the track was slick and I couldn’t make it on the inside, so I just forced myself out to the berm, and I made the pivot off of the berm, and I looked over and just saw a blue Yamaha coming straight for my front wheel, and I was just like, “Uh oh, man, this isn’t going to be good.” Before I knew it, I was almost riding on his bike, and my front wheel came out from underneath me, and it was a bummer. I just tried to put my head down and work forward after that. After the race, it got heated up pretty good, but I was just bummed and probably said things I shouldn’t have. It was just one of those deals. I was kind of confused and didn’t know what was going on. I talked to James and got to see the video, and I kind of realized what had happened, and it was just a mistake by him. He was in an awkward situation, so I understand that, and everything’s cool. We’re still cool, and it isn’t a problem. I was just bummed that it had to be like that the first night.
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Did you actually ride the whole race without a grip?
Yeah, I did. My grip actually came off of my clutch side. I got on the bike, and I was like, “Man, I don’t want to have to DNF this race.” I didn’t know what it was going to be like without a grip, and I started off the first lap, and it was kind of weird, but it got a little better by the second lap, and by the third lap, I kind of fell into the groove with it, finally, and I was able to grab fifth, which I was pretty happy with. Riding like that makes you stronger. I just want to carry the momentum forward from here into the new season.

I put $50 on you, man, and you didn’t pay off. I was pretty bummed, too.
Everybody put your money on me next time, because I’m going to win it. [Laughs] No, I’m just playing. Sorry for you guys who bet on me. I was just racing and trying to do my thing. You guys are the ones betting.
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