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Monday Conversation: Michael Willard

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The 2009 AMA National Arenacross Series had its unofficial start this past weekend in Des Moines, Iowa’s Wells Fargo Arena. Unlike year’s past, the Des Moines round is serving as sort of a “prequel” and not counting toward the championship. Nonetheless, it still attracted some of the top AX racers in the country, one being Michael Willard, who took three out of four main-event wins over the weekend. That is quite an accomplishment, so we gave Willard a call today for our Alpinestars Monday Conversation.

Racer X: Mike, I’ve read the press releases, and it looks like you had a pretty good weekend in Des Moines taking three out of four main events. Congrats!
Michael Willard: Thanks a lot, I appreciate it!

How long of a drive was it from Ohio to Iowa?
It was like eleven-and-a-half hours.

Who all went out with you?
Well, my mom and my brother work at the arenacrosses, so they went. Actually, I had something set up to go to Bercy, but that kind of fell through, so at the last minute I borrowed my buddy’s Honda 250F and pinned it out there.

The last time I saw you, which was only a few weeks ago at Muddy Creek, you were on a Yamaha. Why the sudden switch to the Honda?
I didn’t have a 250F, and it was a last-minute thing, and my buddy just bought a new 2008, so I asked him if I could borrow it for the weekend and he said, “Sure.”

It obviously didn’t take you long getting comfortable on it.
No, not really. I rode Hondas in supercross last year, so it wasn’t a whole lot different. I went down to [Zach] Osborne’s for a day. I went down there on Tuesday, and then drove home, got my bike all cleaned up and drove to Des Moines.

How was the track in Des Moines?
It was pretty good. The dirt was a little soft, so it got kind of rutty. All in all, the track was really good.

How was it racing with Josh Demuth? That guy has a lot of Arenacross experience under his hat.
It was good, he was riding really well. He hasn’t been on the 250F too much, but he was saying how he got a new job working on the oil fields in Texas, so he’s really pumped on that and he’s been doing that a lot. He hasn’t been riding too much, but he decided to come up and do this race, and he’s doing the entire series with Tuf Racing.

But he did pretty good on Friday night. I was in his Heat race and I ended up winning that and he got second. In the main, he got the holeshot and I was like fourth or fifth and had to pass a few guys. I ended up catching up to him the last few laps, and I tried to come in on him a little bit before the Catapult jump, but I didn’t go through with it and he ended up jumping the Catapult and I didn’t, so he got the win. Saturday night, I ended up getting the holeshot in both classes, so that was nice.

What’s your take on just being allowed to race a 250F in Arenacross?
I don’t know, I think it would be kind of cool if it went back to 450s and 250Fs, paying the same money for each. But it’s pretty cool; they actually did timed practices, too, kind of like supercross.

So is it safe to assume that you’re contesting the entire 2009 AX series at this point?
Ah, I don’t know. I’ve been talking to a couple people after this weekend, and hopefully I can work something out this week.

Is it something you’d like to do?
Yeah, for sure. It really doesn’t matter to me, I just want to ride.

Do you have much Arenacross experience yourself?
Well, from being from Ohio I have some indoor experience, but I haven’t raced Arenacross for probably four years or so. I never really rode a National Arenacross before; I did a few regional events here and there, but I dig it, it’s a pretty fun time.

After AX, will we see you on the 2009 AMA Toyota Motocross tour again?
Hopefully. I’d like to be. I’d like to race Arenacross, and then do the rest of the East Coast Supercrosses. Like I said, I got some phone calls to make this week, so hopefully I can figure something out.

If someone is interested in contacting you, they can just e-mail us and we’ll be them in touch with you. Sound good?
Yeah, that would be good. Thanks a lot.

Before we wrap this up, you have some people you want to thank?
Yes, first off, I’d like to thank my buddy Craig Garrett and High Street Tattoos for letting me borrow his bike. If it wasn’t for him, I couldn’t have gone. I’d like to thank Fox Shox, Cycra, Moose, One Industries, Von Zipper, Alpinestars, Pirelli, Motorex, Sunstar, Braking, Twin Air, Renthal, Wiseco, and I think that’s it.

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