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5 Minutes with...Ryan Dungey

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Almost to the day last year, and on the eve of the 2008 AMA Western Regional Supercross Series, this writer was able to meet Ryan Dungey at a coffee shop in Laguna Niguel, California, and talk about just what he would be up against. As history has now etched in marble, Dungey won three rounds of the series, but came up just a few points short of rival Jason Lawrence and narrowly lost the title grudge match. Today, with only a handful of days remaining until Saturday night and the opening round of the 2009 AMA West Region Championship Series at Angel Stadium in nearby Anaheim, California, we once again hooked up with Dungey. Interested to get his take on both 2008 and 2009 before the press corps attack him (and every other contending rider) at the traditional season-kickoff press conference this Friday, we sought out the Rockstar/Makita Suzuki ace. Having landed in Orange County, California, with the sun splashing down and the ambient temperature in the 70-degree range, Dungey, who had left Minnesota in weather conditions akin to the North Pole, was in good spirits and ready to position his factory RM-Z250 behind the starting gate.

  • Ryan Dungey is a favorite for the Western Regional Lites SX crown in 2009
Racer X: Ryan, where did you just come from?
Ryan Dungey: I’m landing from Minneapolis, Minnesota. I went home for Christmas and hung out with my family and all my relatives. It was a good time.

As far as gnarly winter weather goes, Minnesota pretty much wins the National Championship. How was it up there?
Yeah, one day I think it was negative three degrees. I think it warmed up to about 30 [degrees], which isn’t very warm at all, either. It was definitely a chilly week.

What did you do for Christmas? Just lay low with the family?
Yeah, the relatives came over and the whole family got together and it was really fun to have a Christmas together. I enjoyed that. I also did a little bit of ice fishing with my dad and my uncle and my grandpa. That was a good time. I just really hung out and drove to the city and checked the malls out and just did some stuff that I haven’t been able to do for a little bit.

Did you get anything cool for Christmas?
[Laughs] I got a Starbucks gift card. No, just kidding... Shoot. Yeah, I got some good stuff. My mom got me a ring and some Starbucks. I don’t know, it was just fun to be with everybody, to be honest.

I know you’re in a rental car and have not been here for more than an hour, but how does it feel to be back in California?
It’s been a couple months since I’ve been here. It’s kind of a little bit fresh right now. You know what? I’m actually not in a rental car. From being able to win the East/West Shootout [last May in Las Vegas], I have a new Toyota truck here, so that’s really cool. So I don’t have to get all these rental cars out here now. No, it feels good. It’s been a while and it’s new and something different and a change, but it’s all good. Things have been going great and I’m ready to get at it come Anaheim. It’s time.

I know you spent most of your off-season down in Florida. How was that?
Really good. I’m riding at Ricky’s as of right now. You know, going along with that, Ricky was nice enough to let me ride there and did me a good thing, but you know that’s where I’m kind of looking to make home and set up and buy land and get a nice place. I want to make Florida home. To be honest with you, I feel that I’ve been everywhere as far as California and Texas and have seen it all, but Tallahassee and that area makes me feel like home. I’ve been there for a couple of months now and training there and it’s just going to be a matter of time until I get that done. But, yeah, as far as the riding goes, it’s been great. I’ve been riding with Ivan [Tedesco] and Ricky. We’ve just been putting in the laps and putting in the time and doing what’s necessary.

What was a typical day like for you guys?
Well, a typical day would be getting up around 7 a.m. and then doing your cardio in the morning. And then obviously going along with that would be going into the dirt bike. I think we’d get out there by 10:30 and would start at about 11 a.m. and we’d finish up around 2 to 4 p.m. Some days were longer than others. After that, we’d head to the gym and by that time, on some days we would not get done by 5 or 6 p.m., but it’s what we all had to do to make it work. And by that time, you’re just ready to go home and rest up for the next day.

Over the off-season, what did you work on to improve yourself?
Working on being mistake-free and really being consistent with my laps. I feel that before when I was making a mistake — whether it was doing a lap or doing testing or whatever it was — I would just quit. Well, that’s one thing I tried to work on. Even if I did make a mistake, I’d keep pressing forward and just trying to forget about it. I feel that was one area where I probably wasn’t so great. I’d be like, “I made a mistake. I’m gong to start a new lap.” Now I just keep on continuing, correcting the mistake and putting it behind me and forgetting about it. That was one of the major things I did work on.

There was quite a bit of talk about the financial dire straits Suzuki was faced with in 2008. Did any of that fallout affect testing and the overall performance of your 2009 race bike?
I feel that everybody at Suzuki and at the shop has done a great job in getting the bike set up. Obviously, we’ve been building on the bike for three years now and there are a lot of similarities over the past couple of years so it’s been great to just keep building off that. Each year it just gets better and better; we find little bits. Even after outdoors this year, we made a lot of progress with the whole package — the set-up and the motor. I’m really happy with it. At the U.S. Open [last October] the bike ran awesome and we did a little bit of testing after that and I really feel like we have the bike rolling. I’m really comfortable on it and I think that’s key.

Speaking of the outdoors, you beat Ryan Villopoto in three of the last four Nationals. Did the results boost your confidence?
Yeah, they did, tremendously. It was a goal of mine. Villopoto was the top guy – the top gun – in the Lites class. To be able to run with that and to take some wins was a great confidence-booster. And, mentally, it allows me to carry the momentum over into the supercross season. Knowing how I did against Ryan is always good.

Okay, it looks like Trey Canard, Jake Weimer, Ryan Morais, Dan Reardon, Jason Lawrence and a number of other very competitive riders have been tapped to race in the West Region. How do you look at these guys and do you look at any of them as individuals?
To be honest with you, I haven’t really thought about it at all. I mean, shoot, to be honest, I didn’t really know who was riding West Coast. I haven’t been paying much attention to it. There’s always going to be a fast group of guys. You can’t downplay that. It’s always going to be there. I’m just going to worry about myself and do my deal. I don’t think I need to be worried about this or that. We’ll see what comes around and see what we need to work out. Nothing has started yet, but when things do, we’ll get a better idea of everything and throughout the series make improvements if we need to. For now, it’s just stay calm and confident.

We haven’t seen or heard much of Jason Lawrence. Have you?
No, I have not.

No news, huh?
Don’t really care, to be honest with you.

What’s the plan for Anaheim I? Go out and win it?
Yep, I’m going out to Anaheim to win it. That’s the goal. But it‘s a long season and you need to be consistent through the whole thing and not give up too many points. I know the mistakes I made last year and I learned from that. I’m just going to try and not make the same mistake twice. I’m really having a good time right now in my career. I really love what I do and I think that helps out a lot. I’m really enjoying it. That being said, going into this season, I’m just really looking forward to it. I’m ready to get under way. I’m really confident and ready and have worked hard and I know I’ve done my best. Shoot, it’s right around the corner. It’s just a matter of time.

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