Privateer Profile: Matt Boni

February 26, 2009 5:12pm

Geneva, Florida’s Matt Boni is quietly having the best season of his young career. No, he’s not vying for wins, podiums, or even top-fives, but the 21-year-old has made all but two main events so far in the AMA Supercross class—a 12th being his best finish. Boni is a member of the DNA Energy/ Honda squad, and we caught up with him as he was sitting on the side of the road waiting for the cops after being involved in a slight fender bender.

Racer X: How bad is it?
Matt Boni: It’s not too bad. I’ve got a big F250. My truck is fine; a little better than his!

Well, we’re at the halfway point of the supercross series; are you above or below where you thought you’d be?
Um, a little bit below. I was really hoping to definitely make every main. I’ve only missed two. I was also hoping to break into the top ten a few times. Now that we’re back on the East coast, I think that’s going to happen. My goal was just to survive the West coast! [Laughs] I’ve lived in Florida my whole life, and that’s not my strong suit. This is the second weekend back east, so I’m really excited about it.

What happened in those two races where you missed the main event?
Just poor starts, really, and ran out of time. In San Fran, the LCQ was pretty much like a main event—it was stacked, and it’s not that I can’t beat those guys, but it just wasn’t my night.

Do you wish that they still ran the old format with heats and semis?
I never raced that, so I’m not really sure, but I think the more chances you have would be better, because sometimes unexpected things do happen.

Are you happy with your decision to move up to the Supercross class?
Absolutely! I had the opportunity to move up last year, but I just decided I wasn’t ready yet maturitywise to run seventeen weekends in a row. I think this year I’m making really good decisions—mature decisions—that are bettering my career every weekend.

What’s the biggest difference for you between a Lites main and a Supercross main?
It’s only five laps more, but it feels like it’s an eternity! [Laughs] Everyone says that, but it really is! It’s a different mindset. I learned a lot last year and really found some speed, and I truly believe I had a few top five rides in me, but I made some bad passing decisions and ended up taking out myself, along with some other great riders and ruining their shots last year. I learned a lot about passing last year, and I learned a lot about just waiting for the right time. That five laps kind of gives you that extra time to make those decisions.

How difficult is it, mentally, to look over and see yourself lined up next to Ryan Villopoto or James Stewart or Chad Reed?
I don’t think I’ve been in front of Chad Reed for more than two laps this year, but it is tough. It’s kind of a shock, almost. At the first few rounds, I was sitting on the line and I’d look over and see Kevin Windham next to me. I remember being on 80s watching the 1998 Houston Supercross and seeing him sweep it on his Yamaha. And it’s almost shocking, but it feels awesome, because I never thought in a million years that I’d be fast enough to be pro, and let alone be fast!

You have two 12th-place finishes in a row now. What’s it going to take to break into that top ten?
I think it’s just going to take a good start and me being there the first eight laps. My endurance is there, and my bike is sharp enough to be there the last five laps. I think the first half of my race has to be a little bit stronger, a little more aggressive, and I have to push some people around and make my own lines.

What do you think about your fellow statesman, James Stewart? Is he going to sweep the rest of them?
I guess the right answer would be, No, I’m going to win! [Laughs] But yeah, he’s unbelievable this year. It looked like he was struggling a bit at the beginning, but what can you say about him that hasn’t already been said?

So you learned a lot.
It’s been a whirlwind experience, definitely. Every weekend I learn so much and I feel I get stronger. Even if I don’t have the best main or if something happens, I’m still going back to the drawing board during the week and sharpening my pencil.

How’s everything with the team?
The team is good. We’re doing the best with what we have. Obviously, it would be nice to be on a factory team, but I’m working really hard and keeping my head down and I feel my results speak for themselves.

Speaking of turning heads, you did that last year at the Daytona supercross, when you podiumed in the Lites class.
Yeah, that was awesome! It definitely helped advance my career. I’m just taking it one race at a time right now, so I’m just focused on Indy.

{LINKS}Who do you want to thank, Matt?
I’d really like to thank my dad and my mechanic for sticking behind me; MXers for Jesus and Kevin Cozadd and that entire family, and all of my sponsors for sticking behind me and giving me the support to do my job.