Monday Conversation I: Jason Lawrence

Jason Lawrence. People love him, and people hate him, but nearly no one is indifferent to him. He polarizes the fan base, the industry, and even his fellow riders. But regardless of any of that, one thing no one will ever say about him is that he’s not fast. He’s got speed, and lots of it. On live TV last Saturday night, he led most of the 450cc main, and with only a slightly better physical-training package, he probably would’ve won the Daytona Supercross in his first attempt. We talked to him after the race.

Racer X: Last week, there was all of this controversy because you were fast in practice, but then you didn’t show up when it came to race time. Talk a little bit about that.
Jason Lawrence: Last weekend, like you said, I was definitely fast, and I had speed, but I got a little bit sick, and I definitely wasn’t going to be able to go out there and perform at 100 percent, and that was my “comeback” in a way. That was me coming back, and I really wanted to prove something good to people, and I felt like I made the decision not to go out there being 50 percent. I saved it for this weekend, and I’m healthy, and I got to race and put my full potential forward exactly how I would’ve planned it. It couldn’t really have worked out any better.

Then, today, you weren’t just fast in practice, you were the fastest in practice, and I think that caught a lot of people off-guard.
Yeah, I was fast at Indy, like you said, and I was even faster here, so speed’s obviously not my problem – I just showed that in the main – it’s just fitness. I’m going to get on some fitness right now and I’m going to be out there, dude, killing it. I honestly believe with a little bit of luck, and with Bubba messing up and Reed being back, obviously I could win the race [with better fitness]. I just proved it.

What about adapting to the 450? No one has really seen you ride one in your pro career, and obviously you ride one well. Did you know going in that you were a good 450 rider?
Yeah, I mean, I’ve known it just from when I was an amateur. I used to race it a lot. It always suited me pretty good, but coming into supercross, I’ll tell you the truth: Everyone had me hyped up, saying I was going to be so good on it, and then I started riding it, and I didn’t feel good at all. I felt weak, and I felt like my timing was off, and all that. I got it smoothed out, but it turned out that I really only had it smoothed out at the Yamaha track, and once I got to Indy, I felt shitty again. My laptimes were good, but I definitely didn’t feel good. I got some laps out here where I felt good, and that experience that I just gained, that’s ridiculous right there – the experience of leading that race. That’s something that’s almost priceless to a racer, so I’m really happy.

Did you think you could pull it off?
I’ll tell you, I had this thought in my head that I was in the lead, and the whole time, I never saw the end result as me winning. I think that was the problem, you know? I think that if I would’ve believed in myself a little more and had no doubt, I think I might’ve been able to win, but I don’t know. Like I said, I gained a lot of experience, and it’s such a tough situation to be in. I feel like I handled it pretty good. I definitely didn’t make the big mistakes that a lot of rookies would make.

There was that chance of the big rookie mistake, though, so is that why you backed it down and let Chad by?
I actually jumped clear onto a Honda Tuff Block – well, I guess they’re all Honda Tuff Blocks – but I jumped clear onto one over there, and I kind of thought that was my point where I was losing the race, but I saved it. Once I saved that, I told myself, “I’m not doing that again. I’m going to ride the speed that I can ride where I know I won’t make a mistake.” Unfortunately, it was pretty slow, but it was good enough for second place! I’m pumped! [Laughs]

I know you were feeling sick earlier today, too, so talk about that.
Yeah, I have this problem where I feel sick a lot. I feel sick all the time. I get food poisoning all the time, and I have a stomach problem, so I don’t know. Hopefully that shit will sort itself out soon.

Are you going to try to make this a habit, running up front in the 450cc class?
[Laughs] Yeah! I mean, it would be sick! I’m just really happy with all the shit that I’ve gone through lately, and just to show my sponsors that while I was suspended, I wasn’t just f$%&in’ off – that I was definitely putting my head down, working, and trying to do my job that they pay us for. My team is my most prized possession right now, and what I do live for, and it’s really close to getting taken away from me with nothing I can do because I’m honestly running out of money, so I just want to try to do whatever I can to promote my sponsors, and the best way to do that is to get up on the podium – especially on live TV, like this – and say their names.