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Monday Conversation: Ryan Dungey

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Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey is probably having the best rookie 450cc supercross season ever at this point in the championship. He has now won two races and finished second in the other one and leads the points by a relatively comfortable margin considering it’s three races in. On Saturday night, in Anaheim, he didn’t just show speed, but maturity, as he hung back and waited out a battle between teammates Josh Hill and James Stewart to win the main event. We talked to him on the floor after the race for this Monday Conversation.

  • Ryan Dungey smiles under his helmet after winning his second-consecutive 450cc main.
Racer X: From the sidelines, that seemed like a really smart race you rode tonight. It seemed like early on, when you were in third, you were actually making an effort to sort of let the race come to you and not force anything while Josh Hill and James Stewart were battling for the lead...
Ryan Dungey: Yeah, I was kind of waiting, but at the same time, the guys had a good pace going, so I was just trying to hang with them right there. I ran up on Josh, because he was in second, and we were so close that if he made a mistake, I was going to hit him, so I checked up a hair and waited to make my move. That was key. But being patient tonight, on this track, definitely played a role. I’m just thankful I didn’t get wrapped up in any carnage or anything like that and was able to make passes into the lead.

I think it was like four laps in, and I saw you were right on those guys, and then I thought, “I wonder if he realizes there are 16 laps left?”
(Laughs) Yeah, when I got around them at first [on lap 14], I thought we were at the end of the race, because it felt like we were battling for so long. But then there were still like seven laps to go or something. But in the beginning, I was able to get up in there and I think we battled for a while.

Was your approach to the race a result of winning on Phoenix and knowing you had the speed?
Coming off of last weekend, I was just trying to carry the momentum into this week, and that was the goal. This weekend, I was amazed how good the track was, first of all. Dirt Wurx did a great job, and I got off to some decent starts, and I knew tonight would be tough because there was one good line, and we were all riding it. The whoops there had one line, and we were all getting pretty sketchy, so it was pretty crazy, but we were having fun. But it was good to get it done.

What I mean is the patience you showed earlier in the race. That’s not something people always learn very quickly, if at all, and it takes confidence to say, “I don’t need to pass them right now, I can hold off for a few laps and let them sort each other out.” Is that a result of knowing you have the speed by winning in Phoenix?
It’s hard to teach a lot of people, for sure. Even people with years of experience sometimes get in a rush. We all do. But we had a talk, and the laptimes were dang near a minute, so we were looking at a 20-minute moto. That’s a lot of time. So I was right there at the beginning, and I knew, “All right, this is a long race, let’s just cool it out, chill out...” But sometimes it doesn’t work out for the best, and sometimes it does. But it worked out this time. Being patient was good this time because there was a lot of racing to go.

Did it enter your head at all that you were racing against two teammates, so in some ways it could’ve ended up being two against one, instead of one against one, against one?
No. Josh is a great rider, and obviously James is, too, and we raced each other clean, which is what made it fun. There was somebody right behind me – I think Shorty was right behind me – so I had to keep my head down. Hill ran me high in a corner, but he didn’t do anything that... I mean, I put myself in that position.

Yeah, you put yourself in a bad spot there...
Yeah, for sure. I’m lucky I didn’t get my front end taken out, but it was good, clean racing, and it was fun.

That’s a smart way of looking at it, that it was actually kind of your fault. That’s the way I was taught as a kid, too. I’m sure you’d have pushed him high, too.
Right, right. I mean, I wouldn’t throw him into the bales and clean him out, by no means, but at the same time, I thought he was going to tuck it in tight, but I think I was so far up next to him that he saw me, and so he wasn’t going to let me go. I think he thought I was going to go under him, so he was protecting his line.

From here on out, you’re extending a points lead at this point. Are you even thinking about points yet right now?
No. I mean, it’s good to have, but at the same time, it’s so early in the season to be thinking about any of that. I just try to take it one race at a time, and if it leads us to the point of battling for the championship, we’ll worry about that when we get there. Right now, it’s just one race at a time, and I want to keep having fun and enjoying it.
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