Way back in the recesses of the AT&T Park pit area, in chilly, wind- whipped San Francisco, Nick Wey, bathed in klieg light, power washed the mud and dirt off his boots. Having just placed sixth in his heat race – his first as a Monster Energy Kawasaki factory rider – the 12- year veteran of the sport looked happy. “I felt good out there,” said Wey while walking back to the Kawasaki hauler. “In fact, I feel better and better each time I get to ride the bike.” Drafted onto the black- and-lime-green outfit earlier in the week to fill-in for the injured Chad Reed, Wey was taking a sabbatical from the TiLube/Brown Motorsports team he had lined up for at the first three races of the 2010 Monster Energy Supercross Series to see just what he could achieve on one of the best bikes on Planet Earth. A mid-pack rider thus far in 2010, the Michigan native picked up his game on Saturday night, riding to a steady and stable eighth-overall finish. Set to ride Reed’s bike for the next five races in the world’s most prestigious motocross series, Racer X caught up with the 28-year-old and talk about his mid-season “trade” and all that has come with it.
Nick Wey: I’m just regrouping from the weekend. I’m just kind of resting up to try to get ready to ride tomorrow and Wednesday. In a little while here, I’m just going to go on a bike ride and loosen up for the week. Ryan Villopoto is going to go with me.
How long will you guys ride for?
Today will probably just be an easy one. We’ll go for around an hour or something. Something easy.
Okay, I ran into you up in San Francisco just after you had placed sixth in your heat race. You were in good spirits and felt good about everything. You mentioned you felt better each time you rode the motorcycle. Considering you had to jump on Chad Reed’s bike so quickly, is that how things were playing out?
Yeah, that’s for sure. Every time that I’ve ridden it, I feel like I’m a little better. Obviously, at the races, the tracks are a little different and the bike reacts differently from what you would think would be normal. Yeah, for sure, every time I ride it I feel a lot better and I think it was just getting this weekend’s race under my belt that will make this weekend’s race that much better.
I’m sure a lot of fans that may be reading this interview are wondering just how your TiLube/Brown Motorsports Kawasaki compares to Chad Reed’s full-on works KX450F. I know you don’t have a terrific amount of seat time on the Reed bike, and not to disrespect the bike you were riding, but is it pretty close to being stock?
Well, it’s definitely a lot closer to being production. Obviously, the Brown Motorsports crew and Pro Circuit, they work together with the engine and the chassis to give me a good set-up. I was definitely starting to feel pretty comfortable on my TiLube bike, but the factory bike is definitely different. The power characteristics are real similar, but it seems like there is quite a bit more of it with the factory bike. The suspension felt pretty stiff and some of the frame geometry was maybe a little bit different – the bike steers a little bit better than what I was used to. Even though it’s a Kawasaki, the factory bike feels quite a bit different. The bike that I was riding was really good bike, but the factory bike, it just seems like they have it fine-tuned in those areas where it all actually helps you out in lap times.
You placed eighth in the main event. It looked like a good, solid ride. Were you happy with the result?
Obviously, I’ve been on factory teams before and the environment at the Monster Kawasaki pits is definitely supper-supportive. Everybody has a good time during the day and everyone is super-friendly. I was feeling like I wanted to do well for myself, obviously, but I wanted to do well for the support of the team. I was kind of surprised. I tried to get the start and I ended up coming out in second. From there, I rode a little bit tight in the beginning and was a little bit too worried about what everyone else was doing. I kind of fell back to sixth or so real quick. Then I had a good race with a few guys and ended up getting eighth. This next weekend I’m hoping to improve on that. From what I have been doing so far this season, eighth is better.
Yeah, for sure. My goal for the weekend was to be right around there – between fifth and seventh was a realistic goal for just coming in on a new bike. I’m happy with the way things went. I’m just looking to improve every week from here on out.
I’m sure you could gauge everybody’s speed pretty well on Saturday night. Can you see yourself picking up a few more spots come San Diego this weekend and beyond?
For sure. The Kawasaki factory bike setup in general just allows me to be that much faster. It directly equates to the lap times. Once I learn I little bit more about the bike and where I can push the limits, I feel like my potential to run up front is a lot higher. I’m excited about these next couple of weeks and my chance to be up front and hopefully battling for a podium spot.
It sounds like you are going to have at least four or five more rides on the bike, huh?
Yeah, the plan was five weekends and to see where it goes from there. Obviously, I’d like to thank the Monster Kawasaki folks for the opportunity, but not only that but the Team TiLube/Babbitt’s/Foremost/ Brown Motorsports for sticking behind me so when this thing with Monster Kawasaki is over with I‘ll still have a day job.
When Chad got hurt, did you have a feeling you might get the call from Kawasaki?
Well, you know I’ve always had a good relationship with the guys at Kawasaki and Mike Fisher. They’ve been letting me ride the Kawasaki track this off-season with Ryan [Villopoto] and they’ve helped me with a couple things here and there, like a lower sub-frame and some little parts. There’s always a lot of talk about riding for a factory team or filling in for a spot, but in my experience it’s always hard to get a judge on what the team mangers are really thinking. Until I did got the call about riding Chad’s bike, I never really thought it was too much of a chance, but once I got the call from Mike Fisher and saw the opportunity could come to fruition, it was kind of up to Team TiLube. The ball was in their court and they were gracious enough to stand behind me and allow me to take full advantage of that spot that Chad Reed left open.
So, through this two-team program you’ve cobbled together, what sort of result would please you when the curtain comes down on the season at the end of the 20-lap main in Las Vegas?
I’d like to be able to move up into the top five in the series. That would be ideal. Obviously, I’m going need to step my results up from here to catch up, but I think it’s an obtainable goal. There are a lot of races left and I’m definitely going to just try and take advantage of the opportunity that’s in front of me right now and do my best week to week. Once I get back to Team TiLube, I want to take some of this information I’ve learned from the factory guys and equate that to some results with them. I think as long as I stay focused and keep doing the work I need to do during the week, I’ll be able to improve every week and hopefully be able to reach my goals by the end.