Interviews by Jason Weigandt and Jordan RobertsKen Roczen, Red Bull/Factory KTM, 3rd Place in SX Lites Class
Racer X: Congrats on your heat win tonight. You also came pretty close to a second place in the main. How did that go for you?
I didn’t have the best start, and then I had to work my way up there. It’s always harder, you know. So I took a long time to pass [Justin] Bogle, and if I could have done this earlier I probably could’ve been second. Anyway, I tried to give my best. I was riding a little tense too, so I had some cramps in my hands. I didn’t ride loose enough, but I almost passed [Darryn] Durham in the last corner. So I’m happy with my riding. It’s good to be right there in the first race – a podium. The championship is still there, everything’s good.
It seemed like there were a lot of guys out there riding for blood. A lot of guys were banging into each other, but you seemed to be more calculated and didn’t hit anybody.
You know, I always try to ride clean. And I know if you make a clean pass without touching someone, and especially if they don’t expect it, that pisses them off more than banging into them. So, I always try to ride clean and I’m not riding for one race. I want to be up there every time and be up on top of the box at the end of the season.
"So I’m happy with my riding. It’s good to be right there in the first race – a podium." - Ken Roczen
Photo: Simon Cudby
Malcolm Stewart, JDR/J-Star KTM, 6th Place in SX Lites Class
Racer X: Alright… So I have to ask, and I think you know what I’m going to ask, so do you just want to answer before I ask it?
[Laughs] Well, I know you want to know about the takeout thing. We both came together, we’re both racing, and we’re fighting over that position. Technically, we both came together and then his leg got stuck in it.
Yeah, that was kind of weird.
Yeah, I didn’t think his leg was going to get stuck in it, for sure. But it did and we split apart and kept going after that. I felt I rode a solid race throughout the whole race. I got back up to sixth and just finished what I was supposed to do. Unfortunately, I went down tonight but I’m going to regroup. I’m not too far back. I’ve still got eight races, and a lot can change in eight races. I definitely want to hit the box and just focus on points.
You looked pretty fast out there. Are you feeling comfortable and feeling good with your speed?
Yeah, I felt comfortable and I know I wasn’t too far off the guys, between me, Roczen, and Bogle. I definitely think my speed was there. We’re capable of the win and everything else. The speed was there tonight, just a little mistake by me. I’ll take what I learn and I know I’m not going to win the race on the ground. Unfortunately, you always have to find that out that hard way. But like I said, [I’ll] learn from this weekend and take it to Atlanta so we can get on the box.
"I definitely want to hit the box and just focus on points." - Malcolm Stewart
Photo: Simon Cudby
Ryan Dungey, Red Bull KTM, 2nd in SX Class
The race was good. The heat race was one of the tougher ones. I just kind of got hit by [Jake] Weimer, he hit my front brake and I went down. I just tried to make the most of it, I got into the main, but I didn’t have the best of gate picks. I didn’t get a great start, either, I just tried to capitalize on some guy’s mistakes, make some passes, and at the end I was able to get Weimer with about half a lap to go. That was good for the points chase. It was a big step in the right direction with the setup compared to last week. At the end of the night, this track was tricky, and we have a lot to be thankful for, the track bit a lot of people, like Chad [Reed]. Although we weren’t there at the beginning of the race, I think we made a lot of progress with the bike this week. It all starts at the beginning of the day, having the setup right in practice, having good times, a good heat race.
"Although we weren’t there at the beginning of the race, I think we made a lot of progress with the bike this week." - Ryan Dungey
Photo: Simon Cudby
Blake Wharton, Rockstar Energy Suzuki, 4th place in Lites Class
Racer X: Did you pass like a thousand people to get fourth?
Blake Wharton: Well, I don’t know. I got a second place start and I passed, actually, into first and then a couple turns after that, I got together or he [Durham] took me out. I don’t know.
There was contact?
There was contact. I’m keeping notice of that. And so I went down and I managed to get the bike around and I got up and I actually didn’t know what place I was in.
It was the first lap so a lot of guys must have went by, right?
A lot of guys went by and I got up and I just rode my face. Honestly, I didn’t even know what place I was in. I thought I could have been in eighth place. I thought that I was catching up, but when you’re down for a while, you’re thinking ‘Shoot, I’m back. I’m far back’. So I caught some dudes and I passed some guys. It was a weird night. There were some guys that crashed out and had worse deals than me. Weird things. Then, of course, the first three guys broke away. But I know what I need to work on. I feel strong, but I need more. So during the week, I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing, show up for the weekend, and do it. I’ve done well in Atlanta before. I always like it there.
I was amazed when I saw you get back to fifth, and then fourth, because I assumed when you went down in the first lap, you would have gone way, way back.
You kind of just figure, well he’s in last. Well it’s true, too. I don’t know if I was in last because honestly, I didn’t see much going on. I was just riding.
It seemed like all day, the practices, off the start here, it seemed like you were aggressive, to me. It didn’t seem like you were just trying to fit in for the first round.
For sure, you can’t back off. This is my fourth year, it’s time. So I know that first round is the first round, but at the same time, you need to make a statement. And come next weekend and the weekend after that, it’s the same thing—I’ve got to make a statement. I know that if I put myself out there, it’s going to happen.
"So I know that first round is the first round, but at the same time, you need to make a statement." - Blake Wharton
Photo: Simon Cudby
Hunter Hewitt, Rockstar Energy Suzuki, 12th place in Lites Class
Racer X: How was your race?
Hunter Hewitt: It was good, I guess. I felt tight all day. I haven’t really raced since last year, Vegas Supercross. So, you know, just getting back on the program. I was tight all day in practice, wasn’t happy with my qualifying time, but the team kept me in good spirits, which was awesome of them.
In the main event, I was all the way outside on the start. A couple guys went down in front of me on the start. I don’t like seeing that, but that’s racing. I pretty much just put in the best 15 laps that I could. I ended up 12th, which isn’t what I would like, but I’ll take it for the first round. All I can do is improve next weekend at Atlanta. It should be twenty times better by just being back on the gate and being on my race bikes.
"I ended up 12th, which isn’t what I would like, but I’ll take it for the first round." - Hunter Hewitt
Photo: Simon Cudby
Justin Bogle, GEICO Honda, 14th in Lites Class
Racer X: How was it, Justin?
Justin Bogle: Well, it started off pretty good. I was…I don’t know where I started, third or fourth, or something? Then I ended up running second for a while. I rode extremely tight. I didn’t feel good at all. At the beginning, it was going well, having fun with Bam Bam there for a bit. Then I just tightened up, started making some mistakes, [Ken] Roczen got me, Mookie [Malcolm Stewart] kind of cleaned me out. I kind of got stuck in his bike... whatever, it happens... so... at least I ran up front, got the experience. So, I’m looking forward to next weekend.
Were you tight all day? Did you feel like you really got to show what you had all day?
Usually I’m pretty cool in pressure situations, but I don’t know what was going on today, man. I was nervous all day. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like that.
Really? Not even at the nationals last year?
No, not at all. But it’s over now. Everything’s all good now, so I shouldn’t have to deal with that anymore.
When you were trying to get your bike up, was it like stuck in the dirt?
Yeah, my bars were kind of stuck in the dirt.
I see. It just seemed like it was hard to get out.
Yeah it was. It was stuck. That ground’s not soft!
Anything else? You've moved on from your [Malcolm Stewart] incident?
I've moved on. It's all good.
"Usually I’m pretty cool in pressure situations, but I don’t know what was going on today, man. I was nervous all day. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like that." - Justin Bogle
Photo: Simon Cudby
Brett Metcalfe, Yoshimura Suzuki, 8th Place in SX Class
I was feeling pretty good through practice. I took a spill once, but we regrouped and the heat race went well – finished fourth. And in the main event the first lap was just so hectic. I had a big scare. I nearly landed on [Justin] Brayton on the triple. That kind of scared the crap out of me [laughs].
Was that the triple after the rhythm?
No, it was the last triple on the track. Anyway, that just gave me a scare. But, I just made a couple mistakes halfway through after a horrible start in the main event. I wasn’t up there early and I didn’t come through with those couple mistakes on a track that was pretty gnarly. You know, you really had to be on your game. I was just in eighth and decided to finish eighth tonight. I didn’t want to push it and throw it away. Every time I pushed it, it wasn’t happening for me out there. I’ll take that with a grain of salt and move on.
It seems like after the halfway mark you were riding your own race and didn’t have to contend with anyone. At the end of the day, how do you feel about an eighth place?
I’m ok with it. Last weekend was my best ever result on the 450 with a fourth, so backing it up with an eighth, I’m happy with that. It’s nothing outstanding and no fireworks going off for eighth place [laughs]. But, on a night where you’re not really feeling it and feel a little off on a track that can really get you, an eighth place can sometimes be as good as a fourth.
Yeah. Get through it and just be able to focus on the next weekend.
You have to really attack when you’re feeling it and back it off when you’re not. But it’s still good points for me and I got through it. And like you said, I was kind of by myself from the halfway point to the end and didn’t have too much to contend with. I made a couple mistakes and Hanny [Josh Hansen] and those guys, K-Dub, got by and made a gap. I wasn’t closing in, I wasn’t losing ground, so I just rode it out.
It’s just a bummer about the start but the Yoshimura Suzuki was working great. It was one of the better practices I’ve had this year so I’m starting to find my groove. I feel like my riding level’s coming up and [we’re] really starting to work hard on things. We’re closing in on the halfway point and I’m happy with where were at. We just have to keep progressing and I think we have to get a little bit better still yet. I think I still have room to improve so I’ll just keep clicking away.
"Last weekend was my best ever result on the 450 with a fourth, so backing it up with an eighth, I’m happy with that." - Brett Metcalfe
Photo: Simon Cudby
Grant Langston, Team Manager, Ohlins/Langston Motorsports KTM
It’s a new year, a new gig. How did things go for you on the other side of the fence tonight?
It’s definitely been a great experience and learning curve. We’ve got good people behind us, like Ohlins, who have stepped up this year and gave me an opportunity that I was excited and thankful for. And it just seemed like a good fit because it’s a new team. Everyone is kind of young and green and the reality is, as a team manager I’m the same. This is my first event and they put their trust in me. I think we came up with a good-looking setup, good bikes, but unfortunately the results weren’t there. We had one minor technical issue that kind of hurt Les [Smith], and AJ [Catanzaro] had a little bad luck and maybe some jitters.
The results – not what we looked for but it’s the first race. I think the biggest thing is that both guys are healthy. We know there are some things to work on, but we knew that this was going to be a process and a building stage. It’s been kind of fun. For me, it’s been a lot of work at times but at the same time I love racing. Our team owner Scott is a great guy. He put some faith in me and obviously that went a long way. I think we’re happy with the establishment we have and we’ll get the results. We weren’t 100 percent prepared coming here and a lot of these teams have been doing it for years and years. Not trying to make any excuses but I know there’s a lot more to gain. I’m excited and thankful for all the people that backed us. We have a lot of great sponsors and we’ll continue to keep plugging.
"I think the biggest thing is that both guys are healthy. We know there are some things to work on, but we knew that this was going to be a process and a building stage." - Grant Langston
Photo: Simon Cudby