Open Mic:  Interviews from Oakland

Open Mic: Interviews from Oakland

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By Aaron Hansel and Steve Matthes

Davi Millsaps, Rockstar Energy Racing, 2nd in 450SX

I got off to a good start and came out third. I made the pass on [Justin] Brayton, I think on the third lap, and charged for the first half of the race and pulled away from the people behind me. I settled in there for a second and tried to ride a smart race without any mistakes and get back on the podium.

Talk about the track. Was it sketchy? Rutted? Slick? Hard?
All of the above! It was sticky, soft, hard, slick, rutted, bumpy, there was everything. It was a bit of a treacherous track, but I tend to do okay on those tracks.

Did you happen to get a glimpse of that big pile up in the second turn?
I saw something out of the corner of my eye that looked like chaos, but I was just trying to focus on what was ahead of me.

Four rounds in and you’ve still got the red plate. At this point is that empowering or is it added pressure?
It’s just the color of my graphics. Whether it’s red, black, white, it’s still just a color and you have to go out every weekend and pound it out and be consistent. You can’t put pressure on yourself knowing that you’ve got the points lead, there’s still thirteen races left. A lot can happen. – Aaron Hansel

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"You can’t put pressure on yourself knowing that you’ve got the points lead, there’s still thirteen races left. A lot can happen." - Davi Millsaps
Simon Cudby photo

Cole Seely Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs Honda, 2nd in 250SX

The race was good. I got off to like a fourth place start and the leaders made a little bobble in the middle rhythm section and I was able to capitalize on it and move into the lead. I just took it from there and did as best as I could to hold the lead down. I know Ken [Roczen] made a big mistake there at the beginning of the race. He was riding so well today, so fast, and I just tried to ride as fast as I could for as long as I could to keep him behind me, but it didn’t work out. I’m getting more and more comfortable in the lead, and that’s all I really need. It’s only a matter of time before we put the bike on top of the box.

When you were leading were you responding to the pressure or were you just making sure you kept it on two wheels?
I’ve been trying to ride smart races. I’d rather take a second like I did than fight for the lead and go down and end up in last or something like that. So I’m trying to ride smart races and keep focused on the big picture, the championship. We’re second in points, it feels good, and I just want to ride smart races from here on out.

The track looked a little sketchy in some places. Was it?
Yeah. It changed all day throughout practice, timed qualifying and at night. It was really hard to decipher, and how the bike was going to act. We did a good job of finding a good setting for the main with tire selection and chassis setup, so I was pretty confident. It did start to deteriorate there at the end, and I made a couple mistakes because of it, but it is what it is, and I just tried to ride a smart race.

How about that rhythm section following the sand section; they made some changes in there. Did those changes make it easier to take the table-to-table option?
It did in practice but in the race they fixed the sand so you couldn’t get over the first jump anymore so it went back to the normal table-over-table rhythm. The track was kind of basic tonight, but it was still pretty challenging.

The TLD bikes have gotten a ton of holeshots this year, and even tonight, you guys didn’t get the holeshot, but everyone on the team was up front. Have you done something different with the bikes?
Since I signed on to this team I’ve progressed, and so has the team, and it’s been really cool with both of us progressing together at the same level. Now we’ve got our own in-house engine builders. They’re really smart, and our engine tech, Ryan, has done a really good job. He stepped into Matt Jory’s shoes about a month before the season started, and he’s been awesome in finding that little bit of extra horsepower here and there, and that’s really made a big difference. – Aaron Hansel

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"I’ve been trying to ride smart races. I’d rather take a second like I did than fight for the lead and go down and end up in last or something like that." - Cole Seely
Simon Cudby photo

Brock Tickle, Dodge/Sycuan RCH Racing Suzuki, 8th in 450SX

Yeah, I felt good today. I like the track here. I’ve won a race here. I was looking forward to it. And then kind of halfway through the heat race I decided to jump off the track and faceplant into the hay bale.

It looked like it could have been worse than what it was.
I definitely got lucky; my face landed right on the hay bale and I got a mouthful of the dirt. But I think it was actually good tonight to get out on the track for the LCQ. The track’s really technical here tonight and I think that it was important to get a good start. And obviously starting on the outside here was a little tricky with how tight it was. Like I said, I don’t know; I got like halfway through the whoops on the start and all I see is a whole bunch of guys piled up on top of the berm. And I was like, there’s my brownie points. I just went around the inside and just kind of weaseled myself through there, picked a couple guys off, and then kind of got to Shorty [Andrew Short] and just settled in. Little frustrated but better than last week and I did better in practice this week. There were some positives.

Last year I talked to Mitch [Payton] a lot. He went on and on about your starts, and they’re not good again this year. That seems to be the big thing for you, do you agree?
Oh yeah, for sure. All these guys, everybody’s good. Everybody who lines up on the gate is good. So we’ll just keep clicking away and everything will come together. I’ve been doing starts, not focusing on it too much because that's kind of Ricky’s advice because it seems like even when I … I kind of did that there for a while for a couple years and it never really worked out. And when I won my championship, to be honest I didn’t practice any starts. So, goal is to come here and know I belong up there. – Steve Matthes

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"Little frustrated but better than last week and I did better in practice this week. There were some positives." - Broc Tickle
Simon Cudby photo

Kyle Cunningham, Star Racing Yamaha, 7th in 250SX

It went all right, things went a little better tonight. Last weekend I was really sick with the flu and struggled, so it was good to feel like my normal self again. But I’m just not getting out of the gate. Lap times are there, and I rode good the whole moto, but I almost went down with two to go behind [Joey] Savatgy and lost a spot to Malcolm Stewart. Overall we rode a good race and we’re going to go back to the practice track this week and try to change a few things up with the bike and probably burn up like fifty clutches until I learn how to get a start because man, I’m getting tired of coming from the back! But we’re riding good and the team is behind me 100 percent and we’re going to come out swinging at Anaheim.

Did you feel like this was one of your better performances of the year?
Yeah, I mean, we’ve had a few little mishaps. I landed on [Max] Anstie at round one and had no front brake, but at Phoenix I rode the same way; I rode good but came from the back. I had the fourth fastest time of the race, just started eighteenth. We know what we need to fix, and it’s not a speed issue. Tonight it took me a couple laps to get going, but on lap three I started making passes and working my way up. I got up there pretty quickly, but made some mistakes at the end. I accidentally pulled my last three tear-offs at the end and had sand on my goggles, but no excuses. We rode a good race. Malcolm came over to me and was laughing, he didn’t know how I saved it in the whoops. I got pretty backwards coming up to the triple, and I don’t know how I saved it either! There was someone riding with me and taking care of me, and I was lucky to save that and end up with a seventh tonight. - Aaron Hansel

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"Overall we rode a good race and we’re going to go back to the practice track this week and try to change a few things up with the bike and probably burn up like fifty clutches until I learn how to get a start..." - Kyle Cunningham
Simon Cudby photo

Justin Brayton, JGR/Toyota Yamaha, 10th in 450SX

The race was not what I wanted. I started out all right, I was in second for a while then Davi got by me and I ran third almost the whole race. Then [Ryan] Dungey just came inside of me and took my front wheel out, I crashed and that was it. I ended up tenth. It was definitely not a good night, and I’m pretty frustrated. I got a good start though, so that’s one positive for the night.

On the Dungey pass, was that simply a racing incident or was he overly aggressive?
It definitely wasn’t overly aggressive at all. I was cutting down all night, and I went to cut down not knowing that he was there. He came in pretty hot and that was that. It wasn’t anything on his part, it was more probably my fault than anything. – Aaron Hansel

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"It definitely wasn’t overly aggressive at all. I was cutting down all night, and I went to cut down not knowing that he was there." - Justin Brayton
Simon Cudby photo

Jimmy Albertson, MotoThump HRT Honda, 11th in 450SX

Yeah, really the word of the night is, or the phrase of the night is, that was my very first 20 lapper ever in history. Nineteen has been my thing and this year I figured I’d go for 20, and I did.

Massive pileup in the second turn. Where were you? How did it affect you? Did it almost collect you?
I think I used telekinetic power to knock down the people in front of me in the second turn. So I just skated around the inside and grabbed a few guys. I was planning on taking out the whole pack but…

You saw the carnage?
Yeah, I saw it. No, I just snuck to the inside. I didn’t even know what happened. Someone probably got squirrely in the whoops. I was literally going so slow in the back of the pack and just passed like 10 guys at once. It was great. They were all on the ground.

And what about your brother working for you tonight? Is this your fourth different mechanic?
Yes, this is my fourth different mechanic in four rounds and he definitely came through with the shining star tonight. I mean, 11th in the main, 20 laps… He was all fired up after the LCQ. No “good jobs,” just … the last lap, the pit board said, “win.” And I didn’t win.

He’s used to excellence I guess.
I bet you Tickle’s mechanic was looking at that thing going, "Oh my God. Please, God, finish the race. Albertson’s going for blood on the last lap in the LCQ for first."

Well, next week, A3, now you’ve just got to build on this and get in there every week now. We talked about it last year; when you miss a few you adapt to getting in it, right?
Oh, for sure. You miss a few and then that’s all you’re worried about is making it and once you get to the main you’re not prepared mentally for the main. You’re just like, 'Oh I’m here. What do I do now?' My goal was to make it here and I have nothing else. But it’s good whenever you’re getting 19ths, 18ths you’re scoring a couple points a round. And I scored a whole 10 points tonight. – Steve Matthes

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"Yes, this is my fourth different mechanic in four rounds and he definitely came through with the shining star tonight. I mean, 11th in the main, 20 laps.." - Jimmy Albertson
Simon Cudby photo

James Stewart, Yoshimura Suzuki, 19th in 450SX

I think today your practice may be the best we saw you this year. Your heat race was pretty good although you took a while to get into second. Main event though, bad deal.
Yeah, it was a bad deal. All day was good. The last two weekends actually have been really good. I got caught up with [Josh] Grant last weekend. But our progress is there. I’m actually riding better than I was the first two races, obviously. And then we come here and we’re getting better and better and then get another bad start but actually made some great passes. I was in fifth in the whoops and Reed got out of control and then he went into Grant. And then they went into me. I had nowhere to go. So I get off, I tweaked my knee again. But whatever, I’m just going to finish. I landed off the triple and looked down and my throttle cable’s broken. So that’s why I pulled off. It’s frustrating and probably the title’s out of reach out right now. I lost so many damn points it’s not even funny. And Millsaps is doing a good job just being consistent. But I’m having fun racing. It’s definitely not where I want to be at but I don’t want to quit. I think there’s more proving than what the results show. I still think we got a couple more weeks like this and now we’re kind of just out there just to do it. So it’ll be fun.

So basically I talked to people that kind of say Reed started that (crash). Maybe got a little whiskey throttle, little out of control, on the inside of the whoops. I guess that’s what happened?
Yeah, he got out of control. He almost crashed in the whoops. But he ran past his truck like he was mad at me or something. So I don’t know. Actually he swapped in the whoops. I actually thought he might have went down because he kind of cleared out for a minute. And next thing I’m over in the bowl corner and then, boom.

Knee is better though, obviously, based on how fast you went in qualifying.
Yeah, I was very quick in the first one. I was even quick in the second one. We changed the tire and it was horrible. It was fast. And normally I do good on these tracks when they’re rutted and all that stuff. So I was really excited about the main event. The heat race I lost it from the gate. But the main event I felt good. I thought the track dried out a little bit. It was better. But I think the improvement’s there. It’s the quickest we were all year.

That as frustrating as last year? Can you rank it? Which year is more frustrating?
Yeah, last year it was … I mean, I got a podium and I won already. So this year I haven’t even got to crack top five, which I don’t even know how that’s supposed to feel. I haven’t been like that. So I guess this year is probably more frustrating because it’s not the motorcycle; it’s me. And then going and having a great off-season and being hurt, dealing with that, and then just having everything -- like I said earlier, if I didn’t have bad luck I wouldn’t have luck. But it is what it is. I’m not going to quit. We’re here. – Steve Matthes

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"So I get off, I tweaked my knee again. But whatever, I’m just going to finish. I landed off the triple and looked down and my throttle cable’s broken. So that’s why I pulled off." - James Stewart
Simon Cudby photo

Mitch Payton, Team Owner, Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki

Mitch, [Martin] Davalos fourth. Tyla Rattray, another kind of off-night. Talk about it a little bit.
I don’t really know what to say. Practice was better for Tyla, heat race was better for Tyla and I thought the main event would have been good. Got a bad start, didn’t really move through the pack very well and finished I think 11th. So not very happy with that. I don’t know what to say about it, just he’s not riding very well. And I don’t think it’s cool.

I talked to Aldon [Baker], his trainer, he said they tested suspension this week and he was very happy with what you guys changed and what you figured out, so I guess it probably makes it even more disappointing.
Yeah, after the last race, we were asking him, is there anything we can do? And they thought yeah, maybe we can work on the forks or something like that. So we did that. Kind of went out a few days and really tried to get everybody out there watching and concentrating on it. Made good improvements on it for both guys, actually. They were both really happy with the bikes tonight. So that’s why I thought that if they did have that issue that tonight would be better. I’m not really pumped with the result of it all. Martin, you know, kind of left the gate not so hot, went down in the first turn pretty good and then got banged around the second turn and got into forth and just kind of I thought rode flat, plateaued. He said he was kind of tight. And not very happy with that either.

This isn’t a good West Coast season. This is as frustrated maybe as I’ve seen you in a while.
No, but it’s just like I really expected more from Tyla and I really expected Martin to have the speed to run with those guys with the right circumstances. And right now he just needs to dig down and find that speed. He’s got to do it. I know the bikes are good so I just think we got to get a little bit more. The intensity has to come up and got to hang it out.

You haven’t been this depressed since the Pingree years?
Pingree was pretty depressing, actually. Those were challenging times with David Pingree of course [Laughs]. No, but honestly they just got to straighten it out. We’re doing what we can do and they got to ride. Got to hang it out. – Steve Matthes

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"Yeah, I just haven’t put the whole package together. I’m fast, I’m right there with everybody. Just stupid mistakes, me not being aggressive and being a man, kind of being a little boy.." -Travis Baker
Simon Cudby photo

Travis Baker, Valli Yamaha, 12th in 250SX

Yeah, I just haven’t put the whole package together. I’m fast, I’m right there with everybody. Just stupid mistakes, me not being aggressive and being a man, kind of being a little boy, but got to turn it around. Can’t do what I’m doing. It’s not where I belong. I know I belong up front.

And how was the main event for you tonight?
The main, it was rough. I got a decent start from the outside and kind of was around 8th I think. Battling up there, passing, getting passed back, passing again, passed back … and then just made stupid mistakes, like I said, and didn’t put the whole thing together. Ended up 12th on the night, what I don’t want. I think from 6th to me was pretty close. Everyone’s right there, but I just got to put it all together.

How’s the new team? Two years at Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs Honda and now Valli Yamaha this year.
I love the bike and the team is awesome. Chad Lanza’s put a good program together. And we got a little small group. My mechanic Scottie’s been doing a great job. We got another guy Robbie who helps out in doing the motor and Yamaha’s stepped in a lot. I’ve always enjoyed the Yamaha. I grew up racing a Yamaha and I feel comfortable on it. – Steve Matthes

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