Open Mic: Houston

Open Mic: Houston

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By Jason Weigandt and Steve Matthes

Ryan Villopoto, Monster Energy Kawasaki, 1st in 450SX

It’s going well.
It’s definitely good to start building a lead. We have two tough races coming up. Anything can happen there, weather, racing in general. Salt Lake’s at altitude. Some really tough races coming up.

Talk about those whoops. They looked like they were breaking down.
They were. Just not much traction in them. First couple laps I was going a little bit left from the right side, but more to the left, not way right. And right towards the end kind of got kicked a few times and then changed my line up to the very right and was able to get good drives through there every time.

What has been the difference between now and the start of the season?
Everything. Myself, bike setup, good starts in general. Everything just playing off each other, feeding off it and getting better.

Do you feel like you did at this time last year? You were on a roll.
I do feel really good. I think a few more solid weeks and then I’d like obviously to go into Vegas with a lead to where you can, I don’t want to say cruise through the last race, but not be in that crunch situation.

Is this the longest win streak you’ve had?
That’s what Erin [Bates] said, yeah.

Do you think this is about as good as you’ve ever been?
It’s hard to say. There were so many good guys last year and the year before, and there are so many good guys this year. I think the field’s closer, maybe even closer than last year. To get a win with the racing like it is right now, is huge.

Hey, aren’t you undefeated with the new triple clamp setting that came at St. Louis?
[Laughs] I think so. – Jason Weigandt

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"It’s definitely good to start building a lead. We have two tough races coming up. Anything can happen there, weather, racing in general." - Ryan Villopoto
Simon Cudby photo

Ryan Dungey, Red Bull KTM, 2nd in 450SX

I lost a little bit there in the beginning, being behind, having to make some passes. And so once I got into second Villopoto had about four to five seconds. I started closing it down, really kind of focusing on the pit board and seeing my times, trying to make up more times, what was working, what wasn’t. I did make a few mistakes and lost some time here and there but I feel overall we were consistently a little bit faster, in the lap time average. Unfortunately just kind of ran into those lappers there at the end. And no excuses; lappers sometimes are tough to get around and we come up on so many of them. He had to go through them and I had to go through them. I think he lost time and then so did I. But we put a good, hard effort in tonight. I was really happy with it. At this stage it’s definitely coming down. Losing these points isn’t ideal but the ride and the performances and everything are going really well. I just want to keep building on that and let things play out how they’re going to play, and really put everything we got to the championship mode. But in this stage of the game just really performing the best we can each race.

Is there still work in progress as far as settings and the bike? Do you feel like you’res still making progress each week or have you leveled off a little?
I feel like we’ve leveled off a little bit. We just ran a new fork setting that we came up with right after Toronto when the guys were down testing. I do like the fork setting. I’m really happy in that area. But as far as bike setup and everything I feel like things have leveled off. We’re gaining little tips here and there, and it’s great, but it’s also nice to be at the practice track and just putting in good, solid laps and not having to worry about bike setup and trying to fix things. I feel like we’ve kind of eliminated that and kind of narrowed it down to an overall good package.

You had James [Stewart] on your tail for a little bit. Once he kind of went away were you able to focus more forward?
I wasn’t really focusing behind me. I knew somebody was pressuring me. I just kept seeing the yellow fender and I figured it was James, but I was just trying to focus on moving forward and really trying to get up to Ryan. He was pulling a little bit of a distance. And obviously trying to work my way around, Trey [Canard], too. He was putting in a good, solid ride tonight as well. – Jason Weigandt

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"I did make a few mistakes and lost some time here and there but I feel overall we were consistently a little bit faster, in the lap time average." - Ryan Dungey
Simon Cudby photo

Wil Hahn, GEICO Honda, 2nd in 250SX

How was it?
Hot. Warm. Steamy. Humid.

Was it hot in the building?
It actually was. It didn’t make a difference, riding or anything, but it was hot.

I’m not joking; I noticed on the podium the riders seemed sweatier. Is that weird for me to say that or am I actually onto something?
Were you checking us out?

Well, I did notice the sweatiness.
Were you enjoying it? That’s the weird part.

No, not at all. I was very turned off.
Then I’m okay with it.

Did you feel sweatier?
It was. It was hot in there. It wasn’t like a factor or anything.

See, I wanted to know if you felt sweatier because I didn’t want to feel you to know if you really were sweatier.
I see. It was for sure hotter in there. But today was good. I’ve had good speed all night. Had a good heat, good practice, good main. I made the mistakes, and that’s the bottom line. So just fix that, be good.

Take me through the finish line jump. There were like three or four times there…
In my head

Is that really what it was?
[Laughs] No. The first time I came pretty close to actually landing on Blake [Wharton], which it scared me. I didn’t jump it. The second time I jumped too far left, hit tuff blocks. Again, not enough speed to jump it. And then one time I cased it. But the casing, I don’t even know; that was just…

You don’t know why that happened?
No. No explanation for that one. Other than that I was just going for it. I wanted to lay it out on the line. I want this title. I would have been happier with a win but we got good points, so can’t complain at the same time. – Jason Weigandt

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"I wanted to lay it out on the line. I want this title." - Wil Hahn
Simon Cudby photo

Justin Barcia, Honda Muscle Milk, 4th in 450SX

Fourth place, kind of quiet night for you. Just kind of rode back there a little bit.
Yeah, rode like crap.

Oh come on, dude, fourth.
Yeah, fourth’s not that good these days. Podium’s where it’s at.

But you’re a rookie.
I’m a rookie. But been struggling a little; just riding kind of tight. I don’t know why. I felt like I could run the pace and stuff, but tonight just couldn’t break out of that little eggshell I was in. A little frustrating. Bike was actually really good tonight so I was pumped on that. But me, myself, and I need to work on a few things and get it together.

How about the track? A lot of guys liked it tonight. What’d you think?
I thought it was sweet. Good. There were some big bowls, big jumps, finish line was cool. I thought it was a great track. – Steve Matthes

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"I’m a rookie. But been struggling a little; just riding kind of tight. I don’t know why." - Justin Barcia
Simon Cudby photo

Justin Brayton, JGR Toyota Yamaha, 6th in 450SX

It was okay, I didn’t feel the best, but I had an okay result, and that kind of gets us back on our feet and moving forward. It’s something to build on, going forward, some positives and a few negatives. We’ll keep working and see if we can do better.

Did having that weekend off help?
It’s always nice to get refreshed a little and kind of sit back, relax and think about your weaknesses, and that’s what I did. I felt better all day long than I did the last couple of weeks, so that’s a step in the right direction. – Jason Weigandt

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"It’s always nice to get refreshed a little and kind of sit back, relax and think about your weaknesses, and that’s what I did." - Justin Brayton
Simon Cudby photo

Jake Weimer, Monster Energy Kawasaki, 9th in 450SX

After things got settled down at the front you were the battle to watch. And then I missed the Goerke/Weimer collision, but word on the street is you took him out. Or you caused it, let’s say. Again, that’s just the word on the street.
I don’t know. I don’t know what it looks like on camera. I didn’t mean to take him down. I went down too.

Those words may or may not have come from Jason Thomas who’s a member of the BTO/KTM team. Good race, though. Bummer you had to go down earlier to force that good race.
Definitely not a great start. I’ve just been sucking in the first few laps. I need to get that ironed out. I feel like at the end of the race I’ve got some fight in me. I might be all right if I could just be better in the beginning. – Steve Matthes

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"I don’t know. I don’t know what it looks like on camera. I didn’t mean to take him down. I went down too." - Jake Weimer
Simon Cudby photo

Phil Nicoletti, N-Fab TiLUBE Yamaha, 12th in 450SX

Solid top ten ride. Had to go through the LCQ to do it. You were in a top ten until very late in the race.
Yeah, it was kind of a bummer. I put in a solid 18 laps and I slowed so much up for Villopoto that Weimer ended up coming on me and kind of tightened up there on the last lap and whiskied it in the sand and went down. Kind of a bummer but it would have been a 9th, ended up I believe 12th, so I’m gutted.

You’re coming off your other high, the last race we had. Look at it this way: early on you weren’t making the mains and now you’re getting pissed because you crashed out of the top ten.
Like I said, beginning of the year wasn’t me, and now I am pissed. I threw that one away and it’s going to sting until Monday morning, I guess. We’ll see. Just keep plugging away and hopefully Minneapolis goes a little better. – Steve Matthes

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"Like I said, beginning of the year wasn’t me, and now I am pissed. I threw that one away and it’s going to sting until Monday morning, I guess." - Phil Nicoletti
Simon Cudby photo

Bobby Kiniry, N-Fab TiLUBE Yamaha, 13th in 450SX

I had a rough night all around. I really struggled with the track today, not so much jumping anything just I could not go anywhere. I felt like I was at a snail’s pace at all times.

Alan [Brown, Team Manager] mentioned, he said, “This is Bobby’s worst race of the year so far.”
Yeah, I was not having fun. Phil and me started second and third in the heat race. He just washed out. No one’s fault; he just washed out in the second turn. I hit him; we both had to go to the LCQ from there. We had to fix a lot of bent parts. Went back out there, went 1-2 in the LCQ. It sucks. I was under attack the whole time. I kept screwing up in the whoops and letting everyone get right to my butt. One of those days for me. Toughed it out, got in the main, just put 20 laps in without falling down, at that point. I believe I somehow, someway got 13th is what I was told. I needed those points. I think I’m 16th or so in points now. That’s not what I was looking for, but with the way the day went a 13th, I’ll take it at this point. I’m out of here healthy. Never hit the dirt. – Steve Matthes

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"I had a rough night all around. I really struggled with the track today, not so much jumping anything just I could not go anywhere." - Bobby Kiniry
Simon Cudby photo

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