By Jason Weigandt, Aaron Hansel and Steve Matthes
James Stewart, Yoshimura Suzuki, 2nd in 450SX
Were you a little surprised that it was him [Chad Reed] coming up there? You had Ken [Roczen] on you and Ryan [Villopoto] right there too, and then Chad came up. It must have been a little bit of a surprise.
It was. I knew whoever was riding behind was riding really good. And Chad does good—I mean, he’s not a bad rider! He’s fast. When he smells victory like that I think he goes for it. When he’s on, he’s on. And tonight obviously he was. We just took off and we ended up second place. But it was crazy. I saw both Ryans go down, a lot of mistakes out there. So 17th [finish at round one] is hurting right now. So keep chipping away. We closed it down. Just keep on building off that.
You’re disappointed because of the way it turned out but you have to be feeling pretty good for being right there. You were close, and leading for a long way.
It’s definitely a little disappointing, but I know if I felt like I did at A1 I would feel like I could win this thing. But we’re not there right now. I didn’t get it tonight, but we’ll be back at Oakland.
Just take me through you and Villopoto battling. Do you remember what exactly happened there? I know you were close and then he went down.
He was trying to get around me. I wasn’t sure how close he was coming into the finish line and my foot got caught up in this wheel, kind of old school. I had to put my foot in there to stop him! [Laughs] So I think that’s how he went down. It was left and right, back and forth tonight. If it wasn’t him on me it was somebody else. I really wasn’t looking behind me. I knew whoever was there was riding good and if I didn’t ride good I was going to end up getting passed. So I knew he went down; I heard the crowd go wild. I saw Ryan [Dungey] go down. When you’re in this situation you’ve got to take what you can get. Tonight was on the podium and I can’t be too frustrated. – Jason Weigandt
"I saw both Ryans go down, a lot of mistakes out there. So 17th [finish at round one] is hurting right now." - James Stewart
Simon Cudby photo
Ken Roczen, Red Bull KTM, 3rd in 450SX
I had a decent start and was having a good battle up front. I think it was pretty exciting racing. I’m not too happy about my riding, I think it could have been a little bit better, but to be in the mix and on the podium again is big. I don’t think I can complain.
Talk about the pass on Ryan Villopoto.
It was good. I just have to do the best for myself and the team. There wasn’t any dirty riding and I’m really happy with all of it.
How was the track?
It was tricky. It was very hard-packed and got very rough. Definitely a different style of track with retro night, you could tell just from the layout. It made for exciting racing tonight. I’m glad that they changed it, because lately it seems that the tracks have all been the same as far as the layout. To have more 90-degree turns and cutting over on the start straight was cool.
That was a crazy race with lots of guys crashing. When you saw guys crashing did you dial it back a notch thinking there might be more crashes to come?
I tried to push the whole time. You just have to keep your focus because you can easily mess up and wash the front. It was a tough track and it was quite sketchy. But so was Phoenix. You can see that the dirt just dried out much quicker today and the rocks were coming out. It was very hard-packed.
Was it hard to make passes out there?
I thought it would be harder since it was such a different track, but it was actually okay. It’s always hard to make a pass.
You’re the new points leader. Were you aware of that?
Yeah, it’s great. I get to put the red one [number plate] back on! It’s a marathon though. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s great to have it, but it’s all about having it at the end of the year. –Aaron Hansel
"I get to put the red one [number plate] back on! It’s a marathon though. It doesn’t mean anything." - Ken Roczen
Simon Cudby photo
Justin Brayton, JGR Toyota Yamaha, 4th in 450SX
There’s just a lot of things that have come together—not just Phoenix, but the whole off-season, and I think even my Anaheim 1 ride gets looked over. Coming from the back to make it through my heat, battling [Justin] Barcia the whole main event. I feel like I’m there, I feel like I’m where I want to be. A little bit bummed on tonight, I was on Reed most of the race, but when RV ended up crashing, he cut in front of me—not intentional, at all—but I couldn’t do that whole rhythm after the start, and they got a three-four-five second gap. I was right behind Chad the whole race until that happened with RV. I was hoping to maybe capitalize on Roczen and maybe Stewart if I would have stayed a little bit closer, but I didn’t. There is still some good things to take out of that race. – Steve Matthes
Zach Osborne, GEICO Honda, 8th in 250SX
Really bad luck with the Tuff Blokc—but your starts are putting you in a bad position.
I should have never been in the position to get into that hay bale situation—if you can’t start up there you can’t race up there. As competitive as it is right now, there’s just no way to make up any kind of time. You have to start up front.
Bummed right now?
Yup—that’s probably an understatement. To go three-three in the first two races and then get an eighth, and not a good, come-from-behind eighth. I rode like a turd. [If I rode better] I still could have gotten a fourth or a fifth, at worst, even after that hay bale deal. But, it’s over now. – Steve Matthes
"There’s just a lot of things that have come together—not just Phoenix, but the whole off-season, and I think even my Anaheim 1 ride gets looked over." - Justin Brayton
Simon Cudby photo
Cooper Webb, Yamalube Star Racing Yamaha, 2nd in 250SX
It was cool—got another good start and just kind of rode behind [Cole] Seely for about eight laps. [Jason] Anderson got around me, and I got kind of nervous. I just wanted to finish on the podium. Kind of had a rough day, wasn’t feeling too good this morning. My first practice I rode like an idiot, my second practice, I was fourth, but I got a little sketchy and they said I came back on the track a little too fast, and they docked my fastest lap. So that pushed me back to seventh. It would have been my first time on the board. I guess it all worked out.
I feel like you look better each and every week.
I think it’s just learning. I think my nerves are getting better, too. Last week I was too aggressive, so that’s what I tried to work on this week. – Steve Matthes
Jake Weimer, Monster Energy Kawasaki, 10th in 450SX
It was a slow day for me getting going, it’s kind of like I needed to hit rock bottom to get going—and that was the heat race for me. Last lap of that heat race I was like “I have to get something going.” So on the last lap I wheelied into the whoops, and that was better, and it was like all of a sudden I started riding the whole track better. The semi I came from the back pretty good [and finished second]. Then in the main—it’s tough to get a start when you line up out there—so I didn’t get a great start. The first four or five laps, it’s tough back there, and that’s not one of my strong points anyway. I strung some good laps together, nothing out of the ballpark, but good considering where I was. I feel like if I could just start my day better I’d be where I want to be.
But you won a heat last week!
Yeah but we all know what that is.
Yeah it is good! But, you get a holeshot, it’s only six laps.
But if you get a holeshot in the main, you could maybe get a podium.
It’s 16 more laps! – Steve Matthes
"I think it’s just learning. I think my nerves are getting better, too." - Cooper Webb
Simon Cudby photo
Michael Leib, Rocket Exhaust/On Track, 9th in 250SX
The track was really technical and slippery tonight, and I had a bad week and got sick, so I’m glad to get out of here in one piece. First top ten of the year, definitely not the start of the season I wanted. Just not a fun week for me, so to come through and be able to do this was all right. – Steve Matthes
Cole Martinez, Woodland Merchant Services, 13th in 250SX
The main was rough! I’ve been super sick all day and I’m so happy to get a thirteenth this weekend. It was a rough day, and to transfer right out of the heat race was awesome. I was so worried about that LCQ with a bad start.
You transferred with a spot to spare, too.
Yeah, a couple people made mistakes in front of me. I was talking to Vince Friese, and he was telling me to relax, and that people make mistakes in the 250SX Class. I had the hammer down trying to catch those dudes and I caught up, then they both made mistakes and made it easy on me! But I think I would have been able to hammer down and get the job done anyway. But they made it easy and after I got into qualifying position I put in on cruise control and made it into the main, which was the main goal. – Aaron Hansel