By Jason Weigandt Steve Matthes and Aaron Hansel

Ryan Villopoto, Monster Energy Kawasaki, 2nd in 450SX

How was it?
It was good. I’m happy with where we are and leaving here. It’s good to leave here with the points lead. I’m happy with the way I rode. It was a tough track to pass on and James [Stewart] rode a really good race. All day we were kind of struggling with a little bit of bike setup, just with getting some traction and things like that. We made a change before the heat race and rode it in the heat race and were pretty happy with it so we stayed with it in the main. After the main I’m pretty happy with what we found and stuck with.

So it’s something that you can use at other tracks here?
Totally. It was just a little bit of a setup issue, so we were able to get it under control.

You didn’t win any of the Southern California events. Is there anything to that? Is there a similarity between Anaheims and here or did it just work out that way?
I think it just worked out that way. I feel like where we are, I’m happy leaving here with the red plate. I think we’re in a great spot going into the East and obviously as we’ve seen there’s been a lot of big mistakes. Chad went down tonight, that’s a bummer. So I think we’re in a great spot.

The way this race went you were close for a while with James, the last couple laps he got away. Just take us through how the laps went.
We obviously ran into some lappers and then obviously with the laps clicking down … I almost fell here after the finish. I don’t know exactly what lap that was. But the track was tough and it was slippery. I felt like I was riding well and I could bridge the gap to him most of the time, other than probably the last three or four laps. But bridging the gap and passing is a different story. Especially with tonight, it was slippery. So it’s not like you can do a whole lot. Knowing that we were able to kind of do that, I’m happy with it.

It seems like these last couple races, maybe because it’s slippery, no one’s able to make up huge yards of time. Maybe they’ll put in two or three good laps and inch up but no one’s able to make huge things happen.
It’s also I think partly because the tracks are very easy to make mistakes on when they are really slippery like this. Just like that, I landed off the finish line and they just started going away. I was able to hang onto it but things like that happen in the snap of a finger.

Last year you won a bunch of races to make up a ton of points. Are you thinking things differently now that you have the early points lead instead of last year being down by 20? Are you happier with just taking podiums?
For sure I’m happier right now than where I was last year. And now that we’re leaving the West Coast and going back to where you can push a little bit harder and where maybe setup isn’t just so key. You can make up for some of that just the way you ride and how you ride the tracks. Looking forward to get back there and see what we can do with it.

How do you feel about the championship so far? Do you kind of find yourself looking in three or four different directions compared to maybe the one or two as in previous years?
I feel like we’re in a good spot. I’m looking at more of a broad view now than so much even compared to last year. Last year was a lot of tunnel vision, things that happened,  we were way down. It went from, “I don’t even know if we can win this” to then coming back. Now it’s like get a third here, a second, and some wins. We’re just in the hunt this whole time and that’s where we want to be.

And Roczen’s right with you. Is that something you expected pre-season?
Yeah, watching Kenny as a Lites guy he’s a very smooth rider and that obviously will fit a 450. You can’t ride a 250F like you ride a 450. If you’re smooth like that on a Lites bike, it’s obviously going to transition over very well for the 450. He’s got that, not full Euro style, but he’s got that Euro style where he has a lot of rolling speed and he’s able obviously to ride the KTM very well and use those things to his advantage. It works for him. It’s not a surprise. There’s still a lot of racing left so we’ll see if things start to pop up, or mistakes. We can all make them at any time. – Jason Weigandt

"I feel like we’re in a good spot. I’m looking at more of a broad view now than so much even compared to last year." Photo: Simon Cudby
"I feel like we’re in a good spot. I’m looking at more of a broad view now than so much even compared to last year." Photo: Simon Cudby

Jason Anderson, Rockstar Energy KTM, 2nd in 250SX

This is the kind of stuff that saves championships—making the most out of the least.
Yeah, the track was slick tonight. I kind of had one sketchy moment as I was trying to come up on them and I kind of freaked myself out, so I was like, you know what, just chill. I did settle.

We were waiting for the last lap.
It’s something [backing it down on the last lap] I haven’t been doing but I’m cool with it. Going into the break I didn’t want to push it and end up falling. So four points [lead], a second, a podium, points lead going into the break, I’m cool with it.

Crash in the heat, came from way back to get a fifth and then not a great start in the main. Was that a little bit of gate pick or was that you?
Gate pick. Tonight there were probably two good gates on the inside and one close to the box, and I was 10th gate pick. The rest of them were like Unadilla coming out. So it definitely wasn’t the ideal situation for a gate pick but I made it work. Definitely wasn’t the greatest start but I just knew I had to stay in it and work my way forward and do some damage control. – Steve Matthes

 

Ken Roczen, Red Bull KTM, 3rd in 450SX

Happy to get another podium. I was just really sketched out. Did a lot of mistakes and almost crashed, so really not happy with the riding. But it’s good to get another podium. I’m still in the championship hunt. Everything’s good.

Talk about the track a little bit.
Since I almost crashed a few times, I don’t know what it was, but I just didn’t like it too much in the main event. It was kind of slippery but not. You had some spots where it was good and some where it wasn’t. So I don’t know. I’m glad to make it out of here safe.

Were the lappers a problem?
Yeah, on that last lap. I’m really bummed. I hope Reedy’s okay. I don’t know if he got on my rear or something but I was really close to Nick Wey. I got squirrelly myself in the whoops and I think Reed hit me, so I hope he’s okay. I’m really, really bummed about that and sorry. – Jason Weigandt

"It was kind of slippery but not. You had some spots where it was good and some where it wasn’t." Photo: Simon Cudby
"It was kind of slippery but not. You had some spots where it was good and some where it wasn’t." Photo: Simon Cudby

Weston Peick, MotoSport.com/Peick Racing, 5th in 450SX

Another terrific race. You had to have been about 12th or 13th at some point. Next thing you know you’re a few seconds behind Barcia and Tomac. I look away for a lap, now you’re two seconds in front of them. What a ride!
Yeah, definitely. It was an awesome ride. We didn’t have the best of luck in practice or in the heat race, or the semi.

You had to go to the LCQ!
Yeah, I had to go to the LCQ which I hate doing and riding with spodes. It was definitely a tough day altogether. But we put our heads down, the team, and we got it done. Won the LCQ. Didn’t have the best gate pick for the main. I think we actually started off at like 15th in the first turn and then I just kind of started picking people off. It was an awesome race. I just started picking people off and got in my groove, finally. The track was such a mess. I saw where Barcia and Tomac were making their mistakes at and I just started capitalizing on that, just made my passes clean and went for it. – Steve Matthes

 

Cole Seely, Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs Honda, 4th in 250SX

Take us through your night.
It was good. I had an all right day in qualifying; I think I was a second or a second-and-a-half off, which is good for me. I never set down one fast time; I usually just set consistent times. I won the heat race, which was good because I haven’t won one of those this year. Going into the main I got a bad start and started working my way through. Every time I tried to push it I’d run into a bigger error though. I’d make a little mistake and lose more time than I gained. I just had to settle into my pace and ride out the race. I tried to catch up to those guys at the end, but I just didn’t have enough in me. I just had to think about the big picture out there, the points, and I did some addition in my head and figured out I’d only be four points back if we finished in that order, which we did. That’s fine with me. As long as we’re still close and in this thing, I’m happy. I wanted to go into the break and enjoy it, not living in the past and regretting little mistakes I made here and there.

It was a good night, and I’m actually really happy to come away with a fourth because this week on Tuesday night I got food poisoning. I’ve been in bed for the past three days and haven’t been able to do anything. I’m losing weight and I felt really weak all day long. I’m not trying to make excuses here; it was just a tough week for me.

Well if you got food poisoning that’s not an excuse, it’s just what happened.
Honestly I was dreading racing. I did not feel good, but we got through it with a fourth and that’s good enough for me tonight.

I haven’t heard you talking about it much, but you’ve been dealing with being sick all season, right?
Yeah. Usually I’m really good about not getting sick. I don’t know. I had a stomach virus that was going around, and that was really tough, very painful to deal with. I couldn’t really treat it, I just had to push through it and it stuck around for a week and a half, almost two weeks. I was just having to adjust my diet on what I was able to eat, and I had to back down on my riding and training and try not to lose any weight. It was tough, but it was actually easier to deal with than the food poisoning. It sucked because I was just starting to get back on my normal diet and enjoy eating food again. I could eat, so I could train again, and I was getting happy again and then I got food poisoning. It felt like I couldn’t catch a break. I’ve never had it before; it’s gnarly. Literally two-and-a-half hours after eating dinner I woke up in bed and I had to throw up. I was up all night throwing up everything I had. It put me in bed for three days and took all my strength. It was hard to race, but again, I’m not trying to make excuses on why I didn’t win or anything, it was just something that I had to deal with. – Aaron Hansel

"I saw where Barcia and Tomac were making their mistakes at and I just started capitalizing on that, just made my passes clean and went for it." Photo: Simon Cudby
"I saw where Barcia and Tomac were making their mistakes at and I just started capitalizing on that, just made my passes clean and went for it." Photo: Simon Cudby

Eli Tomac, GEICO Honda, 7th in 450SX

Finally you got one. Been out with injury and then a flat tire. Solid, steady ride. Probably nothing you were super pumped on but not terrible either.
At the start of the day it was absolutely bad, I mean terrible for me.

You were 18th in practice!
I barely made one good lap and the rest of the laps I just like butt-pucking around. I couldn’t hit the dragon back, to the on-off, and I was just totally jacked up. We tried some different stuff earlier in this week, trying to get my bike turning better and this track was actually pretty technical and steep. It was too soft. I was just terrible.

So someone said you had bike problems in one practice and you were behind the mechanics area, but no, it was more like just adjustments?
That was adjustments and that one practice I came out late because we were just floundering with stuff. So I went back to my old setup and it wasn’t that bad. Then going into the heat race, missed the main by one. Rode a good semi and then main event time, actually was just pretty dang close to holeshotting. I think Reed just kind of swept me and then I got kind of swung by a couple guys and kind of got back to where I was eighth or seventh or something. About halfway through the race, I caught up to Bam-Bam a little bit. I should have tried to pull the trigger earlier and I kind of got stuck in a weird pace. He would bobble, I would make a bobble … We were making the same mistakes. Then before you know it Weston Peick blows by both of us!

What do say about Peick at this point?
He’s an ox! A viking! He’s a legit dude now, he’s riding good! – Steve Matthes

 

Andrew Short, BTOSports.com KTM, 10th in 450SX

Been a couple weeks since I interviewed you. Quads, holeshots, you’re doing it all right now. I know you weren’t happy with your main event; you said so on the podium. Still, a decent night.
It was a great night for me except for the main event. I did really good in practice, I qualified the best [sixth] I have all year. I haven’t done that in years, since maybe 2010, and the field wasn’t near as deep. So a great day for me. I changed my starting technique quite a bit. Starting in a completely different gear, weird, but it works. It really helps when there’s a big rut in front of the gate. It gets big holes because you spin on the plastic. So a lot of positives. Best start of the year, worst main event ride. Really disappointed with that but that’s a mental thing. I need to focus on a lot of the positives. I know I have the speed, I just need to pull my head out of my butt and go when it counts.

It’s one of those things where you get the holeshot, and let’s face it, those guys right now may be a little better than you, the top guys. So you get rattled or you lose your rhythm I guess? And also before you know it, you’re like, what the hell?
Yeah, I tried to force something that’s not there. I put too much effort into trying to go fast when I need to let it happen. In practice you don’t think about it, and I had great speed today. I was two tenths off third place in qualifying. So obviously I have the speed to run close to the top five. Oakland I started 21st, finished 10th. Tonight I started 1st and finished 10th. That’s pretty lame. So I’ve got to work on the mental side. I think I was a bit of a head case tonight. I was a huge head case. So I need to focus on the positives and let it happen.

Did Brayton get you?
Yeah, Tickle… People that weren’t even close to me off the starts.

Here’s my point though: you’re one of five guys who gotten a top 10 every race this year. I know you don’t care, but that’s still consistent. I think you’re having a good year.
I do too and I feel really motivated for leaving California. Normally this time of year I’m almost over-trained and had a long off-season. I feel like I’m going to keep getting better each and every week and I’ve been doing that, I just haven’t been doing it when it counts. Great night. To finish top ten like that, it says something with how deep this field is and how I’ve had to recover during the highs and lows. Tonight I just rode like a dork. That’s the beauty of racing; you always have another race. – Steve Matthes

 

Shane McElrath, MAV TV/Troy Lee Designs Honda, 5th in 250SX

I actually didn’t get off to a very good start. The gates weren’t very good tonight, all of them had holes, and I just didn’t make it happen. I tangled with someone right out of the gate so I was mid-pack, and I knew I had to go. My heat race really helped me out because I knew that I was able to run the pace up front. I just had to find my lines and be smooth and smart. I put my head down and kept pushing. I didn’t even know I was in fifth until there were just a few laps to go. I looked at the leader board and saw my number up there and got pretty excited! It was nice to end up with a top five. – Aaron Hansel