Open Mic: Thunder Valley

Open Mic: Thunder Valley

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By Jason Weigandt, Steve Matthes and Aaron Hansel

Ken Roczen, Red Bull KTM, 2-1 for first in 450MX

It seems like you certainly have the ball rolling. Does it feel like this is the breakout year you get an outdoor championship in America?
I think it’s kind of early to really say, but I feel like I’m running good right now and I feel really strong. Well, after today’s practice I felt good. Obviously I didn’t get the pole position, but I didn’t really worry about that too much. I got a really good jump on that first start and then basically got smoked going uphill. From then on I knew I needed to put a little bit of a more aggressive mapping on the bike. Basically I had to fight my way through and could only finish it off in second place, but I was still happy with my riding and stuff. Coming into the second moto I had a much better start. Changed little things on the bike and that made it much better and easier to ride. Overall though I’m happy with how I did again today. I just want to keep clicking them away like how I’ve been doing and just stay healthy.

I know you did the majority of your off-season training down in Florida. Where do you call home during the outdoor series?
I’ve been back in California for right now and I’m going back after this race because we have a KTM dealer thing we have to do. I think I’m just going to fly straight to the race at High Point and then from there on I think I’m going to go back to Florida.

[Reporter from the Denver Post] How do you feel about some of these peers that you’re holding your own against? Are they cool around you? Have they embraced you? Especially a guy from Germany.
It’s tough when you come over from over there. Everything is just different, like day and night. We’re racing motocross there and here but over there we have a two-day event basically so we have a lot of practices on Saturday and then we race on Sunday. When I first came over here it was just so hectic. I felt like, you fly to races on Friday and most of the time you get there pretty late just because traveling from West Coast to East Coast is kind of tough. And then the whole Saturday, I didn’t know the tracks so that made it kind of tough. I think I just adapted by now and made my residence in Florida, which cuts the travel in half. It’s definitely more aggressive riding. I feel like in Europe everybody kind of settles in. The races used to be 40 minutes over there and I think now they put it back down to 30 plus 2 which it is like here. Another thing was just the weather, it was much hotter here. It kind of made it tough on me just to really get going but I feel like I finally found myself and just trying to keep going like how I’ve been.

How bad was the roost out there today? I heard you talking on the podium about getting punished a little bit.
It was super bad, especially at that first moto. I got super excited once I got the jump, because I never do. I was in like sixth or seventh or something like that and the roost was just gnarly. Especially after the moto, everything was just sensitive. I took a rock to my finger, which I had to ice a little bit in-between the motos. And I told myself, I need to get up front. I didn’t get the holeshot but I wasn’t as far back and it didn’t take me as long as it did in the first moto. The roost was pretty bad for sure, especially the 450s. They have quite a bit of power.

You always seem like you have a good time at the races. We see you on Instagram, you always seem to be having fun. But deep down inside obviously you’re a competitor—you came so close to winning the opener you came back with a vengeance. Just talk about how badly you do actually do want to win even though you don’t walk around with like a mean scowl on your face.
I do, I just think off the track, I don’t feel like I’m at the race and I want to keep it that way just because I don’t like getting too serious and I like to have a good time. Once we start racing, if you kind of know where you’re at, you trained good, and you’re confident and you’re basically one with your bike, I think once the gate drops that’s when I go in focus mode. I just like to have a good time and I’m not a big fan of being too serious.

Talk about the difference between your last five or six supercrosses and how you feel on the bike now.
I found a setting that engine-wise and suspension-wise that I actually really liked. I think that’s just what I was struggling with a little bit in supercross, especially with having that many races, first in the 450s. It kind of made it tough towards the end. I’ve raced outdoors for a longer time so I feel like I have more experience. I just know what damage I can do. I think it’s confidence.

For a while you had youself and your trainer Aldon Baker, Villopoto was winning and Cianciarulo was winning and you guys were hugging after the wins and having fun. It was like this big awesome thing. Now those guys aren’t around. Is that a change at all?
Yeah, those are the two that I usually give the most crap just to mess with them! But right now I’ve been alone. In California it’s a little different just because I know a lot of people there and friends. In Florida it’s definitely different. Toward the end I was basically the only one at the farm and it gets kind of boring, so those guys better get back on it!

We’re done with the West Coast rounds other than Washougal; we head back east. Of the races remaining, what’s the favorite place you have on the schedule?
I think we have a couple of tracks riding that are new, so I don’t really know…

One new, for sure. You’ve been to Muddy Creek last year.
I really like Muddy Creek. I think any of the East Coast rounds that I actually like, just the dirt’s kind of deeper. Like RedBud is a little sandier and I’m a big fan of that. The deeper the ruts, the tougher the track I think the better it is. I like High Point too. I’m kind of lucky to be kind of like and all-around rider. I even like the rain, whatever it is, I’ll take it. So I’m looking forward to every single one, to be honest. - Jason Weigandt/Post-Race Press Conference

"I got a really good jump on that first start and then basically got smoked going uphill. From then on I knew I needed to put a little bit of a more aggressive mapping on the bike." - Roczen Photo: Simon Cudby
"I got a really good jump on that first start and then basically got smoked going uphill. From then on I knew I needed to put a little bit of a more aggressive mapping on the bike." - Roczen Photo: Simon Cudby

James Stewart, Yoshimura Suzuki, 1-3 for second in 450MX

Looked like a classic James Stewart in moto one.
I wouldn’t say full classic but it was definitely a step in the right direction. I was kind of slow in practice all day. I felt pretty good, just didn’t have the flow. The first moto, the whole year it’s been kind of not getting the starts, so to go get a start, kind of see where we were, it was good. Kind of made a few mistakes early and settled in. Actually it was weird because the whole time I thought Roczen was behind me. I didn’t know anybody else was around me until I watched the race. It was good. We were able to hold onto it. I felt great. It was definitely nice to be able to get a win now. We’re making improvements, just going to keep working on that.

You mentioned on the podium you guys made some changes to the bike and kind of went backwards in the second moto. Did you make the changes because you thought it could be better or did you think the track was starting to require some changes?
Just kind of guess on what we think we need. The thing that was concerning me in the first moto, we fixed that but then we kind of created another [problem] area. So the first couple laps were sketchy for me. Even a small change is a big deal… especially if you’re out there trying to go for the lead. Made a few big mistakes and lost some time. Kind of got stuck behind Josh [Grant] for a little bit. Was able to get around him and then I was closing up on those guys, but every time I would do it I would make a small mistake. I made a big mistake right here after the rollers section, went off the track. Basically did another start! Then I was able to close back up on Trey and get him at the end.

You talked about making a little mistake here and there. Was it the track that caused them?
I think it was a little bit of everything. Maybe pushing it to a point to go to catch those guys, making changes…. sometimes it works, sometimes doesn’t. But I was happy. I felt really good this week, both motos felt really good. From where we were at Glen Helen to Hangtown, we’re starting to gradually get back into this thing. I think the wins are pretty close to being there. The data we gathered today, we know we were close on setup and I’m feeling good; I can win.

You did such a good job dealing with the KTM guys and Trey in the first moto despite how much pressure was there. How much does your experience help at times like that?
Yeah, to be honest I’ve really never crashed because of pressure. I’ve crashed because I did something stupid or dangerous or something like that, but never pressure. I raced Ricky and Chad and I raced Dungey back in 2012. I prefer [racing like] that than anything else. I prefer that than having a good lead, you really have to pay attention to your lines and your mind doesn’t wander. Like I said, all those guys were behind me in the first moto but I just thought it was Roczen. The pressure’s one thing, but I’m not going to crack under that.

What do you think went wrong early this season? Everybody’s kind of guessing on setup going into the first race. Obviously things have gotten better now that you’ve raced. What happens when preparing for outdoors that makes someone guess right or guess wrong going into round one?
I think this year at supercross we were actually a contender the later part of the year. At one point I was the one person that, slim chance, 1 percent, but I had a chance with Villopoto. So you get to that point and you’re like, I knocked out those three races [wins] in a row. We jumped on outdoors but we didn’t just go into it as hard as we would if we were as high in the points as previous years. It just did not happen, and then I hurt my knee in-between New York and Vegas, so I was off the bike that week, and even the next week I was off a little bit. When we jumped into it, we made some changes, some big changes on the bike. We had to pick up on that. You always notice it—the supercross champion or the guy fighting for the supercross title is the one that comes out and the first few races outdoors having to work on things… I mean, Villopoto did it, Dungey did it. So it’s one of those things that you almost have to figure out which series you’re going to go for and make the best of it. But I’m all right. Today we got better. Even though the second moto... I think we got better as the day went, compared to practice where Trey had me covered in the second half of one section. So we got to close that down. I’m starting to feel like myself again. We’ll get better.

You have a lot of irons in the fire. You have your own company, and a lot of things going on. How much distraction is there between being James Stewart the racer and James Stewart the businessman?
I’m smart enough to know the only reason the irons are in the fire is because of my racing out there. With me being the main guy wearing Seven [gear]—obviously we’ve got some kids and it’s nice to go see the public in it—but if I’m not showing up and racing and battling for wins or on the podium, the gear doesn’t get sold. People don’t see it. On that front, I got a great group of guys, Roger, Greg, everybody out there is on the team. So that’s good. The hardest part about my team is—sometimes it helps and sometimes it hurts—if I’m out hurt we don’t test. It’s only me out there. We have that unity as a team to be able to make improvements during the week. But we don’t use RCH’s setups or none of that stuff so it’s the Yoshimura team with James Stewart. If I’m not up their performing at a high level, or not riding because I’m sick or whatnot, things don’t get done. When that happens it puts us behind the 8-ball a little bit, but we’re making the best of it and it’s going to be that much sweeter when we start clicking and hopefully have a fight for this thing.

You mentioned you’re a one-man team. There’s this number 34 rider [James’ brother, Malcolm]. He’s mentioned he’d like to move up to the 450s full time including supercross. Would you ever consider a teammate?
For sure, Malcolm, next year we’re definitely thinking about him. Malcolm’s doing good. I think at this point he’s not doing as good as I thought he would. I think with him he’s just happy to get through the first couple races. We’ve been in California for a while. Even with him, this team’s a lifesaver. He doesn’t have the factory stuff and he doesn’t get the help from Honda like Trey Canard or Barcia. A lot of his stuff is going to Pro Circuit and when that team has time they give it to him. I think they’ve done a great job. He’s still new to this thing and I think as he grows I think he’s going to be a contender. It’s been a hard thing for me. When we’re at home I see the speed. I see days that I don’t ride good and I get beat by him, and it’s awesome. The reason I said he could win a race is because he’ll go to Glen Helen and some practices he’s two seconds a lap faster than me. He’ll figure it out. He’s just young. – Weigandt/Post Race Press Conference

"The thing that was concerning me in the first moto, we fixed that but then we kind of created another [problem] area. So the first couple laps were sketchy for me." - Stewart Photo: Simon Cudby
"The thing that was concerning me in the first moto, we fixed that but then we kind of created another [problem] area. So the first couple laps were sketchy for me." - Stewart Photo: Simon Cudby

Jeremy Martin, Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha, 1-6 for third in 25MX

The first moto when you got the fifth win and you got back in the truck, was it starting to set in that I’m the head of this class?
No, I don’t really look at it like that. I want to go out and I want to win. I’m where I expected to be going into the season. I think it took a little bit for everyone else to kind of get up to speed. They’re up to speed now. They’re going fast. They proved it today. Hats off to [Blake] Baggett for getting the overall. It was some good racing today. I didn’t get the best of starts. I’ve been fortunate the first couple rounds to be able to get the holeshot and be up front right away, and then today I had to work for it. I had to work through the pack. It was some good racing.

In moto 2 the start wasn’t quite there. Early on you were around fourth but then a couple guys, I think Seely or somebody, went right by you real quick. Was that a little bit of a “wait a minute,” then you have to refocus?
No, I don’t think so. I went down the hill and I just went kind of slow. Went down it the first lap, [Cooper] Webb zapped me. I think he saw the 19 on the back of the jersey and he was like, I’m going to block this guy. But it was good, once I got my groove I started to take off and those guys were right there. I was trying to hunt them down. Switched my line up and unfortunately lost the front end but it’s racing and we’ll be back next weekend.

One guy we haven’t heard much from on your team is new team manager Steve Lamson. Is that a guy you’ve leaned on? Explain his role over there.
Steve’s done a great job this year. He’s like fresh blood for the Star team. We’ve been breaking him in all year, cracking some jokes, having some fun. It’s good. He’s won a few championships before. I remember before the season I went to Chipotle and I sat down with him for a while and we were eating and we were going back and forth swapping stories about him back when he was winning. I was telling him about my dad being a hare-scramble champion and stuff. Pretty good relationship there. I’m glad to be working with him.

Did it seem harder to make up ground today? Everything was so close. Was it something with the track or having less power? It seemed harder for people to blow by. Every battle was close for a while.
I think the track was very fast today. It almost seemed like they didn’t rip it quiet as much as they did last year. The way the track was set up, we were going really, really fast. I think we were riding the bikes harder. I think the rest of the competition stepped it up a little bit. I just think the track had a hard base to it. I think maybe they were a little afraid to water it last night because the rain was coming. They were saying a 30 percent chance. I personally know, my dad being a promoter and stuff, you get a little gun shy on watering if you hear of rain. But hats off to the crew, they did a great job here and they pulled off another successful National and we’re going into High Point.

You mentioned just a second ago that your folks are promoters. A lot of second-generation owners now: the Richies, the folks over at RedBud, the Robinsons at Unadilla. Will you and your brother take over the Spring Creek National once you both retire in say 15 or 20 years?
[Laughs] That’s something that I’ve talked about with my brother, my mom and dad multiple times. I think right now I’m focused on the now. But it’s definitely a possibility. We got one heck of a place. I tell you what, if my dad were to sell it and I wasn’t able to go back to where I grew up as a child, I’d be pretty bummed out. So it’s definitely something that I thought about a time or two.

I’m going to take a guess that if he were to sell it, with your win bonuses you could probably buy it!
No, I think maybe back in the day but now you see all the improvements and stuff! My dad loves me but I don’t know if he loves me that much, he’s still got to be fair. Weigandt/Post Race Press Conference

"I’ve been fortunate the first couple rounds to be able to get the holeshot and be up front right away, and then today I had to work for it. I had to work through the pack." - Martin Photo: Simon Cudby
"I’ve been fortunate the first couple rounds to be able to get the holeshot and be up front right away, and then today I had to work for it. I had to work through the pack." - Martin Photo: Simon Cudby

Ryan Dungey, Red Bull KTM, 4-2 for third in 450MX

Let’s start off with the first moto. You kind of mentioned it on the podium, but do you think you kind of let it slip through your fingers?
Yeah, I definitely let it slip through my fingers in moto one. I should have been able to make the pass. That’s what we’re trained to do and that’s what we needed to do. I really did try hard and gave it my best. I was trying everything. I switched up my lines. I did come close one time but he edged me out. Unfortunately I made a mistake and then Ken got around me. So then it was like, now I have to catch two guys. Then I ended up making another mistake and lost my rear and Trey got by. So that wasn’t ideal. But we definitely pushed hard. That’s why it’s very important to get around people and I’ve got to work on that.

We in the media like to overanalyze stuff, so you won the first race and then you lost to your teammate in the next two. You don’t seem disappointed; it’s a long season. You don’t take this as like, “Oh man, what am I going to do?”
It’s definitely not panic but there’s definitely a push to improve in areas. Right now I feel like I’m going really good. Me and Ken, it’s usually us 1-2 up front and Ken, he’s edged me out a few motos more. These last three races, the first one was really good. We were able to get that win and then the last two Ken just seemed to have a little bit more in areas. I’m working on that, trying to find speed. I think it all comes down to where I can improve myself, technique, and getting better during the week. I’ve been out in California. We’ve just been out there riding together, not much testing. So it’s early in the season but you never want to let him get too many wins into it, but right there today was just a matter of a mistake the first moto that set me back. In the second moto, it was a clean fight to the end and he got the win. But we’re not far off; we’ve just got to keep improving little bits and pieces. I definitely want to get back up. Second place and thrid place is good, but winning, that’s where we need to get back to. We’ll get to it. – Weigandt/Post Race Press Conference

"I definitely let it slip through my fingers in moto one. I should have been able to make the pass." - Dungey Photo: Simon Cudby
"I definitely let it slip through my fingers in moto one. I should have been able to make the pass." - Dungey Photo: Simon Cudby

Justin Hill, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki, 10-10 for tenth in 250MX

It wasn’t the day I was hoping for out here at Thunder Valley. I had good speed, it was one of those days where I had good practice times, and that’s not me. I’m normally not that good in practice, so it was a confidence booster going into that first moto. But just a whole series of events with bad starts is what put me back today. When you get bad starts it puts you back with the guys who always get bad starts, and when you’re with those guys, well, some of them don’t always ride in a straight line.

You’re being awfully diplomatic.
I’m trying to be nice about it. Everyone knows that though, and when you’re back there you’re susceptible to all that. So I have to work on myself and my starts. The team’s been working hard to try to get the bike off the line better—it’s something we’re really focusing on. Once we do that I feel like there’s nothing that’s going to stop me, and I’ll be able to go out and battle for wins. But I have to get good starts first.

Going back to last week for a second, a fourth overall was a career best for you but you were extremely close to getting the podium. Happy with a career best, or frustrated you barely missed the podium?
I was bummed out. For a fourth to be my career best finish is pathetic, to me. I want it to be better, especially since I had third locked up. When I was chasing down Pourcel, if I would have gotten him it would have been a complete blowout for third, it wouldn’t have even been close. Then I had that big crash, but that’s another B.S. excuse from me. I’m just going to have to put it together and make sure I’m on that box with no ifs, ands, buts or maybes. I think that the team is working really hard to try to give me everything I need so I have to rethink what I’m doing.

Back to today. When you see things like what happened in the first moto with Jessy Nelson, a guy who you’ve battled with before, leading and building that huge gap, is that a confidence booster for you or does it make you think it should have been you?
It’s both. It’s a booster because we’ve had speed on Jessy all year. He’s picking it up now and doing well, but in the back of our minds we know we’ve beaten this guy all year. It’s like, “What are you doing back there?” For him to do so well and get on the podium, I’m really pumped for him. He’s a good friend of mine, but it’s definitely frustrating for me. It’s like, ‘Why can’t I put it together?’ It’s just one of those things. – Aaron Hansel

"I think that the team is working really hard to try to give me everything I need so I have to rethink what I’m doing." - Hill Photo: Simon Cudby
"I think that the team is working really hard to try to give me everything I need so I have to rethink what I’m doing." - Hill Photo: Simon Cudby

Erik Kehoe, Team Manager Valli Motorsports Yamaha (Christophe Pourcel, 11-3 for seventh in 250MX)

Word is Christophe had a problem with the front brake in that first moto.
Yeah, on that first lap a couple guys got together. After that first big downhill, they went left and the next section he got bumped off the track. We think when he got hit his caliper got hit and pushed it over. That’s the only thing we can figure because the brakes came back. He got back on the track and was feeling uncomfortable and it took him a while to get going. He probably had some of his best laps in the middle of the race. He had a good second half, but was really tight in that first half of the moto. Once he got in the lead in the second one he felt much better and more comfortable.

What’s it like as a team manager when you see him take the lead and start to gap them a little bit?
I tell you what, with him right now, every week it’s one step at a time. He’s been off for a couple seasons so it’s one moto at a time. He needs starts like that to get used to that pace. You can see how aggressive those guys are. In the first few laps they’re banging and throwing wheels in, and Baggett made some incredible passes on him but Chris came back and passed him back. He needs more of that right now because all the training and testing you do during the week is by yourself. So when you have guys throwing it in on you and battling, that throws your heart rate up and you’re putting out more effort. He needs more racing to get used to that.

What’s the deal in practice? How does he keep setting these fast times at the end of the second session when the track is slower for everyone else?
He’s a smart rider and racer, and he thinks about it. If you watch him, you’ll see him cruising and looking at all the different lines. When he decides it’s time, he just throws down and it’s pretty incredible. He just goes for it. When the track gets rougher he takes unique lines, and really thinks about where he’s going. It’s a good approach. – Aaron Hansel

 

Cole Seely, Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs Honda, 8-8 for ninth in 250MX

I wish you hadn’t had that issue at Hangtown last week because you rode pretty well. You could have had a really good day. Let’s rewind a little bit to that. Your crash was gnarly. You got lucky to ride off.
Yeah, definitely. Definitely one of the scarier crashes of my outdoor career for sure. I was actually surprised I didn’t lose consciousness. I went straight to my face and my helmet took all the beating. I actually twisted one of my knee braces. My gear definitely saved me in that wreck. It was tough and I’m still hurting from it. I got a kink in my neck, my shoulder, and my elbow. Like 15 minutes in out there today I started getting cramps. It’s tough to ride with for sure.

Hangtown could have been a good day too, you qualified second and was running well when that crash went down.
Yeah, unfortunately. I took all my bad luck for the season and put it in two motos, so hopefully done with that.

Today, a solid, steady day for you. Nothing spectacular, probably not what you wanted, but decent.
Yeah, decent. Not anywhere where I want to be, but I’m getting better at outdoors. I think that’s the main thing. Most importantly I know what I need to work on in order to get faster. It’s in sight, so I just need to go home and do the work and just put in the hours. I think by the end of the season I can come away with an overall for sure.

Yeah I feel like you’ve really stepped your outdoor game up this year, which is a good thing because the class is as good as it’s ever been.
For sure. I feel like the competition is definitely stacked this year. There are a lot of fast and strong riders this year. I think first through 10th are all good names and all have the endurance and everything to run, it’s just a matter of getting a lucky break and a good start and just riding however many solid laps, just 30 plus 2. It’s tough out there.

How many times you been here?
I’ve been here five times.

I felt like it was more hard-packed than ever this year. Do you agree?
Yeah, I feel like they were—and they did this at Millville last year because they were anticipating rain, so they cap it off. And then last second they go, oh, it’s not going to rain, let’s till it. But they don’t rip it deep enough and then by the end of the second practice the track is completely hard.

Some blue groove out there.
Yeah, it was tough. There wasn’t a whole lot of traction actually. Usually where it’s just like 10 lines across the whole track, and good lines too, but this year it was like you had to choose from like two lines and they’d groom some sections and take away and it’d be like a freeway out there in some spots. – Steve Matthes

"There are a lot of fast and strong riders this year. I think first through 10th are all good names and all have the endurance and everything to run..." - SeelyPhoto: Simon Cudby
"There are a lot of fast and strong riders this year. I think first through 10th are all good names and all have the endurance and everything to run..." - SeelyPhoto: Simon Cudby

Jake Weimer, Monster Energy Kawasaki, 8-12 for tenth in 450MX

Good practice today. Why did you fall in the second moto?
Things were just looking a little too good for me.

You’ve just got to go screw that up.
Yeah, why would you want to do something good?

You and Brett Metcalfe glued together for the most part, most of the day.
We’ve done that for years, really. First moto was tough, man. It was just a tough moto. I was always around people. It was tough. I actually got arm pump, which I don’t normally do that, so I was kind of fighting that in the first one.

Still a positive round three. Probably your best race, right?
Yeah, I was just talking to Dan, my team manager, and my worst result of the three we’ve done but I feel like probably, no doubt about it, the best that I’ve ridden. It sucks that I went down in that second one because I think I could have maybe squeaked me out a top 5 in that one.

Can you talk about where you crashed and how you crashed?
Right after the finish, that left-hander. There’s kind of that split lane. The outside was faster at the time and I just came in there a little bit quicker than I had been coming in and just tucked the front end.

That happens.
I got a lump on my leg, man. It hurts.

"I was just talking to Dan, my team manager, and my worst result of the three we’ve done but I feel like probably, no doubt about it, the best that I’ve ridden." - Weimer Photo: Simon Cudby
"I was just talking to Dan, my team manager, and my worst result of the three we’ve done but I feel like probably, no doubt about it, the best that I’ve ridden." - Weimer Photo: Simon Cudby

Mitch Payton, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki Team Manager

Congratulations, a 4-1 gets the overall for Blake Baggett. The second moto was vintage Baggett.
I was really pumped on him. He rode really, really good. That was awesome to see. He got a decent start, he was aggressive right off the bat, he didn’t wait. He got up into third right off the bat and those guys were close, and I felt comfortable then. And then he got up to Christophe [Pourcel] and Christophe’s awesome. Got by him, although Christophe fought him and then he was able to get back by him and then put a little gap. I felt pretty good about that and he did like 4 or 5 really good laps and was able to get a little bit of a cushion so it was awesome.

Yeah, he was not waiting around behind those guys. He was all over them. That’s good to see.
It is. And that’s something he’s been working on. That’s what his mom was saying, the last few weeks it’s like trying to focus on what he needs to do and work on his intensity. Bones has been working his ass off trying to get the bike better. We came up with some new motor stuff too, just trying to get a little more out of it in a different direction. That seemed like they were both Justin and him were happy with that when we tested it. So I think it was nice to see something come out of it. That was awesome.

He was fast, many times fastest guy, but just waited too long. And that’s been something we’ve been seeing. It’s weird how in an hour and a half he turns the tables, but he did.
The first moto he didn’t get a good start though. We watched it on video and stuff and he didn’t have a good start. The second moto he tried to really focus on getting a better start, and he did, so that helped. But he didn’t just like lay there for a minute and then wait. So that used to be the old Blake that would just wait until the 15-minute mark. I don’t think you can do that anymore.

I was going to say, do you think the class has changed a little bit that way, where that sort of strategy isn’t ideal anymore?
I don’t know; there were good guys back then too. It really depends. The guys that are here right now are able to sprint. Obviously Jeremy Martin’s in good shape too. You got to be up there. I don’t think in the 450 Class you can wait or the 250 Class. I think you got to get up there immediately and then if you can see them then you’ve got a chance. So you got to get up there to where you can see them.

And Justin Hill’s performance today?
Justin struggled a little bit. First moto bad start, second moto was a better start except for the first lap he got knocked off the track. So then he was dead last, and that was actually not such a bad ride to come back to where he did. But still there’s more out of him and I’m sure he’ll do better.

Been a tough start for the Nationals for you. Like I said, I’ve been coming by to interview you or talk to you and the mood has not been good. A DNF also. Can you remember another one like this?
I think anybody can have them, it just depends. The thing that happened last week to Blake was part of the cause because we were trying something that we hadn’t really spent so much time with because of what happened to Dean. So we had to readjust again. This week we spent quite a bit of time working on some stuff and I think by Thursday when they rode it they were really impressed with it and I think that helped a lot. So if we could just get back on to where they’re comfortable with the bike then I think that will slow down everybody from panicking. You know how it is, when you’re behind or you’re just not getting results, you’re not sure why, and then all of a sudden you’re kind of searching everything.

Yeah, you just chase your tail and chase everything.
You do. You don’t want to push it all on them and then they want to think it’s you, so everybody was trying. They’re both trying really hard too, trying to make up differences also. So they both have things that they’re trying to work on right now to make them better, and then we’ve got things that we’re doing that seem like there’s some good improvements out of, and we just want to keep going that direction. – Steve Matthes

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