In just his second season in Amsoil Arenacross, Jacob Hayes, a two-time Loretta Lynn Amateur National Champion, has a chance to pad his resume with an arenacross title. Hayes enters the season finale in Las Vegas on Friday night tied in points with former Freestone National podium performer Kyle Regal. Hayes’s Team Babbitt’s Monster Energy/Amsoil Kawasaki’s teammate Matt Goerke, who rode for BTOSports.com KTM in supercross and motocross last year, is just 7 points back.
We caught up with Hayes earlier today to see how he is feeling on the eve of the big showdown.
Racer X: Let’s get right to it. You enter the Amsoil Arenacross finale tied in points with Kyle Regal. What are you thoughts going into tomorrow night’s finale?
Jacob Hayes: When the Race for the Championship first started in New Orleans, I wanted to pull it together and get things rolling. I figured some things out with myself and the bike. I had been inconsistent all year. I had really good speed, but just didn’t pull it all together. I haven’t really been able to do it [laughs]. I’ve kind of been up and down. I really knew the last half of the series I was going to have to put my head down and really gain some points back. I would like to be up in points, but I’m right where I knew I needed to be—tied in points.
How are you feeling right now? Nervous? Excited?
I’m just excited. This week, I just focused on getting good starts and having a routine week and treat it like it’s another weekend. I go out there every weekend to win both main events, so that’s what I’m here to do this weekend. I have to focus on the task at hand, and that’s winning. Yeah, there is a little more hype around it, but I’m treating it the same.
How hard was it to make it a routine week? It’s obviously not a routine week.
You have your support system at home that keeps your feet in the game. The team has been super awesome this year with mentally helping me stay good and stay positive. A routine week for me is starts, motos, bike rides.
So, nothing changed? You still rode this week and trained?
It was actually a really short week. I got back from Tacoma Sunday, and then Monday we rode. We did Tuesday motos and then Wednesday off. So, not a lot of time on the bike, but it’s enough for the week. I’m racing supercross Saturday as well, so that’s going to be exciting.
You’re racing supercross Saturday?
Oh, yay! With the big guys. I’m racing East Coast 250.
That’s going to be quite a change going from arenacross all season to supercross. You excited to get back into supercross?
I’ve been riding some supercross at the Kawi track and at Milestone and Elsinore, so I should be good. I love supercross—I always have. I’ve gotten to hone my skills this year riding different tracks having this opportunity with Babbitt’s. I feel good coming into supercross. I feel better on a supercross track than an arenacross track.
Arenacross is different in that it has a Race for the Championship. You’ve actually benefited from it this year. What are your thoughts on it?
Last year, I didn’t really get why everyone was excited on the reset of points. I was around third, and then when it came to the reset, I battled my way to second. I had a good season for it being my rookie season. This year, I got a chance to lead the points for a majority of the year, which was awesome. Everyone says the red plate makes a difference, but it doesn’t. We still go out there to race for the win. It doesn’t matter what our number plate is; it could be purple.
In general, what are your thoughts on the Race for the Championship? Do you feel it’s a good concept?
Yeah, I do. It makes it exciting. It kind of sucks that you ride all year and work for the points lead, but this year they gave us more time with six races, and it wasn’t so short and compressed like last year, which had just four rounds. Every racer is going to make a mistake—we can’t all be perfect. You’re going to have your ups and downs.
Some people may forget that you started your career in supercross—albeit very briefly due to injury. What’s the future hold for you? Is it arenacross or supercross?
That’s kind of an unsolved mystery. I don’t know myself. I haven’t given it much thought. Wherever it takes me it takes me. I’m going for the championship right now, and I honestly don’t know what the next chapter is. I would like to say supercross, but you never know. You have to go where you have a ride and good money and the best opportunity in front of you.
This is just your second year in arenacross. You’ve risen up the ranks rather quickly. What would it mean to capture a championship this early, if it were to happen?
In amateurs you win championships, you win Loretta’s, and that’s a big deal. But it’s never of this magnitude. You never race a whole series, same guys week in and week out, and dealing with the ups and downs of the series. Last year was my first time traveling a full series and learning how much traveling is a real struggle too. Honestly, it would mean the world to me. I’ve worked really hard this year, and for it to come through it would be unbelievable.
Your teammate, Matt Goerke, is just 7 points back, so he’s still in the championship race as well. So there are three of you going for the championship. What’s your strategy for Friday?
Honestly, try to replicate Tacoma. Get two great starts and have two great main events. Everyone knows that if you get a great start, it helps, but in arenacross it’s critical. You have to get a great start to get away from those guys. It’s really close racing and a lot can happen. The main focus is to have two great mains and two great starts, and I feel like I can take it.