Open Mic: Washougal Interviews

Open Mic Washougal Interviews

July 27, 2015 4:10pm

Justin Barcia, Yamaha, 1-2 for second in 450 Class

Racer X: Give us the overall of the day for you and how you feel it went. It was quite a performance.
Justin Barcia: I think it was a good day for sure. The first practice, I wasn’t very good. I was like tenth. I think I make the team nervous in practice because I’m just not very good at practicing. I think they’re starting to figure out that I’m just not a great practice rider. But I was third-fastest the second practice. It was just the times from the first practice were faster, so that’s where I was at. But the first moto was great. Edged out Phil [Nicoletti] on the start, and those starts have been good. I just got it down, so it feels good. Just kind of ran away with it. I think we were twenty-six seconds or something at the end. So that was good. I had a fun first moto. It was pretty slick, a little more muddy. Started drying out toward the end. 

Second moto was a barnburner for sure. Ryan [Dungey] was on my tail the whole moto. It was fun. I could feel him catching me in spots. When you’re riding, you can kind of hear the bike and figure out where he was faster, just by going off the sound. I stole some of his lines, and then got into lappers. I kind of broke away a little bit there. We were pretty close. Our times were super close, and then I made a big mistake down at the bottom of the hill and just pushed my front end. 

Were you pretty happy with yourself up until the point where you made the mistake, just the way you responded again to the pressure?
Yeah, it’s awesome. Racing with Ryan, it’s good because he’s a really respectful rider. I’m getting better about that too, just kind of maturing a little. 

So it’s not Bam-Bam anymore, just Bam?
Yeah, I don’t know. I am who I am, but I do respect him as a rider. He’s won a lot of championships and stuff. It definitely hurt today. This is the hardest loss for sure because I felt like I maybe could have held onto it. But it was good. I had a fun day. I enjoyed the track a lot. I’m from New York, so I do like the mud. People come up to me and they’re like, “Today’s your day—it’s muddy!” And I’m just like, “What, I can’t ride in the dry?”

We know you can.
Yeah, but the fans, they don’t know. It’s okay. But I had fun. That first moto obviously was really, really fun. And second moto, I think it was even more fun because it was a battle the whole race. I just am disappointed in myself for making that stupid mistake. I got up and I was a little juiced up. I rode a little crazy for a lap and then almost tanked it and went into the fence. And then Ryan got away.

It’s hard to over-ride the 450, isn’t it?
Yeah, I can do it though [laughs]. 

Over the last four races you’ve obviously turned everything around from where your season was. Is it a lot different coming to the races now?
Yeah, it’s not so much different really, but it’s nice to know I have the speed and the endurance and stuff like that to run the pace for the whole race. I’m putting myself in good positions to be a threat every weekend—that stuff feels good. But honestly, I haven’t changed anything. I just keep doing what I’ve been doing on and off the bike. Just finally I’ve kind of turned it around.

How hard was practicing in the rain?
The first practice, it was really slick, and I used a new rear tire today that I haven’t raced with. Doug from Pirelli came back after the second practice and said, “How was the straight traction?” I said, “Did you see me almost loop out at the hill like three times?” So the straight traction was super-good. That bike’s so fast, but the good thing about it is it’s controllable. Supercross, it was too fast for me. It was just a little out of control. Over time we learned things, and the bike’s awesome right now. It’s really fun to ride.

Next week we go to Unadilla. What’s the plan for the next two weeks for you? Just normal training, testing? Anything extraordinary?
I’m really happy with my bike. I actually tested all this week a few things. Actually didn’t change anything. Just kind of learning things and trying stuff and seeing how the bike does. But just sticking to my program. Ride my bicycle a lot, ride my dirt bike even more, and have some fun. I haven’t been back to Florida in a while, so I’m going to go back this coming week and hang out with my family a little. I think Dirt Shark’s coming down there to do a little video. Just keep it normal.

When you go to New York, is it more of a ruckus because of the amount of people that want to hang out, get tickets, and all that kind of stuff, or do you enjoy the fanfare?
I just tell people I can’t get tickets. I learned that the hard way. I used to get so many tickets, and now it’s just, I can’t get tickets anymore. But I love New York, and Unadilla’s a good place. Me and Ryan actually have battled there before, so I’m looking forward to dicing it up there. It’s a good racetrack. Hopefully it stays dry and we’ll get ten lines all over the track and it’ll be really good racing. I’m definitely looking forward to that. The fans there are one of a kind. They’re cool. - Aaron Hansel

Christophe Pourcel, Rockstar Energy Racing Husqvarna, 3-5 for third in 450 Class 

Racer X: Congratulations on the day, especially the push you put up in moto two. It was absolutely fantastic. Why don’t you go ahead and give us your overall on how it was for you?
Christophe Pourcel: The day was good. Being on the box is always good. First moto, I got a good start. I was kind of stuck in second place, and Dungey was kind of pushing. He was a little bit faster than me. He made an aggressive pass and I tried to fight back, but I think he was concerned with going after first place. It’s good. Third in the first moto is good. Any time you have the chance to be on the podium for the overall is good. Second moto, I got bad start, and I really had work hard. It felt good. The team is pretty amazing. The bike worked very good. I don’t know why, it was going good for me. Felt good on the bike. Came back fifth, almost fourth. A good fight with Weston Peick. I wish I passed him.

Tell us about that last lap. It was very close at the finish line. It looked like you were pushing very hard all the way to the end. Did you know at that point that you had third overall wrapped up, or were you just fighting for the position?
Yeah, I did know. My mechanic gave me the pit board with a few laps to go and told me that I had third overall. I knew this, but I had a lot of energy still and I felt good, so I wanted to give a charge to go all the way to fourth for the second moto. I missed just a few lines. I knew that the rut was broken, before the last turn. I made a mistake and I almost got into the hole, so I think he heard my bike and he was just pinning it. He’s a big boy.

You’re looking a lot happier out here now. Is that something you see as well?
Yeah, for sure. I step out a few times of the sport, and you can see from the outside what it is. When you come back in, there’s a lot of good people, there’s a lot of bad people. So you just want to be on the good team and on a good bike, especially with a manufacturer supporting you. This year I have everything. I focus on riding, and the bike is pretty amazing I think. Jason [Anderson] is doing a good job as well. I think I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.

Any further on the discussions for next year at all?
Everyone says I’m so good in supercross, but I don’t feel like I’m that good. It’s just a strange thing. We’ll see how good I can be at supercross. My technique is good, but I haven’t done it for a while. I’m going to stay in the U.S. for next year two years [through 2017], so that’s good.

What’s the plan, then, for the next couple weeks leading up to Unadilla? What do you have going on?
Just got to wait for my favorite track. I love that race. I just don’t want to make a mistake out there. Get good starts and try to be on the box again. I just love that track—it’s the best one. The track is pretty amazing. They do a great job out there, so it should be good. - Aaron Hansel

Phil Nicoletti, Yamaha, 4-6 for fifth overall in 450 Class

Racer X: Excellent ride.
Phil Nicoletti: It wasn’t going to be an excellent ride the way practice went. Really, I told the guys I was going to head back to the hotel and not even ride, but everything turned out to be okay. We got awesome starts in the first moto, Justin [Barcia] and I. Our bikes are phenomenal. Justin’s a great starter, and I feel I’m a good starter as well. I didn’t want to get twelfth today coming around first corner. It saved goggles, saved bikes, and made life a lot easier. Got fourth in the second moto. Pretty decent start, fourth again, and then a couple guys got by me. Ended up sixth for fifth overall. So it was okay.

Can you put your finger on the difference? You got good starts at Millville. Today you got good starts, but you just stayed up there more. What’s the difference?
I went and I trained with the two little ones [Jeremy and Alex Martin], and they pounded me into the ground the week after RedBud and leading up to Millville, and then this week. I think it was just a lot more of a workload for me to take on, and this past week was a lot better. I kind of got into a better routine and figured it out. Millville was hot, and the track was brutal. Today was cooler, but the track was still brutal, so that played a factor. And just the confidence knowing that I can ride with Jeremy during the week. Even though he does catch me and pass me in motos sometimes, which is kind of gut wrenching on a 250, so it was still okay. I still had a good time. We’ll get ready, go to Loretta’s for a few days, and enjoy it. – Jason Weigandt

Weston Peick, Yamaha, 12-4 for sixth overall in 450 Class 

Racer X: Things are coming back around here. These have been pretty good motos, even if you had some bad luck at the last one, but the riding seems good.
Weston Peick: Yeah, it’s been going better. First moto kind of was a bummer. I had a goggle problem. I had to pull in and get some goggles. I had to come from the back up to the front, got twelfth. And then the second moto was better. I got a better start. I just worked my way up. Ended up fourth place in second moto. It’s definitely been going better, just got to keep it that way for the rest of the season.

I still feel like the last couple years you’ve always had ups and down, and you’re getting more consistent, but is that something you’re still working on to be able to be in the same spot every week? It seems like stupid crap happens a lot.
Yeah, I’d say physically I’m consistently there every weekend, but there’s always something happening with the bike. And I’m not saying it’s always the bike—but there’s sometimes me as well—but I would say for the most part I’m more consistent than obviously the previous years. 

So it’s still something you’re improving and getting better on.
Obviously it’s one of those things where you got to improve every single year and try to be consistent the most. I felt like supercross was really good, and then outdoors has kind of been a little bit of a fight, but that happens. Every year it’s been getting better anyway. I’m on JGR this year for the first time, and you just kind of live and learn and just kind of know how everything is, and that helps you learn to be more consistent. – Weigandt

Marvin Musquin, Red Bull KTM, 1-2 for second in 250 Class

Racer X: Why don’t you go ahead and give us the broad strokes on your day.
Marvin Musquin: Finally, it felt really good to be myself today. The last two races have been really tough with the wrist, and it’s been hard to practice during the week. This week, it was coming along really good, and I had a really good week of practice. And then I came to Washougal and was looking forward to it. Last year, I had a great day. I went 1-1. So obviously I wanted to do the same thing today.

That first moto was really intense. It was really easy to make mistakes and to go down. I was trying just to be smooth and make sure I’m not crashing. And then I was second, and I was like, 22 points, that’s pretty good, for the first moto in the mud. I knew Jeremy was behind, I didn’t know where, but he was not in front. And then I felt like I was capable of passing Cooper Webb. For the goggles, the roost was really bad, but I found new lines, and especially in the S-turn and the split lane. I went outside and then I passed him. It was really good. And then I got rid of my goggles, and then he caught me at the end. It was really intense with two laps to go—it was tough. It was really aggressive, and Cooper [Webb] got really mad at me after that second moto. I was like, Oh wow, he’s really, really mad. He went off the track—me too, actually, because of one of the lappers. I know Cooper is a really aggressive rider, and riding in the mud and sliding, it was really easy to crash. It was really intense. I made it happen and got into the lead and won the moto, so it was really nice.

When you came into today, especially when you were actually getting ready to line up for the motos, is your brain already thinking championship, or are you just thinking I just have to win?
It was raining the whole time. When you’re getting ready for the moto and it’s raining, it’s not cool. You have to make sure you stay dry and the goggles, the gloves, everything. But I was like, When it’s raining it’s easy to make mistakes. Maybe the luck is going to be on my side today, and maybe I can gain some good points. Then I won the first moto, and then I saw Jeremy [Martin] got ninth, so that’s a lot of points for my side, so it was good. And the second moto, I knew Jeremy would come back strong and want to win for sure. He actually got a great start and I was behind. I was actually trying way too hard and making mistakes. I was not happy, and I was not catching those guys in front of me. Unfortunately for Jeremy, he went down and then I got second, and I couldn’t catch and pass Cooper. I knew it wouldn’t be good for the overall, but I still got good points. 

I know you’ve won championships in the past, but I don’t know that you’ve ever come from behind. When you’re 19 points down, is there any frustration, or is it just one race at a time?
Obviously, championships are not easy to win, but especially this one right now. I’ve been doing great at some of the tracks, but every single race is obviously different. All the tracks are different. Sometimes I ride better, and some tracks suit me better. Right now, obviously I want to try to win. Everybody wants to win, and I know I’m second in the championship, and right now that’s important. I’ve had a problem with my wrist. It’s been really tough and really frustrating not being able to push the whole moto, like at RedBud for example, and making mistakes last weekend at Millville. It could have been a good day. It’s hard mentally, for sure. Like my mechanic says, it’s a roller coaster. One race you’re going to win, and then the next race you’re going to get fourth or fifth, and losing points or gaining points. Not everybody’s Ricky Carmichael or James Stewart, winning twenty-four motos. But that was the past. Right now it’s different. But I think it’s a really cool championship right now. I think it’s great for the fans and for you guys. It’s exciting.

You said Cooper got really mad at you. What did he say after the moto?
I don’t know exactly, but I heard the “F” word when he walked by me on his way back to the pits. But I know Coop. I don’t know him really that well, but I know him enough to know that he can be crazy sometimes. That’s racing, and then you realize that maybe it was stupid to say stuff like that. And then he apologized to me after the second moto. Obviously he was happy to win the overall—getting that win calmed him after the second moto. But it’s exciting for the fans and for the championship, too. If I’m winning and he’s between me and Jeremy, it helps me in the points. 

Do you think about that in the second moto at all? When he says things like that to you, does that enter your mind? Like, do you want to get him back, or do you want to stay away?
I thought about it, and I was like, Obviously it would be nice to beat him and show him that I was the best. Obviously, that second moto he rode well, and I was the best in the first moto, and he was better in the second moto. It’s racing, it’s exciting, and he’s young.

You’ve been fast here in the past, but today was a much different track. How much different was the track today than what you’re used to?
This track is really, really technical. With the rain it was really muddy and rutted, so it made it even more technical. It’s good for me, but I feel like Jeremy is really consistent and he’s good at every track. But I like this track. Last year was a great day for me winning both motos. It was awesome. I felt like I could have done that today, but the second moto was tougher. But I love this track. It’s really technical. It gets super-hard underneath, and it was really slippery actually.

After you injured your wrist, you kept showing up on the podium, and you kind of downplayed the wrist injury a little bit. Is it the same injury that’s nagging you, or did you re-injure the wrist recently?
Unfortunately, I re-injured it during practice, and then since that it’s been bothering me quite a bit, especially for training. So right now it’s a little better, and I showed today that it didn’t bother me. I was able to really push and be confident on the bike so that was awesome.

Are you happy for the two-week break that we have coming up right now to help it even more?
Yes and no. When you do good, you want to get to the next weekend and do even better or do the same. But I’ll take a weekend off and build on that and get even better for Unadilla. - Aaron Hansel

Aaron Plessinger, Yamalube/Star Racing/Yamaha, 5-4 for third in 250 Class

Racer X: Your first podium—congratulations! How was it for you?
Aaron Plessinger: It was awesome. Practice didn’t go so well, but I made it out the first moto and actually was riding really good. My lap times were awesome. Kind of made it up to eighth, went down, got all the way back up to fourth, went down again. And then I was right behind Zach Osborne and I was in sixth, and he went down right before the finish line and I finished fifth. So that was a good race. Then, second moto, I just rode conservative, and right when I got into fourth I knew I kind of had a podium spot. I just kind of rode my own race, and I dropped my lap times down the second half of the moto. It was an awesome day.

Tell us a little bit about your family background in terms of motorcycle racing. Do these conditions kind of fall into your roots and where you come from?
Oh, yeah. My dad, he was a four-time national champion—two-time GNCC, two-time National Hare Scramble. Grew up riding GNCCs, and my last one was in 2013. But definitely think that helped me out today. I don’t think I would actually be here if I didn’t do GNCC, so big shout-out to my dad for making me do GNCCs.

You led a bunch of laps earlier in the year. So what feels better, this podium or leading those laps?
Leading laps definitely feels good, but I think this podium really feels good. It really feels better because it’s there and it sticks. It’s on paper. Leading laps is good, but not finishing up there doesn’t feel good. 

You were fast pretty early in supercross, but it’s taken a bit longer in motocross. Does that surprise you?
Yes and no, because it’s definitely a really, really fast class this year. In supercross, I kind of found the flow pretty quickly, and out here it’s just gnarly. If you don’t get a start and be up there the first few laps, you’re pretty much in the back. So, yeah, it kind of surprises me, but again it doesn’t just because it’s so fast this year. - Aaron Hansel