Open Mic: Utah

Open Mic Utah

August 17, 2015 2:50pm

By Aaron Hansel and Jason Weigandt

Ken Roczen, RCH/Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s Suzuki Factory Racing, 2-2 for second overall in 450 Class

Ken Roczen: It was a good day for me and the team. We kept testing this week, and I went back to what I had at Unadilla. It seems like that’s what I’m most comfortable with. In the first moto, I grabbed a decent start and made my way up there pretty quickly and wanted to have a clear track. Ryan [Dungey] and I were fighting the whole time, which was great, and he got me there toward the end. In the second moto, I just wanted to go out there and have fun. The track wasn’t ideal. It was dry in some spots, but they watered so it got a little slippery. It was definitely difficult out there. I grabbed a really good start, shot out of the gate like a rocket, and went in just a little too deep, and Phil Nicoletti got up there. But I got him quickly, and Ryan and I were battling again. I made a little mistake after the sand rollers, and he got by and got a little gap. I saw some of his lines, and I think I should have been taking them the whole time. But we’re improving every weekend, which is good, and I’ve been a lot happier with everything the last couple weekends. We’re doing okay, and we’ve got one more to go, but most importantly, we fought hard.

Did you make changes between the motos?
It’s always tough when you come into the day and you ride practice and you don’t really feel that comfortable. Luckily, between practices, I basically went back to the Unadilla setting, so I at least had a practice session on it. Sometimes we’re trying this and trying that, and we end up with something completely different going into the race. It’s one of the first times that we’ve kept the bike pretty much the same between the motos. We’re learning a lot, and we’ll keep learning. We have the bike set up pretty well now. We had a lot of struggles this year, but we’re finally figuring it out, which is good.

How has this track evolved over the three years you’ve been here?
Every year we’ve been here it hasn’t been ideal, but I think the weather conditions are tough here. It’s really dry, and luckily we didn’t get a dust storm like we did, I think, two years ago. It’s tough. It’s dry and warm, so the track is going to dry out. They have to keep putting water on it, which isn’t ideal. The cool thing is that they change the track pretty much every year. I think they should do that more often with other tracks too. It seems like the tracks are all pretty much the same every year. They change the tracks in the GPs, and I like that. It’s nice to have something new to change it up. 

Dungey clinched the championship today, but is it important to you to beat Barcia for second?
Yeah, for sure I’d rather get second than third. I’m not too worried about it because I think I’ve found myself—I’m a lot happier with the bike and everything. It’s just all about putting the puzzle pieces together, and some people have that at the beginning of the season, and some toward the end. We’ve gone through struggles all year with injuries and other things. Now I’m finally to the point where I’m going to the races with more confidence, and I think that shows. I’m not too worried; I just want to have a good race next week and put myself in front of him in both motos.

Any other races planned after next weekend?
I’m actually getting back surgery on August 31 from before Hangtown, so I just want to get that done. I need to see how that recovery goes. I don’t think it’s going to be anything really crazy—they’re going to do on the back—but you never know. People handle things differently. I have to get my wisdom teeth pulled too; I’ve been struggling with that for quite a while. I could have done it in between, when we had an off weekend, but some people are out for a week or two after that. I just need to get some maintenance done, a tune-up [laughs]. –Aaron Hansel 

Justin Barcia, Autotrader.com/Toyota/JGR Yamaha, 5-3 for third overall in 450 Class

Justin Barcia: That first moto was terrible. I holeshot but was a bit off on my settings. I didn’t really feel very comfortable. I don’t like this track at all, but everybody had to ride it, so that’s just part of it. It was just a tough day, a struggle. The second moto was better. My wonderful team changed the suspension a little, and the second moto was just more me not having the pace, and that’s definitely frustrating.

With the amount that you struggled, are you okay with third overall?
No, not at all, but I guess it’s okay to have a bad day and get third. Jeremy [Albrecht] said he was still happy and not bummed on me, but I was on suicide watch! Usually, Phil [Nicoletti] is on suicide watch, but today it was me. I don’t usually qualify good, but today I was second fastest, so I was like, “This could be good stuff.” But it wasn’t that great.

Are you concerned about the battle for second overall with Ken Roczen?
Oh, yeah. I don’t want him to beat me—that’s for sure. And second is way better than third, in lots of ways. He rode better than me today, but I’m definitely going to try my best to not let him beat me—that’s for sure. I’ve never been there [Indiana] before. I wasn’t there last year, but I don’t care—I’ll just go there and do the best I can. If I can get second, great. If I get third, that sucks. But I definitely don’t want him to beat me at all. Second is definitely better than third.

You’ve got a 5-point lead. How bad are you going to have to go to blows next weekend?
I’ll do whatever it takes.

Bam Bam is back!
I’m not going to do anything stupid; I’m smarter than that. I feel like I’ve learned to be a better person on the track—I was kind of way too crazy in the beginning of my career. But at the same time it’s good for me. I’ve built that around me. I’m definitely a smarter racer, but I’ll still get aggressive. I want to win the overall, but I want to get second in points too. 

You’ve been better in the second half of the season than the first. Is there any specific thing you can point to for that?
I started working with Buddy Antunez a couple rounds in, and I think that helped quite a bit. I got more used to my bike and changed a few things too, and got more comfortable. It’s just a comfort thing, really. Then that big mud race at Budds Creek boosted my confidence a little, and I’ve just been running better ever since. 

When you say you’ve changed a few things with the bike, what kinds of things are you talking about?
Just suspension, really. Just had to fine-tune it. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to have a lot of time on the bike in supercross, and then outdoors I would like to have more time, but it is what it is and I’ve been learning the bike race by race. I’m really comfortable with it now; it’s just the little things. 

With the Motocross of Nations coming up, what’s your plan after next weekend?
It’d be awesome to take some vacation, but that’s definitely not going to be the case. I know the track in France is probably going to be a little hard-packed. I haven’t watched any videos yet, but I’m just going to mentally and physically prepare. We actually have some settings from Europe, the Yamaha guys over there, so we may try some of that stuff and see how it works. We’ll just try a few things and keep at it with the same program. I’ll get to ride my bicycle a lot more during the week because I won’t have to recover for the weekend, so that’ll be fun. –Hansel 

Blake Baggett, Yoshimura Suzuki, 4-4 for fourth overall in 450 Class 

Racer X: You almost podiumed.
Blake Baggett: Okay, well, here’s the deal: I always shoot you straight, right?

[Laughs] Oh, this is going to be good.
Yes. I’m shooting you straight. See, I picked the #4, right?

Oh, here we go.
I picked the number four. I. Stick. To. It. I qualified fourth, I finished fourth in both motos, I’m fourth in the overall points, and I finished fourth overall today. My bike has #4 on it, so does my bike stand, my gas can, my mechanic’s toolbox. I stick to it! 

But I feel like the #4 is holding you back a bit.
What do you mean?

Well, if you picked #3, you’d have been on the podium.
Well, the #3 guy isn’t here right now [Eli Tomac]. But when he was he was winning a lot. 

Yeah, he was actually #1 a lot. Hey, so the last few races, the results were…not as good as this.

[Yoshumura Suzuki team manager Mike Webb joins in]  

Mike Webb: Oh, wow, you see that’s the polite way of saying it. 

Baggett: So what you’re saying is I sucked. 

Racer X: [Laughs] Oh, no, did you see how polite I was? Your results weren’t…as good as this. You like that?

Baggett: [Laughs] I had crashes at one of them—Washougal. But Unadilla, I’m going to just agree with what my teammate [James Stewart] says and just say that if they put a padlock on that place, I wouldn’t be sad. I think the best I’ve ever done there was like a 7-7!

So now that you’re on a good track for you, you’re back to your regular results.
Yup, the four-four-four.

Did you even know what position you were in? You had two bad starts.
I battled all day, and I battled with guys I’ve battled my whole life. Dean [Wilson], Jason [Anderson], [Christophe] Pourcel. Some of those guys, that goes back to 50s and 60s! It was like an old amateur race. I gave it the best show I could today. Not the best starts, charged through the pack, got fourth. –Jason Weigandt

Dean Wilson, Red Bull KTM, 10-5 for seventh in 450MX

Racer X: That second moto was great!
Dean Wilson: It was awesome. That’s what I needed. I had that fight at the end that I haven’t had in awhile. I’m quite happy with myself, to be honest [laughs]. First one, I didn’t have a great start and had to come through, struggled from the back, and got tenth. But the second, I really fought for the start. Blake [Baggett] passed me, then Trey [Canard] passed me, but I kind of pulled myself together a little bit and ended up passing Trey on the last lap. That was good; I was really happy with that. Just need to keep working hard and get better starts for next week, so I can have good starts like I had the second moto here for both motos in Indiana.

What’s it like to try to prepare for a comeback like this, national-level tracks, when during the week you’re not going to get this level of roughness or ruts at the practice tracks in California?
I don’t know! I’m still learning. I’m just jumping in here. I’m pretty happy with how it went today. Obviously I wish the first moto went better. I just want to get good starts and see where it puts me.

What kind of a relief is it to finally get something going?
Oh, it’s a big relief. Usually, at the end of the moto I can’t even hold onto the handlebars because of my arms. So to have that kind of push, it’s something that made me proud and pretty happy. It’s pretty devastating when you come off the track and you’re not physically tired, but you can barely ride because you have arm pump. I want to carry on like that.

Any idea of the source of the arm pump?
I don’t know. It’s hard to say. I think it’s partially my riding style, like when I get all amped up and nervous and override the bike. I went to Europe and got carpal tunnel surgery; that probably helped a little bit. That’s not classified as arm pump surgery, but it helped a little bit. I don’t know. I just need to get some races under my belt and I think I’ll be good. – Weigandt

Bobby Regan, Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha owner

Racer X: It looked like Cooper Webb checked up a bit when Jeremy Martin came by. Was there a team plan in place?
Bobby Regan: No. Management of this team decided the riders could work it out between themselves. We didn’t want to participate in any plan, and I don’t know what happened out there on the track, but whatever it was, it was the riders deciding what they wanted to do. It surprised me how fast Martin got around Webb, but whatever call they made is between them. We’re only here to support them and make sure they have what they need on the racetrack. Whatever did happen was the result of the riders doing whatever they decided to do.

Well, it worked out well!
It did. And we’ve got two more motos too, and we’ve got a really good team we’re racing against with a really good rider. We’ve got all the respect in the world for that team, and for Marvin [Musquin], and whatever happens happens. When we go out there on the track, we’re racing. We’re not going to hold back. –Hansel