Open Mic: Ironman Interviews

Open Mic Ironman Interviews

August 24, 2015 2:50pm

By Chase Stallo, Jason Weigandt, and Steve Matthes

Ryan Dungey, Red Bull KTM, 1-2 for first overall in 450 Class 

Ryan Dungey: It was a solid season for sure. It’s amazing it’s already over, but a lot of good things with the supercross championship and then the outdoor championship, and to be able to end up with the win feels good. One and two [moto scores for the day, made a little mistake there [crash early in second moto], but overall I was happy with the day and the way we rode. It’s been an amazing season. My little brother Jade had his little guy today, Liam, so proud uncle. I never really understood the hype too much until now—so I’m very excited. I can’t wait to see him. It’s been an awesome year. The team’s done an amazing job, the team of people around me, my family, my wife, [trainer] Aldon, and there’s a lot more people to recognize and thank. 

I was very impressed with you after last week, seeing how somebody in the media’s eyes seemed like such an even-keeled guy, and you said that you sometimes fight to control some of your emotions and you’ve worked on that well. To say that this was an easy championship to win would be hard. The results showed it, but it wasn’t like that on the inside, was it?
No, absolutely not. There were a lot of challenges, a lot of points. Especially, like I said, in the beginning of the year, we got caught off guard, and once we were able to get some good testing in and made progress, the boys did an awesome job with gathering things up pretty quick because we needed to. But it was a lot of challenges from a lot of different riders. It was very hard to do the 1-1 to get the overall this year. But it seemed like, toward the end there, we were able to kind of string some wins together and get some good overalls and ended strong. I think, as far as winning the championship here, this was probably one of the toughest years motocross-wise.

Have you had a chance to reflect on the championship now that it’s a week later?
Kind of. The beginning of this past week kind of hit me. I’m obviously very fortunate, and to accomplish what we have, you definitely can’t just write it off and go to the next one. You’ve got to enjoy it. Obviously very fortunate. It’s something we work really hard to be in this position to do and the way we did it. I guess for me, I was thinking about how tough things have been. Not like it’s bad, but there’s a lot of tough moments and there was a lot of hard points. This year KTM did an amazing job with the bike and coming out with the new 450. Working with Aldon [Baker] and moving down to near Orlando, Florida. There’s a lot of good things that happened this year that really just kind of fell into place real nicely. These years, to be able to win back-to-back titles, that’s a dream season—that’s what we want to do. Obviously now we’ve got a little off time. It’s nice to end it on a high note, but pretty soon we’ll be back racing again to where there will be challenges to meet as well, so I look forward to that. I haven’t been able to really think about things too much, but now with some time off I think we can really relax and enjoy it a little bit for sure. 

What kept you pushing today? You came out, set the fastest qualifier, won a moto, were pushing hard in the second moto, but you had already won the championship. What motivated you today?
The championship was the big goal this year, but every win is important, an opportunity to capitalize on another win in my career. I want to be in this for the long haul. I don’t want to just fall off at the end of the season because we won the championship. I want to go out there to win. We work too hard not to. I think to give it anything less than our best is disappointing. I see a lot of guys who have won championships and then just kind of fall off and are so-so the rest of the year. I don’t think that a true racer does that. They race every race hard. And really, besides the championship you’re only as good as your last race. So I’m hungry to win and I’m still motivated to get the job done.

How does not going to the des Nations affect your off-season plans? Is it going to be kind of weird for you? It’s been six straight years.
Yeah, it’s definitely a little tough for sure. Thinking about it, I want to go there and race for sure. I definitely want to get the job done, but I also realize like I said back at Unadilla how important time off is. It just comes at a tough time. I don’t think it’s fair to myself or my sponsors to be half-assed lining up at Anaheim 1. If that’s the deciding factor, then I want to be rested and recovered and fit and strong, putting in a solid off-season and ready to go by Anaheim 1 and doing this all over again. It takes a toll on you year to year, so I realized how important that off time was. I think earlier in my career it was okay because I was fresh, I was young. Then I realized you start to feel it wearing on you a little bit. But they’ve got a solid, strong team. Those guys are going to… I feel like the chances of them winning are really good. 

Now that you’re stacking up championships, how do you stay motivated going forward?
Well, obviously every championship is different. Once this is done, it’s done; you’re on to the next one. There’s a lot of repetition in our sport, like everything. Training and riding—you’re doing the same things over and over. It doesn’t bother me. We won a lot of races and both championships, but it’s not to say that next year can’t be even better. To sit here and think that this is the best year and it can’t get any better than this, then you’re already kind of lost going forward and demotivated. So it’s fun. I enjoy it. I get paid to race for a living. I don’t do it for the money, although it is nice to make money doing it and to be in this position. You got to look at things in a positive way and be grateful and thankful.

Do you have an interest in going to race a GP one day?
I thought about it until I seen Villo’s [Ryan Villopoto], just how everything worked out in that aspect. Not to mention, not to disrespect the MXGP guys, but those tracks over there just look terrible. There’s been a lot of races where it looked good, but then there’s a lot of races where I don’t even really think it’s really racing. It looks really hard-pack. It doesn’t look like a racetrack in my eyes. I think over here in America the competition is higher, tougher. So I won’t ever probably do that in my lifetime. 

What about the USGP?
I won’t be doing that race either. I think a lot of the KTM guys are. A lot of guys in the des Nations are doing it just to get some time with those guys. I think it would be great if we were racing des Nations, but I’m here.

How about other events, Straight Rhythm or Monster Energy Cup?
Yeah, we’ve got the Red Bull Straight Rhythm we’ll be doing, which will be fun. I didn’t do it last year. And then Monster Cup as well. So those are the two races I will be doing in the off-season. – Chase Stallo 

Ken Roczen, RCH/Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s Suzuki, 3-1 for second overall in 450 Class

Racer X: Was was your mindset going into today?
Ken Roczen: Definitely you wanted to finish off the season [strong]. Coming in as a champion and after all those struggles, we definitely still wanted to finish it off with second [in points]. It’s always tough. I don’t actually know what’s tougher, if it’s the one being hunted or if it’s the one hunting. I was 5 points back [of Justin Barcia], which is not a whole lot, but it’s still enough to where if you’re not necessarily winning and you’re basically second or third, you’re following each other, and sometimes even finishing behind somebody. There’s not a whole lot of points to make up. Obviously Justin is another rider that has been really consistent and been going really good, so coming in here, my whole confidence the last three races and things with the bike have improved a whole lot and it makes a big difference now.

Finally riding on the same thing during the week and having fun again—I enjoy it. I rode my bike during the week and doing my thing, and I think that’s a big part of it. So coming in here I was actually really, really relaxed. It was the last race of the season, but I just now started to enjoy things again. It helped me out a lot to ride the way I usually ride. It was good. First moto, I had a huge struggle. I didn’t start very good, and right after the first turn I had a bunch of dirt in my goggles. The dirt was really wet. I got some in my eye. It was really hard to get that dirt off. Then, in the middle of the moto, I struggled a little bit and got by Justin and straightened things out toward the end. But I ran out of tear-offs still deep in the pack, so I had some struggles there. I was struggling the whole moto and picked up some positions in the end, so that was good. The second moto, I got a way better start and made it happen pretty early in the moto and finally had some clear track and rode my race. The track was super gnarly, probably one of the gnarliest tracks this year for sure. It was super rutted and super bumpy. It was good to finish off the season with a win—that’s what we wanted to do. That’s what I personally wanted to do, just to finish it off strong.

In the end of moto number one, did you know you had the podium?
I didn’t know that to begin with. I never even watched the pit board once, so I had no idea what was going on besides trying to pass Justin in front of me. Then I all of a sudden I saw [Justin] Bogle and I was like, I could make up more points, I got to get him too. And then I kept riding; it was the last lap. There was [Christophe] Pourcel, and I was like, I got to get him too. So I just kind of charged in the end and made it happen and luckily scored some good points. I went to the finish and the guy that was standing there, he sent [Jason] Anderson to the podium and he told me to go back. I don’t know what he position I was, so I just made my way back from the podium. I had no idea that I was third either, so just went back and then they told me, “You should have gone to the podium.” I’m like, “Well, I got told to go back.” 

I think it had been since High Point since you won—thirteen motos. How important was it to get this win today to carry into next year?
It was really important, but I knew the whole time that soon things would get a little better, and it’s not going to be as big of a problem or as hard to finish at least on the podium—because I haven’t even been getting podiums during some of these struggles. Ever since Unadilla I started feeling a lot more comfortable, so if a rider feels comfortable he’s going to go good. So I was really happy with how things felt. My back has held up the whole time too, so that was a big thing. Ever since I hurt my back I couldn't go to the gym, I couldn’t row. I was very limited to what I could actually do to train myself, but that was another hard part because it’s really hard to get a good structure because I like to do a lot of variety of training and really keep a structure. So I just kept doing my thing, though, and I had a bunch of fitness testing and stuff and everything was great there. So together with good fitness and together with a solid bike, it makes your life a lot easier. 

And with all the injuries this year and all the other stuff, is second—I know it’s not what you wanted—but do you kind of look back and go, wow, I still got second in the championship? It’s not a complete failure.
For sure, and that was important. Coming in as a champion, obviously Ryan and the KTM team, they were super solid this year and super consistent, and then even after Hangtown, the first race, I got eighteenth in the first moto. Last year, that would have been really hard to even make up because we were so close all the time. We were always battling with just little points. So it started already there. And then, even my back was so very, very bad at the first race, and you go to Glen Helen and I still couldn’t do a whole lot during the whole week. So I just started building from there. I learned a lot this year about the bike, about settings, about what to tell the team. And I think the team learned a lot too. There was a little bit of stuff going on in the team, but for me it was important that toward the end of the year, we needed to start figuring things out because we were struggling, meaning we didn’t have any good results anymore. It’s really, really hard if it’s weekend after weekend after weekend not being happy and to always keep positive. You try as a rider for as long as possible and at one point just something needed to change. So it was good to come back at the last few races to show that we could be up front and we can still win. After Ryan had a huge points gap, and then obviously Justin came and he passed me in the championship, after that it was just like, we’ve got to at least get second. I was battling with Ryan last year, and now he won this year, so I got second. It’s still a lot better for me to finish second instead of third. 

Talk about the back surgery after the season. Is this a little procedure? Is it a major thing?
They’re not fully going to cut my back and fuse it or anything like that. What they’re doing, I believe, is they’re going to go in there with a hot needle or something and they melt the fracture to attach the bone again because there’s a piece of bone that’s weighing on the vertebrae. I think they’re going to reattach it. So I’m getting the surgery on August 31 in LA with Dr. Gray. I think the recovery shouldn't be anything super, super crazy. But people react different to these kinds of procedures, so I can’t really say a whole lot, if it’s going to be a week, if it’s going to be three weeks, or whatever. But I think we’ll be good to go. It’s important to get the body all fixed up again. But I’m already finishing out the season strong. I’m already really motivated.

Will we look for you at any events?
Obviously, see how the recovery goes, but I would love to do Red Bull Straight Rhythm this year. I couldn’t do it last year, and it looked like a lot of fun, so it would be my first time. I think it’s just an event that would be super fun to do. It’s not a championship where you have to go buck-wild all the time, so I want to go there and hopefully ride some practice and compete there. I think it will be good fun. And obviously Monster Cup, too—that’s always the plan. –Stallo 

Jason Anderson, Rockstar Energy Racing Husqvarna, 2-6 for third overall in 450 Class 

Jason Anderson: This is honestly my best outdoor season ever, and it’s my rookie year in the 450. So it was pretty cool to have a solid finish my last day. The track was incredible. I really liked it all day. First-moto practice was good. Second moto, I got a good start and just kind of got a little tired out there, but to get podium is cool.

Talk about the Factory Husqvarna team coming together. It seems like you guys really gelled throughout the season.
For sure. I feel like to get podiums for me my rookie year was kind of a goal, and just to prove that I was a podium guy. The team’s been working well. I think next year we got a new bike in 2016, so that’s going to help a lot. Just trying to keep progressing.

How important was this year to be consistent and be healthy? You made all twelve rounds.
Yeah, to be consistent and make all the rounds in the 450 Class, just knowing that you can do the whole season, and seeing how it is and seeing where you’re at mentally, with three rounds to go, last round. It’s tough. We’ve had four weekends off since January. This 450 deal between supercross and outdoors is no joke. I feel like it got me a little bit at some points, and I kind of threw away some podiums. But for the most part I feel like I tried to stay in it every race. I think next year I kind of know what’s to come and got to just try and do better. 

Did you change your training routine, and are you going to change it at the end from what you’ve learned this year?
No, I think we’re going to keep doing the same thing. I’ll work with Aldon. This year it was just me doing the workload, and now that I’m kind of used to the workload, I think next year I’m going to be a little bit better.

What were your thoughts on the track? This is the first year it’s been dry.
Last year was super muddy, but this track is really cool. I definitely think it’s one of the best in the circuit. We had some tracks come in that replaced other tracks, and I haven’t really been a fan of them, so this one’s cool. It’s a real outdoor track. It’s not just a flat piece of property in Vegas with some jumps on it. Really looking forward to coming back here next year.

You were in a points battle there at the end of it. Were you paying attention to where Pourcel was?
Definitely, I had a goal to get as good of points as I could, but to be honest that last moto I was so tired I was just trying to survive. I made it through, and I’m pumped for Christophe. He had a good season, came back. For me, I just messed up a couple times and had four non-points scoring motos, which is definitely difficult to handle.

Did you have a chance to ride the new model bike? I’ve heard you actually avoided it going to the press intro.
I avoided riding it. We were at Budds Creek for two weeks, and the first trip we had our team there, had the semi there for Unadilla, and we rode our race bikes. And I was like, I’m not going to ride the new bike, I don’t want to know what it’s like [laughs]. We come into the next weekend, our bikes aren’t there and Aldon was like, we’ve got to do motos on something. So I did a day, and I did two motos on just a bone-stock new 450, and I really wish I wouldn’t have [laughs]. It’s a good bike.

How much difference is that going to make for you next year?
Hopefully I just start winning. That’d be sweet. –Stallo

Justin Barcia, Autotrader.com/Toyota Yamaha, 7-3 for fourth overall in 450 Class 

Racer X: How was the day? You’re saying it was not a great day.
Justin Barcia: No, I smacked my head into the ground in practice. P1, first practice, second practice, crashed it out.

So you were feeling it after that, feeling the effects of the crash?
Oh, yeah. I hit my head really hard, and I still have arm pump now. No excuses though. I did the best I could do, and that’s all I could do.

So is that what happened in the first moto? You were like fourth for a while and then eventually it just got to you? Or you went off the track?
I went off the track. I should have done better in the first moto. I went off the track both motos. 

Pants situation too.
[Laughs] I popped a button [off of my pants]. I’m getting a little fat. I haven’t been working out too much. We haven’t been on our bikes every day. 

Do you guys seriously do bicycle races on Sundays after a national?
We have before. 

Ben Schiermeyer, mechanic: We took a red eye home from Washougal and went straight to a bike race Sunday morning.

Barcia: That’s real life.

So you got your sleep on the plane?
Barcia: I barely slept. 

Schiermeyer: And then we went and raced our bicycles for two hours. 

And the only sleep you got was the little bit you had on the plane? There might be an overtraining issue here. No recovery.
There may have been an overtraining issue at one point, but not anymore. 

Now that you’re on the Ben program.
The Ben program is killer. Ben honestly could be my mechanic and be my trainer.

You might have to thank your mechanic and then thank your trainer. It’s also the same guy.
Yeah, and I’m also going to help [pro rookie] Marshal [Weltin]. Marshall’s my guy. I’m going to help him in supercross, and Ben’s going to take us to some good bike races. 

Yeah, Marshal Weltin. Does he have your JustinBarcia.com graphics?
Yeah, he does, at Loretta’s and at the last two nationals.

He had a hell of a crash last week; did you see that?
He had the ugliest crash I’ve ever seen, I thought. He’s tough as nails. He doesn’t give up. 

So what do you have to do now five weeks between des Nations?
Ride my bicycle a lot. Definitely ride more, because I can recover on the weekends.

So no time off. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
I don’t see it really being a bad thing because I’m just going to build an even bigger base than I have now. 

You’ve had enough time off.
Yeah, seriously, I’ve been injured enough, so I don’t really need a break. Ryan’s [Dungey] been hammering for like however many years straight, so he deserves a little rest. For me, I’ve been injured and I need to build my base up and just keep it up. 

Is there anything different on the bike over there for des Nations these days? Do they need to change much for the rules or anything like that?
Schiermeyer: The only thing over there I know is that you can’t run titanium axles or [swingarm] pivot, so you have to run steel and a little guard, the stock guard that comes on the countershaft sprocket—that’s the only thing that I know of. 

Sound is the same now?
Sound is the same. 

Fuel?
We have to run different fuel. We got a drum from VP at the shop, and we’ll start riding with it next week.

So no rest for the weary?
Barcia: Not really. 

You might want a little time off from this stuff.
I think no dirt bikes next week. But bicycles and stuff, yeah. It’s weird. You’ve got your routine and you just stick with it. There’s no sense in taking time off. –Weigandt 

Colton Facciotti, Honda Canada TLD GDR, 13-11 for eleventh overall in 450 Class 

Racer X: Welcome back to America. Eleventh overall. You got to be happy. A couple of good rides for you.
Colton Facciotti: Yeah, it was kind of a one-race deal, so I just wanted to come have fun and try to get some good results. The goal was to get a couple top-tens. A little bit off that. I just kind of struggled. It’s a little different down here. It’s a little bit faster pace, obviously, and the track was gnarly today too, so that took me a little while to get used to that.

I had a couple American guys tell me compared to even the regular American races it was tough.
The braking bumps were up to my neck it felt like. But just kind of soldiered through the day. Got a good start the first one, bad start in the second one. Kind of ended up in the same spot both motos [battling] with Shorty [Andrew Short] there. Definitely ran up there with those guys, just need to be down here more. ­–Matthes 

Benny Bloss, CycleTrader.com/Rock River Yamaha, 17-15 for fifteenth overall in 450 Class 

Made your national debut. I think not too bad. Scored points in the motos. What’d you think?
It was pretty good. I felt pretty good, but it was really, really hard. The motos were long and not at all what I was really used to or expecting. But I ended up 17-15 for fifteenth overall. So I’m happy with that. 

Just the pace and the length, I guess?
Yeah, the length and the pace. The guys up front are really, really fast, but they can do that for thirty plus two. It’s really crazy for people who don’t know it’s not that easy. 

Well, the track also develops a lot different with the really fast guys, too, doesn’t it?
Yeah, it was really rough and super deep ruts.

Kind of a bummer you weren’t able to make your debut right after Loretta’s. You were coming in as a Horizon Award winner. You had a lot of momentum and you had a crash that set you back. It’s got to be a little bit of a bummer you couldn’t have more than one race under you belt.
I was definitely disappointed. It’d be a huge difference to do three races like I planned on, but one’s still experience, and then I’m leaving happy.

What’s the plan for your off-season?
Just train on my bikes that I have now and hopefully get a ride. –Steve Matthes 

Jessy Nelson, Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs KTM, 3-6 for third overall in 250 Class 

Racer X: Talk us through your day.
Jessy Nelson: I’m not too sure what happened the first practice. I kind of just really didn’t get a good lap in. I got like thirty-eights. So second practice I ended up sixth overall. Got a good gate pick. Didn’t get off to the best start. I think I was somewhere around fifteenth or sixteenth the first lap, and I just kind of put my head down, got across the finish line in third. I honestly didn’t even know what place I got. Second moto was going pretty good. I got the holeshot and was running up front. Probably about three or four laps in, unfortunately just had a pretty good get-off and shook me up a little bit. Kind of got flustered the rest of the moto. But to end the season on the podium is never a bad thing for me. Third one of the season. It’s been a tough road. It’s hard. It’s not easy.

The part of the track you went down at, it sort of falls to the left of most of the barricade. I didn’t see exactly what happened. Talk us through how you went down.
It’s kind of hard to say. I think the rear end just kind of stuck out. Down that straightaway, the track was nasty—it was really rough. Honestly, I can’t even tell you what happened. One minute I’m leading the last national of the season; next thing I’m laying on the ground.

Were you surprised that the lap times stayed around 2:24, 2:23 for the entire moto despite how rough the track got?
This morning, it was a little gooey. I think that’s why it stayed the same kind of. It did get rougher and did get rutted up, but they did a good job with the track and everything. We’re all pushing really hard. It’s tough out there. Everyone’s pushing each other. I think that’s why the lap times stayed the same.

The conditions were a little different last year than this year, but you seem to have a lot of success here. Is there something about this track that you enjoy?
I honestly don’t know. I think it’s just the atmosphere. It’s a cool place. You come in, you see the track, it’s got a nice creek go through it. It’s majestic. It’s cool. I like it. The dirt’s good. Last race of the season, I think I was pretty excited about that. 

And you really seemed to bounce back here toward the end of the year. Is there anything you can point to?
I wish I was more consistent. I wish I could give you an answer, but I don’t know. I’m learning. –Stallo 

Joey Savatgy, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki, 5-2 for second overall in 250 Class

Racer X: Second moto, you were on fire. Talk us through that moto from your perspective.
Joey Savatgy: It was a good moto. We were able to finish off the season on a good note. Not to take anything away from Aaron {Plessinger], just frustrating to let that one get away. We should have won that moto. But unfortunately this isn’t a game of woulda, coulda, shoulda; it’s a game of do it or don’t. Frustrated. We had that moto win. I wanted to get it for Mitch [Payton] and the team and for myself. But to finish out two of the last three rounds up here on the box—one was a win, one was a second—I think it’s good. I think it shows that we’re hungry and we’re learning and we’re getting better as the season goes on. Got a little bit of time and get ready for next year. 

When Aaron passed you, was it a multitude of mistakes or just one big mistake that he was able to capitalize, or did that pass just equal up to a bunch of mistakes that he was able to make the pass?
He was riding good. His line selection was really good. He must have come here last week, got some extra track time, or something [laughs]. He was riding good. I think that lap, all around, just a little too many little mistakes here and there cost me time, and then I made one mistake, went to the outside, I think it was in the back…no and I went to the inside and messed up the line, and he had the momentum around the outside. So just mistakes on my part, but it shouldn't have happened, but they did. Can’t sit here and dwell on it. We finished out the year the last two out of three on the podium. Happy, take it. Head home, have a little bit of off time, and get ready for 2016.

How important was third in the championship for you today?
Man, I’m going to be completely honest with you, third in the championship doesn’t pay me any bonus checks. It’s cool—don’t get me wrong, it’s cool to be third—but in the same breath we were a ways off the leaders, and to me that’s not okay. Too many up-and-down motos this year. I think I know what I need to work on for next year. I did finish top-ten overall combined, so I will have a career number next year, which to me is cool, something I can keep and maybe market a little bit and have something that people can recognize by instead of constantly changing numbers. So that to me is really cool. But to finish third in the championship is awesome, but it’s not a win, and that’s what we work for. –Stallo