250 Words: McElrath, Hill, Plessinger

250 Words McElrath, Hill, Plessinger

January 15, 2017 8:10pm

This one came down to the wire, but Shane McElrath emerged with his second-straight win in Monster Energy Supercross’ 250SX Western Region. McElrath, of Red Bull/Troy Lee Designs KTM, came through traffic and made a pass on Martin Davalos to get the lead, but meanwhile Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Justin Hill and Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Aaron Plessinger were charging from even further back. All four riders converged at the end for a bang-bang-bang-bang finish, with McElrath just edging Hill, and Plessinger third.

They talked together at the post race press conference.

Racer X: Shane, congratulations on back-to-back wins. You had to work for it a little bit differently this week than last week. You had to come from the back.
Shane McElrath: I actually had a pretty good start but I just got shut down. The first few laps were kind of chaotic and everybody was bouncing off each other but it was probably lap three or four everybody kind of settled down and I was able to kind of put on a charge. But it seemed like I was six or seven seconds behind already. I didn’t really know where we were time-wise. I just tried to keep pushing. I think the two guys in front of me were making a few mistakes, and myself too, but I just tried to keep fighting. That’s why we’re here. We’ve prepared during the off-season and we’re healthy. So every weekend we’re going to go in and fight. Thankfully we came out on top this week, but it wasn’t easy. Next week we’ll be ready to fight again.

Justin Hill, you were fast all day, fast in qualifying, both sessions there. You had to work for that second. I saw that last lap Shane looked over and he saw that 46.
Justin Hill: I tried to make him earn it. If you’re going to cut a check to somebody like that you better make them work for it! He rode awesome. We were going back and forth in practice. He’d set a lap and I’m like, “Oh, man, I’ve got to do it.” I would set a lap. He would see that and, “No!” He’d set a lap. We were just going back and forth. We were both going good today. Me and him and Aaron [Plessinger], it only makes sense we all came through.

Justin Hill captured second overall in San Diego.
Justin Hill captured second overall in San Diego. Jeff Kardas

Aaron, another podium for you. Obviously last week got second, this weekend a third. What happened at that start?
Aaron Plessinger: Kind of got pinched off. I think [Josh] Hansen hit the gate and then [Jeremy] Martin jumped and I flinched. Then Justin kind of came over on me a little bit, but it was all right. I had to charge from like 10th or something, but great battles throughout the race. I kind of ran it in on Justin a little hard there. I tripled into a corner when I should have doubled. But it was fun. It was one of the harder supercross races I’ve raced, but these guys rode great and they earned their spots.

Can you contrast the dirt last week to what we got this week? We had rain all week like last time but I don’t think they put a bunch of lime down.
Hill: Dirt Wurx did what they could to kind of just get it dry, but I think the dirt was way better this time. Maybe just because they had more of it. The berms were big enough that we could bank off of them. Last weekend we were just blowing out of everything because there was nothing there to bank off. They did good. It was a little greasy I would say in the main. The moisture came up a little bit, but it was awesome. A lot of traction.

Plessinger: The start was definitely better!

McElrath: Yeah. Even the first heat race, it was actually pretty muddy. The first few laps with how everything was kind of packed down it was almost like riding kind of loamy dirt. You could kind of just force whatever you were doing and get away with it. Then like lap three or four everything kind of started getting pushed off and that’s when we got back down to that hard base. With the moisture that came out it was actually kind of muddy, more so than it had been all day. The heat race it was probably pretty technical but then there was a lot of snotty spots in the main. That’s what really made the track tough.

Shane, last weekend was an emotional first win. How does it feel to back that up here and also with such a close battle?
McElrath: It feels good. It makes me feel good that what we’ve been doing is paying off. Not that I didn’t think it was, but I got hurt during outdoors and then pretty much was back training when outdoors was over and everybody else was kind of getting going on their break. So I kind of had a little bit longer than everybody else, but at the same time it’s tough being on supercross for three and a half months and doing the same thing over and over. We did our work and we’ve gotten healthy and gotten strong. This weekend it was easy to go out there and think about everything going on, but at the same time that’s what I’ve been trying to do all week is just forget about last weekend. It was the first race and everybody was nervous. Lining up on the starting gate everybody’s fast now, everybody’s fit. I just have to go out and apply myself and put myself in a good position. We’ll take what we can out of that.

Back-to-back wins for Shane McElrath to start the season.
Back-to-back wins for Shane McElrath to start the season. Jeff Kardas

What was the difference, Justin, this week to last week? You were good last week but then in practice and even the main we saw speed that I don’t think we saw a week ago. So what changed?
Hill: I don’t know if it was so much the speed, just kind of knowing where I was at physically. I didn’t have a lot of time to get into race shape. Obviously last weekend I didn’t ride good. I didn’t push. I didn’t think that I was in shape enough to run with these guys. My dad and my brother and my mechanic were just pumping it in me. “You can do it! You can do it! Just get over the pain.” That’s what I did tonight. I was tired, definitely. I still need some work on fitness because we haven’t had a lot of time. I think it was just I got over myself mentally and knew I could do it.

Justin or Aaron, take me through the last few laps. It seemed like there was a big gap between you and Shane and Marty [Davalos] who were leading, and then all of a sudden you caught up. Can you take me through the last two or three laps? You guys caught them as you were battling each other.
Hill: Yeah. We were just kind of like doing the deal, us three. We were not gaining on each other really at all. He [Aaron] was on my back wheel aggressively. He [Shane] was just kind of out there and we didn’t really move up on him. But I think when him [Shane] and Marty got a little tangled up in a couple corner, you know how it gets. They start battling and we were able to just kind inch forward. Hopefully that happens more. I like when I can catch up easy!

Shane, how important for the confidence was backing this one up?
McElrath: This one is huge. Like I said last weekend, could have been written off as luck or coincidence or whatever, but like I said, we’re healthy and we’re ready to go. This weekend it was one of those things where I struggled with a few parts of the track and even today in practice, but I’ve just got to go out and apply myself. I know I can get good starts. I’m here to fight for it. Like Justin said, tonight’s race was really tough. I didn’t know where we were time-wise but I just got “three plus one” [on the pit board] and then it was pretty much just giving everything I had. Justin and Aaron were catching us. It’s crazy to think everything going on there. To have to come from behind and have to plan everything out, like “All right, I’m going to do this here…” It’s pretty crazy to think like, “Man, that happened.”

Justin, you started tenth or eleventh. You were way back there, and your last lap was a 54:7. How big is that for your fitness? How much are you working on that? Did you think you could catch the leaders when you rounded the turn in, like, twelfth?
Hill: It’s always a little discouraging when you’re way back there. Me and Aaron were both just tangled back there with those guys. The first four corners are just madness trying to get away from everybody. I didn’t really think [I could catch up] when I kind of settled in. I’m like, “Man!” I saw Jimmy [Decotis] way out there four lanes ahead of us. I’m like, dude, the podium is a little far off. We’ve just got to push and push. I didn’t really think it was going to happen but that doesn’t stop you from putting your head down and going for it.

Aaron, it seemed like a technical track as well as many 180 turns. How important was that to you guys moving through the pack?
Plessinger: Yeah, the track kind of played in our favor a little bit. it was definitely good for passing, especially in the whoops. A lot of people were messing up and swapping sideways so we capitalized on that. Then we just clicked off laps. It was lap after lap. Me and Justin were pretty much the same time every lap. We were just passing people left and right.

Aaron Plessinger celebrates his third place finish.
Aaron Plessinger celebrates his third place finish. Jeff Kardas

I was talking to Ricky Carmichael down on the track. He said that the turn at home plate a lot of guys in your class were messing it up because they would get in there a little hot, and then it’s hard to get your momentum going again for the triple. Did any of you guys have trouble there? What was it like?
Hill: I thought it was actually the easiest corner on the track. You could relax a little bit. It was a straightaway in and a straightaway out. Not much thinking there.

Plessinger: It was a little soft on the outside if you got out there but if you hit that knuckle and just turned down it was all right.

McElrath: That one and quite a few other turns on the track, it’s those where you’ve got to be patient. It’s kind of awkward. We normally don’t have a slap jump going into a corner. There were a few different ways to do it, but with it being slick and stuff tonight it just adds another challenge to the track.

Aaron, it seems like some riders get very kind of almost angry before races, and meanwhile you’re like dancing and doing nonsense on the line. Seems like you’re having fun. Can you talk a little bit about what’s going through your head in times like that?
Plessinger: I don’t know, not much goes through my head. I just get happy. That’s the way I’ve always been. That’s been pretty much my motivation from the start is just being happy and have fun. That’s pretty much what I do going up to the gate.