With all the action happening between Zach Osborne and Joey Savatgy in the middle of the pack, you probably missed who actually finished on the podium at the Dave Coombs Sr. East/West Showdown in Las Vegas.
Adam Cianciarulo was a long shot for the title entering the final round, but halfway through the race with Obsorne buried in the pack, Jordon Smith out with a crash, and Savatgy fading backwards quickly, winning the championship looked like it was becoming a real possibility for AC. He cruised to an easy win, but came up just two points short of the title.
Justin Hill's race was quiet. Having already won the 250SX West Region championship he cruised around in second and finished six seconds behind Cianciarulo. Hill finished the season with four wins and eight podiums, only missing the top three at Anaheim 1.
Aaron Plessinger's race was just as quiet as Hill's, he finished 10 seconds behind AC and four behind Hill. Plessinger finished the season with one win and six podiums.
All eyes were on Osborne as yet again he would have to make an incredible charge through the pack to save his championship after he got caught up in the first turn with Dakota Alix. Yet again Osborne steadily sliced through his competitors and found himself behind Savatgy with just a few corners to go. He got a great drive through the whoops and block passed Savatgy in the second to last corner and secured the 250SX East Region title.
All four riders spoke with the media at the press conference after the race.
Racer X: Aaron, congratulations on the night and the season. What can you take from 2017 and apply to 2018 and make adjustments where you can be in contention for the championship next year?
Aaron Plessinger: Better starts and more consistency, more intensity. Just be up there every race.
Justin, congratulations on the night and the championship. If we were to look forward to 2018 in January, do you see yourself on a 450 or defending the number one plate?
Justin Hill: It would be a lot of fun to run the [number] one, being they didn’t let me run it tonight. But I do think I definitely am a 450 guy naturally. When I get on them they feel like home. That’s what I’ve always wanted to be. If I could have went straight to them from an amateur I probably would have done it. I think you’ll see me on a big bike for sure.
Adam, at any point during that main event did you know the points situation and that you were within two of the championship?
Adam Cianciarulo: No, it actually kind of killed my vibe when I was doing my live TV interview because I saw it on the screen. I think it was like minus two points or something. I was like, man. I wish I was like 10 down. It would make me feel better. But it was okay. I think this year for me, if I would have won the title, if I would have gotten lucky there at the end, it’s kind of one of those deals where everybody kind of knows I got lucky. I feel like I’m in a good position next year to really earn it. I think we’ll just go from there.
Zach, congratulations on the ride and the championship. When you went down in the first turn, at that moment did you think it was over, or did you still feel that there was hope? Obviously you were able to get up and charge back, but at that moment what were your thoughts?
Zach Osborne: I needed another miracle like I did last weekend. When we went down, Dakota Alix’s foot peg was stuck in my spokes. It took me a minute to get it freed up, so I was like dead last by a couple seconds, like 10 or 15 seconds. So I thought just do what I can and get back to wherever. Then I saw Smith down. I knew on the first couple laps that Joey was right up front, so I had no idea until like four laps to go. I kept getting closer and closer. Then on the two to go I had to pass Mitchell Harrison and he passed me back. I was like, man, it’s just not going to happen. I’m going to come up a tiny bit short. But it happened.
Zach, that was amazing. We were shooting from the stands over here and people had goosebumps at the end of the race. It was unbelievable. What was it like for you? Was it like slow motion in your head the last few corners?
Osborne: Yeah. It’s already a high-pressure situation and then you come down to one big bowl turn and a set of whoops to go. That’s what stands between you and being a champion. I was just like, overwhelmed with emotion and nerves and pressure and everything. I just broke down.
On the track?
Osborne: Yeah, right there on the starting line.
Zach, so now that you’ve won the championship, are you looking for a 450 ride or are you going to stick and defend it?
Osborne: I’m not sure. Like Justin said, it would be cool to run the number one but also I did a 450 test earlier this year before this season and it went really well. So it’s an either-or [situation]. I’m not really too bothered about it. I would definitely like to defend, and I think it’s an awesome move that they made to allow us to be able to defend. So that’s definitely an option for me.
Zach, I was standing up there right behind John Gallagher watching the race when you made your pass. Did you have any thought – he took off pretty quick down the stairs and I was kind of going, don’t do it, John! Did you have any thought that maybe they’d think something bad about the pass?
Osborne: No, it’s for a championship on the last corner. What are you going to do?
Adam, on the podium I think I heard you say a while back you were lying in a hospital bed thinking about giving this up. Can you talk about that a little bit more?
Cianciarulo: Yeah, a couple times it’s been like that. First time I got hurt obviously I had the championship kind of I felt taken out of my hands. I’m 17 points up, Toronto, shoulder out of the socket. That stung a little bit. Coming back, raced Geneva, Switzerland. Just destroyed my whole shoulder. Came back for outdoors, halfway through that season my other shoulder. Get back on the bike, break my leg. Get back on the bike again, break my wrist. You’re thinking, you’ve done this your whole life and then you start kind of taking yourself out of your own shoes and you’re looking from the outside and you’re like, what am I doing? It seems like it’s not happening for you. But I think just the people I have around me. That along with just the strong inner belief I have in myself, I think I’m capable of doing great things on a motorcycle. Of course that was tough. There were some times a couple days after injury where I was over it. I was like, I’m doing everything right and nothing good’s been happening to me. But like I said, that was about 13, 14 months ago and here I am, East/West Shootout. Obviously didn’t win the championship but won this race. Something you kind of dream about as a kid. It’s definitely a big turnaround.
Zach, the last few laps at some point you could probably see [Joey] Savatgy ahead. Did you eventually get him in your sights? Or did you not even see him until the last lap?
Osborne: No, I saw him the whole time. The whole moto I could kind of see him. I would turn left to come back into the stadium and he would be in those doubles in the back. It just seems insurmountable. I think I looked over and there was like three minutes to go and he was the whole alley in front of me. I was just like … it seemed insurmountable at that point. Obviously I was keeping tabs. Even going into the first set of whoops it was still not close enough. I guess he just didn’t get a good run through them or whatever on the last set. I sent it pretty hard, probably a little too hard, into the whoops. But it got me close enough and I was able to make a pass.
Those last few laps then when you’re getting closer, did you ride differently than you normally would? Were you like in a zone? Did you feel less tired? Were you hanging it out more than usual? Was it a different ride the last couple laps when it’s all on the line like that?
Osborne: I don’t know if it’s a different ride. It’s been a little bit of a come-from-behind year for me. When I’ve had good starts it’s been mostly heat races. Like I said, I’ve had some come-from-behind rides where they also seemed a little bit insurmountable. It was kind of par for the course for the year, if you will. It was definitely intense. You could never replicate that ever. I don’t even know what my heart rate was, but it was gone.
Adam, for you after like you mentioned earlier the highs and lows and everything, what does this build for you going into the summer, and even next year to know you’re back, you have one full season under your belt again for once? Everything’s kind of rolling in the right position for the future.
Cianciarulo: I think for me coming into the season I’ve always been a guy that just wants to win no matter what, and no matter what the circumstances are. The first couple rounds I just kind of rode like an idiot. I just want to win so bad and I just forget to think sometimes and I just give it gas and end up crashing. I want it so bad, but it’s just all about being patient. I don’t feel like I’m at my potential yet. Obviously things went really well for me today. Got a good start and I just kind of stayed out of the craziness and I won, but I feel like I have a lot more left in the tank. It’s just about me mentally kind of being disciplined enough to know that it takes time to get there. I’m 20 years old, but really this is pretty much my rookie season. I think I’ve done like 13 supercross races and probably only a handful of outdoor races. It’s just one of those deals where I need to be patient and not be so worried about winning everything right now, just more the process of it all and just kind of doing what I know how to do and leaving it there.
Justin, when you said we’ll see you on a 450 did you mean next year? And Aaron, what’s the story with the thing on the lip?
Hill: Yeah, definitely next year. Like I said, I wanted to be on a 450 kind of the whole time. I think when I get on it, it comes to me really easy. Had to almost use all this time I’ve been in the Lites [250SX] class to figure out how to ride a Lites bike. I don’t want to have to do it that way anymore. I ride it a little bit more naturally the other way, low RPM and all that. So I’m pumped to ride the 450 as soon as possible.
Plessinger: You know, I’ve always wanted to grow a mustache. Now that I can do it, I don’t know if it’s ever going to go away. I’ve spent my life trying to grow this thing, so we’re cruising now.