An incredible day of racing in the 250 Class at the True Value National at Thunder Valley, and Joey Savatgy (Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki) came out on top with 4-1 scores for his first outdoor win of the season. The Martin brothers of Alex (Red Bull/Troy Lee Designs KTM) and Jeremy (GEICO Honda) took second and third; Alex with a 1-4 and Jeremy with a 3-2.
The real theme: how close it was, with every lap of each moto featuring a dogfight. For Savatgy the win was especially big after a rough ending to supercross and a frustrating mechanical problem last week.
Here’s the post-race press conference, hosted by Jimmy Albertson.
Racer X: Jeremy, there were so many times at this race where it was up for grabs for anybody, and it just seemed like you and Joey [Savatgy] in that second moto, it just stuck at the same spot. Was that frustrating for you? What were you trying to do to minimize that gap?
Jeremy Martin: It’s frustrating. He’s been in that situation before and it is frustrating. You’re just getting pelted. My face kind of hurts right now. He was fast. He had some good lines. And then he would stick it in a corner because it was so deep, and then I would come up on him, or he’d hit a lapper and then I’d catch him. And then he’d get through the lapper and the lapper would screw me. So it was like we were playing this cat and mouse game. I had a section where I was a little better and he was a little better on the one side. I knew I needed to get him for the overall and I was trying. I was trying hard. I think I got up alongside of him one time over here but the ruts were so deep. Joey was taking good lines. He was taking the main good line. Then you had to like dive bomb it into this deep rut and then when I got alongside of him it was so deep that I went into false neutral.
We move on to Alex. Congratulations on the first moto win first off. That first moto, the opening four laps, you laid it down. It seemed like you kind of got into cruise control after that. Was that you in a way getting a bit nervous? Like oh man, I’m really doing this? What was going through your mind at that point?
Alex Martin: So, first moto I had a little bit of a gap and I made the mistake of kind of looking back and seeing that I had a gap. Then I was like, I’ll just kind of chill out for a little bit. Then I just couldn’t get going. I started riding tight and picking some crappy lines. Then basically it was like a train of Joey, Jeremy and [Austin] Forkner were all over me. I looked back and they were just battling. I’m like, I need to get going here. No messing around. I switched up my lines and I just kind of started riding hard. These guys know—when you lead that many laps you don’t want to lose it with a lap or two to go. So I put in a pretty good sprint there with two laps to go and tried to get a little gap on Forkner. It was tough though. It was good. I was pumped on the win.
In what I was deeming the S section after the sweeper, right before you come across the mechanics, both you and Jeremy were really good in that section. I remember watching you guys up on the corner track. Does that feel like that was a section that was that favoring you today?
Alex: I don’t know. The whole track was kind of like that. The ruts were really deep. Really today I think it was all about a start. I got the holeshot in the first moto and I was able to win. Literally we were all so close that you have to get the start. It’s so crucial because we’re just so close. Today it wasn’t hot and you can’t really depend on a guy to fade. You can’t really rely on your fitness because we’re all in pretty good shape.
Joey, you’re the first back-to-back winner in the 250 Class here at Lakewood, which is a huge accomplishment. Not only that, but getting your season back on track, this is huge for you. Kind of a one-off question I’ve got for you. You switched up your line where Jeremy was basically gaining most of his ground on you. That was that sweeper coming into the back. Did somebody signal you that or did you just figure that out on your own that you needed to switch that up?
Joey Savatgy: I got signals to change my line up in a few areas. Obviously you can’t really read a pit board and have it say take the outside in this one turn. I knew he was fast somewhere over there by the mechanics’ area and he pulled up alongside next to me. I didn’t even know who was behind me, but when I saw who pulled up next to me was on a red bike realistically I thought it was going to be Jeremy. Once I picked that line up though it made my life a little bit easier. It definitely wasn’t easy by any means, but I was obviously losing quite a bit of time there. Especially once I started taking that line it was a lot of mile an hour faster than what I was doing. Once I picked that up I was like, all right, kind of maybe get back into a flow. That next right-hander he had that line on the inside that was fast. I wanted to go there, but I hadn’t been there all moto and I didn’t want to change it up, especially that late in the moto. It was gnarly.
Joey, we saw you paddling your way through the inside of that rut most of the moto, but that definitely helped. We haven’t had you on the podium or for the press conference this year yet. I’d like to go back and talk about the opening round. What were the struggles coming out of that? It just kind of looked like you were a bit stuck at a certain pace. It wasn’t the Joey Savatgy that we expected.
Savatgy: Definitely struggled personally just with a few things. I think a little bit of bike setup. I think the bike obviously could have been better. I stayed in California for Hangtown and Glen Helen and we tested on Tuesday—I think it was at Pala—for a long time and made a lot of progress. We went into Glen Helen and I felt good. First moto was good. Jeremy was able to take it away from me. I felt like it was a big improvement. Terrible start the second moto. I was probably outside the top 20 around the first turn, but I think I was up to seventh or sixth. If I could have got Forkner I think it would have been good enough for third overall. I was going to be okay with that. For as bad as a start as I got and for how the first weekend went, I know it’s a long series. I learned that last year. We opened up really good in the first round. Went to Glen Helen and kind of struggled. I felt like if we get on the box there and get out of the first two rounds and go back east I’d be happy with that. It’s unfortunate we had a bike problem. I've been on the team for three years and I think I’ve had one other mechanical, so it’s unlike the team. It’s not their deal. Mitch [Payton] went back and I’m sure he didn’t sleep a lot and he was probably not very happy. I think we got the problem fixed for the most part. I think there’s obviously a little bit of fine-tuning, but I was happy and trust the team 100 percent. I know they’re going to get the stuff fixed.
The first moto was some of the best racing ever, and second moto was a great battle with you two. The 450 class had great racing. Do you think something about this track or probably less power at altitude or something—anything about it that might have led to good battles? Or is it just something that worked out?
Alex: It was kind of a cooler day. I feel like the hotter races we kind of all just string out and it’s like survival of the fittest, where when it's a cooler day we can kind of just … and that’s the thing—the altitude, honestly I don’t really think it affects us as much as you guys hype it up. We’re not that high [up here]. It was kind of a nice day. I think that definitely plays into it. We were all so close just because the temperature was cool. This track had a lot of lines. I think that helps. You can get alongside people. We’re constantly searching and fighting and trying to find that line.
I always wonder if the bike’s going slower for some reason might improve the racing, no?
Alex: [Laughs] That’s all in your head.
Joey: The bikes are definitely slower, but you’re still pinned.
Alex, you changed bikes this year. You’ve been solid all year. How big was it to get on the podium or actually get a moto win on the new bike?
Alex: That was huge. I’ve kind of been searching a little bit and then this week we tried something real big. I can’t really talk about it, but it made a huge difference. I was so pumped on it. I had a lot more confidence coming into the weekend and I think it showed in the first moto, and even the second moto. Overall been loving the team and getting to know the bike. It definitely takes a little bit, but I think we’re in a good spot now. I’m just excited for the rest of the summer and racing with these guys.
Jeremy, first moto you actually moved backwards a little bit and then you managed to re-pass some of the same guys. How does that happen during the race? What happened there?
Jeremy: I was right there. I saw Alex and I’m like, I’ve got to hunt this guy down. I can’t give him the glory. There’s no way I can do that. I just was too nervous to go out of the main line. I was like, should I go inside here? I was like, it's going to go good or it’s going to go bad. Joey got me and he had a couple better lines, I think, than me. Then Forkner got both of us and I was like, dang it. Then I was able to kind of catch up on some lines and get back in there with the boys and make a move on Joey. I knew that it was really rough in the main line we were taking there after the tower, then I saw a little bit of fluff on the outside. I was like, “Dude, I got him!” I was fortunate to get him. We’re all so close. We’re all so fast. It’s down to the lines.
Jeremy and Joey, both of you guys have kind of dug a little bit of a hole with bike problems. How do you approach the rest of the season?
Joey: I don’t even really think about it. There’s how many more motos? Before this weekend there were 20 motos, so we got 18 left. I think you don’t even look past this weekend. Obviously the next goal is weekend after next. Take it one race at a time. As we saw in the beginning rounds, he had a problem and I had a problem. It can happen to anyone at any time. You kind of throw it out the window and focus on your own thing. You’ve got to start chipping away little bit by little bit. Not every weekend is going to be ideal, but if you can get a good weekend in there where you make up thee, five, seven points, any other bad weekend too or you come out the same, I think that’s the goal. There’s 18 more motos so there’s a lot of racing. When we get back east and it starts to get hot I think that’s when you’ll see the in-shape guys up front a little bit more consistently.
Jeremy: Textbook RC [Ricky Carmichael] and Johnny O’Mara right there.
Alex, in that second moto did you know if Forkner in front of you was the overall?
Alex: No, I didn’t know until two laps to go actually. It was like, honestly the same thing happened to me at Budds Creek last year when I went 4-1. I thought I kind of had that one in the bag until like two laps to go. So I was like, dang it. Of course Forkner is no slouch. He’s pretty quick. He didn’t really fade. I tried to put on a little charge. We were kind of yo-yoing each other. The last two laps I knew that I needed to pass him and I just couldn’t.
Joey, obviously this moto is huge for you. How much belief does that put into the work going forward from here?
Savatgy: It’s going good. Obviously he’s helping out. He’s a race day guy, though. I do a lot of my training with Ricky [Carmichael] back home. The off-bike stuff he actually doesn’t really do much. Obviously, he puts in his input. But all the off-training stuff that I do is with Ricky and our little group that we have and we kind of come together and make an agreement. He’s a race day guy. I think it’s good. He’s been with me since middle of supercross, and obviously supercross wasn’t ideal and a lot of little mistakes. It is what it is. I’ve never stopped believing in myself. It never helps when you’re on the ground. To get through the weekend and minimize mistakes and come out on top is obviously ideal. It’s good. Back to your question, the belief, it’s never not been there. Obviously there’s been times where we’re down in the dumps or we have a rough weekend, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in my ability and that I can’t win. It’s just some weekends are better than others.
You commented on the TV there on the podium that this win was almost as good as your first win. Explain that. I know you’ve had some rough times this year, and what it’s like to get back to the center of the box.
Savatgy: It does feel like the first win all over again. I say that in a sense of we had an up and down supercross season. There was two races that we were leading and had a little bit of a lead and just mistakes. You look back on those and you add up the points, and you add up the points that I lost in Toronto. It’s a what-if game. There’s always something that you look back on and you think, man, I wish I would have done something different, but that’s how it goes. You can’t change it. It’s good for the confidence. The confidence has never not been there. Obviously there’s been times where I’ve struggled and get frustrated, but I’ve always believed in my ability and know that if I show up on the weekend and I ride like I know how to ride that there’s no reason why I can’t win or be fighting and battling like we did today for a win.
I know that everyone’s saying the bikes being slower makes the racing better. You guys mentioned it being cool outside and having a fitness factor. Do you feel like it’s easier to ride the bikes? Doesn’t wear you out as much when they’re slower?
When you’re ringing it out, it’s a lot easier than when you’re worried about whiskey throttle.
Savatgy: We’re still wide open but it’s 20 miles an hour slower.
Alex: You just have to be so aggressive.
Joey, having Justin Bogle down there now at the farm. Is that helping you out to have somebody to battle with during the week?
Savatgy: Supercross-wise I have [arenacross riders] Jace Owen and Gavin Faith. Obviously they don’t do the long stuff like I do. They’re definitely no slouch and they can put down some good laps. It definitely helps when you have someone out there who’s doing the same amount of laps, if not more. Supercross obviously he does a little bit more with the race distance, but it’s definitely helped the both of us. He’s got someone trying to get closer to him, and I got someone to chase. I think it’s good. We’ve been doing some bike rides together and just trying to have fun. That’s the big thing. When you stop having fun it’s miserable. You’ve got to try to keep a little bit of fun in it. Not saying that it’s ever fun when out there in the middle of the summer and you’re dying, but it helps when you have someone out there dying with you.