There are a lot of people hoping Justin Cooper succeeds in Monster Energy Supercross and Lucas Oil Pro Motocross this year. It’s easy to get on board with his story—he went to regular public school and even attended a year of college while doing as much racing and training as he could. Instead of shipping off down south to ride year-round, Cooper stayed in New York throughout his amateur career and made his bones by racing locally. He finally found his groove in 2017 and became perhaps the most accomplished amateur in the nation during the season. For that, he garnered the AMA Nicky Hayden Motocross Horizon Award and a spot on Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha for 2018.
This means factory bikes, moving to California, and preparing for supercross. How’s it going? We found him a few weeks back to find out.
Racer X: You turned pro this year. Got second place [in second moto] in your first national. That must have been pretty awesome.
Justin Cooper: Yeah, just came out of the amateurs fresh off Loretta’s and just trying to have fun with it I guess and learn some things. Ended up raining really bad and got off to a really good start and just paced off the leader for a little bit. Found my flow out there and just tried to stay consistent lap to lap and not let anything get into my head. I was able to get on the podium the first national. It was pretty cool and a great experience.
You had a good start to your pro debut. You were in the top 20 every moto. Was that shocking to you? Was that right where you expected to be?
Yes and no. I wanted to be top 10 overall to stay consistent most of the time, but obviously you can’t stay consistent all the time. Some freakish things happen. But I was able to learn a lot out there and just get my feet wet in the pros and get ready for next year.
You also competed in quite a few arenacross’. Do you feel like that’s helping you with your supercross prep and everything?
Yeah. I got my Road to Supercross points this year and ended up getting the Lites East Coast championship. Definitely got my experience for that. That racing was a lot closer and a lot more aggressive I think, but it will more open for supercross. Definitely a good stepping stone going into the pro ranks.
Are you glad you took that path?
Yeah, for sure. I’ve been doing arenacross most of my life because I’m from the Northeast. Not much to do in the winter as far as riding, so I head up to the arenacross rounds and I have some fun. It’s great experience and I’m glad they’re having everyone do it.
You’re now living full-time in California, right?
Yeah, I just moved out here about two weeks ago. I’ll be here pretty much full-time all through next year training over here and getting ready for the upcoming races.
Do you have a decision on which coast you’re going to be racing?
Probably won’t know that until right before, but just depends on the whole team and where we’re at. I’d like to do East Coast I think. I’m from over there, so definitely should be more comfortable over there.
How has the supercross training been going? How many days do you have under your belt so far?
I’ve probably got about four to five days on supercross so far. It’s going really well. Just getting my feet wet and getting comfortable out there and taking it pretty slow. Like I said, just having fun with it. Plenty of time left. Still don’t know which coast I’m doing, so we’ll get ready for West Coast, but if not we’ll do East.
How are you liking being with the whole team now that you’re officially a pro?
Awesome team. They do everything to help me out there. I can’t thank them enough. They’re awesome. The bike’s awesome. Just a great group of people to be around. The progress is coming.
Would you say you’re in full supercross swing now?
Yeah. We do ride supercross about three days a week. Today’s Friday. We’re out here at Pala. We kind of switch it up a little bit, get on some outdoor. It’s still early in the off-season so we still want to have some fun out here and definitely get out on some motocross. I’m sure we’ll start getting more serious as we get closer to the upcoming race season.