The Glendale, Arizona round of Monster Energy Supercross gave the riders what they've been asking for: a technical track with long, difficult rhythm lanes and a tough set of whoops. This was not a case of "be careful what you wish for," though, because the riders got a tough track and praised it repeatedly.
Check out the post-race press conference from Arizona, featuring Eli Tomac, Justin Barcia and Ken Roczen, and you'll hear that they were happy with their races and happy with the track. They even get deep into some analysis of why one rhythm lane, which basically decided the race, was so difficult.
Racer X: Congratulations, Ken. Early in that main event you were able to make some moves pretty aggressively and get into the position of third and then kind of steady from there on out. Was it the track that kind of held you back from being more aggressive and continuing to move forward?
Ken Roczen: I haven’t been too happy with my starts, actually. I have to work on that. But I found myself in fifth or so. I had to make a couple of passes happen. From there on out, the front two guys were going good. Obviously not just going an inch a second away every lap. Kind of have to find something to do that you can do different. I just kind of tried to hit my marks. The track was more technical this weekend by far. Houston was difficult, but other than that, today’s track was pretty good. I really liked it. I had fun racing, too, which that’s always a good thing to have. We had some good rhythms and quite a few jumps out there. The dirt got really hard, like Arizona is. But all in all, I think throughout the day Dirt Wurx guys did a good job in keeping the track nice and wet. It was good out there. Towards the end we were all kind of closing up a little bit again, but I just didn’t have enough speed to really make something happen. I had a couple of close calls after the finish in that sand. It didn’t look like a whole lot, but you really got to hit that rut. It kind of threw you off a little bit sometimes. All in all, though, pretty happy with my third.
Justin, congratulations on second. You started the season off with the two podiums and then last week kind of fell off a little bit. Was this a big night for you to rebound and just get back on track?
Justin Barcia: Yeah, for sure. It was definitely a good rebound and kind of shows that I’m going to be running up in the top five and trying to battle for this championship. Last weekend was tough for me. I just got bad starts and kind of did damage control for the most part, which was a little frustrating. But I stayed positive because I rode good last week. Backed it up this week, which was great. Ken was coming from behind for sure. Kept the pressure on and Eli was obviously riding really good up front. At the end we were all pretty close, which was pretty exciting. Definitely made a couple mistakes again. Just missed that rhythm section in the middle before the finish line a couple times, which is like a couple tenths, and then Eli would just chip away a little bit. But besides for that, it was great. Like Ken said, the Dirt Wurx guys did a great job today. The track was probably the best racetrack of the year so far, I thought. Just some separators, the whoops, some rhythms and stuff like that. All in all, I was happy with how the night went. I felt like I rode really good, just need to work on those few little things.
Eli, congratulations. In the heat race and even in qualifying it seemed like maybe you weren’t 100% yourself, but in the main event once you got out front, definitely looked more like yourself. Was it just the start or was it just the night? You kind of needed to get back into the night to get back on rhythm?
Eli Tomac: It just took me a while to get the rhythm. We were struggling putting whole laps together in practice. It was actually almost every practice, really. The last practice we rolled off the track, I think, in eighth. It was a little bit of an eye-opener for me. Just wasn’t being clean and kind of took that to the heat race, too. But we kept our heads up and never thought we were out of it. Went out to the main, got a good start and just tried to put the laps together. It was a really, really tough track. It was demanding with those big triple-triples. All three of us, we were hauling the mail.
Justin, you said you want to battle for the championship, and that’s 17 rounds. You’re only signed for six.
Barcia: I’m working on it.
Barcia: No news is good news, right? No, I definitely plan on being with the Monster Energy/Knich/Yamaha team the rest of the season for sure. Definitely working on it. It’s been good for me. I think the whole six-race thing was just a great opportunity to show I still have that fire from a couple years ago. It’s been a while. All in all, I think it’s worked in Yamaha’s favor and mine. It’s great. I hope to continue the relationship.
Eli, what changes did you make to the bike throughout the day to make it a lot better?
Tomac: Well, from the start of the day, we ended the night on the same bike. We tinkered a little bit through practice two and three, but never went way off the map. Just tried little stuff and then just kind of went back to home. That’s what we did.
Ken, how good does it feel to have Anaheim completely behind you and back to fighting for podiums?
Roczen: That was the plan, I feel like, going through Anaheim 2. Last weekend I just really wanted to get the whole day out of the way and over with. Obviously that showed in my result, too. I kind of expected that to come, but now we’re here and we’re feeling really comfortable. I love how the team and I work together. We’re all in good spirits, and it’s fun. I think that’s the biggest deal for me that always keeps my head up. It’s good. Last weekend’s out of the way and now we can just look forward to each and every weekend. We had a great race tonight. That just makes you look forward to the next weekend already.
This question is for all three of you guys. Last week we had a really short track where most of the riders were pretty bunched up together, where this week with a longer track, more passing opportunities but then you’re running into lap traffic. Which for you guys is a more challenging track to race?
Roczen: Last weekend’s track was, in my eyes, horrible just because it was way too easy. Everybody did the same thing. Then once you passed the mechanics area and you came to that section over there, it we pretty much a goat trail and everybody went from outside to inside and just rolled around. There was no triple, no double. You just rolled around, literally. Then the whoops were pretty much nonexistent, which is just a bad idea in general. I’m really glad they fixed that this weekend and we actually had some whoops. In my eyes, the whoops that we had today were safer and better than last weekend. I hope that they stick to that.
Barcia: Yeah, I agree that the track last weekend, it made the whole Triple Crown thing not that cool, really, because the track wasn’t good at all. It was just kind of freight train. If you didn’t get a start, it was really hard to pass. For me, I didn’t get a good start so it was really hard. But all in all, I think the track this weekend was way better. It was a separator. There was the whoops that, like Ken said, were bigger, and actually they were safer because you couldn’t just go wide open into them and send it bonsai. So that was better, and big rhythms are good because if everyone can do the same thing nonstop, then there’s no separator. So I think. for sure, harder tracks is better to split the top guys up a little.
Tomac: I’m on the same page, really. Anything that, or if there’s a section out there that you can make time on, that’s great. It separates the good guys. Yeah, last weekend was good for us, but in all reality I would rather race a track like this one tonight.
Eli, what is it about Arizona that makes it I guess so fun for you to race here? You’ve had a couple wins here in your career.
Tomac: I don’t know. It’s somewhat close to home. It’s a six-hour drive to home. It has a good home vibe. There’s just some places where you go and you wake up in the morning and you feel good. I’ve always had some success here. Maybe it’s a little bit of the dirt, too. It’s a close one to Colorado.
All three of you, take me through the rhythm after the whoops. You make a left-hand turn, jump onto a table. Sometimes you could triple off, sometimes you couldn’t. Sometimes you couldn’t get it every lap. What was the difference, lap to lap, to be able to do it consistently and then not be able to do it the way you wanted to?
Barcia: Obviously the line before the corner before that jump kind of changed a little bit here and there. For me, I didn’t even know. I couldn’t believe anyone did that. I seen it in a video after practice so I was like, I got to man up in the heat race and hit it. It wasn’t like it was crazy hard or anything, but it was just pretty big. I think for me, that’s what cost me a lot of time in the whole race because I missed it three or four times and Eli was nailing it pretty consistent.
Tomac: It was just a big line. You had to get far enough onto the table top to get the second one, and then even from the second triple to the third one you wanted to land deep enough to where you weren’t landing on the top of the down ramp and then getting bucked because it was kind of a short, steep lip on the third triple. So, it was just tough. You had to do a big seat bounce to get up there. To do it throughout that main was tough.
Roczen: I’m with those guys. The corner before, like Justin said, it changed, and from that take off to the table top was a pretty big gap. The further you could land onto the table top, obviously, I feel like the easier that next triple came just because you could kind of use the suspension and unload it and it kind of just gave you a little bit of a pop. I actually think that the triple off the table top was okay. It wasn’t that bad. But then the next one, like Eli said, it was a really steep transition. It kind of bucked you. I actually didn’t even jump it towards the end anymore. I missed it a few times. Basically my plan was because it got so difficult that I missed it once, then I just decided to do a short turn on the inside rather than spending all my time setting up for it at the very top and then getting squirrelly and not making it. So, I decided to just kind of stay low and go double and table over single. It wasn’t the fastest, maybe, but then I could just basically throw that out of my head and stay aggressive through that section. I feel like that would kind of help me stay in the flow a little bit better.
Barcia: You know it’s big when no 250s do it either. Usually 250s do everything we do, so it was pretty big.
Justin, I think you’re probably a good example of that guys can come back when people have written them off. Do you think that maybe there’s just not enough patience for riders?
Barcia: Yeah, I think obviously Kenny, what he came back from, and for me, just struggling for a couple years, little injuries and just not being comfortable. I’m 26 now. You can go for a while in this career, but for me, I needed to figure out if this is what I actually wanted or if I wanted to just retire, because I probably could have had an all right life retiring last year. But for me, I just kind of had to take a little break and clear my head and think about things. I was going to go try to obviously race on my own because I still wanted to race, but luckily this opportunity at Yamaha came up and it just shows when you get your mental game back in check and you get a strong team behind you and a good, new motorcycle, I was given all the puzzle pieces and kind of just gluing them all together. I changed my training. I changed everything, but luckily mentally, I think, going through those tough years made me a lot tougher of a person and able to get through stuff now. What I thought was hard back then is really not that bad.
Justin, last week you had a very public incident with your teammate. How’s your relationship?
Barcia: Yeah, it’s okay. That finish line was funny. It was like a double and then a little thing after it. I was going to try to jump to the inside and then he tucked to the inside last minute and I kind of rear-ended him a little bit. He thought I did it on purpose. After the race he was kind of mad at me and doing some stuff, and I yelled at him. I was like, ‘No, I didn’t do it on purpose.’ But when we got back to the truck I was like, if I’m going to hit anyone I really don’t want to hit you. You’re my teammate. Maybe back in the day I would have sent it in there, but I’ve honestly kind of smartened up quite a bit. Racing’s way more fun when it’s clean, aggressive racing. I’ve done some stupid stuff. Kenny can vouch for that. [Laughs] Eli, too. Probably everybody! I’m rebuilding lots of relationships around the races. But he was a little mad at me, but I said sorry. Today I was mad at Marvin. He got in my way on my fast lap and I yelled at him. I kind of yelled at him too much, I thought, so I was like, ‘Sorry, dude, that was too much. But you were rolling the track in the main line.’ He agreed.