“That was one of the worst feelings—looking down and seeing another rider in the air. It was awful.” A few days later, Traders Racing’s Nick Gaines can finally exhale. A turbulent Monster Energy Supercross debut is finally in the rear-view. “The jitters were going the whole day last week—even getting will call,” said Gaines earlier this week.
You may not have known the name Nick Gaines before last weekend’s 250SX East Region opener. But if you watched the race, you definitely do now. In the first 250SX heat, Gaines, while in second, jumped the first triple. Vince Friese, who was in first, did not. Both escaped huge damage, but it shook the rookie. “I wish I could have doubled, but I’m just glad we are both alright because that was a gnarly crash,” he said.
Gaines, relegated to the LCQ, seemed to have a spot in the main on ice before crashing away a huge lead. It was a night filled of ups, downs, ups, and more downs. The bright side: Gaines showed a lot of potential. When we caught up with the Georgia native earlier this week, he was not only happy to have survived the crash, but also with his speed.
Racer X: Not even a full lap into your supercross career, you nearly had a really bad crash. What went through your mind at that point?
Nick Gaines: It was definitely crazy. I got a really good start and I guess I was just really excited and I thought Vince [Friese] was going to jump the triple and he didn’t. I was already up the face—there was really nothing I could do. I thought we may get lucky and not hit. I wish I could have doubled, but I’m just glad we are both alright because that was a gnarly crash.
You got back up and nearly came back to qualify. How do you rebound from something like that so quickly? That had to throw you for a loop.
Oh, yeah, for sure. I just made sure I was alright and then tried to throw down as fast as I could. I knew I probably wasn’t going to make it in the heat race, so I was trying to go as fast as I could and get as many people as I could so I could get a good gate pick in the LCQ. I think I got twelfth in heat.
I bet your heart rate was spiking after that?
Oh, yeah. That was one of the worst feelings—looking down and seeing another rider in the air. It was awful. Like I said, it could have been so much worse.
In the LCQ, it looked like you had it on ice before going down with a lap or so to go. What happened there?
I was trying to ride my own race and I think it was like the second or third lap and they said I had a pretty good gap on second. I just made a dumb mistake. My front wheel went over the double in the middle of the whoops and it didn’t allow me to double correctly and it just threw me off. It was just a dumb mistake. I wish I could take it back, but oh, well, I’ll just get ready for this weekend in Atlanta. Just try and have a non-crash weekend and get through it all [laughs].
Was it a lapse in concentration because you were so far ahead or just a mistake?
I think it was just a mistake. I was in fourth going through the whoops when I think I should have been in third, so I could of have more snap on the bottom end. I actually messed up there the lap before. My left foot came off the footpegs and almost crashed. It was just a straight up mistake.
I guess the good thing to take from it is you were riding really well. What were your impressions of your first supercross?
I just tried to ride as good as I could. In the practices, it was everything I thought it would be. The track got really hard and rutted up, and the corners were gnarly. I expected it—I’ve been to a lot of supercrosses before. I just tried to get through it all and make it through practice. It went good. My speed felt good. I just need to try and put everything together and not wreck this weekend. I’m bummed about how it all went down, but I think it’s all positives. I’m riding good and my starts were really good. I’m really excited for Atlanta.
And you get two Atlantas—which is your hometown race. Do you have a bunch of family and friends coming this weekend?
I’m super excited for the back-to-back races in Atlanta. I live an hour and half from there. I like the dirt there, so hopefully it will be a good weekend. Definitely going to be a lot of family and friends there.
Does having a lot of family and friends there put a little more on your plate?
I don’t think it does. I’m just going to try and treat it like every other race I’ve done. I learned a lot for this past weekend, so I’m going to try and gather that information and just do good this weekend. I’m just going to try and get the starts like I did [last weekend] and make smart decision and put down some fast laps.
Expand on your starts—they were on point.
Sometimes my starts are good and sometimes they are awful. I’m down here at Dreamland in Florida at Luke Renzland’s [CycleTrader.com/Rock River Yamaha rookie] house. We got Luke and my teammate Tony Archer down here and we’ve been putting in a lot of time. We’ve been doing starts everyday. I know I practice them a lot, so just going to try and do that every week because those were good.
I know he [Renzland] has a prime supercross track there. How much did that help you prepare for last weekend?
It helped me a ton. We’ve been down here riding Monday through Friday. It’s a full-blown supercross track. They work on it and have a water truck. It’s been going well. I got the bike perfect. Just trying to train as much as we can and be as prepared as possible.
You’re back with Traders Racing this year after riding the last few nationals with them. Take us through what you’re bike set-up is like and what Traders Racing is?
Traders Racing Kawasaki is based out of Maryland. The person who owns it is Gary Luckett. He owns a lot of business and just a really great guy. The bike set-up has been great. We have Pro Circuit doing motors and suspension. I’ve been talking with those guys a lot trying to get it the best it can be. I love the bike. It’s the best I’ve ever had before.
During your amateur career, you never got that elusive title at Loretta’s. But you were always on the cusp. I’m sure that’s something you look back on and say, “Man, I wish I could have gotten one of those.”
I think my amateur career was pretty decent. I was always one of the top guys, but never, never, never won any titles. I won a couple at Mini Os and a couple other amateur nationals, but never at Loretta’s. It seemed like something would always happen. I have countless race wins there, but no titles. I could never make it happen in all three races. I was lucky. I got to race there from the time I was 6 to 19. I thought that was pretty cool. I could never get the title. I wish I could have. I still think about it all the time. But, it’s in the past and not much you can do now.
That’s a pretty impressive stat—6 to 19. How did you make it there all those years? Was it just you, Mom, and Dad?
My brother raced with me. He is five years older than me. He raced Loretta’s a couple years, but he quit around 16. Mostly it was just me, Mom and, Dad. We just took the motorhome up there. A few years ago I shouldn’t have even went. I broke my tibia at Muddy Creek at the Regional and got my cast off ten days before Loretta’s. I sure should have missed one [laughs].
When you decided to go after breaking your leg, did you have the streak in mind? Was that something you wanted to finish off?
Yeah. Mom and Dad and everyone was like, “You know, Nick, you haven’t been riding or training or anything, you shouldn’t go. You’re not ready.” I’m hard-headed so I went anyways. I think I may have got a few podiums that year. Obviously endurance wasn’t where it should have been.
Back to this year: After a race down, you think the jitters will wear off a bit?
Oh, yeah. For sure. The jitters were going the whole day last week—even getting will call. I just had butterflies all day. I just wanted to get through that one so I could learn. I know now what’s going to be thrown at me. I want to get through timed practice, the heats, and just make it happen.
Thanks, Nick. Any sponsors you want to thank?
Traders Racing Kawasaki, Tic Tabs, Pro Circuit, Eagle Amusements, GP, Luckett Construction, Thor, Parts Unlimited, Limited Decal, Boysen, Mika Metals, Rekluse, Dunlop, Cycra, 100%, Dons Kawasaki, Maxima, DT1, Ankle Savers, RNB Racing, Works Connection, Dubya, Walsh Race Craft, EVS, my trainer Tim Ullinski, and Monster Army.