Eli Tomac | Monster Energy Kawasaki | 2-2 for second overall in 450MX
Racer X: First, talk about this track.
Eli Tomac: I thought this morning it started out a lot like last week, being soft and wet and slick. It was hard to get a clean lap in in practice, but it came around pretty good for the afternoon races, which was good to see, where as last week it stayed pretty heavy and gnarly all day. I thought it was a decent racetrack; this track is always a little tight and one-lined. It’s always an effort to get around lappers here. Other than that it was a good day.
In moto one you caught up to Ken but the gap kind of stretched out in the end. In the second moto you drove it in there the whole time and stayed close all the way to the last lap. Was that just mental toughness?
We were both giving it our all there. Obviously we both want it really bad. In the second moto I was closer in the end, nailing my lines a little better and getting around lappers a little better. I know everyone has to get through the same guys but sometimes they’re tough, especially when there are big ruts like this. Another hard fought day. The past few weeks I’ve been struggling in the first moto, so it was good to put everything together.
Broc Tickle | Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s/RCH Suzuki | 6-3 for third overall in 450MX
Racer X: Congrats on a great weekend for third overall.
Broc Tickle: Thanks. It’s been a long time coming, but the class is really stacked right now. I can’t take anything away from anyone else. I feel like I’ve been getting stronger every week, just coming back from my injury (broken wrist) in supercross. It seems like when I get hurt I get more motivated to come back and be better. Not that it’s ever good to get hurt, but now I’m trying to get that momentum here at round five. I just want to keep the momentum going and keep getting better from here.
How did it feel getting that holeshot in the second moto.
It was awesome! I haven’t led a race since 2011 in supercross. Haven’t even led! So that was a good feeling and it was awesome to do. It gave me a lot of confidence and made me think this is something we can do every weekend. So I need to do whatever I can to make sure I can keep doing that.
Kenny, your teammate, has had great results this year and now you’re up here too. Has something changed as far as the bike is concerned?
Yeah, motor wise we’re pretty much on the same thing, and motor wise we made another change and it was in the right direction today. We’ve made changes for motor stuff and suspension stuff and they’ve been good. Obviously, you test out in California and you know you’re going to have to change your setup when you get to these tracks and it’s wet and heavy. We’ve found the right place week in and week out to go in the right direction.
Now that you got to see them up front, what’s the difference between what Kenny and Eli are doing and what everyone else is doing?
Kenny and Tomac have a lot of momentum and confidence. They have won races and motos and I haven’t been there. For me it’s awesome to be up front and be up there with them. There’s a really stacked group here from like third through twelfth, and you just can’t settle for anything. I think we all realized that—it’s a gamble, you have to be on your toes, you have to push it and you have to be confident that you’re doing the right thing.
These tracks on the East Coast, do they fit your style?
I normally like Hangtown and Colorado, but this year I really struggled at them. I think it was a matter of building confidence. But I usually do well in the ruts, and I like the mud. So having these soft tracks is good, and I’m looking forward to maybe having a mud race here. I’m looking forward to the next few tracks and building momentum from here. Stoked to be back east, want to finish these last races off strong before the break and have a lot of confidence going into the last few races.
Joey Savatgy | Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki | 1-7 for second overall in 250MX
Racer X: Great first moto and you won it; second moto take us through that. Two crashes.
Joey Savatgy: Yeah, the first one I just tucked my front in a turn and my leg was stuck between the bar and the shroud, and my clutch was also tucked in there. I was trying to pick the bike up without stalling it. We have one of those clutch levers that can bend all the way out, so it was bent out and buried in the dirt, I was trying to wiggle my way out while also not stalling it. That was the first time. Second time was after that long set of jumps. I just caught a bump and it threw the bike sideways. I had to pick myself up again and the clutch was buried in the dirt again. Had to spend a lot of energy getting the bike up without stalling it. You can’t have those mistakes happen, especially in the long run for later in the series. I’m going to be kicking myself in the butt for those mistakes and losing those points. I work hard and do a lot during the week and these little mistakes I’m making have to be eliminated sooner rather than later. I have to stop giving points away like that. But we got second overall. We lost points today and that’s not good but we’re leaving healthy and moving on to fight another day.
You worked yourself back to fourth, then the second crash you went back to twelfth. It’s so important for you to fight back to that seventh and get second overall for the points. Could have been easy to give up. Tell us about that drive to get a few more positions.
Yeah, it would have been easy to give up, or to just throw a temper tantrum during the race and just ride around in twelfth. I’ve had to learn the hard way. We lost supercross by one point. I’ve looked back at it—one point! Man, we could have made that up. It’s frustrating but like you said, you get up and keep digging because you never know. Those points I made by going from twelfth to seventh, we could end up winning the title by four points. I made up five in that moto. I would have liked to have gotten up a little further, but I was spent man, I’m not going to lie. Picking up that bike twice in the heat, trying hard to make sure I didn’t stall it, it took a lot out of me. The last couple of laps I was dying, and on one of the jumps my hand came off the bar. You’ve got to grind it out and push through. I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty.
It seems like when you make a mistake or have a bad race, you just own it. You don’t make excuses. Is that people around you telling you to do it that way, or have you always been like that?
I think it’s a combination. Like I’ve said before, and I’m sure everyone else will say, I work hard. I work very hard. At the end of the day, I could sit here and say, “Well I made this mistake because of this or that, or I had a bad race because of that.” Well at the end of the day I’m the one riding the bike so it’s on me. I should have been mindful of the track and the deteriorating track conditions. There’s really no one else to blame but me, and I have no problems putting it on my own shoulders. I’m trying to get this thing done for Mitch [Payton] and the last thing he wants to hear is me blaming someone else for my problems. I learned a long time ago—at some point you’ve got to man up and blame yourself. Those mistakes were my fault.
Shane McElrath | Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM | 5-2 for third overall in 250MX
Racer X: You almost won it today.
Shane McElrath: Yeah, this is what I expect out of myself. Just like Joey said, he works hard and everyone does. You can’t go anywhere without hard work. Had a really good week this week and I knew after the first moto it was hot and guys were going to fall off a little bit. I’ve gotten good starts this year and I was focused on sprinting for the first few laps and fighting for it. That’s what I was lacking all year. I had to fight for it.
When you had the lead, did you have to ride offensively or defensively?
A little bit of both. It was all depending on how close the person was behind me. A little past halfway I could see on the pit board that I pulled like a second on second place. I didn’t know who it was, but after that I told myself to sprint. It was pretty hot today and the track was pretty rough, so mistakes weren’t something you could totally get away from if you were pushing as hard as you could. So a few mistakes on my part and some lappers, I just felt I should have had that one but Cooper [Webb] rode good.
So this is where you want to be every week?
Yeah, like I said this is what I expect out of myself. I’m on the factory KTM 250 team and they want to win. That’s what they want us to do and we work hard during the week to do that just like everybody else. It just comes down to who is willing to suffer the most. It was hot out here and it came down to who could bite the bullet the hardest. That’s what our trainer Tyla Rattray is always telling us: you’ve got to bite the bullet.
Talk about the crowd. Cooper Webb said he could hear them all the way around the track. You grew up here racing, too, so they must have been good to you, too.
Yeah, I grew up racing Cooper here. It was fun. We’d go back and forth when we were kids here, no one was consistently first. So we’ve raced here a lot…I guess that means I wasn’t pumped to see it was him behind me! But yeah, our whole family was here and Cooper and I probably know most of the fans out there. So to do this at our home track is pretty cool.
A lot of riders, when they’re winning or leading for the first time in their career, it gets to them and they start thinking about it. You actually started riding better it seemed when you were out front. Was that in your mind at all?
The first few laps we were fighting and I was maybe playing a little bit of defense. Then I think everyone settled it, and I kind of settled in, too. You just had to pick good lines out there. There weren’t many very good lines, so I just went where I could and tried to minimize mistakes.
Alex Martin was in second for most of this. He made like five runs at you and got close during the race. Did you feel him back there?
I didn’t know who was back there. There were parts of the track where I felt really good and others where I feel like I was losing some time. Once I settled down a little bit I really focused on trying to minimize how much time I lost in those spots. My mechanic was doing a good job with the pit board, and I was just trying to focus ahead.
How badly does your team need this?
Tyler Keefe, our team manager, he doesn’t even have a voice left! He was trying to yell something there at the end but I couldn’t even hear him. It’s good for the whole team and KTM. They work so hard and once I get out there like that, it’s on me. Looking forward to RedBud.
You said you had sections where you were gaining time and others where you were losing time. What were some of those?
Some of the tighter sections I was losing time. In those sections you want to actually slow down and enter the corner patiently, and that’s kind of been my problem. I don’t slow down enough and just blast the berm and it actually ends up being slower. So that’s been a problem for me. It’s all about being smooth, and when I’m smooth I’m fast. There were sections where I knew I was losing a little bit but in other areas I tried to charge as hard as I could.
Second moto, do you feel you made any big mistakes?
No! I hit some lappers and had to take some weird lines, and I think that’s where all my gap went. But that’s part of racing and it’s just another challenge. It was hot, track was rough, we were 32 minutes in. When Cooper got around me I was frustrated but it’s my first time leading outdoors so I have to take some good things away from it.
Jordon Smith | GEICO Honda | 4-6 for fourth overall in 250MX
Racer X: You finally did it! Good job leading laps, but for you, finally, you had two solid motos in the same day. Two solid motos! How does that feel?
Jordon Smith: Oh man it’s so good, especially after the last few races, they’ve been tough. We’ve been doing some testing to try to figure things out. It feels good to have two good motos and to run up front both times. I led four or five laps there in the first moto. The only time I’d ever been in the lead was outdoors at Utah last year, and that time I was a little freaked out. This time I felt really comfortable up there and it was fun. I ended up getting a little bit of arm pump so I kind of had to salvage a fourth there. Arm pump in both of the motos so that kind of hurt. But it feels good to run up front. I feel like that’s where I belong.
Your starts have been good all season.
I worked on starts the whole off-season. Work on them down at MTF with Bryan Johnson. I got a few holeshots in supercross and I’ve been top five almost every start here. Everyone is going so fast here, but if you start up front you can just ride the pace and finish up there.
What’s the deal with the arm pump?
The arm pump, it’s something I’ve been struggling with this year and last year a little bit. The guys are working on my suspension to see if they can help it out that way. I’ve been working on my program to try to figure it out on my end. There’s no real answer, arm pump is the hardest thing to figure out. I work so hard during the week, and to go out there and get arm pump…I’m not tired. I can still go, I just can’t hang on. I come off and I’m not even breathing hard, but my arms feel like rocks. I can barely hang on when I land jumps. Hopefully we figure it out soon and I can stay up there longer.