We’ve got a new winner in this season’s Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, with Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Aaron Plessinger going 1-2 for the overall at Muddy Creek Raceway’s Tennessee National. Plessinger normally struggles with starts, but he nailed two Motosport.com Holeshots on this day, which was all he needed. Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Zach Osborne was second with 5-1 scores, and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Austin Forkner was third with a 3-3. They talked about it in the post-race press conference, hosted by Jimmy Albertson.
Racer X: Aaron, this was kind of a breakout ride for you. In that first moto, I noticed you lined up pretty far on the inside gate there. That was able to give you that first MotoSport.com holeshot. Did that kind of set the tone for the day for you? You qualified 13th so that holeshot definitely made it a little bit easier on you.
Aaron Plessinger: I definitely didn’t feel good this morning. I wasn’t flowing, wasn’t getting the track down right. Once I got the holeshot and put the hammer down, nobody caught me. They were definitely pushing hard and made me push hard. It was a good moto. The second moto I got off to a holeshot again and if you’ve been around here long you know that’s unheard of for me. Zach [Osborne] was riding really good. He got by me and pulled away pretty good. I just rode it in for second and took the overall.
That first moto finish, knowing Zach finished back in fifth, did that kind of play in your mind a little bit on picking up the overall?
Plessinger: Yeah, just a little bit. This guy [Forkner] was lurking behind me. I knew if he got me I might not have the overall still, but I just pushed and kept my head high and rode it in.
Zach, in that first moto, it looked to me like you had that visor straight down, out of tear-offs, trying to come through the pack. Is that something that maybe stalled you out a little bit in moto number one?
Zach Osborne: Definitely. I ran out of tear-offs at maybe 15 minutes, right after I passed Shane [McElrath]. Every time I would get close to Alex [Martin] it would seem like I would catch him at a muddy place on the track. I’d just get filled it, and I did it a couple times back and forth with him. My white spot on my gloves was no longer any good, and I just had to just kind of back it down and take it slow.
Austin, we haven’t seen you on the podium for a while now, but getting back up here, going 3-3 on the day. It seemed to me like you were in a deadlocked battle the entire day with Alex Martin. Just take us through that. He just kind of kept you honest there in that two, second race behind you. Did that put a little more pressure on you, make you a little more tired in some of these motos?
Austin Forkner: Yeah, definitely. He was there both motos. Pretty much both motos I was trying to focus on either catching Adam [Cianciarulo] the first moto or catching Aaron the second moto. If I started thinking about who was behind me I was going to start making mistakes. I just tried to focus ahead. I knew he was back there. I could hear him. He had better spots on the track and I had better spots on the track. I could hear he was kind of lurking back there the whole time. So, he definitely kept me honest the whole race. I thought that with the pace that we were running in the second moto, I thought that if I got to 20 minutes running that pace that I’d break him, but him and Adam both in the second moto, really nobody broke. So, we had to just push hard. The intensity was definitely up there the whole time.
Austin, is this first overall podium this year? Just talk about your season. It seems like you’ve been close and been riding good. Just talk about how the other races have gone so far. It just hasn’t quite worked out.
Forkner: I’ve just kind of been waiting for it. I had a few bike issues the beginning of the year. I’ve been riding good. At Colorado I went 2-3 and somehow didn’t get on the podium, so that kind of sucked. Just been riding good. Been having pretty consistent, solid motos but I just need to be a little bit better, get a little bit better starts. I got two second or third place starts today, and I finished third both motos, so I think that really helped. I just rode pretty good today. I’ve just been trying to prove it each weekend.
Aaron, your team has won the last three titles in the class, but all those riders left. Cooper Webb moved up. Jeremy Martin moved over. Was there any pressure on you? Did you feel like it was up to you to keep this going for them? Did you think of things that way?
Plessinger: Kind of but not really. I knew if that got into my head I knew it would probably make me ride a little worse than what I’ve been riding. I just tried to keep the pressure off me and go at it moto by moto, one step at a time. It’s feeling pretty good right now.
The track, they couldn’t rip it super deep in practice because it was going to rain. Do you think that affected the track conditions even in the motos? I know they ripped it after practice, but was it not as rough as it maybe could have been? Did it seem like that affected anything?
Forkner: It was definitely fast all day. It wasn’t really slow enough to where you had to be kind of smooth and consistent, like the [other] tracks have been this year. We were all really close to the same speed and it wasn’t rough enough to slow us down, so you could pretty much ride 100 percent the whole time. It was pretty hard to pass. Pretty much where I started both motos was where I finished. It was pretty hard to pass. We were all close, so it made it interesting.
Plessinger: It was definitely a good track to get a good start on. In practice it was pretty much wide open. In the race it got a little rougher, but there wasn’t too many ruts on the track. I think if they were to rip it a little deeper and not worry about the rain so much, it would have been…I would say a little better.
Osborne: For me, I think they were just scared of the rain. I feel like the best two tracks we’ve had this year were Hangtown and High Point. If you look at those, when we went out in practice at Hangtown there was mud holes on the track. Obviously last weekend practice was sloppy. I feel like to be a really good race track for us right now it has to be really wet to start. But as far as today goes, I understand, they were expecting a tropical storm.
Zach, 31 points. You get the points lead leaving this round. That going to change your perspective going into RedBud at all, knowing that you have a little bit more of a gap?
Osborne: No. My plan for this stretch was to kind of maintain while I could. I know that these four tracks are really good for me. I feel like I just need to keep hammering away at it. There’s still 50 points up for grabs [each weekend]. It’s not over by any means. I feel like I’m going to just continue to put myself in a good position and try to be on the podium every weekend and just get as many points as I can.
Aaron, it’s kind of been a running joke about the Indiana winning at races there. You finally broke it.
Plessinger: Yeah, definitely. I haven’t won a race outside of Indiana. Actually, Seattle this year. We broke it at Seattle, but this is pretty big for outdoors. I’m glad to get that monkey off my back.
Aaron, taking the win here at Muddy Creek with the Cody Gragg memorial race, does that mean more to you? And having the trophy delivered by his mom?
Plessinger: Definitely. It’s definitely a special race. Me and Cody were pretty much best friends. Yeah. To have his mom deliver me the trophy, it meant a lot to me.
That was awesome seeing Lisa up there giving you a big hug after the race. I know it kind of warmed everybody’s heart a little bit. Moving over to Austin, it seemed to me like you struggled in the beginning of the moto, but you hit your stride about ten minutes in and started matching times of the leaders. What are some things you’re maybe going to go back and look at to get some more sprint speed coming out of the gate?
Forkner: Definitely the first moto I just didn’t have the speed, but Aaron and Adam kind of got a gap on me. I was kind of searching for lines at the beginning and just didn’t really have as much speed. The second moto I was a little bit better. I had Zach to battle with and Aaron was pretty close. We were all kind of in a group right there. So, I was a little bit better the second moto, but just first moto I just didn’t really have as much of my sprint speed. So I guess go and work on ten-minute sprints and a couple 30s, but I guess probably focus a little bit on the sprints.
Aaron, is there something you changed with the starts, or did it just work out? Is this repeatable? Can you keep getting holeshots?
Plessinger: Yeah, I’m pretty sure I can. Me and Swanny have been really working on and really getting after it. It’s paying off now.
But there’s no specific bike change or technique change or anything? Just practice?
Plessinger: A little bit of a change in the technique and a little bit of a focus change. Yeah, it’s doing pretty good.
That inside gate was pretty hot the first moto, though. You found some dry dirt out there or something and it helped you gained some traction going up that far inside?
Plessinger: No. I was looking at the gates down the line and they all had holes in them. When it came my turn to pick the gate I just picked the one with no hole in it.
Aaron, how’s everything going with the injury last weekend?
Plessinger: We’re doing pretty good. We’re hanging in there. [Laughs] It was a team effort today. We’re progressing as the weeks go forward.