Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Aaron Plessinger captured his first win in 2018 in an amazing come-from-behind performance at round two of the 250SX West Region in Houston, Texas.
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Joey Savatgy held on for second, with GEICO Honda rookie Chase Sexton grabbing his first career podium in only his second race. All three riders spoke with the media after the race.
Racer X: Chase, congratulations. I can only imagine your goal is to get on the podium and eventually win races, but did you think it would happen this early in the season?
Chase Sexton: To be honest, no. Last weekend I got an eighth, and I wasn’t really happy with that. I was shooting tonight for a top five. I was riding sixth the whole moto and made two passes and I was in fourth. Then Adam [Cianciarulo] ended up crashing. That was like two laps to go, and I was set up for a podium. I was just trying to get through those two laps. I’m really happy to come away with a podium.
Joey, you said in your interview after the race that you felt like you were in a familiar situation, sort of like what happened in Toronto. Here, you just made different decisions and kind of tamed it down. Is that more of a championship mentality, and maybe tonight just wasn’t the night and you decided to kind of just back it off one little bit?
Joey Savatgy: Yeah, I guess you could say that. I’ve made mistakes in the past maybe doing obstacles or doing things that I necessarily didn’t need to do. Tonight was one of them. I felt like I was riding as fast as I could comfortably. Aaron [Plessinger] was obviously faster. Once he caught up and made the pass, I tried to stick with him for a little bit. Kind of caught lappers in a bad spot, and then he kind of got away from me. From there, like you said, just learning from mistakes in the past. I could have tried to go after him, but the track was brutal tonight. Tried to minimize the mistakes and come out of here with good points and keep moving.
Aaron, congratulations on the win and the points lead. You got a pretty bad start, were buried. I know those first couple laps are a little bit wild. How did you get through the guys? We didn’t really see you, I guess, for the first three or four laps, but you got through them pretty decently. How were those first few laps?
Aaron Plessinger: The first few laps were pretty crazy. I’m not sure how I managed to get all the way up through there, but on lap three, the only thing I knew I was in fifth or sixth place and I was catching these guys pretty significantly. Just put my head down and charged forward. This track was really, really sketchy. I just made some good passes and had some good lines. These guys were riding great. It was just my kind of track.
For all three of you. Joey and Aaron, you kind of both alluded to this. The track was really rough. In every way, it was pretty much completely different than what you guys faced last week with dirt and the way the lanes were. Can you just kind of talk a little bit more about how that challenged you, because it went away really fast? It never was really hard and solid the whole time.
Savatgy: Every lap was different. I think that’s the hard thing about having soil like this that deteriorates so quickly. Last weekend, it was pretty much I’d say the same all day. It had that hard base, but the lines pretty much from first practice to the main event were all the same. Today we started off maybe doing some different rhythms or taking one side of the whoops and then having to move to the other. The last timed practice we had a giant V down the middle before the finish line. So, it’s always changing. The track was tough. Like I said, every lap is different, so that’s always something in the back of your mind. The line that worked last lap might not work again the next lap. That’s just something you got to keep your eyes open for.
Plessinger: I just tried to pick smooth lines and kind of different lines than what everybody else was riding. I just had to go lap by lap. Like Joey said, it changed throughout the whole main event, throughout the whole day, actually. It was just crazy. You had to keep your eyes peeled and keep on your toes pretty much.
Sexton: I’m pretty new to this. The track I thought was pretty good. It was really challenging for me. Going through the whoops every lap, you had to be on your toes every lap. It was tough. I thought the track was pretty good. I got a good flow going at the end of the race, so I’m happy with the track. I’m learning every weekend.
Aaron, there was a triple on that first lane that you were connecting with pretty much throughout the main as well as in the heat races. Why did you continue with that lane that most people abandoned? And for the other two, why did you abandon it?
Plessinger: I don't know. You’re talking about after the sand? I didn’t hit it all day. I went up in the stands after my heat race and my dad just told me it was a smooth line and a good, different change-up, pretty much. I just did it once and it was way smoother than double, double, double. So, I just kept doing it.
Savatgy: For me, especially at the beginning of the race, obviously I had pressure. So, for me it was more protecting my insides. Obviously, if I ended up on that right side, it would leave the door open. I think if anyone knows not to leave the door open, it should be me. It’s just protecting my inside lines, which kind of didn’t help me. Made a lot of my turns turn into an upside-down V, almost. It’s either that or leave the door open for someone to come up the inside. For me, it was defensive. Just trying to protect my insides but also kind of stay in a rhythm, which was not very easy to do. That’s why I didn’t do it.
Sexton: I actually didn’t know anyone was doing that line until Aaron passed me. I was kind of just at that point just trying to hit my marks. I just kept sticking with the double, double. I feel like I set my corner up pretty good. I honestly didn’t know anyone was doing it until Aaron did it. I just pretty much stayed with my line the whole moto.
Aaron, could you explain the line you had through the whoops where you were basically just jumping through them in three hops?
Plessinger: I actually figured that out in the main, too. I came around, I think it was the third lap, and I just kind of sent it into them. I was so far behind. I just had to try everything I could. I just wheel-tapped two in and then I think I five’d after that, and then four’d out. It was a pretty fun line.
Aaron, I saw something a little unusual that you were doing on the gate, on the metal grids. I haven’t seen anybody pack dirt under their back wheel on the 250’s. Is it almost too much traction with the grid?
Plessinger: I don't know. As you can tell, it obviously didn’t work for me. I got off to a pretty bad start. I don't know if it works or not.
Will you do it again?
Plessinger: I think, maybe. I don't know. We’ve got to try everything.
Chase, this is only your second ever supercross race, so this is a pretty quick progression. Is it coming as easy as you expected, or did you think it was going to be a little bit more difficult?
Sexton: To be honest, I kind of expected to be pretty good this season. From last year, I crashed in Atlanta and it was tough, but this off-season for me was really good. I felt really good coming into the season. Like I said, last weekend wasn’t what I was hoping for, so I went back to work this week. I’m just happy to get on the podium. It happened a little faster than I thought, but I’m happy I got it out of the way now.
Joey, I know you were frustrated with the starts last week, so just how happy are you? Did you change something specifically? They really turned around for sure this time.
Savatgy: No, I’m usually a good starter. Just for whatever reason, I think last weekend I lined up a little bit too far inside. That was mainly because I didn’t want to be to the outside of everybody. The rut after the gate was pretty bad, and I felt like this weekend the rut I picked was pretty good afterwards, not a lot of bumps. So, I felt like as long as I had the forward momentum coming out of the gate and had a good drive, I’d be able to shut everyone down on my inside. That’s kind of the game plan that we went with. I’m sure if RC was here, he would have lost his mind because he’s always the guy who’s always inside, always inside. I think it changes race by race, and today I went outside of everybody but my gate was good. So, that’s kind of how you had to roll with it, I guess.
Chase, you had quite a battle with your teammate there for a while in the main. Describe that.
Sexton: Yeah. At the beginning of the race, I was kind of having a hard time finding my rhythm. Actually, everyone kind of pulled away from me and I was just trying to find different lines. Middle of the race, I started reeling Christian in a little bit. I was honestly kind of just waiting for the right time. I found a new line the rhythm section before the finish line. I went outside and got around him. I actually ended up passing Shane [McElrath] right after that. I was kind of surprised I got both of them in the same section, but it was good. I was having fun racing out there.
There’s been a lot of changes as far as format goes, metal starting grids, and then the triple crown. Are there any changes that you guys would like to see in the future of the sport?
Plessinger: I don't know.
All rutty tracks?
Plessinger: Yeah, that would be nice. I think the changes are good. I think they made quite a few changes this year, which will switch it up a little bit. I think this will keep us pretty switched-up for the next few years, so don’t make any more changes.
One of the things I see consistently with you guys are smiles on your faces, and it’s really fun as we’re in the stands or down in the safety hold just imagining the grin on your face under your helmets. Is that true? Or is it just such intense competition at that point that even the smiles go away?
Savatgy: I’d say that’s probably more truthful. At least for me, I don’t think I’m smiling. Obviously when you’re up here, you had a pretty good night, so it’s a lot easier to smile. When the helmets are on, I think it’s a little bit different. Helmets come off, you’re off the track. I feel like it’s a little bit different, at least for me.
Plessinger: I think sometimes we’re smiling. Every time we go out there, we look to have fun. That’s kind of the most important part of this sport, is having fun. I’d like to say I’m smiling every time I put my helmet on, but I know that’s not true. A lot of the times riding, we’re definitely having fun.
Sexton: Like Aaron said, every time you get on your dirt bike, it’s fun. I love what I do, but once you put that helmet on me, the smiles come off. I can say that whole last lap when I knew I was in third, I was smiling the whole way. It’s definitely serious once the gate drops, but once we come off, we were a little happier.
Do you feel appreciated by these full stands and all of the excitement we’ve had here in Houston for you?
Savatgy: Absolutely. It’s something that I think everyone at some point in time needs to step back and look at. if it wasn’t for the fans filling up the stands, we would be racing in an empty stadium, and then pretty soon we wouldn’t be racing. Bottom line is, the fans pay for tickets and they pay for merchandise and food. They’re the ones who bring in the revenue for us to be able to do what we love to do. Definitely the fans are bigger than what they think they are. Without them, we wouldn’t be racing.
Joey and Aaron, both of you guys have been at this for quite a while and only really in the last two years have been solid, championship contenders. Is that just something that you have to learn with experience? It seems like the era of some young kid coming in and just cleaning house is over.
Savatgy: Yeah, I’d say not that it was easy to do a couple years ago, but experience goes a long way. When you come in and you’re a rookie, you think you know what you’re doing and you don’t, unfortunately. So, I think as times goes and mistakes are made and everything else, you learn, obviously. But as far as someone coming in and cleaning house, I would like to think I wouldn’t let that happen. Honestly, I’d be pretty upset. There’s a lot of fast guys coming up, but there’s also a lot of experienced guys as well. I think it’s definitely a lot harder than what people think.
Plessinger: In this class I don’t see that happening any time soon, but you never know. Anything can happen in this sport. I would like to team up with Joey and not let that happen. I’ve learned so much. I’m still learning and I’ll continue to learn. Every time I get out on the track, I’m learning. It’s not easy now. It wasn’t easy then. I don’t think it will get any easier.
You guys do realize there’s a rookie right next to you?
Savatgy: Yeah, but we made sure he didn’t beat us, at least this weekend. We got to try to keep it that way because if he comes through and wins, then everything we just said is out the window.
Plessinger: We got to make sure that don’t happen.