It's good times, great times when the 250SX riders get together in the post-race press conferences. For some reason, regardless of the results, these boys always seem to have fun together, from last year's series of Hill/McElrath love-fests even while battling for the points lead to Adam Cianciarulo routinely cracking up the press corps. This weekend people expected tension after Aaron Plessinger moved over on McElrath to take the lead—it was on the dirty side—but both riders were chummy with each other again.
Here's Plessinger, McElrath and Cianciarulo in the post-race press conference from Glendale.
Congratulations, Adam. I think it’s pretty evident to everyone that the speed is there. Is it just the start?
Adam Cianciarulo: Yeah, it’s cliche to say it’s just the start. That would kind of be disrespectful to these guys, honestly. I think really in the past five years, you guys tell me if I’m wrong, but I feel like there’s like five guys now that can do it. There’s five guys that can really throw it down. Me, I felt great tonight, but I didn’t feel other-worldly where I could get a tenth-place start and come through. In order to come through from that far back, you have to be kind of vibing with the track. The day just kind of has to be going perfect for you. You have to have that one section where you’re just kind of killing everybody. That wasn’t me tonight. I got a terrible start. I was so bummed because my sight lap start was so good. A holeshot 25 times out of 25, and then I just completely bomb it. That’s frustrating for me. I’m just going to go to the track on Monday and do starts all day long. It’s kind of ridiculous. It’s literally the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. That’s my starts.
Shane, congratulations. Got out front in that main event early. You and Aaron got into it a little bit. He made the pass. Did you simply just not have what he had, or was there a couple mistakes that kind of cost you a little bit to lose that pace?
Shane McElrath: No, it was a really fun race. It was challenging with just how slippery the track was. It was almost like riding on a test track in Southern California. All the guys that ride out there know that there’s really only one way around that track. Aaron got around me and got a little bit of a gap right off. I just couldn’t reel it in enough to make a difference. Some of the lappers kind of held me up. We stayed about even the whole time. I knew it was one of the Kawasakis behind me. I was just trying to focus on Aaron, trying to catch him. It was a demanding track. Like the 450 guys said, it was a good racetrack. I thought last weekend was really good. It was safe, but I thought it was a good racetrack and ultimately good for the fans. This racetrack was demanding and it was asking a lot out of us. But I think fitness is what really came into play this weekend. I think that that’s really where you really see the difference in riders. Everybody’s going fast. It’s cool to see that we’re all battling, like Adam said. There’s a few guys and you don’t really know who’s going to win coming into the night. We line up to race these guys as hard as we can, and we did that tonight and we ended up second. I’m really happy with it. I had fun doing it. Aaron was just the better guy tonight.
Aaron, congratulations. Same question that I gave to Adam. It’s evident that the speed is there. Is it just the start?
Aaron Plessinger: I’ve been working on my starts. That’s pretty much all we did this week. Just work on the starts and focus and it paid off this weekend. Everybody was riding great, like Shane said. It was just a fitness thing. It was a tough track. You had to hit your marks over and over again for 15 minutes plus one. It was a fun track, I think. I had a lot of fun riding it.
Cianciarulo: You know what’s the worst, too, is when you get a bad start and then you’re coming through and you kind of glance over into the next lane and you see one of the boys out front. You see one of the contenders out front and you’re just like, ‘I’m screwed if I don’t get there, like, now.’ I came one lap that after the long start straight we went left. I went left after the start. I was going over three, two, and I looked to the side and I saw these guys in the lead. I was in like sixth and I’m like, 'Again?'
McElrath: When you’re in that, you kind of get all excited. You’re like, ‘Okay, I’m going fast,’ but you’re not passing people.
Cianciarulo: Or you just shred to like fourth place and then you realize you’re like eight seconds down and you’re like, ‘Dude. It would take me until midnight to catch you guys.’
Aaron, that was an extremely aggressive pass you put on Shane. Do you worry when you put a pass like that that you’ve got some retaliation coming?
Plessinger: Honestly, I did not realize it was that gnarly of a pass. I seen him in the corner of my eye and I didn’t realize I was that close. I apologized to him.
Cianciarulo: Now we’ll just hope he doesn’t clean you out next weekend.
Plessinger: Yeah, hopefully.
McElrath: I’ve been racing Aaron since I was on little bikes. I know that’s not something he’s known for. For a good lap, I was, like, boiling. But I had to calm down and really just focus ahead. I think Adam was right on me. I even seen his fender a few times in the corner. I just had to block that out.
Question for all three of you, the straightaway right after the triple coming back down the sideline there. It seemed like it was very difficult for you guys to get consistently every single time. There were also a couple different ways you could get into it. How did you guys dissect that and also become consistent throughout the day?
McElrath: It was tough. With just that section, I was shifting down to first gear over the triple to roll and then go table, single. But I needed to be in fourth in the whoops. So just about every jump through there I was shifting up a gear. It’s just tough because you’re trying to push forward. Some of the ruts didn’t shoot you as high as others, so you would find one that you barely got any air, and then you would clip one and have to stand in the next one. Then the next lap you’d over-jump it into the face. It’s tough to be consistent when it’s like that because when you’re trying to pass lappers, when you’re trying to find a better line, you don’t really know how the line is going to shoot you.
Plessinger: Yeah, that was one of the sections that you had to hit your marks in every time. The whole track was pretty technical, but even leading into that roll, double, triple to the inside, the bump got bigger as we went on. It was pretty gnarly. It’s hard to explain, but you had to hit your marks and you had to do it perfect.
Cianciarulo: I’m still trying to figure out what section you guys are talking about. Before the whoops? Yeah, I shifted down to first too going over that single. Then I would actually, I got to a point in the main event where I was just starting to get a little bit lazy and I’d land off the triple before the corner before the whoops and I’d just shift to fourth going into the corner, and just ride the clutch all the way in.
Shane, do you get pumped up or tight or something like that? You almost crashed three times when the guys came together. I know you were cooling down, but just the fact that you almost crashed, does that make it hard for the next couple laps to get back in your rhythm?
McElrath: It is tough. I don’t even think we were at halfway yet, so in a situation like that, I was kind of playing defense because clearly Aaron was going faster. It was like, how do I kind of outsmart him, in a sense? I was able to hold him for a couple laps, but I knew he was going a little faster through the first rhythm. I knew that that was where he was going to get me if he did. It’s easy to kind of panic and overreact, but like I said, Adam was right there and I had pressure from him really hard for a few laps. So, I just tried to focus on Aaron and focus forward and really just hit my marks. That’s what it was all about tonight.
Cianciarulo: That was Joey, but I’m going to let it ride.
McElrath: I just seen the green fender.
Cianciarulo: You just tweeted that Shane and I were late to the press conference and you were preparing us for hard questions. I have not received a hard-pointed question yet. I am up here and I am ready.
Christy came right at you with the rough riding on the triple.
Cianciarulo: I’m just saying, I am up here and I’m ready to deflect.
Adam, I got a hard question for you. This is actually a serious one. You all three have said the same thing—hitting your marks. What exactly is this mark you guys all talk about hitting all the time?
Plessinger: Just trying to be as perfect as we can.
Cianciarulo: I think especially during the week for us, anybody will pretty much, if you drew a line around the test track, we’d pretty much probably land in the same six inches for 20 minutes or however long we ride. So, I think that’s what he means. Just kind of fastest line around the whole track the whole time.
Plessinger: We probably hit it the same from literally October to the end of May.
McElrath: Even today, like, the very first practice, we walked the track. We could see where the lines were going to be, really. For me, that’s what I focus on in practice is find the race line and get comfortable in it. That’s really what it comes down to. We all pretty much did the same thing. We might have went left or right in the whoops, but we were all going in the same exact area the rest of the track. So, for us, hitting your mark is maybe different in areas, but we all have the same marks pretty much.
Adam, you had a gnarly get-off last week. You hit your head pretty good. Do you remember Anaheim?
Cianciarulo: Oh, my god. Yeah, of course. I did not lose consciousness at all. One hundred percent did not. I will take it to the grave. I answered the concussion protocol or whatever. Right away I was fine. Clearly, I hit my face on the ground pretty hard. I don’t want to throw the whole deal under the bus. This doesn’t really help my case, but I couldn’t really remember it, honestly. It was just a bunch of questions. I love racing. I’ve done it my whole life. It means the world to me, but I’m not an idiot. I would not go out on the track if I thought—and I tweeted this and deleted the tweet because I was like, I’m not getting into drama, but here I am. I was not going to go out on the track if I didn’t feel safe. In the first 30 or 40 minutes after the crash, I was super banged up and just wasn’t in a good spot. I was like, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to race.’ Then I started to come around, and then I made the decision to race. I would never put these guys, anybody I race with, in harm or myself. It’s not worth it. That’s where I’m at.
McElrath: But also in a situation like that, that was a big hit, but right off you kind of check yourself. Like, ‘All right, I’m good.’
Cianciarulo: It didn’t help that I didn’t have a single ounce of air in my lungs for like a minute and a half.
McElrath: Sometimes you just need to lay there.
Cianciarulo: If any of you guys saw Joey’s crash in the heat race, same thing. You could have told him he’s knocked out, too, but he clearly had the wind knocked out of him. I saw him after and he was fine.
Do you guys sometimes just not move not because you’re knocked out, but because of that [having the wind knocked out of you]? You’re just taking inventory of if you’re hurt or not? We see you not moving and start freaking out. He’s not moving, he’s knocked out.
McElrath: I move to make sure I’m okay. I move my wrists, knees… I’m like, all right, I’m good. Now I can get back on. But that’s me.
Plessinger: I’ll get up and take off running. I don’t like sitting still. That’s how you know something’s wrong with me. If I don’t move, something’s wrong with me. If I get up and start moving, then we’re good until I sit back down.