Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Colt Nichols took his first career victory last weekend at Anaheim. How has it changed his life? We asked the friendly, articulate Oklahoman about that at press day yesterday in Glendale, Arizona.
Racer X: So are you a totally different person now that you’ve won a race?
Colt Nichols: Nah man, we went back to work this week. At my house I had all my friends around me and my family; I had a hard time sleeping on Saturday night. But after that it was back to normal. My parents flew back home Sunday morning, so I got to soak it all in, but after they flew back it was a get back to work situation.
So you just happened to have your family out there for one weekend?
Yeah, it was funny how it happened, they had planned that trip and at the time I was racing East. They just thought they would come out and we’d watch the race together. Then I ended up racing West and I won, so it was good! [Laughs]
You didn’t know you were racing West?!
No! Wil [Hahn, assistant team manager] only told us a week and a day before Anaheim we were racing West.
Did it affect your prep time at all? We always hear teams won’t tell anyone because they want to trick all the riders into being ready.
Well I always wanted to be ready for West, just because I’ve never made it through an off-season healthy. So as long as I was healthy, I was like “Let’s go race.” I was riding really well, and Wil said, “Could you race West?” I said “100 percent, let’s go.”
The previous two years, you came into the East opener after gnarly injuries, and you rode well. It made it look like we were seeing you at 100 percent. So do you feel way better now?
100 percent. Yeah, the ones when I came back [2016, 2017], I don’t want to say I got lucky, but I think a lot of the other guys had the opening round jitters going on, and I couldn’t have that. I didn’t have expectations or pressure. Even last weekend I had that advantage, too, but I knew I was prepared. It helps a lot, even mentally.
It’s been a strange climb for you. At one point you were on the radar as an amateur, then you were off of it, you had to go to arenacross, then Costa Rica for a summer… but I feel like people that knew you, even when you didn’t have a factory ride, they knew you had talent. So have you always had this in your mind? Did you know once you got the chance to prove yourself you would shine?
Oh yeah. I knew I just needed to wait until it was my time. It’s hard to have anyone else believe that besides yourself, maybe just a few people in your corner. That’s all you need. We’ve got a long way to go, though. It was good to check that off and get that win, it was a big deal.
I’ve heard many people say that to win the first one, you need some circumstances to break your way. You got that. It was raining, you got the start, other riders might have had first-round jitters, as you said. But now that you’ve done it, now that the circumstances fell into place and you got that win, does that change things for this weekend? Does it make you that much better from here on out?
I think so, especially on the mental side. I have that extra confidence, of course. But at the same time this is a whole new race, a whole new weekend, and a whole new track. There will be new challenges, and everyone will feel better about round two, not just me. I know what it will be this weekend—there will be a lot more attention. I’m prepared for that, though. I just need to perform my best and see what happens.
Did this week seem weird at all?
I was actually surprised how normal it felt. A few more phone calls than normal but besides that we went to the track and we did our work. We worked on our weaknesses, things we didn’t do well at A1. I had two great days of riding, and that made me really happy.
If you go and get third or fourth or second or something like that this weekend, will you be mad like “Oh man, I wanted to win!” Does it change your perspective?
Well, of course. Once you get that feeling, you want it again and again. But I know it’s a long season. Yeah, it’s a short series, but I know that the main thing is trying to stay consistent week in and week out.