Round 10 of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship takes place tonight at the world center of racing—Daytona International Speedway. We have an awesome track layout for the Daytona Supercross, beautiful weather, and we should be in for some good racing tonight, as the top four 450SX riders are separated by 22 points. Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb has the red plates and is coming off a victory in Atlanta for his fifth win of the season—and his 450SX career. Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen, Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin, and Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac are still in the hunt for the championship.
Yesterday, several riders from both the 450SX and 250SX East Region previewed the track and were available to media. Our own Jason Weigandt caught up with some of the 450SX riders.
Racer X: We’re here with the number 14, Cole Seely, on the Honda HRC machine. Cole, big injuries last year. It’s been a solid comeback as far as the riding. You seem to be fast, but the main event result, it doesn’t seem like it pans out for whatever reason. But you’re riding well.
Cole Seely: Yeah. It’s been kind of the story of the season for me. I’ve been riding well but the results don’t translate. Working on kind of…the rest of the season and making that translate. Last weekend was probably one of the tougher ones for me just because the whole day I kind of had in the back of my mind that that was around the time my injury did happen. So it’s good to get that one behind me and out of the way and get the focus on the rest of the season and kind of put that behind me.
We’re going to talk about how tough supercross riders have to be. Explain what happened to you a couple weeks ago in Detroit when you were also riding well?
I don't know exactly what I got hit by, but I wear an under-protector, plastic, pad and everything. I got hit in the chest really hard. I don't know if it was a piece of concrete or a rock or something. I was going fast this way and just getting roosted. It just knocked the wind out of me, popped a bunch of my ribs out up top. My pec muscles were all bruised. I couldn’t really hold onto the bike, so it was safer to just kind of call it a night after practice unfortunately. It sucked because I felt really good that night. I set my fastest lap time on that lap right before the finish line. I was sitting on top of the leaderboard for the entire practice…Kind of a freak accident. Luckily I was able to get some therapy during the week and be able to line up last weekend. No lingering injuries from that anymore. Just was really a freak thing. It just was really uncomfortable for a couple days and then went away.
How are you feeling coming into this? Did you get a little Daytona prep down there in Florida like most guys do?
Yeah. Right now I’m staying in Claremont where a lot of riders stay and train. We stayed out there and me and Kenny and Chase and Alex Martin and a bunch of guys got in. They built a Daytona prep track just to be able to test some suspension settings and race settings and all that stuff. We tested all week and had a really productive and fun week, which is a big thing for me. I’ll be staying out there for about a month. Pretty excited about that. Learning to really like Florida.
Just think, you’re back racing at Daytona. That’s awesome in its own right.
Yeah, for sure. Daytona is always around my birthday. My birthday’s on Sunday, so it’s always a fun weekend for me.
I guess we’ll see how good that celebration on Sunday is going to be depending how Saturday goes, right?
Yeah, for sure. Always better than last year.
Racer X: We’re here with one of the all-time fans of Daytona, and maybe that’s fitting for Chad Reed because you love racing in general, I feel maybe more than anyone and this is the world’s center of racing. When you were a young kid in Australia, did you think about Daytona? I know you were a supercross fan, but did you look at this one like, “I want to see what that’s like? I want to experience that?”
Chad Reed: Yeah, it’s like everybody else. You see it on TV and obviously it’s visually different in the daytime. It used to be in the daytime. Kind of going back a while now. So, you seen about it, you heard about how gnarly it was. Obviously I was as big Jeremy fan and Jeremy won a lot here, but it seemed like if there was one that he wouldn’t win it would be this because it’s always tough. It kind of made you think about it. My first experience of it was unfortunately I think not at a day race that we had in 2002…It’s a joy to ride. It definitely takes technique. It takes something a little different to get it done in Daytona.
It’s interesting you say that because we know you’re a technical guy and a smart rider and everyone says, “Daytona is just nothing but gnarly.” But it isn’t just gnarliness. You have to have technique.
It’s the one race that you actually need to be somewhat skillful to ride these bikes. It’s not about [going] balls to the wall. It really does take technique. There’s a certain challenge about it. This week I watched a lot of video and I’m not normally a video guy but I watched ’04, ’05 and ’09. I remember how Daytona was gnarly and it’s kind of that thing you told me about, but it really was gnarly. Just visually watching it and I was like, wow, it really was gnarly. The separation that you see here is always a little bigger. I would love to see an old school track like that back again, one where it takes technique, throttle control, setting up the motorcycle, placing the motorcycle in the right places and not just relying on suspension and trying to twist the throttle.
What did you do to prepare for the way the track is this year? Did you do anything significantly different or are you pretty much running what you have every other week?
Typically I live in Florida, so it’s a hometown race. You dig down through the grass and you’ve got the same as what you normally have here. But living in Charlotte, we didn’t do anything. For me, looking at the track map, it looks very supercross. Ricky has done a great job. It looks like basically rhythm section, or should I say the straight rhythm with a few turns. So yeah, I talked to Ricky before and I was like, “Dude, do we have that much dirt? Because it really looks like you went to town on this design.” He was real happy with it. It doesn’t seem that it has a lot of orange clay that I’ve seen. So I think the track’s going to get beat up, and I think that’ll be a tough night.
Maybe a little of the old technique will come back in?
I hope so.
Racer X: This is the story of the season for sure. Cooper Webb—before 2019 began, zero supercross wins, now five. You’ve won half the races this year and you got the red plates because you’re the points leader. We talk about this every week. You wanted to come in as an underdog. Can you continue to remind yourself that you’re an underdog, or is it getting harder and harder as the season goes on and you still have success and you still have the points lead?
Cooper Webb: Yeah, it’s been a great year. It really has. It’s been anything I could ask for, but we still have a long ways [to go]. I think there’s still things that I could do better. It’s still a long ways from over. I’ve been able to accomplish great things this year, but I got to keep it going. Just taking it week by week and learning every time. I’m still learning the bike and the team. We’re still progressing and getting better. There’s a lot of fast guys and a lot of great riders, so I’m just stoked to be up there again and running up front. Hopefully keep the ball rolling.
Now, your previous 450 years, you were hot and cold, but you did have a good one here last year on the 450 battling up near the podium. So, is it some vibes? Did something work for you in your experience?
It seemed to. Last year was my first time racing Daytona and I got on the podium, so that was really cool. So it’s nice to come back again and be here. I think this track is very special. I grew up coming here and watching. I raced the Ricky Carmichael amateur stuff…I seem to have a good vibe with this place.
New bike, a new team this year. New everything, really. Then Daytona is a bit of a curveball. So, how much will you change? How much can you learn this week? It’s really the first time you’ve had any sort of motocross or outdoor-type riding on this bike since you’ve been racing with it.
Yeah, it’s a hybrid course. Last year I think racing helped a lot to understand how it develops, how it is. But it’s cool to have a year of experience. We tested with KTM down at the Baker’s Factory in Florida. So we’ll see where we’re at. We get to ride today and see how the settings are. It throws a curveball because it’s hybrid. It’s not a full supercross. It’s definitely not a motocross. You have to find a setting that works and just go from there.
Racer X: Eli Tomac has had great success here at Daytona, and could have, should have, would have maybe won last year, but people were excited about the way it turned out. Justin Brayton got his first win and you were running him down. I hate to say it, but I think people were actually hoping you wouldn’t catch him. It was an exciting win for him. Do you care about that at all?
Eli Tomac: Gosh, I was just happy to get to where I was at. I was down back in 20th place, crashed in the first couple turns there. So it was panic time for me. Once again, I was Mr. Entertainer passing everyone.
It was an awesome charge. Can you even describe what goes through your mind when you get into what we kind of call beast mode? You did it a couple weeks ago in Detroit also. You start going nuts and no one can do anything about it.
I’m just feeling right. Just feel right, feeling good. I’m going to be coming up through the pack.
Do you find that feeling often at Daytona? You’re known as being tough when the track is tough, and this one certainly gets tough. So do you get that feeling more often at a track like this?
Yeah, it’s tough but at the same time you’ve got to feel right. You’ve got to be relaxed. It’s easy to get tight on a track like this and not have the right flow. It’s about flow, finding a good rhythm, having the right lines, and then having the combination of grinding it out. So, it can go both ways. You got the flow and you’ve got to be tough, too.
Most riders we talk about they’re living in Florida or training in Florida. They’re getting used to Daytona. You’ve got some sand pretty handy in Colorado where you are. Do you do anything different for Daytona week to prepare?
I normally do. I’ll go ride the sand wash, put a little piece in with our arenacross track that goes into our back sand wash. So, heck yeah. I get the feel of it because normally it’s more loose soil. That’s what we do.
The problem for you is, you probably like that sand wash so much, if you go there too much you’re not going to want to come back.
No. I want to keep riding it. It’s just a good change, good mix up in the middle of our supercross season. I love it.
Racer X: It is the one-year anniversary of really one of the most popular supercross wins ever, Justin Brayton. You won Daytona last year. It was your first supercross win, and at one of the most prestigious races. I think even your competitors, they wanted the win but I think they were pretty happy for you. Justin Brayton: Yeah, it seemed like it. It seemed like the whole paddock, all the teams and riders were pretty excited. Honestly, I was really stoked about that just as much as the win because it’s a small family that we have in and amongst the pits. To be back here, to fly in yesterday afternoon, it was just such a special buzz now being here and that really no one can ever take away from. It’s cool. I’m just trying to get back to that.
What’s strange is people will probably think, “Well, he must be a Daytona specialist.” But up until that day last year, you didn’t consider this one of your strengths.
Yeah, everything but a Daytona specialist. I think I had only really had one top five in my whole career here. So when I normally come here I’m just trying to get some solid points, maybe a top five. But to come out here and do it the way I did it, really beating everybody in the heat and everybody in the main event. It was kind of a dominant day. That really was unexpected by myself, and to everyone else. Pretty special. Like I said, no one can ever take that away from me. My name will be in the record books forever.
Do you feel a little different? You said on the plane, but even getting pulled and doing more interviews and more attention in general now that we come back here?
For sure. I kind of knew that coming in, so I was expecting it. I enjoy it. It’s something that may never happen again. You never know. I’m not getting any younger. Just enjoying the whole week leading up to this. I was watching the race at home and going through those emotions again, and also a little media tour this morning.
What’s the track like with the brief session you got to do today?
I like it a lot, actually, with the long rhythm lanes. Dealing with a little bit of an ankle injury, so I haven’t been able to ride so I just kind of tested it out today on the track so was just kind of cruising around. I’ll be good to go for tomorrow. But I like the long rhythm lanes, the long whoops. I like it.