Aaron Plessinger might be the happiest man in racing. The Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing rider is almost always laughing and smiling, making him well equipped to deal with the ups and downs of a rookie 450 season. He got a real test at the Daytona Supercross when he crashed hard and broke his heel, though, and the long recovery process started driving him crazy for a bit.
He’s finally back on the bike and back to laughing and smiling like always, though. We rang him on Friday morning to get an update, just before he headed out to log some motos in the mud. You can bet he was smiling during that, too!
Racer X: Hey, AP. Where are you actually located? Are you at Justin Barcia’s?
Aaron Plessinger: Yeah. I bought a house in Tallahassee before the supercross season started. I was here after Dallas. I came here after Dallas for two weeks and then ended up doing that at Daytona. Then went back out to California, got surgery and then stayed out there for a month. Then I’ve been here ever since.
That’s quite a commitment. Bought a house and all.
Yeah. I love it down here. I like it so much better than California. It’s a lot more like Ohio than California is.
You lived in Georgia, I would guess, for a while and stuff too, right?
Yeah. Me and my dad spent three years down at Paradise Offroad Park that he bought a while back. He ended up selling that and I went to Matt Walker’s for two years. So I was down there for about five years.
So is it a little similar to even those days? Does it feel a little like that?
Yeah, pretty much. Whenever we didn’t get to ride at Walker’s, we would just go to some other track. That’s pretty much what I do every day. It’s about a 45-minute drive to the track, so it’s pretty cool.
So when you got hurt, I heard all these people come out of the woodwork, like “Dude, a heel injury is so bad. It’s so, so bad.” Was it indeed so, so bad?
It’s funny because the bone itself, it should have been good. It was good around five weeks. I could have probably ridden around five weeks, but the incision—something happened. I don’t know if it was during surgery or it messed up after surgery or something like that, but a week after surgery it had a big blood blister on it. I told the guy about it and he was like, “That’s totally normal,” this and that. Then I ended up tearing the skin off of it, and when I did that the incision had widened. It was probably a half-inch wide. I didn’t know at the time, but it was like a quarter-inch deep. It was gnarly. It was like a four-inch hole in my foot that I had. It was pretty crazy. So that’s what’s been taking so long. I’ve been back here for six or seven weeks probably now. It could be two months. I’ve been going to a plastic surgeon who put me on this Dakin’s solution. I had to pack the wound with something, whatever they call it. I guess they used to use it in World War II for open wounds like that and stuff! So I had to pack that twice a day for three weeks. Then I thought I was good, then they ended up putting me in a soft cast for three weeks. So, it was crazy. I went from doing nothing out in California to actually getting to road bike and mountain bike, and then I went back to doing nothing in a soft cast. I was going crazy. I was literally in my mind going crazy! [Laughs] We have a pool in the backyard. Man, I haven’t been in it yet! It’s gnarly. Now these last two weeks, it’s been awesome. I’ve been on the bike. I’ve felt great on the bike. It’s been a mix-up, but now I’m feeling good and I’m past it now. Everything’s healed now.
I would think long-term that’s actually good, right? The wound is going to be eventually okay, but the bone, no complications there?
Yeah. I haven’t had any sort of pain. The only pain I’ve had is stiffness in my ankle and all the tendons around my ankle. It’s way, way better than what I thought it was going to be.
How gnarly was it that night at Daytona? It had to be so bad.
Yeah. That was crazy. They couldn't give me really any pain medicine. They’d gave me Tylenol or whatever, but it was gnarly that night. I could feel it all in there, not really floating around, but you know when something’s not attached and it just doesn’t feel right.
How did you fly to California? That had to be bad.
I ended up getting a prescription for some kind of pain medicine and I just had to deal with it. It was bad! It blew up a lot in the splint that they had me in. It was pretty gnarly.
So this is why you’re all pumped now, because you got all this behind you.
Yeah. I am so pumped. I was literally going stir crazy. It was close to two months. It was just like, let me back, let me back. Then when the outdoors started, at first, I had planned to race Hangtown. That was my plan because I was going to be back riding before Vegas. After the complications with the wound and stuff it just prolonged everything. Then the outdoors started. I watched Hangtown. I watched half of the first moto and I clicked it off because I was getting so mad.
[Laughs] Did anyone tell you that the second moto was muddy?
[Laughs] When I heard that, I was about to punch through my wall. I was like, what are the chances? It’s a mud race in California and I’m missing it.
So you’re riding now, but I think you said probably the goal is not to race High Point, but to race the Florida National in Jacksonville. So how do you come up with that timeline?
Just the way I feel on the bike. I’ve already done—it’s been seven 30-minute motos already. I just feel really good. I just feel comfortable on the bike and just flowing a lot. It’s probably the best I’ve felt coming back from an injury ever
But not racing High Point? Not going to do that?
No. I would want to race it, but I just don’t want to come back and not be up front. I want to come back, and when I come back, I want to stake my place in the hunt for a podium or a win, even.
Obviously everybody says, once this Plessinger is on a 450—he’s big, he’s tall—the power will help him. Did you feel that way when you were on a 450? I know the bike is the same size, but in general, the brief time you’ve been racing it, a little bit of supercross, a little bit of outdoors riding at least now, does it seem so much better than a 250?
It’s tough. In some senses, yes, but in some senses, no. Like bike setup, for instance. It’s really hard to set up a 450 the way you want it without having much time on the bike. I got my setup for outdoors now, but once I got my setup for supercross I think it would have showed if I didn’t go soaring through the air at Daytona!
I think people put way too much stock in height and weight. This isn’t basketball. Cooper Webb is not a giant human. He figured out a 450. It’s not like the day you hopped on a 450 you were like, “Oh my gosh, it’s so much better.” There’s a lot more to it than just being tall. But, you think once you got it figured out it’s going to be good?
Yeah, I think so. I think it’s going to be really, really good. All through amateurs when I did get a 450, that’s what I really liked riding. That’s what I felt most comfortable on, I think. I think me and the 450, we just click. Once I get the factory Yamaha figured out, I think it’ll be really good.
Did you ever feel you were at a disadvantage anyway on the 250?
If I ever did, it probably would have been at Colorado. But other than that, no, not really. The [Monster Energy/Yamalub/Star Racing Yamaha] bike was so good. The thing was so fast, it just pulled me everywhere.
Now that you’re in Florida, and last year you spent most of your time in California. So are you doing your own thing? Do you still work with Swanny [Gareth Swanepoel], or other people that used to be part of your program? How does that all work now?
It’s pretty much the same. I still work with Swanny. I just train down here. Last year I did do really well, but also, if you look at the hot races, really struggled. Southwick…I still won at Washougal, but I said to myself I never really wanted to feel like that again after a race. I was dying. Ever since I got down here, these past two weeks have been almost over 100 [degrees] every day. I think just last year kind of burnt me out on the whole California scene because once Colorado comes and goes, it’s like it’s just the Star guys out there. The tracks can only get so good and stay so good for all day long. It’s kind of just bland, to where here you get gnarly ruts and you get really good dirt. So I honestly think it’s a lot better here.
So this is based around Barcia’s place? How did that come together?
Yeah. We talked last year before ‘Nations, and we rode together for almost a month before [the Monster Energy FIM Motocross of] Nations. We were just doing motos at [Fox Raceway at] Pala. I think I ended up doing about a hundred motos at Pala last year. It burnt me out quite a bit. We were just talking and we figured why not get to train together if we’re on the same team. That’s what we’re doing. He’s been back to California a bunch, and we haven’t really gotten to ride together since I’ve been back, but one day it’s going to come together!
Yeah for both of you, you definitely had your ups and downs. I remember at Anaheim 1 you were the most pumped up dude ever just because you were battling the big stars in the 450 class. Even though this has gone rough, is there still a little bit of that? This is still so cool?
Yeah. It is so cool. Watching it on TV, it kind of puts it in perspective. It lets me know that I’m racing with the best in the United States. It’s a dream come true, for me.
Are you going to have to turn the TV off next weekend though?
No, I think I’ll have to watch High Point. High Point I think is one of my favorite on the series, so I think I’m going to have to watch that one.
If it rains will you turn it off?
[Laughs] Yeah. If it rains, I’m not watching it.
Well, good to hear this is coming together. I don’t know if you heard this from people, but I kept hearing that a heel injury could become really complicated. So you’ve got to be happy at least that didn’t happen.
Yeah. I talked to two or three people, one of them being Twitch [FMXer Jeremy Stenberg], and he said he exploded his and he still has limited movement in his ankle and stuff. Mine was right on the border of being shattered and broken in a couple pieces. I broke it into six pieces, but that was actually okay—it was on the better side of being shattered.
Walking around, doing all that stuff…I don’t know if you’re going on jogs, but it doesn’t hurt day to day?
Jogs, I haven’t jogged yet. But otherwise, yeah. It hurts from time to time, but when it warms up or whatever, then it’s fine. Yeah, I’m definitely fortunate in that situation. I’m just happy to be back riding. Can’t wait to finally be back out there!