There are only three races left in the 2019 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, which means we’re running out of time to talk with privateers in the pits at the races. That’s a shame because just about all of them have something interesting to say.
So, with that in mind, we dispatched Matthes to chat with five of them in Washougal.
Zane Merrett, 29-25 for 29th overall in 250 Class
Racer X: You’ve never been here before?
Zane Merrett: This is my first year coming here. I’ve heard a lot of good things and bad things about it, so I was looking forward to it.
It’s probably the most unique track on the circuit.
My favorite layout for sure. The dirt was a lot different than what I train on. It’s a lot of hard pack and slick. I don’t ever really train on anything like that. So it definitely took me time to get used to it.
It looked like you didn’t get any starts today.
No. Actually the first moto I got a decent start, but it’s not the best start. I’ve been doing way better on my starts the last three races. I got a good, decent start and then I was running twelfth or thirteenth and I crashed super hard passing, I want to say, Falk. I was passing around Falk and I crashed super hard. Then I had to pull into the mechanics area real quick because I couldn’t even ride the bike straight. The bars were bent, both levers down, hand guard… Everything was just beat up and messed up. So I pulled in real quick just to get a little tune-up and then went back out. Came from ten seconds back from last to 29th.
Second moto was a crash on the first start, and then came all the way to 25.
One of those tracks the harder you push, the more you make mistakes, the more you lose time. It takes you forever to make up a half a second.
Yeah. I could see people in front of me and I knew I was going as fast as I could. I was trying to ride as smooth as I could. I just kind of minimized the mistakes. Honestly, like Dan told me last week, go slow to go faster. That’s one thing I worked on. It was a hard day for me. It was.
We had you on the PulpMX Show last week. I met a guy that had a custom shirt with you on it. I met some other fans that love you. So it’s cool. A lot of people really dig you. They’re following you now. They’re into it. That had to be awesome for you.
Yeah, for sure. I got a lot of support on the YouTube from you guys. I got a lot of support on the track and Instagram and everything. This awesome dude walked up with just a plain, white tee. Nothing on it. All he had on it was Merrett and 291. It definitely made my day. That was the coolest thing I saw all day. Then also, a lot of people walked up to me today and were like, ‘How do you feel today? How’s the track about fantasy?’ I was like, ‘Give me a break this week. I am still recovering.’ It was not my type of track, just because we’re West coast. I’m an East coast guy. So it was a hard day. So I told him, ‘Save me for next week. I promise.’
Did some guy get your jersey today? Did that deal happen?
Yes, it did. So he walked up to me and he said, ‘Hey, man, I know your Florida score was 23-18, first moto, second moto, and 22nd overall is your best finish at the time.’ I was like, ‘Alright. How many points did I score?’ He’s like, ‘Points, points… Three points.’ I was like, ‘Yes, sir!’ And then I asked for his name just because it could have been anyone. I knew who it was because I told him come to me before the motos, and it was after practice. So I knew who it was. I knew what he looked like, but I just wanted to know. It could be anyone. It was the guy, so I gave him his jersey. I’m going to repost something up on Instagram also @zanemerrett29.
Like you said, Unadilla will be a much better track for you in a couple weeks, so enjoy that.
I’m definitely going to look forward to this time off. I’m definitely going to go wake surfing. That’s my favorite hobby outside moto. I’m going to spend a lot of time on the lake. We’ll be ready for Unadilla.
John Short, 11-12 for 12th overall in 450 Class
Racer X: You couldn't back up a 6-8, so I don’t know why I’m doing this for you. I’m kidding. You rode really well today. Got starts, ran up front. Finished 11-12. Things are really coming together for you.
John Short: Yeah. I think the biggest thing is just getting some good starts. Obviously, I didn’t do as well today, but just learning that pace, you’re not going to learn it without getting the start and seeing those guys and how they’re hitting things. So I learned something. That’s for sure.
Millville was an all-time day for you. In both motos you rode great. Getting 11-12 consistently and the guys you were battling with, you got to be looking around like, ‘Whoa, man, this is awesome.’
Yeah. It’s cool seeing Deano not too far out there, Wilson. Then [Aaron] Plessinger. Guys who have won races and done really well. So it’s a confidence-builder for me, for sure.
Do you like this place?
It’s not my favorite. I’m going to be honest. I’m more into the softer dirt, rougher kind of can move the ruts around. It’s another racetrack.
Exactly. Everybody’s got to race it. It’s start-dependent and you managed to get it. Let’s talk about last week, Millville. How cool was that? You had to have been stoked.
That was awesome just for one to run in the top-three both motos. That was something I’ve never done. I’ve never even had really top eight, top nine starts. So to do it both motos…
I really can’t remember you ever getting a good start in your life.
Never. I’m trying to make that the new thing. ‘There’s John Short getting another good start.’
Is it one of those things where oftentimes when I talk to guys who run up front, sometimes for the first time or in recent times they’re like, ‘Man, it didn’t even feel like I was pushing that hard. It didn’t even feel like I was going agro and I still was able to be up front.’ Was it like that for you?
Oh, a hundred percent. There wasn’t the chaos around you and maybe slower riders. Everybody that was in front of me was going fast, and if a faster rider came up I just tried to latch in behind him. So it was really easy just to kind of ride my own race.
I talk about confidence with the riders and how important it is, and it really is. I’ve been around enough riders that it is a big part of you guys’ deal. It’s not like you suddenly got more talented in the last two weeks. You’ve always been this good. But the confidence thing has got to be through the roof.
Yeah. The confidence helps me believe in myself. Having that belief I think is huge. Knowing you can get a start. Knowing you can run the pace. That’s huge for me. It’s something I’ve lacked, for sure.
Enjoy the week off. What are you going to do?
Well, I’m trying to get Zane to take me wake surfing. I’ve never been on the wake surf. Visit my family, ride a little bit and relax a little.
Tyler Bowers, 15-16 for 14th overall in 450 Class
Racer X: A good track for you normally. You’ve done well in the past. Today it was a good day. It wasn’t an amazing day, but you’ll take it.
Tyler Bowers: Yeah. It’s been a lot better than those sand races with the torn lat. I think I’m just healing up finally. I started riding during the week. Right before Millville was my first time. Then I raced Millville, flew out, raced Sunday here in Oregon at Mountainview MX. Then raced Thursday at PIR and then raced here. So I went from not riding at all during the week to just overdoing it. I’d say it was pretty good for me just to get in the top 20 that consistently and feeling good about it. Fifteenth in moto one coming from the back a bit, which is pretty usual for me. Then moto two I got a decent start. I think I was around 15th and just floated around 15th for most of the moto. I got a little fatigued in the middle. I think I bonked. I had a hard time keeping food in me today. So I just ran out of steam right in the middle. My last few laps were really lame, really no intensity. [Lorenzo] Locurcio got me in the end, so I ended up 16th in the second one.
Taiki Koga and you were having good battles for most of the day in both motos.
That guy’s a little bit out of control. He took out [Dylan] Merriam pretty hard. He was cross-jumping me. I wasn’t too pumped on him. He does that. I race him every weekend. He gets good starts. I catch him midway and then he just fatigues out pretty bad. He’s one of those guys that really pisses you off because you end up blowing your load and battling with him for a few laps. If you could just tip-toe and then just wait for him to get fatigued, but when you’re doing that everybody else is passing you both.
Tough track to deal with. Not a lot of passing going on. You have to set a guy up hardcore for a couple of laps before you get him. It’s got to be a frustrating track.
Yeah, for sure. This track is tricky. It’s pretty hard-pack and it’s forever changing. It changes more than you think. These sand tracks change a lot.
I wouldn’t think it would change that much.
Yeah. You wouldn't think so, but I was talking to [Ramyller] Alves, we’ve been taking his bike to the races, and I was telling him. It’s his first time here. I said, ‘Just watch. Those inside ruts will form. There’ll be these tiny, little, inside ruts that form.’ If you set up for the turn early and you can catch one of those, it will be good for a few laps and then the thing gets blown and blown and blown, and then eventually you got to look for another one. That furthest inside one gets like three feet out, and then there’s another little one that forms on the inside. You just always got to be on your toes and kind of setting up your corners and setting up passes. I think they really messed it up taking out that downhill that had all the ruts in it before. That was a really good spot for passing because you could charge down the hill. Those ruts are scary. You’re coming into those ruts where that little step-down before the finish line used to be and there were ruts everywhere and everybody kind of chickens out. So you could kind of out-gas some guys through there and make something happen. Now it was just this one-lined, little switchback thing. So that kind of sucked.
PIR for you on Thursday. How’d that go? Normally a good money, payback race for you. How’d it go?
It was still good money. Not as good if I would have won. Dare DeMartile was riding good. He won Mountainview and then he won PIR, too. I don’t know why he didn’t show up today. He was riding good all week, just bested me on the starts. In PIR, [Austin] Politelli and I kind of ran into each other on the other side of the gate and we just ended up coming into the first turn last together and we had to work our way up. Dare got a better start than us and he rode good. It was just hard to catch him. He was gone by the time we got into second and third.
Looking forward to the break?
No, not really. I don’t like breaks, man.
We need to find a money race for you to go to? Is that what we got to do?
For sure, dude. I got to put food on the table. If I’m not racing, I ain’t making money. So the break sucks a little bit for me. I’m here for the long run. I just charge each weekend. I don’t ride over my head out there because I know I want to be here every weekend. My goal is to finish the season, be at every race, get points at every race. I hate off-weekends. It gives everybody else a chance to catch up, which might be something I need right now. I might need a race break and a little bit more time to ride during the week and get feeling better. I’m just recovering from the torn lat, so maybe it’s good for me to catch up. But I’d rather be racing.
Henry Miller, 14-18 for 15th overall in 450 Class
Racer X: You needed some starts today really badly.
Henry Miller: Yeah, definitely.
That’s my short review of your day.
I think I started 30th in both motos, [when] I crossed the finish line of the first lap. So you could say I needed some starts for sure.
I don’t know where you pass on this place. It’s tough.
Honestly, follow the leader 100 percent, especially with their little changes they made. They made tense little S-turns in the back and it was way worse. It really closed up the track. It slowed it down for sure, but it made less passing, and just with how much they watered it this morning because of how dry it was yesterday, it was so muddy that nobody wanted to go off of the little beaten path that we made.
It’s a tough deal, but you worked your way up both motos. So that part was good. You made passes each moto. You looked like you were charging pretty hard.
Yeah, definitely. I made some passes here and there, but honestly, it was difficult to get around guys that I’ve never been around. It was difficult just to get around the guy who’s your typical thirtieth-place guy. I think Unadilla will be a better week for me.
It’s definitely more of a suited track for you.
Yeah. A lot more line choices. You can get into the wrong line, but you have a lot more options. I think Unadilla is a really good track for racing. Bunch of line choices, so obviously passing is great. Racing is great. You just never know.
Nice work in that first moto last week, by the way. I wasn’t there. I didn’t get a chance to talk to you, but that’s impressive. You’ve got to be stoked.
Yeah. I was really pumped on that, actually. That was the best start I’ve ever had, and I kept it on two wheels.
Let’s remember you did grab a holeshot.
I got a holeshot a couple years ago and I heard something about that today. Best race I’ve had all year. It felt really good to be up there. I really need to get back up there, get some good starts and run with those guys again.
Isaac Teasdale 17-19 for 19th in 450 Class
Racer X: You really made some noise last week, Millville with that start. Both starts were great. Today though, this has got to be a frustrating track. If you don’t get a start, I don’t really know how you’d pass dudes, so it must be frustrating at times.
Isaac Teasdale: Yeah. I’ve never been out here. This is my first time. It was definitely wild. It was kind of follow-the-leader. It was really slick.
And fast, too.
Yeah. In that one section after the single into the sand, that was probably where I struggled the most. I liked the other spots, but I was kind of slow through that section. But there were a lot of square edges and acceleration chop. My back is definitely smoked right now.
It’s one of those tracks where you can’t over-ride it, right?
Yeah, for sure, but that kind of fits my style. I’m more of a smooth, don’t really hang it out rider, which I need to get better at doing that. I liked it. I enjoyed it. I want to come back.
It’s beautiful up here, right?
Yeah. It’s insane. It kind of reminds me of home because I’m in the mountains in North Carolina. The trees are taller, but it’s kind of similar. It’s beautiful, though.
Overall, you jumped on the [JGRMX] team lately, last little month or so or whatever. How has it been going? Been happy with your progress?
Oh, yeah. It’s been kind of cool to see how far I’ve come in a short time, a couple months. I got on the bike a week and a half before High Point. I struggled the first few weeks, and then I got more comfortable with the bike and suspension and just training with all these guys. It kind of opens your eyes to see what they do. So being around them, I got all the input from Buddy [Antunez] and all the other dudes. So I’ve been progressing each week slowly but surely. I want to be a little higher, but I guess I can’t complain. I’m pumped. This is a huge opportunity.
How was that start at Millville for you? That was good.
Yeah, that was sick. I came out of there and I just see this water reflecting off of there. I’m like, ‘Here we go!’ I looked left. I saw Henry’s tire. Then I came over the crest, that little hill. I didn’t realize they did a dozer berm. I went wide and I lost two or three positions. But to be up there for a while, it was sick.