Press day for the 50th edition of Monster Energy Supercross at Daytona gave us a chance to see the riders hit the track, and then get some thoughts on mid-season form. We talked to Chad Reed, Cooper Webb, Justin Barcia and Eli Tomac on Friday afternoon to get an update.
Racer X: It’s the last ride for you at all the Monster Energy Supercross rounds, but I have a feeling this one you’ll miss more than others. But this is it—your last ride here.
Chad Reed: Ah never say never. I’d say if there was one, I ever would come back and race, it would be this one. But that sounds torturous! I do love it here, it’s one of my favorites for sure. I feel like I’ve raced it in so many ways, shapes and sizes. Day, night, dry, wet, a lake! When I’m done, I think this would be the one I would come back and want to watch closely. It would be nice to come out here.
Well, one way or another, you’ve still got Daytona goals. You want to come back here for sports car racing.
I was here a month or so ago for the 24 hour, checking it out, keeping a pulse on that. That’s definitely the direction I want to end up, I want to end up racing the 24 hour here. I’m sure the perspective you get at 170 miles an hour on the high banks is different than what you get over here on the supercross track. But I enjoy it, this is a special place, and a good experience.
Seems like things are slowly but surely turning a bit? A little more speed the last few weeks? How are you feeling now?
It’s starting to become enjoyable. I’m starting to remember how to ride. I rode two times this week, which is more than I’ve ridden any week this year. Prior to Dallas, I wasn’t really having that much fun racing. It’s starting to feel like I remember how to do this thing. Injuries are just no fun at all, it doesn’t matter if you’re 16 or 36. You don’t want to suffer. I mean, you suffer in every race, but I didn’t really want to come here and suffer like I was at the beginning of the season. I’m sure I’m gonna suffer, but a little less than what I was a month ago!
Racer X: You won the title last year, that’s a big accomplishment, but do you consider a Daytona win a must-do before your career is over?
Cooper Webb: Oh absolutely! I’ve only raced twice here in my professional career, I got 3rd in 2018, I got second last year, so I’m hoping this is the golden year to get my first win. This place was always special to me, coming from North Carolina which has a NASCAR background, and with the 50th anniversary, I saw the track and it’s a little bit different than usual. I actually came here as a kid watching the pro races, I think it was, I’d say 2003, I was like 5 years old and my dad brought me down. Then when the Ricky Carmichael Amateur Supercross started here, I got to race it a few times.
Carmichael famously said the championship begins at Daytona. What’s the plan for the second half, starting here?
Just gotta keep making a dent. I just have to do my thing and hopefully I can crawl my way back in. Obviously there’s a lot of excitement at the front, and anything can happen. Eight races left, hey, hopefully Ricky [Carmichael] is right, and the championship begins here. I’m just looking to get some good results and keep fighting for it.
How bad did you feel after the last race, and how was this week?
It was a very tough race. To race seven days after the hematoma and stuff, couldn’t ride, couldn’t train, I was basically just bed ridden pretty much, and some PT. I was really happy with that charge, to be able to get back to the podium. Yeah, after the race, I had to get some ribs put back in. It was a tough main event, but we fought to the end. This week was a lot better. I was able to ride one day. Still stiff, but a lot better than last week, that’s for sure.
Is this about the worst race to have to be fighting some injuries?
I mean, every race is tough! You have to deal with what you’re dealt with. Hopefully I can stand all the way around the track and I’ll feel good!
Racer X: You’ve kind of never given up on the title fight this year.
Justin Barcia: For sure. Just plugging away, working on all the little things I can, still hanging it there. I’m happy with the bike and I’ve been super consistent. Right now, it’s time to get some wins. That’s what’s really going to make or break this championship. I haven’t raced here in a few years with injuries. I’m happy to be back.
You like this track?
I do. It’s kind of like outdoors a little bit, you can hang it out, I can get that loose Bam Bam style and just throw it around. For me, it’s a great place, and I don’t live too far from here, so I get to get into this kind of dirt from time to time. This week, we had the whole team at my place, the mechanics and Aaron [Plessinger, teammate], we built a little Daytona section. Always good to do our thing back at my house. Good to relax here instead of being in California.
Well, things weren’t very relaxed last week! You’re probably aware some videos leaked out! What’s your take on the argument last week with Eli Tomac?
I think it’s exciting. It’s been boring, let’s be honest. Racing has been good this year but we need some drama. It brings excitement to the sport. I think it’s fun. Not many of us really love each other. I mean, we always yell at each other, but the cameras miss it.
I’m not surprised to hear you’ve been in these arguments before.
Oh yeah, verbal, physical. I’ve been choked out, punched in the helmet. It’s always exciting! All in all, no hard feelings, I’m just ready to race again.
So it’s not getting in your head? Just treating this like any other race?
[Laughs] I live for it. I’m like, “Let’s go! I can’t wait to get to Daytona and kick some butt.” I try not to go by Bam Bam anymore, I’ve changed my ways, but I still live for it.
I feel like if it gets a little aggressive out there, that’s really just playing your game.
That’s how I grew up racing, being aggressive, being mentally tough, and kind of thriving on competition. The whole season has been good. We’ve been having fun, but maybe this is the little extra motivation I needed, just to get up there and have some more fight. I’ve had some fight this year, but maybe I need a little more.
Racer X: Okay, three 450 wins at this track. Obviously this track works for you.
Eli Tomac: Yeah I like this place quite a bit, we like it a lot. Good to us in the past. It’s just so different for everyone. You’re always just chasing something all day. Just that combo between motocross and supercross. You get bumps with jumps. You have the rough stuff, the chop, and the supercross rhythm sections.
So is it just a compromise on set up?
Yeah, you basically just have to accept it. You still have the jumps; you can’t just go with your full motocross set up.
Have you seen the track map? Have you thought about how different it might be?
I mean, the way this place gets, it gets gnarly. So you’ll probably have that same feel, typical Daytona. Maybe not. It seems like there’s more speed in the track this year.
So as you know, some videos got out this week of you can Barcia arguing. We don’t ever get to see or hear that. Is this something fairly normal, or was that a whole new level?
[Laughs] Trust me that’s not every week!
Okay, not every week, but has it happened ever?
I don’t know. Maybe. I’ve been racing a long time. It’s just emotion. We want to win bad.
I think fans want to see that. We know you work hard. We want to see how badly you guys want it.
Yeah, as long as we’re not hurting each other, then whatever. We’re just fighting for position. We want to beat each other. That’s the emotion that you see.
Does that change anything this week? Your strategy or the way you look at anything?
The way I look at it, as long as we don’t hurt each other, then let it fly, let it go. Just go race.
It was a good recovery last week to get to fourth, but now you’re tied for the points lead. Do you look at this race as a must win, to try to stamp it and reestablish yourself? Or do you try to play the long game and not put too much emphasis on any one race?
I mean, this year I’ve had the long game in mind. It’s new for us to have the red plate here, in the past I’m always chasing here. I’ve had three wins here, love to win again, but I’m thinking long game.
So if you don’t win, but you have a solid result, that’s okay?
As long as I beat the other guy with the red plate!