Monster Energy/ Star Racing Yamaha’s Shane McElrath took his second win of the 2020 season—taking the victory as Monster Energy AMA Supercross resumed after an 85-day layoff. He topped 250SX East Region points leader Chase Sexton, of the GEICO Honda team, and Garrett Marchbanks, of Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki.
All three riders spoke with the media in a Zoom press conference call after the race, hosted by NBCSports’ Daniel Blair.
Daniel Blair: Garrett Marchbanks, congrats on the third place. With the 250 guys I’m going to ask a little bit different question. Eighty five days since Daytona. You guys were just getting going. It all stopped, and now it just turns right back on. Was it everything that you expected? Was there rust today? Did you feel okay? Just kind of take us through the day and what it felt like to be back on the track.
Garrett Marchbanks: The track was pretty… I don’t know. Just being on the 250, the power is a little different just from riding in Florida and everything. It took me probably two sessions to get used to the track. Then by the main event just how dry it got, I haven’t ridden something like that in so long. So it took me literally eight laps to get used to it, and then I finally got in a good flow until the end. The track conditions were pretty gnarly today.
Chase, second place on the day. Same question. How did it feel to be back racing and to be back on the podium and back doing what you do, fighting for this championship?
Chase Sexton: It was crazy. To think Daytona was 85 days ago, it doesn’t feel like that long ago. Again, it was as long time ago. It felt kind of like Tampa all over again. It was nice getting back racing. Like Eli said, it was kind of weird with no fans there. It was kind of hard to get yourself fired up and be in the mindset like this is for a championship race. This is for points. It kind of felt like a practice day. So I think getting my mind wrapped around that was the toughest thing.
Shane, congrats on the win. These guys have mentioned the crowd not being there takes that little bit of edge away. Was that weird being on the line for a main event in a championship points-paying race and having such silence, when normally you could kind of feel it?
Shane McElrath: Yeah, I think so. It was weird not having the fans there. Coming in, you kind of have the mindset of, it’s just going to be like a practice day. But then you line up even for the practice starts, and you still have that adrenaline feeling. You still have the feeling of, let’s go, let’s go, hurry up, let’s go. It was weird once we were in the race. Normally you can hear the fans when something’s going on. Outside of that, you’re kind of just zoned in. You hear the bikes. You’re just focused. So I would say we didn’t have those big fan moments when you could really hear the crowd roar, so that was weird. But once we started racing, I honestly didn’t really think about it. It was just like, this is a race—let’s go. But I think it was for the heat race, sitting there just like, “Dude, this is very, very quiet.” You can hear yourself breathing. It’s weird. It was definitely a different race. The track was really dry. The wind was up and down all day. I felt like it was a good racetrack, all things considered with the weather that we had. We had a few hot days’ stretch and it just happened to be right now when we have a day race. So I think it’s really going to help out the next two races for the east coast when we have the night rounds. This is really kind of how the track has been the last two times I’ve raced here in ’17 and ’18. It was still pretty bad. It was kind of like a practice track.
This question is for Shane and Chase. You lapped fifth place, Pierce Brown who rode great but you lapped him. So all race long, Chase, you were trying closing it. Shane, you were getting second. You were getting caught a little bit, then Chase would get caught. What was that like, both Shane and Chase, to fight through those? And some of those guys were going fast. You lapped up to fifth. So what was that like?
McElrath: I didn’t really know that until after the race, but we did get into lappers early. It was weird because there was one time I looked at the time and we still had six minutes left. I’m like, dude, we have passed so many people already. It was like one of those things. I was really having to make sure I was patient when I was passing the lappers because they were still battling, but I didn’t know it was sixth and seventh place or whatever. A lot of the guys wouldn’t really check up until I was right on them. So it was definitely weird. We were pushing as hard as we could and to think that we did lap fifth was pretty wild. With the track, the dust, and the lapped riders, really I didn’t know where I was. It was just like, let’s keep going. I didn’t even see the white flag. I only got the checkered, so I was like, oh. Okay. But there was a lot going on out there.
Sexton: The track in general was super dry. Having those lapped riders in there was kind of like chaotic out there. There was so much dust flying. Then getting behind lappers I couldn’t see anything. I was trying to figure out which one was Shane, because I’d get in a lapper and he would pass one and I thought it was Shane, but it was actually a lapper. So it was kind of just chaotic. The last couple laps I was like, we got to be lapping like… I saw Pierce and I’m like, I think he’s somewhere around the top five. I think Shane and I were pushing a pretty good pace in the beginning of the race. I just felt like we were riding pretty well, so I think with the short track and just the conditions I think that’s why we lapped all the way up to fifth.
Garrett, you put a really aggressive pass on Jeremy Martin. Was it a payback or just an aggressive pass?
Marchbanks: Not a payback at all, honestly. I just thought the track was really tough to pass on. I was just trying to make a quick, aggressive pass. That was all.
Shane, you now have I think three wins in a row here at Salt Lake. Something about this place obviously fits with you. How stoked were you, first of all, to hear racing was going to be here? Then secondly, what is it about this place, other than the soil obviously, that you thrive on?
McElrath: Honestly when we first heard that it was going to be here, it’s just cool. I’m on a Yamaha now. I feel like it’s one of the best 250s. The bike is really good. I feel really good at altitude. For me, it’s cool that now I’ve won three races here in a row, but I don’t really think it’s anything special. I feel good here. I like the dirt here. It’s really similar to practice. So for me I felt comfortable, even from the two sighting laps. We could see the track from stands earlier and you kind of have a good idea. You can see how things are built. It looked like things were a little bit rolled. It’s to be expected here at altitude just because the bikes are slower. But then once we got out there it’s like everything is pretty forgiving, for the most part. So you kind of just tell yourself, this is what we’re going to do, so let’s do it. I know the first rhythm, a lot of people dealt with problems making that first triple. It was almost like it was built backwards. The landing was pretty tall and steep. So that on the 250, sometimes I could stand, sometimes I had to sit because I wouldn’t make it at all. So really I thought it was just a good race day and it was good to get back to racing. I don’t really think it’s anything special with Salt Lake. I feel good in the altitude and I feel good in the championship. I just feel like I’m good.
Garrett, how bummed were you that it got canceled right after you won a race? Did you feel like maybe that took a little momentum away from your win, or did you feel like you had momentum coming into this weekend?
Marchbanks: Honestly I was pretty bummed that we weren’t able to race in Indianapolis. I feel like the momentum was on my side, for sure. But taking the 85 days off, it was kind of weird. I still feel like the momentum was on my side a little bit. To come out today and take a third, I wasn’t happy with it, but it’s a good direction.
Garrett, we talked a little bit about the benefits of you having a background with racing in altitude or practicing at altitude. Do you feel like that really helped in this race? Do you think that it will keep helping as races go on, or do you think it won’t as guys get their altitude in their lungs?
I don’t know. The bike is definitely a lot slower for me. I kind of agree with Eli. You’re pretty pumped when you go back to sea level. The altitude was definitely a big thing for me just because I have asthma. It’s hard for me to breathe up here. That’s why I try to come down here at least two weeks in advance if there’s a race in the higher elevation.
Chase, the track was so dry. Did that catch you by surprise? Is there something that you can think, now if I know I’m dealing with this kind of dirt, you might make some changes to your style or your bike or anything like that?
Sexton: Not really. I raced here in 2018, my rookie year, and honestly the track was almost the exact same. I was kind of expecting it. I felt like I rode decent. I think the lappers were gnarly for both Shane and I. Every time I felt like I’d gained some ground I’d just lose it the next corner. I just feel like that was on me. I feel like I had a win in my sights but didn’t make it happen. I think it wasn’t really the track conditions or anything like that. It was just something that I need to work on myself. I kind of knew what the track was going to be like. Hopefully these next couple races, them turning the track over and getting some more water in to make it a little more tacky, and hopefully the night races bring up some more moisture.
Chase, building off of that question, in the first couple practice sessions you looked like you were struggling for front-end grip. Are you going to test at all this week, or are you just going to rest?
Sexton: It’s kind of difficult. It’s just weird because we race on Wednesday. I probably will take tomorrow off, and then ride Tuesday just to be able to get on the bike. The front end washing was more I think just them putting water on the track. We did adjust the sag a little bit so the front end was a little lighter, which we went back. It was just I think some of the track and probably me and part of the bike. So it wasn’t really anything that stood out that made me lose the front or anything like that. I actually felt pretty good in practice and felt decent all day. Felt like the bike stability was really good. Looking forward to Wednesday.
Back to Chase, on that note and working on stuff during the week, we noticed you’re working with a new person, someone with 50 wins in supercross that might be able to help you find that traction. Is there anything you can talk about working with James [Stewart]?
It’s kind of been under the radar a little bit. It’s been really good. He’s helping me a lot. I think today I rode decent, but my race craft wasn’t very good. I’ve got a few text messages already about it. We’ll go back to work. He’s been a big help and mentor so far and it’s only the beginning. Looking forward to going back and doing some more work this week. Unfortunately, he’s not here, but we’ll go back to work.