For the second time this week, Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha’s Shane McElrath came away with the victory in Salt Lake City, Utah. With the win, he now shares the points lead of the 250SX East Region Championship and led home a one-two finish for his team with Colt Nichols finishing second. Behind them, GEICO Honda’s Jeremy Martin rounded out the podium.
All three spoke via a Zoom press conference call hosted by NBC Sports’ Daniel Blair.
Daniel Blair: We’ll start with the 250 guys. This is a question for all three of you. Sunday was a day race. We know it was hot. The conditions were tough. It seemed like at least from the outside looking in that things were a lot better. A little bit cooler, a little bit more technical track, more moisture in the soil. How was it for you? How were the big differences? Just kind of go through your night. Jeremy Martin, we’ll start with you.
Jeremy Martin: Third overall on the night, but definitely the track was a lot more technical. The first go back from COVID-19, the track was definitely more simple but it got pretty rough and it was really hard-packed, so it got pretty technical. This weekend the whoops were tough. I was pretty glad they kind of tamed down the first four and helped make my life a little bit easier.
Colt Nichols: It was fun. It was definitely a lot better for me. I thought this weekend the track conditions were a little better and a little more technical and overall held a lot better moisture with it just being a night race. So that was really nice. Overall, I had a lot of fun. It felt good to be back up on the box.
Shane McElrath: It was honestly pretty crazy how different the track was. Really all day during practice my bike setup was still the same as it was on Sunday and it was fine, but then once we got to the night show and there was that moisture there, that’s when we kind of had to make a few changes. The team did great. I felt great out there. Like Jeremy said, it was a technical track. It was not easy on a 250, but it was physical, and it was a fun race.
Jeremy Martin, I’m only asking this because we’re on a Zoom call right now. Were you just at the airport? Are you going to take a break away from Salt Lake City during this time off between today and Sunday, or were you just picking somebody up?
Martin: Just picking someone up there at the airport.
That’s been the big thing that all of us have wondered, especially for you training in Colorado. Would you guys leave or stay, or what will happen. So good to know there. For you, this has been a big comeback. This is your first season in supercross ever, quite a layoff. You clearly want a lot when you’re out there, so to get a podium second race after this break, how do you feel coming into this and especially with the motorcycle right now?
Martin: I definitely felt a lot better after last night’s performance. On Sunday I pumped up after lap three into the main event and I was just in survival mode. I haven’t rode very much supercross. I’ve been pretty focused on the whole outdoor stuff and kind of getting ready for that. Just trying to build my body back up. That was a year and a half before I threw my leg over a motorcycle and I had three separate surgeries on my back. I completely lost everything that I had. Obviously, I want to win, and I want to be in the championship hunt, but this year in the big picture of things it’s a rebuilding year for me. I’ve gotten three podiums so far this year and just trying to keep building.
Shane, it seems like you’re having a lot of success with Salt Lake. Three in a row for you out here. What do you attribute that success to, besides just training?
McElrath: Honestly, I’m not really sure. I just want to take it one race at a time. Thankfully the last two have been here at the same place. It’s cool to go back to back, but we’re really just focused on one race at a time. That was something that I was really working on coming into this season back in February when we first started. But now since we had the break, I was able to refocus and even focus more on that. It’s working a lot better this time. I feel like we’re doing a lot better at showing up to the races and doing our job and doing what we need to do and taking it really one-track session at a time. So that’s what we’re going to work on keep doing. We’re going to work on doing the same every time we go out there.
What has been the reaction from your sponsors and what they are doing to help you guys bridge those financial gaps that your teams may be seeing now due to the fact that you guys are missing out on a lot of merchandise sales, on a lot of the travel pieces when you guys come to places like Quest Field or Century Link Field which has a massive amount of people that attend?
McElrath: As Zach said, the short-term it’s more so I guess put things on pause as far as business side in terms of pay, but now that we’re back to racing, I haven’t heard of anybody that hasn’t got their pay cut, but I know for our team the sponsors have said that they are going to back pay us, but that’s all we have right now. So, we’re back to work, we’re back to racing, but not everything is caught up and we’re not really sure when that could be.
Would it be fair to say that then this has given you guys an opportunity to refocus on the joy of riding and not necessarily worry so much about the financial aspect of it?
McElrath: For me, I would say it has been fun mainly because it’s been completely different than anything we’ve ever done. You have that unknown aspect of we don’t know how it’s going to go. But now we’ve had two race days back to back with no riding in-between. Kind of like what Zach said, he wishes we raced more and practiced less. It actually put the fun into the racing these last two rounds because that’s our only bike time. So, I would say yes and no. Just like any other business, each of us are. So, it’s like if we don’t get paid, we can’t do business. There’s got to be a line somewhere, but so far, it’s been okay and manageable.
For the 250 guys, after Sunday, are you guys sticking around Salt Lake City or you go back to your houses or where you’re from? What are you going to do?
McElrath: Our team is staying here. It’s really not worth it to go back to So Cal. If we were to leave, we’d have to get retested. At least that’s kind of what the latest is. Really, we’re just hanging out here. We’ll actually get to do some normal training because we have such a break, but we’re just here hanging out and here to root on our teammates.
If you prefer to watch the virtual press conference, you can view it below:
Shane and Colt, these Yamahas have been fast for many, many years now. Shane, you’ve won two in a row and then you went one, two at this race. Do you feel you might have an even bigger advantage in the elevation where obviously every bike is a little slower, and that’s a big factor in the 250 class? Do you feel like you have an advantage potentially on your bikes?
McElrath: I would say yeah. Just like you said, the Yamahas have been good. Having to race against the Yamahas in the past, that’s the bike. You don’t want to line up beside them on the gate. You don’t want to be around them on the track. They’re arguably the best bike in the class. Now after riding one, I would say that that’s true. I think it’s a result of the team wanting to win, wanting us to be the best. They take advantage of every opportunity that they have to make the bike better, and they don’t settle at that. So, I think we’re at an advantage, but I think it’s more so the team than just anything else. They put everything that they can into the bike, and it shows.
Nichols: Yeah, I would definitely have to agree. I messed up the start pretty heavily last Sunday and once I hit second and third gear kind of took off. It kind of saved me, for sure. Got me out of some trouble on the start a few times. I would just have to agree with Shane. I’ve been on this team for four years now and the bike is just incredible. Just real Kudos to the team because they do their homework and are never complacent with everything. We keep kind of pushing the boundaries and making sure we’re getting all we can out of the bike, whether it be suspension, motor, or whatever. They’ve done a hell of a job. The thing’s awesome. Looking forward to racing again on Sunday and seeing what we can do.
Colt, you had this long layoff. You missed the first part of the season with a shoulder injury. It had been a while since you had raced a supercross into this year. So, to come back, Sunday was a great showing even though you did have that crash. Yesterday second place, and then even pushing Shane in those last few laps. How does it feel right now for you? It seems like you’ve wasted no time getting right back into things.
Nichols: Yeah, I definitely tried not to. I don’t want to make a habit of trying to come back from things. I’m pretty over doing that, to be honest with you. It was more just doing the laps back at home. I felt really prepared. I’ve really done a lot. I felt like I was riding really well. I got to work on some form and technique quite a bit whenever I was coming back from injury. I honestly that has helped me a lot now get back up to speed a little quicker. But overall, it was good. I had a good showing Sunday, like you said. I crashed, but I felt like I was riding good. I felt good on the bike. That’s probably one of the main things for us as racers is just feeling good on the bike regardless of what the time looks like or anything like that. The shoulder feels good and I actually feel healthy. I feel strong. We got to work on a few things body-wise while I was hurt, as well. Tried to make the comeback a little easier and the transition a little easier to go into racing. I feel like we’ve done just that. It’s been really good though, adding Shane to the team this year. He’s brought a different kind of element of bike setup and training. Just different. It’s nice to have some new faces and new people around to kind of push you a little bit here and there when it’s needed. I think it’s been really good for me and even for Justin Cooper as well. We’ve just had it going on at the moment. It’s been good just to have some good training partners and everything to just keep it pushing. I’ve been happy. I feel good with where I am. Hopefully I can win one of these things before it’s all said and done.