Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen sat out the entire 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship in order to recover. Coming into the 2021 season following a hard-fought second place in Monster Energy AMA Supercross, Roczen said he had no expectations entering the summer. Well, he ended up finished sixth in the first moto and then held off a charging Aaron Plessinger for the race win in the second moto, earning the 39th 450 Class moto win of his career. His 6-1 moto finishes earned him second overall on the day.
Roczen’s teammate Chase Sexton said coming in he believed he could be better in his sophomore 450 Class season than in his rookie season. Sexton almost pulled off a last-minute win in the first moto—finishing second to an unaware Dylan Ferrandis by just 0.099 seconds—and then charged to a tenth place finish in the second moto after going down early in the race and having to claw his way back from basically dead last after a first-turn crash.
Ken Roczen | 6-1 for 2nd overall in 450 Class
Racer X: Ken, Tuesday you said yourself you weren’t sure really how it was going to go. You weren’t feeling necessarily overly confident or comfortable in motocross because it’s been a while. You haven’t ridden a lot. The speed was there, the speed of old. The Kenny that we have come to know for all these years was there. You were second-fastest in practice, or in top three in practice. The speed was there. You obviously got the start. The second moto was vintage Kenny where you got the start and you just hammered down in that first lap and made some quick passes, try to put out a gap and sprint, and you come away with the moto win. Were you surprised with yourself today overall? How are you feeling now that you have two motos under your belt and you’re back in the mix of things?
Ken Roczen: Yeah, totally. I think everybody probably struggled a little bit in practice. It was just really, really deep and wet. We were only really using like three feet of the track, so it was a little tough. I as well just started off a little shaky, but we got it back together for the second practice and I put myself in a good position for the first moto and gate pick. I had a pretty decent start in the first one, but I tangled a little bit with a couple of riders in the front and then was in a good position in the beginning to kind of make some moves. That’s what I did. Just riding on a track like that, I wasn’t really too comfortable. Haven’t raced motocross in a while either, so I just rode a little tight and wasn’t really going anywhere either. But at the same time, very late in the race I could put a move on Adam [Cianciarulo] in the last corner and started going forward just a little bit. I tried to recoup for the second moto and grabbed a really good start with Aaron [Plessinger] together. Like he said, we just kind of laid it down. I feel like I had really good lines throughout the entire track. The track is really gnarly. You have these ruts that are super soft but a lot of the track that we ride is hard-pack underneath it and it gets some really sketchy ruts and square-edge bumps at the bottom of some of the jumps. So, I was really just riding as hard as I could for as long as I could. Tried to keep the focus and not make any mistakes. There were a couple of sketchy moments. Right by the finish line, there was a rider down. I saw some yellow flags out but I didn’t see anybody, so I just kind of jumped this little double and sure enough when I land, the bike was literally right in front of me, right in the middle. I wasn’t even to the edge of it where you can miss it easily. Almost tangled right there, but I got it back together and just kept charging all the way. I tried to look for lines and ride really wide-eyed and was able to win that moto. The two-lap board came out, which I was kind of surprised. Maybe it’s just because I was super focused. It came out and I'm like, okay, here we go. We’ve got two laps to go, and we brought it home. It feels good because like you guys said, coming into this round I wasn’t the old me yet. I could feel it in practice, but at the same time I didn’t let this discourage me. I knew coming in we had some things to work on. We’re in a good position now. I want to learn from this weekend and keep it rolling.
Roczen leading Aaron Plessinger in the second moto. Align Media Roczen leading Aaron Plessinger in the second moto. Align Media Roczen leading. Align Media Roczen taking the moto two win. Align Media Roczen after winning the second moto. Align Media Champagne showers for Roczen in his first Pro Motocross event since the 2019 Ironman National season finale. Align Media
You’ve won a lot of races in your career but you’ve always been considered a favorite coming in. Is this the most surprising moto win? It wasn’t an overall win, but is this the most surprising performance you’ve had? Because you were definitely not putting moto win expectations out there before the race.
Yeah, kind of. I was a bit surprised. I had no real expectations this weekend. I guess I appreciate that everybody else has such high expectations and everybody always expects me to be up front. So, I guess that’s a good thing but nobody knows what’s going on behind the scenes and how I feel about riding and things like that. Not to mention that Chase and I are on a new bike, so the testing side of things usually takes a little bit of time as well. After the first moto and getting going, and struggling a little bit but at the same time it does feel familiar. I just knew that there was going to be a learning curve to this whole thing. All I wanted to do was get better each weekend. In the end though, we put ourselves in a good position. It came back to me. It felt familiar being up there in the track. Like I said, I had some really good lines. So I'm expecting and hoping that we will just go uphill from here.
I know we’ve touched on this tonight a little bit, but I’ll be honest, after the press conference on Wednesday I was worried about you a little bit. After the way you rode today, you used the word disconnected. Do you feel more connected after today? Do you feel more confident than you felt Wednesday?
I don't know. I’m kind of just taking it day by day and weekend by weekend. I want to continue working on myself. I feel like I’ve got more in the tank. I don’t feel like I’m quite where I want to be. When you jump on the bike supercross or outdoors, there’s quite a difference, especially when it comes to speed and finding a flow on the track. I was just really slow, honestly, compared to some of the other riders but I didn’t that let that discourage me by any means, but I just knew I had a lot of work ahead of me. I didn’t want to go into the season and say I want to get this overall and go 1-1, when realistically I feel like it would take me a little bit of time to get there. Maybe for you guys it’s a little bit unusual, I guess. I guess there’s other riders that haven’t ridden motocross in a while. Even when I had off time last year, I was hardly riding and really sat my butt down like I was supposed to do. It wasn’t like I was going out and at least spinning a bunch of laps while everybody was racing. Then we went straight back into supercross. I just feel like I lost a little bit of that special touch that I had before. So, I'm just working on getting back there. I don't know how long it will take, but at the same time we have a couple of cool tracks coming up where I feel like I’ve done really good and that I enjoy, especially Colorado. So I’m honestly just trying to enjoy myself. I feel like with that kind of fun comes good results. Like everybody else said as well, the field is so stacked that you could win one weekend and then be off the podium no problem the next weekend. So we’ve got to continue getting good starts and put ourselves in some good positions and be mistake-free. It shows today that the tracks are gnarly, and that’s another thing. You don’t get these kind of tracks unless you are racing, really. So this was kind of a little bit of new territory again today. But I feel like I started getting more and more comfortable. I feel like we want to put a little bit of work in on the bike as well, as I feel like we can get it a little bit better. But now I see that I still have something going on and I still know how to ride, obviously. I want to get better each and every weekend, really.
I’m glad to see it, because I was worried.
I’m right there with you. I was a little worried too, but in a good way. It’s so hard out there. The fun part really is figuring out how to get to the top again. Sometimes it comes easy to you and sometimes it takes a little bit of time and then finding your stride.
Chase Sexton | 2-10 for 5th overall in 450 Class
Racer X: Chase, you were I’m sure feeling good coming into this weekend and this track. Obviously you ended the year on a high note at this same track last year. You probably were feeling good that the season was starting here. You had a great first moto. Things obviously didn’t go the way you had planned in moto two, but you showed a lot of resiliency. You clawed your way back up through the field from being dead last. An overall solid day, considering what you went through. How do you assess the day and how are you feeling about moving forward this season?
Chase Sexton: Overall it didn’t really start off that great. In fact, I just didn’t really feel that great with the bike. Then going into the first moto I kind of just told myself I had to just suck it up and get a good start and put myself in a good position. So, I did that and then kind of went backwards a little bit on the start. I got passed by a few guys. Just settled in and found a good flow. Started clicking guys off and got into second and kind of rode around for a little bit. Didn’t really ride that great. Then I kind of made a charge with two or three laps to go towards Dylan. Didn’t quite get enough. I kind of was kicking myself for taking that much time before that. Then going into the second moto I felt good. I still had a lot of energy left and just didn’t execute the start. I kind of wheelied pretty bad. It just put me in a bad position. I came together with a few guys and ended up going down. I don't know where I was, probably around 40th or 38th. Just told myself that you got to go out there and salvage something. You know on your bad days you’ve got to give it everything you have. So, I just told myself that I wasn’t going to quit and kind of just put my head down and tried to pick off as many guys as I possibly could. Got to a pretty stout group with Eli [Tomac] and Marvin [Musquin] and Coop [Cooper Webb] and Christian Craig. Kind of got a little bit stuck, which kind of put the end of my charge. Overall I felt like I was riding good all day. I’m excited to go on to Thunder Valley. I feel like I’m in a good spot bike-wise and mentally and physically. I’m excited for the rest of these rounds.
We talked about that moto one ride where you took it right down to the wire with Dylan there. A sensational ride. Then lying in that first corner, getting up, and looking at that field running away, as you said you went into salvage mode, but did you have a point where you knew, I’m making up on these guys? I can nearly put this all together?
Yeah. It’s tough to go down in the first corner after having such a promising first moto. You’re ten seconds into the race and the race is pretty much over. So, for me, I wanted to get to top ten was my goal. When I got to, I want to say 12th, I could see Marvin and Cooper and Eli probably ten seconds ahead. I just kind of put my head down and told myself if I can get to them, that would be awesome. But everyone is just so fast, like everyone said. It’s really difficult when you go down to make that much time up. I feel I rode well today in the motos especially. I gave it everything I had. It was not the ideal situation, but again, you’re going to have those races here and there, so you’ve got to make the most of them. I feel like I did that today. Looking forward to Colorado and the rest of the season. It’s going to be fun with all these guys. It’s going to be a battle.
Below is the full post-race 450 Class press conference:
Or listen to the press conference in the embed below (250 Class starts at 0:00 and 450 Class starts at 25:54.