Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen made some news the other week with the drop of the PR announcing he’ll be taking place in the three round FIM World Supercross Championship series this fall. And of course, he’s in the middle of a title fight in the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship as well. Coming off a down race (for him) at Southwick, we had Kenny on the PulpMX Show this past Monday night with Justin Brayton in-studio and talked to him about all that stuff.
Racer X: Do you want to talk about Southwick?
Ken Roczen: There’s not really much to talk about.
Not a great day for you, especially to pull a holeshot and lead laps and everything and you don’t end up on the box. I imagine you’re just like, moving on. How much were you affected from RedBud? We talked to you a little bit about being sick. You sounded congested and all everything else. Is that still kind of lingering?
It seems like it. I haven’t really been feeling that great. Obviously, that showed this weekend. Granted, I am kind of on a different setup every weekend I go to, which probably doesn’t help. I’m just having a hard time getting comfortable. But other than that, I’m in it. I’m working my ass off, and especially mentally, just because I’ve had a couple of rough weekends. I’m not pounding my head into the sand. I just didn’t really have it. I don't know really know why. I made a bunch of changes. My starts were on point. It was just funky. I’m just trying to catch myself and move on and keep working hard. It was a tough one again, but I can’t really change it at this point. It always looks really bad. Even for me personally, it sucks. I just haven’t been good.
These guys are kind of running a little bit points-wise and whatnot, and it’s all happened within the last couple weeks. It’s kind of a tough pill to swallow, but at the same time, I’m still third in the championship. I don’t feel like my time is over yet. I know we’re halfway, but I’m still working really hard to get back, get comfortable, and just kind of get a little bit consistently good results, rather than all over the place, where I’ve been.
Justin Brayton: Speaking of the starts, was there something with the gate just to the left of the box? Was it not as deep or something? Because Jett went there both times, then Eli took that gate for the second moto. It seemed like right away, before you even got across the gate, you already what seemed like a pretty big holeshot. Was it not as deep? How come you picked that gate?
No. I picked that gate simply because I know in the years past it was always either right to the right side of the box or two. In the past, I was always on the right. I’ve also noticed that a few to the left has always been good, rather than sticking to the inside. So, I made my mind up pretty early. Granted, I went fourth to the gate, but I was hoping they were all going to line up on the right side of the box. So, once that one was open, I told Jordi [Jordan Troxell, mechanic] before everybody picked their gate. I’m like, “I’m going to go left of the box if that one’s open.” Without even really looking at it to begin with. Then I went there, and in the first moto they held the gate really long. Nobody besides me flinched or anything. I just was super focused. My reaction time was absolutely insane. I noticed it, even. I was like, “Whoa! That was crazy!” I didn’t jump early, but as soon as the gate dropped, I was right there. It wasn’t like I was dumping the clutch. I wasn’t wheelying. I just went over the gate and I pushed my bike down so perfectly in the rut to where I was just absolutely moving forward. I wanted to go there again in the second moto, but Eli [Tomac] went there. But I still felt much better going to the left side of him than going further to the inside. Sure enough, I jumped over the gate again and I hit the rut just right and pushed the bike kind of down and forward. I just absolutely took off again. It was very automatic for me last weekend. It was nice.
JB: We would practice starts when we were teammates, and we basically had identical bikes riding. The way Kenny can find traction, just even across the gate, is insane. His reaction time is always really good, but it’s weird the way he can find traction. You go across the gate and then after the gate he can just find it in weird ways.
It’s hard on these 450s. They’re so finicky. For me personally, the RPMs for example, are just a little bit too high. It can mess up your start so much because it has so much more bite, and then you’ve got to really watch your clutch control, too. There’s so much to look at with a 450, where I feel like I could go on a 250, rev the thing wide open, dump the clutch and it feels fine. Just because you have to be so in tune with your bike on a 450 that it makes a start on a slower bike a lot easier.
[What about] Des Nations for you, Kenny? Is that a plan? Do we know?
I’ve just gotten messages from Wolfgang from Germany. As much as I would like to, I haven’t made up my mind yet. Honestly with the world supercross thing and stuff, I don’t feel like I’m going to have time. It will be a little bit hectic. Honestly, my true focus is getting out of the normal routine that we’ve been having. I really want to do some overseas races, and especially racing in Europe because it’s been since 2013 since I’ve raced in Europe. So, that kind of has priority for me. With racing Des Nations, I think it would be one weekend off or maybe right away you would have to go to Wales for the world supercross. I just don’t really know how I’m going to do that. I kind of need to tune into the bike, because the way I left off supercross, I was not comfortable at all. So, I have to do some testing. It’s kind of a funky time right now. There’s a lot of open questions, at the moment.
Brayton: Do you sense the nervousness, maybe a little bit of anxiousness in Kenny’s voice right now?
Steve Matthes: Kenny, there’s a guy that goes to these off-season races and he’s really good. He’s old, but he’s still really good. I saw him beat Stew at Bercy. I’ve seen him beat Marv. I’ve seen him beat everybody.
Roczen: I was hoping, once I called it quits on supercross, I was like, “Thank God, I’m not going to have to race Justin ever again.” And now here we are.
Let’s talk about that a little bit. They’re paying you a bunch of money, which is always great, so that’s a reason why you want to do it, but you can get money doing other races and doing more things than world supercross. What attracted you to the three-race series in the fall here? You touched on some of it, but what other things were you?
Honestly, in the past, with some of these overseas races, I’ve been wanting to do them but at the same time, I think it’s kind of tough with teams. I’m not 100 percent. I may be saying that wrong. When they pay us riders to race in the U.S., with the insurance and whatnot, I don't know if there’s any complication, but it was just always a very sensitive thing. I’ve always kind of wanted to, but then always the focus was U.S. and supercross and motocross. It just never happened. Then this year, I think I’m just in a different time. Obviously, I had to figure out what I wanted to do for next year anyway. It just really sounded appealing. Of course, I have a great agent as well that made all of this happen. Thanks, Steve Astephen [his agent].
I was really attracted to breaking up the monotonous racing schedule. It’s the same thing every year, every year, every year. I was kind of just ready for something different. I haven’t race in Europe in a while. It’s three races. Something just sounded very appealing to me. I’ve never been to Australia. I’ve always wanted to go. I kind of just wanted to explore the world a little bit more. I always tell people, back in the day, I used to travel the world racing, and ever since I’ve come to the U.S., I’ve just been stuck here due to the crazy schedule and so many races. I finally wanted to break it up a little bit. I actually think it will do me good.
It’s UK. It’s Australia. It’s Indonesia. For the Indonesia round, you’d just be in Australia and then you’ll just go there, and then come back right away? That would be how it would work?
Yeah. I want to stay in Australia. Me and JB have talked about it a little bit, but we have to talk about it a little bit further. The plan was to stay in Australia. I’m friends with Julian Wilson. He’s a pro surfer. I’m probably going to head up towards his place and go surf in-between and kind of use it as a family trip as well. I think JB, you guys are going to stay there, too, right?
JB: Yup. That’s the plan.
KR: Yeah. So, we’re going to use it a little bit as a vacation and see Australia a little bit. I haven’t been there. That’s probably one that I’m most excited to go to.
It would be great. Like you said, maybe you’ll learn something about the bike. Speaking of that, 2023, we expect you to be back on Honda. We expect you to do a supercross-only deal. Is that looking like what we expect to see? Obviously, things are up in the air, but what do you know and what can you tell our listeners?
KR: I think there’s a lot of things just up in the air. Nothing is concrete yet. I’m pretty sure I’m going to do supercross and motocross next year, most likely. I needed to figure out what I wanted. Of course, the supercross-only thing, it all sounds appealing. Like I said, there’s nothing set in stone. It may end up being supercross-only. It’s a really open question. I really don’t know. My goal was to just race right now. Normally my deals have been done super early in the past, and at this point it is not. But I haven’t really been worrying about it because I really wanted to get racing and kind of get back out there, get my feet wet again.
Also, the focus. I didn’t want to be like, “Hey, Steve, you got a deal for me, and this and that?” I don't want to focus on the wrong thing. I want to focus on racing, and that is currently still the status. Of course, it’s getting to the point where conversations are happening and whatnot, but there’s really nothing. I haven’t asked much. I haven’t talked about it too much. I’m just focusing on racing right now.
They need to find you a team for world supercross series. JB, you guys are full. I don't know how that’s going to work. That’s an interesting dynamic.
I didn’t even know all of this stuff. I know nothing about it. I have people come up to me and be like, “Hey, you want to ride for our team? We’ve got an open spot.” I’m like, what are you talking about? Osborne actually messaged me about something and I told him I don't want to deal with anything. I just want to show up and race. I still didn’t really know what the whole deal was with the team and how this stuff all happens. I’m actually looking forward to it being different than what we have been used to.
JB: When is the last time you actually did something like this?
The last time I was in Europe was maybe in 2013 for the Des Nations maybe in Teutschenthal. What is cool with Wales, I think I’m going to have some people from Germany probably come up. It’s not a must, like I need to go race in Europe. I really wanted to. So, I’m super looking forward to it. I can’t wait for the feedback from the fans and how many people and the stadium. It’s just going to be different. I know my eyes are going to sparkle because I seriously have been talking about it for years how I miss going to different countries and different continents, different cultures. So, I’ve been really craving it.
I feel like JB, you’re tight with Kenny. I like Kenny. We’re friends, I would consider. I feel like Roczen’s results over the last few years have been held to a different standard. Second in supercross, third in outdoors, second in outdoors… Like, yes, there have been no titles. Okay, I got it. But how many motocrossers are held at the standard that Kenny is? Not many.
JB: Basically, yeah. I was going to get to that, actually. Ken and I have talked about this privately. Maybe he’s even there now, and talking to him after Southwick. It wasn’t a great weekend. He didn’t win the race. But, I think it’s even the media could do a better job to keep these guys around. Maybe don’t hold them to that high of a standard, or win or be miserable. I think [Ryan] Dunge has got a taste of being out of it and now he’s coming back and look how happy he is.
SM: He’s the happiest human being ever.
JB: But you can still beat Kenny Roczen, one of the best racers ever, and still have an off-day and get fourth and you can still be somewhat happy. I know you want to have the drive and all that, and you want to win and the team wants to win, but now that he’s married and he’s a dad, that’s what I would hope for a guy like Ken, and even other guys, maybe even Eli right now. You just want to be happy racing.
SM: I agree with you. Ricky, Chad, and James ruined it for every other racer. Because if they didn’t want to win, they didn’t want to talk.
JB: It doesn’t have to be that way. Life is so short.
SM: So the media and the fans are like, “Oh, these guys, it’s number one or nothing, and they’re just pissed.”
JB: No other sport is like that, though.
No. NASCAR guys win, and then they get 13th the next week. It’s like whatever.
JB: So, I hope that our sport, the narrative has to change to keep these guys around, to keep Eli wanting to race, to keep Kenny wanting to race. If he retires at 27, we’ve seen guys do that and it’s like, what do I do now? Kenny likes to surf. He can only surf so much. He still wants to have that drive and that competitiveness to wake up and work hard. I love what he’s saying of, “I’m still working hard.” I like to hear that rather than, “I didn’t win. I’m going to give up on it.”
KR: Unfortunately, I think it’s just the contrast, sometimes. Sometimes I go really, really well, but something like this weekend… The thing is, honestly in the first moto I was almost borderline embarrassed a little bit. I noticed it. I’m like, what am I doing and what’s going on? I just wasn’t feeling good. I just felt like I couldn’t really ride it. I’m like, “Oh, my God. Here we go. This is just not like me.” So, I think some of the contrast is just what it makes so brutal. Then also of course I had the bar so high at one point. Last year supercross and motocross I was really good, and now it’s like I’m just nowhere near it. Same with 2016. There were just some of those years. Especially before my injuries, it was a little bit more of a for sure thing. It came easier to me a little bit.
So, I think I just have raised the bar at some point so high and now the contrast, it’s just like the opposite. But I am working on it. Now more than I ever, I believe that my time will still come. There’s always these funny memes now that people will make. I just find it so funny because it’s like what you said. You either have to win, or if I fade or whatever again, they’re making it such a big deal that it’s really funny to read.
Watch/listen to the full interview below: