RJ Hampshire put in an impressive ride in his 450SX debut. At Daytona International Speedway in his home state of Florida, the #24 made his professional premier-class debut as the 250SX West Region remains on break until March 25. After an injury at the Anaheim 2 Supercross, Hampshire podiumed the rescheduled Oakland Supercross and then was given the opportunity to race an FC 450 for the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team at the Daytona Supercross. Hampshire said on Friday’s media day he was “about as close to 100 percent” as he can be. He said if he is healthy, he will never shy away from racing and was thankful to have the opportunity to compete on a 450cc machine at the top level of the sport.
“Never would have thought I would be racing a factory 450 on supercross. …I’m here to learn as much as I can,” Hampshire said.
He delivered solid results throughout the day, starting off with a P5 in overall qualifying. Then, in the second heat race, he holeshot and led all six laps, even holding off a late charge from both Cooper Webb and Chase Sexton on the last lap. In the main event, Hampshire rode home a solid eighth place in his maiden 450SX main event. Afterward, Hampshire said he would most likely be back on the FC 450 for the Indianapolis Supercross (which he later confirmed on Tuesday evening). Check out the #24’s thoughts on his maiden premier class race. And watch for him again this weekend.
Racer X: RJ, take us through your first night on a 450.
RJ Hampshire: Just a fun day all around. Thanks to the team, really. There’s not many people that would talk their team into letting them go racing and have the balls to do it, really. That’s what it comes down to. I put them out there tonight. But big shout out to Murph [Sean Murphy]. Murph was the one that really had a lot of push behind this, and then we got Nate [Ramsey] behind it. Same with Jen from Rockstar. They were like, 'Okay, let’s try to make a story out of this.' There’s a lot of hype around, like, 'Hey, we’re going racing!' I tried not to hype it up too much. Like, look, we’re just going to go here and learn, try to do what we can. I knew the bike was really good out of the starts and I was crushing them, so I was like, 'Man, we’re going to holeshot this heat race. I don't know where we’re going to go from there. It’s a big question mark, but we’re going to get a holeshot.' Then I did that, led a few laps, and then white flag. I’m like, 'Oh boy. This might happen here.' You’ll see on the last lap I kind of blanked out a little bit and OJ’d a three. Like, 'Shit, let me pull it back together!' But a solid night. Stoked. Even on the main event. Yeah, I got an eighth, but I was right there with that group. I think it was a couple seconds ahead of me, and I was very respectful to the guys that are in the points. I was kind of giving it to them a little bit, and then whenever I did that, two guys got me and I was like, all right, regroup. Had Ken Roczen on me. I’m like, "All right, it’s kind of a big deal here.' [Laughs] He kind of came over a bit and I had the inside and I was like, 'I’m holding him up. Let him go.' So, I checked him a bit there. He got me. But, just stoked on the whole day, really.
That’s what we talked about a little bit yesterday during press day. For you being able to be here, you’re just thankful. What’s it like when you’re lining up against these guys? It’s not like, 'I’m watching them. I’ve got to go race against these guys.' What’s your mindset throughout the whole day? Being thankful but you want to learn and take it all in. How is it tough to manage all of those emotions at once?
It’s a lot. I’ve struggled with that my whole career, so to do that at the highest level kind of shows where I’m at in my career, really, the 250 side. I think I proved a lot just in those first two rounds and it showed tonight and I stayed in my zone, not get out of it, be okay with where I was. I think it was the second timed qualifying, I started a lap behind [Eli] Tomac and I closed in on him. I’m like, 'Holy shit. I should not be doing this right now.' Then he checked up. I’m like, 'All right. My lap is actually pretty good. What do I do here?' Just cool. Super cool. Coop [Cooper Webb] in the heat race, did not expect that, but we’ll take it. I was pretty stoked. I kind of played it safe in that main. I just stuck to my lines. From lap one, I started jumping the whoops because I had a couple moments in there. Wasn’t fast, but I was consistent. Top ten for my first 450 main, I’m stoked on that.
Taking it back to qualifying, I know you said you kind of had limited time on it and stuff, and kind of working through that recovery process has been a little bit of a thing. Right off the bat, you came out in qualifying and you were pretty strong. Just the openness of the track or how were you able to find a flow real quick?
Man, I don't know. I was fast. I really down-played it just because I didn’t want people to have expectations for me, but I was really fast this week on it. When the team seen me on Wednesday, they were like, 'Dude, let’s go!' I was like, 'Okay, we’ll see where we’re at.' Let’s just go and learn. I only did one main event Wednesday afternoon. That was the first time I’ve done a 20-plus-one since I got hurt at A2. So, I was hurting there at the end of that one. So, I was like, 'It’s going to be a tough main event, so let’s keep it in my zone, keep my head on straight and be okay with getting passed and go from there.' After the heat race, I was like, 'Heck, we won tonight.' I was stoked on that. Just huge thanks to these guys for allowing me to do this and really leaving it up to me. It was my choice. I asked for it. Nate was okay with it, but really kind of had to sell it to the sponsors. We didn’t expect to get a heat win, so I might have to hit them with a 450 bonus on that one. [Laughs] Stoked on the whole day. Thanks to these guys.
You mentioned that heat race. You training with Webb during the week, is there going to be a little bit of shit-talking after you held him off there at the end? What’s that going to be like?
If that was a main event, it’s a different story. I was holding Coop up. Heat race, like screw that. He’s in the points and then there was a good gate for the main event, and I had pick two. So Tomac takes the gate I wanted, gate five. That was the one I holeshotted. The second-best gate was right next to him. Coop was looking at it. I’m liked, 'What do I do here?' I’m like, 'I have to take it.' I took it and then Coop is looking around at the other gates. I was like, 'Shit. I’m that guy right now. I’m going to ruin this main event for this guy.' Then he ends up, I think he holeshotted. He was pretty close to it. So, I’m glad I didn’t mess him up too bad, but we’re good buds so hopefully he’s okay with the heat race. Even AP [Aaron Plessinger], we kind of got together a little bit in the main event. I don’t think it was on purpose on either side, but just cool. I’ve been riding with these guys a lot and to have a battle with them, it was a lot of fun.
Like you said about that heat, you guys all had the fastest lap. You, Webb, and Sexton on the last lap. For you to hold those guys off again, it’s a heat race but still, that’s experience. So, maybe from now that helps down the road. Is there any chance we see you doing more of these, or is this the only one on a 450? Doing any outdoors maybe on a 450 at all or no?
I want to win a title and I’m not at that level yet on outdoors on a 450. I do really feel like I’m better on outdoors 450 than I am supercross. This was my sixth day on an actual supercross track on a 450. So, I definitely have a lot more learning. The plan honestly, what I told the guys is if I want to go racing, let’s go racing. So, if this week goes well, I’m going to ride the 450 a bit more and see where we’re at. But more than likely you’ll see me at Indy. Just trying to stay in my lane. I didn’t jump that three-three before the big triple, press or today. That was my thing, like, look, I’m going to be good where I can be good and I’m going to lose time there, that’s it. I’m not going to push my limits. I was getting crushed there. I see my segment times. Yeah, I qualified well. A sixteen-second segment. I was 1.8 seconds off in that one segment. So, it was like, come on. But just the risk to reward for me, I don’t trust the bike enough yet. I need more time on it. Just silly things I’m doing. I thought I was in third gear hitting the whoops all day. I was in second. Revved out to the max, endo'ing, which did not help anything. Riding in first gear a lot, which is new to me. I don’t touch first gear on my 250. Just a lot of new things, but I’m at that point in my career where I need to do it. Who knows if I would have had the opportunity again, so hopefully I did enough that Austria [higher ups] allows me to keep going. Made my first Daytona 450 Supercross, so we’ll take it. Stoked on that.
On Tuesday, Hampshire posted a few photos from the Daytona SX and then confirmed he is also in for this weekend’s Indianapolis Supercross.
“Couple more from Daytona! Let’s give it another go in INDY this weekend”