When Team Tedder lines up for Monster Energy AMA Supercross in January, Justin Hill will be solo under the tent as older brother Josh will be taking some time off. Last year Justin took his “cushy” privateer ride to a third overall at the final round in Salt Lake City, Utah. And remind you, this was after he stepped away from racing at the end of 2020! Building on what he learned with the team in 2023 he hopes to carry that momentum into the first round in 2024. Our Matt Rice sat down with Justin during the preseason media days and got Justin’s take on last season, his off-season races, how he feels about the SuperMotocross World Championship (SMX), and more.
Racer X Online: All right. Let's talk about how did supercross go? Towards the end there last year you were getting some good finishes.
Justin Hill: Yeah, I mean, when it started out, I felt pretty sluggish, but I was just getting my feet wet. I mean, I took a long time off before starting out last year. So, for me, it was just like, “All right, I just got to start all my data collection over again and figure out the ins and outs of this,” because it's like you don't ever forget how to ride, but you definitely forget how to structure things. So ultimately, I just wanted to chip away at it and that's what I did. So, it was good. It turned out good. I was definitely happy with ending with good finishes. But at the same time, there's a lot of meat left on the bone as far as the validation of those finishes. I wanna do that with everybody on the gate. Which, it wasn't a bad thing for me, I mean, it's unfortunate we lost so many guys, but it wasn't a bad thing for me to kind of have a thinner crowd to work around, for my benefit of just getting back into the sport. But yeah, so as it turns out, I do have at least the ability to kinda follow a plan. So, I just wanna do the same thing. But, but obviously I would like to start out a little bit better. I wanna pretend like it's round six or seven, come Saturday [at Anaheim 1], because it took me a long time. It might not have looked like a long time, but it felt like a long time before I was up in the mix, you know. So, funny enough, some of my finishes that weren't quite as good at the end I felt better about because it's all about who you beat. Obviously, Salt Lake was great because me and Adam [Cianciarulo] had a great battle and me and AP [Aaron Plessinger] had a great battle and those guys with the kind of the win ability battling for those spots. So that felt good. But it was kind of just only us out there if that makes sense, when there's nine other guys that are equally that good, it's just different, just shakes down different. So, I need to focus on starts big time this year and make sure I'm able to speed check in with everybody early this year.
So, what did you get into during the off-season?
I just pretty much started building my house. I took some time off. I had a couple of concussions in a row, which I'm not a fan of. So, I pretty much said I need some time off. So, I took a little bit of time off the bike. So, I felt a little bit goofy in these last couple overseas races because I didn't have much bike time at all. But it was necessary. I really needed to let my noggin rest a little bit and I learned all that the hard way and I don’t plan on going back. There's a lot of really, really poor things that can happen to you if you don't listen to your better judgment on all that kind of thing. So, I just took some time off. I started building my house. I did some things I needed to do with the property out in Wyoming. And we did Hill Jam again this year, which was sick. We had a good time with it. It's a ton of work but as soon as everybody starts rolling in and the fun starts happening, it's like, “Oh, it's so worth it,” you know. We had some seriously sick talent for best whip this year. It felt like freaking X games. It was just nuts. We had a lot of sick riders. It gets bigger every year. We filmed Hill Brothers II right before that. With Axell [Hodges] and we had a super good time with that and PH [Phillip Hodges, Axell’s father] went in the bushes and stole the show. [Laughs] But yeah, it was really cool hanging with those guys because it's been a lot of years, I mean, I've been so busy doing other things. I haven't even really got to spend a whole lot of time with Ash and Axell and PH and those guys and they're the best, they're classic. So, that was nice to be doing that again and doing some projects with some friends. Yeah, actually turns out I did a lot. I was pretty busy, especially with the overseas races and what we're doing there because when it came down to it, we didn't really know how many we would do and it's hard to plan for. So, for me it was almost a blessing that we didn't do all of them because I would have been still rattled coming into one of them and that wouldn’t have been good. So, I think everything played out the way it should be. I'm not as many days on the bike and as far down the line as far as this kind of camp coming into the first race as I wanna be. But like I said, my plan is to move forward, if I have to kind of race that last 10 percent of conditioning in, I'm not afraid to do that, like it's gonna come. I'd like to go out and be a little better than I was last time, first round, of course. So, that's really my goal. That's all I'm looking for.
Talk about the team. What do you guys have going for the new season?
Well, we’re kind of a one man show now. Josh is gonna miss out on the primary bulk of the season anyway, with us and do some of the things that are on his list. So, it's just me man, carrying this deal. No, it's gonna be a lot of fun. Me and Dakota, we're on top of things. He's doing a great job with this, and I think we learned a ton about how each other works last year, especially as we started to improve at the end of the year, we really kind of logged some things in the old file system on what we did, right, and what we did wrong. And we're starting out this year way ahead. As far as all that goes, we've got most of our development out of the way we're obviously going to continue to work suspension with Ross and Yoshi at Enzo and they're awesome. It's nice to continue some of those relationships that we created, and we had a good time with, and we were like, “Okay, this is working, let's not, let's not shun this in the future.” And working again with Mitch with the motor stuff and other portions of the motorcycle and then Ross for suspension has been great. We've got a lot more little goodies on the bike too this year that we have kind of… I'm not a big… I don't just put something on the bike because it's pretty, I don't really do that. But we have a little bit more stuff on the bike that is pretty and does function well and work well. So, I like where we're at and I don't have as many days on the bike as I would like, but I feel really good. I like this new chassis a lot more. So, it's coming a lot more natural to me just positional. Like when I ride the thing, I don't feel like I need to force my body where it belongs. I feel like it just really happens. Hopefully, I feel that way when they build this track all wild and gnarly there. So that's gonna be the difference.
So, extended plan for next year: you've got supercross, plans for outdoors, SMX, the whole nine yards.
Yes, stateside is the plan. We talked about it and so far, what we're considering is doing the first three and the last three of motocross as well, so that we're ready for playoffs because that's for my money. So, there's a lot riding on doing well there. Especially with the single, double, triple point kind of options that they implemented, and it rides a lot on just making sure you're at peak at the end. So, that's what I planned to do last year. I was just talking to Sean Brennen [Senior PR Manager - Supercross] about this, and our promoters, and it's like none of us really knew, I feel like, what it was gonna look like, what it was gonna feel like. Now that we've done it one time, we all realize like, “Oh, that was great, they pulled that off, but this is what it looks like now.” So, for me, yeah, I'm excited, I'm just gonna focus on this and I really do prefer supercross. I do miss racing some of the motocross and especially the tracks that I like, so I'm in a really sick spot. I can pick what races I want to do, and I can kind of dictate what portion of this series I know that I'm gonna enjoy and just do that. So, this is cool, man. I keep saying this because it's funny because everybody keeps calling me a privateer and this and that. But it's like, “Dude, this is the cushiest deal, this is far from privateers.” Like I have to do so little. It's so much fun. So, yeah, that's really, it, we'll get through some motocrosses and be ready for the playoffs and are excited.