Honda HRC Red Bull KTM's Chase Sexton emerged victorious in a hellacious mud race in San Francisco on Saturday, and with it vaulted into the points lead in Monster Energy AMA Supercross. Yes, the long-time Honda man is now a race winner with his new team, on a KTM, and although this one took place in wild conditions, the SX Champion has reason to think his bike is ready to win in the dry, as well.
He spoke about it with the media after the race.
Chase Sexton, you’re on the podium through the first two rounds, I want to talk about a little about those struggles of switching teams and what it means to you to pick up this first win of the year here as the defending champ.
Chase Sexton: Yeah, I wouldn't say it was the best off season I've ever had. I definitely had some struggles. I was okay when I was in California, I went back to Florida and Kenny [Roczen, riding partner] would see it firsthand. I would have multiple days where I would just kind of not be able to ride and I was just really just uncomfortable getting used to a new bike. And I have to give a big shout out to the team. They have put so much effort and hard work into getting me back to where I need to be. And I was saying before this weekend, I'm like, man, I'm kind of bummed it's gonna be a mudder because the progress we made from last week to this week is pretty crazy and I felt like my normal self leading up into this race. So obviously, [good to] still get a win even in the mud. But yeah, I’ve just got to get a big shout out to the team. They put a huge effort in and are really willing to try anything to get me comfortable. And that's what I've been looking for.
Typically when you're leading mud races, they, they seem to drag on for a long time. So what was this one like from your perspective, just at the front of the pack trying to navigate the conditions but also with Eli behind you as well, kind of maintaining that pressure.
Yeah, leading the race in a mud situation is obviously where you want to be because you're not getting roosted. But it also seems like it lasts forever. The first couple of laps when I was by myself and I wasn't dealing with lapped traffic, it felt, not easy, but I had a good flow. I was able to hit my lines and then once we got into traffic being able to pick around those guys was key. So, yeah, I could hear Eli, I didn't really know how far behind me he was. It's really hard to look at the pit board when it's kind of far away and you're also in the mud. So I didn't really know where or how close he was. I could hear him and was just trying to hit my marks. It’s tough to not make a mistake out there. But I was fairly consistent every lap and was pretty happy with how consistent I was.
|La Moille, IL
|KTM 450 SX-F
|KTM 450 SX-F
You were pretty vocal in the last few weeks about how the motorcycle was coming into the season. When you get a result like this on a different track, you know, very, treacherous, does that give you a sense of relief that you have got that motorcycle exactly where you want it?
[Laughs] Hmmm. Yeah, today was very different. Obviously there's not much bike set up stuff you can do. You kind of just have to ride a ride around it and have a good balance and stay on two wheels. But for me, even last week after A1, I had a big weight lifted off my shoulders being on the podium. Obviously, I didn't ride good and I was pretty far behind Jett at the finish line, but to get that result…at one point I was like, “Man, we're gonna be lucky to be top 10.” So it was pretty some dark days in the off-season to have the team getting me comfortable. It's a completely different motorcycle. It feels nothing like what I was on before. Like I said before, I was kind of looking forward to a dry race because we did make some big changes with the forks this week. That was the part I was struggling with. We were really comfortable on Thursday. I had two of the best days I've had on a KTM and felt like I was even better than I was last year.
Can you just take us through that start again? You had a crazy jump and then also talk about that first turn because it looked like pretty sketchy and then there was a ton of carnage going on behind you.
The start was… honestly, it’s almost like a feeling that you have. It could sound stupid, but I thought it flinched and I honestly just went and I had a feeling that it was going to drop and it did. So, yeah, it was definitely a good start. I've done it a few times now, but you don't get away with them that many times. Came into the first turn and I don't know, I just hit like a really big soft spot coming in and I didn't really expect it and it almost threw me over the bars and then Kenny went around me. I didn't see what happened to him. Then he was just sitting there. I didn't know, I thought he was letting me by. [Laughs] He felt bad for me! [Laughs] I was lucky to get in the lead and from there I just kind of set sail.
Hey, when you were coming up on Jettson, did you realize that was him? And then when you make contact, what was going through your mind? Take us through that.
Well, I didn't really know who it was. I thought it was a Honda. And then like I saw I had a lapper in front of me and he went left and I was like, okay, he's gonna let me go by and then I saw Jett was in the rut, so I had to like wheelie up and over around his bike and was able to get around him without having to come in contact. That's just what these conditions bring. If you are a little bit uncomfortable or your balance is off, you can go from being really good to really bad and that's kind of what you see in mud races. You can either be really good or really off and it's just kind of how you feel that day.
Did it kind of spike your heart rate and kind of throw you off at all?
No I was pretty calm. Honestly, the whole race, like, even with little things with lappers or a little mistakes, I really feel like this year I've kind of grown as a racer. I've been pretty calm as far as my mistakes and I’ve been in a better mindset. So that one didn't really bother me and I was able to move around him and get her to the finish line.
You only had one qualifying session and then they changed the track quite a bit before the racing started. How hard is that to come out and race on the track you have very little experience with? And do you think the outcome would be the same if they had left the track?
To be honest, I love having one qualifying session. I tend to learn tracks fairly fast and I don't know if that's just something I was God given or what it is. Even yesterday, I was hoping for one [practice] and they ended up doing one. So I was happy with that. After the qualifying, I felt ready to go racing and they did make some track changes which I think are good for everybody because if they would have left it how it was, we would have been even more out of sorts out there. It would have been pretty bad, especially the whoops. The whoops would have been kind of gnarly if they left them.
Can you guys talk a little bit about the exhaustion you feel from a race like this? Obviously from the fans perspective, it looks like you guys use a lot of your legs. Is it as energy consuming as a dry race would be?
I would say it's hard because the bike gets heavy and you're always on edge and trying to keep the bike straight. So I say muscular wise, it may be, I wouldn't say harder than a dry race, but it's just different as far as cardio wise. Your heart rate is not very high. You're kind of just creeping around the track and trying to keep your bike straight. Muscle wise it's pretty difficult but it's difficult in your mind as well, not making mistakes and trying to stay in the moment. It's the biggest thing in a mud race.
As you say, you're very comfortable on the bike now, it looks like you'll be able to go toe to toe with Jett Ken and Eli and those guys from now on.
I didn't think we'd get here this fast. To be honest, I thought I was gonna really have to be patient and just try and work into a good position with the bike and I knew it was gonna take a lot of time. We were testing some big, big changes the week of Anaheim. The last the week before Anaheim, they got me pretty comfortable with the rear of the bike. I was pretty happy with it, but the bike wasn't complete yet. This week we did some big changes and I feel like we're getting really, really close to being very…we are good but there's always a little small stuff you can make. I think from here on out, I expect myself to battle with the whoever's out there. Honestly, it could be a different podium every week. You can't really single out a person. It's gonna be a brawl and I'm here for it and definitely think I'm in the right head space and position to battle for wins for the rest of the season.