Well, he did it again. Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac won his fourth Daytona SX with an amazing ride to catch and pass Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen. The speedway is somewhere where he definitely feels at home and it’s hard to see how anyone can beat him, especially as the track gets rougher and rougher. We caught up to Eli on the PulpMX Show to get his take on the race and some other things this past Monday night.
MX Vice: Eli. First half of the race, hanging out and doing alright. Everything was okay. Kenny is sprinting, and then you go into beast mode. Do you find some lines? What clicks in your brain to all of a sudden start dropping your lap times like you did?
Eli Tomac: Well, what was on my mind at that point was… The first part of the race is always a hot pace. It’s easy to blow yourself up early if you are going too hard early, especially at that track the way it gets and how bumpy it gets. Really it was just a patience game for me. Then I was like, “Alright, I need to get going if I’m going to get anywhere near Ken.” I was eye-balling him and he was sliding away. It ended up working out that way. My plan worked out – be patient and then make the attack. A couple of guys made mistakes. Most of my passes actually were on mistakes. The [Justin] Barcia pass was a tip-over. Cooper [Webb] kind of tucked his front in the sand – that’s just the way it went. The cards just kind of fell the right way for my position.
When Kenny is out there – he gets out to ten or twelve seconds whatever it was – are you stressing at that point? You still had to deal with [Jason] Anderson and Webb at that point. You dropped into the 1:10s where no one could go, and then you start catching him. I was like, “Is he waiting? Is he stressing?” It sounded like you were being patient. I was just wondering your mindset. Are you nervous about Kenny getting away? It sounds like you were.
If you would have asked me the question the first half of the race then yes, I was nervous. The second half? No. One of the two laps there I pulled big time out. I’m like, “I’m back in this thing.” I think I looked up at the timer and there was five and a half minutes left. I caught him within those next two laps or something. I was stressing. I’m like, “I’m supposed to win this race, Kenny is out front again and I’ve got to pass Jason, Cooper, Barcia and those guys. This is not good.” It worked out.
Did you find some better lines too? Did you stick to what was working for you? I didn’t really see any. I wasn’t there, so I just watched TV. It looked like you stuck to your lines. I do not know if it just was a matter of picking it up or if you found some better ones.
The only time I moved or changed lines was the whoops section. I started the main – if you are on the track – on the right side, and then I moved over to the left side. I was kind of riding the edge. That was more consistent for me. The option line would work if you started on the inside and ended on the outside, if you could get the triple clean out of the turn. That’s what was really hard about that. I missed that two or three times. If you miss it though, you’d give up more time.
Pumping up high there kind of sucked. You could just see your frustration when you were like, “Oh, crap. Now I got to jump up here, and then land…”
Yeah. Anyway, I got that clean a few times, and then I would start catching those guys. There weren’t tons of lines out there to make up huge time. I was kind of just riding, it felt like.
Not the greatest Daytona track we have seen. I know Ricky Carmichael is limited with some stuff he has got to do, as far as the logos and sprinklers and the room. There have certainly been better Daytona tracks. I know he tried to bring it old-school a little bit this year too. I wasn’t a fan. I talked to a lot of riders who weren’t fans. Did you like it, Eli?
I didn’t really have any thought. I didn’t really know how it was going to play out just walking the track. I thought the lines would form in a way that would allow for more passing, but it still kind of funnelled into the one or two lines. For the most part there wasn’t a whole lot of passing going on, without guys making the mistake and allowing the guy to get by. There wasn’t parts where you could just battle it out and then block pass a guy and square him up and do things like that. I’m with you guys there. It wasn’t the best Daytona layout.
We did the math. You got more points after round ten than you have ever had before. You got the red plate. You have got to be feeling good about your chances to get your first 450SX title, as far as [compared to] past performances.
Oh, yeah. Best position, right? Problem is I’m battling Ken Roczen. It’s just going to be who’s the guy that’s going to really flinch first, I feel like, between us two. We are riding so close to the same. I can’t let him get away like that again on the start, especially inside the tighter domes. That’s what I’m going to have to do. I’m going to have to be within the top guys, and I can’t let the guy run away at the start. Then I feel like I can definitely get it. If that’s not the case, then it’s going to be tough. It’s good to be in the position, but at the same time there is no looking at the end. We are only three points separated from each other so it kind of feels like round one still.
This year I feel like some starts have been money for you, and some haven’t. Inconsistent starts this year. Good and bad.
Yes. I’ve been trying to fix them, but you can only do so much.
The Barcia stuff is what everybody is talking about and what everybody likes. They caught you guys post-race talking to each other. I was a mechanic for a long time. I can’t tell you how many times I heard two riders telling each other they are going to kill each other after the race. Did it bother you at all that they kind of posted that stuff?
Between me and Justin, I don’t think it matters much. We left it there at that moment or that situation, and then the rest is just the popcorn for everyone else. I think our mindset between me and Justin… I don’t think that really changes it. We are both going to really believe what we think or whatever. I think what really fired up Justin in the situation there was my handlebar tagged him and it tagged his hand. We bumped, but my handlebar got into him and that’s what pissed him off.
I think it felt a lot like more of a contact than what it really was. Yeah, I did try to drive it in there and I was pissed that I got passed. When you are in the battle with guys – and you are in the train of guys – you are trying to get forward and then someone comes in on the inside of you. You are like, “I don’t want to be going backwards right now.” It was all kind of a rushed situation there. That’s what happens in the middle of the pack.
New teammate this year, Adam Cianciarulo. Obviously he is out right now. What’s that been like for you to have somebody that is on your level with speed, has won some heat races and set some fast times? Has that helped you a little bit, do you feel? Is it business as usual for you?
We are not in the truck together so we don’t really interact during race day, so I’m just kind of going along with business. At the test track it was like, “Man, he’s going good.” He definitely pushed me early on. I would say I was riding harder at the test track before A1 for sure. Then race day it’s just like business as usual. Getting second place five weeks in a row by like two hundredths in practice, that started getting annoying
It’s been cool to watch, for sure
Yeah. You know what’s really nice? Having another bike that’s your same colour. Even though motocross everyone is out for themselves, but it really does help having, I feel like, the same colour bike up fighting for that podium position.
You are in Colorado during the week so going to sea level this weekend, does the bike feel way different power delivery-wise after riding at elevation quite a bit? How does that go
It’s bad when I come back from California and then I start practicing here. I’m like, “Wow, it’s a lot slower.” Then I get used to it. It basically takes a week to get used to Colorado again, and then I’m fine bouncing back and forth. I will say it was worse on 250s – I really felt like I was down on power. I would go to sea level and be like, “Man. It’’ like a whole different motorcycle!” Thankfully on the 450 most of the time we can leave our gearing the same, so your wheel position is the same and you don’t really mess with the chassis that much.
Is there anything different for you personally this year, Eli?
I feel like on race day this year, I’m different. Mentally I feel more at ease. I don’t know what it is, whether it’s just age or the experience. I just feel more level-headed throughout the day. I can manage my emotions better. I feel like that’s been the difference. We are not to the end yet but after this halfway point… Heck yeah, I’ve been better for sure on race day.
Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: Race Kawasaki
Matthes Report: Daytona
Predictions from Steve Matthes!
The 2021 Monster Energy Supercross series riders and teams just had their first week off of the season this past and when the halfway flag gets thrown this Saturday night at Daytona, we’ll officially be halfway through the 450SX series.
Here are some random predictions on some random things in regard to both the 450SX and 250SX classes.
– It’s been a while since we saw anyone not named Cooper Webb or Ken Roczen win a 450SX main event but we may finally get someone different this weekend. Now, don’t hold me to that because the top two riders in the points have been so good. This is Daytona though. This is something different for the guys and we know how good Eli Tomac is down at the speedway. I’m not going to stamp a Tomac win but it says here he will be more competitive this weekend than he has been. Good vibes will be hanging in the air for ET and even if he does not get a start, he can make it work there. I predict a strong performance for Tomac this weekend with either a win or a runner-up ride.
– Honda’s Chase Sexton makes his return to racing after a crash in Houston while leading the 450SX main. The #23 will be a boost to the series and I think he’ll do something memorable this weekend. I do not know what exactly; maybe win a heat, lead some laps or podium the whole thing? I’m not sure but Sexton will make a splash. You watch!
– Jason Anderson has been getting progressively better since his awful opening round and subsequent finger injury. Now, how much his improvement had to do with the harder packed Orlando track is something we’ll see. I think he’s on the right track to be top five or on the podium at Daytona.
– Marvin Musquin is very good at Daytona – he’s had some hell of good rides there with a couple of 450SX podiums and a win in 250SX. It’s been a hot and cold season for Marv, but he’ll be hot this weekend.
– Dylan Ferrandis was great at Orlando 2 but had just an eleventh to show for it after he had to pull into the mechanics area for mid-race repairs. On this track, with more of an outdoor-ish feel to it, I think Ferrandis really shines. I predict a top five for the Yamaha rider. Yeah, I said it.
– I predict Justin Cooper wins the 250SX West main event. Boring, right? I know. This series is his to lose now with Jeremy Martin out with a shoulder injury. Cooper was not even at one hundred percent at Orlando 2 and he did that. Wait until he gets an extra week of prep for this one.
– I’m not sure what Star Yamaha team owner Bobby Regan said or did to rookies Nate Thrasher and Jarrett Frye in the time since Orlando 2 but I guarantee you it was not good. I’ve heard many stories about how Regan has talked to riders under the Star tent and with both kids underperforming at their first ever supercross, I predict they both come out with better performances than what we saw in Orlando. How much better? I do not know, just better.
– Garrett Marchbanks does not win this main event like he did last year but he does end up on the podium, which is a good result for him and his team.
– Troll Train will shine this weekend and redeem himself after KO’ing himself last race. That’s what “we” do.
– I think Martin Davalos will fall down at some point in this weekend’s main event. I hate being a negative Nancy here but he’s done it in every single race this year but one. I cannot see how Marty gets through a rough and tumble Daytona track where things change every lap without making a mistake but maybe this is exactly what Marty needs to stay on two wheels!
– I predict that Kyle Chisholm will continue to Chiz, because Chiz will always Chiz. In fact, he might have some extra Chiz happening because he is usually pretty solid at Daytona.
– This one is not tough to predict but Ken Roczen will continue his great season with another great ride. Hey man, I can’t be wrong if I just predict stuff like this!
Thanks for reading!
Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: Align With Us
Matthes on: Alex Nagy
Feel-good story from Orlando.
There are a lot of cool stories in the pits in the course of a year of Monster Energy Supercross but let’s face it, these days with COVID-19 still affecting everything, things still suck. Although the racing in Orlando was cool, in terms of some fans being there, it’s still not supercross, you know?
In Orlando, we had a cool story going on though. Privateer Alex Nagy made his first ever main event via his third in the 250SX LCQ. Nagy is a privateers privateer, you know? There are guys that are what you would call privateers but they are on teams and sometimes have expenses covered – some guys get everything paid for but not factory help at all and we still call them privateers. The word “privateer” has changed a ton over the years for sure, but there is one thing that’s not in doubt and that’s that Alex Nagy is a privateer.
Nagy had lined up for 132 races and had made 118 night shows, most of them in the 450SX class. The 250SX East series has been wrecked with injuries so that definitely helped Nagy’s case, but he’s also been riding very well. In Orlando, we saw history!
“I honestly haven’t even kept track of how many night shows or how long,” Nagy told us after the race. “My first year of racing supercross was in 2013, and I did that on a 250. Then every year after, I’ve been in the 450SX class. This is kind of like my first time back in the 250SX class. I’m glad I was finally able to capitalise on a good coast to ride and be able to put it in the main finally.”
Look, once he made the main the rest was gravy, right? Nagy rode pretty well in the 15-minute main event though to end up with a fifteenth on the night. That’s pretty decent for a guy who’s not used to racing that long. Nagy got six points toward ditching his three-digit number and getting one of those two digits that the cool guys get.
Surely Nagy was going to reward himself with some sort of extravagance for his efforts, right?
“I’m going to spend the night here. I spent the night here last night. I spent the night in the van the night before, and I’ll probably spend the night in the van tomorrow night too,” he told me. “It’s kind of funny because even in Indy I stayed in the van. I didn’t run it, didn’t use the heat in it and didn’t have a heater. I just had four sleeping bags and I just ground it out.
“Honestly, it sucked. It was cold waking up in the morning. Then when you are kind of cold and then you’ve got to put cold clothes on or cold gear on, that was rough. Like I always say, you don’t even really think about it. It’s just in the past.”
Nagy spending the time in freezing cold Indianapolis sleeping in his van for rounds four through six is next level. Hey, he loves the sport and it shows!
This is a part of the issue I have with the MXGP series. Yes, there are wildcards out there that some riders can get but it’s not easy to show up at an MXGP and race like it is for riders over here in SX and MX. That’s one of the things, in my opinion, that make motocross great. A guy can get a bike, modify it a bit and line up with the world’s greatest riders. Talent is the separator, not money spent. Nagy has spent time riding in the winter down in California but unfortunately not this year. His program is, how we say, pretty loose!
“I didn’t even have an off-season because I was in Illinois the whole time. All I did was ride. I would ride with a track that was half snow, and then two jumps of dirt. That was all I did. I wasn’t in California. This was the least prepared I’ve been going into a year, and I did the first round on a 450 and was able to get in on it which was sweet. I was stoked on that, to make the night show.
“Then I wanted to do a 250 the whole time, but I didn’t get the bike that I’m riding until the night that I left for Houston. I pretty much just had a brand new 250. I’m like, ‘Okay, I’ll race the 450 at the first one and then switch the suspension over.’ I broke the bike in in the parking lot. The first time it ever saw dirt was the practice at Houston 2, which is pretty funny.”
The thing about that is he broke the bike in around the pits and he hadn’t ridden the bike on a track until the first practice at Houston 2! The bike had stock bars, stock grips, a stock head pipe and suspension modified last year. Yet, somehow, five rounds later he’s in the main!
Nagy’s now going to race the much-more competitive 450SX class while the 250SX East series is on hold and I don’t like his chances to make the main there. However, Alex Nagy will be out there sleeping where he can and practicing where he can. Nagy’s enjoying his life and now he’s got that main event on his record. We need more Alex Nagy’s in the pits.
Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: Align With Us
Matthes Report: Ken Roczen
A look at Ken Roczen’s triumphs.
It’s not too hard to imagine that, although Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen just grabbed his second win in a row in the 2021 Monster Energy Supercross series, he should actually have four wins. He passed Houston 1 winner Justin Barcia a couple of times in the first main of the year and, of course, we all know that lapper Dean Wilson cost him another win.
It’s not a stretch to imagine Roczen with four wins out of five races to start the season and his current points lead being even bigger, right? He has been amazing and on it right from the first round and it’s cool to see; having Roczen healthy, happy and fast in SX is a good thing for the sport.
One of the things I was wrong about, and boy there’s a lot, was Kenny’s adaption to the all-new 2021 Honda CRF450R. The bike barely shares anything with the 2020 model and I’ve seen plenty of riders and teams at the highest levels struggle to figure out new models. The most recent Kawasaki, for example, wasn’t easy for Eli Tomac and the Team Green guys to get a handle on right away. The 2009 Honda. The backwards-motor Yamaha – there could be a book written about trying to get that bike set-up and working right.
The point is that with data acquisition teams are able to get improvements done to the bike but it usually takes a year. Then of course parts and 2021 Honda 450 bikes themselves were late getting to the USA only adding to my thought that this might be a year where the team and Roczen are constantly learning. The fact that Tim Gajser was on it all last year in the MXGP’s probably helped a bit but SX is quite a bit different from MX as we all know.
We had Roczen on the PulpMX Show on Monday and I asked him about the bike.
“There’s always little things that could be better, but I think ultimately it comes down to the stock bike has to be good from the get-go to be able to start off and not have huge problems,” Roczen said. “Our previous bike was not quite like that – it was a very difficult bike to set up, especially for all different kinds of conditions. We are in a super good spot.
“My bike is very raceable, especially in the conditions that we have had. It’s been rough. It’s been rutty and tacky. I think it will just be that much better even when it gets a little bit more hard-packed. I think we have had the most difficult conditions. I think everybody would agree with that. We are just solid.”
Honda’s had former SX/MX winner Trey Canard aboard to help with the testing the last couple of years and there’s no doubt that he has been a huge help to the team as far as getting a base set-up down so that the team does not waste a lot of time with Roczen testing. He’s able to just focus on himself.
“I’ve said this a few times; this bike is not a revolutionary bike. Honda has done this in the past with big steps like the dual mufflers or the aluminium frame and, although this bike is different, it’s not so different from the previous model. We were never so far off with this bike; it was pretty good the first day we rode SX. We could race it like this. It gave us a good head start on things
The biggest thing for me is there is less rigidity in this frame. At the end of the mains when the ruts are choppy and bumpy, you have to be perfect. This bike makes a difference and the rider can sustain a hard effort. These guys are going fast the whole time. The power is also more usable in more ways.”
The new “thing” for the factory teams is having someone like Canard, or Ryan Morais at KTM, who is still a great rider, knows how a bike works and can eliminate some directions that the team wants to try. I’ve been there as a mechanic and spent some long days at the test track trying clamps, bearing races, cams, pistons etc. and trying to get through what works and what doesn’t. The riders themselves don’t really enjoy those days. The quicker you can get the testing over, the better. The riders can then focus on putting in laps and getting themselves ready for the season.
“I think the last three years, I’ve learned a lot. At first we would come up with something and he [Roczen] didn’t like it or he didn’t win. The wins for me as a test rider were hit and miss. I’ve gotten to know him better,” Canard says about specifically testing for Roczen.
Yeah, maybe I was off on my take of him figuring out a new bike or maybe Canard has been such a massive help that they have overcome those usual new bike blues. Either way, Roczen looks as good as ever here to start the series. I wondered if Canard himself was surprised at how good the #94 and the new Honda 450 look so far?
“I’m not surprised at how good he looks. The last year and a half, his health has been a struggle. Even the races he did win, it seemed to me he wasn’t happy with the way he rode. He came a long ways since we started SX – we started a bit late due to the nationals going longer. When he took that time off this past summer, I got a sense he would get things sorted and he did.”
That’s the understatement of 2021 so far.
Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: Align With Us
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