Overall round winners Tomac and Cooper on Saturday's victories.
Thunder Valley’s penultimate round of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross saw two familiar faces back atop the podiums, with defending 450MX champion Eli Tomac (Monster Energy Kawasaki) and 250MX threat Justin Cooper (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha) taking victory in Lakewood. Each of them detailed their day out with the media during the Zoom-based post-race press conference.
Eli, talk about your day. You said yourself on the podium, it felt good to have a day where you felt like yourself…. So what was different today for you?
Yeah, great day. Really, I don’t know, I’ve been kind of searching these last few races here and just not been able to move forward and today I was able to go forward. Obviously, I got a better start in moto two, which helped out a lot, everything just felt right – when things get going, they go right, so that’s what it was for me. The track developed well into the second moto, it was really smooth in the morning and then got pretty rough for moto two, more than I thought it was going to be. I thought the thing was going to be a massive freeway the whole day, but it turned into a nice race-track.
How important is it to get wins as the season wraps up? It’s been kind of a rough year for you, but how important is it to close out and win like this for you in the long run?
I needed something, I needed something. That’s what I’ve got in my head right now, is just try to get a win or two here to finish of the season because it’s been a weird year. That was my motivation today, right, let’s get another win before this thing’s over.
How was the track shaping up in the second moto? It looked like it got really slippery.
Yeah, the track just got more torn up. The uphill rollers section, I actually really liked that. It was really torn up, but if you could get it good and get your manual right and get your drive right, you could get that triple really clean and I was catching guys there. It just got a little bit gnarlier from moto one. Moto one actually, the beginning of the moto I thought the thing was way over-watered, where moto two wasn’t as wet that way, but the opposite, it was more torn up. So, like I said, it turned into a pretty good track later on.
You’re a Colorado guy, but you’re from a completely different part of the state. Being out there amongst the fans and everything today, anything you do people just freak out… What is it about being the Colorado native guy that you have a bigger turnout here than other places? There are other dudes that go race at even more home tracks that don’t get the fan support that you get.
[Laughs] I have no idea, maybe we’ve got some good moto enthusiasts up there. I wish we had more moto stuff down here in the southwest corner, but we really don’t, so yeah, the Denver people get fired up.
It must be like a mountain bike thing or something because even in that second moto, I don’t know if that’s something that you can hear out there on the track, but as you were making that charge you could hear it all the way through that valley.
Could be, yeah.
You’re mathematically still in the title hunt, but it obviously is going to be quite a long shot. Does this almost show how difficult it is to win three in a row? The fact that this year it hasn’t been a major problem, it’s just been tough.
Yeah, none of it’s easy and then, in the 450 Class, it’s just like you can’t ever make that mistake. That’s what happened to me in Supercross as well, I finally had a year where I never had the big mistake, so that’s it. You’ve gotta be the man, you’ve gotta be consistent.
So there’s not any major, particular thing that you can even point to here that’s been different these last two rounds, compared to the previous three, right?
I’ve changed a little bit on the motorcycle, I will say that. That’s why I was able to come forward this week – there was some changes there.
Justin, congratulations today. I know this has been building for you, you were coming off an injury and it took a while to kind of get back into your groove and get back to that speed that we’re accustomed to seeing, but it looks like it all came together today. Fastest qualifier, two solid starts and you were able to get the job done, so talk about what it feels like to be back on top of the podium.
Yeah, I actually didn’t really execute my first moto start the best, so that was kind of a bummer. I really sprinted the first couple laps to get myself in a position to get towed away with the leaders, my teammates, so pumped on that. I just settled a little bit too much in the middle of the first moto, so nothing I’m mad about, it was still a good ride. It was definitely good, I kind of took second in a way and tried to save as much energy as I could for the second moto to give it everything I had, because second is as good as first in the first one… Pretty much what my mindset was going into the rest of the day and it all panned out pretty good. It’s good to get the win with a round to go, I was kind of putting a lot of pressure on myself to execute it and it feels really good. It’s a lot of weight lifted off my shoulders, I think everyone around me expects this of me, so definitely good to put it behind me and go into next weekend to try do the same thing with a little bit less pressure.
What was it about this weekend, is it the track? You mentioned several times you really just like this track and you vibe well with it.
So, WW, this track and the next one, I think I won one and got second at both the other ones, so all three of these are good tracks for me to end up on. I mean, it has something to do with that, but we’re really starting to click and it’s too bad that it took this long. Again, just stoked to get the win here. This place has been good to me, I’ve been on the podium the first two years here and I got my first moto win here, so I definitely enjoy coming here. I don’t know what it was about the altitude that was so different – maybe because it’s motocross and not Supercross – but at Salt Lake I struggled so bad with the altitude and it didn’t really seem to phase me today. I felt pretty good and stoked on it.
How frustrating is it that you’re getting your pace now and the season is now ending?
[Laughs] Yeah, it’s frustrating, but at the same time it’s a relief. Like, I don’t like going out of the season with nothing to show, so better now than never, I guess. It is frustrating that it took this long and we have a shorter series this year, so definitely a little bummed on that, but would like to keep it going. These guys are riding great, we had a great battle in moto two – all I could hear was the number six behind me. I tried to capitalize on what I was doing wrong, because he got up next to me a couple times, he really pushed me to my limit in that second moto, so he was riding great and I was able to keep my pace through the end and that was key. Moving to next weekend, a little less pressure, cos I really wanted to get this overall win before the season’s over. Going into next weekend I’m going to give it my best.
After next week we have a pretty much undetermined off-season. Who knows when Supercross will pick back up and everything. What’s the plan for you and how much time will you take off before going right back into ’21 prep?
If I’m going to be honest, I think the plan for me is to get surgery right after Pala. I’ve had a pretty banged up shoulder. I had an AC joint separation, so that’s been bothering me and it’s at the point – I had a previous surgery on it – but it’s at the point where it’s just not feeling right, so I might just get that quickly fixed up. I feel like now is a good time to do it, since we don’t know what’s going on for next year yet. It shouldn’t be too long off the bike and we’ll get back into the swing of things when I feel healthy enough to do so, but as of right now, I think that’s going to be the plan.
I hadn’t really heard that much about that injury. Has this been something that has also held you back? Is this something from one of those pre-season crashes that kind of just dinged you up?
I had a crash in Houston 2018 in Supercross and that put me out for the rest of the Supercross season and I ended up doing the Pro Motocross championship that year. Obviously me and Jeremy [Martin] came together at that one round, I ended up getting hurt there too with my shoulder and it hasn’t been the same since, so I’m going to try and get it fixed up. It’s a bummer, but we all deal with this kind of stuff, so I hope to be back soon.
How big do you think this is, going into the off-season if the results were where they had been earlier this year and you went into the off-season, how much better do you think you’ll feel now that you’re ending at least on a positive note?
Yeah, that’s just the thing. It’s, like I said, there’s a lot of pressure on me to win and I put that all on my shoulders. To get this out of the way is pretty big for me, I didn’t really want to go into the off-season like, ‘ah, maybe I’m gonna set myself back even more’, but I feel like I’m at the top of my game now and I feel like I’m competitive, so this definitely makes the decision, I feel, a little bit easier.
You do well on this track usually, but did it seem different than previous years?
Yeah. I mean, we’re going to get a different race-track every year, but it was definitely a little bit more flat and choppy – it seemed like it had parts of the track good and other parts of the track were just flat. Nothing really would form as far as ruts, so it was a little bit of both. A couple of sections had some pretty gnarly ruts, so it was good and bad. They could have done a little bit better job ripping it, I feel, and all in all, it was a race-track and you show up to race. You race what you have and that’s what happened today.
And can you talk about fending off Jeremy? For a while there, he threw a lot at you, so what was it like from your perspective?
Yeah, we got side-by-side a couple times and I had a look over. I was just playing defensive at times, I guess, trying to find a better flow and trying to learn from him a little bit. I knew he had a little bit more pace than me early on, so it was kind of just riding my own laps and when he got next to me, I would have to be defensive and take the right lines. But, he was riding really well and it was a good battle – I think the fans were enjoying it.
You might be the first person to ever have their dog with them on the podium. We do have some more distance on the podium than usual, so that’s pretty unique, I don’t think anyone’s ever been able to do that before [laughs].
I figured, why not? I brought him with me, so to stick him up on the podium, I don’t think anyone’s ever done that before. It was cool, maybe not an every time thing, but since he was there and I got the win, I figured, why not?
You’re not too far off top three in the points and you’ve got a pretty good track record between Supercross and motocross, finishing inside the top three. Is that important to you?
Yeah, it’s important. I’ve been third the last two years in the motocross series, so why not make it another third [laughs]? But yeah, it’s good. I’ve been pretty far off the top three, so this definitely helped me out today, but all in all, it’s not a big focus for me. I’m just trying to do the best I can and that will come with it, but we got one more race and I wanna end the season strong, just going to give it everything I have again and try and make the best of it for this last round.