Features 1 Feb 2021

Debrief: 2021 Supercross Rd4 Indianapolis

Main event winners Roczen and Nichols recall fourth round in Indianapolis.

An action packed round four of the 2021 Monster Energy Supercross season is in the books. Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha’s Colt Nichols took a wire-to-wire 250SX East victory while chaos ensued behind him and Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen battled for the win in 450SX. Both riders were available to the media following the race for this Debrief interview feature.


Image: Octopi Media

Kenny, you mentioned on the podium, you went off the track, you went around the berm, you kind of noticed that Eli [Tomac] was there. It looked like you were in the position to scoot in front of him. Was it a tough decision in that moment to kind of back off and let him go? I have to imagine you’re dealing with a little bit of frustration by going off the track, but I just want to know about that moment, deciding to lay up, get behind him and ultimately make what I think was the right decision. 

Yeah, I was trying to decide in the air cause I cross rutted and jumped off to the left. I was trying to decide in the air – if I land, if I could still tuck in and stay on track, but I would’ve hit the tough block. There was just no way. So I went all the way around and obviously I missed a whole wall and by doing that. I felt like it was wrong, staying in front of Eli, cause I clearly made a mistake. So I let him by on the straight away there and tucked in behind him. And then, you know, capitalized a couple of turns later. I knew that the AMA would have a close eye on that one. So I feel like it was just the right choice to just, you know, let him by and kind of settle and then just,

Was there some urgency to get them back right away? Because it didn’t seem like you wanted to wait very long.

Honestly I was trust trying to stay there and with him because I didn’t just want to let this be the decider. And I just found an opening and took it without like planning it by any means. But it just was a really quick, short decision.

I’m sure you’re bummed the way the last two races went with the penalty and then losing [while] leading the last lap. Did you have a little extra motivation to try to get this one done?

I’ve just had huge motivation to win in general. It had really nothing to do with what happened the last couple rounds, I honestly forgot about it. Like I said, I’ve been talking about it over and over, especially as it got hyped up even more and more and more. Which was to be expected just because it was a big deal, but I was over it way before everybody else stopped talking about it pretty much. So I just wanted to win. That’s all I wanted.

Do you feel that the success you’ve had early season, you have a new bike and you took outdoors off, did you know you were going to come in this ready and this solid? Did you feel that way or is this actually a little boost in confidence, how strong you’ve been these four rounds?

Um, neither. [laughs] I’m just trying to, I don’t know. I’m just trying my hardest and I’m trying not to, or I’m definitely not getting on the thing of like, ‘Hey, I’ve gotten two twos. Like I’m the guy now.’ I don’t really want to have my mind work that way at all. And coming into this, no, I didn’t really know what to expect, because I changed everything, you know, within me and in my program. I shouldn’t say everything but a lot and I just kind of wanted to see where I was at and honestly enjoy the process. Put the ego aside and just kind of like rebuilt my whole, I don’t know, not image, but like just rebuild my career a little bit, you know? So that’s, that’s what I did.

When you were behind Adam there and you know Eli is right there behind you too, what are those emotions like in those first 10 minutes of the moto? Especially because you went for a few pass attempts and knew, ‘I have to make this happen now. Otherwise I’m going to come under attack myself.’ 

Yeah. That was the case. So obviously after he like crashed it was Adam and I in front. And for me, I made a couple of attempts and after that, I was kind of just a little bit further back and not really in striking distance. But every time I was on his wheel, we were kind of yo-yoing a little bit and then I really heard Eli coming. And then I had to start riding defensive a little bit, which can just really hurt you. First off because the front guy, you know, can take better lines and you’re losing touch a little bit. But there were just a couple of spots that, you know, the way the start was laid out, they were just really open turns and if you huck it really tight, you’re just are not as good as if Eli for example, set this up and he goes wide and cuts down Like I saw him [do] next to me a couple of times. I just really needed to get by Adam and I wasn’t really sure where I was going to make it happen. Then I just dove to the inside and finally steered clear of that. But it was, it was a good battle, obviously with all three of us it was a little hectic there for a second, but it was fun.

When you went off the track there and you had to go around the berm, what was it like? You went full of adventure bike on us. Were you wondering what was back there, if there was any way for you to even go at that point?

Yeah. First off in the air – it was kind of funny, how quick the mind works sometimes, because the air was I was like ‘dang it.’ You know what I mean? Cause I knew I was going way too far left and then I also thought, ‘Hey, I can break and make it to the inside. But as soon as I got close to the landing, I’m like, ‘there’s no way.’ So I literally decided to, just instead of catching a tuff block or whatever – and also Eli’s kind of jumping – so who knows we may have collided as well. Then yeah, I went behind the berm and was just hoping for an opening somewhere to make it back in without losing a lot of time. But obviously then I just had to go around the whole wall. And then I was on the start straight, and then that’s where I have to let Eli by, because I clearly was off the track big time. I feel like it would have not been good to jump back in there and stay right in front of him. I just feel like that would’ve not been the right thing to do.

We saw a lot of different riders make different mistakes tonight. How do you think the track’s going to develop over the next couple of [rounds] this coming Tuesday and then Saturday?

Yeah, it’ll be interesting. I just thought it was an odd build. You know, we have these two big doubles in between there. I think the day started off kind of weird just because the free practice was a shit show, I thought. We’re doing a few laps and red flag and then to start this and start that – it was just weird. When I originally saw the dirt, when we got our tests done, I’m like, ‘Oh, it looks sick.’ And it looked a lot more loose. But then it got really rutted and I think that rhythm section, it was built really tight and steep.

I thought the track was pretty gnarly with how many ruts were developing, even on the big doubles and stuff. I crossed rutted of there obviously and jumped off the track. It’ll be interesting to see. They also watered it, I think before the first practice this morning. So it’ll be interesting to see how it will develop in this next race and how the build will be as well if they’re building it as tight again. In general the track was super basic, but just the ruts made it gnarly.

Did you agree with the changes that were made for the opening lap? How was that?

Yeah, I think for what it was obviously them not wanting us to loop around and hit the two big doubles. This was the best option we could have possibly had. For sure. Especially on quick notice like that, you know, on a quick change like that.

Can you talk a little bit about your preparation from Houston to Indianapolis? Did you have any riding on the bike between Saturday and Indianapolis? What do you envision for this week for a riding and or a preparation for the next few races?

Going to be hard practicing in six inches of snow. So, I mean, I don’t think there’ll be anything going on here per se. Then between Houston and here, it wasn’t really that much time either. I mean, I left Wednesday night. So just kind of feel good days – stay good and fresh on the bike. Racing three times a week is a lot of stress on the body as well, but I do enjoy getting the three rounds, if you want to say out of the way. It’s kind of nice because we’re already down past round four and just a little amount of days.

We see you guys race all the time and the big emotion and the big thing that gets made about being a professional racer is how gnarly it is and how intense you guys are. But you guys don’t do this unless it’s fun. So how fun is it to be in a battle for position like you guys were tonight with two of the best riders in the world, your training partner and one guy that’s been your arch rival for so long?

No all over racing you don’t have that much to think about, you know what I mean? And, there’s something – for example, when I was sitting out for outdoors, as much as I needed that break, we’re so used to doing it our whole life – there’s just something about competing, you know, it’s 80% of our lives. Of course it’s, it’s still fun, otherwise I wouldn’t do it. Especially now having a family, it makes that whole thing even better. And honestly, I’ve just figured out a way again to just enjoy the process of trying to be my best and trying to win and doing all this stuff. Yeah, there’s, there’s something about it that makes us keep coming back. And like I said, at least for me, it’s kind of felt like a little bit of a new beginning. I mean, of course there’s  anxiety, if you want to call it that – but that’s the nature of competing, you know what I mean? That’s, I feel like why we do it, the adrenaline and you know, getting antsy and things like that. I just, I love that feeling. So now we’re doing it as a family, which makes that even sweeter.

Just going off sort of what you were just talking about, your first win as a dad. How was that? When you see your little fellow there at the end of the race, all that emotion with him being right there, run us through your emotion with that.

It was the greatest thing ever. I mean, obviously lately even, on that a couple of second places, my wife and my son weren’t able to come down there, but seeing them there as soon as I went down there – he’s just such a smiley bugger in general – but as soon as I was looking at him, he was just smiling and laughing all the time. It’s the best feeling ever. It really is hard to explain to somebody that doesn’t have kids. You know what I mean and it just gets better and better every single day I feel like. So now that this win’s in our bag was just a huge relief and just, I don’t even know what to say about it. It’s just, you know, it makes my heart smile. And even in between all the practices and the races and what not, we’re up in the semi here and just playing around and changing diapers in between the practices and it kind of just kind of eases everything up a little bit.


Image: Octopi Media

Colt, did you have any idea what was going on behind you? The last lap? I mean, I’m sure you heard the crowd but in that moment, on your last lap, when you’re focused on your victory, did you have any idea what was going on behind you with Christian [Craig] and Jett [Lawrence] in a battle?

Yeah, a little bit. I was able to kind of keep tabs on those guys, I kind of knew where everyone was. I was trying to manage the race from the front. And yeah, I kinda knew that Jett was coming. I could see him closing on Christian just a little bit at a time. I was able to just kind of sit back and watch at times when I could, and then I heard the crowd go really crazy, I think as I was going over the finish and unfortunately, yeah, they weren’t cheering for me, it was some drama behind me. But yeah that was wild. I haven’t really got to watch it yet, so I’ll go back and look at it. But, overall, yeah, it wasn’t bad. I stayed away from the drama, I got a good start and was able to kind of steer clear of all that.

And wire to wire – I mentioned on the podium,  you’ve been in battles pretty much nonstop since the season started it. How’s it feel to just get out front and have the track to yourself and do your own thing?

Yeah, kind of definitely made my life much easier, that’s for sure. The gate I picked was awesome. It was good, man. I got off to a really great start and was able to really just do my own thing. I knew Christian was behind me, I heard the Yamaha coming into some of the turns and that was comforting. You know, I knew he probably wasn’t going to anything too crazy. And I was able to just break away from a little bit, the first four or five laps. So once I got that gap, like I said, I was just kind of trying to manage a race from there, but yeah, it felt good to steer clear of the drama and be out front wire-to-wire.

I’m not sure [if you heard] after the heat race, Christian Craig said that one of your weaknesses is you can’t sprint at the beginning of the race. I think you’ve dispelled that rumor. Did you hear that? And what are your thoughts on that?

No, I didn’t hear that one. But I mean, Yeah, I mean, at times I’ve struggled to kind of get going a little bit, but whenever it’s come down to it, main event time, I tend to be able to take off pretty good. It’s just tough when you don’t start near that front, like one or two. And even at Houston 3, he was able to get a little bit of a gap, you know, around two seconds. In those first three laps, I kind of fumbled a little bit, but yeah, I cleaned that up tonight pretty well. I was happy with my first few laps. Usually yeah, I’m maybe a little nonchalant at first, but once you get out front, you can kind of try to break away and do your own thing. So I’m glad I was able to do that tonight.

You weren’t able to jump the finish line jump on the first lap of that heat race, but you were still able to catch Christian in the heat race. Did you know you had the speed the night to match him and to catch him and pass him if you had to?

Yeah, I always feel like I can, you know, as racers, you always would just want to be competitive and compete. I knew if I got somewhere near him, I’d just try to do what I could to try to make a pass. That heat race was good for me, I finally changed a few of the lines I was struggling with in practice, and I really struggled in practice today for some reason. So, once we went back to the truck and we watched film, I was able to really clean things up and come back and have a solid heat race. Yeah, it felt pretty good to run him down a little bit and try to just figure out what I could do if I needed to make passes in the main event. Luckily I didn’t have to do that, so yeah, it was nice. I got a good start and was able to steer clear of everything, so.

You own the red plate now, it as a convincing win. Was that your plan to come in and kind of take control of the series or were you just looking to let the day kind of come to you?

Yeah, it’s really just letting the day come to you. You know, you can’t really have much of a plan once the gate drops, you just never know what’s going to happen. I just wanted to put myself in a good position and, you know, luckily I was able do that tonight. By the time we left Indy I of course wanted to be able to have that, I didn’t know if that would happen tonight or not, I just wanted to maximize the opportunity and was able to sprint away and you know, now take over the points lead, which was nice. So yeah, I mean maybe a little earlier than we thought, but definitely just tried to maximize what I could tonight and it just happened to be a win. So that was cool.