Main event winners Anderson and Forkner recall 15th round.
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jason Anderson kept his title hopes alive for another week as he claimed his fifth 450SX victory in the 2022 Monster Energy Supercross Championship at Foxborough, as Austin Forkner returned to the top step in 250SX East after overcoming multiple setbacks in the past two years. Both riders were available to the media following the race for this Debrief feature.
Jason, that start of the 450 main was perfect. You and Eli were both up there together. You’ve got Cooper Webb, the defending champ too. What was going through your mind on that opening lap, knowing that the guy you needed to beat was right there?
Those opening laps were crazy, I felt like I had the start for a little bit, and then I got pushed out. It’s two of the past champions and it was crazy. Obviously, Eli is in front of me and he’s kind of the guy that I’ve got to beat. For me, realistically I just want to win races. That’s all I can do. That’s all I can do to extend this thing longer, stop it from happening. At the end of the day, it’s going to be tough to have anything happen and win this thing. But for me, just winning races was awesome, the battle was cool in the beginning, but man, that track was pretty gnarly.
Early in the race, Eli looked aggressive on Cooper, like he was trying to make the move, didn’t get it. Then you made a pretty aggressive move. No contact, but he stalls. What was that like for you? Was that an opportunity that you saw and you wanted it then? Or were you willing to pace yourself through this thing?
Yeah, those first few laps are a little bit crazy. I think it’s just chaotic and you’re trying to pass each other. Especially when you have Cooper up front. He’s a good rider and he’s kind of a tough one to pass. He’s also some days really fast. Luckily, he was giving Eli some fits and I was able to sneak in there and zap Eli. I honestly didn’t know he stalled it. It was tough because when you’re in the beginning and Eli is trying to square up some of the corners and stuff like that, some of the guys come from behind and they kind of catch you by surprise. I think I kind of caught Eli by surprise. I was able to get by him and get out front pretty quick.
That rhythm lane you pulled out the two, three, three, three, four. Did you just do it in the main? Did you have it in your back pocket? Did you eye that up at all during the day and be like, I’m going to save it? Take us through that.
I think most of us in practice hit it a few times, but just the way that the track wore down and stuff like that made it really tough to have it be ideal to hit every lap. In the main event I hit it maybe two times or so. I was just trying to figure out if it was faster, but I don’t think it was very ideal to hit it every lap. It’s tough the way this track broke down because underneath some of those little dust pockets, you didn’t know how bad the kickers were or anything like that. So, you were trying to avoid that. That’s what I was trying to do those first couple laps, see if I could do a rhythm that was off of what everyone else was doing, and then I could stay maybe somewhat in the smoother part of the track. But it just wasn’t ideal for the whole time.
Two wins, two weeks in a row. The big difference between this week to last week is just the size of the track. How did that translate for you this week to go from something as big as Atlanta last week to something as tight as the stadium was today?
It’s two completely different tracks. Honestly, this one, I really like Atlanta and I feel very, very comfortable riding a style track like that. Coming into this weekend, obviously we’ve been racing traditional stadiums and stuff like that, but I’m not as comfortable sometimes in these tracks that break down and stuff like that. I feel like I’m more of a west coast guy when it gets really dry, slick, kind of like Anaheim or something like that. Luckily all our work that we’ve been doing, the bike feels really good and I’ve been feeling as comfortable as can be. I don’t think anyone was fully comfortable out there. I feel better than I ever have on these style of tracks. When they break down, I feel more in control than I have been in past years.
You now officially have more wins than you did even in your championship season. I know you’re disappointed that you’re not tighter in the championship hunt coming down, but lots of positives this year to take away.
Yeah, it’s the most wins I’ve had in a season. I feel like it’s the most laps I’ve ever led in a season. Even when I won my championship, I didn’t really lead a lot of laps. I won some races. To be honest, for me, winning these races and getting these podiums is surreal for me. After the little dry spell I’ve had the last few years, it’s refreshing and it’s giving me that second wind. I’m thankful for it, but at the same time I’ve got to stay on my toes because these guys are really good that I’m racing against. They’re not going to make it easy on me, obviously, and I want to keep my success going, so I’ve got to keep on my toes.
You said it was refreshing. What do you think you did to be there tonight, compared to previous years?
I’m enjoying it, I’m working hard. I made some switches up in my program. I live back home in New Mexico now. That’s different. I don’t do the whole Florida thing anymore. I’m just kind of doing it the way I want to do it. Honestly, it’s kind of nerve-racking because Kawasaki signed me and I’m switching up so much that I don’t know if it’s going to be a success. For me, it’s cool to be able to do what I want, work hard, have the trust from the team. As for my life, I’m really enjoying it. I’m happy right now, so I think that’s all a recipe for success. That’s what I think. I’m enjoying myself and I’m going to try and ride this wave for as long as I can.
How has Kawasaki been on those decisions, letting you go where you want to go? Have they been pretty cool about it?
I go there and I’ve won two races, so I don’t think they’re too bummed on it right now! [laughs] I’m sure if I didn’t win these races they’d be like, get back to California. So, I don’t know! It’s working right now. At the end of the day, they invest a lot of money into me, so it’s kind of a risk for them to let me go there. But I’ve been enjoying it. It’s a little bit more mellow.
Next couple of rounds we’ve got a bit of altitude, we’ve seen in the past that you tend to struggle with that. Salt Lake City, Lakewood, anything like that. What are the preparations you’ve got coming into this? Is there anything different this year to try and deal with it?
Where I live at in New Mexico my home is at 8,000 feet. That’s where I live right now, so it’s not too much different compared to what I train on every day. That’s kind of a big reason why I wanted to do that, and I think it benefits me in the long run. So, that’s kind of a big reason for the move I made.
In the summer, when the rumours first surfaced about you switching teams, there were some concerns or questions about a new team and how you may perform. Were you aware of any of those concerns, or questions from the media, fans, or the industry that you would have a difficult time? Meanwhile, you are incredibly competitive and performing incredibly well this season. I’m just curious if you were aware of those concerns that were facing you or people having concerns or questions about your performance this year on a new team?
Yeah, 100 percent. I scoped Instagram comments so I know what’s going on. Yeah I guess everyone thought I was a gamble or a liability, but it seems like it has worked out so far and hopefully we will keep it going.
With you taking your training to New Mexico, the dirt seemed dry tonight, do you feel like you prevail when the track seems to have more conditions that are dry compared to wet conditions?
The dirt was dry tonight, but it still had like these soft little pockets to where it broke down more than say a west coast track would. West coast, say you go to Phoenix or something like that, the form of the track doesn’t really change much. It’s more you’re riding on top of it. Here there were like these little, soft pockets to where it broke down. So, it was quite a bit different. I feel like I am really good on dry and hard-pack tracks. Trying to switch it up and be good on all of it.
You’ve had a few dry years since your supercross championship. Boom, this year, five wins. What has made the biggest difference? Is it a combination of things? Is it the new team, new trainer, married life?
All of the above. I feel like my life is good, I needed a change and I feel refreshed. It’s tough whenever you go through those years. It’s not like I didn’t like racing or anything, I just wasn’t having the most fun with the whole program and stuff like that. So, for me, I needed a change. To be honest, going into this year, personally I didn’t know if I was damaged goods or not. So, even though people don’t like to say it and you like to say you believe in yourself, you also have those doubts. But I knew if I put in the hard work and I worked really hard, and I knew what that looked like because I’ve had success in years past. I knew what that looked like. So, I put my head down and I just looked at each day as a new day and just tried my hardest and I knew that trying my hardest would hopefully get me here. It’s been pretty dang cool. I like it. I want to keep it going. I’m enjoying the team. I’m enjoying my home life. It’s all been really good for me. It’s good.
You missed this season. You had the injury. I know your approach was a lot different this year and just the way you are going about things. As bad as that may feel on that end, how good does it feel to be able to come back and not only have that great heat race last week and show that speed, but get this main event win and kind of remind yourself of who you are? I have to imagine there are some positive feelings with that.
Yeah, there is. It’s been two years since I’ve won a supercross now, so that did feel really good. I knew that I would come back, and my goal was still being one of the top guys. I didn’t want to take any steps back. Definitely after even just qualifying last weekend in Atlanta, I was like, ‘I’m right there, my speed is good.’ Then the heat race went well. The main didn’t go that great, but still I was one of the top guys, basically. So I knew I was going to be good. It feels good just to get another win in general, it’s been like I said a few years now, and good to finish the season strong, or be in the direction to finish it strong after coming off injury. It feels good for sure.
We were watching that race and Pierce [Brown] and RJ [Hampshire] up front. You and Jett are coming through the field. It was a really good race, fun for us. What is it like for you being in that mode and being in that environment with the crowd cheering and knowing that cameras are on and you guys are putting on a show? What is it like to be on that side of it, while we are watching?
It’s cool, it’s awesome. That’s what I’ve missed so much, being hurt and stuff over the past few years, is just that. Whether I’m winning, whether I’m getting a podium, whether I’m getting fifth, just being on the track racing with these guys is something that I’ve missed being injured. So, that’s what’s cool, is being in the mix. It makes it even cooler being in the mix, like I was tonight. Racing is awesome. That’s what we get paid to do.
I’ve talked to Mitch [Payton] a lot this year. You’re one of the stars of the team. You won. You had a great race today. Does it feel some relief for you and obviously for Mitch too? He’s been very upset after the races sometimes.
Yeah, for sure. He even said when we were watching film this week. Obviously, as the team owner you want your guys to win every race, but he was like, ‘guys, we need another win to end this season.’ I mean, obviously, I wanted that too. It’s not like he’s been stressing it on me, I guess, but he was just like, ‘guys, we’ve only got a couple more races. Let’s try to get one.’ I’m like, ‘I know. I’m right there with you.’
You had a real battle there with Jett for a while. Just take me through that. You were actually able to get back away, then he came back on you. Did you know that was him there? What was that battle like?
Yeah, I knew that we were coming through the pack kind of together. I got hung up behind [Kyle] Chisholm for kind of a couple laps there, and then as soon as I got him, I was hoping that I would break away. I think I did for a little bit and then he reeled me in. We battled a little bit. He squared me up, and then I went off the track. Then I got him back in the next turn. We kind of had a battle right there for a little bit, then it was kind of like whenever RJ went down, I was like, ‘I need to go. If I got a chance at this, I’ve got to go.’ Then I got him, and then I didn’t really hear Jett being that close until the last lap again. I was like, ‘all right, last lap, let’s go.’ I knew he would be fast in the whoops, too, so I kind of just sent it the last lap in the whoops and got a little sketchy, but nothing too bad. It was a good battle, I wanted a battle like that all season. Good battles like that are something being hurt a lot I’ve missed.
For you to be in the heat race and hit the deck like that on the last lap, to come back to where you are, after some of the setbacks that you’ve had in the last few years, where was your head at going into the main event?
No, it was actually a good feeling to hit the ground and not break! [laughs] That was actually what Robbie told me. He was like, you never want to crash, but just as much as I’ve been hurt, it’s sometimes nice to fall and be able to get back up, just to be like, I can crash hard and I can get back up and finish the race. In a weird way, it gave me I guess maybe a little bit of confidence. I don’t know, it was a weird thing and you never want to crash. After, I had G work on me and just kind of straighten my back out a little bit, that was the only thing because I just kind of smacked into that berm. Other than that, if anything it just fired me up for the main. Whenever you have a bad heat race, that always fires you up for the main. Not that it was bad, I was riding good, just what happened.
For you and Jett both, that last lap was kind of what we have been waiting for all year. For both of you, how did that feel in the moment? Were you aware of the opportunity and was it like, this is my chance to go at it with this guy finally? Did either of you feel that way, or was it just another lap?
It was good battling. That’s always fun. As a rider, sometimes you’re like, ‘let’s just holeshot, let’s get out front and let’s cruise,’ but then there’s also the side of you that likes to battle. With the start that I had, I knew that I was going to be battling with guys and passing guys. So, it was good, it was good racing. We really all rode clean races. There was no crazy drama. Just good racing.
Considering the history with what happened with you and Jett this year, it seems like you guys had a genuine moment there after the race. Could you kind of share what Jett said to you and what you shared after the race?
He said good job for winning the race and I said good job for winning the championship. We were just like, wish we could have done that more this season, it was good racing. That’s pretty much what we said, it was pretty much as simple as, hey, good job. Let’s hopefully do that again in the last couple of races. Depending on if I’m in the 250 class or what happens next year, let’s do it next year.