CATCHING UP WITH NICK PALUZZI
By Jordan Powell
Photos by Brendan Lutes
Heading into the 2011 Monster Energy Supercross season, Nick Paluzzi was not a household name. In his pro debut for the Muscle Milk/JGR/Yamaha team at Steel City last year, he earned an impressive seventh place overall in the highly competitive 450 class. However, his results in the last two National races weren’t enough to convince manufacturers that he was in need of a ride. Finally, with two weeks to go before Anaheim 1, Paluzzi was approached by Bobby Regan to ride for DNA Shred Stix/Star Racing/Yamaha. After coming off a broken wrist during the off-season, the Southern California native had only seven days to adapt to his new bike. Then last Saturday night at the Angel Stadium, the young rookie turned a lot of heads. With a second place heat finish, and a ninth place finish in the main, Nick proved that this is where he belongs…
How was Anaheim 1?
Anaheim 1 went really well, and I couldn’t have asked for anything better. We didn’t really go into it with high expectations just because of my wrist injury, but it turned out to be a really good race.
You raced as a pro for the last two rounds of the 2010 AMA Lucas Oil Outdoor Nationals, but were the nerves different when you raced under the bright lights at Anaheim?
I definitely had some butterflies in my stomach, that’s for sure. The whole day I was trying to stay calm and not let the nerves get the best of me, but when I walked through the tunnel and onto the track for the first time, it was kind of surreal. Everything from the fireworks show in the opening ceremonies, to the thousands of fans cheering everyone on during the races; this is something that I have dreamed about ever since I was a little kid. It’s something that’s kind of hard to explain, but it’s also something that I will always remember and carry with me. When I lined up for my very first heat race, I felt the nerves starting to kick in the most. When I looked out to the packed stadium, it’s something I’ve never seen when I was racing as an amateur. At times it was almost a little overwhelming with all of the noise coming from the crowd. I did my best to tune out the sound so that I could focus, and I think that it paid off.
Was it crazy lining up with guys like Josh Hansen, or was it crazier when you lined up with guys like Ryan Dungey at the last two Nationals?
It was pretty crazy in both classes. When I did the last two National races for Muscle Milk/JGR/Yamaha, I think that was craziest just because it was my first race as a pro. When I lined up with guys like Ryan Dungey and Kevin Windham, those are the guys that I grew up watching race. After that, though, those feelings did start to die down, and it was more about racing.
You said that since you were a little kid, your childhood dream was to race a Supercross race. Is it safe to say that’s why you started racing?
Yeah, definitely! The whole Supercross experience is something that I have always wanted to do. To finally be out there and doing it, I mean, it’s almost like a dream come true. I’m just going to try and do the best that I can, and we’ll see where that takes me.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that you were out for six weeks with a broken wrist. Prior to that, you were fresh out of the Amateur scene, and you only had about a month and a half of Supercross experience. Finally, a week before Supercross started you were released from the doctor and given a ride. How crazy was that for you to do as well as you did?
It’s definitely crazy, and I can’t thank the DNA Shred Stix/Star Racing/Yamaha team enough. Before I was even injured, I was having a hard time finding a ride. Things just weren’t working out. I was just trying to stay positive about everything, and at one point I was thinking as racing as a privateer. As things started to get closer to Anaheim 1 I got a call from Bobby Regan, and I guess the rest is, well, history. I really can’t thank them enough for the opportunity that they have given me. Bobby, Allan, Brad, and my mechanic Eric have helped me out so much. We only had about seven days of practice coming into A1. The whole team did a great job at getting the bike ready for me, and I feel really comfortable on it. We have a couple of things that we need to work on with my endurance, but things are just going to get better as the season progresses. As the series goes on, I think that we are all going to improve.
When you were injured, were you still able to train?
Yeah, when I was out for six weeks, I couldn’t do much. But with the help from my trainer, Charles Dow, I was able to do a lot of lower-body workouts. I was always in the gym doing a lot of cardio, core, and leg workouts, and I think that helped me out a lot. The only thing is, I wasn’t able to work out my upper body. So when I first started riding again, my cardio was pretty good, but since my upper body was kind of weak, my endurance wasn’t the best it could be. We’re working on that now, though, and I’m looking forward to making some more progress.
What are your expectations for Phoenix?
My expectations for Phoenix are to go into it with the same mindset that we had for Anaheim 1. I’m going to try and good starts again, and I want to be in the top 10 in the main event. I mean, starts are going to be key, and that’s my number one goal. Hopefully all goes well, and I could put in the same performance as I did at Anaheim 1.