by Chris Kinman
Coming into the 2008 Monster Energy AMA Supercross West Coast Lites Series, Ryan Dungey was the hands-down favorite to win it all. With the help of the legendary Johnny O’Mara and year’s experience under his belt, the 2007 AMA Rookie of the Year was ready to stand on podium after podium. And the season started as we all thought; Dungey took the win at A1, placed second in Phoenix, then came back to Anahiem and snatched up another win. From there, however, the Rockstar/Makita/Suzuki pilot began to struggle. Now just 7 points down from points leader Jason Lawrence, Ryan Dungey is ready to reclaim the top podium spot in Seattle…but not before running a few races in the 450 class.
How do you feeling about where you stand currently in the West Coast Lites Series?
Well, obviously the last few races didn’t go so well. I struggled I bit, whether it was rushing myself or just trying too hard. The first three races went well. But the fourth race was muddy and I made a few mistakes; then it just got a little confusing from there. I wasn’t thinking really clear and wasn’t making good decisions. There were times when I should have been more patient. But really, it’s good overall. It’s not over yet, and I know I still have a good chance of winning. I am staying positive and maintaining a good attitude.
Has racing the 450 without any pressure or expectations been therapeutic?
Honestly, I didn’t feel that much pressure during this West Coast Series. If I did feel pressure, it was only the pressure I put on myself. I was just trying to get the job done; and I made a few mistakes doing it. These last couple rounds racing 450s has been good though. I am trying to make the best of my situation. I get to have some seat time on the big bike and get some experience. Sometimes you just need to have some change. I think it has been a great opportunity for me. Riding the 450 the last few rounds has put things into perspective and helped me realize I can ride like that in the Lites.
Have you planned which rounds you are going to race on the 450?
Not really. I am just taking it week by week, but I do think I want to race in Minneapolis. But then we will see after that.
Tell us about racing with the premier class; how is it lining up next to the likes of Kevin Windham and Chad Reed?
I have really enjoyed it. It’s been great getting to experience how the top guys race, and I like racing with more time and laps. Also, the 450s require everyone to ride more calmly. There is a lot of bike, with plenty of power, so there is no need to be so agro like the Lites guys. In the Lites, we tend to get a little wild on the track, but the 450s don’t need to be ridden quite as hard.
But most of all, it feels good to be on the same track with the guys you grow up watching on TV. I am definitely looking forward to the day I make the jump to the premier class and do the whole series.
It had to feel good placing inside the top 5 your first race ever on a 450.
Yeah, fourth place was great. I told my parents that it felt like a win. I didn’t win, but it sure felt like I did. I felt like I raced with patience and I didn’t make any mistakes. To me, that is a respectable finish. I was really happy. I felt my endurance helped with through that race. Johnny O’Mara and I have worked really hard and I don’t think I would have had the same results if we had not put in the effort. Sure, 20 laps is only five laps more than a Lites race, but when you are conditioned to do 15 laps on a 250F, 20 laps on a 450 can take its toll. I was definitely happy at the end of that night.
What is your mental game plan heading into the final west coast Lites round in Seattle?
I just want to be as prepared as possible. I know I will put in the time and the work, but I will also have time to think and clear my head. I just want to give everything I have. I don’t want to feel that I could have given more. I am going to stay focused and make good decisions; that’s all I can do.
Has J-Law’s trash-talking and mind games this season affected you?
No. I hear it here and there, that he is talking – even at Daytona I heard it. I just try to ignore it. I think it’s ridiculous, but I guess people do things differently. I can only respond on the racetrack. That’s where I take care of business. That’s just how he works. He is winning races, but it’s not because he is playing games, it’s because he is a good rider.