Today’s press day featured JGR/Toyota/Yamaha’s Josh Grant and Justin Brayton, as well as Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs/Honda’s Cole Seely, Christian Craig, and Jessy Nelson. Before the riders took to the track, we sat down to catch up with them and find out their thoughts on the season so far. Be sure to click through the pages below to get the scoop on all five riders. Also, don’t forget to check out the photo gallery on the final page.
What are your thoughts on how your season has gone so far?
I mean, what can I say? It's been up and down, but I'm still here riding, and I'm healthy. I've gotten a couple top-10 finishes. Last weekend sucked after getting in that first-turn pile-up and starting a lap down, so I just want to continue moving forward, and I'm feeling better on the bike. I told myself that I wasn't going to kill myself in the first couple of rounds. I just want to get through it, start building a base, and get back to where I'm comfortable riding again. I'm waiting to feel that click that will allow me to want to go up there and run in the top-five. That's where I feel like I should be.
With that being said, are you happy with where you're at now?
Yeah I am. I mean, dude, there are a lot of fast guys that are in the top-20. For me being in the top-10 in the first three weekends—then obviously having a bad weekend last weekend—I think is a good to start of the year, especially for me considering the shit I've been through in the last couple of years. It's been gnarly. I feel like it's a good start. It's not where I want to end up and be a 10th place guy, but it's good for now. I don't want to put too much expectation on myself to where I push it and end up on my head. A lot of these guys are going fast, but they're also eating shit [laughs]. I want to stay up, stay healthy, get through the first bit of the year, and then start doing it towards the end there.
What are your thoughts on the competition with how gnarly the top guys are in the 450 class?
It's crazy. The way that the points are with the 250 guys pointing out, and them having to move up to the premiere class pretty quick, it's putting the top riders out there. It's gnarly—there are a lot of good dudes. I think literally, the top-10 guys can win a race. We've seen it with [Justin] Barcia, Trey [Canard] is right there, Ryan [Villopoto], Davi [Millsaps]… All those guys can win a race. It's pretty gnarly to be up in that group.
You were at JGR a few years ago, but how would you say the bike compares to what it was back when you were on the team in 2010?
They've done a lot of work to it, but the hardest thing for me is that in 2010, I rode some outdoors, but I didn't really get to ride much Supercross on it. Before Supercross that year, I got hurt at Metty's [Brett Metcalfe] where I got a concussion and tore up my shoulder, so I didn't even race Supercross in 2010 on it, I just rode it in outdoors, and the bike was pretty good there. Then I switched to Honda and I rode Kawasaki after that. I don't really remember exactly how the JGR bike was, so it's hard to say that it is better now at certain things. It does, though, feel like they've done a lot of good stuff to it, so it's good.
Going into this weekend, what are your expectations?
I just want to get through the weekend, have some good laps, and feel comfortable. I know that if I feel comfortable, I'll do well. I just have to get a start and that's it. I feel that as long as I keep doing that and build a base, I'll be up there.
So like you said, you're just kind of waiting for that "click"?
Yeah, just that click that makes me want go, "Alright, I'm ready to go up and do it; I'm ready to battle." I don't have it yet. I'm not feeling like it's time to risk it yet, because we have 17 rounds of Supercross and we've only done four rounds. I don't really want to go kill myself to where I can't do something later. I'd rather just keep it going.
It's your first Supercross season. What are your thoughts on it?
It's been going kind of rough for me. I've had one good finish and some moments of brilliance, but I've kind of failed a couple times. These last two weekends, I've just been fighting being sick and trying to not make too many mistakes. I got pushed around a little in Oakland during the main, which kind of sucked, but I also got the heat race win and that was really cool. It was the first time for me, and it was really cool.
Did that heat race win help you to realize that you've arrived in the pro ranks and help boost your confidence a little?
I think it helped me to feel a little more at home. Coming from amateurs and being one of the top guys all the time and knowing I can win to the pros where everyone is fast, has been hard. I'm just doing the best I can.
What has been the biggest thing that you have had to overcome?
I'd say getting the rhythm sections down has been difficult. Supercross is so much more different than outdoors. It takes me a lot longer to get the courage to do the rhythm sections. I remember I did a couple Supercross or Arenacross races on 80s, and I was the first one to send everything and ate crap like three times. That kind of put a damper on me just going out and sending it off stuff. Now, I let other people do the jumps first and always try to follow people off stuff. I'm just a lot more cautious, because it only takes one mistake to screw up your whole season.
It's interesting to hear you say the rhythm sections were the toughest thing to overcome, because it seems kids coming up from amateurs say the whoops were the most intimidating.
For me, the whoops aren't a big deal. I'm not too scared of them unless they're chewed up. The rhythms are what scare me, especially when you really have to start sending it and time it perfectly. That's when it's hard to get the courage for it.
What are your expectations for this weekend at Anaheim?
I just really want to get a top-five—that would be really cool. I want to get some good points after coming back from being sick. Going to San Diego, I really want to get a podium. I want that so bad. That would really make it great.
How has the season been for you?
The season is going really well. I've only raced for a month now, and I'm getting a lot more comfortable. At A1 I was really nervous and tight, but I've loosened up a lot since then. Now at the last two rounds, I've led 21 laps out of 30. Having those laps led under my belt has been nice, and I feel a lot more comfortable leading a race now. I think that if the opportunity provides itself, I'll be able to win one now.
Are you trying to build your stamina and fitness up to where it was before you got hurt?
No, and I've been asked that a lot over the past two weeks, because obviously I fade at lap 11. But it's not really a fitness thing for me. It's more of a comfort thing for me. Anyone who has led a Supercross race before can tell you that it's pretty chaotic. It's really something that you have to build up to with comfort and experience. I experienced the same thing last year in Atlanta when I led the 450 main. I can do 20 laps on a 450 with the same lap times, no problem. But when you have the best guys in the world behind you, it gets a little bit more hectic. The same thing goes for the 250 class. It's the best guys out there. I just get a little nervous and tight, and I just need to remember why I'm out there.
What are your expectations for this weekend? Are you not going to be happy with anything short of a win?
Yeah, I mean I want to be on the podium and stay consistent. Obviously I want to win—that's my main goal every race. I just want to be on the podium and stay in the points chase. We're in second now—11 points out—so I feel like I'm in a really good position to take home the title this year.
When you got hurt last year, did you think that you would ever be in the championship chase again?
I knew I could be. It was tough last year, though, because I've never taken that much time off the bike before. Having to take three months off with no training, riding, or anything was pretty difficult to go through. I'm glad to be back now, but like I said, I'm just tight and nervous. I just need to loosen up again and remember how to win races.
You've won multiple times before…
I know, but the years before, I've raced Supercross, raced outdoors, done Monster Cup, and then gone into Supercross. I've never had a break from the racing schedule. I've never had to take whatever it was—seven months—off definitely took a toll on me.
What are your thoughts on the season so far?
I'm just learning something new every weekend. It's still new to me even though it's my third year in the pro class. I've been hurt every year, so I'm just trying to stay healthy, be consistent, and make it to every round. I was expecting to be inside the top-10 every round or inside the top-five battling with all the top guys. The first round I finished 12th, then 10th, then sixth, so I felt like I was getting better every weekend. Then Oakland came around and I ended up ninth. I don't know, it's just learning to get into the pace where everyone is just pushing each other around—I'm not used to that. I worked on a lot of intensity stuff this week, trying to just build up my quick laps. I did a lot of six-lap sprints rather than putting in the long motos. Hopefully it'll work this weekend.
You've been racing pro for a few seasons now in the 450 class outdoors, so how is the intensity level different than what you've been used to?
I think that it's the class, and in outdoors you sprint for a few laps then just get into a pace where you can back it off. I was also in the 450 class where a lot of the guys are smart and don't try to take you out. To go in with all these young guys that are hanging it out, jumping right next to you, cross-jumping, almost landing on you, I was almost scared at first. Even though I'm one of the bigger guys in the class, I've been getting bumped around. Like I said, I've been doing a lot of intensity stuff. I'll do a start then go straight into pounding out fast laps. I'll try different lines and not just get into one line like all the test tracks have. I've also been working on holding the inside line incase someone jumps in front of you. That's what I worked on this week and I'm not going to let anyone bump me around. I'll have to roadblock someone if I have to.
Are you pleased with how you've performed so far?
I haven't really been happy with any of the rounds except for my sixth place. That was probably the only one that I smiled afterwards. I was happy with how I rode and I was even sick at the time too. The whole day was a mess, and I was just putting in a couple laps to qualify then it went good in the main. At Oakland I had a good start and was in like third or fourth, then I just got pushed around. I kind of just choked during the first half of the race, and in the second half I was playing catch up.
What are your thoughts on the season so far?
The season so far has been pretty rough. It started at Anaheim I practice with a crash where I sprained my thumb pretty bad. I've had to ride not gripping the bike with my hand since then. That was tough to start off with, and I just haven't really been able to get things rolling. I felt good last week in Oakland and ran third for the first half of the main, then I just hit Dungey's back wheel in a turn and crashed. I ended up 10th, so that was a bummer. I feel like we're making strives to be better. There is no reason why I shouldn't be on the podium and in the top-five every week. I'm just going to keep working and building to be better. Last year kind of started off the same way before I got the ball rolling.
You mentioned that you ran into Dungey's back tire last week. Was that more his fault or yours?
It was a little bit of both. I knew he was there and when he was passing me, I thought he would just go right by, but then I went to go down the berm to hit the triple, and he hesitated again to get in the rut. That little hesitation caused me to hit him. It was really no fault of his or mine—it was just a racing incident. That was definitely a bummer. It seemed like that was for sure going to be a top-five, which would have been a good momentum builder. My starts are awesome, though, so if I can get a couple more good starts this weekend, I think we can turn it all around.
You mentioned you sprained your thumb pretty badly, so have you been able to ride much during the week?
I didn't the first week, but I've just actually gotten used to riding with my thumb out towards the kill switch. I tried riding last week without the grip cut to allow my thumb to be out and not wrapped around the bar, and it's just too painful still. Hopefully in a couple weeks I can start riding normally again. But it doesn't affect me and it's not an excuse. I'm not going to go much faster without the grip cut and not riding like that.
Coming into the season what were your expectations, were you totally ready to go?
Yeah, I felt good. Being back with JGR has been awesome. They changed a lot of things on the bike and right when I got on it, I felt comfortable. I did some overseas races and had some great success over there. I felt like I was riding really well, but then had that crash during practice at Anaheim I. That's just the way it goes sometimes. I felt great and my expectations were to be up front in every main event and to win a main event. That's still what I expect, and I believe I can do it. I think starts are the main thing. We'll keep moving forward. I spent this last week in Charlotte, North Carolina, to do some testing, and it was really good to be back there to kind of re-group a little bit. I'm looking forward to this weekend for sure.
Having been on JGR before, how does the bike compare now to what you rode back then?
It's still really similar, because the Yamaha bike hasn't really changed a lot. The team, though, has done a lot of work. I think that when James [Stewart] was on the team, everyone stepped up and got things done for him. That's what's cool about the team: If you want something done, they'll get it done. Chassis-wise the bike is a lot skinnier. And with the tank and shrouds, everyone has made note of how much skinnier it is than stock. There are a lot of different parts to the motorcycle that have changed, but it's nothing major, and the bike didn't feel drastically different than when I rode it before. I enjoyed riding it before, and I'm enjoying it now.
PRESS DAY GALLERY