After five years with the JGR team and starting the 2018 season with the Autotrader/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing team, Phil Nicoletti has signed on to complete the Lucas Oil 450 MX Nationals aboard a Rockstar Energy Husqvarna. With both Dean Wilson and Jason Anderson out with injuries, FIlthy Phil was a great choice to pilot the factory Husqvarna FC450. We caught up with Nicoletti as he spun some laps at Milestone Mx Park yesterday.
Alright Phil, how did this new deal come about?
Well obviously, my deal with JGR was week to week in a way. I thought I maybe had six rounds there, but I wasn’t able to get an answer whether I could book a flight to Red Bud or not. At that point in time, I could kinda see the writing on the wall and knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep racing. And then the deal with Bobby Hewitt sprouted, as my agent Lucas and him linked up and made it happen. I don’t know if they were really looking to fill a spot if Jason Anderson didn’t get hurt, but with both of their guys out – they needed someone on a bike. I know there are a lot of privateers that are butt-hurt about it, but they have to understand that it helps to get the job done when you get up front. I'm really enjoying the bike. I haven’t really been able to test too much as I'm just feeling it out currently. Everything's really positive!
Are you starting off with Jason's setup or Dean's?
As of now, I'm riding on Dean's set-up. Although we are around the same weight, it's a little stiff for me because of his height and the leverage he has on the bike. He has a little more weight-transfer on me, but so far it's okay and I'm actually able to go out and feel the bike out. The bike is super stable and nimble, so I think I can do pretty damn well on it. Hopefully, everything works out (laughs).
You've been at JGR in one way or another for what seems like a really long time, was it a hard decision to make?
I'm not going to lie, it was hard to leave those guys. I really do consider a lot of those dudes over there as my family, and I've been there for five years. I live right next to the shop, and go to their weddings, birthday parties, and such – so it was hard. I went to say goodbye to the suspension and engine guys, and in all honesty that was pretty hard. Change is good sometimes, though; you need to go out and experience new things in life. I had a lot of success with those guys a JGR; from top fives, to a podium. I would never have thought that my three race Supercross and outdoor deal would have transpired into what it was, so I'm very grateful for my time over there.
You are obviously a North Carolina guy, would you relocate out here?
Hell no (laughs). No, everyone knows my feelings about this dump out here, so I'm just out here in SoCal to figure out a base setting on the bike and go from there. Hopefully, I'll go back to North Carolina soon, but I don’t think Florida is in the plans. I'll go back to Charlotte and hopefully be able to ride at Coop's and Club MX, honestly I think I could still go to JGR and ride – I don’t think it would be that big of a deal (laughs). To me, that's home.
What are your thoughts, can you get on this bike and pick up right where you left off?
For sure! I'll be right back where I left off and obviously, the goal is to try and improve. We were making progress on the Suzuki, but my time on the 450 wasn't much more than my time on the Husky now. Husqvarna has a really solid base setting, as the RM-Z didn’t have a whole lot to base off of. Next week, I'll do some more suspension testing and see where I'm at. The goal is to obviously break into the top five, and improve from there. Overall, the package is pretty unbelievable. I also know a lot of guys over at the Husky team, so it was an easy transition.
When compared to the Suzuki, every component of the bike is pretty much different – from the suspension to the chassis. Thoughts initially?
Yeah, I got on it and the chassis for me felt super stable. Which I was struggling with that a bit on the new Suzuki, but Husqvarna has done a lot of research and it's noticeable. The motor has great power, but it's mellow and smooth. However, I like a little more initial hit so I'm sure we will work on that. I'm an okay starter, so I will have to try and figure out the hydraulic clutch to get a good feel for it. For the most part, it's pretty dialed. I mean, every guy at this level could pretty much hop on any bike and still go fast. Each brand does have it's little details that you do or don't like, but I'm pretty happy.
I’ll bet you like that button…
Dude, I came down Mt. Saint Helen the other day and stalled it after dragging the brake too long, but I just hit the button and kept going. My lap time was only two seconds slower, where that sucker would have been 10 seconds slower if I had to kickstart the bike (laughs). The stress and physical energy that I save from not having to kick it is a life-saver.