It’s been a while since we last spoke with Zac Commans, and while at Pala Raceway this week we spotted a familiar sight, as he and his old buddy Adam Cianciarulo were spinning laps together in preparation for the upcoming outdoor nationals. After finishing up their 30 minute moto, we caught up with the Yellow Pages/Nuclear Blast/KTM rider to discuss his rookie year thus far after almost having to retire from racing for good after a serious head injury that he sustained at Freestone Raceway during his final year as an amateur.
Last time we spoke you had just gotten back on the bike after a very serious head injury that you sustained at Freestone Raceway as an amateur. Since then, you’ve lined up for your first professional Supercross series, So how is everything going for you so far?
Everything is going really well. Its safe to say that last time we spoke I never would’ve thought that things would have happened the way they have since then. I’m extremely grateful and very blessed for that. With that being said and looking back, I’m a little disappointed with how my rookie season went-which is greedy. My standards never once were lowered because of the injury, It was just a little more challenging to get there. Yeah, I am a little disappointed in my performance this season, as it’s not how I imagined it growing up. However, considering the injury and the fact that I’m able to ride and have fun is so bad ass. For that, I’m stoked! And to see what can transpire in just 12 months is crazy. When you step back and think about it, that’s not a very long time especially with the thoughts of never being able to ride again. Then to all of a sudden make my pro debut was a bit crazy for me with everything that had gone on. I was a little bit confined as far as my time frame, and I believe that is what led to some of my troubles being that I was only on the bike for four months before I actually started racing professionally. I realize now that probably wasn’t the best case scenario, but everything went okay for me.
You spent the last five years of your amateur career aboard Pro Circuit Kawasakis. Did you have any issues getting used to the KTMs?
The first two days on the KTM I felt very comfortable, but then once I got on a Supercross track I began to notice those little necessary changes that were needed, and after making those changes I felt that I could give about 80% immediately after. However, dialing in that last 20% took me a lot longer than it should have. They weren’t necessarily problems with the bike, they were just little adjustments to make me feel comfortable. I think it took so much longer than it should have because everything is so different on these bikes. With knowing the Kawis so well, I always had a pretty good idea as to how they would react with bumps and other obstacles that could potentially put a rider on the ground. I always knew exactly what to expect and where it was going. I spent so long setting up that suspension and chassis, so that’s why I knew the bike so well. Now with the KTM, it’s those small things that will sometimes catch me off guard. Around the time of Oakland Supercross is when I started to get really comfortable on the bike, and at Oakland there was rain so there was really no practice for us, as the first practice ended up being timed. There was no free-practice. That was the first time I had gotten to the track without worrying about getting comfortable with the bike. I just told myself to go fast right away, and it was then that I made it happen. Since then, I’ve become a huge fan of the KTM. These things have so much power in their stock form. Being on a relatively low budget team with very minimal work to the motor from the guys at Pro Circuit have made this thing comparable to the big dogs out there. I’ve holeshot in a couple races, so it’s obvious that I have a good enough engine to get it done.
Not long into the 2016 Supercross series, you unfortunately hit your head at Phoenix. Was that a scary one being that your head injury from Freestone was very serious?
I don’t think I would say it was really scary, but more frustrating than anything. It had been just a few days shy of a year from when I hit my head in Freestone, so yeah, it was a little frustrating. I actually remember everything because I remember the crash and I remember specifically hitting my head. I may have blacked out for a second or two, but that’s it. I remember getting up to see Doc Bodner, and the first thing I did was explain to him my head injury from Freestone just as a heads up. Everything actually went pretty smooth after that. I took five or six weeks off because I didn’t want to rush into anything. I was very open to the fact that if it wasn’t going to work then it wasn’t going to work, and by that I mean ride again. I went and saw the neurologist and he told me that since I waited long enough after my first head injury I was at no further risk of another head injury than I was before Freestone. Essentially I was a clean slate. It actually was a pretty minor deal. Obviously it’s never a good thing to be bouncing your noggin on the ground, and that’s where my frustration comes in. I really don’t want to be one of those guys that gets hurt consistently throughout their career. AC and I we’re talking about this the other day because it seems like certain injuries are repetitive for certain riders. The last thing I want is to be one of those guys that keeps hitting my head on the ground. I’m trying to end that stigma, and really I’ve only had those two concussions other than the one I had when I was really young. I don’t have a huge tally going on for injuries right now, and I’m really hoping that I can keep it exactly where it’s at right now. Nice and low! Everything with this second concussion went alright considering the situation. It was just more frustration on my own end. I guess I have to start putting my hands out when I crash. I think it’s that simple, too. For whatever reason I feel like I have to ride that thing into the ground (laughs).
We noticed you and your old buddy Adam Cianciarulo out there spinning laps together on the outdoor track. Is it cool to be riding again with the guy you grew up with?
Absolutely! Monday at Elsinore was actually our first day riding together in about 2 1/2 years, and growing up we rode together every single day. There was a lot of nostalgia in those 30 minute motos that we did the other day. These last couple days have been a lot of fun and it’s nice to have someone like him to chase. Come outdoors, he’s going to be fast, so it’s good for me to have a benchmark of that caliber to chase since I too just started riding again. I know where his speed is at, but I also know that he is still ramping things up right now. It’s always a good time riding with AC. You can hear us yelling and cheering each other on while we’re out there. Riding with him makes those long motos a lot more enjoyable.
So what are your plans for the rest of the year as far as outdoors and Vegas Supercross?
For us West Coast guys, we only have one round of Supercross left. As far as outdoors go, I’m planning on doing the first two rounds and potentially some Canadian Nationals if we can get that all set up. As far as personal goals, I want to keep bettering myself while staying safe on top of everything in the process. Going into my first round of Supercross this year, my goal was simply to progress. Knowing that I’ll be back out there again for Supercross next year I just want to keep progressing myself. As long as I keep steadily making progress, I know I’ll get to where I should be. I’m just not quite there yet. I have about three races left all of which Id like to score points at-assuming I only do two outdoor races. I’d like to get a number for next year. I think that is a very reasonable goal for me and it shouldn’t be that hard to accomplish since I already have about 10 points from only two races. I don’t have any specific result expectations. I just want to progress and better myself. I realize how cheesy that sounds, but I’ve never raced a pro national before so it’s hard for me to say how I’ll do especially since I haven’t even raced any kind of outdoor national in two years now. I have certain expectations for myself and certain riders that I expect to beat, but I still don’t know where that puts me as far as results.