Photos by: Honda Racing
As an MX2 World Champion Honda / HRC’s Ken Roczen landed in America with a lifelong dream of becoming the Monster Energy Supercross 450SX Champion. While the German has two 450MX AMA Motocross Championships and nine 450 Supercross wins, he has not yet been able to take home the premier class SX Championship. The #94 spent the last two years with the privately funded RCH team, but this year, he moved over to the Factory Honda team hoping that the mighty Big Red squad and their new 2017 CRF 450 will be that one missing ingredient.
In his first race on the new Honda at the 2017 Monster Energy Cup, Kenny was clearly the fastest rider, but one mistake cost him the win and a million dollar pay day. Kenny will use that lesson and the confidence gained from the MEC to try and lock down the 450SX Championship in 2017. Dethroning arguably the most consistent rider in the history of the sport, Red Bull / KTM’s Ryan Dungey, will be a tall order, but Kenny has the skills to get it done.
Kenny walked into the 2017 Anaheim 1 press conference in a three piece suit, looking confident and ready to make a statement. After the open Q&A was over, we tracked down Kenny and asked him a few questions.
Kenny, it seems like there’s something different about you and the way you’re carrying yourself this year. Maybe it’s just me, but do you feel different?
No, it doesn’t really. It’s Anaheim 1. We’ve all had a quite a few months off, and everybody is getting excited to start back up. It seems like it’s the same feeling every year—it’s Anaheim 1! We’re just a couple of days out, and it’s the calm before the storm. I feel like I’m the most comfortable and easy going that I’ve ever been. Mentally I’m really, really happy with the way everything has been going and I’m really just enjoying my time with the team. I can’t wait to get on the track.
I don’t know, you just seem maybe more confident or in control than I’ve ever seen you at an event like this.
Yeah, every year I get wiser. That’s a big deal. I have another year under my belt. We’re going to try to stay healthy. I’m going to put my focus out there and I’m going to try to be as focused as I was at the last few rounds of 2016 from the beginning on.
I haven’t talked to you since Monster Cup and you had just gotten on the Honda. How’s the testing going?
Everything is great honestly. I’ve answered it a lot times, but the bike is such an all-arounder. From the chassis to the suspension and motor, it’s an amazing bike. Plus, I love the people that I work with. They’re smart, and every time we target an area, they seem to hit the spot. That makes it all awesome.
Did you ride the ’16 at all before getting on the ’17?
Just a couple of quick days outdoors.
We see that you’ve made the switch from FOX to their partner company SHIFT. Can you talk about that change a little?
We have some awesome new things going on with Lab and I think people will be blown away by the stuff we’re going to be coming out with in the next few weeks.
What brought that change about?
Yeah, we call it Lab [https://www.instagram.com/motoxlab/], and I pretty much do what they tell me to do. It was a cool idea and we wanted to change a lot of the things. With the brand, they like pushing the boundaries, and so do I. So we’re going to be doing some epic stuff with new materials, and performance wise, it’s going to be amazing.
You came dressed to impress today in the three piece suit, and you said during the press conference that it’s your way of trying to push the sport further. You even mentioned hoping more riders would join you. Talk about that and how you want to push the sport forward.
I want to make it more mainstream. I want people outside the sport to know who we are and what we’re doing. I want to just grow it, make it bigger. That’s why I showed up in a suit today. I wanted to be different and make it look as professional as possible. In a lot of other sports, the athletes show up in suits to their press conferences. That was my goal, and I hope we see a lot more of that in the future.
You’re familiar with the saying, “You can’t win the Championship at round one, but you can throw it away.” What result would you need to walk away from Anaheim 1 thinking it was a good, positive points day, and what would you consider a horrible opener for you?
You know what, I would consider a night with no crashes a good night. (laughs) The rest I can deal with, with my skills and everything we’ve been working for. Last year things started off rough when I got taken out in the heat race. That started the night off rough. Obviously, we’re all shooting for the win, but I think if we start off with a podium that will be good. I’m always going to do the best I can and try to win, but we just can’t let anybody get too far away [in the points].
We’re having rain right now, and the track is under tarps. Earlier they called for rain on Saturday, but now it sounds like it will be dry. I know you are a beast outdoors in the mud, but if it rains, how do you like racing SX in the mud?
I do like riding motocross in the mud and with SX, I do like it it too. It’s just depends on how wet and sketchy it gets.