Photo by: Chase Yocom
Over the offseason Ken Roczen left the RCH / Suzuki squad and joined forces with HRC / Honda and with that came the questions as to whether or not the former MX2 World Champion and two-time 450MX AMA Motocross Champion would need time to get acclimated to the brand new 2017 Honda 450. He silenced a lot of those questions by winning two of the three main events at the 2016 Monster Energy Cup aboard the new Honda, but Monster Energy Supercross is considered a different animal.
Kenny wasted no time answering the myriad of questions that loomed at the 2017 Anaheim 1 SX. In the first qualifying session, the #94 set the fastest lap and went into the night show fifth overall after not being able to repeat his session one performance. Fifth overall in qualifying is not where the German wants to be, but not qualifying first did not stand in the way of Kenny pulling great starts all night long.
Kenny went right to the lead in his heat race and proceeded to check out for the win over Red Bull / KTM’s Ryan Dungey. With his heat race being the fastest of the night, Kenny went to the line first for the main event and, once again, yanked a great start. With Monster Energy / Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac and the two KTMs of Dungey and Marvin Musquin all inside the top five, the ingredients were in place for a opening night showdown, but Kenny simply disappeared from the field and made it look easy. After the first 20 minutes plus one lap main event in the history of the sport, Kenny checked in 16 seconds in front of the defending champ, Dungey.
After the win, Kenny sat down for a Q&A with the press.
Ken, can you talk about your race tonight?
The race went good. You could really tell that they, for this year—well they always tame it down for Anaheim 1—but they really tamed the track down quite a bit more. It was a good idea because, during practice, the transitions were really soft. It made it difficult on us no matter what. I think it makes for better racing. Overall, things were good. I got two good starts, but I actually messed up a little bit on the second start. I kind of muscled my way through and had a clear track. I pretty much just focused on myself. I tried to not make mistakes because the track got rough. It was hard underneath and really pebbly on top, so it really required a lot of focus to not make mistakes. Overall, I’m really happy with how tonight went. We have to keep a good head on our shoulders and look forward to the next weekend. It’s fun to celebrate our first win, but there’s a lot more races to go and we gotta keep the focus.
This is your third win in four years here. Are you feeling any different about your prospects for the championship after this one?
It’s the first race. I’m just staying really calm. I think in the previous years, I got too excited in the beginning, but I’m really keeping calm. I want to keep my eyes on the prize and click off each and every weekend. I think it’s important to take this race and enjoy tonight and tomorrow, but look ahead, focus on the next race. I don’t want to get caught up too much on the last one.
Was this the kind of dirt that made it easy to over-ride?
Absolutely! I think I thought the dirt was going to be really good, but the stuff they mixed into the dirt [to help with mud] in the morning—which it looked like we needed it—made it so there were no lines ever, and it was really crumbly. I wasn’t really too stoked with the dirt honestly, but it’s the same for everybody and you need to adapt real quick.
This is technically your first SX race on the Honda—we know you did Monster Cup which is a different type of track—but was there actually stuff you learned about the bike today?
Totally. I was kind of hoping we would have a free practice [it was cut out of schedule due to rain] ’cause I haven’t ridden since Tuesday and that’s a long time. It just took a little bit of time; especially on a track like that. It was really soft in practice and a little bit weird. Believe it or not, for us it’s a long time to not be on the bike. I wasn’t stressed about it at all. I made some tiny little adjustments, and it worked out good. I wasn’t really messing around with the bike too much. I’m really happy with where I’m at. That’s really the best thing to do, just kind of leave it. At the moment, I’m just having a lot of fun. The team is having a good time, they’re working hard and it’s all the details that make me super happy. Right now there’s really nothing to complain about.
You won the main event by 16 seconds. With this level of competition, did you expect to have such a dominant win?
I wasn’t expecting it. It’s hard to expect something like that. I had no doubt in my mind, and that’s ultimately what helps me out a lot. At the same time, there’s a lot of good guys out there. That’s what I meant about keeping the focus the entire time and that’s what I’ve done. I never got too excited, tried to stay calm and trust my capabilities.
Is this the type of race you like, to get out front early in the race and get away?
It’s kind of tough. Some times you have a bigger gap and you tend to make little mistakes. It was nice to have a gap. It gives you a little bit of breathing room, but also there’s enough time for errors. Some times when you’re battling with somebody, it keeps your focus sharper, but I had no problems tonight with that. It was fun because you couldn’t really over-ride the track. It wasn’t really hard or anything. It was one of those races that I could have just kept going. I think in the near future you’re going to see tracks being a lot more tacky and we can push more. It’s going to be a lot of fun and this was a little bit different than I’ve seen it before.
Early in the race you were laying down the fastest laps of the night. You ran a 1:01 and low 1:02’s. Was there something you found in the main?
Not really. I kind of was doing the same thing the entire time. The only thing, I tried to find something different in the whoops, just a little bit of a different rhythm. I tried to jump through them one-one, but that didn’t work out at all. I kind of lost a little ground so I went back to what I was doing before. I took my time and tried not to rush because the lines got really steep. If you messed up, you could get a pretty good kick. I just kept doing the same thing. I feel like I could have gone faster in them, but at the same time, there was no need to push the envelope.