The 450SX class during the 2019 Monster Energy Supercross, an FIM World Championship, has been an all-out war since the first gate drop of the season in Anaheim, and HRC / Honda’s Ken Roczen has been right in the middle of that war the whole way. While nobody is surprised Ken is in the fight for the title, a lot of people are surprised the #94 has not crossed the finish line first in 2019.
Ken’s last win was way back at the 2017 San Diego SX and to make matters much worse, his 2nd place in Arlington on Saturday night was the closest any rider in SX history has ever gotten to a win without actually winning. He was passed at the finish line and beaten by 0.028 of a second by Red Bull / KTM’s Cooper Webb. That marked the second time this season Cooper has stolen that first win from Kenny. Back at Anaheim 2, Cooper made a very similar last-second pass on Kenny for the first moto win in the “Triple Crown” and the #2 has been on a roll ever since.
Cooper’s last second passes on Kenny have been huge for his mental game, but so far it doesn’t seem to have rattled the German too much. If Ken is not able to respond with some wins of his own soon, though, we could be looking at A2 and Arlington as the catalyst to Cooper owning the 450SX class in 2019.
After the brutal last-second loss to Cooper, Kenny answered some questions from the press about the race, the Championship fight and more.
Can you talk about the last two straightaways of your battle with Cooper Webb? You were obviously aware of the situation. Can you take us through the whoops, the corner and the finish line and what was going through your mind?
This was one of the spots that I struggled with throughout the main event: the turn before the whoops and in the whoops actually—just going side to side and getting off balance there. It’s where I feel like I lost the most time. If I could have done that better or if I could have worked a little better with the bike, I could have just kept my flow a little better and maybe had a little bit more of a gap between 1st and 2nd. Unfortunately, this is things to learn from and I’m using that as fuel for the next race. I feel like each weekend I’ve been getting better, which is super important. It might have been the closest race ever. It’s kind of crazy but fun at the same time. Obviously finishing 2nd after leading almost the entire race is not so fun, but overall we’re healthy and still in the Championship.
The early part of the main event was the most aggressive we’ve seen you this year. Is that part of your development and getting closer? You seem to be more aggressive in the first three or four laps.
I don’t know if I was 2nd or 3rd, but I saw Eli pushing hard and kind of wanting to put a gap, so I went hard after him. I pulled up on him and had to make the pass quick. I feel like that’s what I’ve been lacking lately. Not necessarily lacking, I’ve been getting better at it. Just getting that aggressive pass going right away, so that’s what I did.
I know the goal this year is to stay in the Championship, unlike the previous two seasons, but there has to be a real tough balance here. I know you want this win bad and it keeps getting closer and closer until this might be the record-breaking closest finish ever. How are you balancing your emotions to stay consistent, but also I know you want that win?
Obviously, I want the win. Especially earlier I said, “If the win is right there, I’d be happy to take it.” It was right there and I didn’t. Honestly, I’m just having a lot of fun. I haven’t been in a Championship chase in a long time. We’re all super close. I think most importantly it’s really good racing. We’ve been doing really good with our starts, keeping our head down and good racing. There’s always room to improve but all-in-all I’m just doing my thing. I don’t have a win yet, but even coming into this I feel like there was a reason we have the red plate. We’ve been super consistent and we have to keep it that way. The tough part is Cooper’s been consistent and getting wins so there’s not a whole lot of room for error, that’s for sure.
You covered the whoop section pretty well. Talk about coming into that last turn and what percentage is offense and what percentage is defense coming into there?
Every single weekend this year I feel like the whoops have broken down enough to where you can just jump in and they get edgy. I usually like to skim them a lot better, but they were really weird here. I struggled with them for sure here, just swapping from side to side and not getting a good flow. I knew that this being the last lap, that was the only spot where I feel like I lost time. I kind of knew what was coming and that’s why I went high in that rut as well. Then coming out of there, I don’t know. He went over to the right and I was on the left close to the tough blocks and it was super soft there. I couldn’t really get going. Things right there and then happened so fast. You don’t have that much time to think about it so you kind of just go with the gut.
Coming into tonight, there were four riders within two points of the Championship. Eli went down and lost a lot of points tonight. It’s not game over for him, but he’s put himself in a really bad position just from one slip up. How hard is it for you guys to balance that? Where is that balance between going for wins, being aggressive and trying to stack 26 points on the board, but also not going down because one little slip up can cost you a lot of points? You can put yourself in a really bad hole. Does that go through your mind during the race or do you just have to trust that you’re going to make the right decision in those moments?
It’s hard. (laughs) For Eli, I’m sure he doesn’t go into the race thinking about he’s going to make a mistake. It can happen to any of us at any time. We’re not like UFC fighters that fight once or twice a year. We race so much so there’s a lot of time where you can make that mistake. All you’re trying to do is grab a good start. You have to try and minimize those [mistakes] and make good decisions. I think with everything, there can be a little luck but also it’s the positions you put yourself in. Just keeping clear and stay focused as much as possible and preferably not make those mistakes.
Photos by: HRC / Honda