There have been many dominant 250SX Regional Champions over the years, but have been as dominant as Monster Energy / Pro Circuit / Kawasaki’s Austin Forkner has been in the 250SX East thus far this season. Austin has won every heat race and led 94 of 97 laps recorded—not counting the East / West Shootout—and he has now won all four of the 250SX Eastern Regional main events. The #24 did not win the East / West Shootout but, with only 250SX West riders finishing in front of him, some could make the argument that he has won them all.
We have seen some big mistakes from Austin in ’19, but those have all come during the day qualifying sessions. He has hit the ground in qualifying at all five of his races this year, but once the sun sets he has been near perfect. At the 2019 Daytona SX on Saturday night, it was more of the same. After having some mishaps in qualifying, Austin shook it off and won his seven lap heat race with a massive 17-second gap. In the main, Kyle Peters was able to put two laps led on the board but by lap three Austin had the lead and never looked back.
After the burnouts and podium celebrations were over, Austin sat down and answered some questions about his first-ever Daytona SX win.
Austin, you gave us a great burnout after the race in front of the fans. Can you walk us through your victory? What was the difference for you tonight?
The start helped, and it was doing that big rhythm every single lap and not making a mistake on it. Because it was easy to mistime it and the whoops were also destroyed. Basically that whole straight was really critical right there. That you got that clean. I feel like that was the difference for me: trying to eliminate mistakes. I think I made some little ones, but I didn’t make any big mistakes in the main. That was what did it.
Talk about how difficult the track was today.
You would hit the corner in a rut. Hit the first rhythm and land in a rut. It was just rut rut rut everywhere you went. It was mainly just the ruts and the rhythm sections, ’cause there was only like six turns on the track. The turns weren’t a huge deal, but going straight, getting in the rut and flowing through the rhythms was the biggest thing for me. Then, obviously, the whoops was picking a rut, really gripping tight and making sure you stay in it.
You were a little animated on the podium. Did you have sort of a moment out there?
It was cool to do a burnout. That was pretty sick. I told my mechanic he definitely needs to rebuild the motor, ’cause I held it wide open for 20 or 30-seconds just on the limiter. It was just cool.
How about close calls out there? Anything?
Yeah, the first lap. Like Justin [Cooper] said, when he got sketchy, I was right next to him. I saw him get sketchy—he kind of had the wheel on me—and I saw him case it out of my peripheral. I was already committed to do the big jump in that rhythm and I didn’t know what happened so I jumped left and landed right next to the tough blocks on the landing of that table. That was definitely a close call. After that, I tried to stay in the middle ’cause that was way too close for comfort.
You won some races last year but the Championship didn’t come your way and it’s going even better this season. What can you point to as to why this season has progressed from where you were last year?
I made a few changes as far as my program on the bike and off the bike as far as trainers and stuff. I feel like it’s the experience. This is my third year and things that I learned definitely from my rookie year and even from last year. I feel like I learned them and made improvements this year. It’s really just experience. It takes time. It’s hard to come in your first year nowadays and immediately go to the top. Experience is the biggest thing.
Can you talk about the challenge of the surface changes on the track tonight?
One of the biggest things that I noticed about the track was that there were no berms. I rode it on Press [Day] and there’s nothing. It’s basically just flat. They kind of built some little like three foot tall banks that we could use but there was no really full-on Supercross berms like there usually is. I feel like when they built those banks, we kind of all took the same line in those banks. That’s what was tough for me in the first heat race: you wanted to take some insides, but there was no line there so you basically had to go straight to the bank. By the race, those ruts were pretty torn up. That was something I noticed that wasn’t standard to most Supercross tracks.
Photo by: Octopi – Kawasaki