Every year, we have a new crop of 250 graduates making their way into 450SX class of Monster Energy Supercross, and while expectations can be lofty for some of the elite 250 graduates, the learning curve of the premier class can be a long and even a painful one. We do not want to get ahead of ourselves and say that Monster Energy / Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo has breezed through that learning curve without a hitch, but we can definitely say, “So far, so good.”

AC made his 450 debut at the 2019 Monster Energy Cup and walked away with the overall win, and on Saturday night in Anaheim, he looked more like one of the elite 450SX Championship contenders than the 450 rookie he is. In free practice and both of the 450 group A qualifying sessions, he was considerably faster than the rest of the field — and not by a little. The #9 was a half-second faster than second-place, Eli Tomac, and that quickly showed both himself and the field that he at the very least had the speed to contend for wins.

After getting a mediocre start in his heat race and qualifying for the main event with a second-place finish, AC went into the main with the top spot on the podium on his mind, and he nearly pulled it off. He got a mediocre start again in the main event, but he quickly made some moves to get into 2nd behind Justin Barcia. The two were matching each other lap-for-lap, but after a big mistake from Barcia, AC inherited the lead along with control of the main event. Unfortunately, a big mistake by AC with about five minutes left on the clock gave the lead back over to Justin and he was forced to settle for 2nd in his debut. Still, AC’s statement was made loud and clear.

We might be seeing a lot of AC 450 podium celebrations for years to come.

After the main event was over, we caught up with AC to talk about his debut 450 Supercross ride.

I think we can call this a perfect day? Obviously, winning it would have been beyond perfect. This is close enough, though. Fastest in every practice session, led the main—close enough. You know you can do it. This is what you dream of.

Yeah, definitely a nice debut for me. Would have been nice to get just the absolute perfect day with the win. For me, it was kind of a goal. Because I won my first 250, supercross, I wanted to win my first 450 one. It was kind of just a in the back of my mind goal. Kind of bummed that didn’t happen, but I felt like I rode good. I did my best the whole time is what I’m stoked on. Even the mistake, it wasn’t like I lost focus and started thinking about butterflies and rainbows or something, I just was pushing hard and doing what you have to do to win a race. It was just a little bit too much and that’s what happened. Practice was unreal good. I don’t know what got into me or how that happened. I didn’t even really feel that great, to be honest. It was just one of those days. It was nice to have a solid night program too. A weekend of learning for me, and we’ll be ready for St. Louis.

 

That was going to be my question. In practice, were you coming around looking at the board and being like, “How is this happening again and again?

Yeah, seriously. I thought I would be first, second or third ’cause I’m normally a pretty good qualifier. But then I look at the times and I’m like eight-tenths faster than the second-place guy, and that’s really hard to do. You have days where you feel good and then you can be fastest and you’re like two or three tenths faster, but when you get above a half-second it’s really difficult. It was just one of those days where I felt pretty good.

 

You weren’t doing that triple-triple where you bobbled in the main the whole main, were you? Or were you doubling-tripling?

No, when Justin [Barcia] made that mistake and he was behind me, I heard his bike get louder every time we got to that section. I knew he was three-threeing. I knew I had to change something if I wanted to win so I started three-threeing and I pulled away and It was looking good for me. I went around the outside of the bowl corner so I was kind of still turning a little bit off the face of the triple—moisture was starting to come up in the dirt—and, yeah, just spun.

We hear all the time that the “450 suits my style better” from countless graduates, but that statement looks like a fact for AC.

I actually thought you jumped it before Justin and was just talking to him about it too.

Early in the main, I was going two-three-one, but I was just trying to adapt. That was the name of the game tonight. The track is crazy broken down.

 

How sketch was the track? It seemed like the mistakes were often?

Yeah, even the guys behind us were making a ton of mistakes. The track was gnarly. Anaheim 1, the first race, nerves and everybody going crazy. It was just one of those nights where the track was…Yeah, I mean haven’t really experienced anything like it, ’cause I’ve been a 250 guy. But the track was just gnarly broken down. We were going to the absolute bottom of the bowl corners. I’ve never done that. I’ve never practiced that in my life. Just everything is new to me, and just looking forward to continuing to learn the craft.

 

Were you surprised how far you and Barcia had gotten away from everyone, ’cause I did see you looking over in a couple spots?

No. Well, I knew Cooper was having a tough night ’cause he had the flu. I also know he is a crazy, crazy smart racer. When I saw him in third, I’m like, “This guy’s gonna salvage this and these guys aren’t gonna get by him.” Maybe he didn’t have the speed tonight, but he could keep those guys behind him so I wasn’t too surprised that we were able to get a little bit of a gap.

The last thing the 450 field needs is a confident Adam Cianciarulo to contend with.

After you bobbled in the main, was there a bit of frustration there, ’cause you were right with Justin? You were clearly fast enough, and it was like you hit a bit of a mental wall maybe?

No, I mean it wasn’t so much of a mental wall. When you make a big mistake like that and the track’s already breaking down like that and you’re in the later stages where you may be a little bit fatigued—a little tight or whatever—I didn’t want to compound those mistakes. Like I maybe have in the past. Where I want to win so bad, I just try so hard and end up making another mistake. Then I’d be sitting here talking about how I got twelfth. I figured it was smarter to take the first race and kind of settle, and that’s what I did: I settled. The last four or five laps I kind of just rode her in and got good points.

 

Bold claim, but maybe the best opening ceremonies video ever?

That’s cool, ’cause I’ve kind of had that planned for a long time.

 

I saw you retweet the 2014 tweet and that was cool enough (laughs).

I had a whole little spiel going out there. I actually had my gloves on and everything going down for opening ceremonies. So I was like, “I forgot to retweet it.” I was like, “Hold up.” I ran back to my locker. I had to pull it up and retweet it off my phone. Most people probably think that’s stupid, but that’s just how I am.

Photos courtesy of Kawasaki Racing