Some forget that Monster Energy / Yamaha’s Aaron Plessinger is still basically in his rookie 450SX season—only racing a total of 14 450SX races so far in his career. After a dominant 2018 season that saw AP win both the 250SX Western Regional Championship as well as the 250 AMA National Motocross Championship, he moved up to the 450 class full-time in 2019 but he was only able to line up at 10 Supercross’ before his rookie season ended prematurely with a super gnarly heal injury. Not only did he miss the last half of the SX season, but he also missed the first half of the MX season with that injury.
Now, four rounds into the 2020 season, AP’s finishes have been 12-10-15-9 and we are starting to see the #7 working his way back into the top ten of arguably the deepest 450 field ever. At the Glendale SX “Triple Crown” last weekend, AP went 11-9-8 for a season’s best 9th overall. With good starts in the final two main events, we got a glimpse of what the #7 can do and we finally saw him battling with the guys inside the top 5 for the first time this season. Do not forget, just before his heal injury in 2019, AP finished 5th at the Atlanta SX and looked well on his way to finding the podium in his rookie year. I have no doubt we will see him get back to that level in ’20.
After Aaron’s 9th overall in Glendale, I caught up with him at the Yamaha rig and talked to him about his night and his struggles with trying to get the results he and most everyone else know he is capable of.
Aaron, not a bad night for you with a 9th overall. Not what you’re wanting, obviously, but you got some starts, ran up front a little and finished top ten overall. You were also a little better each moto.
Yeah, I went 11-9-8 for 9th overall, so it was good. I’m putting myself in good positions. My starts were better in the second and third one [main event] but I just got confident overall all through the night. Building my confidence. I was hitting the whoops really good, but I messed up in them one time and that’s really all it took and everybody started passing me in them. The second one as well—started 3rd and went back to 9th. You know, it’s progress. For the last main, I figured them out. I still got 8th, but it’s better than I’ve been finishing.
Six motos tonight on that track and actually five starts for you guys due to red flags so there was a lot of laps turned on that track. How badly did you think it broke down?
It was pretty gnarly! It breaks down a lot different than our practice tracks. It got gnarly. The whoops were cupped out and hard. The whole track was hard, but it still got rutted in the corners. The rhythm sections were fun and, overall, I thought it was a great race track. I thought there wasn’t going to be many passing places, but it turned out there was. It was a good race track, for sure.
It looked like throttle control on those big 450’s was key this week.
Yeah, definitely. Definitely! Throttle control and were racing on concrete pretty much. (laughs)
You have been a winner your whole career from amateurs on to winning 250 motocross and supercross championships. I know you get used to that, and it’s gotta be hard when you’re not doing well. It does look like you’re starting to find your groove a little bit now in 2020, but have your struggles on the 450 so far been very frustrating? Or is it something where you just tell yourself, “this is how it is now, but we’re going to get there eventually” kind of deal?
Oh, it’s definitely frustrating when you’re struggling. You just got sit back, look at the big picture, and try to progress every week. If you let it get to you, that’s when you’re not having any fun. And when that happens, you’re really struggling then. That’s when it doesn’t end well.
And you’ve always been a rider that is all about keeping it fun. So that’s super important to you I assume?
I always try to have fun every time I’m on the bike. Even if I’m doing bad, I try to find the positives and work on the positives. I try not to focus on the negatives at all. It works out pretty good.
Yeah, we’re all hoping to see that fun Aaron again soon on the podium. I’d just want to see you dive into a mud puddle again in Seattle after a good race or something. (laughs)
Yeah, let it come! Let it rain again! (laughs) If these guys let the tracks get muddy, maybe I’d end up on the podium again once or twice. (laughs)
Are you very much looking forward to the series heading east and racing on some softer dirt with a lot of ruts? Are those nastier track conditions something you still feel like you’ll thrive in even on the 450?
Definitely! I think that would be a good change for us. Get over on the East Coast and find my groove. Last year I was struggling still a little bit until we got to the East Coast and I got 5th at Atlanta. I’m excited to get back there and deal with some rough and rutted tracks. I think it will do both myself and Justin [Barcia] some good.
Are you and Justin riding together during the week right now?
Yeah, pretty much. I mean we ride together some times. We’re on a little bit different schedules right now, but as soon as we get to Florida we’ll try to manage riding together and I think we’ll really-really progress when we’re doing that.
Before I let you go, I wanted to get your thoughts on these “Triple Crown” races. I actually used to like them, but I think they’ve lost their luster and I’m currently not a fan. I don’t have to race them, though. How do you feel about them?
It’s not my favorite. I think for the fans it’s alright. I mean. there’s a lot of waiting around I think. I think for the fans to see 6 premier starts in a night, that’s pretty cool for them
All photos by Octopi and courtesy of Monster Energy