There are riders that have four wins, but you would swear they have twenty wins because their persona is so big—Justin Barcia comes to mind—and then there are riders that have numerous wins and it is hard to remember any of them because they are so low-key. There is no rider more low-key and more overlooked than Monster Energy / Star Racing / Yamaha’s Shane McElrath, but on any given night he is the fastest 250 Supercross rider on the planet. Saturday night in Tampa was one of those nights.
At the opening round of the 2020 Eastern Regional 250SX Championship in Tampa over the weekend, Shane made his debut on his new Star Yamaha and was flat out dominant. After qualifying second—losing out on pole by 1-10th of a second—Shane led every lap of his heat race and every lap of the 250SX main event. Shane put his new Yamaha into the lead off the start of the main and simply checked out on the field to record his seventh win and take the red plate on to round two this upcoming weekend in Arlington.
This is the third time in the last four years we have seen Shane win this opener and he has yet to win a championship, but something about this win looked different. He simply made it look easy and that is not good for anyone out East not named Shane McElrath. After Shane’s big win at the opener, he answered some questions from the press. You can check out the transcript from that Q&A session below.
Shane, you made a team change this year [from TLD / KTM to Star / Yamaha] but it’s a long gap until we get to the East Coast. What was it like waiting to see what you had on the new bike?
It was pretty long but at the same time, we were working the whole time. There was really no settling. The first bit on the bike was getting used to it and my body really having to go through changes off the bike too. It was a long offseason and I was told to be ready for A1. I was told that if somebody got hurt at press day, then I was in. I don’t think I was quite ready then, but it was one of those times where we had done good up to that point so if we have to go race we’ll just have to be ready. With me now being able to race the East Coast, it gave us six extra weeks to really just build to be comfortable and to be confident. Getting to ride with Justin [Cooper] and Dylan [Ferrandis] after they’ve been 1-2 in the West Coast, it’s comforting but, at the same time, I’m on everything new. I haven’t raced these guys in a while and I haven’t raced myself in a while. It was a big relief to get today over with because the adrenaline and the anxiety are a little more at the first round whether you’re on the East or the West. I’m pretty excited that the things that we worked on in over the offseason have paid off and now it’s time to keep going.
Coming into the first round, there’s always that mindset of, “Do I ease into it and let the chaos around me happen or do I go for the wins right away?” You had speed right off the bat today with being second in qualifying and winning your heat race. Is the plan now that your in this place to go wide open from here on out? Or are you thinking there’s still a lot of racing still to be done?
We worked a lot on my sprint speed and my qualifying in the offseason. It’s a good step in the right direction for me today. It was better for me. At the same time, we have seven races left now and that’s really not a lot. In an eight-round series, I have three points over Chase [Sexton] and that’s not much. In such a short series for us, we can’t play it safe. We have to be on our game every time because if I’m not on my game, the other guys are gonna be.
We always hear every year [at round 1] that you put in a lot of laps at the test track and then you get to the race and some times it’s the same and some times it’s not. So how was it for you? Did you feel like what you had been testing is good or was it more a lot of stuff you learned you gotta change?
Like I said, it was a good offseason learning the new Yamaha and the air forks too. I haven’t been on them in a while. It was solid. I’m just excited to be here. There’s a lot of questions you have for yourself and your bike coming into the season. For me, this is my seventh year of racing and I have pretty good experience with knowing how the tracks are going to be. But each year the pace gets a little faster and you set your bike up a little different—maybe the team wants to do something different. You kind of eyeball in a sense at the test track and we try to take it to as many different local public tracks as we can but there really was a lot we learned today. Moving forward, I haven’t had to touch my bike in about two and a half months. It’s really good but now we know what we need to do.
Congrats on the win. You’ve won the opening round in three out of the last four seasons. It seems like you always come in with a lot momentum and fire. What is it about the opening round that’s so good for you?
I really think it’s because everything is still so fresh from the offseason. We’ve been working on a lot. Tonight, this is when it shows. I’m excited to get back to it. We’ve made a lot of progress, but at the same time, we’ve only had three months of working on things. I’m excited to get back to it.
Today’s your 51st start and you got your 7th win. Twenty-five times [out of 35 years], the winner of the first 250SX East round, has gone on to win the championship. You have to like those odds. What’s your strategy from here on out?
I think it’s just moving forward. This team really took a gamble on me and we took a step of faith to change everything when everything seemed to be going okay. We just needed a change. So now I’m here to take advantage of what the team’s given me. They’ve given me their best and I don’t want to let them down, I don’t want to let myself down or my wife down. It’s forward from here.
Photos by: Octopi