Photos by: FELD Entertainment
When the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross series went to Daytona way back in early March for round 10, HRC / Honda’s Ken Roczen and Monster Energy / Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac were tied atop the 450SX Championship points standings before Ken led every lap at Daytona except the last one and surrendered the points lead to Eli. After a nearly three-month unplanned hiatus due to COVID-19, the series reconvened today in Salt Lake City with all eyes on the Roczen-Tomac battle.
Early in the Salt Lake City 1 SX 450 main event today, Kenny went around Eli while the two were battling for the last podium spot, but in the end, Eli was able to get around Kenny and everyone else to ride away with his sixth main event win of 2020. Kenny was solid today but not good enough to challenge Eli for the win, and he ended his day with third place points due to Red Bull / KTM’s Cooper Webb finishing ahead of him as well in second. With Eli getting the win and Kenny finishing third, Eli now carries a head full of confidence and an 8-point lead into the final six rounds.
After the racing was over, MotoXAddicts was invited to a virtual post-race press conference and we transcribed Kenny’s interview. You can hear what Kenny had to say about the first-ever spectator-less SX race in history below.
We came into this race knowing things are going to be different, but now we are through it. What was the biggest challenge today with all the different variables?
From practice on, I felt right at home. There was nothing really weird about that. I feel like we’ve never raced during the day like this, the track conditions. Maybe Las Vegas every now and then? We hardly ever race conditions how they were today, so I think that was probably one of the biggest differences.
I know you want to win races. You were on the podium, but you lost a few points. Is there anything you’re looking at now that you’ve seen the conditions or the schedule or anything and now you’re thinking maybe I can change these things to try and get the win that I’m sure you want at the next round?
It’s honestly not ideal, but I’m not stressing by any means. Even though we are doing all these races in three weeks, there’s still a lot of races to go—six rounds. I think the team and I, we have a good plan going ’cause I left my bike the same as it was on sea level. We have a couple of little ideas to give it a little bit more oomph to make it a little easier in some of the rhythms and stuff, especially once we’re racing at night. Hopefully, the tracks will get a little bit better. I’m okay with it. I’m glad to be on two wheels and be healthy after that little almost get-off. Not ideal, but I’m also not super bummed and getting down on myself. We talked about it; it was really hard to make a big difference. Obviously, Eli was really good for what the conditions were and passing us. I made a mistake, he went by and I couldn’t really latch on. Everyone was pretty much riding their own race at one point. Third place is not horrible and not awesome, but we have six more races to go to redeem ourselves.
Are you okay after your big save after nearly crashing with a lap to go?
That was not good. There was a little rut on the downside of the tabletop and I got squirrelly in there. Right then, I shot off to the right and as I was in the air. I said, “I’m done”. I literally just hunkered down on the bike and on the handlebars. I don’t know how I rode it out, but then I rolled everything on the last lap. I was like, “Alright, let’s just bring this one home”.
You guys did quite a few laps (29) on a simple track to ease you guys back into things. How did it feel and how did the track break down as you got into the later stages of the race?
Honestly, you start and try to fix as much as possible, but I feel like you don’t really have that much time to think. The track’s breaking down, we kept cutting down and the power of the bikes is down out here a little bit, so it for sure made those kinds of things tougher. The rhythm [section] I almost crashed on, I don’t know how many times I went over the table then three, then cased that one and went double-single—probably five or six times. Once the bikes get a little bit hot, they actually lose a little bit more power. It’s not significant, but at altitude, you notice it even more. Our bikes are so powerful at regular altitude. It was getting so bad and so dry that it’s such a fine line of pushing and not pushing. You go around the start straight with that long left-hander, you could have literally sipped a coffee right there because you were going so slow around that thing. It broke down, it got rougher and we tried to move out of some of the rough stuff, but then you could barely make the jumps. It was challenging.
How surreal was it for you out there without fans and seeing banners up there instead of fans? How did it affect your race? Did you feel like you had to manage it differently because you didn’t have anything there to give you that extra oomph?
It’s just different. While we’re racing, we are under our helmet and in our zone, but Supercross, in general, is a lot more of a show I think. With the crowd being there, all the music, the fireworks, and all that stuff. Not having that is simply just different. It feels like a day at the practice track.
I talked to some riders after the race today and everybody said the track was so challenging—whether it was the ruts, the dry and slick conditions or all that you’ve talked about&mdsah;but there are six more weeks on this dirt. How do you think it’s going to hold up and how is it going to change, if at all?
Good question. In general, you would think if we are racing on the same dirt six times in a row—same as when we race at Anaheim 1, Anaheim 2, Anaheim 3 that we used to have—and it just gets worse and worse and worse… I don’t think it can get worse than this. The fact that we are actually starting to race later in the day and at night, maybe it keeps more moisture in it. It can’t get much worse, so I don’t know what to expect. Hopefully, it will go the other way and get better, but who knows. The challenging side of things was just that the conditions were so tricky. The track, in general, was pretty basic and having the bikes being slower made it tougher to make some of the jumps. The whoops were okay, but that whole section with those rollers… I was wondering what they were doing. We were riding almost in the 30’s [30-second lap times]. I’ve never ridden an SX track that was that short or that fast, I should say. I feel like they could have done a couple of things better just to not have low 40-second lap times. Hopefully, they’ll make some changes in the next few rounds and maybe it will get a little better.