Heading into the 2021 Monster Energy Supercross, an FIM World Championship series, HRC / Honda’s Ken Roczen was definitely near the top of everyone’s short list for riders with the potential to win the 450SX Championship, but there were still a lot of question marks surrounding him. While Kenny is a two-time 450 AMA Motocross National Champion, he has yet to be in contention for a 450SX SX Championship. Over the years, he has always been a rider that can be the fastest rider in the world on any given night, but inconsistency, crashes and some very scary injuries has really been the story of his 450 SX career thus far.
This SX season, though, Kenny has come out looking like a completely different rider so far. After winning four main events—ten total podiums—and finishing third overall in the 2020 450SX Championship, Kenny decided to sit out the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship to focus on himself, the wife and their new baby and it looks like that may have been the best career decision he has ever made for himself. Against what many are calling the deepest field of talent this sport has ever seen in the premier class, Kenny has gone 2-5-2-1-1 to start the year and he currently carries a two race win streak, a head full of confidence and a 13 point lead into round 6 six tomorrow in Indianapolis.
After Kenny’s second win in a row in Indianapolis on Tuesday, we joined the red plate holder in a zoom call to talk to him about his back-to-back wins and a lot more, You can read what he had to say in the Q&A below.
There’s a lot of stuff happening, but at this moment everything is working out very-very well for you. What does it feel like to win back-to-back?
It is amazing! I don’t know if surprised is the right word to say, but I am a little [surprised], because of the competition out there. I have confidence in my equipment and capabilities. But to win, it is just so hard to do, because everyone is going so good right now. I just focus on the start and a combination of riding really well and picking the track apart and good lines. I’m having fun out there and I’m still over the moon about it but, at the same time, I’ve learned from the past to keep it super mellow. When I show up Saturday, I’ll try to do the same thing. I don’t want to let this high get to high on me but I am over the moon, especially for my family and my team. It was a great night and a really fun race, because I was able to ride my own race once I had a gap. Sometimes that makes the race feel long, but I didn’t really have any issues. I had a couple of… I don’t want to say close calls, but I punted [Vince] Freise out of the way. I seem to find that guy every single weekend on the track. I almost went down with him and there were a couple of sketchy moments with other riders on the other side of the track, riders cutting over and whatnot, but we made it happen,.
I watch the bikes closely and like to see how they’re working and your bike looks really good. What is the big difference for you? It seems to fit you better. Is there something specific about the bike this year that’s better for you?
Yes, for sure, the geometry compared to last years bike is different. Last years’s bike was a difficult bike to set up. It bit you in the ass quickly. This year’s bike is a lot more consistent and the weight distribution is working a lot better. Combined with the other changes they did, it’s a lot more consistent in different types of dirt. I’m a lot more comfortable on it. The motor has a lot of torque. Kind of like that mellow bump off the bottom that I really like. Huge improvement there. In general, it’s a combination of the bike and me. Last year, I could make the bike look good, but sometimes the bike was riding me.
It seems people are making comparisons with the late 2016 early 2017 Ken Roczen. Do you feel better than before your accident happened?
It is difficult to compare. Even though I was great in ’16, I’m mentally in a completely different spot. Back then, I rode the highs [mentally] a lot more than I do now. I think I’m quite a bit older and a lot has happened so it’s hard for me to compare that stuff. Back then the field was stacked, but not as many as now. I am more comfortable than back then and more mature mentally I think. When it comes to racing and my program is different. It is more a question from the outside about what they think now and what they saw back then. For me, though, I’m really comfortable, open minded and I’m listening to critiques. I’m also picking everything apart when I watch the racing. It’s just a completely different time frame.
Do you have anyone who can tell you how the track is riding before you get out there?
It is hard to compare, but technically I have Jett to lean on. At the same time, I don’t even worry about. First off, we get a parade lap, and luckily, they are fixing the track for our event. Which is good, because by halfway it gets pretty nasty out there. With that, I try not to worry about that stuff too much and kind of just wait until it’s our turn on the track and scope it out during the parade lap.
Your teammate, Jett Lawrence, had a trough night in Indy. Do you talk to him when you see him have a rough time and maybe give him some advice? Or are you just focused on yourself?
I try and help out when I can. You never want to see him go down a couple of times like that. I told him after the heat race when he went down and he was obviously in pain, I told him, “to man the fuck up, you can turn this night around.” We have all had rough nights, and he can turn it around, even in pain. We’ve seen it happen multiple times. At the same time, it has to be in a safe manner. He went out for the last chance qualifier and made it through [to the main]. I didn’t hear exactly why, but he decided not to race. It needs to be a safe manner. I’m not exactly sure if he hit his head or not and I know his shoulder was hurting, but I try and support him. I just try to support him and let him know, “hey, you can still turn this whole thing around.” I tried to keep his spirits up because it seemed like he was down and disappointed and in pain bit I try to help when I can. Sometimes you need a kick in the ass, and I try and be there for him. He is young and he needs to settle down every now and then. When you are second in qualifying, you don’t need to go out there and just absolutely send it in the whoops. That’s when things like that happen and it’s unnecessary. At the same time, I’ve been there. I’ve ridden hard when you first come into this thing and you always want more. He decided not to racet and I am proud of him for that, because it takes balls to pull it out of there. He has a long career and races ahead of him so it’s probably better to just recover for Saturday. He’ll try again and try to be calmer and a little more focused and less crashing.
You were fast all day but in the main you were next level faster than anyone. I think you had five or six laps lat times that were faster than anyone else’s fastest lap time. Was there something you changed in the main event?
No, not at all, I left it all the same. It comes down to confidence in my racing. I’ve never been much of a practice kind of guy. I don’t really care about that stuff as long as I’m in a halfway decent qualifying spot. I’m just learning the track and I knew it would get nasty out there again. I try and stay relaxed, wait for the night show to come around and that is when the real fun starts.
Cooper Webb passed you on the last lap back in Houston to win and that’s something with Cooper that you have dealt with a few times in the past, but this time you responded with back-to-back wins. How important was it to respond like you have when you had a tough defeat like you had?
I mean, it is important. Winning is always important. I feel like I could have had a quite a bit more points under my belt, but that wasn’t in the cards. Cooper was on me at Houston 3, but I don’t think he got me because he was the faster rider. I feel like I got screwed over. It wasn’t were I was thinking, “oh, he got me at the end because he rode really well and hunted me down.” I didn’t think of it that way at all. I was just looking forward to the next race and it showed. Ultimately, it’s just getting good starts and keeping a cool head. I’m in a good sport right now and I’m going to continue doing the same thing. I’m sure there are going to be tough days, but I’m just trying to enjoy it. Overall, though, back-to-back wins, I haven’t done that in a while. Never mind winning in general, I only had four wins overall last season and that was after over 1000 days [without a win]. So it’s not like I’ve won a lot , so I’m just enjoying every step.